Securing our future
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success
In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.
And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.
GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT
As Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.
This year, the nation has been rocked by the serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.
While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica.
The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar. And just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in the Eastern Archipelago, having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of its Lodge of Loyalty.
Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.
‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’
Craft on canvas
In its Tercentenary year, the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, gives a fresh perspective on Freemasonry
On 24 June, the general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view a new exhibition, Rough to Smooth: Art inspired by Freemasonry – past, present and future. It featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the five-floor Grade II* listed building.
All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said.
Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different mediums that ranged from oils to mixed media and photography. Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative work sat by work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many masterpieces that fill the Hall.
President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson commented: ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’
Rough to Smooth was just one of the attractions at the Freemasons’ Hall Open Day, with members of the public also able to visit the building’s ornate Grand Temple and the shrine to those Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I. Musical performances from Grand Organist Carl Jackson, the Occasional Strings quartet and the Art Deco Orchestra accompanied visitors throughout the event.
The Open Day was organised by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Reflecting on the event, Library and Museum Director Diane Clements said: ‘It was a very successful day, with more than 2,800 visitors enjoying the music, the architecture and the opportunity to see the Artist in Residence exhibition.’
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.
The Library and Museum has acquired a portrait of Lord Petre, the Grand Master who proved instrumental in the building of the first Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street
Freemasons’ Hall in London has hosted many of this year’s Tercentenary events. As the headquarters of the oldest Grand Lodge in the world, it is certainly the focus for overseas masonic visitors.
For more than 50 years after 1717, Grand Lodge was content to hold its meetings in taverns and the halls of city livery companies. It was likely seen as quite radical for this relatively new organisation to contemplate having its own premises.
The acquisition of the Great Queen Street site and the construction of the first Freemasons’ Hall took place under the leadership of Lord Petre (1742-1801), who was Grand Master from 1772 to 1776. It was therefore appropriate that this year, the 275th anniversary of his birth, the Library and Museum should purchase a pastel portrait of Lord Petre.
Grand Lodge already owns a full-length portrait of Petre, which was copied from an original at Ingatestone Hall in Essex in the 19th century. This new acquisition was painted from life by Lewis Vaslet in Bath in 1793, when Petre was in his early 50s. The purchase was supported by the London Grand Rank Association Heritage and Educational Trust.
Petre was a leader of the English Roman Catholic community and was instrumental in securing the relaxation of legal restrictions on English Roman Catholics. As Grand Master, he chaired the committee that oversaw the building of the first Freemasons’ Hall and his enthusiastic endorsement of the Great Queen Street site is indicated in the committee’s minutes.
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
60 Great Queen Street,
London WC2B 5AZ
Open Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm
The sun was shining on Tercentenary celebrations in Windsor Great Park as 2,000 visitors came to mark the beginning of the Classic 300 and attend a very special teddy bears’ picnic
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, waved the starting flag on the Classic 300 at a Family Fun Day at Windsor Great Park on 21 May.
Commemorating 300 years of English Freemasonry, the Classic 300 is a series of classic car runs taking place in England and Wales during 2017. Organised by the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club, the non-competitive runs are open to masons and non-masons with an interest in Freemasonry and classic and future-classic cars. In some cases, motorcycles and commercial vehicles are also being included.
The Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge, introduced the Grand Master to the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Sayonara Luxton; the Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, Martin Peters; Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, Colin Hayes; and Provincial Grand Masters from other Provinces.
The Family Fun Day, organised by the Province of Berkshire, also included a teddy bears’ picnic in support of the Teddies for Loving Care appeal, which raises funds for the supply of cuddly toys to paediatric emergency departments across England, Wales and Ireland. The day also featured a challenge to get 300 people to walk a mile along the park’s famed tree-lined avenue, the Long Walk, to The Copper Horse statue at the top of Snow Hill, with more than 400 attendees taking part.
A ‘time tunnel’ explained the history of Freemasonry, with displays from the Berkshire Masonic Charity and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, while the Egham Band made the day go with a swing. ‘It has been wonderful,’ said Martin Peters. ‘A really good turnout.’
Find out more at: www.classic300.org.uk
Brethren of Navy Lodge, No. 2612, which meets at Freemasons’ Hall in London, have presented their most senior naval member, Admiral of the Fleet HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, with a gold Tercentenary Jewel at Buckingham Palace
The presentation was made on behalf of the lodge by its Master, Captain Simon Thomas RN, and its youngest and most junior serving member, Lieutenant Josh Skelding RN. They were accompanied by Commander Michael Higham RN and Navy Lodge Secretary Commander Jonty Powis RN.
After the presentation, His Royal Highness and the brethren talked about the lodge and Freemasonry in general, including the recent Sky 1 documentary series about the Craft.
At a Tercentenary event in Chippenham, three local lodges played host to brethren and their partners from Loge Zur alten Linde, No. 368, which meets in Dortmund, Germany
Fraternal visits have been taking place in Dortmund or Wiltshire for many years. On this occasion, it was decided to combine the fraternal visit with the Tercentenary celebrations in Wiltshire. Among the visitors was Arnim Schneider, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Germany.
The host lodges – Chaloner Lodge, No. 2644; Wiltshire Lodge of Agriculture, No. 9090; and Fiat Lux Lodge, No. 9773 – also organised a trip to Longleat safari park, followed by a country social evening in Melksham.
More than 30 charities have benefited from £150,000 donated by West Wales as part of the Province’s Tercentenary celebrations
Grants were presented at a dinner held in Fishguard attended by local Freemasons and charity representatives, with entertainment provided by The Goodwick Brass Band.
On one of the hottest days of the year, more than 500 Freemasons and their families came from as far away as Plymouth, Barnstaple and Tiverton to celebrate the Tercentenary at Ugbrooke House in Chudleigh
The day had something for all the family, with a brass band, an inflatable assault course, a dog show, and a display of classic cars and motorbikes. Cream teas and cakes were on offer, as were guided tours of Ugbrooke House.
A teddy bears’ picnic was also held in recognition of the Teddies for Loving Care initiative. Over the past eight years, Freemasons in Devonshire have provided hospital A&E units with more than 43,000 teddy bears, which have been used to comfort children in severe distress.
The Association of Atholl Lodges celebrated the Tercentenary in a special event hosted by Athol Lodge, No. 74, at the Severn Street Masonic Hall, the oldest masonic meeting place in Birmingham, in the Province of Warwickshire
Present at the meeting were Grand Patron and Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and Warwickshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Trevor Sturt.
Addresses were given by Association Chairman Geoffrey Abraham on the history of Atholl Lodges, and by Clive Moore on ‘The Atholl Legacy’.