The heart of the hall
With 11 November 2018 marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry looks at how a record of the masons who gave their lives in the First World War came to be immortalised in bronze and stained glass
Walking up the grand staircase in Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street, you may have noticed a casket sitting beneath a stained-glass window. It contains the Roll of Honour for the masonic dead of the First World War and, in the area known as the ‘Shrine’, sits at the heart of this art deco landmark that began life as the Masonic Peace Memorial.
First considered in a meeting of Grand Lodge on 2 December 1914, the Roll of Honour was described a year later by Sir Alfred Robbins as ‘a permanent memorial of active patriotism displayed by Freemasonry in the momentous struggle still proceeding’. The Roll of Honour would give the names of brethren of all ranks who had laid down their lives in the service of their country, based on returns made by lodge secretaries.
On 27 June 1919, an Especial meeting of Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the peace. A message was read from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, in which he appealed for funds,
to create a perpetual Memorial of its [i.e. the Craft’s] gratitude to Almighty God…[to] render fitting honour to the many Brethren who fell during the War. I desire that the question of the Memorial be taken into early consideration… The great and continued growth of Freemasonry amongst us demands a central home; and I wish it to be considered whether the question of erecting that home in this Metropolis of the Empire, dedicated to the Most High, … would not be the most fitting Memorial.
Following an international architectural competition in which 110 schemes were submitted to a jury chaired by Sir Edward Lutyens, a design by HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work began in 1927. The new Masonic Peace Memorial was dedicated on 19 July 1933, with the theme of the memorial window in the vestibule area outside the Grand Temple being the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature is the figure of peace holding a model of the tower facade of the building itself. The lower panels depict fighting men from ancient and modern times, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace.
SHRINE TO THE FALLEN
Five years later in June 1938, the Building Committee, in its final report, announced that it had given instructions for a Memorial Shrine and Roll of Honour to be placed under the Memorial Window. At the Grand Lodge meeting on 5 June 1940, by which time the country was again at war, it announced that the work had been completed.
The Memorial Shrine was created in bronze by Walter Gilbert (1871-1946). Its design and ornamentation incorporated symbols connected with the theme of peace and the attainment of eternal life. It takes the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief shows the hand of God set in a circle in which rests the soul of man. At the four corners of the Shrine stand pairs of winged seraphim carrying golden trumpets, and across the front are four gilded figures portraying Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George.
The Roll of Honour is guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services at the time it was designed (the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps). On either side of the Shrine are the bronze Pillars of Light decorated with wheat (for resurrection), lotus (for the waters of life) and irises (for eternal life) with four panels of oak leaves at their base. The Roll of Honour displayed at the Shrine on a parchment roll includes more than 350 names not included in the Roll of Honour book and additional lodge details for about 30 names already known.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry provides regular guided tours of Freemasons’ Hall, offering visitors the chance to see first-hand the beautiful craftsmanship of the Roll of Honour and the Shrine.
Today is the first anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England’s epic Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall – and to mark the occasion a DVD has been released
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces and Districts were joined by representatives from over 130 sovereign Grand Lodges from around the world for this Especial Meeting to mark 300 years since the founding of the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons.
The event started with the procession of Grand Officers entering the Hall, before the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box, accompanied by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton. The audience then witnessed a theatrical extravaganza which embraced the rich history and heritage of Freemasonry and featured a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The DVD is available to all UGLE members and has been distributed to Provincial Offices – please contact them if you have not received your DVD.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, spoke about the historic event, which you can view below.
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex held their first ‘Discover Freemasonry’ open evening at their headquarters in Twickenham on 19th September 2018, giving members of the public a unique insight into Freemasonry
Middlesex decided to attract the attention of potential members using social media, which led to a total of 164 members of the public registering for the event. Simultaneously, it was promoted within the Province, particularly to Secretaries of lodges in Twickenham, which led to another 21 people registering to attend.
The evening was designed to be engaging and inspiring, to present Middlesex’s message in a relevant and appealing way. Attendees were greeted and registered by a group of Provincial Stewards – in their collars. The evening took place in the lodge room and was introduced by Nigel Codron – the Chairman of the Provincial Communications Committee. He welcomed the attendees, shared his journey into Freemasonry, explained how the order is structured in England and Wales and introduced the Leaders.
Omaid Hiwaizi, Provincial Communications Officer, then took on the baton and led an interactive session asking the audience ‘What is Freemasonry?’ – gaining a few interesting responses. The attendees were well-informed, the wild descriptions only being those shared by Omaid as comments which had been made on social media. He then went on to ask if a series of famous historical and current characters were Freemasons – or not. Finally, he shared insights into what happens when a member joins and described the journey – alluding to the metaphor of the rough and smooth ashlars, which he pointed out in the lodge room, much to the interest of the audience.
Then followed seven Master Masons who each briefly described why and how they joined and their initial experiences. Amongst these was Vishakha Jain who is a member of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF), who was particularly inspiring. The broad selection of different voices, backgrounds and stories was particularly engaging and inspiring and attracted loud applause.
Prestonian Lecturer 2019 Michael Karn then delivered a spirited canter through the history of Freemasonry, alluding to the ancient Egyptians, the medieval cathedral builders and concluding on the wonderful Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall last year. It complimented the very real and personal stories which had proceeded. Provincial Membership Officer Nigel Harris-Cooksley also described what those interested needed to do now and what would happen next.
Lastly, the HFAF Grand Master Christine Chapman took to the stage and presented a passionate and inspiring description of Women’s Freemasonry, which again was greeted with wild applause.
The feedback given verbally and through the anonymous forms was universally positive. However, the best feedback was that 18 men filled out enquiry forms on the evening, implying that the content shared very much served its purpose in describing Freemasonry in terms the audience would relate to.
As a result, Middlesex are already planning to hold their next event at Harrow’s masonic centre on 19th November 2018.
Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork
Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004.
Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’
Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.
‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’
13 June 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.
In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.
Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.
Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms.
Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
Loudly and clearly
As Freemasonry builds on the success of the Tercentenary celebrations, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes says there is still much work to be done in promoting its values
We now have the Soane Ark back with us in the Grand Temple. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, or those of you who read Freemasonry Today, will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the Ark of the Masonic Covenant, was made by Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the union of the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813, and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
The Ark was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the three Great Lights.
It was on public display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing wisdom, strength and beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand. I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
STANDING UP FOR THE CRAFT
We have become only too well aware of the term ‘fake news’ in recent times, and we began this year with our own encounter with fake news. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing chairman of the Police Federation and The Guardian newspaper, and I trust you will have also seen our responses.
Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer. The time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren, is enough.
I have said it before and I say it again: I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year that produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
AN IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY
This year, as you know, is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this as appropriate in your area.
The current Freemasons’ Hall was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10 November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge, No. 822, and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
‘We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created’
With 2018 marking the 150th anniversary of the initiation of Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, into Freemasonry, John Hamill reflects on why the ceremony happened in Sweden
In late 1868, HRH Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had a very busy two days while on a private visit to Sweden, where King Charles XV was Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons, a progressive system of eleven degrees.
The eldest son of Queen Victoria and future King Edward VII received the first six degrees of the Swedish Rite on 20 December. He received the remaining four degrees on 21 December, after which he was received into the eleventh and highest degree of Knight Commander of the Red Cross, which is also a civil honour, making him a Knight Commander of the Order of King Charles XIII. The prince was to always wear the collarette and jewel of that dual honour with his masonic regalia.
The question has been asked as to why the Prince of Wales entered Freemasonry abroad. The wits of the day suggested it was because he was in awe of his mother, Queen Victoria, who, they claimed, was not well disposed towards Freemasonry. However, this does not square with the fact that she was royal patron of the then-three national masonic charities.
More likely, it would have been a question of protocol, as well as a wish not to have to make the decision as to which lodge and which senior brother should have the honour of initiating the heir to the throne. Those problems were solved in Sweden, where the ceremonies were conducted by that country’s king and crown prince.
News of the event was sent to England, and it was unanimously agreed that the prince should be appointed a Past Grand Master, which resolved any protocol problems and was in line with what had happened since 1767 to members of the royal family who joined the Craft. As a precaution, as few of the then-senior members of Grand Lodge were conversant with the Swedish degrees, a request was made to Sweden for English translations of the first three degrees of their system, which was quickly answered and showed that they had the same basic import as the English equivalents.
At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 December 1869, the Prince of Wales was received, proclaimed and welcomed as Past Grand Master. In his response to his welcome from the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, the prince said that he felt it ‘a deep honour to be there that day and to be admitted into the Grand Lodge of England’. He had already intimated that he intended to join lodges in England and was to be Master of four lodges and a founder and first Master of three new lodges.
‘The presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet’
AN ENTHUSIASTIC MASON
In 1874, the Grand Master, Lord Ripon, suddenly announced his resignation, as he had converted to Roman Catholicism. While Ripon had no doubts as to the compatibility of Freemasonry and his faith, the pope had recently issued an encyclical against Freemasonry, so Ripon felt he could not continue as an active Freemason.
What could have been a crisis for Grand Lodge was quickly averted by the Deputy Grand Master, Lord Carnarvon, who suggested that the Prince of Wales be approached to stand for election. With the prince readily agreeing, the Annual Investiture was held at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 April 1875 to enable as many brethren as possible (over 7,000) to see the Prince of Wales installed as Grand Master. It was an office he was to be annually re-elected to until he came to the throne in 1901.
The prince was an enthusiastic mason. As Grand Master, he was ex officio First Grand Principal in the Royal Arch. He was Grand Master of the Mark Degree 1886–1901; Grand Master of the Knights Templar 1873–1901; and became 33rd Degree and Grand Patron of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. He was also Grand Patron of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland.
The prince also helped to bring two of his brothers, and his son, into the Craft. The prince was also a great publicist for Freemasonry. When asked to lay the foundation stones of new buildings and other public structures, he would usually insist that it be done with masonic ceremonies in full view of the public. As Prince of Wales he undertook a number of major overseas tours – notably to India and North America – and wherever he went he ensured that he had contact with the local Freemasons.
If it was not possible to attend a formal meeting, the prince ensured that he met groups of local brethren in a social setting, particularly in those areas where English lodges were meeting. As a result of his visits, there was a significant increase in the number of lodges in what were then parts of the British Empire.
At home, the presence of the prince at the head of Freemasonry gave it a newfound respectability and social cachet. During the prince’s 26 years as Grand Master, the number of lodges almost doubled, and membership was seen as a mark of the brethren’s standing in their local communities.
On coming to the throne in 1901, Albert Edward ceased active participation in Freemasonry and took the title of Protector of the Craft, maintaining an interest in its activities until his death in 1910.
Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018
Under the English Constitution
Although Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, had been initiated into the Swedish Order of Freemasons in 1868 (John Hamill, summer 2018 edition of Freemasonry Today), it was not until 1871 that he attended an English lodge – Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197 – at the centenary celebrations presided over by the Master Sir Charles Hutton Gregory, Past President of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
This was reported in the Daily News of 1 March: ‘Friday, the 24 February, will be henceforth a memorable day in the annals of Modern Freemasonry, for it marks the introduction of the Heir to the English Crown to one of those private “Lodges”, which are so numerous as to form a not unimportant item in the social life of the country…
‘His Royal Highness wisely selected a Centenary Festival as the occasion of his first visit to a private Masonic gathering, and, quite as wisely, chose a Lodge which has the reputation of picking out men of scientific attainment or versatile accomplishments as its Members.’
A Centenary Jewel was designed to mark the occasion when the Prince was present as an Honorary Member of the Lodge, but, to the chagrin of the lodge, this did not conform to the design regulations for Centenary Jewels, and it was not until 1884 that these constraints were circumnavigated by designating the Jewel as ‘Distinctive’ rather than ‘Centenary’.
Following this diplomatic breakthrough, a Warrant dated 28 April 1884, signed by the Prince of Wales, then Grand Master, authorised present and future Master Masons of Jerusalem Lodge to wear a Distinctive Jewel to mark ‘our first visit to a Lodge under the English Constitution…’ and ‘as a further and especial mark of our favour we permit and authorise the said Jewel to be surmounted by a representation of our Royal Coronet in Gold’.
Dr Jonathan Dowson, Jerusalem Lodge, No. 197, London
RW Bro Anthony Wilson died peacefully on Monday 14 May, after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity
He was President of the Board of General Purposes for 13 years, retiring from the role at the end of December 2017, and had been President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.
Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which sponsors research fellowships at the Royal College of Surgeons. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge No. 14 in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997, and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004.
He was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004 and was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. He was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012.
He also played a prominent role in many events throughout our Tercentenary celebrations including the unveiling of the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
UGLE has sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow Vicky and family.
Read Anthony Wilson’s interview in Freemasonry Today in 2014, where he revealed that modernising the business of Freemasonry was one of his proudest achievements.
14 March 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, it is always a pleasure to see this magnificent temple as full as it is today, although it is hardly surprising bearing in mind the special nature of today’s meeting. Our Provinces and Districts, as well as those involved here at the centre, have taken a great deal of trouble in identifying those brethren most deserving of the honour that they have received today. I hope it has been a very special day for them and I really do congratulate and thank them. As always brethren, whilst congratulations are very much in order for all that you have done, particularly during the Tercentenary year, it also raises great expectations for your endeavours in the future.
We also have the Soane Ark back with us today. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, (or those of you who read Freemasonry Today) will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the “Ark of the Masonic Covenant”, was made by Bro Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
It was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but UGLE commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the “Three Great Lights”.
It was on public display at the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand.
I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
We have become only too well aware of the term 'fake news' in recent times and we began this year with our own encounter with 'fake news'. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation and the Guardian newspaper and I trust you will have also seen our responses. Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer, and the time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren is enough.
I have said it before and I say again I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year which produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
This year is very much a year of change, particular of key personalities both here and in the Provinces and Districts. On your behalf I welcome Geoffrey Dearing to his first Quarterly Communication as President of the Board of General Purposes and, in April, David Staples, our CEO will become our new youthful and dynamic Grand Secretary, bringing together all the activities here in Freemasons’ Hall. Already this year we have installed two new PGMs as well as new DGMs in New Zealand South Island and SA Western Division. Both John Clark from Buckinghamshire and Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire are able to be present and I welcome them to their first Quarterly Communication as Provincial Grand Masters. We now start a steady stream of installations: nine Provincial Grand Masters and ten District Grand Masters, plus many Grand Superintendents in the Royal Arch. This will keep the Rulers in both the Craft and Royal Arch busy this year as we catch up on the backlog.
Although we have plenty of ceremonial work to do, I am also keen that we continue to visit Provinces and Districts in a less formal way. We are here to provide help and support and we must show it.
This year, as you know, is the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War – 'The Great War'. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this, as appropriate in your area. This building was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10th November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
Brethren, I hope that today has been a memorable event for those I have invested. Many congratulations, once again, and remember there is no resting on your laurels.
To bring the union of the Grand Lodges into being, Articles of Union were agreed that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As such an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Sir John Soane (1753-1837) offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress
Soane was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason and, after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first person to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The first work Soane produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted with a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern.
The ark stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883, when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, as well as most of the furniture and Soane’s ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture, but the ark was not replaced.
One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford, who hoped one day to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It took 30 years for that dream to finally become a reality, and Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s ark was to be reconstructed.
The project was one of cooperation between The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York. Their combined efforts produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.
After appearing in an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum, the ark was transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it was dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards, like the original, it took its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.