Monday, 19 March 2012 17:00

The Lord Blayney mystery

As the bicentenary of the inclusion of the Royal Arch chapter into ‘pure antient masonry’ draws near, John Hamill examines the mystery behind its formation

On 22 July 1766, the first Grand Chapter in the world came into being when members of an independent chapter met in London to draw up what is now known as the Charter of Compact, converting their chapter into the Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter, with Cadwallader, ninth Lord Blayney, at its head. We know this because the chapter’s minute book, which commences with a meeting held on 22 March 1765, stills exists. Until as recently as the late forties, however, masonic historians believed that the Grand Chapter had been formed in 1767.

The mystery can be traced back to the charter itself, which concludes with the statement that it was signed at the Turk’s Head tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho, on 22 July 1767. It wasn’t until masonic historian J R Dashwood examined the document in 1949, while preparing a paper on the first minute book of the original Grand Chapter, that evidence of tampering was discovered. Dashwood noticed that at the top of the document, in the recitals of the styles and titles of Lord Blayney, a capital P (standing for Past) had been inserted clumsily before the words Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons. At the other end of the document, it was equally clear that the original final digit of the year had been scraped off and been substituted in all cases, except the Anno Lucis (AL) date, with a seven. In the AL date the final digit had become a one.

One explanation is that despite the fact that many of its senior members were involved in the Royal Arch, the Premier Grand Lodge was not well disposed towards it and would not recognise it as part of its basic system. Dashwood argued that it would have been a huge embarrassment to them to have their current Grand Master, Lord Blayney, as a member. As head of the order, Blayney would have been one of the prime movers in turning a private chapter into a governing body as well as being the principal signatory to its founding document. On 22 July 1766, Blayney was still Grand Master, but by 22 July 1767 he had retired from that high office. Hence, Dashwood argued, the alterations were made to suggest that the events all took place after Blayney ceased to be Grand Master.

That theory appeared to meet with general acceptance until, in 1998, Freemason Yasha Beresiner gave a short talk on the charter in Supreme Grand Chapter. He queried whether, as most of them were involved in the chapter, the hierarchy of the premier would have been embarrassed by the events in July 1766. Beresiner theorised that it was more likely that once news got around that a new masonic order had been formed, and the Grand Master was at its head, their members would have flocked to join it.

A pious fraud

Another mystery is the twenty-one signatures on the left of the charter who attested that they accepted the terms documented ‘on the Day and Year above written’. Dashwood described this as ‘a pious fraud’. He had good reason for doing so as of the twenty-one signatories only the Earl of Anglesey was present in the chapter on 22 July 1766, having been exalted that evening. Of the remainder, more than two thirds had not been exalted at that date. The majority of them were exalted between 1767 and 1769.

While it is always satisfying to solve a mystery, in the great scheme of things does it really matter that the document was tampered with? Surely what is important is that the events of July 1766 took place and gave birth to the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter, enabling members of the premier Grand Lodge to become involved in the Royal Arch.

Had it not existed, it could be argued that the ‘antients’ would not have had the numerical strength to persuade the premier Grand Lodge, in the negotiations leading to the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, to accept the Royal Arch as a part of ‘pure antient masonry’. Had that not happened we would not have had our indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch. And, very importantly, would have no reason to have a party in October 2013 to celebrate its bicentenary.

Published in SGC
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:22

City stories

Take a minute to look up from the pavement in the City of London and you will find historic gems that reveal a great deal about the founding of Freemasonry. Yasha Beresiner is your guide

Hello and welcome to this tour of three of the historic masonic sites in the City of London that are inextricably linked with Freemasonry and its development. We start our journey on the spot where once stood the entrance to the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house, some fifty metres north of the last step leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is here that the foundation of the undisputed first Grand Lodge in the world took place on 24 June 1717.

Unfortunately, and rather surprisingly, there appear to be no mementos of this historic tavern situated in what was St. Paul’s Church Yard and the only surviving item, now in the Museum of London, is the pub sign. Up until the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Goose and Gridiron was known as the Mitre. After being devastated in the blaze, it was rebuilt and renamed The Lyre, on account of the tavern’s musical associations (a musical society met on its premises), and took as its sign Apollo’s lyre surmounted by a swan. However, this image was often unrecognised and misinterpreted and a new name was born from the error: Goose and Gridiron.

battle for the blue plaque
It was in this tavern that four London lodges came together to launch Freemasonry, electing Anthony Sayer (1672-1741/2) – the ‘oldest Master Mason and then Master of a Lodge’ – as its Grand Master. It must be noted here, however, that the only source for all the information we have about the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 is from James Anderson’s reports that were published more than two decades later in 1738.

Moving on now, if you look to your right you will see, on the last column of the building you are facing, the official blue plaque commemorating the foundation of the Grand Lodge. It simply states:
Near This Site
The Grand Lodge
Of English
First Met in 1717   
However, obtaining it was anything but simple. Persuading the City of London Corporation to place an official plaque within the City boundaries is no easy task. Our efforts began in 1995 with the formation of the Goose and Gridiron Society, and within twelve months the society had submitted a well-supported request to the City authorities for a plaque to commemorate the foundation of Freemasonry. Although the request was accepted, it then transpired that the building on which the plaque was to be placed was due for demolition.

Nonetheless, after eight years of perseverance, on 15 June 2005, the then Lord Mayor, Alderman Very Worshipful Brother Michael Savory, finally unveiled the blue plaque that we are now so proud of.

foundations of freemasonry
It is interesting to consider how amazed our founding forefathers would no doubt be at the spread of Freemasonry through the four quarters of the globe. You see, the four lodges did not originally meet with the aim of forming a Grand Lodge. Rather, their decision to unite stemmed from a need to strengthen each individual lodge’s membership. Indeed, in unity they found this strength and it was at the initiative of other lodges wishing to join the group that a Grand Lodge was declared and formed as a controlling body. Freemasonry has never looked back.

Follow me now please, past Paternoster Square, Goldsmiths, The Saddlers’ Hall and Guildhall Yard, and let us make our way into the passage entrance of Mason’s Avenue. Now, once we move twenty metres into the alleyway, we are standing in front of the Select Trust Building.

Let me first point out that the whole of this two- hundred-yard-long avenue has not changed in four centuries. The imitation Tudor-style buildings are recent, of course, but the shape and size of the alley has remained identical and right here, on what is now 12-15 Mason’s Avenue, stood the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Masons, one of the City of London Livery Companies with which our society is closely, and at times quite wrongly, identified.

The Masons Company has its earliest record dating to 1356 and received its Grant of Arms in 1472. By then the building on this site was already functional and it was only demolished in 1865, some four hundred years later. As a reminder of the old days, the present building, which was completed in 1980, has the beautiful stained-glass windows with masonic emblems incorporated into the design. A gilded inscription embedded into the wall serves as a further reminder. It reads:
On This Site Stood
The Hall Of The
Of Masons
A 1463 – 1865 D  
While the Masons Company has no connection with our Craft, it is notable that twenty-one of the City of London Livery Companies have an associated masonic lodge consisting exclusively of members from that particular livery.

For our third and sadly last stop on this tour, let us walk the short distance to the Royal Exchange. From this vantage point you have a particularly good view of the main entrance to the Bank of England, which is popularly known as ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’.

The Bank of England has been situated in this area since its inception in 1694, with three bank buildings rising on this same site since 1734. As an interesting aside, did you know that the Bank of England was the first purpose-built bank in the British Isles? Another notable, and quite surprising fact is that the Bank of England remained a private entity until the Parliament Act of 1946, after which it was finally nationalised.

soane’s speedy advancement
Returning to the building, Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was the bank’s third architect and worked on it for forty-five years (1788-1833). However, the only part of his work that still remains is ‘the curtain wall’, which is the elongated windowless screen wall that you can see along the front. This wall encloses the whole of the block, which consists of an area of three and a half acres containing the premises of the bank.

The Duke of Sussex, who was elected as the new Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, favoured Soane’s architectural work. As such, when the Duke of Sussex directed the extension of the Grand Lodge premises in Great Queen Street, one of his many dynamic and innovative activities, it was Soane who undertook and completed the task.

On 25 November 1813, an emergency meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1, under the Grand Lodge of the Antients, was held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. At this meeting Soane was initiated as an Entered Apprentice, passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft and raised to the degree of a Master Mason. In addition, following the inauguration of the United Grand Lodge of England, Soane was formally appointed President of the Board of Works and given the appropriate high masonic rank of Grand Superintendent of Works – both a well-deserved and speedy advancement by any standard.

This brings us to the end of our tour in which I hope to have shown you the significance of the City of London to the history of Freemasonry, along the way unearthing a few masonic gems that you may not have known existed. Thank you very much for joining me – I hope you have enjoyed your trip and I wish you a safe journey home.
Published in Features

In the heart of Bristol, Freemasons' Hall library and museum houses a treasure trove of artefacts that point to the city's unique masonic history, as Yasha Beresiner discovers

Bristol holds a unique status in English Freemasonry. In 1373, Edward III granted the citizens of Bristol a charter whereby the town was constituted a county free of the rules and regulations of adjoining counties. In 1542, Henry VIII established a bishopric and Bristol became a city. In 1786, against this historic background, the celebrated Thomas Dunckerley (the alleged illegitimate son of George II) suggested Bristol should be made a masonic Province – duly approved by Grand Lodge in London – making it the only city to have a Provincial Grand Lodge in its own right.

With the exception of Jersey in the Channel Islands, Bristol is the only Province where all masonic meetings are held under one roof – Freemasons’ Hall, 31 Park Street. Prior to 1871, this elegant building was the home of Bristol’s Philosophical Society.


Bristol differs in several other ways. It claims to continue the ritual as it was before the Union of 1813. The semi-apocryphal story is that the representative of the Lodge of Reconciliation visited to instruct the Province on the new standardised ritual, was effectively hijacked, wined and dined by the brethren and sent back to London, task unfulfilled. Thus, Bristol’s Craft and Royal Arch rituals differ from elsewhere in England.

Bristol’s uniqueness is evident in the contents of its library and museum – a vast collection of books and artefacts under the charge of archivist Philip Bolwell. Bristol does not use printed rituals, with candidates keeping handwritten versions. The archives include the first-recorded minutes of an English Royal Arch meeting of lodge No. 220 held at the Crown Tavern, Bristol, on 13 August 1758, when brother William Gordon was ‘raised to the degree of a Royal Arch and accepted’.

Visit by open appointment via Philip Bolwell at the Provincial Grand Office: email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: 0117 954 9840.

Published in Features
Sunday, 01 May 2011 16:31

The Masonic Museum In Brighton

Yasha Beresiner visits the Sussex Masonic Centre

Standing at the entrance to the Sussex Masonic Centre in the heart of Brighton, you can catch the smell of the sea just a few hundred yards away. This centre, containing both masonic temples and administrative offices, was established in 1898 and must be one of the most convenient in England; it is only a two-minute walk from Brighton Station.
The museum is under the capable administration of the curator and librarian, Reginald Barrow, who takes great pride in the artefacts that are displayed in the various rooms on three floors of interconnected buildings.

Among the numerous important items in the museum’s extensive collection is an eighteenth century Meissen porcelain figurine representing Augustus II of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1670-1733). He is wearing a simple masonic apron and holding a scroll of the masonic constitutions in his right hand, indicating his authority. By his left arm, on a pedestal, stands a mops (pug dog). This dog represents symbolically how Freemasonry survived in Germany, Prussia and elsewhere in Europe under the adverse conditions following the Papal Bull of April 1738 forbidding Roman Catholics from joining the fraternity.
The secret Order of the Mopses was founded in 1740 by German Roman Catholics with the support of Augustus II, who became its Grand Master. Because his favourite animal was the mops, this became the symbol of the Order and gave it its name; the Order worked an elaborate, if somewhat outlandish, ritual which imitated Freemasonry. This rare and attractive figurine was made in the Meissen factory around 1740 and is attributed to the German sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendle (1706-1750), who sculpted exclusively for the Meissen factory and was known for his representations of animals.

The museum also preserves a folder containing the original proofs and completed drawings by the famous John Harris, whose tracing boards continue to decorate many lodge rooms throughout the country. John Harris, a painter of miniatures and an architectural draughtsman, came on the scene in 1815, two years after the union of the two Grand Lodges. He was initiated in 1818 and from the beginning was fascinated by the symbolic portrayals on tracing boards. He soon revolutionised the concept of the designs, which ultimately led to the standardisation of tracing boards throughout the constitution.
In 1823, somewhat business minded, Harris dedicated a set of his miniature tracing boards to the Duke of Sussex, the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. This act naturally popularised his designs and his tracing boards soon became fashionable and in demand by the majority of lodges. A true breakthrough, however, came in 1845 when an invitation by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement was made for artists to submit designs for tracing boards. John Harris’ designs won hands down and he never looked back.
In the same folder are several pages of printer’s proofs and hand-coloured manuscript designs of Harris’ efforts. Among the most striking images are two third degree miniature boards with evocative mortal emblems. These printed boards indicate on their margin that they won the third prize and were published in 1849.
The realistic rendering of the skull and bones within the coffin is decorated by a multicoloured ribbon brim which is further enhanced by the dark black shadow of the coffin. A scroll on the lower half depicts an intricate setting of the innermost shrine of the tabernacle, the Sanctum Sanctorum. Seven branched Menorahs decorate the aisles, whilst three figures – Hiram King of Tyre, Hiram Abiff and King Solomon – stand in front of the Ark of the Covenant on the chequered floor of the Temple. The reversed ciphers and Hebrew letters are characteristic of third degree tracing board. The question as to why Harris depicted the ciphers ‘3000’ in reverse has never been satisfactorily explained; he may have misunderstood the Hebrew tradition of writing from right to left. In any case, these tracing boards were never formally adopted.

One object in the museum that brings to mind the widespread nature of Freemasonry is a scrimshaw drinking horn. The word immediately creates the vision of ancient mariners intent on painstaking and delicate etching on ivory or bone. The genre covers an enormous range of themes and it is only natural the symbolism of Freemasonry should also be represented. This excellent example of a horn, from around 1845, is in pristine condition with its intricate masonic emblems clearly visible.
Central to the design is an arch which appears supported by the square and compasses and headed by the all-seeing eye. In the centre the three masonic candlesticks are placed on the chequered floor and below are representations of the third degree coffin and the pentagram. Along the sides, emblems of various orders beyond the craft are identifiable; they have been carefully and clearly engraved. The detail of the carving is enhanced by crossed lines and deeper etching which creates shadows and contrasts further beautifying this rare object.
A prominent piece we saw on display is the apron worn by HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) whilst attending meetings in Brighton. It is mounted in a lavish and heavy oak frame and above it is the unusual twisted Tyler’s sword, popularly referred to as ‘the flaming sword’, in allusion to the weapons carried by the cherubs guarding the entrance to Eden.

For those who may be interested in visiting the museum, the curator and librarian Reginald Barrow can be contacted at the centre on 01273 737404

Published in Features
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 15:53

From Market Stalls to Freemasonry

Yasha Beresiner Visits One Of Freemasonry’s Oldest Halls

In the city centre of Gloucester, in full view of the cathedral, stands the Masonic Hall. It comes with a history: the trees used for the roof and supporting beams were felled over five hundred years ago in order to construct this large and complex building which began its service to the city as an indoor market place.

The building was purchased by the Gloucester masonic lodges in 1955 and today is one of seventeen halls – many very ancient – used by some eighty lodges meeting in the province. Within the Hall, twelve Craft lodges meet along with various other Orders.
     The main temple, dominated by low ancient beams, has a very special atmosphere. This is greatly enhanced by a huge and impressive eighteenthcentury masonic painting hanging in the east, behind the Master’s chair. It is some eight feet in height and five and a half feet across.
     It was found in a damaged state by Samuel Bland, then Master of the Hall’s lodge, Royal Lebanon, No. 493. It was cleaned and restored at his expense and presented to the lodge in February 1887. The artist’s signature, Henry Barrett, and the date 1799, appear at the lower left corner of this outstanding painting.
     The vibrant colours revealed by the restoration emphasise the many symbols and emblems of Freemasonry. Two angels, swords in hand and a finger on their lips, protect the entrance to the archway and caution against revealing what mysteries lie beyond. The archway is supported by ten columns, five on each side. Beyond, the temple, drawn in a three-dimensional perspective, beckons the viewer to enter past the pillars and the black and white pavement.
     The keystone at the head of the arch depicts a triangle within a nimbus bearing a skull and cross-bones. Just above the keystone is a globe, signifying masonry universal and beyond it, a radiating pentagram with the letter ‘G’ in the centre flanked by the moon and the sun on either side. An All-Seeing Eye peers out through the ‘G’ itself.
     The name of the lodge, whose property the painting remains, is centrally placed and prominent in its gold lettering. This is a truly stupendous painting which depicts, by its symbolism alone, the heart and breadth of the masonic system. If, of course, we should stop long enough before it to ponder its meaning; it would make a great place for the Provincial Orator to begin!
     In the anteroom hangs an unusual modern mahogany barometer, the property of Chosen Hill Lodge, No. 8067, and dated 1971. The artist who constructed the piece used masonic symbols to their best effect showing that our artistic traditions are still alive. The barometer is headed by the three columns of the orders of architecture topped by a pediment. On this, inlaid into the wood, are the emblems of the senior and junior wardens, namely the level and plumb rule, both leaning toward a central terrestrial globe, the usual symbol of masonry universal. The 140mm diameter glass-cased dial has below it beautifully executed rough and smooth ashlars with the square and compasses, all set into the surface of a chequered floor.
     Within the building some valuable prints are to be found. Hanging in the dining hall are the six English Palser prints of 1813 in full colour depicting the various ceremonies of the degrees of Freemasonry; near to the entrance of the building is a lightly damaged original copy of the rare 1723 Piccart print ‘Les Freemasons’ which is the earliest depiction of Freemasons wearing their regalia.
     An upstairs room contains a number of interesting masonic items: the most beautiful is what appears to be an example of the popular Napoleonic prisoner of war handiwork, usually found as jewels in glass watch-cases.
     In the years that followed the French Revolution, as Napoleon expanded his Empire, Europe was at war and many French prisoners found themselves prisoners of the English forces. Here we find the true spirit of Freemasonry which was allowed to thrive in spite of the conflict, within the adverse confines of the prisons. It was under these circumstances that artefacts were being produced, depicting masonry and its symbolism in such a sophisticated manner.
     This piece is a finely detailed plaque much larger than standard, about 150mm square, with classic symbols representing every branch of Freemasonry and made from paper, wood and bone. The emblems are encased within a circular frame resting on a black square background the top corners of which are adorned with a gilt depiction of the radiating sun with the moon and stars. Below, the tools and the three lights of masonry, the square, compasses and Volume of Sacred Law, are delicately drawn.
     Familiar emblems of the Craft, the Royal Arch and several degrees beyond, crowd the miniature painting. The three lights are repeated, now centrally placed and flanked by the two great pillars forming an arch above. Three crowns with the plumb rule and level float in the space between these. To one side, the lamb, symbol of innocence, walks toward a burning bush, on the other, a cockerel stands by a cross and Jacob’s ladder leading to the heavens. Other symbols - candles, chalices, swords, angels and more, are headed by a striking depiction of the All-Seeing Eye at the top. Overall, this is an impressive piece of symbolic masonic art probably executed by a talented young French prisoner held by the British between 1803 and 1815.
     On a shelf in the same room is a splendid Scottish pottery maul - which serves as a whisky decanter - and a matching cup. These are exclusively Scottish objects and are a reminder that, unlike England, the gavel is a nonexistent implement in Scottish Lodges. Instead, they use the maul, the working mason’s tool.
     Thus the maul is here replicated as a whisky vessel made of pottery with elaborate masonic designs embedded into the surface. These have been salt glazed, that is, salt has been added to the chamber of the hot kiln giving the finished product a typical glossy and slightly orange-peel texture. Such pieces were produced in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century, this one being made by the Glasgow Grosvenor pottery that flourished between 1868 and 1923.
     A single room on the first floor houses an extensive library, somewhat in need of re-organisation and a quantity of documents and certificates. The Provincial Grand Master, Adrian Davies, who with the Provincial Grand Secretary, John Gillo, had kindly spent the morning with us, told us of the revival of the Masonic Society the custodians of this well stocked library, formed in 1930. A group of current members, supported by the Provincial Grand Master, are planning a revival of the Society and a meeting and lecture is now due to be held in February 2011. Further information may be obtained from John Gillo, Provincial Grand Secretary at the Provincial Office +44(0)1453 844388, or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 14:36

Edgbaston Treasures

Yasha Beresiner Returns To The Masonic Museum And Library Of Warwickshire

It was a pleasure to return to the spacious premises of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire in Stirling Road, Edgbaston, and view again the delightful masonic collection displayed on the first-floor balcony encircling the main entrance hall.

Michael Baigent and I were warmly welcomed at the library and boardroom by Assistant Provincial Grand Master, John Emms, the recently appointed chairman of the museum and library. He was able to explain to us the ongoing reorganisation of this long established body founded in 1908. A small group of volunteers are cataloguing the three thousand books in the library and relabelling the artefacts on display. The new committee, consisting of representatives of the 192 lodges in the province, will be meeting for the first time in the coming months to receive reports on developments and discuss progress. John has taken initial steps in talking to various bodies, most recently to the Temple Councillors and Liaison Group, where he presented a paper on the museum and library. Meanwhile the new computerised catalogue has a listing to date of some 1800 books, which are dispersed in the shelves of the cabinets in the library. The relocating of these books into thematic categories will be undertaken after the completion of the catalogue.
     Several of the rarities in the library are housed in a safe in an anteroom and John placed some on display for us: 1st and 2nd editions of Anderson’s Constitutions dated 1723 and 1738 respectively; an illuminated testimonial highlighted in gold and unique by its very nature, dedicated to the Mark Provincial Grand Master for Warwickshire, Lt. Col. Zaccheus Walker (1919-31); the only known copy of the 1728 edition of the Engraved Lists of Lodges by John Pine and a personalised ‘autograph book’ dated 1889 containing a collection of photographs and autographs of masonic dignitaries, which belonged to the Master of Lodge No. 1180, William Tolladay.
     A group of books indirectly related to Freemasonry had also been bound in the same intricate gilt decorations: a 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible, first published in 1560, known as the Breeches Bible and a copy of the later, and possibly rarer, first edition folio size Baskerville Bible, the property of Lodge of Industry, No. 5123. The name is derived from John Baskerville’s (1706–1775) invention and design of the new typeface in 1757. This bible, dated 1763, is considered his master work, and is printed in his own typeface, ink and paper.
     Also in this collection of quasimasonic books is a copy of Robert Plot’s The Natural History of Stafford-Shire, 1686. This folio volume contains the earliest recorded account of accepted masonry known as the Plot Abstract. Its importance lies with its summary of the legendary history, its description of contemporary Freemasonry and criticisms of the fraternity as well as the unresolved matter of the sources for his information, specifically his reference to the ‘large parchment volum they have amongst them’ which is otherwise unknown.
     One cabinet in the library, dedicated to documents and prints, includes a theatre poster for The Theatre Royal Birmingham, Thursday, December 14, 1854 which refers to the ‘Distinguished patronage of Lord Leigh Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire and the Freemasons of the Province’. Lord Leigh also features in an accumulation of manuscript letters dated between 1871 and 1877, the majority signed by him in correspondence with the organisers of the Lifeboat Fund for Warwickshire. William Henry, 2nd Lord Leigh, was Provincial Grand Master from 1852 to 1905, an unbroken record by this or any other province. He was also Grand Superintendent of the Holy Royal Arch for Warwickshire, 1864-1905 and the first Grand Master of the newly formed Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England, 23 June 1856.
     The Warwickshire Masonic Museum is comprehensive and well displayed, easy to view and friendly to the visitor. The many cabinets and sideboards surrounding the whole of the balcony on the first floor are interspersed between the six entrances to the lodges and chapters that meet on location. It is thus continuously exposed to Brethren attending meetings; an enviable circumstance for any museum.
     Glass cases house an attractive collection of old and new aprons belonging to the Craft and the Orders beyond. Flat tiered display cabinets cover the whole range of masonic objects: beautiful pieces of china include three – gallon transfer – decorated Sutherland ware pitchers, manufactured in that size to accommodate an old regulation that limited one jug per table. An unusual ceramic piece of Sutherland Lustre circa 1820 is a ten-tier diminishing block 120mm high with an ashlar square base 160mm square. The black pedestal, which stands on four decorated feet, is made to appear as a separate wood block. The whole, however is a single piece. The designs along the s ides incorporate inter alia squares and compasses, a pentagram and six pointed star. The letter ‘G’ being prominent suggests that this is from a Scottish or foreign presentation to the province. Made as a table piece, it would have at some time adorned festive boards.
     The very extensive glass cabinets have interesting pieces: a yellow stained drinking glass just 30mm wide at the mouth in the shape of a lady’s boot with the square and compasses prominently engraved on both sides; an unusual flat glass whisky or port flask decorated with masonic emblems on one side and a measure scale up to six quarts on the other; a decanter with the second verse of the well known ‘Enter’d ‘Prentices Song’ engraved within a floral frame: This is the earliest known masonic song, which appears in James Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 with the comment: ‘by our late Brother Mr Mathew Birkhead, deceas’d. To be sung when all grave busi-ness is over, and with the Master’s leave.’ The words and music were adapted from an old Irish ballad and are attributed to the actor-singer and comedian, Mathew Birkhead (d.1723)
     A few shelves placed in flat cabinets display an array of minor and fascinating everyday objects with masonic emblems: buttons and seals, tie pins, money clips, watches and prisoner of war-related artwork. We saw an excellent collection of early nineteenth century snuff boxes, one wooden box in particular exceptionally attractive, shaped as a triangle and the inside hallmarked silver gilt. The decorative carving of the wood included along the sides, ‘Honour the Queen’, ‘Love the Brotherhood’ and ‘Fear God’. The circular brass disk centrally placed shows this to have been a presentation by Lord Leigh to the Lodge of Light, No. 689, on the occasion of his Mastership in July 1854. Also carved on the side is the name Stoneleigh which was Lord Leigh’s residence and the wood for the snuff box was said to have been taken from this property.
     John Emms paid tribute to the work of the late Mike Connett, who sadly passed away in August this year after a long illness, whose initial dedication and enthusiasm was the catalyst for the present rejuvenation of the library. The province’s web site states that ‘The library has been described as one of the hidden mysteries of Masonry’. Clearly that is no longer so and the province looks forward to welcoming Brethren to utilise the library and museum.

The Museum is opened daily except weekends between 10 am and 4 pm. Those wishing to visit the library can do so by contacting John Emms via the Provincial Office on 0121 454 4422.

Sir John Soane (1753–1837) symbolises Britain’s architectural heritage of the late Georgian period at its best – the end of which coincided with his death in 1837. It is a period that gave England some of the nation’s most beautiful buildings and Soane’s unique style in some of them is still in evidence today. 

John Soane, during his long and distinguished career, became involved with Freemasonry before his initiation. When invited to join, he was put through the three Degrees in one single afternoon and he remained dedicated to the Craft and enthusiastic for the remainder of his life. 

He was born on 10 September 1753 near Reading in Berkshire and immediately after primary school his education was directed toward architecture. At 15 he joined George Dance the Younger (1741–1825), from the distinguished family of architects. Soane continued his training from 1772 under the equally celebrated architect Henry Holland (1745–1806), whose fame, among many other buildings, rests with the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House. 

The young John Soane’s talents were soon to manifest themselves. In 1771 he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art aged just 18 and within a year one of the drawings he submitted to the Academy’s competition won him the Silver Medal award. Four years later he received the prestigious Gold Medal, as a result of which he was introduced to George III by Sir William Chambers (1723–1796), the influential architect who was Soane’s patron. 

There were several ramifications, some Masonic, following this encounter. Soane’s extraordinary achievements induced the King to sponsor and fund him, through the Academy, on a three-year travel scholarship to Italy, from which Soane profited to the fullest. This was also the start to a Royal connection – later enhanced by Soane’s appointments as Clerk of the Works to St. James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament (1791) and Deputy Surveyor to His Majesty’s Woods and Forests (1797) – which Prince Augustus Frederick, later the Duke of Sussex, the King’s penultimate surviving son and future Grand Master, would have noted. 

Intellectually armed with vast knowledge of fine ancient and renaissance buildings, in addition to well placed contacts in Europe, Soane returned to England in 1780 to set up his own business. His career took on a most positive turn when he followed in the footsteps of Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788) as the newly appointed Architect to the Bank of England, in which capacity he continued until 1833. 

His vision and execution of the new greatly enlarged Bank of England building – of which today only the surrounding outer wall commonly referred to as ‘the curtain’ survives – is still considered a masterpiece of architecture. Sir Herbert Baker’s Bank of England, completed in 1928, which demolished most of Sir John Soane’s earlier building, has been described as “the greatest architectural crime, in the City of London, of the twentieth century” (Pevsner). 

In 1802 he became a full Royal Academician and was made the third Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, a post that he held until his death. 

In his long and illustrious career John Soane was responsible for many remarkable works. Among some of the notable ones are the dining rooms of both numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, some buildings in Westminster and Whitehall, the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London, which had originally been built by Thomas Sandby (1721–1798), a Freemason and the first Professor of Architecture at the Academy, in 1775–76. 

As the agreement for a Union of the two Grand Lodges (achieved on 27 December 1813) was reaching its final stages in October 1812, Grand Lodge, under the supervision of the Deputy Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, decided on the acquisition of properties next to the existing Freemasons’ Hall. 

The first step was for a survey and valuation of the property involved and the Grand Treasurer at the time, John Bayford, was instructed to approach John Soane for that purpose. Prior to March 1813, when Bayford finally made contact with Soane, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the architect had any interest in becoming a Freemason. 

He would have certainly had a passing knowledge of some of his eminent colleagues and predecessors having been members of the Craft. However, considering this was a time when Soane was at the peak of his professional career, the chances of his finding time for Freemasonry were clearly very limited. 

Nonetheless, on 19 November 1813, James Perry, Past Deputy Grand Master (1787–90) and a radical journalist and friend of Soane and Thomas Harper, Deputy Grand Master of the Antient, or Atholl Grand Lodge, proposed and seconded John Soane into Freemasonry in the Grand Master’s Lodge No. 1. 

At an emergency meeting held on 25 November 1813 at Freemasons’ Hall, London, Soane was Initiated, Passed and Raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason during the course of the same evening. Two other candidates, Jonathan Parker and Hymen Cohen Junior, were also bestowed the three Degrees at that meeting. 

The first Masonic meeting that Soane attended as a new member, was a rather important one. On 1 December 1813, in anticipation of the election of the new Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, the Duke of Sussex became an "Antient" Mason, thus allowing him to attend the installation of his brother, the Duke of Kent. The ceremony included several members of the Duke’s entourage of Grand Officers, which was later to facilitate the ceremony of the Union that took place later in the month. 

His meteoric rise in the ranks of Freemasonry continued. It was undoubtedly induced by the Duke, who involved himself in all aspects of the running of Grand Lodge. The Grand Master-elect met Soane personally in August of the same year when the latter’s Initiation, Passing and Raising, as well as his Grand Rank may well have been discussed and agreed upon. 

Having followed in the footsteps of his teacher and mentor, Thomas Sandby, as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, Soane would have been attracted by the invitation to follow in Sandby’s footsteps as a highranking Freemason. 

Some time in December, Soane was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works and declared as such by the Duke of Sussex, (1773–1843), the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), on 27 December. He was reappointed in 1816 and held the same rank to his dying day. He was made President of the Board of Works in 1814, to enable him to supervise the building of the new Freemasons’ Hall. 

On 4 June 1823 Soane was elected to the UGLE Board of Finance for a four-year period and exactly five years later, in 1828, he was nominated to the Board of General Purposes, where he served for the next seven years. 

At the ceremony on 27 December an Ark of the Masonic Covenant was centrally placed in the temple and played a focal point in the proceedings when the two Grand Masters and their respective deputies advanced toward it to perform the symbolic act of Union of the two Grand Lodges. The Ark, an idea conceived by the Duke of Sussex, had been built by John Soane and presented to newly formed United Grand Lodge, at his own expense. 

The first Minutes record: “…the ark of the Masonic Covenant, prepared, under the direction of W. Brother John Soane, Grand Superintendent of the Works, for the Edifice of the Union and in all time to come to be placed before the Throne.” Sadly, the Ark was burnt and destroyed in the disastrous fire of 5 May 1883. 

His initial association with the Craft may have been on a purely business basis, which he had almost neglected. It took several letters from one of the joint Grand Secretaries, William Henry White, following on the Grand Treasurer’s initial approach, for Soane to submit finally his valuations, which were gratefully received and faithfully applied. 

Existing correspondence shows that in all transactions with Grand Lodge, there were delays in execution of the contracts and the final payments to Soane were delayed because of a shortage of funds in Grand Lodge. This caused considerable embarrassment to Grand Lodge and some concern to Soane, as recorded in his diaries. 

His involvement with the valuation and acquisition of the adjacent properties at 62 and 63 Great Queen Street extended to negotiations of price and counselling Grand Lodge on the excessive cost required by the vendors. On his advice alone, Grand Lodge refused to pay the price demanded. 

The two properties were placed in auction on 23 June 1814 and bid for and purchased on behalf of Grand Lodge by Soane, for less than one-third of the original price. 

Furthermore, the payment for the acquisition was made by Soane personally, who began to finance Grand Lodge. 

At one stage Soane was convinced that he would not be paid at all for the work. These were no mean sums of money and it took until 1820 for Grand Lodge to disburse their debts to him in full – far longer than it should have done. 

In 1833, John Soane bequeathed to the nation, by a private Act of Parliament, his house at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London which contained his museum and library. He had made extensions to his home during a period of 30 years since 1794, having purchased the two adjoining properties. 

This allowed him to fulfil, in practice, architectural concepts with which he wanted to experiment, whilst allowing for the housing of his vast and growing collection of classical antiquities and architectural paraphernalia salvaged from historical sites, all objects worthy of the British Museum. 

They are on view today at his museum: a sarcophagus of Seti I, Pharaoh of Egypt of c.1294 BC, dramatically situated beneath the dome; Roman bronzes from Pompeii from 79 AD; several Canalettos and a collection of paintings by Hogarth, including An Election which came directly from Hogarth’s family through the estate of David Garrick, among many other fascinating objects and paintings. 

The culmination of his achievements are reflected in the knighthood he received in 1831 and the special gold medal presentation made to him, three years after his retirement in 1835, by his colleagues in the newly founded Royal Institute of British Architects. Grand Lodge presented him with a Certificate of Thanks in March 1832, signed by the two Grand Secretaries. In the same year, he commissioned John Jackson to paint a full length portrait of himself in full Masonic regalia as Grand Superintendent of Works. The painting hangs prominently today in the Picture Room of the John Soane Museum. 

On 20 January 1837 Sir John Soane, now 84 years old, died, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Pancras Old Church in the vault which he himself had designed for his wife and himself in anticipation of their inevitable mortality. 

The design of the vault was a direct influence on Giles Gilbert Scott’s (1880–1960) design for the red telephone box of 1926 – a permanent and visual tribute to a long and distinguished professional and Masonic career. 

Credits and Bibliography 

My sincerest thanks to Bruce Hogg for his kind skilled improvements to my written words. Also John Bhone, whose unpublished article submitted to QC’s London Education Initiative in June 2002 has been of assistance.

Burford, Douglas, The Ark of the Masonic Covenant, AQC 105 (1992).

Stroud, Dorothy, Sir John Soane, Architect, De la Mare, 1996.

Taylor, John E., Sir John Soane: Architect and Freemason, AQC 95 (1982).

Thornton, Peter and Dorey, Helen, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Laurence King, 1992.

Published in Features

Historic: a man of solid foundations

The remarkable career of scientist, philanthropist and Freemason, Henry S. Wellcome, is revealed by Yasha Beresiner

Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) was a remarkable man with many facets to his complex character: a scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist, collector and Freemason. He left behind a legacy that has immortalised his name in each of the fields in which he excelled with equal success. 

His philanthropy is manifest in The Wellcome Trust, established as an independent research-funding charity, as required in his will, on his death on 25 July 1936. Two years earlier he had witnessed the opening of the present Wellcome Building in Euston Road, London, much of it designed to his own specifications. 

In business, as recently as March 1995, Glaxo took over Wellcome for the staggering sum of £9.4 billion, in what was then the biggest merger in UK corporate history. And in January 2000, Glaxo Wellcome announced its merger with SmithKline Beecham to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. 

All this began in 1880 when Henry Wellcome, then just 27, left the United States to join his college friend Silas Burroughs in London and form the pharmaceutical company, Burroughs Wellcome. The firm flourished from the start, marketing and later manufacturing American compressed tablets. 

Burroughs was a Freemason, initiated in Clapham Lodge No. 1818, but more importantly, he had employed as an accountant an English Freemason of standing and ability, Robert Clay Sadlow, whose subsequent life-long friendship with Henry Wellcome is the catalyst that brought Wellcome into Freemasonry. 

Henry Wellcome’s 17th century ancestors were French Protestants named Bienvenue, who fled religious persecution to seek asylum in England, changing their name to Wellcome. 

They emigrated to New England in 1640, settling in Massachusetts. Solomon Wellcome, Henry’s father, married Mary Curtis in 1850 and Henry Solomon, their second son, was born in a Wisconsin log cabin on 21 August 1853. 

It was almost natural for Henry to adopt England as his mother country. He was nationalised in 1910, received his Knighthood, following on many other honours, in 1934 and he died an octogenarian in London in 1936. His initial partnership with Burroughs unfortunately ran into difficulties within two years of its formation, and litigation ensued culminating in an 1889 court case, which found in favour of Henry Wellcome. 

Notwithstanding the tensions between them, the company continued to prosper. When Burroughs died suddenly from pneumonia in 1895, Wellcome found himself in total control to implement his many whims – scientific and philanthropic – unhindered by financial or other restrictions. 

It is a reflection of Wellcome’s enthusiasm for Freemasonry, that during this troublesome period in his life, he pursued his Masonic activity well beyond its basic needs and principles. He was initiated into Lodge of Fidelity No. 3 on 11 of February 1885, and his passing and raising ceremonies, which were carried out in the same year by Robert Sadlow, was reportedly at Eastes Lodge No. 1965. 

On 19 March 1891, Henry Wellcome was the founding Senior Deacon of Columbia Lodge No. 2397 (he resigned in 1904) and a year later he was serving as Master of his mother Lodge. This is the year that he began his Masonic activities beyond the Craft. 

On 4 April 1892, he was exalted into the Royal Arch at the Old King Arms Chapter No. 28 and advanced in the Mark a year later. He was elected Master of Hiram Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 13 on 25 March 1896, exactly three years after his advancement. He resigned the Mark in 1904. 

On 9 November 1894, he was perfected into Tuscan Chapter No. 129 of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite (Rose Croix), reaching the 30th Degree in that Order in July 1898. Rather unusually, he only became Sovereign eight years later, in August 1906 and resigned from this Order, too, in 1920. 

He was also installed a Knights Templar in 1893 and took the Malta Degree in May 1895. By now he had become Master of the Columbia Lodge, in a ceremony again conducted by his good friend Robert Sadlow. This followed on his duties as First Principal of the Old King Arms Chapter, in 1897, the year of the foundation of the Columbia Chapter in which he was Second Principal. 

He was also, in 1890, an honorary member of Savage Club Lodge No. 2190. Notwithstanding all this intense Masonic activity, his enthusiasm and devotion to the Craft during these two decades is most manifest in the extracurricular activities associated with the unattached Clarence Lodge of Instruction in which he was elected Treasurer in 1893, a post that he actively filled until 1904. The Clarence Lodge of Instruction was founded by members of the Bank of England Lodge and was effectively a daughter Lodge to the well-known and long-standing Emulation Lodge of Improvement. 

Toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the imagination of Victorian England was captivated by developments in Africa. Henry Wellcome had the flair and the money to do something practical about it. In 1884 he had met, and become close friends with Henry Stanley, the explorer, with whom he had a great deal in common. 

It was his friendship with Stanley that was largely responsible for Wellcome’s great interest in Africa. He was among the first European civilians to visit the Sudan after the Battle of Omdurman in the winter of 1900. He later met Lord Kitchener, an equally enthusiastic and high-ranking Freemason. In November 1899, following the agreement reached between Britain and Egypt, restoring Egyptian rule in Sudan, Kitchener was simultaneously appointed Governor-General of the Sudan and the first District Grand Master of Egypt & the Sudan. 

Sir Francis Reginald Wingate took over the Governorship from Kitchener, and much of Wellcome’s activities were coordinated through the auspices of Wingate. Henry’s first visit left such a strong impression on him that he spent a total of 14 active years in the area establishing the Gordon Memorial College and founding the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories in Khartoum, which placed Sudan in the forefront of tropical diseases research. 

Wellcome was an enthusiastic collector and a keen archaeologist. His interests in the Sudan and Egypt extended to archaeological digs, most famously at Jebel Moya in the Sudan, where he hired over 4,000 people to excavate over a period of several years. Notwithstanding some controversy as to his treatment of the native workers, he was popularly known as Al Pasha by the local inhabitants. 

His main collecting passion, however, was for medically related artefacts. He acquired a vast collection of scientific and other books and instruments – many of which are now on display in the Wellcome Gallery of London’s Science Museum or the Wellcome Institute Library. The Wellcome collection is vast, as Henry bought everything in sight that had anything whatsoever to do with medicine. 

The collection includes, for instance, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush, Charles Darwin’s walking stick and Florence Nightingale’s slippers. In 1936, at the time of his death, the total Wellcome collection consisted of over one million objects of which some 125,000 items were medically related and formed part of the permanent collection. 

The remainder of the items, including his Masonic possessions, were dispersed after his death by gift to other Museums and by auction. In one instance, on 21 March 1938, Harrods, Allsop & Co auctioned ‘by order of the trustees of the late Sir Henry Wellcome’ a total of nearly 200 books on Freemasonry in 11 lots (numbers 95 to 106). 

These included a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, a 1745 edition of the French Exposure Ordre Des Franc-Maçon Trahi, a 1691 edition of a Knights Templar volume, among many other classical works. They were all purchased by a buyer identified only as Marks, for £4.10s. 

It was in Khartoum in 1901 that Henry Wellcome met the beautiful, if somewhat impulsive, Gwendoline Maud Syrie and almost immediately fell in love with her. She was travelling with her father, Dr Thomas Barnardo (see MQ, issue 20), the famous founder of homes for orphan children and an old friend of Henry’s. Queenie, as she later became popularly known, was 21 and 27 years Henry’s junior. They married very soon thereafter and had one child, Henry Mounteney. 

Initially all was well but their interests, emphasised by the difference in age, were at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Henry was energetic and enjoyed sport and travel, whilst Syrie preferred sedentary socialising in London’s sophisticated parlours and drawing-rooms. Their son, who lived into his eighties, was born with mild brain-damage and had a learning disability that kept him apart from his family from the age of three for most of his childhood. 

Unable to identify with her husband’s work and activities and unhappy travelling with him, Syrie was soon having affairs, which included, though with scant evidence, the American-born magnate of the department store fame, Harry G Selfridge. In 1909, following a major quarrel, Henry and Syrie decided to separate. Syrie left for New York and they never saw each other again. 

In an attempt to keep scandal out of the press, Henry agreed to a generous financial settlement. He was, however, outraged by Syrie’s relationship with the homosexual writer William Somerset Maugham. Syrie bore Maugham’s child in Rome, named Mary Elizabeth and nicknamed Liza, after Liza of Lambeth, the heroine of Maugham’s first book, written before she was born, giving her Wellcome’s surname. 

Henry commenced proceedings, culminating in a divorce in February 1916, citing Maugham as co-respondent. The case was uncontested and Syrie gained custody of the child. Within three months she was secretly married to Somerset Maugham in New Jersey on 16 May 1916. They divorced in 1928. 

A great deal of publicity brought intimate details into public attention. Syrie had claimed that Henry treated her with brutality, neglecting her with his endless travelling and his excessive Masonic activities. It was not surprising that he left her nothing in his estate, although he gave £500 to Dr. Barnardo’s homes for children. 

In line with his impulsive, even if resolute nature, Wellcome’s Masonic interests waned after the highly concentrated period in which he had been so intensely active. 

It is thought that a specific incident may have triggered something in his sensitive nature to cause his gradual resignation from specific Lodges and general withdrawal from the Craft. There is, however, one last gesture on his part, of lasting Masonic consequence. It is his gift of the impressive life-size painting of George Washington to the United Grand Lodge of England. It hangs in the first floor Lounge at Freemasons’ Hall in London. 

As the centenary of the death of Washington in 1799 was approaching, Henry Wellcome offered Grand Lodge the portrait, which was gladly accepted. There was a delay due to the low quality of the first painting, and Wellcome commissioned the well-known American portrait artist Robert Gordon Hardie (1854-1904), writing to him on December 2nd 1901, as follows: 

I feel that by changing my original plan you will have much greater scope in painting a really masterful picture, which I am sure you will take great pride in doing. If you think it desirable to introduce Washington’s coat of arms (which contain the stars and stripes) you might do so. 

There are a great many portraits of Washington, which are excessively bad, and make him look more like George III than the true Washington. What is wanted in this picture is the type of Washington which you and I have known all our lives – our ideal! The great, wise and highly spiritual Washington – the true father of our country. 

The painting was formally unveiled on 8 August 1902 by the American Ambassador, Joseph H Choate, in the presence of the Earl of Warwick, Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and a small gathering of Brethren in the library of Freemasons’ Hall. Among others present were J R Robertson, Past Grand Master of Canada, Sir J Puleston, Alderman F Trehawke, Col Daly, District Grand Master of British Guiana as well as Henry Sadler, the Grand Tyler and Clay Sadlow and Henry Wellcome himself. 

The portrait of George Washington is in the dress of the period with full Masonic regalia and, as requested, in the corner are the arms of the Washington family, which are the origin of the American stars and stripes. It is a permanent reminder and memorial to Wellcome’s remarkable life, his generosity and close involvement with the Craft. 

Bibliography and Credits 

Adeel, Ahmed: Henry Solomon Wellcome and the Sudan (On Line), September 2000 

Church, Roy & Tansey, E M: Burroughs Wellcome & Co – Knowledge, Trust and Profit and the Transformation of the British Pharmaceutical Industry 1880–1940, Crucible Books, Lancaster, 2007 

Sadler, Henry: Illustrated History of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, London 1904 

Sutton, Michael (On Line): Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ne1 8st. 

I also extend my appreciation to Ross MacFarlane, Archivist of the Wellcome Foundation Papers, who so readily assisted me with his vast knowledge of the subject. 

Published in Features

Historic: suffer little children

Dr Barnardo's name is synonymous with helping destitute children, but he was also a Freemason, as Yasha Beresiner reveals

Dr Thomas John Barnardo (1845–1905), nicknamed ‘The Doctor’, was a leading reformer of the 19th century on a par with Sir Robert Peel, Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale. Single-handed, over a period of four decades, he improved the life of hundreds of thousands of destitute children. His first home opened in the East End of London in 1870. At his death, in September 1905, there were nearly 8,000 children in 96 of his residential homes. Some 1,300 had disabilities and 4,000 were ‘boarded out’, namely placed with foster parents. An additional 18,000 children, controversially, had been sent to Canada and Australia. 

Relatively late in his busy philanthropic career, in November 1889, Thomas Barnardo became a Freemason in London at the mature age of 44, being initiated into Shadwell Clerke Lodge No. 1910 at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand. The Lodge, warranted on 22 April 1881, was founded in November 1882 in honour of Colonel Shadwell H. Clerke, who had been appointed Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England two and half years earlier. 

Barnardo’s progress through the three Degrees took place in the old-fashioned way: one degree a year. He was passed on 23 June 1890 and raised on 8 October 1891. Barnardo did not take office, although he continued his full membership to his dying day. 

It is interesting to speculate as to what may have induced him to become a Freemason. In his youth he had been an avid reader of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), the positive Swiss-born French [only from 1741 onwards, before moving to Luxembourg in 1757, fleeing to Switzerland in 1762 and then to England and back to Paris in 1767, but died insane] philosopher and writer and of Thomas Paine (1737–1809), the English intellectual, political and religious thinker. 

Both men, although not Freemasons, advocated philosophies with which Masonic thinking, fashionable in the 1880s, not least because of Royal patronage, would be in sympathy. Indeed, Thomas Paine published his own theory on the origins of Freemasonry, which today remains only of interest as an historical curiosity. 

More importantly, however, a greater influence on Barnardo to become a Freemason may have emanated from his friendship with Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) the American-born British pharmaceutical entrepreneur. Here was a dedicated and very active Freemason, whose closeness to Barnardo was, at a later stage, greatly enhanced when, in 1901, Wellcome married Gwendolin Maud Syrie, Barnardo’s daughter. 

Curiously, Henry Wellcome’s excessive Masonic activities, inter alia, were cited by his wife as to the cause of the separation between the two, which ended in a divorce in 1915, with W. Somerset Maugham being named as a co-respondent…but that is another story!

The Lodge records show that at a Lodge of Emergency held on 6 September 1889 at the Masonic Hall, Red Lion Square, London, Thomas John Barnardo, Esq, MRCS, aged forty [sic] was proposed by the Lodge Secretary, W Bro C.F. Matier and seconded by the Senior Warden, Bro W.C. Gilles. Bro Matier later became Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons (1889–1914) as well as Great Vice-Chancellor in the Great Priory of Knights Templar (1896–1914). Barnardo was balloted for and elected. 

At the same meeting, Douglas Heron Marrable was also elected. Rather unusually, the Initiation, which took place at the next meeting on 25 November 1889, was an Installation meeting. RW Bro Major-General Lord John Henry Taylour PJGW (1831–1890), was in the Chair as Master and immediately following the Initiation ceremony, Barnardo’s seconder, Bro William Charles Gilles, was installed as Master. 

The visitors included VW Bro Colonel Shadwell H. Clerke himself, RW Bro The Rt Hon the Earl of Euston, Provincial Grand Master of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, RW Bro General I.W. Laurie, District Grand Master of Nova Scotia, Canada, VW Bro Frederick Adolphus Philbrick QC, Grand Registrar and Great Chancellor of Knights Templar and 32° in the Ancient & Accepted Rite and a well-known philatelist, among others. There is no record of Douglas Marrable, who had been elected with Barnardo. 

At this meeting it was decided that the Lodge would move from the Masonic Hall, Red Lion Square to Mark Masons’ Hall at Great Queen Street, where the next regular meeting was held on 23 June 1890. It was W Bro William Charles Gilles’s first meeting in the Chair and a busy one – with five candidates for the Fellowcraft Degree. Bro Barnardo was passed to the Second Degree together with the following additional Brethren: Bros H.F. Matthews, J.L. Grossmith and Bros Newton, South and Savory, who were Passed at the request of the Master of the Grafton Lodge No. 2347. 

Barnardo’s Raising coincided with a tragic event, the death of the newly elected Master of the Lodge, W Bro James MacDonald, who was killed on a railway line on 15 August 1891. A Lodge of Emergency was held on 8 October 1891 at Mark Masons’ Hall and Bro Barnardo was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason by the Immediate Past Master, W Bro W.C. Gilles, together with Bros Pirie, Cummins and Fullilove. 

The only other mention of Bro Thomas Barnardo in the Lodge records is a resolution recorded for 25 September 1905 in which: The W.M. proposed and W Bro H.F. Matthews seconded that a letter of condolence and sympathy be sent to Mrs Barnardo on the loss of her husband, our Brother Dr. Barnardo. This was unanimously agreed.’ 

Tom Barnardo was born in Dublin, the son of a furrier. Little detail of his unhappy childhood has emerged. His reports from St. Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School in Dublin show him to have been rebellious and an agitator, easily bored by lessons, and whilst talented with eloquence, he appears to have been confrontational and argumentative. 

He was unsuccessful with his public school exams and, at 16, chose to cease his studies in favour of a short-lived apprenticeship to a wine merchant. A year later, in May 1862, Barnardo converted to become an Evangelical Christian and took to his newly acquired persuasion with zest and passion. He became impatient to convert others, teaching Bible classes in a Dublin ragged school and getting involved in home visiting. 

His membership, with his whole immediate family, of the Plymouth Brethren, a Christian Evangelical religious movement, was to change his life. The movement, begun in Dublin in the 1820s by a group of prominent Christians, included Dr Edward Cronin, a pioneer of homoeopathy, Dr Edward Wilson, George Müller, founder of the Bristol Orphanage, and Anthony Norris, missionary to Baghdad and India, among others. 

They felt that the Established Church had become too involved with the secular state and had abandoned many of the basic truths of Christianity. The movement spread rapidly and in 1831, by which time the membership had swelled to some 1,500, they met in Plymouth, England soon to be nicknamed the ‘Plymouth Brethren’. 

Barnardo’s experiences in the ragged school, his continued preaching and teaching and his exposure to other philanthropists, James Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), the British Protestant Christian missionary, in particular, led him to choose a medical missionary career in China. With the help of his Dublin friends, Barnardo gained introductions and registered as a medical student in the prestigious London Hospital, now the Royal London Hospital, adjoining Whitechapel Road, in 1866. 

Again, there is little information of his early years in London. He found residence in Stepney, close to the hospital, where he continued with his religious activities at the expense of his studies. In his first year as a medical student, in November 1867, he held the first of his many fund-raising meetings, the success of which enabled him to set up his own ragged school – The East End Juvenile Mission. 

Famously, a young boy in the mission by the name of Jim Jarvis took Barnardo around the squalor and devastation of the East End. The images of children sleeping in the gutter and on rooftops so impressed Barnardo, that he decided to forgo his plans of work in China and dedicated himself to the destitute children of London. He walked the streets of the slum district and brought back to the mission destitute boys. 

Within three years he opened the initial home for boys at 18 Stepney Causeway in 1870. The first 33 inhabitants were all older youths. Some could afford to pay, others were given work in the home whilst being taught how to fit into society. All the boys were treated equally, they were fed and clothed and prepared to face better lives. 

In 1872, the year of the publication of his well-received book How It All Happened, he married Sara Louise (Syrie) Elmslie. A year later, with her enthusiastic assistance, he established the first home for girls, which opened at Mossford Lodge in 1873. It reached a peak in 1883 with the Village Home for Girls in Ilford, Essex, which was a complete community with 70 cottages, its own school, laundry, church and a population of over 1,000 children. 

Meanwhile, his medical studies and status in the hospital suffered at the expense of all these extra-curricular activities. Fellow students complained of his religious enthusiasm and it took Barnardo almost a decade to take up and continue his medical career. A letter he wrote to the Justus Liebig-Universität Gießen, the University of Giessen, Germany in 1875, now in the archives of Barnardo’s in Barkingside, Essex, is both revealing and self-explanatory:

I became a medical student at the London Hospital in 1867 and entered Durham University the previous September and registered as a medical student in June 1868. I duly attended all hospital practice, medical and surgical for four years. In July 1869 I passed the first professional examination in anatomy and physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and hope to go up for the final examination in April next. The reason why I have not proceeded to qualify fully before this is that in 1870 I abandoned the study of medicine and took up the philanthropic work of rescuing destitute children from the streets of our great cities, much of the same character as your own celebrated Dr. Wichern of Hamburg. 

Although I did not proceed with my studies I am generally called Dr. Barnardo and enclose my card … (I) shall be glad to know if you can allow me to be examined by your University early in December … Kindly let me know the subjects of examination. I can give testimonials of my professional knowledge etc., by respectable English medical men, if you will kindly tell me what you require, and I enclose in proof of the truth of my first statements two certificates of registration, which please return when you reply. Also state the amount of fees required…

Nothing appears to have resulted from this appeal and Barnardo continued his studies and obtained his diploma in April 1876 as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons. He returned to London and registered as a medical practitioner and exactly three years later, on 16 April 1879, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. 

He now dedicated himself with full vigour to the establishment of his homes and training schemes. He had initially rented canal-side warehouses and converted them to schools, later acquiring numerous properties in East London. He established an Evangelical mission church, set up facilities and provided for the disabled and those with special needs. 

His commitments had become such that he needed ever more innovative methods to raise funds, often overrunning available resources. Here is where his particular expertise came into play. His great success relied on his capacity to organise mass charity events and raise funds for his projects. Much of the money for his schemes came, in small amounts, from a large number of donors, including children. They were encouraged to give through an organisation he founded in 1891 called The Young Helpers’ League. 

At the time of Barnardo’s death, nearly 15 years later, the membership of the enterprise had grown to 34,000. Barnardo knew how to present his schemes and plans and gained important support in doing so. 

A powerful and persuasive orator, he had already gained the support of Lord Shaftesbury (1801–1885) and of the banker, Robert Barclay (1843–1921). Shaftesbury Avenue, in the West End of London, was completed in 1886, and named in his memory. While using the course of existing streets, it demolished some of the worst slums, which Lord Shaftsbury had campaigned to eliminate from the area. 

Thomas Barnardo was a controversial character by any standards. Some dispute his right to have used the term ‘Doctor’. He tended to ignore the various bodies and councils who set financial budgets and limits on the number of children to be cared for or ‘boarded out’. Boarding out was a fostering scheme started in 1887 when 330 boys aged between five and nine were sent to ‘good country homes’ far from the slums and parishes in which they had lived. In 1893 there were more than 2,000 children boarded out. 

Barnardo was criticised for his lack of regard for what parents and the children themselves thought. He was an autocrat and imposed his thinking upon others. Another scheme, which was criticised and even resisted, was his plan to ‘board out’ illegitimate babies with their mothers, who were encouraged to go into service with an approved employer. Many charities refused to offer help to such mothers as it was seen as rewarding immorality. 

A very important scheme of great concern and much criticised was that of child migration. Between 1882 and 1939 the agency sent over 30,000 children to Canada. The attitude of the agencies sending children to Canada, Australia and other countries was that they were providing them with a new start as they had no prospects in Britain and their families were seen as failing to provide adequate care for them. 

Arguments were put forward that Dr Barnardo was the most influential figure in the child migration of the last half of the 19th century and he was accused of ‘spiriting’ children away to Canada against the wishes of their parents. This was emphasised by a number of court battles. Several more accusations were directed at Barnardo, many with no justification whatever: that the homes were badly managed; that the boys were cruelly treated; that there was no religious or moral training and that published photographs were falsified and intended to deceive the public. 

Barnardo was also personally attacked and charged with improperly appropriating funds for his own benefit. At one stage Barnardo decided to go to arbitration under an Order of Court. In October 1877, the Arbitrators vindicated Barnardo, stating that there was no evidence to support any of the charges laid against him. 

Thomas Barnardo was a great and charismatic philanthropist. He believed in what he did. He had huge abilities, especially to network and to present his work in a way that opened purse strings. He was a hard worker, with infinite projects and plans. And most importantly, he was exceedingly successful. It was inevitable that he would provoke gossip, speculation and even antagonism. His lifestyle took its toll and by the age of fifty Barnardo had some heart complaint. He ignored doctor’s orders to take a period of absolute rest and died on 19 September 1905 having spent a busy day and settled in an easy chair by the fireside. 

The good he did lives after him. 


Barnardo’s stopped running homes for orphans over 30 years ago, but the work today is based on the same set of values on which the charity was first founded. Since 1867 the services provided have changed and they will continue to do so in order to meet the needs of children and young people of today. However, the aim of helping children and young people in the greatest need, stays the same. 

Selected biography and acknowledgements

Barnardo’s on-line: and
David Foster, secretary, Shadwell Clerke Lodge No. 1910, for special efforts.
John Hart, long-standing friend and mentor.
Bruce Hogg, for able and professional advice and proof-reading.
Hitchman, J. They Carried the Sword. The Barnardo story, Gollancz, London (1966).
Wymer, Norman. Father of Nobody’s Children, Longmans, London (1962) 


Friday, 19 April 2002 16:23

Fourth Degree of the Antients

The Complex Origins of the Royal Arch is Described by Yasha Beresiner

Organised freemasonry began with the establishment in London of the Premier Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717. The first evidence of the Royal Arch as a degree is to be found in an Irish publication dated 1744.

Published in SGC

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