On 15 February 2018, more than 200 guests gathered in London’s Freemasons’ Hall to hear four speakers at a symposium hosted by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, called ‘1717 & All That’. Questioning the accuracy of historical records from that time, the debate centred around whether the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, with two speaking against, and two supporting, the historical consensus
Andrew Prescott, Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Glasgow
Andrew Prescott was first to take the lectern, arguing against the historical consensus that Grand Lodge was formed in 1717.
His argument centred around the reliability of historical sources as well as the honesty, or otherwise, of some of those masons who chronicled the early history. In particular, Prescott drew attention to the ‘unscrupulous’ James Anderson, who wrote The Constitutions of the Free-Masons in 1723, which was contentiously updated in 1738.
Acknowledging that historical sources are complex things that historians have to continually revisit, Prescott focussed on the earliest written record on the founding of Grand Lodge. This included the announcement that describes the installation of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master in June 1721, when other lodges gave up their separate rights to create a Grand Lodge. He contended that if this occurred in June 1721, then, logically, Grand Lodge could not have existed before.
Prescott argued that, given that Grand Master George Payne’s regulations dated to 1721, three of the most important elements of Grand Lodge Freemasonry – the surrender of powers by other lodges; the approval of Payne’s regulations; and the installation of Montagu – all took place in 1721. While Prescott accepted that Grand Lodge Freemasonry must have grown from somewhere, he noted that it wasn’t unheard of for 18th-century clubs to spring up almost overnight.
Prescott went on to question the traditional narrative. He noted that many references that support the 1717 origin story were written in the 1730s or later and are now believed to be unreliable and arguably invented.
The issue of honesty was highlighted, with Prescott suggesting that Anderson was inspired to create a fictitious history of Freemasonry in 1738 for his own gain and that he altered some of the early minutes to support the story. Prescott also noted that the story of 1717 was a minor feature of Anderson’s grand redrawing of the masonic narrative.
‘Historical sources are complex things that historians have to continually revisit’
Susan Sommers, Professor of History, Saint Vincent College
Susan Sommers focussed on the specific historical, social and political context of James Anderson’s background.
Her central thesis stressed the importance of undertaking a comparative study of Anderson’s theological and masonic writings to understand his character and how Constitutions came into being.
Sommers introduced Anderson as a ‘complex and conflicted character’. She then explored his early life and his education in Scotland and discussed some of the wider historical events of this tumultuous era, including the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Detail was then given on the specific nature of Anderson’s religious beliefs against this political-religious backdrop, exploring and explaining the meaning behind some of the particular phrases he later came to employ in the expanded 1738 edition of Constitutions.
With Anderson slipping into debt and then losing his position as minister of the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street, he undertook the 1738 rewrite of Constitutions ‘primarily for financial reasons’, Sommers noted. He was paid by the page, which may explain the great length of the book, but he never escaped his debts, dying in Fleet Prison in 1739.
Sommers explored the religious language used by Anderson in Constitutions, while also looking in detail at the differences between the 1723 and 1738 editions, which included the decision to anoint 1717 as the founding date of Grand Lodge for the very first time.
Noting the importance of recognising and understanding Anderson’s religious background to see why he used some of the language that can be read in Constitutions, Sommers argued that it was necessary to compare Constitutions with Anderson’s theological writing, specifically Unity In Trinity.
Constitutions, she suggested, cannot be seen as a reliable historical study of the origins of Freemasonry as much as a rather over-lengthy continuation of Anderson’s theological arguments, written for profit and without a sole or even primary masonic meaning.
Richard Berman, Visiting Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University
Richard Berman’s talk in support of 1717 as the founding date for Grand Lodge began with the admittance that he felt ‘sorry for Mr Anderson, as the chap’s not here to defend himself’.
Berman went on to offer a wider perspective on the surrounding religious and political context in which early Freemasonry developed, exploring how and why masonry took the form it did.
Berman explained that he was interested in looking at the drivers that led to the creation of a Grand Lodge. Masonry sprang from the need for Protestantism to defend itself against the threat of Catholicism following the Glorious Revolution. This was a danger that confronted England on many fronts. The Duke of Montagu and other leading masons were very concerned by the Catholic onslaught, as were the Protestants and Huguenots, and diplomats and politicians. Many of these individuals met at the Horn Tavern, the most important and socially connected lodge of the four founding lodges.
The Horn Tavern lodge had over 70 members, more than the other three put together, and these included members of the aristocracy, as well as leading military and judicial figures. These men used the other three lodges ‘as a veil’ with the explicit intention of creating an organisation that could be used as an instrument to promote Whig and Huguenot interests.
Berman also touched on the conundrum of the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden, one of the founding lodges and the stated location of an early meeting of the four lodges in 1716. Although it is now accepted that the Apple Tree Tavern was not located on Charles Street, Berman points out there was an inn with this name only 40 yards away at White Hart Lane. Anderson, he suggests, might have made a simple error, but in so doing inserted the sort of small mistake that allows people to question an entire narrative.
John Hamill, Director of Special Projects, UGLE
John Hamill, the final presenter, agreed that historical researchers should not be afraid to challenge preconceived evidence regarding the origins of Freemasonry.
Hamill contested Andrew Prescott’s central claim that Grand Lodge must have post-dated 1717, as there was no evidence for this date other than Anderson’s work, written 20 years after said event.
While Hamill accepted that the date of 24 June 1717 appears to be Anderson’s alone, he pointed out that when Anderson wrote the 1738 Constitutions there were many leading masons who would have been able to prevent such a simple error. Moreover, there was simply ‘no convincing reason’ for him to lie. Hamill said that it was no great surprise that no press reports from 1717 mentioned Freemasonry, as there was no interest in the Craft until the arrival of the Duke of Montagu as Grand Master.
Hamill looked at reports that named the three Grand Masters who preceded Montagu. Chief among these was a letter written by the Duke of Richmond, Grand Master in 1724, in which he spoke unequivocally about the three Grand Masters who came before Montagu. The letter, Hamill suggested, shows that Grand Lodge existed before Montagu, but it was only the politically motivated appointment of Montagu that enabled Freemasonry to grow into something far bigger.
Hamill stated that Sommers’ and Prescott’s arguments relied upon a ‘major conspiracy involving many people’. He questioned why evidence that dated to later in the 1700s should be considered suspect simply because of when it was written, and posited that this was essentially ‘a semantic argument about what constitutes a Grand Lodge’.
The concept and some of the traditions of a Grand Lodge were clearly already in place, even if it had not yet embraced George Payne’s regulatory principles. In that sense, said Hamill, 1717 was the beginning of something that, even now, continues to evolve.
‘There was simply no convincing reason for James Anderson to lie’
The speeches can be watched in full on YouTube via www.quatuorcoronati.com/meetings/past-events
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.
Thirty years in the making, a replica of the Ark of the Masonic Covenant is being crafted to serve as a permanent memorial of the Union of the two Grand Lodges. John Hamill explains its history
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was one of England’s greatest architects. He became a Freemason in 1813 and, after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, was the first to hold the new office of Grand Superintendent of Works. As such, he was the professional adviser overseeing the maintenance and development of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The first work he produced for Grand Lodge was what became known as the Ark of the Masonic Covenant. To bring the Union of the Grand Lodges into being, both parties had agreed Articles of Union that laid the foundations of the United Grand Lodge of England. As an important document, it was to be carried into each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge by the Grand Registrar. Soane offered to produce an ‘ark’ to stand in front of the Grand Master’s throne into which the document could be safely placed while the meeting was in progress.
It was an impressive piece of furniture, triangular in shape with an Ionic, Corinthian or Doric column at each corner and surmounted by a dome topped by Soane’s signature lantern. It stood in front of the Grand Master’s throne from 1814 until 1883 when disaster struck. A fire broke out in the old Grand Temple, gutting its interior and destroying the portraits of former Grand Masters, most of the furniture and Soane’s Ark. Much was done to reconstruct the interior of the room and reinstate the paintings and furniture but Soane’s Ark was not replaced.
One of Soane’s 20th-century successors as Grand Superintendent of Works was architect Douglas Burford. He became interested in Soane’s masonic work and did a great deal of research in the archives at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. There he discovered Soane’s original plans for the Ark.
Burford wrote the subject up in a paper for Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and hoped to persuade Grand Lodge to have a replica constructed. It has taken 30 years for that dream to become a reality.
Burford was delighted to learn that, as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, Soane’s Ark was to be reconstructed. He was even more pleased to have an opportunity to travel to York to see the work underway.
The project has been one of cooperation between the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation and master wood carvers Houghtons of York.
The Factum Foundation is an organisation that uses digital technology to accurately record heritage items for conservation purposes, to enable facsimiles to be produced and, as in the case of this project, to reconstruct lost items.
Houghtons of York is an old family firm that uses traditional methods and materials to produce new architectural woodwork or furniture, as well as to restore and reconstruct damaged and lost items. The combined efforts of these two firms have produced a superb and accurate reconstruction of one of the lost treasures of Grand Lodge.
On completion, the new Soane’s Ark will be the centre of an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum opening on 11 October. Under the title Soane’s Ark: Building with Symbols, the exhibition will discuss Soane’s membership of Freemasonry and include other masonic items from his collections.
The Ark will then be transported to the Royal Albert Hall for the great Tercentenary celebration, where it will be dedicated by the Grand Master. Afterwards it will, like the original, take its place in the Grand Temple as a permanent memorial.
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.
Masonic history at Queens’ College
June 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster – the world’s first Grand Lodge. To celebrate this event, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, is hosting a conference at Queens’ College, Cambridge from 9 to 11 September 2016. It is open to all Freemasons and non-masons interested in masonic history.
Delegates can attend on a residential or non-residential basis, and papers are invited on any aspect of the history and development of Freemasonry, and of Grand Lodge in particular.
For anyone interested in contributing, the timetable is:
1 July 2015 Synopsis and outline (500 words maximum)
1 August 2015 Authors advised if their outline has been accepted for delivery
1 April 2016 Abstract (1,200 words maximum)
1 November 2016 Paper for publication – 2,500 words, 10-minute presentation;
5,000 words, 20-minute presentation; and 10,000 words, 40-minute presentation.
Tercentenary International Conference Celebrating 300 Years of Freemasonry
To be held at Queens’ College, Cambridge, England, 9 September–11 September 2016, and organised by the members of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
June 2017 is an important landmark in the history of Freemasonry as it marks the three hundredth anniversary of the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster; the first Grand lodge in the world.
To celebrate this momentous occasion the members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 are hosting a conference at Queens’ College, Cambridge from Friday, 9 September 2016 to Sunday 11 September 2016.
The lodge was founded by brethren who were intent on using an evidence-based approach to the study of masonic history and research into Freemasonry. This innovative approach was intended to replace the imaginative writings of earlier authors on the history of Freemasonry. This new style and approach was later to be referred to as the 'authentic school' of masonic research.
The founders planned to develop an interest in research among brethren everywhere, to have papers read and discussed in lodge and published in its transactions Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC). The lodge thus hoped to attract the attention and enlist the cooperation of masonic scholars and lecturers in all parts of the world.
The members of QC, as Quatuor Coronati Lodge, is fondly known, is the premier lodge of masonic research and continue today to work to the standards laid down all those years ago in striving to maintain the high quality of research papers, lectures and discussion established at the foundation.
The conference is open to all Freemasons and non-Freemasons interested in masonic history.
Delegates to the conference have the option of attending either on a fully residential basis at the college or on a non-residential basis.
Queens' College is one of the oldest and largest colleges of the university, founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou. The college, situated in the centre of Cambridge, spans both sides of the river Cam and has some of the most recognisable buildings in the city.
The conference will have three eminent keynote speakers making a 40-minute presentation. A combination of short and medium presentations, lasting 10 and 20 minutes respectively, will be delivered at each of the five conference Sessions, which will be followed by a period for questions and discussion.
Papers are invited on any aspect of the history and development of Freemasonry, in general, and Grand Lodge, in particular, over the three centuries since its foundation.
It is hoped that the flexibility in the remit for the presentations will encourage a range of papers to be submitted. Copies of the abstracts will be circulated to all delegates in advance of the conference, and all papers delivered at the conference will be published, providing the full-text is received by the deadline date. It is estimated that 10 minute presentation will on publication be some 2,500 words; whilst a 20 minute and 40 minute presentation are likely to be 5,000 and 10,000 words respectively.
Possible themes include: 18th century Freemasonry; 19th century Freemasonry; 20th century Freemasonry; English Freemasonry overseas; Sources and Historiography. The list is not exhaustive and the themes for the various sessions will be finalised when the editorial committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Aubrey Newman, have selected the papers for presentation.
The timetable for receipt of papers may be summarised as follows:
|1 July 2015||Synopsis and outline||500 words maximum|
|1 August 2015||Authors advised if their outline has been accepted for delivery|
|1 April 2016||Abstract||1,200 words maximum|
|1 November 2016||Paper for publication||~ 2,500 words - 10 minute presentation|
|~ 5,000 words - 20 minute presentation|
|~ 10,000 words - 40 minute presentation|
Regrettably no financial assistance can be offered to delegates or speakers, but they may be eligible for a grant from their respective academic institution. Professor Newman will be pleased to provide the necessary accreditation, discuss possible subjects for papers and deal with all academic enquiries in respect of the conference.
The conference is being held in September 2016 so as to enable the collection of delivered papers to be published in June 2017 by QC lodge as an integral part of the tercentenary celebrations.
Full details for delegates wishing to register and attend the conference will be made available early in 2016.
All enquiries may be addressed to:
Telephone: +44 (0)1522 789491
Faces to names
The extensive photographic collection at the Library and Museum adds another perspective on the history of the Craft and its members
Whether in the form of paintings, engravings, prints or photographs, the Library and Museum has a wealth of images of people. Over recent years, these have been catalogued online, with captivating biographies of many individuals, including details of their masonic careers.
The online catalogue now has details for over 2,700 images – including those in albums of photographs. Enquirers can request digital copies of images they are interested in and many are available for inclusion in lodge or chapter histories and presentations. The three images here all relate to the period of World War I.
Sir Francis Lloyd, shown above, in his army uniform, was a career soldier. In World War I he commanded the Territorial Forces in the London District. He was also active in Freemasonry, serving as the Master of the City of London National Guard Lodge, No. 3757, in 1916.
Ladislas Aurele de Malczovich was a Hungarian civil servant who became a member of the English research lodge, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and published articles in its Transactions.
As one of many ‘alien enemy brethren’, he was excluded from membership of his English lodges during World War I. The back of his photograph is inscribed to his friend, Frederick Crowe – a noted masonic collector.
In June 1919, an Especial Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the end of the war. Among the audience of over 8,000 were many overseas representatives. The formal meeting was one of many hosted by London lodges, including a visit to the Houses of Parliament where the photograph, top right, was taken.
Unsurpassed collection of Freemasonry memorabilia to go under the hammer in London
Update: 6th March
The catalogue is now online for viewing! Click here to find out more.
Roseberys' quarterly fine art auction in March will feature an extraordinary single-owner collection. It belonged to the late Albert Nice and is widely regarded as the pre-eminent private collection of masonic items in the world. This will go under the hammer on Tuesday 18 March.
Albert Nice (1898-1969) was a chemist and dental surgeon as well as a passionate Freemason and supporter of masonic charities. He joined Globe Lodge Number 23 in 1925, became Grand Steward in 1935, rising to the position of Past Grand Deacon in 1964.
He was a member of other lodges including Quatuour Coronati Lodge No. 2076, dedicated to masonic research. This seems fitting as he was a devoted collector of masonic items from jewels to books, engravings to ceramics and glass.
His research interests extended to documenting the history of earlier lodges and his notes on this comprise a tome of several hundred pages which is included in the auction with an estimate of £100-£200.
He was an active member for a number of the higher orders in masonry including the Knights Templar Priests, The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and The Order of the Secret Monitor.
Mr Nice’s collection includes a first edition of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons by James Anderson, published in 1723 and with contemporary full calf binding. With an engraved frontispiece, this was the first official publication of freemasonry, laying out all the rules and regulations. Estimate: £500-£800.
It was customary in many lodges to pass around a snuffbox after the toast to the Queen and the Craft. This 19th century mahogany inlaid snuffbox, decorated with masonic symbols is one of more than 100 in the auction with estimates up to £3,000. This one is estimated at £150-£250.
The auction will also feature the largest collection of 18th and 19th century masonic jewels ever to come onto the market including the examples pictured above.
A fine range of masonic ceramics will also go under the hammer on 18 March. For example the above 18th century pearlware masonic jug, c. 1792, decorated with masonic symbols and inscribed 'A heart that conceals and the tongue that never reveals', Royal Grove Lodge No. 240, presented by Brother Nathaniel Jenkinson, 1792. Estimate: £200-£300.
Amongst the wide variety of memorabilia in the auction is this early 19th century album of original watercolours of French masonic memorabilia of the 33 degrees of Scottish Rite of Free Masonry. A sample page, pictured above, shows the regalia is a lot more elaborate than English examples of the period. Estimate: £400-£600.
Roseberys is welcoming additional consignments of Freemasonry memorabilia for this auction until 21 February.
The auction will take place on Tuesday 18 March at Roseberys, 74-76 Knights Hill, London SE27 0JD.
Viewing is as follows:
Friday 14 March, 1pm-5pm
Sunday 16 March, 9.30am-5.30pm
Monday 17 March, 9.30am-5.30pm
Tuesday 18 March, 9am-9.45am
The catalogue will be online on 7 March.
Rev Neville Barker Cryer
A regular contributor to Freemasonry Today, the Rev Neville Barker Cryer’s recent death has robbed the Craft of one of its modern ‘characters’. A big man in every way, he had an international reputation as a researcher, writer and speaker on Freemasonry.
A Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, Neville was for a number of years its secretary and editor of Transactions. His work was acknowledged by his being appointed Prestonian Lecturer for 1974.
After a few years as a parish priest, Neville was secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society and authored several books on religious matters.
He will be much missed, not least on the masonic lecturing circuit and in the many Orders in which he held high office.
Letters to the editor - No. 24 Winter 2013
It was with great sadness I read of the passing of Reverend Neville Barker Cryer. His passing is a great loss to the Craft.
I only once had the good fortune to meet him and listen to his thoughts. When an entered apprentice, I attended the ‘Let’s talk Freemasonry’ conference at Hemsley House in Salford. It was here that I was able to hear the Reverend speak; impart wisdom, knowledge and his own brand of acerbic wit. Indeed, when I read in the last issue the description of him as one of the last great modern ‘characters’, it raised more than a wry smile to my lips. Personally, I found him enlightening, amusing and uncommonly direct.
Despite him being in great demand for attention whilst at the conference, he took the time out to speak directly to me for a few moments. The encouragement and bolstering belief he kindly gave me in those moments will live with me always. Worlds, as they say, are turned on the smallest of thoughts and deeds. He had a clear opinion, and had the courage of his convictions and stuck with them.
Richard Bardsley, Kitchener Lodge, No. 3788, Bolton, East Lancashire
Bucks mason David Peck has been honoured for his essay exploration of the Nazi threat to British Freemasons in World War II, receiving the Norman B Spencer Prize from the world’s pre-eminent masonic research group, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076
David won £100, which he donated to the Freemasons’ Hall Library and Museum, and has been invited to join the research group. ‘Possibly the biggest threat Freemasonry has seen in the last century was that of the Nazis. There is every reason to believe that we would have suffered persecution in England if Operation Sealion – Hitler’s plan to invade England – had gone ahead.’
Chairman of the Bucks Association for Masonic Research, David’s previous projects include investigating the Order’s origins and development in Malta.