12 December 2018
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, 2018 has brought many changes, not just within UGLE, but also across the masonic world. In the last three weeks there have been new Grand Masters in Scotland, France and Norway. The Deputy Grand Master was in Oslo and I went to Edinburgh and to Paris. Representing the MW Grand Master abroad fulfils and reinforces our reputation as the premier Grand Lodge and I strongly believe that the better we know our counterparts in the foreign constitutions, and the better they know us, the easier it is to have meaningful discussions on any points of mutual interest or indeed controversy that might arise.
At home, we have had 28 changes of Provincial or District Grand Masters. The Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters have been greatly involved and we have also had the benefit of the support of the Second and Third Grand Principals in the Royal Arch. We are enormously encouraged by the calibre and enthusiasm demonstrated by our new Rulers and I am pleased that we seem to have a strong team of leaders throughout our Constitution.
Some years ago, Provincial Grand Masters suggested that the Rulers got even more involved in the appointment of their successors. This rather surprised us as we felt it could be seen as unwelcome interference. However, we were encouraged to think about the qualities that a good Ruler in the Craft might possess, and how this might manifest in the success of their Province. As a result, the whole system is now more robust and we are seeing the benefits. This is not in any way meant to denigrate those who have gone before – far from it, but with decisions being more transparent, I believe the sharing of the burden of decisions has been welcomed, and the Craft is benefitting as a result.
Brethren, I am sure that you will agree that it is so important that those appointed to any office within the Craft know what is expected of them. This is equally as true of those within a private lodge as it is at Grand Lodge or Provincial or District Grand Lodge level.
Believe it or not brethren, in addition to selecting those we think will do the best job and are the best fit, we now actually tell our Provincial and District Grand Masters what is required of them. About three times a year we run courses for future and new Provincial and District Grand Masters and the feedback that I have had from those who have attended has been extremely positive. I can emphasise what a success this project has been as I have had nothing whatsoever to do with it. A great deal of the credit for the quality of these courses goes to RW Bro Michael Ward, VW Bro Graham Redman and the team here at Freemasons' Hall and I thank them for their work on my behalf and on behalf of the recipients.
I sometimes wonder brethren if we take our private lodge officers for granted. Do we expect that each year the officers will automatically know what is expected of them? In the vast number of cases the main ceremonial offices are filled by those who are working their way up the lodge’s ladder and they will have benefitted from their Lodge of Instruction and rehearsals. It is the more administrative offices that may need assistance. That assistance is available from the centre or in the Provinces, particularly for Secretaries, Almoners and Charity Stewards. However, I believe there are still a large number of lodges who see the collar of the Almoner and Charity Steward as needing a pair of shoulders to sit on. Surely the offices deserve better than that, and care should be taken when making these appointments, after all they are both involved in the charitable work of the lodge, which is so dear to our hearts, and so important to the public perception of who we are and what we do.
There is one last lodge appointment that I would like to comment on, and, whilst not technically an officer of the lodge it is an important role. It is the job of the Royal Arch Representative. Many of you will have heard me advocating the encouragement of Craft masons to join the Royal Arch and I won’t go through the reasoning again today. Suffice it to say that one of the best recruiting tools is to have such a Royal Arch Representative in each lodge. It is a lodge appointment and it should be carefully thought through so that the member with right skill set has the job. It seems to me brethren that consultation with the Grand Superintendent, whether or not he is the Provincial Grand Master has merit. When a Province has separate leaders, I am sure they will both be equally keen for the right choice to be made and would welcome such consultation.
Brethren, as we come to the end of another calendar year, I really believe that we can look back with pride in what has been achieved in many aspects of our work and, equally, can look forward with great optimism to where we are going and how we are going to get there. To paraphrase the Grand Secretary at the start of the year, can we ever get enough of enough is enough.
Brethren I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday and enjoy a well-deserved break.
Freemasons’ Hall had a special guest on 10 December 2018 when UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, paid a visit to view the ‘Brothers in Alms – Peace Through Sacrifice’ exhibition
The Grand Master was taken around the exhibition by the Curator Brian Deutsch, which showcases a photographic history of war and peace in the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibition, which will run until Summer 2019, is displayed on the second floor of Freemasons' Hall.
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.
On 10th November 2018, in a full Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, Victoria Rifles Lodge No. 822 hosted an event to mark the Centenary of the Armistice
Victoria Rifles Lodge, based in London, is one of the 37 Circuit of Service Lodges which exist to promote comradeship and fraternal contact between military masons. Given the sacrifice of so many of members in the First World War it’s appropriate that such a Lodge should have hosted the Armistice Centenary Meeting.
The lodge’s streamlined Installation meeting, and subsequent theatrical presentation, was conducted in the presence of the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. The Past Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and six Provincial Grand Masters were also in attendance.
The Pro Grand Master was escorted into the temple, accompanied by a banner procession featuring all the Circuit of Service Lodges. The banners and banner men filed either side of a Vickers machine gun, placed on a raised platform in the centre of the hall, manned by four Silent Sentinels, symbolising the moment ‘the guns fell silent’.
The Worshipful Master, Capt James Milne, extended a warm welcome to all present and was proclaimed as Worshipful Master of the lodge for a further year. Before the lodge was closed its members voted to donate £9,000 to the Royal Hospital Chelsea Scarlets Appeal and a further £9,000 to Veteran’s Outreach Support.
The Armistice Commemoration Event then began with the entrance of seven Chelsea Pensioners to the tune of ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’.
The Lodge Director of Ceremonies, Jamie Ingham Clark, then asked all those present wearing Hall Stone Jewels on behalf of their lodges to rise. With over 500 members standing, he then presented the Worshipful Master with the lodge’s jewel, his address epitomising the whole occasion.
He said: ‘I now have pleasure in investing you with the Hall Stone Jewel, which was presented to this Lodge by the MW the Grand Master in recognition of our contribution towards what was then called the Masonic Peace Memorial, the building we are now in.
‘The medal is suspended by the Square and Compasses, attached to a ribband, the whole thus symbolising the Craft's gift of a Temple in memory of those brethren who gave all, for King and Country, Peace and Victory, Liberty and Brotherhood.’
Actor and guest speaker Simon Callow CBE then commenced with the ‘Sound and Light show’ with readings of renowned war poetry and letters sent between a mother and a son fighting on the Western Front.
The members were then subjected to a sound and light show, with the Vickers gun at its epicentre, resembling an artillery bombardment. The barrage increased in noise and intensity becoming a completely immersive 360-degree experience. A flash and bang emanated from the gun, signalling an eerie silence and from the ceiling of the Grand Temple, a cascade of poppy petals floated gently from above.
Following the formal Act of Remembrance including The Last Post, Two Minute Silence, Reveille and Dedication, the Circuit Banners fell in and after the bugle call of ‘Men to Meal’ there was a recession in silence led by the Silent Sentinels. As the members filed out, they were each invited to place a poppy next to the machine gun as a personal tribute to the fallen. This remarkable meeting further consolidated the powerful bond that exists between English Freemasonry and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Lest we Forget.
On the following day, Remembrance Sunday, over 40 members of Circuit of Service Lodges participated in the official ‘March Past’ at the Cenotaph in Central London, each wearing armbands that attested to their membership.
Queen Victoria’s Rifles served with distinction in the First World War as the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles). Its two active Battalions were awarded 27 Battle Honours.
Officers and Men were awarded: 1 Victoria Cross, (Lt Woolley was the first soldier or officer of the Territorial Force to be so awarded). 7 Distinguished Service Orders, 40 Military Crosses, 18 Distinguished Service Medals and 141 Military Medals. Of two Battalions with an average strength of some 700 all ranks each: Queen Victoria’s Rifles lost, Killed or Missing in Action, 170 Officers and 1,395 Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Riflemen.
An intrepid group of veteran soldiers, who are suffering the mental and physical effects of their service, are heading across the continent to Greece and back, thanks to a grant from Dorset Freemasons
The Veterans in Action (VIA) charity were awarded £25,000 from Dorset Freemasons last year for the Veterans Expedition Overland project, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. As a result, four Land Rovers left Freemasons' Hall this month on for an overland expedition driving from the UK to Greece and back, a journey of 7,000 miles passing through 14 different countries.
Veterans in Action helps veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition to civilian life difficult. VIA also works to enable people to understand more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and veterans' mental health issues. VIA uses the outdoors, centre-based projects, adventurous activities and expeditions to help veterans re-build their confidence, self-esteem, and self-belief. The charity was one of four to be nominated by Freemasons in Dorset, with local people voting to decide the level of their award.
Work started on the vehicles in November 2017, with a group of veterans from all over the UK, plus serving personnel from the local Tidworth Garrison, coming together once a month to work on first stripping the vehicles then fixing and preparing them for the overland expedition. To date, over 50 veterans and serving personnel have taken part in the project.
These vehicles will give longevity to the project and will be used to train veterans in all aspects of expedition planning, off road driving and active expeditions. Mini expeditions are currently being planned which are aimed at the local military garrison Tidworth in Wiltshire, where there are 15,000 troops and their families.
In 2019, after the expedition returns from Greece, Veterans In Action plan to do a year-long road trip around the UK to raise awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They hope to raise funds to buy a property which will be set up as a veterans retreat which will include many workshops and outdoor activities.
Following the Dorset Freemasons' grant, VIA were also awarded £10,000 from AVIVA, £10.000 from The Veterans Foundation and £10,000 from the National Lottery. They have also received sponsorship from many companies which include Maltings 4x4, All Makes 4x4, Terrafirma 4x4, UPOL, Raptor Paint, Premier Group, Curry's/KnowHow, Teng Tools and Regatta Outdoors, as well as individual masonic lodges from across Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.
Billy MacLeod, Chief Operations Officer of Veterans In Action, said: 'The initial support of the grant of £25,000 from Dorset Freemasons made the Veterans Expeditions Overland project a reality. That's why we've decided to set off on our expedition from Freemasons' Hall. On our return we'd like the chance to visit as many lodges as we can around the country to show them what their support has achieved'.
Mark Burstow from Dorset Freemasons said: 'We're very pleased to be able to support Veterans in Action, who do outstanding work with veterans who are living with the effects of war. Our service personnel have given a great deal to our country and it's only right that we give something back to them.’
Freemasons’ Hall is hosting an extraordinary exhibition to showcase a photographic history of war and peace in the first half of the 20th Century
This exhibition of rare photographs spans the period from the Second Boer War through to the end of the Second World War, and features those who led and those who served on land, sea and in the air. It portrays the great landscape of the conflict across all continents and the diversity of the participants.
It includes those Freemasons who held top military positions and also highlights the great charitable work by Freemasons both during and after the war in building and supporting hospitals and rehabilitation housing, and providing pensions for ex-servicemen.
Brian Deutsch, who has curated the exhibition, commented: ‘Freemasons played a major role in both war and peace throughout the first half of the last century. From the leaders of men to the rank and file, field marshals to privates, they fought valiantly throughout all the conflicts, and supported the afflicted and downtrodden when peace came.’
One in six Victoria Crosses in the Great War were awarded to Freemasons for their valour in the face of the enemy. Deutsch added: ‘Partly as a result of this, many of their comrades in arms joined masonic lodges after the wars. I became fascinated by the stories that the pictures told and remembered many First World War pictures that came up in the research for the exhibition.’
The images illustrate the old war with cavalry and lances, through to the new mechanised war with motor vehicles, tanks and aeroplanes. It celebrates the lives of those who took part in the war – from the Royal Princes and Generals to the ordinary men and women, who served through those extraordinary times.
The exhibition is displayed on the second floor of Freemasons' Hall, and if you are interested in viewing the exhibition you should book a date and time when visits can be made. Click here to book a tour.
The exhibition will run until November 2019.
Suffolk Freemasons Andy Gentle and Nick Moulton cycled all the way down to Freemasons' Hall on 12 September 2018, completing the final part of a four year challenge which has helped to raise over £21,600 towards their Festival 2019 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
The Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk Ian Yeldham, together with his partner Amanda, wishing to show their support, accompanied Andy and Nick on this last cycle. All arrived safely and were greeted by Sir David Wootton, UGLE Assistant Grand Master, and James Newman, Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, along with around 70 supportive members from Suffolk.
Back in 2014, Andy and Nick came up with the idea of cycling to every lodge within the Province to attend a meeting, looking to raise awareness of the Festival whilst also hoping to gain an extra donation from each lodge they visited. With the added bonus of getting a little fitter and also being some of the very few to have visited all 68 lodges in the Province.
Their original target of £6,600 had to be re-evaluated due to fantastic support, as in the end the total amount raised was over £21,600 with 2,260 miles cycled.
Andy commented: 'The cycling challenge has been just that, no easy task either physically or logistically, with one of the hardest aspects being the juggle with work trying to fit in around all the various lodges meeting dates.
'But it was rewarding in so many ways, seeing the beautiful Suffolk countryside in a way we would never have otherwise seen it, making so many new friends amongst brothers and of course being so very well supported by all the lodges.'
Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum (MMF) recently ‘took over’ Freemasons Hall in an initiative bringing Freemasons, their families and non-Masonic friends together for a unique gathering in the iconic home of the United Grand Lodge of England
It was June 2017 when Paul Massie, Assistant Provincial Grand Master with responsibility for overseeing the MMF, first approached the Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank with the idea of inviting Masonic and non-Masonic guests from around the country to take part in a day that would be remembered by all involved. The event would consist of a Masonic Lecture and a Masonic ceremony performed by a team of MMF members from lodges across the Province of Cheshire plus a tour of Freemasons Hall for friends and family during the day – a real family occasion. With the Provincial Grand Master's enthusiastic approval, the date was set for Saturday 18 August 2018.
Invitations were sent to all 1,600 members of the MMF, inviting them to be part of a 22 strong team of light blue masons. From applications received the team was selected, its memberships ranging from one to 10 years, each keen to play their part in this unique opportunity.
The ceremony work was divided up so that all team members could play an active part, the initial challenge being the differences in ritual the members were used to performing. Director of Ceremonies Mike Christian (Preceptor of the 100 of Wirral Emulation Lodge of Instruction, No. 39) was tasked to use his experience to train the members in Emulation Ritual and create a well-rehearsed team fitting of the big occasion.
Whilst the team worked hard to perfect the ceremony, the organising committee were busy building a special website, arranging finances and the logistics necessary to put on such an event so far from Cheshire. Tony Harvey was delighted to be invited to present his 2012 Prestonian Lecture ‘Scouting and Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?’ as part of the day’s events. Harvey, a renowned Scouter and Freemason, had recently attended a meeting of West Cheshire Lodge No. 2977, the newly appointed Scouting Lodge in Cheshire, where he and Massie gave presentations on Scouting and Freemasonry and updated those present regarding the MMF event. Tony adapted his lecture to make it suitable for his Masonic and non-Masonic audience.
By midday on Saturday, guests had arrived from 17 Provinces including the District of South Africa (Western Division) and were escorted through the North doors leading up to the beautiful marbled mezzanine area in front of the main temple. Here they were able to view the temple itself as the doors were open to allow full access. The guests then moved to Lodge Room 10 and Tony Harvey delivered his Lecture and answered questions.
It was then time for the non-masonic guests to enjoy the pre-arranged tour of the Hall, the members remained to watch the delivery of the second degree ceremony – this would be a one off display by the 22 members who had come together and worked so hard for this moment. The ceremony started with the entrance of the Provincial Grand Master to music played by David Roberts-Jones. What followed was an exemplary example of teamwork with the brethren performing a faultless ceremony and tracing board.
The changes of personnel was seamless and a fine example of how ceremonies can be shared. Towards the end, the Provincial Grand Master addressed the meeting, highlighting the aims of the event and his pride at witnessing the excellent ceremony which had been performed by relatively inexperienced Freemasons from his Province. He thanked the organising committee for the work which had been done and Manor Lodge No. 4202 for allowing the ceremony to be conducted under their banner.
This event, sponsored by the Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum, is the first by any Province where a Provincial Light Blue Masons Club has invited and encouraged members from other Provinces and their New Young Masons Club (NYMC), together with their non-masonic guests, to attend and enjoy a day of social and Masonic activity together.
It is hoped this flagship Freemasons Hall event will encourage similar ones to be held in the future, where both Freemasons and non-masons can meet to enjoy a day of suitably arranged activities, possibly sponsored by different clubs around the country.
In the future, the Cheshire MMF will be hosting a range of events including team competitions amongst its members with questions on Masonic and General Knowledge, various local and provincial social events, Masonic lectures, visits to Lodges both within and outside of the Province of Cheshire and more ceremonies performed by MMF volunteers. The efforts and success of the Masters’ and Masons’ Forum will play an important part in the growth of Freemasonry within Cheshire over the years to come.
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.’
Those who dwell in the silent cities
With Rudyard Kipling as one of its founding members, how did a masonic lodge created for those serving in the Imperial War Graves Commission in northern France find its way to London?
From Gallipoli, the Middle East and Salonika to the European nations along the Western Front, the sites of many First World War graves were unknown, and in areas where fighting had been heaviest, bodies lay unburied.
The commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross, Sir Fabian Ware, decided that the final resting places of the dead would not be lost. His unit therefore began recording and caring for all the graves they could find. By 1915, this work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission.
With the support of Edward, Prince of Wales, Ware submitted a memorandum on the subject to the Imperial War Conference, and in May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission, today called the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was established by a Royal Charter.
Undertaking the reburial of the fallen soldiers of Britain and its empire, the commission was empowered to buy land in order to build cemeteries and memorials wherever required. Its work began in earnest after the 1918 armistice that ended the fighting. That year, some 587,000 graves were identified, with a further 559,000 casualties registered as having no known grave.
For commission members who were masons, creating a lodge was the logical progression – the commission was free from political control and was tasked with caring for the graves of men and women from many religions.
With the commission making its headquarters just outside St Omer in March 1919, Lodge No. 12 was consecrated nearby on 7 January 1922 in both the French and English rites.
Lodge No. 12’s founders included Sir Fabian himself, Sir Herbert Ellissen and Conservative politician Sir Henry Maddocks. But perhaps the most famous founder was Rudyard Kipling, who had joined the commission as literary adviser.
Kipling inspired the eventual name of the lodge: The Builders of the Silent Cities. In the words of the by-laws of No. 12, the name ‘beautifully expresses the vocation of its members, whose sympathetic labour is to construct and maintain permanent resting places and memorials to the glorious and valiant dead of the British Empire who fell in the Great War’.
During the 1920s, No. 12 was an active lodge, holding eight meetings a year and giving an opportunity for the study of Freemasonry without encroaching on Degree ceremonies. According to ‘35 Masters, The Story of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4948’, the lodge built up ‘an enviable reputation for excellent working’, including a modified version of the Sussex working in the Third Degree. It was the only lodge in France to do so and was carried out as a mark of respect for Kipling, who was a Sussex man.
In 1925, the commission moved to London, and many of the senior members of No. 12 were transferred to England. This naturally led to the need for a London lodge, and on 5 December 1927, the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4948, was consecrated under the English Constitution.
‘O valiant hearts who to your glory came, Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, Your memory hallowed in the land you loved’ A line from the hymn ‘Oh Valiant Hearts’, which is sung at the end of Lodge No. 4948 meetings
A HALL STONE LODGE
While Ware had been a founder member of No. 12, he was not a member of a lodge in the English Constitution at the time so could not play a similar role in the formation of No. 4948. Ellissen therefore became the first Master and shouldered the burden of most of the work during the lodge’s formative years.
With Freemasons’ Hall a memorial to the brethren who fell in the First World War, it will come as no surprise that Ellissen’s first resolution was that No. 4948 should become a Hall Stone Lodge. Grand Lodge had launched a campaign to raise funds to help in the Hall’s construction, with a target of £1 million. Lodges that contributed an average of 10 guineas per member were to be recorded in the new building as Hall Stone Lodges and the Master of each entitled to wear a special medal on a collarette. Ellissen was determined that the medal should be attained during his Mastership, so that future brethren should know that every Master from the first onwards had worn it during their year of office.
Since its inception, Lodge No. 4948 has had a number of different London homes, meeting at Andertons’ Hotel in Fleet Street, The Rembrandt Hotel on Thurloe Street, The Mostyn Hotel on Portman Square, the Royal Commonwealth Society on Northumberland Avenue and The Park Court Hotel in Bayswater. In 2001, however, it returned home to Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, where it was originally consecrated and still meets today on the third Friday of January, February, March and November.
At the end of every meeting of Lodge No. 4948, ‘Oh Valiant Hearts’ is sung, a hymn specially written for a War Anniversary Intercession Service held in Westminster Abbey in August 1917. Originally titled ‘The Supreme Sacrifice’, the hymn is a fitting tribute to those who dwell in the silent cities.
Thanks to ‘35 Masters, The Story of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge’ and ‘The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge’. For more information about the Imperial War Graves Commission, now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, go to www.cwgc.org.