Thirty years in the making, a replica of the Ark of the Masonic Covenant is being crafted to serve as a permanent memorial of the Union of the two Grand Lodges. John Hamill explains its history
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason in 1813 and, after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The first work he produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. To bring the Union of the Grand Lodges into being, both parties had agreed Articles of Union that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Soane offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress.
It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted by a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern. It stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883 when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, most of the furniture and Soane’s Ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture but Soane’s Ark was not replaced.
One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford. He became interested in Soane’s masonic work and did a great deal of research in the archives at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. There he discovered Soane’s original plans for the Ark.
Burford wrote the subject up in a paper for Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and hoped to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It has taken 30 years for that dream to become a reality.
Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s Ark was to be reconstructed. He was even more pleased to have an opportunity to travel to York to see the work underway.
The project has been one of cooperation between the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York.
The Factum Foundation is an organisation that uses digital technology to accurately record heritage items for conservation purposes, to enable facsimiles to be produced and, as in the case of this project, to reconstruct lost items.
Houghtons of York is an old family firm that uses traditional methods and materials to produce new architectural woodwork or furniture, as well as to restore and reconstruct damaged and lost items. The combined efforts of these two firms have produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.
On completion, the new Soane’s Ark will be the centre of an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum opening on 11 October. Under the title Soane’s Ark: Building with Symbols, the exhibition will discuss Soane’s membership of Freemasonry and include other masonic items from his collections.
The Ark will then be transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it will be dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards it will, like the original, take its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.
A sense of optimism
With planning for the Royal Albert Hall celebrations well in hand, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert looks forward to the expanding calendar of events in the Provinces and Districts
The team of volunteers planning the central Tercentenary events is growing. In addition to myself, we have Tim Pope, the secretary of the Planning Committee; Ian Chandler, who is responsible for organising the transport for our distinguished guests over three days, as well as our own brethren, from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) to Battersea Evolution (BE); and Gerry Hann, who is masterminding the major celebration at the RAH.
Taking on coordination of aspects of the three-day central events are Marc Wentworth (Mansion House), Stephen Finch (BE), John Clark (streaming the RAH across the country and the world) and Bob and Darren Upton (Grand Connaught Rooms).
Places at the RAH and BE have been allocated to Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts, who are now considering best practice for distribution among their brethren. Recent successes, such as the tickets for the Grand Ball selling within a short time of release and the sale of Tercentenary Jewels already passing 14,000, gives me a total sense of optimism.
The number of enquiries about dining places at BE means that we would be able to fill the venue twice over. Feedback from 2017 Provincial and District representatives on interest in their events suggests large numbers will be attending, and leads me to feel that 2017 will be a highlight in our masonic lives.
Spreading the word
Another success was the distribution of the Tercentenary Sticker in a copy of Freemasonry Today. What a great opportunity to show people we Freemasons have a very important birthday to celebrate.
John Parry, the organiser of the Met’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Show, set up the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge on Twitter and started using the tagline ‘Where will you stick yours?’ Just five days after launching the challenge, it had 1,000 hits a day, and by day 15 it had more than 22,600 impressions on Twitter.
But you can help us get more. Just put your Tercentenary Sticker, which would have come with your previous copy of Freemasonry Today, in an interesting or fun place, take a photo and tweet it to @JohnMetevent. Use the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge and you could win a prize for the best idea, most unique photo or largest number of retweets.
From the Grand Secretary
It does not seem possible that I have already completed my first six months as Grand Secretary. I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from all the staff at the United Grand Lodge of England and the encouragement I have been given from all those who provide such tremendous support in their own time to make Freemasonry such a vibrant and relevant organisation.
We are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Communications Plan to ensure that we capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by our Tercentenary celebrations.
We start 2017 with the five-part Sky television documentary Inside The Freemasons. We then have a vast number of events planned throughout the Metropolitan, Provincial and District areas, indicating the tremendous enthusiasm that this milestone has generated.
Sense of continuity
In this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert discusses the precision planning going into the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea events that will be part of the central Tercentenary celebrations, with a 2017 calendar giving a flavour of the many activities taking place at a local level. Also marking our 300th year, we report on the opening of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery, which explores three centuries of masonic history to show how our values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity have stood the test of time.
With Sir Thomas Lipton best known as the man who brought tea to the British masses, our piece on this famous Freemason explores how he improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages. We find out why Lipton set sail in his steam yacht during World War I to report on the devastation wrought by the typhus epidemic in Serbia and how he helped to set up
a trust to provide meals to the poor of London.
Our profile of Wayne Ingram illustrates how the core masonic values typified by the likes of Sir Thomas Lipton are still alive and well. From organising charity football matches in a war zone through to a 13-year crusade to give a boy life-changing facial surgery, Wayne is a serial fundraiser who thinks nothing of putting other people’s welfare before his own. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says of the many causes he’s supported. ‘I’m just glad it happened.’
As a new generation takes Freemasonry forward, we meet 26-year-old Alex Rhys, who has just conducted his first initiation. While keen to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining members, Alex believes that it is the sense of continuity found in Freemasonry that appeals to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that stretches back to 1717.
I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.
‘I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from staff at UGLE.’
14 September 2016
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.
Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work.
We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces.
This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.
Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution.
So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.
As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.
Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.
In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then.
We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them.
To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered.
The Grand Master attended the celebrations of the Mark Degree as John Hamill explains
History was made at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 October when the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, in their Craft capacities and regalia officially attended the celebrations of another Masonic Order
The occasion was the 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, of which HRH Prince Michael of Kent is Grand Master. Over 5,000 attended the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, but such was the call for tickets that over 600 others met in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall to watch the proceedings on giant television screens directly linked to the Albert Hall.
In addition to many Mark Masons, the ceremony was attended by non-Masons and ladies, including the Mark Grand Master’s wife, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
The latter was present as President of the National Osteoporosis Society, to which Mark Grand Lodge, as a tangible celebration of its anniversary, gave a cheque for £3 million. This is to fund a major project to provide mobile diagnostic and treatment facilities to cover areas where reasonable access to hospitals is lacking.
The ceremony also included a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the Mark Degree by Brother James Daniel (Past Grand Secretary of the Craft), the dedication of special banners for the five Lodges which had formed Mark Grand Lodge in June 1856, and a musical interlude provided by the choir of the Royal Masonic School for Girls and two gifted instrumentalists from the school.
The ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall was the culmination of a week of celebratory events including a special exhibition mounted at the Library and Museum of Freemasons’ Hall, a dinner at the Guildhall, and a reception for overseas visitors at the Drapers’ Hall.
A collection of papers was published on various aspects of the Mark by leading Masonic historians under the title Marking Well, edited by Professor Andrew Prescott, of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University.
The Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London was opened with the aplomb that the Grand Chapter team exhibit on all occasions, and Lord Millet was installed as Metropolitan Grand Superintendent by the First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent. In his address, Lord Millett laid stress on this as the start of a new era, and the opportunities for many more Companions to serve London Royal Arch Freemasonry and to participate more fully.
More than anything else, it was the thunderous singing of the opening hymn that set the tone for the afternoon by an attendance which had swelled to over 4,500. If it didn’t actually lift the roof off the Royal Albert Hall, it certainly provided some serious competition for the traditional last night of the proms. The ceremony of inauguration of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London was launched by spirited singing of an anthem by the London Masonic Choir, after which the Grand Chaplain delivered an Oration. He spoke of London as a city of contrasts and diversity and said that the same was true of London Freemasonry. In London, as in any masonic community, there were lodges which had allegiance of trade, profession or school. In spite of their diversity, they were all united in the masonic bonds, not only of brotherly love, relief and truth, but also of compassion, so important in Freemasonry, which was not coldly indifferent to the needs of others. He had seen how in Provinces, a Provincial Grand Lodge can add a dimension to the unity of a provincial area, giving it a sense of identity, of its own peculiarity, its own specialness, and so it would be too with London. He finished with two quotations – one from the anthem ‘Behold how good and joyful’ sung earlier, and the other ‘From the foundation laid this evening, may you raise a superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder’.
After the Grand Master had installed Lord Millett as Metropolitan Grand Master for London, Lord Millett thanked the Grand Master and his team for the way they had carried out the ceremony. He said how London had always been at the heart of English Freemasonry, and would now face the challenge of developing Freemasonry in London. But there was also a need to adapt to the changed status of London. We had had a tremendous send-off, and it was up to us now, he said. Lord Millett’s first act was to invest and install Russell Race, already well known to many London Freemasons, as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.
London Masonry's historic day
In one of the most historic meetings in the history of English Freemasonry, the MW the Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent inaugurated the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London at the Royal Albert Hall on 1st October 2003.
The two glittering ceremonies were attended by a full house that packed the stalls, balconies and galleries of the Royal Albert Hall as the Grand Master installed Lord Millett as both Metropolitan Grand Master for London in the Craft and Metropolitan Grand Superintendent for London in the Royal Arch.
Russell Race was installed as Metropolitan Deputy Grand Master and Deputy Grand Superintendent.
Brian de Neut was installed as Second Metropolitan Grand Principal and Ronald Cox as Third Metropolitan Grand Principal in the Royal Arch.
Ten Group Chairmen and ten Deputies were appointed in both the Craft and Royal Arch.
Rex Thorne, formerly Chairman of London Management, which has now been superseded by the new arrangement, was installed by the Grand Master as Past Metropolitan Grand Master and Past Metropolitan Grand Superintendent.
Royal Arch Ceremony
The First Grand Principal, HRH the Duke of Kent, said:
"Companions, in exercise of the power conferred on me by Royal Arch Regulation 26, I have decided to form a Metropolitan Area of London, to comprise those Chapters which until today have been London Chapters as defined in Rules 128 and 129 of the Book of Constitutions, and I have appointed E Comp. the Rt. Hon. Lord Millett, to be the first Metropolitan Grand Superintendent.
"I am confident that he possesses both the ability and the vision required to lead the Metropolitan Grand Chapter as well as its Companions during what will be its formative years.
"Companion Millett is distinguished in public life as well as in the Craft. He was called to the Bar in 1955, took silk in 1973 and was appointed a High Court Judge in the Chancery Division in 1986, receiving the customary knighthood.
"Thereafter he became a Lord Justice of Appeal and Privy Councillor in 1994 and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (or Law Lord) in 1998.
"In the Craft, he was made a Mason in the Chancery Bar Lodge No. 2456 in 1968 and in 1977 was exalted into the Royal Arch in the Chapter of Felicity No. 58, becoming its First Principal in 1985.
"He served as Grand Scribe Nehemiah in 1999. He has also found time to be a Member of the Panel of the Commission for Appeals Courts since 1991".
E. Comp Lord Millett, Grand Superintendent in and over London said:
"Companions, this ceremony marks the start of a new era for the Royal Arch in London.
"It is incumbent upon all of us who are Companions of the Metropolitan Area to play our part in taking this Order forward under the new structure, while at the same time preserving and maintaining London's long established and valued traditions.
"I am confident that under the new Metropolitan Grand Chapter, there will be opportunities for many more Companions, as well as the Metropolitan Grand Officers I have invested today, to serve London Royal Arch Masonry and to participate more fully in its future government and direction.
"I know, Companions, that I have your goodwill and support. I know that I have the enthusiastic commitment of the members of my team. I pledge myself to maintaining and promoting the interests of Royal Arch Masonry in London".
In reply to the toast "The MW The Grand Master" and proposing the toast "The Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London and the Metropolitan Grand Master," the Grand Master said:
"This is an historic occasion as we meet today to constitute the first - and perhaps it will be the only - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter in the history of English Freemasonry.
"How fitting it is that we should be meeting today at the Royal Albert Hall, which has been the venue over the years for so many Especial Meetings of Grand Lodge, and has therefore a very special place in the hearts and affections of English Freemasons.
"It has a particular resonance for me because the last time Grand Lodge met in this building was the occasion, in 1967, of the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge, when I was also installed as Grand Master.
"In 1967 we celebrated a quarter of a millennium since the beginning of organised Masonry in London and indeed in the world. Today we mark the beginning of a new era for London - an era of separate existence: still an essential part of the English Craft, but no longer directly administered under my direction.
"Today London is 'leaving the nest' and taking wing on its own. The event is bound to be accompanied by feelings of trepidation, but I know that it is also accompanied by the sincerest good wishes of all those who are gathered here to witness it.
"In its new existence London will be better able to respond to the views of its members, who will thus acquire a greater say in their own Masonic affairs than it had been possible for them to enjoy until now.
"I congratulate Brother Lord Millett on taking over the controls from the Assistant Grand Master, RW Brother David Williamson, who will now be free to devote more of his time in future to the affairs of Grand Lodge and the whole of English Craft Masonry.
"For many years it has been the custom to present each new Provincial or District Grand Master or Grand Superintendent with what has come to be known as 'the Kent Cube'.
"It is a paperweight consisting of a gilt medallion, which was first struck in 1967 for my Installation, set in a cube of clear plastic. On one side of the medallion are the arms of the United Grand Lodge of England in low relief, on the other side is my signature.
"Brother Lord Millett, I am delighted to present you with your own Kent Cube - and I say "your own" deliberately: it is my personal gift to you as the first Metropolitan Grand Master.
"Brother Lord Millett has, I know, the understanding and the vision to enable him to lead London at this critical time so that it will flourish and prosper under his direction".
Lord Millett, replying to the Toast, said:
"Most Worshipful Grand Master, thank you for so kindly proposing the toast to my health and to the success of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London.
"I am proud that the second Masonic gathering you have attended at the Royal Albert Hall should be the Inauguration of London and my own Installation.
"I wish to thank those Brethren who have contributed - in many cases behind the scenes - to the arrangements for today. In particular I wish to mention:
"RW Bro. Rex Thorne, Chairman of London Management, his Deputy, VW Bro. Brian de Neut, and W Bro. Andrew Henderson and the staff of London Management for the work they have done in bringing London to this stage in its development;
"W Bro. John Wright, who has acted as "Project Manager" for today and VW Bro. Andrew Wigram who has organised the Masonic Stewards;
"VW Bro. Jonathan Spence, Grand Director of Ceremonies, and his Deputies for overseeing the splendid ceremonial;
"VW Bro. Graham Redman, Assistant Grand Secretary, for co-ordinating the necessary changes to the Book of Constitutions as well as Grand Lodge's ceremonial and other arrangements for this meeting;
"VW Bro. Andrew Pearmain, the Craft and Royal Arch Grand Organists and the Choir, for providing the music which adds so much to our enjoyment of today's meetings;
"VW Bro. Russell Race, my Deputy, for his quiet and effective support over the last few months;
"and not least the MW Pro Grand Master, the Marquess of Northampton, for being the guiding inspiration behind the formation of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Chapter.
"I should also like to express my thanks to all those individuals and Lodges who have contributed to the Lodge and Chapter furniture and regalia, which have helped to make this such a splendid occasion.
"These, and all who are here at the Royal Albert Hall have seen to it that we receive a rousing send-off. Our task is now to carry forward the work into the future, and that I and my team will endeavour to the best of our ability to do".
The Grand Master said:
"Brethren, in exercise of the power conferred on me by Rule 60 of the Book of Constitutions, I have decided to form a Metropolitan Area of London, to comprise all but five of those Lodges which until today have been London Lodges as defined in Rules 128 and 129, and I have appointed RW Bro. the Rt. Hon. Lord Millett to be the first Metropolitan Grand Master.
"The Lodges which I have decided should not be included in the new Metropolitan Area are the Grand Stewards' Lodge, Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4, Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No. 12 and Royal Alpha Lodge No. 16.
"This is a singular and most important occasion, because the formation of a Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London is unique and represents a departure from the way that Freemasonry in London has been organised for over 280 years.
"I know that those chosen to lead the new Metropolitan Grand Lodge are united in determination that the enterprise shall thrive and prosper, and I know that you will support them today with your good wishes and, at the appropriate times, with your voices".
Lord Millett, Metropolitan Grand Master, said:
"Most Worshipful Grand Master, I am deeply conscious of the honour you have done me by appointing me as the first Metropolitan Grand Master for London, and I thank you not only for that appointment but also for finding time in your very busy schedule to install me today.
"My thanks extend also to your team of Grand Officers - and in particular the Grand Director of Ceremonies - who have supported you so ably and helped to make today an occasion which I, and I am sure all here for this and for this morning's ceremony, will remember for the rest of our lives.
"We have many other visitors from England and Wales as well as overseas, and they are far too numerous for me to be able to welcome them individually.
"But I should like to express my personal appreciation to the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong, who have shown me such great hospitality on my annual visits to the territory and have made me an Honorary Member of a local lodge.
"London has always been at the very heart of English Freemasonry, and as a London Mason for some 35 years I am very conscious of the trust that has been laid upon me to preserve and maintain it in that position along with its long-established and valued traditions.
"To that trust has been added the challenge of developing Freemasonry in London, to ensure that it fits comfortably in this 21st century both with the whole of the English Craft and also with society at large in London. "The greatest challenge will be to open up the Craft so that it is no longer seen by outsiders as a secret and sinister society. We should be proud to acknowledge that we are Masons - and London Masons at that.
"The establishment of this Metropolitan Grand Lodge will, I am confident, give opportunities not only to me, my Deputy and the ten Metropolitan Group Chairmen, but to many others as well - not least the Metropolitan Grand Officers I have invested today - to serve London Masonry and to participate more fully in its future government and direction.
"I do not pretend that the task before us will always be an easy one, and I know that all of us will need to adapt and adjust to our changed status under the United Grand Lodge of England, and that will take time, and perhaps patience as well.
"We have been given a tremendous send-off today in this great gathering; it is now for us ourselves to build upon that sure foundation, to carry forward the work and to produce an edifice of which we may be justly proud.
"I know, Brethren, that I have your goodwill and support. I know that I have the enthusiastic commitment of the members of my team. I pledge myself to see that the work be duly and faithfully executed".