13 December 2017
A presentation by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary
At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge held in June 1945, the Grand Secretary read out a message from the Grand Master, MW Bro the Earl of Harewood:
It is my desire to have power to confer on Brethren who have rendered special service to Freemasonry a distinction to be known as The Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry, to rank immediately above the Grand Deacons, with the prefix Very Worshipful.
It is my wish that there shall be a limit to be determined from time to time by the Grand Master upon the number of holders of the Order. I propose that the present limit be 12.
The President of the Board of General Purposes at once moved amendments to the Book of Constitutions to give effect to the Grand Master’s wishes.
In the early years recipients were invested along with new Grand Officers, generally at the Annual Investiture, but occasionally when additional Grand Ranks were being conferred by way of celebration.
In December 1960, the then Grand Master, the Earl of Scarbrough, made a statement about the Order, 15 years after its institution, concluding that the Order of Service to Masonry would be more effective and be held still higher in the estimation of the Craft if it ceased to be one of the seventy-two ranks in our Masonic hierarchy of Grand Officers. I believe that Grand Lodge will agree with me that the Order of Service to Masonry should be set apart and that it should be possible to confer it upon any Brother without reference to his existing rank, or having any effect upon it.
The necessary amendments to the Book of Constitutions were duly passed, and in June 1961 two new appointments were made – of Brethren who were already Right Worshipful.
A year later, Lord Scarbrough announced in relation to the Order:
It has been in my mind all along that there are Brethren, not already Grand Officers or even perhaps members of Grand Lodge, whose work has nevertheless been of outstanding value to the Craft.
I have, I believe, found such a Brother, and I shall shortly ask the Grand Director of Ceremonies to introduce him into Grand Lodge.
He is Bro Reginald A. Easton, and he has been Secretary of the Whittington Lodge [in London] for 18 years. Largely by his efforts, the Whittington Lodge has built itself up a peculiar position with regard to Brethren of our own and other Constitutions overseas. The result is that the Whittington Lodge now has a world-wide reputation for its hospitality and the welcome it extends to visitors from abroad.
All this is, I believe, due to Bro Easton, who has, however, resisted all attempts to persuade him to accept other offices and reach the Chair, preferring to remain a Master Mason. Hitherto, he has debarred himself from any honour or preferment in Masonry by this attitude of self-denial, but the recent changes in the status of the Order of Service to Masonry enable me to do honour to one who has, I believe, in the truest sense done good service to Masonry.
Bro Easton was then escorted into Grand Lodge and invested.
Bro Easton remains the only Master Mason to be so honoured, but it can nevertheless be seen that the Order looks to a Brother’s service rather than to his rank. As a result, among the eighty recipients (as of today) there have been Brethren of widely varying seniority, but of whom each has made his own unique contribution to English Freemasonry.
The jewel itself, worn from a dark blue collarette, is of silver-gilt, being a double-circle with a pair of compasses extended on the segment of a circle, and the letters O S M; beneath it is the motto In Solo Deo Salus “In God alone is our safety”.
The limit of 12 members has never been increased and there are 12 jewels only in existence, each of which must be returned on the death of its latest recipient. The jewel allocated to each recipient is recorded in a small notebook, and it is the recent custom to give each recipient a list of the previous holders of the jewel with which he has been invested.
13 December 2017
A speech by VW Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor
GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, after a two-year break, I propose to jump-start this presentation by harking back to the Act of Union between the Antients’ and the Moderns’ Grand Lodges, Article III of which provided:
There shall be the most perfect unity of obligation, of discipline, of working the Lodges, of making, passing and raising, instructing and clothing Brothers; so that but one pure unsullied system, according to the genuine landmarks, laws and traditions of the Craft, shall be maintained, upheld and practised, throughout the Masonic World, from the day and date of the said union until time shall be no more.
In order to effect this, the Act provided for the setting up of a Lodge of Reconciliation, consisting of nine worthy Brethren from each of the former Grand Lodges, who were charged initially with settling obligations and subsequently with settling the forms of the openings and closings and the ceremonies, of the three Degrees of Craft Masonry.
At a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge at Freemasons’ Hall on Monday 20 June 1816,
The MW Grand Master stated that he had convened this special Grand Lodge that the Lodge of Reconciliation might exhibit and explain to the Brethren the result of their arrangement. That it was not His Royal Highness’s intention that any discussion should this day take place as to those arrangements; but that at the Quarterly Communication on the 5th of next month he should submit them for the opinion and sanction of the Grand Lodge, so that the Brethren might in the interim have an opportunity of giving them due consideration.
The Officers and Members of the Lodge of Reconciliation then opened a lodge in the first, second and third degrees successively and exhibited the ceremonies of initiating, passing and raising a Mason as proposed by them for general adoption and practice in the Craft.
At the June Quarterly Communication just over two weeks later,
The minutes of the Grand Lodge on the 20th of May last, when the ceremonies and practices recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation were exhibited and explained, were read, and alterations on two points, the third degree, having been resolved upon. The several ceremonies recommended were approved and confirmed.
I have to admit that I am much taken by the opening words of the Report of the Board of General Purposes:
The Board of General Purposes have to report that during the present quarter there has scarcely arisen anything of importance for them to report upon to the Grand Lodge. (Happy days)
JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, like many special Masonic Committees before and after it, the Lodge of Reconciliation went a great deal further than its original brief of settling the form of the obligations and openings and closings. Before the Union, in both Grand Lodges, the actual ceremonies were very brief: in essence the candidate was introduced, took an obligation and had the signs, words and token of the degree conferred upon him. The manner of instructing him in the principles, tenets, history and symbolism of the Craft was by means of catechetical lectures, normally worked at table. The Lodge of Reconciliation greatly extended the simple ceremonies by including material from the catechetical lectures which, sadly, gradually dropped out of use excerpt in the Emulation Lodge of Improvement where sections of them are worked every Friday evening during the Masonic season. I say sadly because the lectures contain a wealth of information which provides answers to many of the questions that brethren regularly raise about our ritual and practices.
The original aim of establishing perfect unanimity of working was never achieved, for the simple reason that Grand Lodge would not allow the revised ritual to be written down or printed in any form. The Lodge of Reconciliation, once its work was agreed, was continued in being to provide weekly demonstrations of the new system, to which lodges were invited to send representatives. You can imagine, brethren, what happened. The only means of transport to London in those days was by foot, horse, carriage or water. Brethren from the North, the West and Wales would travel for days to get to London, see the ceremonies demonstrated perhaps twice and then irritated the heck out of their companions in the coach travelling home muttering under their breaths to try and remember what they had seen and heard! Arriving home they would call together their brethren and demonstrate to them what they thought they had seen in London. This method of promulgation combined with an unwillingness to give up cherished local traditions has resulted in the richness and variety of working under our constitution, which makes visiting all the more interesting for us.
GFR: At the September Quarterly Communication, RW Bro William Williams, the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset addressed the Grand Lodge and stated that he had been informed that at the meeting of the General Committee held on the 21st of August last (at which he was not present) a Brother whom he now saw in the Grand Lodge had there made against him a charge of the most grave and serious nature, and of which charge if he were guilty he declared that he felt himself unworthy of the name of a Mason and that he ought never to be permitted again to enter within the walls of a Lodge, but feeling himself properly innocent of the crime charged against him, he called upon that Brother now to state it, and he implored the Grand Lodge to allow a Special Committee to be immediately appointed for the purpose of enquiring into its truth or falsehood.
W Bro Charles Bonner then rose and stated that he had at the General Committee mentioned his intention of preferring a charge against the Provincial Grand Master for Dorset for violating his obligation as a Master Mason and which charge he was ready to prove before any Committee the Grand Lodge might think proper to appoint; Whereupon after much discussion as to the necessity and propriety of appointing a Special Committee,
It was resolved that a Special Committee consisting of the actual Masters of the 15 senior lodges now present be nominated to investigate such charge to be preferred by Brother Bonner against Brother Williams.
JMH: William Williams was one of the leading members of the small group of Masonic advisers working with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, to ensure that the Union of the two Grand Lodges succeeded and to manage the necessary changes it brought about. A man of integrity in response to Bonner’s call for an enquiry he “solicited a Special Committee, because being himself a member of the Board of General Purposes he was unwilling that they should investigate the charge lest it might be imagined from his being a member there should exist even the slightest tendency to look partially towards him; he knew there could not be any fair ground for such an opinion, but he was still anxious to avoid any thing that could give even a colour for such a thought”. Those with long memories will remember our having referred to Brother Bonner on a previous occasion when he fomented unnecessary problems within Grand Lodge!
GFR: At a Special meeting in October the Committee reported to Grand Lodge. It gave Bro Williams a clean bill of health, feeling it appropriate not to let the matter go “without subjoining to their report a few observations.” The observations start:
When your Committee assert that not a shadow of proof was adduced in support of one of the most serious charges that was ever preferred by one mason against another and that the proceedings which they had the pain of witnessing exhibited so far as Brother Bonnor was concerned in them nothing short of a disgusting mockery of the forms of justice the Grand Lodge will judge with what mixed feelings of astonishment, regret and indignation your Committee were impressed when they found themselves compelled by a general conviction of the futility of the charge to impute it solely to a base attempt of the part of Brother Bonnor to assail in the tenderist point the fair character of a Brother mason.
They didn’t mince their words in those days – and it would be greedy of me not to leave to my colleague the opportunity to regale you with some more of their remarks.
JMH: Plain speaking it certainly was! The Committee went on to question the sanity of Bonner adding “unfortunately, however, for Brother Bonner his poisoned shafts have recoiled upon himself” adding that “the only effect of his charge has been to manifest in his own conduct clear and abundant proof of the commission of the very crime which he has in vain imputed to another”. They then drew Grand Lodge’s attention to Bonner’s previous behaviour stating that “They should have hoped that Brother Bonner’s recollection of his own prior and recorded delinquencies and a grateful sense of the indulgence of the Grand Lodge in restoring him to the participation of those privileges which he had so justly forfeited by his misconduct would have operated as a salutary check upon the un-masonic feelings the indulgence of which has a second time led to his disgrace …”.
GFR: At the December Quarterly Communication, Bro Bonner was “introduced between two Grand Stewards”, made a long statement disclaiming any intention to injure the character of Bro William Williams, coupled with an apology to the Grand Master and Grand Lodge, and withdrew while the matter was debated. Nevertheless, it was resolved
That the original offence of Brother Bonner remains unanswered, but that in consideration of his having publicly acknowledged his error, and made an ample apology to the MW Grand Master to the Provincial GM for Dorset and to the Brethren at large, the Grand Lodge do not feel inclined to visit his misconduct with the sentence of expulsion; in order however to mark their displeasure and also their solicitude for the dignity and tranquillity of the Craft do deprive him of his insignia as a Grand Officer, and of all rights derived therefrom, allowing him to remain in possession of his masonic privileges.
That the preceding resolution respecting Brother Bonner be communicated to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland.
JMH: When the Minutes of the December meeting were put for confirmation on 5th March 1817 they were passed with the exception of the sentences passed on Bonner. It was agreed not to report the matter to Ireland and Scotland but his being deprived of his Grand Rank, after a paper from him had been read out, was again put to the vote and “passed in the affirmative by a very large majority”.
GFR: At the Quarterly Communication of 1 March 1916, after the re-election of the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master announced three special appointments to Grand Rank. One was the representative of another Grand Lodge at the United Grand Lodge of England, but the other two were Brethren at that time interned respectively in Holland and Germany.
The full justification for the latter two appointments was made clear in the Report of the Board of General Purposes. W Bro Commodore Wilfred Henderson, RN, appointed a Past Senior Grand Deacon, had been instrumental in the formation of a Lodge under the Grand East of the Netherlands for naval officers and men interned at Gröningen. W Bro Percy Hull, appointed Past Deputy Grand Organist, had rendered great service to the English Brethren interned in the civilian camp at Rühleben, Spandau.
JMH: Despite its horrors, the First World War has sometimes been characterised as the last “gentleman’s war” because of the way in which it was conducted and the honourable treatment accorded to prisoners of war, be they service personnel or civilians. As we reported on a previous occasion 112 Masonic civilian prisoners of war interned at Ruheleben had sent Christmas greetings to Grand Lodge in 1914. They were suffering privations in 1916 and 1917 due to food rationing in Germany and were sustained by parcels funded by brethren in England and delivered through diplomatic channels and by the Red Cross. As we shall hear in a moment despite those privations they did not forget the bi-centenary celebrations of Grand Lodge in 1917. The Lodge for whose formation Commodore Henderson was honoured was the Gastvrijheid Lodge consecrated in May 1915 by the Grand East of the Netherlands amongst members of the Royal Naval Division interned at Groningen. It was to be joined in 1918 by a second Lodge, the Willem van Oranje Lodge, again consecrated amongst interned British service personnel by the Grand East of the Netherlands. After the end of the war both lodges transferred to England and became Nos. 3970 and 3976 on the register of Grand Lodge.
GFR: The violent anti-German sentiments expressed in December 1915, by W Bro Col. Charles Cassal, PDepGSwdB, resurfaced at this meeting. The Board of General Purposes had considered Col. Cassal’s proposals put forward at the previous Communication, and had produced a more moderate form of words to deal with the relationship between English Masons and those under Grand Lodges in Germany and its allies, both during and after the War. The Colonel, however, took exception to a part of the Board’s statement and – such was the feeling in Grand Lodge – succeeded in having that part referred back to the Board. Nevertheless the Board substantially got its way over the resolution that arose from its report.
After the rather ill-natured atmosphere and debate in March, the June Communication was altogether more amicable. After the adoption of the Minutes, the Deputy Grand Master delivered a statement:
I am desired by the MW Grand Master to state that, having regard to the unprecedented character of the present War and the intense feelings it has aroused, which show no sign of abatement, the Grand Master has decided that, during its progress and until such time after the treaty of peace has been signed as in the future he may determine, there shall be no intercourse or exchange of representatives between the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodges in enemy Countries. and that such Grand Lodges shall be omitted during that period from the list of bodies in the "Masonic Year Book" recognised as in association with this Grand Lodge.
This appears to have spiked the guns of Bro Cassal, because after the adoption of the Board’s Report had been moved a few minutes later, but before the vote had been taken, he rose to address Grand Lodge – at his usual length – to say, among other things:
I came here… intending, and I informed the General Committee of Grand Lodge of my intention, to move an amendment in the shape of a refere; but, having heard the gracious message of the MW Grand Master, I consider that the position of affairs is entirely altered, and… it is not necessary for me to take up the time of Grand Lodge in criticising the Report of the Board of General Purposes as I had intended to do with a good deal of severity.
JMH: Despite his promise, Brother Cassal, like Brother Bonner one hundred years before him, did take up Grand Lodge’s time with another windy speech which, happily made no difference when the resolution was put. The atmosphere at the March Communication, in which the debate was not only ill-natured but at times un-masonic, was symptomatic of the great wave of anti – German feeling then sweeping the nation at that time, which ultimately led even to HM King George V, in 1917, changing his dynasty’s name to Windsor and other members of the family dropping their German titles and accepting English peerages.
One possible reason for the more subdued meeting in June was the fact that news had reached England that Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, KG, on a mission to Russia, had perished with his staff officers and the Captain and crew of HMS Hampshire when it was torpedoed by the Germans two days before the Quarterly Communication. Kitchener had been a very active Freemason holding office successively as District Grand Master for Egypt and the Sudan and for the Punjab.
GFR: It was at this meeting that amendments to the Book of Constitutions were brought forward to ensure the representation of Provincial Brethren on the Board of General Purposes.
JMH: The lack of Provincial representation “in the counsels of the Craft” had become a very sore point. Whilst there might have been some justification in the past for selecting only London Past Masters, because of their ability to attend Board meetings, the coming of the railway network had made London much more accessible to Provincial Brethren. The new Board was to consist of ex officio members, 8 members appointed by the Grand Master, 12 elected by London and 12 elected by the Provinces.
GFR: In September much of the time of Grand Lodge was taken up with discussion of the new Entertainments tax, which had come like “a bolt from the blue” in the Finance (New Duties) Act 1916. The Board’s Report states:
The Commissioners [of Customs] hold that the duty can be claimed in all cases where musical or other entertainments, other than the making of speeches, follow Masonic dinners, though no specific or separate charge is made for admission, and no fee paid to the entertainers. Concerning the basis on which the duty would be assessed with the least inconvenience, the Commissioners have not yet communicated their intentions; and the Board expresses the hope that they will draw up a form of return to enable Secretaries of Lodges to give the information required for the assessment of the duty.
and the President by way of amplification said:
I was strongly in the belief, and even more strongly in the hope, that the claim would prove unsubstantial, and would break down when fairly examined. I think I have at least as intimate an acquaintance with the ordinary everyday opinion of Parliament as any Brother present, and I knew, and I am still of the same opinion, that not a single Member of the House of Commons dreamed that this enactment could possibly apply to such gatherings as ours. I think, moreover, that…. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and even the Commissioners of Customs themselves, had no idea when this clause was originally drafted that it would have so wide a sweep. But the Commissioners of Customs – and Brethren, the way of the tax-gatherer is hard, especially for those who have to pay him – the Commissioners discovered in the Act something that went far beyond what Parliament intended, but which it is submitted went no farther than Parliament enacted….
I regret to say that the opinion of … distinguished Counsel upon the case laid before them, and after considering the Act of Parliament, was directly adverse to our hope that we did not come within the tax. One point they suggested… that we should have an interview on the matter with the Commissioners of Customs before taking any further steps. That interview was held with the Commissioners, who were extremely polite, but all the same they made it perfectly clear that they intended to have the money.
JMH: In December the President of the Board of General Purposes was able to report that further discussions had been had with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and agreement had been reached that provided any entertainment at a festive board was impromptu and not pre-arranged it would not be taxable. The Entertainment Tax remained operable until it was withdrawn in 1960 and Grand Lodge had from time to time to remind brethren of its existence.
GFR: The Quarterly Communication in December was notable for a visit, after Grand Lodge had opened, from the Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught, newly returned from the Dominion of Canada. After he had delivered a short speech and invested the President of the Board of Benevolence, the first verse of the National Anthem was sung and the Grand Master retired in procession.
The Board’s Report contained a paragraph about the introduction of musical items into the ceremonies. And after the Report had been adopted the President moved the following resolution:
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental or vocal music during Masonic Ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but that, in regard to the latter, it is essential that the words are strictly in accord with Masonic principles, practices and procedure; that they are not identified with an exclusive form of religious worship; and that they are submitted before use to the Grand Secretary for approval by the Grand Master…. in order to secure that these conditions, preventing an innovation in the Body of Masonry, are strictly adhered to.
Before the resolution could be seconded, Bro George Rankin, PAGDC, rose to propose an amendment
That Grand Lodge is of opinion that the introduction of instrumental music during Masonic ceremonies is not per se objectionable, but it still adheres to its historic desire for more rather than less uniformity in the ritual of Freemasonry. Grand Lodge cannot therefore consent to the insertion of hymns or anthems or other foreign matter into the body of the ceremonies.
As I have a remote connection with Bro Rankin, I will leave it to my colleague to add his comment on this matter.
JMH: Brother Rankin as well as being a member of the Board of General Purposes was also the Senior Member of the Committee of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement. In addition to ambushing the President of the Board by proposing an amendment without notice, he appears to have got the wrong end of the stick! The motion before Grand Lodge was to control the type of hymns and anthems used during ceremonies so that the universality of the Craft would not be endangered. Rankin seems to have believed that the Board was innovating in matters of ritual and trying to introduce new matters into the ceremonies. His amendment was put to the vote and lost.
GFR: The same meeting was also notable for a motion to transfer the hearing of appeals in disciplinary matters from Grand Lodge to a “Judicial Committee of Grand Lodge”; and for a motion by W Bro Freke Palmer (a Metropolitan magistrate) to amend the Book of Constitutions to limit the number of candidates for any one degree to two on any one occasion.
JMH: Both propositions were held over for future discussions resulting in much of Grand Lodge’s time being consumed with the hearing in great details of appeals against decisions by higher authority. In the debate on limiting the number of candidates for any one degree the Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire gave some incredible statistics, stating of one Lodge in his Province “at one meeting there were 2 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; at the next meeting there were 3 initiations, 11 passings and 8 raisings; and at the next meeting 4 initiations, 9 passings and 9 raisings.”
GFR: In March 1917 Bro Freke Palmer returned to the adjourned motion. Much debate ensued, in the course of which amendments were proposed by several Brethren, including our old friend Col. Cassal, but in the end Bro Palmer’s motion was successful and the Book of Constitutions was amended. the Rule surviving, except for its final sentence, to the present day in the form of Rule 168.
JMH: No doubt the passing of the motion was assisted by comments from the President of the Board who stated that one Lodge which he described as having an ordinary membership of 120 in 1916 performed 83 initiations, 86 passings and 82 raisings.
The motion to remove the appeals procedure from Grand Lodge to a Committee was effectively kicked into touch and was not finally achieved until 1963.
GFR: In June, the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, making his first appearance in Grand Lodge for several years, was received with cheers, when he rose at the beginning of the meeting to address the Brethren:
I am extremely fortunate in having this opportunity of visiting Grand Lodge, and I feel that I am doubly and trebly fortunate in being able to carry away with me as I shall, the recollection of your more than kind and generous greeting. Believe me, it is not without considerable diffidence that I have come here…. But I want to thank you with all my heart for having continued to me that friendship and goodwill and kindness to which I owe so much. My resignation was in the hands of the MW Grand Master after the first few months of the war, and I fully expected that the Grand Master would accept it. But he has been pleased to re-appoint me now on three occasions, and that he has done so can only be due to the fact that it is believed to be your wish that I should continue. (Cheers).
Before the Report of the Board of General Purposes was taken, Lord Ampthill congratulated its President on the knighthood he had recently received.
The Board’s Report itself may fairly be said to be packed full of goodies:
After a general exhortation to the Craft to exercise due economy and even abstinence in those troubled times, there was a tribute to the Grand Secretary, Sir Edward Letchworth – the first of the great Grand Secretaries – who had just completed a quarter of a century’s service in that office.
The Report also signalled several changes to the Book of Constitutions which still survive today: the placing of a positive duty on the Master of a Lodge to exercise a casting vote on any equality of voting in a Lodge; the introduction of a Rule prohibiting a Lodge from passing or raising a Brother from another Lodge except at the written request of that Lodge; and the conferment on the Grand Master of the power to form Lodges abroad not under Districts into Groups under what are now known as Grand Inspectors.
JMH: The President of the Board of General Purposes, Brother Alfred Robins, was a major figure in the world of journalism and had received his knighthood for services to the press. As a young Past Master he had regularly raised questions in Grand Lodge, leading to his being elected to the Board of General Purposes. He worked untiringly for Grand Lodge both at home and overseas and did much to publicise the Craft and to build good relations with the press. It was due to his persistence that we are meeting here today as he skilfully managed both the financing and the construction of the present Freemasons’ Hall.
My co-presenter rightly characterises Sir Edward Letchworth as the first of the great Grand Secretaries. A solicitor by profession, though he practised only for a short time having private means, he had been very involved in the growing militia movement, which brought him to the attention of the then Prince of Wales and other courtiers. He also encountered the Prince of Wales in Freemasonry and it was on the latter’s suggestion that he was offered the Grand Secretaryship in 1892 when Col Shadwell Clerke unexpectedly died. Although approaching 60 when appointed he took to the office with relish and quickly established a reputation for his Masonic knowledge and his diplomatic skills. As Grand Secretary he was responsible for the administration of London Freemasonry, then expanding greatly. Were there a Guinness Book of Masonic records he would have earned a place as during his 25 years in office he consecrated nearly 500 lodges and chapters. Much respected and held in affection by the many he came into contact with, he died a few short months after his retirement in 1917 to universal regret.
GFR: Grand Lodge assembled for an Especial Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 23 June to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the first Grand Lodge. After Grand Lodge had been opened in due form by the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Master was received, and after he had been saluted he announced an exchange of telegrams with his Majesty King George V:
Eight thousand Masons are assembling in the Albert Hall this day to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. I desire on their behalf to take this opportunity of renewing our expressions of loyalty and devotion to your Throne and Person, and to wish you long life and happiness. We pray that victory may crown your arms, and that a just and lasting peace may be the result (Signed) Arthur, Grand Master.
The King had replied:
I have received with much satisfaction the message which you, as Grand Master, have conveyed to me from 8,000 Freemasons, who to day celebrate the 200th Anniversary of British Freemasonry in England. Please thank them most heartily in my name. The traditional loyalty of British Freemasons is a force upon which the Sovereign of this country has ever reckoned, and has been to me a proud memory during the anxious years through which we are passing. (Signed) George, R. & I.
The following morning a service was held in the same venue, with the Lessons being read by the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Secretary, and an Address by the Bishop of Birmingham, Grand Chaplain. At the conclusion the National Anthem was sung in full.
JMH: With no fire regulations and no health and safety committees over 8,000 Brethren were able to attend the celebration of the Bi-centenary of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, how different from modern times! In addition to representatives from the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland the attendance included senior representatives from Grand Lodges in the Empire and the United States of America, many of them being serving officers passing through London on their way to the front. Fortunately the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, who was serving as Commander in Chief in Canada was in London for an Imperial Council and was able to preside at both the special Grand Lodge and the service on the following day.
To mark the anniversary and the part played by the remaining three of the four Lodges who came together to form the Grand Lodge in 1717 the Grand Master announced that in future the collars of their officers would be distinguished by the addition of a central Garter blue stripe. The three Masters were called up and were invested by the Grand Master with their new collars.
Amongst the many greetings and congratulations which had been received was a beautifully illuminated address from the Brethren still held in the prisoner of war camp in Ruhleben, now preserved in the Grand Lodge archives, which the Grand Secretary read out and was met with cheers from the assembled brethren.
Had war not broken out in 1914 it had been the intention to have what the Grand Master described as “a great imperial celebration in London” to mark the bi-centenary of Grand Lodge. Many of those who spoke at the Royal Albert Hall lamented the fact that the war had prevented representatives from overseas, from both our own lodges and from sister Grand Lodges, from taking part in what should have been the largest representative gathering of Freemasons from around the world. It was to be another hundred years before that dream was achieved with our recent celebration of the tercentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge at which almost 150 sister Grand Lodges were represented. But that, as they say, is a story to be told on a future occasion, no doubt by Graham’s and my successors in December 2117!
13 December 2017
Order of Service to Masonry Citation for W Bro Keith Gilbert, PSGD
Bro Keith Gilbert was made a Mason in November, 1972, at the age of 27, in Radius Lodge, No. 5474, in London, and was installed as Master of Skelmersdale Lodge, No. 1380 in West Lancashire in 1984. He has at various times been a member of eight other Lodges and has served as Master of five of them. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Bedeword Chapter, No. 7274 in Warwickshire in 1976, and served as First Principal of Harpenden Chapter, No. 4314 in Hertfordshire in 1995. He is, or has been, a member of three other Chapters. He remains active in Hertfordshire as Secretary of a Lodge, Scribe E of a Chapter and Immediate Past Master of the Province’s Lodge of Installed Masters.
Bro Gilbert was appointed a Provincial Grand Steward in Hertfordshire in 1995 and held various other offices in that Province before he became Provincial Grand Secretary in 2004. On relinquishing that office in 2011 he was appointed an Assistant Provincial Grand Master, holding that office for four years. Bro Gilbert holds the rank of Past Senior Grand Deacon in the Craft, and Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch. He also served as a Grand Steward on the nomination of Globe Lodge, No. 23 in 2014.
In 2015 Bro Gilbert was appointed as the unpaid Team Leader for the Tercentenary Planning Committee, which reported direct to the Board of General Purposes. He was therefore directly responsible for coordinating all the Tercentenary events throughout the Provinces and Districts, as well as linking in and coordinating the requirements of our guests from the many Grand Lodges around the world, and masterminding and planning all administrative matters for the period 29th to 31st October 2017.
He selected and built up a team with great skill and they worked well with him. He planned everything well in advance and in great detail, endeavouring to ensure that nothing was missed. Initially he would spend about two days a week in the office, but that gradually increased until 2017 when he spent most working days at Freemasons’ Hall.
That all the Tercentenary events went so smoothly was down to the outstanding determination and dedication of Bro Gilbert over a three-year period of intense and detailed hard work. For ensuring the success of Grand Lodge’s Tercentenary celebrations, Bro Gilbert is awarded the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry.
Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
8 November 2017
An address by the ME First Grand Principal HRH The Duke of Kent
Thank you ME Pro First Grand Principal, for your exceedingly kind words and, companions, thank you all for your support which I do enormously appreciate.
I was delighted today to be able to appoint and promote so many of you to celebrate my 50 years as First Grand Principal. This, of course, is in recognition for all you have done for the Royal Arch, but it is also (you may not be surprised to hear) in expectation of further services.
Although smaller than the Craft, there is no doubt that the Royal Arch holds a very warm and special place in our affections. Over the last fifty years we have adapted our ritual to make it easier to understand, to remove some of the anomalies and to ensure a greater involvement from the companions, and I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made.
Whilst this year has been a great celebration for the Craft, I have no doubt that we too will benefit from the great success it has achieved, and I know that there are measures in hand which will ensure that Freemasonry has a prominent place in society for many years to come.
Companions, I am greatly encouraged by all I have seen this year and I thank you all for all your hard work – especially the Grand Scribe Ezra, the Grand Director of Ceremonies and their respective teams for their work in ensuring the success of this morning’s Investiture.
Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
8 November 2017
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes
ME First Grand Principal, companions, over a week ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Royal Albert Hall about the 50 years’ service our Grand Master had given to the United Grand Lodge of England. Companions, those of you who were there, or have seen that remarkable event online, might have noticed that what I said seemed to go down reasonably well.
Companions, that took no notice of the fact that the job of First Grand Principal and Grand Master run concurrently, and therefore any mathematician can work out that the First Grand Principal has also been head of our Order for the same fifty years. It is quite remarkable. I mentioned it as a remarkable achievement; it is even more remarkable when you look at it in that light.
Companions, in a moment I shall ask you to show your appreciation of the service the First Grand Principal has given to this wonderful Order. But I am going to challenge you companions to make it slightly shorter than in the Albert Hall, but I know it will be no less heartfelt companions.
13 September 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, before I welcome our overseas guests, may I first welcome our new Chief Executive Officer, David Staples, currently masquerading as a Deputy GDC but who, all being well, will become Grand Secretary in due course.
Brethren, welcome back from the summer break which I hope you have been able to enjoy. The Tercentenary celebrations have continued unabated and it has been an extremely busy period since our last meeting.
In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of this building, erected by the Time Immemorial Lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, one hundred years before, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.
The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the East and from Salisbury and Exeter in the South to Durham in the North and many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and digging for fossils – all splendidly organised. Thank you so much.
I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka and witness at first hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of, what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly and in Sri Lanka the District have raised funding to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the MCF they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecendented May monsoon.
These, however, felt like short trips compared to our Assistant Grand Master who I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras (Chennai). He tells me it was a training run for his November visit to our Districts of New Zealand, North and South Islands, and including our Inspectorate in Fiji and Vanuatu. And finally, just to round it all off, a dinner in Blackpool. This makes it sound as though the Deputy Grand Master has been sitting at home doing little. This is far from the truth and he made many District visits earlier in the year that you have heard about before, and he has added many miles to his car travelling around this country.
I, brethren, am greatly looking forward to visiting our District of Ghana later this month followed by Cyprus next month, and our Inspectorate in Portugal in November. It really is very humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts specifically, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces. Well done everyone.
Brethren, in June I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester over £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. Well done too, to North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member. An exceptional result. Brethren, as you would expect, our thoughts are very much with our brethren in the Caribbean and we are in touch with them.
Thank you, also, for all your efforts with the MCF Tercentenary grants and public vote. The public vote closed on 31 July and I can report that over 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants and most of these votes – over 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinized these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.
This project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social media outlets but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post on one of these sites should have agreed to be shown. We recently had an unfortunate incident when this did not happen. Brethren, this is an invasion of privacy and it could have resulted in the person losing his job or any other position. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.
Our main event in the next two months is at the Royal Albert Hall where we shall be welcoming over 140 Sovereign Grand Masters from overseas and which, I am advised, will be “edutainment” – you will leave, having been educated and entertained and feeling proud to be a Freemason and proud of what Freemasons have achieved in the last 300 years.
Shortly after that, on 8 November, we shall be celebrating 50 years of our Grand Master also being our First Grand Principal when he will preside at the meeting and invest those awarded Grand Rank in celebration of his achievement.
Brethren, there is still a lot to this year left. Let’s give it a final push to ensure that it is a year to remember, with pride, and a year to use as a springboard for the future.
13 September 2017
Order of Service to Masonry citation for W Bro Edward Arnold Ford, PJGD
Bro Eddie Ford was made a Mason in December 1978, at the age of 36, in Andresey Lodge No. 6408, in Burton-on-Trent in the Province of Staffordshire, serving as its Master in 1988 (and again in 2011). In 2001 he joined Foster Gough Lodge No. 2706 (the Installed Masters’ Lodge for Staffordshire). He was exalted into the Royal Arch in Abbey Chapter No. 624 in 1995, becoming its First Principal in 2010 (having already served on two occasions as First Principal of Mercia Chapter No. 3995, which he had joined in 2001). He is also a member of Staffordshire First Principals Chapter No. 2706.
Bro Ford served a year as a Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1994 on his first appointment as a Provincial Grand Officer and was appointed the Provincial Senior Grand Warden in 2001. Subsequently he also served some years as Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Royal Arch before becoming the Third Provincial Grand Principal in 2015. Bro Ford holds the rank of Past Junior Grand Deacon in the Craft, and in April of this year received the Rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in the Royal Arch.
Bro Ford’s outstanding claim to masonic distinction, however, lies in his work over the past fifteen years as the driving force behind the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Soon after the establishment of the Arboretum, the Freemasons of that Province created a masonic garden on a prime site on the “Millennium Avenue”, near to the visitor centre.
The Garden was originally dedicated in June 2002, as part of that summer’s celebration of “Freemasonry in the Community”. It was always the intention that the Garden should be provided with a suitable entrance and in April of this year the imposing symbolic gateway of which the most striking feature is two great pillars, each some nine cubits high, supporting two globes, was formally dedicated.
The whole project was overseen by Bro Ford and involved the bringing together of various disciplines in the planning as well as the execution. Not only were the skills of two separate architects required, but also those of a structural engineer in order to give the site a sure foundation where before there had been a sand and gravel quarry; and finally an arboriculturist was needed to advise on the right trees to plant round the perimeter of the garden to have a chance of surviving in the poor soil, because the yew trees originally chosen had proved unsuitable.
Bro Ford devoted many hours to ensuring the successful completion of the project, and it is undoubtedly due to his hard work, determination and persistence that not only Staffordshire masons, but those throughout the English Constitution now have a significant stake in the National Memorial Arboretum.
13 September 2017
Order of Service to Masonry citation for W Bro Professor Aubrey Norris Newman, PJGD
Bro Aubrey Newman was made a mason in December 1967, just after his 40th birthday, in John of Gaunt Lodge No. 523, in Leicester, serving as its Master in 1981 (and again in 2000, after putting in a five year stint as Secretary from 1994 to 1999). In 1984 he joined Lodge of Research No. 2429, also in Leicester, becoming its Master in 1996. In 1990 he became a member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the Premier Lodge of Masonic Research, and was its Master in 1998. He was exalted into the Royal Arch in St. Martin’s Chapter No. 3431 in 1984, becoming its First Principal in 1990. He is a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden, as well as a Past Provincial Grand Scribe N, of Leicestershire and Rutland. In 2004 he received the rank of Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies, and in 2016 was promoted to Past Junior Grand Deacon.
As a lecturer, and in due course Professor, in History at the University of Leicester, Bro Newman has had a distinguished academic career and is now an Emeritus Professor of the University. His particular specialities are the Eighteenth Century and British Jewish History up to the present day, in which connection he is a Vice-President (and former President) of the Jewish Historical Society of England. In 1990 he founded what is now the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies at Leicester – the oldest holocaust research centre at a British University – of which he remains as Honorary Associate Director. He has the additional distinction of having the annual Aubrey Newman Lecture, instituted in 2006, named after him.
As might be expected from his background, Bro Newman’s outstanding contribution to Freemasonry has been in the area of masonic research, covering such diverse matters as the history of the Provinces, and Jews in English Freemasonry. He was Prestonian Lecturer in 2003 (The contribution of the Provinces to the development of English Freemasonry) and for over ten years has chaired the Editorial Committee of Quatuor Coronati Lodge. Most recently, he was the joint organiser of the highly successful Tercentenary Conference in Queens’ College, Cambridge in September 2016, the proceedings at which have recently been published in a volume (running to over 700 pages) Reflections on 300 Years of Freemasonry. Though he is now in his ninetieth year, his researches continue.
13 September 2017
A presentation by RW Bro Bro Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master
Pro Grand Master and brethren, we all have our own view of what we see in masonry. For me, it’s five things:
- We’re all volunteers: none of us have to be masons or do what we do. The magnificent total of £3,100,000 announced at the North Wales Festival on Saturday was all the result of volunteering: voluntary time, voluntary effort, voluntary money;
- What we now call “social inclusion”: bringing together people of different origins, backgrounds, occupations, interests, locations, opinions, faiths; people who would not otherwise meet; in a common activity in which all are fundamentally equal;
- Our purposefulness: when we meet, there’s a purpose, whether it’s a masonic meeting, ritual; or charity or a community project; the best recent example I saw, the Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure organised by Dorset, 200plus children in need from all over the country taken on a week’s healthy activities by the sea. Whatever it is, we want to do it well, and we do;
- The practice of every moral and social virtue: words cited by the Bishop of Worcester, not a mason, at the Provincial Tercentenary Service on Sunday in a sermon that would inspire every mason. Our, if you like, moral code, best illustrated in the Charge to the Initiate, is a huge asset which will play increasingly well with younger generations for whom such things are in short supply;
- The social side: we do do the best parties, don’t we, getting to know each other informally, in friendship, and it works because of the other factors I’ve mentioned.
We all sense a steady move to greater openness: the Sky TV programmes; publicity in the right way for our charity and community activities: the word Freemasons on the London's Air Ambulance; wearing regalia in public: all in the right direction.
Recognising masonry’s good things but sensing that the make-up and profile of our membership – age, number – were going in the wrong direction, the Board of General Purposes – BGP – set up the Membership Focus Group – MFG – under the inspired leadership of Ray Reed to find out what was happening to today’s membership, to assess the likely affect on tomorrow’s and, if we didn’t like that – which we didn’t – to decide what to do.
Deciding what to do is called STRATEGY – YES! The MFG produced, and everyone adopted, Strategy: The Future of Freemasonry 2015-2020, which I know we’ve all read and like.
Thoughts then turned to implementing the Strategy. Ooh, the MFG said, could be difficult – better get someone else to do it, and so was born the Improvement Delivery Group – IDG (I hope you’re keeping up with the jargon, brethren) to Deliver the Improvements which should flow from the work of the MFG.
I was out of the room at the time, so they made me Chairman. Also out of the room was Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal Gareth Jones, so we made him Deputy Chairman.
Strategy is no good unless it is accepted, understood and embraced by the membership – remember we’re all volunteers. The IDG had to show it was including Craft and Royal Arch, and all areas of the country, and Head Office. So, in addition to Gareth and me:
- Michael Ward, London
- Jeff Gillyon, Yorkshire North and East Ridings
- Stephen Blank, Cheshire
- Peter Taylor, Shropshire
- Tim Henderson-Ross, Gloucestershire
- Charles Cunnington, Derbyshire
- Ian Yeldham, Suffolk
- Mark Estaugh, West Kent
- Stuart Hadler, Somerset
- Gordon Robertson, Buckinghamshire, who leaves us on retiring as PGM and is replaced by James Hilditch, Oxfordshire
- Ray Reed
...and from Head Office:
- Grand Secretary Willie
- Assistant Grand Secretary Shawn
- ..and now Chief Executive David
Brethren, in light of all they do, I would like all those I’ve named to stand and be recognised. Thank you.
To pick up the work of the MFG we formed Working Groups matching the elements of the Strategy. The Strategy talks about effective governance at all levels; a leadership development programme; the attraction and retention of members; and the sustainability of masonic halls. Thus…
Gareth Jones is leading our Governance Group looking at who and what does what, the roles and responsibilities of each office and body, what they and what they’re not, and how we ensure that people understand what their roles and responsibilities are and aren’t, and what is expected of them. From the esteemed Adelphi2 we have lots of lovely statistics which will help show how Provinces and Districts are doing in terms of membership and help them to direct their efforts where they are needed.
Leadership – Michael Ward – aims to equip office-holders for their roles. Workshop sessions for PGMs and Grand Superintendents; workshops for Deputy PGMs and Grand Superintendents; next week the first training session for secretaries. We now have a UGLE training officer, Andrew Kincaid, to devise and roll-out training roles for all different roles. This not about imposing uniformity – you will do it this way – but helping people to see what’s involved and how to do the job well.
Jeff Gillyon’s Masonic Halls Group have published the Masonic Halls Centres of Excellence Guide, now available, best electronically, and those responsible for the management of masonic halls are strongly encouraged to use it: you will find it very useful. It is now in the charge of John Pagella, Grand Superintendent of Works, who has formed a Steering Group to manage the Guidance Manual and keep it up to date. There will be an annual meeting for all Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works.
The five Provinces in Regional Communications Group 1 – North of England – on the initiative of Gordon Brewis, Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works for Durham, have recognised the need for professionally qualified Provincial Grand Superintendents of Works and arranged for them to meet so that the adoption of best practice can be recommended uniformly across them all.
The Guidance Manual is not a book to be read from cover to cover: it is a reference tool, to be consulted as circumstances lead. It is guidance, support and advice: a guide to best practice. It can’t give definitive advice on, for example, legal issues, because so much depends on individual circumstances.
We want our halls and centres to be at the centre of the local community. Maybe we should refer to them as Masonic Community Centres.
Our Membership Group, headed by Peter Taylor, has circulated for comment the Membership Pathway, the product of several years of devoted effort, and parts well piloted in ten Provinces and 110 lodges Its purpose is to help lodges attract and retain the right members in the right place: to show what we need to do to attract the members we want to join us, stay and enjoy the full masonic journey.
Again, it is not a book, you do not read it cover to cover, you look at the parts you want as and when you need to.
The Pathway will be launched at the Provincial and District Rulers’ Forum – PDRF – on 18 October and then rolled out. So no-one should worry that they will be presented with it and then left on their own. Roll-out will be organised for you: to Regions and Provinces from January to March next year, and then to lodges….and there will be a folding leaflet on the front of Freemasonry Today in December.
There is much demand from masons to know more about masonry, its origin, history and meaning. Stuart Hadler’s Education Group is creating an online store of masonic learning materials, readily accessible in a Virtual Learning Environment. It will be tested later this year, introduced to a number of pilot Provinces in the new year, and full roll-out will be in later in 2018. What the group want is more materials to include, so contributions welcome, please.
In parallel to all this continues the excellent progress of the Universities Scheme, of which I am honoured to be the President. Existing and new lodges, and chapters, here and in Districts, recruit among students at universities and equivalent across the country and outside the UK, and do so very successfully. There are still a number of universities in this country not represented in the scheme, and we are addressing that.
I would like to thank all who are involved in the scheme, all volunteers, for all they do, and in particular the Chairmen: the founding Chairman, Oliver Lodge, now moonlighting as the Grand Director of Ceremonies; Edward Lord, current Chairman who retires after eight distinguished years at the Scheme conference in this building on 4th November; and Chairman-Designate Mark Greenburgh, who takes over on that date, and I would ask them to stand and be recognised too.
Many Provinces and Districts have New and Young Masons’ Clubs, with a wide variety of imaginative names, and those that don’t will. These clubs are an excellent way of those newer to masonry getting to know more other newbies, and building essential camaraderie. The clubs are holding their conference on 14 October in Birmingham under Gareth Jones’ leadership.
All this, IDG and others, is about creating our future, which is in our hands and which we are doing. The figures already show that it is working: in many areas there is a discernible shift in the trend of the numbers, and there will be more.
I have illustrated this talk with scenes from the everyday life of an Assistant Grand Master. Here’s the last one. In his sermon at the Durham Tercentenary Service last Thursday – I’m into clergy this morning, brethren – the Dean of Durham, also not a mason, said he saw masonry as a confident, open and engaged fraternity with strong foundational values.
We can do this, brethren, we can do this.
14 June 2017
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor
MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, at a dinner party last year the conversation turned to the idea of time travel and, were it to become possible, which period we would like to go back to. I said that, for something I was involved in professionally, I would like to go back to a specific day and location in London to meet and ask questions of a particular group of people and that I would like to bring some of them to our time to see what they had given birth to on that day.
It will not surprise you to learn that the date I selected was St John’s Day in summer, the 24th June, in the year 1717 and the location was the Goose and Gridiron tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard. As we know, on that day representatives of four London lodges came together, elected a Grand Master and Grand Wardens and resolved to “revive” the Annual Feast and Quarterly Communications which it was claimed had fallen into desuetude due to the neglect of Sir Christopher Wren when Grand Master. As we also know today, that resolution was based on a pious fiction as there is no evidence for there having been any Grand Lodge or Grand Master before 1717.
To us, with the benefit of hindsight, the meeting on 24 June 1717 was a momentous and historical event – but put into the context of the time a different picture emerges. One of the problems of dealing with 1717 and the first few years of the Grand Lodge is the lack of hard facts to work with. It was not until 1723 and the appointment of William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, as Secretary to the Grand Lodge that minutes began to be kept. Of the four lodges which came together to elect a Grand Master in 1717 three are still working today – the Lodge of Antiquity, the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge and the Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland – but their early minutes have long been lost so that, with the exception of those elected to the offices of Grand Master and Grand Wardens we have no records of whom their members were in the years 1717–1725, when the Grand Lodge first called for lodges to submit lists of their members, or who attended the meeting on 24 June 1717. What we can deduce from secondary evidence is that the meeting was not a huge assembly. The Goose and Gridiron survived until the 1890s and just before it was demolished an enterprising masonic historian drew sketches of its exterior and measured the room in which the Grand Lodge was formed. The room would have held less than a hundred people who would have had to stand very close to each other to fit into the room!
Our primary source for what happened in those early years is the history of the Craft with which Rev Dr James Anderson prefaced the Rules governing Freemasonry in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions he published on behalf of Grand Lodge in 1738. Because Anderson’s history of the Craft pre-1717 is more than somewhat suspect, some historians have cast doubts on his description of the events in Grand Lodge from 1717–1738. What they forget is that he compiled it on behalf of the Grand Lodge and that it was vetted by a Committee of the Grand Lodge before it went into print. Although writing 20 years after the events of 1717 there would still have been brethren around who were involved in those early years, not least Rev Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722, 1723 and 1725, who would have been very quick to point out any errors of fact in Anderson’s comments on the Grand Lodge.
From Anderson’s account in its first years the Grand Lodge met only for the Annual Assembly and Grand Feast to elect the Grand Master and Grand Wardens. From two other sources we can deduce that the Grand Lodge began to act as a regulatory body in 1720. Both the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions include a postscript describing the ancient manner of constituting a new lodge as practised by the Grand Master George Payne in 1720. A very rare masonic book entitled “The Book M or Masonry Triumphant” published by a brother Leonard Umphreville in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1736 includes a report of a meeting of Grand Lodge in 1720 in which a Code of Rules for the government of the Craft compiled by the then Grand Master, George Payne, was adopted. The report was followed by the list of 39 Rules, which formed the basis of the Rules printed in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions published in 1723.
Some have questioned why there were no press reports of the event in 1717, but they have been looking at the past with the eyes of the present. In 1717 Freemasonry was largely unknown. The late 17th and 18th centuries were a great age of societies and clubs many of them meeting in taverns and the growing network of fashionable coffee houses in the Cities of London and Westminster. If noticed at all, the formation of Grand Lodge would have been seen as just another society. It was not until the early 1720s when Past Grand Masters George Payne and Dr Desaguliers began to attract members of the nobility and the Royal Society into Freemasonry that the press of the day began to notice Freemasonry, reporting on the initiations of prominent men of the day and the annual Grand Feasts of the Grand Lodge.
It was not until 1723 that the Grand Lodge became fully established as the regulatory body we know today. By that year, in addition to the keeping of minutes of Quarterly Communications and the publication of the first Book of Constitutions, the Grand Lodge had extended its authority outside the Cities of London and Westminster, issuing deputations to constitute lodges in the Provinces and bringing into the fold some independent lodges that had been meeting quietly in the northern provinces. The Rules compiled by Payne in 1720 and published in the Book of Constitutions in 1723 introduced the concept of regularity, stating that no new lodge would be countenanced as regular unless it had been personally constituted by the Grand Master or a brother deputed by the Grand Master to act for him.
At a conference sponsored by our premier lodge of research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, at the Queen’s College, Cambridge, last September two academics gave a paper suggesting that we were celebrating four years too early and casting doubts on the meeting in 1717. Having carefully studied their paper my response is that old fashioned polite English expletive: balderdash! Their thesis seems to boil down to an academic semantic argument as to what constitutes a Grand Lodge. They appear to think that we were not a Grand Lodge until 1721 because there is no evidence for any attempt at regulation before that date. It is beyond doubt that at the meeting on 24 June 1717 Anthony Sayer, Capt John Elliot and Jacob Lamball were, respectively, elected Grand Master and Senior and Junior Grand Wardens – officers of a Grand Lodge. The academics appear to believe that, like Athene springing fully armed from the head of Zeus, for the meeting in 1717 to be accepted as the formation of a Grand Lodge it should have immediately acted as a regulatory body. Life rarely works that way!
In talking of time travel I said I would like to bring back from 1717 some of those involved in the meeting on 24 June. In their wildest imaginings they could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to: a worldwide fraternity of regular Freemasonry spread over the whole world. They would find some things that they would recognise from their practice of Freemasonry but would also find much that was very different. Over the last 300 years Freemasonry has developed and expanded in ways they could not have imagined. What English Freemasonry has demonstrated over the last 300 years is that it is a living organisation capable of changing its outward forms and adapting itself to the society in which it currently exists. It has had a wonderful knack of making those changes without in any way changing those fundamental and inalienable principles and tenets on which Freemasonry was founded and which would certainly be recognised by those who met in 1717. The more I study our ancient Craft the more I am convinced that whatever problems we may face from time to time, provided that we maintain that delicate balance between managed change and not altering our basic principles and tenets, Freemasonry will ride over those problems and future generations will be able to enjoy its fellowship and privileges as we and the many generations that have gone before us have done since that happy day in 1717 on which Grand Lodge was born.