13 March 2019
A talk by RW Bro John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren
If you want to understand the responsibilities which you have as a Grand Lodge Officer you can do one of two things. Consult the Book of Constitutions, or speak to Graham Redman.
Rule 35 states – ‘The Grand Superintendent of Works shall advise the Board of General Purposes when required on any matter in connection with the building and the works. He shall furnish reports on the state of repair of the properties of the Grand Lodge when required’.
When I asked Graham if this meant that I simply had to submit periodic reports on necessary works we intended to carry out to keep this building in repair his reply was to the effect that ‘well - you may find that in practice it is rather more than that’
He was right.
I will start with Freemasons’ Hall.
You are surrounded in the Grand Temple by the centrepiece of one of this country’s foremost art deco buildings with a heritage value sustained by the fact that it remains today in use for the purpose for which it was originally designed and built. We are in the middle of a Conservation Area, and the building itself is Listed Grade 11*. What this means in practice is that anything which we do which affects the exterior of the building requires planning permission, and anything other than very minor like for like repairs to both the interior and the exterior must be notified to, and approved by, the Conservation Officer.
Planning Officers have to work within National Planning Policy Guidelines, and they are required to implement Local Plan Policies. Conservation Officers on the other hand have responsibility for protecting the heritage value of buildings of architectural and historic interest which, by their nature, are individual. They have wide ranging powers, which frequently involve subjective judgements which, even with professional advice, can be hard to predict.
Carrying out work to a listed building which requires, but does not have, Listed Building consent is a criminal offence. As I have no wish to return to address Grand Lodge on my experience as Grand Superintendent of Works after 12 months in Ford Prison I treat the need for works in this building to be approved by the Conservation Officer with the utmost care and respect.
Late and unexpected interventions by the Conservation Officer can be a very real problem, as we discovered when we renewed the West Door steps. To avoid this in the future we are at an early stage in negotiations with the Conservation Officer and Historic England for an HPA, a Heritage Partnership Agreement, which will give pre-approval in principle to specified works which we are likely to carry out, often repeatedly. Examples range from future phases of repairs to the building’s steel frame ( Regents Street Disease ), through work to repair and refurbish the many original toilets in the building ( not very glamorous, but nevertheless necessary ) down to the specification of the paint to be used when redecorating some of the more elaborately embellished Lodge Rooms.
HPAs are complex, time consuming, and costly, but the prize is securing for UGLE ownership and control of the timing and phasing of major works of repair which we need to carry out.
Keeping a building in repair can require reacting to the unexpected, but for the most part it can be anticipated through planned property maintenance. We are working to a ten-year time horizon in implementing recommended works within this building so that, for example, phased repairs to deal with RSD will include routine maintenance and general repairs within the same area. As far as possible once we have access to any hard to reach area within this building, or for that matter any area, our aim is to complete all necessary work properly and to a high standard so that an early return is not needed.
I have concentrated up to this point on repair, but the more interesting challenge is working to deliver changes to the way in which Freemasonry needs to use Freemasons’ Hall to support the vision of the Craft’s place in society today which the Grand Secretary outlined at the Quarterly Communication in December.
Freemasons’ Hall is and will remain a Masonic building, but our needs are changing. Many of you will know from personal experience that most of the Lodge Rooms here in Freemasons’ Hall, with the notable exception of Lodge Room No 10, were designed to accommodate meetings with an attendance of between 70 and 80. Today average attendance is in the mid 20s.
We cannot subdivide Lodge Rooms in response to this. Their scale and proportions were an important element within the original design of the building, and we know that any attempt to change this would meet with strong opposition from the Conservation Officer.
We can, however, adapt space to form smaller Lodge Rooms from accommodation in the building designed for other uses. Examples of where this has been achieved are the conversion of two committee rooms on the Sussex Corridor to provide two Chapter Rooms, and the three Lodge Rooms created on the third floor in what was originally two caretaker’s flats.
While these changes take place we are also looking at how this building can play its part in encouraging a wider understanding of Freemasonry in society. This means improving public access, both generally and through supporting outside hire events. Both encourage improved awareness, while providing the opportunity for education through community engagement.
Improving public access, while at the same time meeting the continuing needs of UGLE as well as those of MetGL, the Library & Museum and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is far from straightforward, and we always have to keep in mind that our ideas and ambitions may not always meet with approval from the Conservation Officer if work is involved requiring Listed Building Consent.
I don’t want to overstate the problem. There are projects which receive immediate support, at least in principle.
Freemasons’ Hall, like many public buildings, fails to provide enough female toilets. The building was designed to provide toilets for the convenience of members, and the paid employees of Grand Lodge were thought unlikely to include women. How the world has changed.
We have legal obligations to provide facilities for both men and women who work in the building, and if we are serious in wanting to host events such as Letters Live and London Fashion Week we must provide facilities which are as good, if not better, than competing venues. The unisex toilets off the vestibule and those on the floor below meet this need, and as we approach the refurbishment of the Gallery Suite to improve the facilities available for Masonic use and outside hire in what was Lodge Room 1 and its ante room, we will be restoring to their original use nearby toilets on the lower ground floor. These will, however, be designed with flexible male / female use use in mind.
As I and others on the Hall Committee oversee these projects I do so in the knowledge that my responsibilities as Grand Superintendent of Works do not end at the front door.
From the very early years of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge has owned a number of buildings in Great Queen Street. These include the Grand Connaught Rooms and the Sway nightclub, together with most of the buildings opposite on the north side of Great Queen Street. They are in the same Conservation Area as Freemasons’ Hall, and many of them are listed, including several which are Grade 11 *.
A diverse property portfolio such as this is by its nature management intensive, and just over 10 years ago the Board of General Purposes received a report from the then Grand Superintendent of Works John Edgcumbe drawing attention to the possibility of selling the properties to reinvest in a modern, well let commercial property which might provide better growth prospects without the need for continuous oversight, and periodic investment in refurbishment and repair.
Mindful of the importance which heritage has to Freemasonry, and the fact that ownership provides control over the setting of Freemasons’ Hall, the decision was taken by the Board that the buildings should be retained.
Maximising value by improving tenant mix, and income quality, while refurbishing and modernising the properties where necessary, became a long-term objective of the Property Investment Committee chaired by the Grand Treasurer, Quentin Humberstone. As well as being Grand Superintendent of Works I am a Chartered Surveyor with practical experience of property investment and asset management, and the valuation of commercial properties. With this background I should perhaps have expected that my work would extend beyond looking after Freemasons’ Hall to include contributing to the work of the Property Investment Committee.
Pausing at this point it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that the Property Investment Committee’s investment objectives have served Grand Lodge well.
The accounts of Grand Lodge are not exactly bedtime reading, but in 2006 the north side of Great Queen Street had a book value in the region of £14.5m. By 2011 an external independent valuation confirmed that the value of the whole portfolio including the Grand Connaught Rooms, and with the benefit of investment in the refurbishment of several of the properties, had risen to £31.1m, and as at 31st December 2017 the figure in the UGLE accounts was just over £56.5m. You must wait for publication of the 2018 accounts for the corresponding value as at December last year, but I can reveal that a further increase in value will be reported.
Given the long-term commitment of Grand Lodge to holding this portfolio improvements in capital value, while reassuring, are perhaps less important than rental income. This is currently just over £2.5m pa. which contributes to the investment income which is available for Grand Lodge to maintain, repair and improve Freemasons’ Hall without making a call on individual members’ Grand Lodge dues.
Masonic ownership of land and building extends well beyond Great Queen Street to the many Masonic Halls and Centres throughout the country. These are the responsibility of their owners. Whilst Freemasonry is a Craft, running and managing Masonic Halls and Centres is a business. Over the years there have been many successes, but occasionally things have gone wrong, and the accompanying adverse publicity compromises years of hard work in promoting the reputation of Freemasonry for the better.
We have within our membership valuable knowledge and experience of how to manage a Masonic Hall and Centre in a way which is both sustainable, and financially viable. What we did not have until recently was a reference resource which brought together in one place experience and best practice. This gap was recognised by the Membership Focus Group in 2015 which set up a Masonic Halls Working Group tasked with creating a Guidance Manual to share knowledge of best practise.
Unlike the Book of Constitutions compliance with the Guidance Manual is not mandatory, although ignoring advice inevitably leaves room for criticism if things go wrong.
As Grand Superintendent of Works I am now responsible for issuing updates to the Masonic Halls Best Practise Guidance Manual. Working with a Steering Group we issue periodic updates – best practise is not static. It evolves in the light of new legislation, and widened experience. We hold annual seminars here at Freemasons’ Hall as a way of making sure that Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and those looking after Masonic Halls and Centres can contribute their knowledge and experience to the Guidance Manual and its advice.
As Grand Superintendent of Works here at Grand Lodge I am as much a user of the Guidance Manual as my counterparts in MetGL and across the Provinces.
As you can see Graham Redman was correct when he explained to me that I would be spending my time doing rather more than simply submiting periodic reports to the Board of General Purposes on the condition of this building.
Presenting our past
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s Director, Vicky Carroll, tells Edwin Smith about some of the most important – and suprising – objects in UGLE’s collection, and explains how she’s taking them to a wider audience
Having worked at some of the best-known museums in the country, Vicky Carroll took up the role of Director of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in November 2017. She admits that her target – of doubling the Museum’s audience within five years – is ‘ambitious’, but Carroll’s credentials suggest that she’s the right person for the job. Having studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, she stayed on to complete a Masters and then a PhD in cultural history before beginning her career at the prestigious V&A Museum in London. She went on to work at the Science Museum, the William Morris Gallery, Keats House in Hampstead and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Her passion, she says, is to give impressive collections the audience they deserve. ‘It’s seizing those opportunities to make stories and heritage more widely accessible, so that more people can benefit from them and enjoy them in a richer, deeper way.’
What was it about the role at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry that appealed to you?
When I first found out about the job, I didn’t actually know a huge amount about Freemasonry or the Museum itself. But the subject was intriguing and I wanted to find out more. I think that’s typical of a lot of people: they might not really know much about Freemasonry, but there’s a mystery there which makes it appealing. I think having that public curiosity is always a great starting place for a museum.
What did you make of the Museum on your first visit?
I was really struck by the quality of the collections; not just the Museum collection, but the Library and the archive as well. The richness and beauty of the objects was compelling. You can see why it’s been named as one of just 149 ‘designated collections’ by the Arts Council of England. [These are exceptional collections that ‘deepen our understanding of the world and what it means to be human’.] The combination of the public interest in the topic and the strength of the collection meant that there was a huge opportunity to engage a much wider audience – with the collection, with the stories, with the history of Freemasonry.
‘A lot of people don’t know much about Freemasonry, but it has a mystery which makes it appealing. I think that having that public curiosity is a great starting place’
Can you talk about the standout objects in the Museum?
We have documents showing the foundations of Freemasonry. They’re very important from a historical perspective. On display is a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions from 1723. It’s the first time that what it meant to be a Freemason was officially recorded. Even older are the Old Charges. These are rule books for stonemasonry and go back to the 1500s. There is also the Articles of Union, the deed marking the unification of the Antients and the Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813.
We’ve got Winston Churchill’s apron, along with objects associated with royalty – as there have been so many royal Freemasons. An exhibit you can’t miss on entering the Museum is the huge gilded Grand Master’s throne made for the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. But just as important are the humbler objects with stories to tell. We have masonic jewels made from scrap materials by prisoners of war. And our ‘Suitcase Stories’ display explores how Freemasonry has shaped the lives of individuals from different walks of life.
Have you discovered anything about Freemasonry that has surprised you since you started the role?
I didn’t realise that there were – and are – female Freemasons. I was particularly struck by a display of mid-20th-century jewels from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Germany. They’re decorated with New Age symbolism and the craftsmanship is stunning.
What do you want visitors to take away when they leave?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry. Many people simply don’t know what it is. We want to help our visitors gain a clearer understanding of Freemasonry’s origins, traditions and values, and an insight into what Freemasonry has meant for individuals and our society up to the present day. For members, the Museum is a great way to show family and friends what Freemasonry is all about.
What attracted you to a career in museums in the first place?
It was something I became interested in whilst I was doing my PhD, when I was volunteering in various museums in Cambridge. One of the things that attracted me to it was the ability to reach a broad and diverse public audience and engage them with arts and heritage. Academic research is immensely valuable, but it has more of a niche audience. Whereas I was interested in creating things that had a wider public appeal.
‘For our special exhibitions, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly’
How do you give exhibitions as wide an appeal as possible?
It’s often just thinking about the subject from the audience’s point of view. What reference points might that audience have that are relevant? How does the topic relate to something they already know about? Even if someone doesn’t know a lot about Freemasonry, they might know about a particular period in time, or there might be someone they’ve heard of. Also, people like to hear stories about people. More traditional museum displays might tell you about an object: what it’s made of, when it was made and so on. But often what people find engaging is who might have used it and what it might have meant to that person. And Freemasonry is great for that. It’s all about personal experience and relationships – not just physical, tangible things.
How do you plan to double the audience in five years?
Our exhibitions and permanent displays must meet the needs of the audience, while raising our public profile. For one of our current special exhibitions, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly. We’ve expanded our social media and have an e-newsletter, which people can sign up to on our website. We’re developing a new visual identity and, later this year, will launch a new website.
What’s next for the Museum?
Our exhibition programme is obviously key in attracting more Freemasons as well as members of the public to come and visit. Our newest exhibition is called Decoded: Freemasonry’s Illustrated Rulebooks. It unlocks the early history of Freemasonry through the illustrations at the front of the Constitutions. These ‘frontispieces’ tried to sum up what Freemasonry meant and its place in the world. You can see how, at various times in its early history, Freemasonry was being adapted to the local and historical situations.
Anything else to look out for?
We’re a museum, but it’s important to remember that we also have a library and an archive, so we’re an amazing resource for members who are writing lodge histories, doing preparation for a visit overseas, or researching their own family history. We’re also encouraging more students and academics to use our collection, hosting more public events, and soon we will be expanding our educational work and collaborating with artists to interpret the collection. It’s a really exciting time.
For more details, visit www.freemasonry.london.museum
A feast for eyes and mind
From the homemade to the exquisite, this is the history of Freemasonry made vividly alive
Nothing draws together the many facets of Freemasonry as well as the masonic jewel. The current exhibition at the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street illustrates three centuries of the Craft through its outstanding collection of jewels and reminds us how much lies behind each one of them, with their fascinating stories being told in detail.
There is everything from simple jewels handmade by prisoners of war to glorious pieces crafted in gold for Grand Masters. It exemplifies every aspect of masonic history and how Freemasonry became – and remains – crucial to the countries which formed the British Empire.
As well as lodge jewels from around the world, there are charity and consecration jewels, as well as those made for Past Masters and founders and many other artefacts. Some are exquisitely hand-painted or enamelled and are complemented by excellent accompanying notes.
The exhibition has rare items of masonic history, from Elias Ashmole, through the merger of the Antients and Moderns, to modern jewels. It is astonishing to see the initiate’s apron worn by the Prince of Wales in 1919, an improvised apron worn at the Siege of Ladysmith and Sir Winston Churchill’s apron.
For Freemasons, this exhibition illustrates the remarkable depth and range of the Craft, while for the non-mason it helps to connect three centuries of British history and explains the significance of Freemasonry with remarkable clarity. It would, if it were possible, make for a wonderful permanent exhibition.
Review by Richard Jaffa
Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, until 24 August 2019, free admission
Freemasons’ Hall had a special guest on 10 December 2018 when UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, paid a visit to view the ‘Brothers in Alms – Peace Through Sacrifice’ exhibition
The Grand Master was taken around the exhibition by the Curator Brian Deutsch, which showcases a photographic history of war and peace in the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibition, which will run until Summer 2019, is displayed on the second floor of Freemasons' Hall.
The heart of the hall
With 11 November 2018 marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry looks at how a record of the masons who gave their lives in the First World War came to be immortalised in bronze and stained glass
Walking up the grand staircase in Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street, you may have noticed a casket sitting beneath a stained-glass window. It contains the Roll of Honour for the masonic dead of the First World War and, in the area known as the ‘Shrine’, sits at the heart of this art deco landmark that began life as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
First considered in a meeting of Grand Lodge on 2 December 1914, the Roll of Honour was described a year later by Sir Alfred Robbins as ‘a permanent memorial of active patriotism displayed by Freemasonry in the momentous struggle still proceeding’. The Roll of Honour would give the names of brethren of all ranks who had laid down their lives in the service of their country, based on returns made by lodge secretaries.
On 27 June 1919, an Especial meeting of Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the peace. A message was read from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, in which he appealed for funds,
to create a perpetual Memorial of its [i.e. the Craft’s] gratitude to Almighty God…[to] render fitting honour to the many Brethren who fell during the War. I desire that the question of the Memorial be taken into early consideration… The great and continued growth of Freemasonry amongst us demands a central home; and I wish it to be considered whether the question of erecting that home in this Metropolis of the Empire, dedicated to the Most High, … would not be the most fitting Memorial.
Following an international architectural competition in which 110 schemes were submitted to a jury chaired by Sir Edward Lutyens, a design by HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work began in 1927. The new Masonic Peace Memorial was dedicated on 19 July 1933, with the theme of the memorial window in the vestibule area outside the Grand Temple being the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature is the figure of peace holding a model of the tower facade of the building itself. The lower panels depict fighting men from ancient and modern times, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace.
SHRINE TO THE FALLEN
Five years later in June 1938, the Building Committee, in its final report, announced that it had given instructions for a Memorial Shrine and Roll of Honour to be placed under the Memorial Window. At the Grand Lodge meeting on 5 June 1940, by which time the country was again at war, it announced that the work had been completed.
The Memorial Shrine was created in bronze by Walter Gilbert (1871-1946). Its design and ornamentation incorporated symbols connected with the theme of peace and the attainment of eternal life. It takes the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief shows the hand of God set in a circle in which rests the soul of man. At the four corners of the Shrine stand pairs of winged seraphim carrying golden trumpets, and across the front are four gilded figures portraying Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George.
The Roll of Honour is guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services at the time it was designed (the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps). On either side of the Shrine are the bronze Pillars of Light decorated with wheat (for resurrection), lotus (for the waters of life) and irises (for eternal life) with four panels of oak leaves at their base. The Roll of Honour displayed at the Shrine on a parchment roll includes more than 350 names not included in the Roll of Honour book and additional lodge details for about 30 names already known.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry provides regular guided tours of Freemasons’ Hall, offering visitors the chance to see first-hand the beautiful craftsmanship of the Roll of Honour and the Shrine.
Tracing the past
An artist and engraver who specialised in pen and ink work, John Harris created a set of tracing boards that are still used in ritual today
The principles of Freemasonry are communicated using symbols during the ceremonies and then afterwards by illustrated lectures. Early lodges used to draw these motifs on the floor of their lodge room and wash them off after the meeting. By the late 1700s, floor cloths and symbolic tablets for the master’s pedestal were being used. Then from the early 1800s a set of three tracing boards in a variety of sizes and materials became the standard, to help to illustrate one of the three ceremonies.
Royal Arch chapters do not usually employ tracing boards, but some older chapters do have them. These examples were produced by John Harris (1791-1873) along with his Craft versions, but were not adopted as the former were.
A LIFE OF DEVOTION
Harris was an artist and engraver who specialised in pen and ink facsimile work, notably for the British Museum, but he is best known to Freemasonry as a designer of tracing boards. He became a Freemason in 1818 and by 1820 was selling his designs of portable miniature tracing boards. In 1825 he dedicated, with permission, a set of miniature Craft boards to the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex. This was taken as an official seal of approval and helped to increase sales.
In 1845, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, which is the largest masonic ritual association, organised a competition to design a standardised set of boards to be used in all lodges that worked Emulation ritual. Harris won the competition and his boards can be seen in every Emulation ritual book published today.
In later life, Harris suffered from ill health and blindness. He moved into the Asylum for Worthy, Aged, and Decayed Freemasons, later the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, in Croydon. He is buried with his wife Mary in the town’s Queen’s Road Cemetery, Croydon. His grave was recently rediscovered and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey, which now owns the plot, has provided the grave with a new headstone.
You can find several examples of Harris’s tracing boards at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
Commemorating the membership of the Earl of Middlesex, the Sackville medal was to usher in a new era of diverse and exquisite masonic lodge jewels
The exhibition Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry features more than 150 masonic jewels and traces their history, creation and meaning. But one shining item dates from the very beginning of this story, and would lead to all other lodge jewels.
A lodge in Florence struck the Sackville medal in 1733 to commemorate the membership of Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex. The lodge seems to have been independently created, as no warrant from England exists.
The medal was not intended to be worn. It was struck by lodge members in honour of their Master and was meant to be kept as a memento, and as a gift to visiting Freemasons. That said, all three copies in the Library and Museum show signs of being used as jewels. One has a hole pierced into it while the others have had clasps fitted and later removed. It was from this beginning that the immense diversity of lodge jewels began.
As one would expect given its age, the medal wears its masonic influences lightly. On the obverse is a classical raised bust of Sackville naming him ‘magister’ (master) and on the reverse sits a figure of Harpocrates, the Greek god of secrecy, carrying a horn of plenty with the inscription ‘Ab Origine’ (to the founders).
More overt is the perfect ashlar surrounded by stonemasons’ tools resting at the figure’s feet. But until research in the early-20th century proved there was a lodge in Florence, there was still debate about whether the medal was even masonic. The mason’s tools here are strewn around and the square and compasses are not yet given prominence. Interestingly, at his request, the medal does not refer to Sackville’s noble titles, and this may show that to be Master of a lodge was already considered an honour.
One other famous, or even infamous, member was Tommaso Crudeli. A local man, he became the lodge Secretary, but on 25 June, 1737, the lodge was condemned by the Chief Inquisitor in Rome and closed down. Crudeli was arrested in an effort to discover the activities and members of the lodge. Although interrogated for several years, he did not reveal the names of his fellow Freemasons and his release was eventually negotiated. His health broken, he died shortly afterwards, taking his masonic secrets with him.
The Sackville medal is one of many exquisite and historic examples on display in Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry until 24 August 2019. Open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. Admission is free.
Benevolence at its best
A look the First World War’s impact on Freemasonry and its charitable activity
Written by staff at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, English Freemasonry and the First World War gives a glimpse into the rich history of Freemasonry during the period of the ‘Great War’, as it was known before 1939. This is not a history of the war itself, but contains an illustrated synopsis of its impact on English Freemasonry, the deeds of various Freemasons and their unwavering desire to help those in need, in spite of the ongoing conflict.
The book is full of images taken from the extensive Library collections. Together with illustrations of jewels and paper artefacts, they show how war changed the relationship between international Grand Lodges and jurisdictions, as well as between individual lodges and Freemasons. With many English lodges having members from across Europe, the outbreak of war had very real consequences.
CHARITY IN HARD TIMES
The book provides wonderful examples of the charity and sheer generosity of lodges and brethren, matched with pictorial evidence of hospitals, ambulances, concerts and festivals, and how injured brethren, their families and communities were supported.
With this year marking the centenary of Armistice Day, the history set out in the book feels even more poignant. Hopefully the book will be a basis for other volumes which further explore the history of Freemasonry against the background of the First World War.
This is an excellent addition to any Freemason’s library, or to that of anyone with an interest in the history of the Craft. With so many lodges mentioned by name, this book should be popular with lodge historians too.
Review by Jonathan Lowe
English Freemasonry and the First World War, by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, published by Lewis Masonic, 96 pages, £14.99
Freemasons’ Hall is hosting an extraordinary exhibition to showcase a photographic history of war and peace in the first half of the 20th Century
This exhibition of rare photographs spans the period from the Second Boer War through to the end of the Second World War, and features those who led and those who served on land, sea and in the air. It portrays the great landscape of the conflict across all continents and the diversity of the participants.
It includes those Freemasons who held top military positions and also highlights the great charitable work by Freemasons both during and after the war in building and supporting hospitals and rehabilitation housing, and providing pensions for ex-servicemen.
Brian Deutsch, who has curated the exhibition, commented: ‘Freemasons played a major role in both war and peace throughout the first half of the last century. From the leaders of men to the rank and file, field marshals to privates, they fought valiantly throughout all the conflicts, and supported the afflicted and downtrodden when peace came.’
One in six Victoria Crosses in the Great War were awarded to Freemasons for their valour in the face of the enemy. Deutsch added: ‘Partly as a result of this, many of their comrades in arms joined masonic lodges after the wars. I became fascinated by the stories that the pictures told and remembered many First World War pictures that came up in the research for the exhibition.’
The images illustrate the old war with cavalry and lances, through to the new mechanised war with motor vehicles, tanks and aeroplanes. It celebrates the lives of those who took part in the war – from the Royal Princes and Generals to the ordinary men and women, who served through those extraordinary times.
The exhibition is displayed on the second floor of Freemasons' Hall, and if you are interested in viewing the exhibition you should book a date and time when visits can be made. Click here to book a tour.
The exhibition will run until November 2019.
Worn for a reason
A new exhibition, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry will explore the role of jewels, how they are designed and made, and what they mean to members
Jewels have been worn by Freemasons since the earliest days of Grand Lodge, and for members they are part of their everyday masonic world. For non-masons, however, they are beautiful but mysterious objects.
Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity at the Library and Museum will feature some of the most beautiful and emotive jewels in the collection. It will also showcase overseas jewels that have not been seen for many years.
The exhibition will contextualise the masonic jewel, making the point that everyone has worn a badge that has meant something to them. Freemasonry is not an exception in wearing jewels, but it is one of the most significant organisations to do so.
Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity opens Thursday, 20 September 2018. Admission is free.