As Commonwealth nations mark the armistice signed to end the First World War, Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, traces the origins of Freemasons’ Hall
While the peace treaties after the First World War were still being negotiated in Versailles, following the armistice on 11 November 1918, the United Grand Lodge of England began preparations for its own masonic peace celebration in London. In June 1919, guests from lodges in Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, New Zealand and England enjoyed a week of activities, including visits to the masonic schools and the Houses of Parliament. A peace medal was issued to those who attended the special Grand Lodge meeting on 27 June at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught, was unable to attend, but he asked Lord Ampthill, the Pro Grand Master, to read a series of messages. One of these spoke of ‘a perpetual memorial’ to ‘honour the many brethren who fell during the war’. For the Grand Master, ‘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… would not be the most fitting peace memorial.’
With individual lodges considering what form their own memorials should take, the issue was raised at the Grand Lodge meeting in September 1919. Charles Goff from Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, No. 12, asked if consideration had been given to other forms of memorial – particularly a fund to support Freemasons wounded during the war or their dependants. Charles also asked whether a major building project should proceed at a time of housing shortage. Although several lodges and Provinces decided to support local hospitals, Grand Lodge elected to proceed with its new temple.
In January 1920 details of the campaign to raise funds for the new building were distributed to lodges and individual members. The target was £1 million, giving the campaign its name – the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. Contributions were to be marked by the award of medals. Members who contributed at least 10 guineas (£10.50) were to receive a silver medal and those who gave 100 guineas (£105) or more, a gold medal. 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 as a collarette. By the end of the appeal, 53,224 individual medals had been issued and 1,321 lodges had qualified as Hall Stone Lodges.
A design by architects HV Ashley and F Winton Newman was chosen and building work started in 1927. Construction began at the western corner of the new building, where houses on Great Queen Street had been demolished, and progressed eastwards.
The new Masonic Peace Memorial, as it was called, was dedicated on 19 July 1933. The theme of the memorial window outside the Grand Temple was the attainment of peace through sacrifice. Its main feature was the figure of peace holding a model of the tower façade of the building. In the lower panels were shown fighting men, civilians and pilgrims ascending a winding staircase towards the angel of peace.
In June 1938, the Building Committee announced that a memorial shrine, to be designed by Walter Gilbert, would be placed under the memorial window. Its symbols portrayed peace and the attainment of eternal life. It took 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 showed the hand of God in which rested the soul of man. At the four corners stood pairs of winged seraphim with golden trumpets and across its front were gilded figures of Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George.
In December 1914 Grand Lodge had begun to compile a Roll of Honour of all members who had died in the war. In June 1921, the roll was declared complete, listing 3,078 names, and was printed in book form. After completion of the memorial shrine, the Roll of Honour, with the addition of over 350 names, was displayed within it on a parchment roll.
The Roll of Honour was guarded by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Flying Corps). By the time all these memorials were complete, the country was already in the midst of another war. Freemasons’ Hall continued to operate during that Second World War and survived largely undamaged so that it can be visited today.
Did you know we used to hold the record for largest ever sit-down meal?
HM The Queen is having a street party for her 90th birthday to be attended by 10,000 guests: http://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33456400
But for years it was Grand Lodge which used to hold the record for largest ever sit-down meal. The event was in aid of the Masonic Million Memorial Fund which raised money to build our beautiful Freemasons' Hall in London.
The historic lunch was held on Saturday 8th August 1925 at Olympia. Special trains were laid on to transport the over 7,000 members to the venue, who dined on five courses and coffee, served by 1,250 waitresses in just over an hour!
Five miles of tables were laid with 50,000 plates, 30,000 glasses, 30,000 knives, 37,000 forks and 15,000 spoons. The assembled enjoyed salmon, lamb, chicken garnished with tongue and York ham.
A central conning tower was erected in the gallery which was fitted with electrical signalling devices for the caterers to supervise the event. There was also a loudspeaker system with amplifiers that allowed all the diners to hear the speeches clearly. Music was provided by the band of the Welsh Guards.
Books of matches were issued at the end of the meal, featuring an image of the event jewel on one side and the coat of arms of the United Grand Lodge of England on the reverse. Cigars and cigarettes packed in specially designed cases were also distributed.
Wow! And what an incredible image of the special day. I wonder what's in store for our tercentenary in 2017...
Grand Lodge statement on masonic emblem
Complaints have been received about an advert offering for sale cufflinks and lapel pins in the form of a replica of the Hall Stone Jewel. Informal approaches had previously been made to the individual concerned, advising that the design was inappropriate and requesting that he ceased to market the items.
The Board of General Purposes concluded that the design in this context is altogether inappropriate. The device is inextricably associated with Freemasons’ Hall, which was built as a memorial to masons who gave their lives during World War I.
Except in the case of the small number of brethren still living who subscribed to the Masonic Million Memorial Fund and thereby qualified to wear an individual jewel, the privilege of wearing the Hall Stone Jewel is now restricted to the Masters of lodges whose donations to the Fund averaged 10 guineas per member, and the Provincial or District Grand Master of the Hall Stone Province (Buckinghamshire) and the Hall Stone District (Burma). The Board considered that turning such an iconic emblem into an item of personal adornment was in the worst possible taste and deeply disrespectful to the memory of the many fallen members of the Craft.
It also noted that a donation to ‘Masonic Charity’ is promised for every sale made, which it regards as an attempt to give respectability to an enterprise that appears to have been undertaken for personal gain. The Board recommends that brethren of this Constitution neither purchase nor wear such items.
Croydon Freemason Cyril Spackman was a man of many talents, including winning the design competition for the Hall Stone Jewel, as Alan Chard explains
At a special meeting of Grand Lodge in June 1919, the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, expressed a wish that a memorial be established to commemorate those brethren who had made the supreme sacrifice in the 1914-1918 war.
It was agreed that this memorial should be a building of a central home for Freemasonry on a site to be selected in London.
The Masonic Million Memorial Fund was then launched in September that year and brethren both at home and overseas were invited to contribute to raise the £1m needed to finance the work.
The contributions from individuals and Lodges were to be recognised by the award of a commemorative jewel.
For the jewel design it was decided to hold an open competition with a £75 prize for the winner, and at the Grand Lodge meeting in June 1921 it was announced that the design selected was that submitted by Cyril Saunders Spackman.
He was initiated into Panmure Lodge No. 720 on 21 January 1918 when 30 years old. The Lodge was to become a Hall Stone Jewel Lodge, although Spackman resigned in February 1923.
But in 1937 he thought there was a need for a new Surrey Lodge to be formed to cater for professions such as engineers, architects, surveyors etc. This led to the founding of Beaux Arts Lodge No. 5707, consecrated at Sutton Masonic Hall on 28 January 1938. Spackman and Sadler, his father-in-law, were both founder members, Spackman being the first secretary, and Sadler the first Master.
With the coming of war, Surrey County Council requisitioned the Hall for use as a rest centre, but Spackman came to the rescue and offered the Lodge the use of his studio for its meetings.
As a result, the Lodge met there regularly from 1939 to 1948. Spackman became Master in January 1940, and had the unique distinction of being installed in a ceremony conducted in his own home.
He remained secretary right up to his death, and even during his year in the chair, he continued to deal with Lodge affairs, although another Brother was secretary by name.
He was a man of many talents – architect, painter, sculptor, teacher, writer, Freemason. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 15 August 1887, the only son of a Welsh Methodist minister the Rev. John and Adele Saunders Spackman.
Educated in schools on both sides of the Atlantic, in 1922 he was commissioned to paint the portrait of a prominent Croydon Freemason, Richard Joseph Sadler.
Mr Sadler had a daughter, Ada Victoria, and romance blossomed, and later that year they were married. The Croydon Times (19 August 1958), in an interview with Spackman, reported:
A high-ranking Surrey Freemason, he recalled that it was Freemasonry that led to his marriage with Miss Queenie Sadler, the well-known Croydon violinist in 1922, and to his coming to live in Croydon. He first met her when he was asked to paint the portrait of her father, who was then a prominent Freemason. “And it was a real Masonic wedding, in St Matthew’s, George Street” Mr Spackman remembered.
They had one daughter, who became a writer, and a son who became an RAF pilot, and who then flew with British Overseas Airways Corporation. Then he became a designer and test pilot with Miles Beagle Aircraft. Tragically he was killed during a flight at the age of 35.
At their home in East Croydon, Cyril Spackman had a splendid studio built to his own design in which he could exhibit his own works and hold meetings.
Hall Stone Jewel
The Masonic Million Memorial Fund Commemorative Jewel, issued to individual subscribers. The design was described at the time as follows:
“The jewel is in the form of a cross, symbolising Sacrifice, with a perfect square at the four ends, on the left and right squares being the dates 1914-1918, the years in which the supreme sacrifice was made. Between these is a winged figure of Peace presenting the representation of a Temple with special Masonic allusion in the Pillars, Porch and Steps. 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.”
In 1930 he was elected a Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Although he trained as an architect he had always wanted to be a painter, and in 1913 he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition at the age of 26.
The work accepted was Westminster Abbey – the West Front. In 1916 another work was accepted – Crickhowell Bridge, Wales and the following year The Edge of the Coppice was approved.
One commission he must have enjoyed was for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. Queen Mary had always been an enthusiastic collector of antiques, especially miniatures, and the Doll’s House was intended to be not just a gift, but also to promote the work of leading British artists, designers and craftsmen.
Built on the scale of 1:12 it was completed in time to appear at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. After the exhibition closed it was taken to Windsor Castle for permanent exhibition, where it has remained to this day.
The architect of the house was Sir Edward Lutyens – one of the three assessors for the design competition in 1924-1926 to select an architect for the new Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London.
More than 1,500 craftsmen and artists were invited by him to participate in the construction of the house and its furnishings, including Spackman, who contributed Fir Trees against a Sunset Sky.
Honours now came to Cyril Spackman, and in 1916 he was elected a member of the Royal Miniature Society and the Royal Society of British Artists (RSBA).
For Freemasons, his most important commission was the design in 1921 of the Hall Stone Jewel for the United Grand Lodge of England, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1922.
He was very proud that the jewel is a main feature in the central panel of the stained glass window behind the shrine on the first floor vestibule at Freemasons’ Hall.
However, there is one interesting change in the jewel in the panel. When he designed it in 1921 this was prior to the architectural competition for the new building.
When the window was designed several years later, the façade was now known, so the winged figure of Peace, instead of holding a model of a classic temple – as in the jewel itself – is actually holding a model of the Tower façade for the building.
The Duke of Devonshire was Grand Master 1947-1950, and in 1950 Spackman exhibited at a Winter Exhibition of the RSBA a bust of the Duke, and in December that year he presented it to Grand Lodge.
In 1944 he was admitted into the Worshipful Company of Masons, which had its origins in the operative guild formed to control the stone trade in London.
Spackman was generous with his time and talents and was a well-known and active figure in the local community. He was chairman of the Croydon University Extension Committee, the Committee of the Croydon Writers Circle, an Honorary Vice-President of the Croydon Symphony Orchestra and a Vice-President of the Croydon Camera Club.
Not only were Lodge meetings held at his home, but he let it out to local cultural groups, and in the studio he took private lessons and held classes in architecture, painting, sculpture and drawing.
He had an international reputation, and his works were widely exhibited from the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool to the Cleveland Museum of Art in the United States. As a writer his one major publication appears to have been Colour Prints of a Dream Garden and Old World Garden, a collection of prints taken from original drawings, some of which had been exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Some of his work has been left to posterity. There are prints in the British Museum, drawings in the permanent art collections in some City Art Galleries, and works in private collections in the UK, USA, France, Holland and Sweden – and, of course, the Hall Stone Jewel.
Cyril Spackman died of a heart attack on 16 May 1963 at the age of 76.
Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank the National Art Library, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Society of Arts Commerce and Manufacture, the Royal Institute of British Architects, Croydon Local History and Archives, Westminster Central Reference Library and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Particular thanks are due to Dr Susan Owens (Royal Collection Trust), Peter Clark (Worshipful Company of Masons), Stephen Freeth and Juliet Barnes (Corporation of London), Stephen Briney (Panmure Lodge No. 720), Douglas Burford (Beaux Arts Lodge) and James Nye (Remigium Lodge No. 7343).