With visitors invited to explore Freemasons’ Hall, director of the Library and Museum Diane Clements explains to Caitlin Davies how this is leading to greater transparency
Covent Garden is one of London’s tourist hot spots and this sunny Saturday in September is no exception. The area is crowded with people sightseeing, shopping and visiting bars. But at the end of Long Acre, where it meets the corner of Great Queen Street, is another city attraction altogether. It’s a large, almost monumental, stone building with little to identify its purpose to those who don’t know.
Come a little closer, however, and a plaque states it was opened in 1933 by Field Marshall HRH The Duke of Connaught, Knight of the Garter and Most Worshipful Grand Master. This is Freemasons’ Hall and today it sports a welcoming sign as part of the annual celebration of the capital’s architecture – ‘Open House London’. Now in its twentieth year, the scheme has seven hundred and fifty buildings opening their doors for free, from iconic landmarks to private homes. A steady stream of people head through the Tower entrance to Freemasons’ Hall, where a steward hands out a leaflet. ‘Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall,’ he says. ‘It’s a self-guided tour.’ ‘People often walk or cycle past and have never been in,’ says Diane Clements, who is overseeing today’s proceedings and is director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. ‘People don’t know what they’re going to see – there is a sense of amazement when they get inside, the building is far more elaborate than you might think. The fact that they can come in shows how open we are and helps address misconceptions about Freemasonry.’ Diane has run the Library and Museum for thirteen years, and relishes the opportunity to work with a world-class collection of objects that have interesting stories to tell. ‘The public has a continuing desire to learn about Freemasonry. I’d like to think the Library and Museum has played a part in improving their understanding.’
Wandering at will
Each year thirty thousand people visit the Library and Museum, and most come for organised tours of the Grand Temple. Freemasons’ Hall has taken part in Open House London since 2000 and the logistics of running the event are considerable. ‘For Open House we couldn’t get enough people through the doors using our usual guided method,’ explains Diane, ‘so it’s the only time you are basically given a leaflet and left to look around.’ Her role is to make sure that the two thousand, five hundred visitors on Open Day have ‘an enjoyable and informative visit’, and over the years she’s learnt to always ‘wear comfortable shoes’.
On the right of the cloakroom a sign shows visitors where to start, then there’s a murmur of voices and creaking of knees as people go up the stairs. The building has a library feel to it, but this changes in the first vestibule, which is flooded with glorious yellow light reflected from the stained glass windows. A man crouches to take a picture of a small golden figure, part of the shrine designed by Walter Gilbert. Meanwhile, a woman from West Sussex says she wasn’t sure what to expect: ‘My dad is in a lodge and I always thought he just meant he went to a room somewhere. But it’s fantastic. It’s really beautiful.’ Another visitor, Dermot, just happened to walk past this afternoon. And what did he imagine was inside? ‘That’s the thing,’ he replies, ‘I didn’t know what to expect.’ For a lot of people it is curiosity that has brought them here today.
‘All our buildings are chosen for the quality of their architecture, that’s our criteria,’ explains Victoria Thornton, director of Open-City, which runs Open House London. ‘Some, like Freemasons’ Hall, may have a quiet façade, behind which lies real exuberance.’
In the second vestibule, steward Peter Martin is presiding over a table of free literature and says the event is even busier than last year. Eric from Kent has been to several Open House events today. ‘I started at Lloyds and worked my way along Fleet Street. I’ve seen Unilever and Doctor Johnson’s house… the stained glass is awesome here.’
The question of gender is a popular one. In the third vestibule a woman asks a steward if only men can join Freemasonry. He explains women can join one of two Grand Lodges in England, but they are not allowed in the men’s Grand Temple, and vice versa.
In the Grand Temple there are fold-down seats like a theatre and it’s here that many visitors take the opportunity for a rest. Voices are respectfully hushed. ‘It is contemplative,’ says Diane. ‘There’s never a huge noise in here. It’s not like the Sistine Chapel – we don’t have to say “Quiet please.”’ One steward answers a barrage of questions about rituals and pledges. ‘Is it true the Queen is a Freemason?’ asks one visitor. The answer is no.
An outside walkway leads to the Library and Museum where an exhibition traces the relationship between Freemasonry and sport. The tour ends at the exit on Great Queen Street, where members arrive for their lodge meetings and are watched with interest by departing visitors, one of whom takes a final snap.
When craft becomes art
Artists have been associated with Freemasonry since the 18th century. For some, Freemasons and their lodges were a useful source of patronage, while others responded to the values of Freemasonry and its legendary history, incorporating its symbolism and stories in the art they produced. Drawing on the collections of the Library and Museum and with examples from across Europe, an exhibition at Freemasons’ Hall will explore those individual artistic responses.
William Hogarth and Alvin Langdon Coburn looked at Freemasonry within their established fields of satirical prints and photography, respectively. Many artistic styles and media across three centuries are featured, including examples of contemporary artists.
Sir James Thornhill, Hogarth’s father-in-law and the leading decorative painter of the early 1700s, was a keen Freemason. His artistic work includes the frontispiece for the 1725 engraved list of lodges. It was engraved by John Pine and Thornhill’s design shows an architect with a set of building plans that he is showing to a king, clearly a reference to masonic ceremonies.
Alphonse Mucha was a Czech artist whose poster and advertisement designs frequently featured young women in flowing robes, and were typical of the Art Nouveau style of the late 1800s. In the 1920s he designed the jewels for the then newly formed Grand Lodge of Czechoslovakia.
The exhibition is open from 25 February 2013 to 20 September 2013 and admission is free
The name Teddy Baldock is enshrined in the record books as Britain's youngest ever world boxing champion. Born in Poplar on May 23rd, 1907, boxing was in his blood, his grandfather having been a bare-knuckle fighter. At the tender age of 13 Baldock turned professional, his brilliant boxing skills and colourful style saw him rise to be a top liner at the Royal Albert Hall. After a successful trip to America where the young Englishman took part in 12 contests within 3 months, winning 11 and drawing 1, the popular fighter was offered the chance to fight for the then-vacant world bantamweight title.
At 19 Teddy Baldock defeated American Archie Bell at the Royal Albert Hall for the world championship, in one of the greatest bouts between boxing's little men. His continued success helped secure his place as a British sporting idol, the Prince of Wales being one of his avid supporters. He went on to capture British, European and Commonwealth honours.
In 1929 he was initiated into the Cosmopolitan Lodge No. 917, Mark Masons Hall, London.
Unfortunately at the age of 24, and after a distinguished career of over 80 contests with only 5 losses, Baldock was forced to retire due to injuries he had sustained in the ring. He remained a hero in the East End of London long after his heyday. His wedding commanded front page news in a number of national newspapers and was filmed by no less than 3 news companies including Pathe and Movietone.
Tragically in 1971 Teddy Baldock died penniless. Without the discipline of the sport he had acquired a taste for the "good life", drinking and gambling accounting for much of his earnings. The bombing of London during World War 2 also destroyed a number of properties in which he had invested.
On the 8th March his ashes were interred in the Garden of Remembrance at Southend Crematorium. The man who had thrilled packed boxing arenas with his noble art was completely forgotten - until now.
Teddy Baldock's Grandson, Martin Sax, a former Colour Sergeant in the Royal Marines, recently co-wrote and published his grandfather's life story, Teddy Baldock - The Pride of Poplar. Since the success of the book he has started The Teddy Baldock Sports Benevolent Fund, registered charity no. 1146653, which was set up to assist people who have been severely injured in sport and to offer disadvantaged youths an opportunity to get involved in sport.
A life-size bronze statue has also been commissioned, to be erected outside the Langdon Park DLR Station, Poplar, East London, only yards from where Teddy Baldock grew up. This is in conjunction with the development of the new state-of-the-art Spotlight Youth Centre which aims to provide opportunities for local young people and help tackle some of their problems, including training and education needs, teenage pregnancy, obesity, substance abuse and gang violence. It is hoped that as well as promoting the charity, the statue will act as an inspiration to the local youth as well as commemorating the achievements of a local hero and Britain's youngest ever world boxing champion.
Teddy Baldock currently features in the exhibition Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport held at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London from July – December 2012.
If you are interested in supporting the charity including the statue project, further details can be found at the Big Give website www.thebiggive.org.uk or by contacting Teddy's grandson, Martin via the website www.teddybaldock.co.uk
On the 28th May 2012, W Bro Terence Osborne Haunch celebrated 70 years of being a mason
The occasion was marked by a lunch at the Longmynd Hotel, Church Stretton where Terry was presented with not one but two 70 year Certificates. The forty guests, including five present and past Provincial Grand Masters, heard of a remarkable man and a Masonic journey which led him to a career at Grand Lodge.
RW Bro Robin Wilson, Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire, into whose Province WBro Terry was initiated in 1942, presented their certificate first. RW Bro Peter Taylor, Provincial Grand Master of Shropshire then presented a certificate on behalf of the Province to which Terry moved in 1996. He then detailed Terry’s extensive Masonic career including the many Orders of which he is a member, and remembered his time as a Prestonian Lecturer.
Terry was initiated into Vernon Lodge No.1802 together with his brother Douglas in the midst of the Second World War. He soon found himself on a troop-ship ending up in Khartoum. It was there three years later that Major TO Haunch, following a conversation with a brother officer and Mason, took his 2nd and 3rd degrees. Terry recalled trying to give proofs that he had been initiated and luckily still had the receipt of his dues to Vernon Lodge which his father sensibly suggested he take with him just in case!
After the war Terry qualified as an Architect and worked in local government. A big change beckoned and in 1966 his place of employment became Great Queen Street. After 6 years as Assistant Librarian Terry was appointed Grand Lodge Librarian and Curator of the Museum where he distinguished himself for ten years until his retirement in 1983.
W Bro Terry moved to Church Stretton in 1996 to be near his family. His brother lived next door to W Bro Frank Stewart, a member of Caer Caradoc Lodge and Chapter No 6346, and not long afterwards Terry found himself a joining member of both. He is also a member of the Shropshire Installed Masters Lodge No.6262. Terry’s academic background did not go unnoticed and he soon became a mainstay “lecturer” around the Province and beyond, especially in demand to give talks when a Lodge or Chapter did not have a Candidate. What a privilege it was to hear those talks because the range and depth of Terry’s Masonic knowledge is profound. Visitors to his house were also aware that Terry keeps his own not inconsiderable Masonic library there, and he has been a constant source of information, encouragement and advice to Shropshire’s Masons ever since his arrival there.
Now 94 years of age, Terry has understandably had to curtail his Masonic activities somewhat but he remains in reasonable health and we hope for many more years of his fellowship and perhaps another certificate!
Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager for the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, reveals connections between the Craft and the Olympics
The London 2012 organisers revealed in 2011 that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games – more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans. Compared with this mad scramble for tickets, attendances at the first London Games were low according to The Times on 18 July 1908. Expensive ticket prices, ranging from five shillings to a Guinea (£45 to £60 in today’s money) were blamed for poor sales.
Thankfully, visits by the Royal Family boosted gate returns to the 1908 Games, with over 20,000 people attending the White City Stadium, constructed by the entrepreneur and Freemason, Imre Kiralfy. The masonic connections do not stop there. A keen sportsman and Freemason, Lord Desborough fenced at the unofficial Athens Games of 1906 and served as a member of the International Olympic Committee until 1913. Desborough was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford, on 23 February 1875, the same day as Oscar Wilde.
THE GAMES BEGIN
The 500 British athletes at the opening of the Olympic Games wore caps and blazer badges manufactured by the masonic regalia company, George Kenning & Son. Britons achieved sporting success in real tennis (jeu de paume), athletics, swimming, boxing, tug of war and cycling, with several masonic participants, including Richard Wheldon Barnett of St Alban’s Lodge, No. 29, London, who represented Great Britain in the rifle, military pistol class competition.
This was just the beginning of the 1908 success stories. A Great Britain team won the gold medal in the Olympic football competition, with Vivian John Woodward, an amateur player at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs, scoring the second of two goals. Woodward, from Clacton, Essex, worked as an architect with his father and later designed the Antwerp stadium for the 1920 Olympics. Four years after his Olympic triumph, he was initiated in Kent Lodge No. 15, London.
Sir John Edward Kynaston Studd carried the British team flag and most track and field events were organised by the Regent Street Polytechnic, founded by Quintin Hogg. Studd became honorary secretary of the Polytechnic from 1885 and after Hogg’s death, president. Many sportsmen, including Studd, joined Polytechnic Lodge, No. 2847, after it was consecrated in 1901.
Studd and others formed Athlon Lodge, No. 4674, in 1924, the year Harold Abrahams won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres, as featured in the film Chariots Of Fire, beating an American, Charley Paddock, and another British athlete, the New Zealand-born Freemason, Sir Arthur Espie Porritt. Bronze medal winner Porritt, who later served as Governor-General of New Zealand, became a consultant surgeon and then chairman at the Royal Masonic Hospital from 1974 to 1982. Athlon Lodge member Abrahams and Porritt dined together on 7 July at 7pm every year to celebrate the anniversary of their double medal success in 1924, until the former died in 1978.
BRITISH SPORTING SUCCESS
With the 1908 Games encouraging participation in competitive sports, Britons excelled at subsequent Olympic competitions. The Thames-based rower, Jack Beresford, won a silver medal in the single sculls at the 1920 Olympics and then won medals for rowing at each of the four subsequent Games. He carried the British flag at the opening and closing ceremonies of the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the double sculls. He was initiated as a Freemason in Argonauts Lodge, No. 2243, London, in 1944.
Forty years after its first visit to UK shores, the Olympics came to London again. Ernest James Henry ‘Billy’ Holt, who was initiated in Black Horse of Lombard Street Lodge, No. 4155, in 1922, served as director of organisation for the 1948 London Games. Holt, Master of Athlon Lodge in 1938, had coached the long-distance athlete, Gordon Pirie.
Cycling Freemasons, Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas, formerly of Lodge of Equity, No. 6119, Yorkshire West Riding, won a silver medal in the team road race and Tommy Godwin, formerly of Lodge of St Oswald, No. 5094, Worcestershire, won bronzes in the 1km time trial and in the team pursuit. Godwin coached the British cycling squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be an Olympic torchbearer in Solihull in July, aged 91. This blend of local and national interests, where Olympic and masonic aspirations combine, points to a time when members and non-members can enjoy the pleasure of a game well played, and a race well run.
|Sport by all|
|The Paralympic Games, which began at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 also have masonic ties. Professor Guttman, director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the hospital, encouraged WW2 veterans to play sport for rehabilitation. The Middlesex Masonic Sports Association has supported Paralympians, including Tracy Lewis, basketball, and Anthony Peddle, weightlifting, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Grand Charity contributes to WheelPower (formerly the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation).|
|Game, Set and Lodge: Freemasons and Sport exhibition at the Library and Museum on Great Queen Street runs from 2 July-21 December 2012|
Did you know that before the flashing signs of Piccadilly Circus, a lavish restaurant called Café Monico stood there? A catalogue of historical objects reveals London in constant flux
The sights of London attract millions of visitors from all over the world to the city every year. In an ongoing project, the Library and Museum has been shedding new light on how London used to look. With the support of The London Grand Rank Association Heritage and Education Trust, staff have been working to catalogue nearly 2,000 items, including glassware, banners, ceramics and lodge and chapter jewels – all with London links.
One of the catalogued jewels is a Past Master’s jewel for Temperantia Lodge, No. 4058. Founded in 1920, the lodge met until 1942 at the Café Monico in Shaftesbury Avenue. The jewel has a painted enamel of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, commonly known as Eros, which stood at the centre of Piccadilly Circus in front of the Café Monico.
Monico was established in 1877, and the masonic suite was on the second floor. In the 1950s the business was acquired by the Forte Group and the buildings demolished. The site, still known as Monico, is now occupied by Piccadilly Circus’s illuminated signage.
You can view the full range of items in the collection by searching the Library and Museum’s catalogue for ‘London On-line’.
With football and the Olympic Games dominating the news this summer, the Library and Museum’s latest exhibition at Great Queen Street celebrates freemasons’ sporting achievements.
Many freemasons have been active amateur or professional sportsmen, or have been involved with the administration of all types of sport. Did you know that the only man to win an Olympic Gold Medal and be awarded the Victoria Cross was also a freemason? The exhibition will be your chance to see Sir Alf Ramsey’s Masonic apron, along side medals from several Olympic Games.
The exhibition runs from 2nd July until the end of the year, and further details are available on the Library and Museum's website.
Dr Ric Berman will talk about his new publication "The Foundations of Modern Freemasonry" (Sussex Academic Press 2012) on Wednesday 20 June at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ.
Using largely unexplored original sources, many of which have recently become available in digital form, Dr Berman highlights how freemasonry expanded from its London hub using a range of networks and associations.
Some, such as the Royal Society, are familiar to Masonic researchers; others including the London and provincial scientific lecture circuit and the London magistracy, are investigated for the first time.
Dr Berman will also consider what implications this research has for the development of freemasonry after 1750, which is his current area of research.
The Library & Museum of Freemasonry is putting on a free study day on Wednesday 2 May entitled Lodge, Livelihood and Locality at Glenmore House in Surbiton, Surrey
The study day will bring together researchers in the masonic and non-masonic communities to look at historical sources in Freemasonry and the locality. The day will also introduce sources to enable masonic researchers to put their work in the context of locality and hopefully persuade non-masonic researchers to include Freemasonry and fraternalism in studies of their local area.
Expert speakers will be present and there will also be a hands-on session to help people use and understand original sources. Examples will be drawn from Surrey and nearby areas.
A new exhibition looks at how changes in society and its attitudes have affected the ways in which Freemasons have felt able to be part of the wider public life of the country
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is exploring the history of public masonic activities. There are few towns in England and Wales without a masonic hall and civic foundation-stone layings and processions frequently had a masonic component, with buildings as diverse as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and Truro Cathedral enjoying masonic ceremonies at their beginnings. More recently, hundreds of Freemasons in regalia inaugurated the rebuilt Masonic Hall at Beamish Open Air Museum and Freemasons regularly feature in the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London.
Another example of the active role masons played in public life can be found in the building of the first bridge across the Wear river in Sunderland, which was an important factor in the area’s economic development. The foundation stone was laid by local Freemason and MP, Rowland Burdon, in 1793 and the stone itself records that the event was attended by Freemasons, magistrates and ‘principal gentlemen of the County of Durham’. Although the bridge only took 10 days to put up, the formal opening did not take place until three years later in a masonic ceremony attended by the Duke of Gloucester.