Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton
Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.
The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.
By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.
When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.
The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.
The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.
Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building.
‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’
Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole.
‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’
Presenting our past
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s Director, Vicky Carroll, tells Edwin Smith about some of the most important – and suprising – objects in UGLE’s collection, and explains how she’s taking them to a wider audience
Having worked at some of the best-known museums in the country, Vicky Carroll took up the role of Director of the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in November 2017. She admits that her target – of doubling the Museum’s audience within five years – is ‘ambitious’, but Carroll’s credentials suggest that she’s the right person for the job. Having studied natural sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge, she stayed on to complete a Masters and then a PhD in cultural history before beginning her career at the prestigious V&A Museum in London. She went on to work at the Science Museum, the William Morris Gallery, Keats House in Hampstead and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Her passion, she says, is to give impressive collections the audience they deserve. ‘It’s seizing those opportunities to make stories and heritage more widely accessible, so that more people can benefit from them and enjoy them in a richer, deeper way.’
What was it about the role at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry that appealed to you?
When I first found out about the job, I didn’t actually know a huge amount about Freemasonry or the Museum itself. But the subject was intriguing and I wanted to find out more. I think that’s typical of a lot of people: they might not really know much about Freemasonry, but there’s a mystery there which makes it appealing. I think having that public curiosity is always a great starting place for a museum.
What did you make of the Museum on your first visit?
I was really struck by the quality of the collections; not just the Museum collection, but the Library and the archive as well. The richness and beauty of the objects was compelling. You can see why it’s been named as one of just 149 ‘designated collections’ by the Arts Council of England. [These are exceptional collections that ‘deepen our understanding of the world and what it means to be human’.] The combination of the public interest in the topic and the strength of the collection meant that there was a huge opportunity to engage a much wider audience – with the collection, with the stories, with the history of Freemasonry.
‘A lot of people don’t know much about Freemasonry, but it has a mystery which makes it appealing. I think that having that public curiosity is a great starting place’
Can you talk about the standout objects in the Museum?
We have documents showing the foundations of Freemasonry. They’re very important from a historical perspective. On display is a first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions from 1723. It’s the first time that what it meant to be a Freemason was officially recorded. Even older are the Old Charges. These are rule books for stonemasonry and go back to the 1500s. There is also the Articles of Union, the deed marking the unification of the Antients and the Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813.
We’ve got Winston Churchill’s apron, along with objects associated with royalty – as there have been so many royal Freemasons. An exhibit you can’t miss on entering the Museum is the huge gilded Grand Master’s throne made for the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. But just as important are the humbler objects with stories to tell. We have masonic jewels made from scrap materials by prisoners of war. And our ‘Suitcase Stories’ display explores how Freemasonry has shaped the lives of individuals from different walks of life.
Have you discovered anything about Freemasonry that has surprised you since you started the role?
I didn’t realise that there were – and are – female Freemasons. I was particularly struck by a display of mid-20th-century jewels from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Germany. They’re decorated with New Age symbolism and the craftsmanship is stunning.
What do you want visitors to take away when they leave?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry. Many people simply don’t know what it is. We want to help our visitors gain a clearer understanding of Freemasonry’s origins, traditions and values, and an insight into what Freemasonry has meant for individuals and our society up to the present day. For members, the Museum is a great way to show family and friends what Freemasonry is all about.
What attracted you to a career in museums in the first place?
It was something I became interested in whilst I was doing my PhD, when I was volunteering in various museums in Cambridge. One of the things that attracted me to it was the ability to reach a broad and diverse public audience and engage them with arts and heritage. Academic research is immensely valuable, but it has more of a niche audience. Whereas I was interested in creating things that had a wider public appeal.
‘For our special exhibitions, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly’
How do you give exhibitions as wide an appeal as possible?
It’s often just thinking about the subject from the audience’s point of view. What reference points might that audience have that are relevant? How does the topic relate to something they already know about? Even if someone doesn’t know a lot about Freemasonry, they might know about a particular period in time, or there might be someone they’ve heard of. Also, people like to hear stories about people. More traditional museum displays might tell you about an object: what it’s made of, when it was made and so on. But often what people find engaging is who might have used it and what it might have meant to that person. And Freemasonry is great for that. It’s all about personal experience and relationships – not just physical, tangible things.
How do you plan to double the audience in five years?
Our exhibitions and permanent displays must meet the needs of the audience, while raising our public profile. For one of our current special exhibitions, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, we’ve been very proactive in engaging with the press – in line with what UGLE is doing more broadly. We’ve expanded our social media and have an e-newsletter, which people can sign up to on our website. We’re developing a new visual identity and, later this year, will launch a new website.
What’s next for the Museum?
Our exhibition programme is obviously key in attracting more Freemasons as well as members of the public to come and visit. Our newest exhibition is called Decoded: Freemasonry’s Illustrated Rulebooks. It unlocks the early history of Freemasonry through the illustrations at the front of the Constitutions. These ‘frontispieces’ tried to sum up what Freemasonry meant and its place in the world. You can see how, at various times in its early history, Freemasonry was being adapted to the local and historical situations.
Anything else to look out for?
We’re a museum, but it’s important to remember that we also have a library and an archive, so we’re an amazing resource for members who are writing lodge histories, doing preparation for a visit overseas, or researching their own family history. We’re also encouraging more students and academics to use our collection, hosting more public events, and soon we will be expanding our educational work and collaborating with artists to interpret the collection. It’s a really exciting time.
For more details, visit www.freemasonry.london.museum
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
13 June 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 March 2018 were confirmed.
The Minutes of the Annual Investiture of 25 April 2018 were confirmed.
Death of a former President
The Board had learned with great sadness of the death on 14 May of RW Bro Anthony Wilson, PSGW, who served as a member of the Board from 1995 to 1999 and again from 2001 until 31 December 2017, during the last thirteen and three-quarter years of which he was its President.
2019: The Board recommended that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2019 shall be:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
2019: The Board recommended that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.
Contribution to the Masonic Charitable Foundation
Under Rule 271 of the Book of Constitutions Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution payable to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. After consultation with the Trustees of the Masonic Charitable Foundation it was agreed to recommend that for 2019 the annual contribution would remain at £17 in respect of each member of a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.
A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.
(I) 2017 The Grand Design
The Lecturer, Dr J.W. Daniel, had informed the Board that in addition to the four official deliveries to Lodge of the Grand Design, No. 6077 (Surrey); Worcestershire Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 6889 (Worcestershire); Old Elizabethans’ Lodge, No. 8235 (East Lancashire); and The London Grand Rank Association, the Lecture was also delivered on seven other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Daniel for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
(II) 2018 A Good Workman Praises his Tools: Masonic Metaphors in the Ancient World
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2018 is C.P. Noon. Four official Prestonian Lectures for 2018 have been or will be given under the auspices of: Stuart Lodge, No. 540 (Bedfordshire);
Durham Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 4441 (Durham); Derbyshire Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 8509 (Derbyshire); and Berkshire Lodge of Enlightenment, No. 9946 (Berkshire).
The Board had submitted a nomination to the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund and they had appointed Michael Karn as Prestonian Lecturer for 2019. Bro Karn stated that the title of his Lecture will be English Freemasonry during the Great War.
Arrangements for the delivery of the Lectures to selected Lodges will be considered by the Board in November and applications are now invited from Lodges. Applications should be made to the Grand Secretary, through Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.
The Board desired to emphasise the importance of these Lectures, the only ones held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It was, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures would be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.
Grand Lodge of Albania
The Board reported to the Grand Lodge in March that the conduct of the Grand Lodge of Albania, in particular in relation to Kosovo, was giving rise to disharmony with other European Grand Lodges, and recommended that the Grand Lodge suspend relations with the Grand Lodge of Albania. The suspension of relations appears to have had little or no effect on the conduct of that Grand Lodge, and the Board therefore considered that it had no alternative but to recommend that recognition be withdrawn from the Grand Lodge of Albania.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of lodges
The Board had received a report that sixteen Lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are: First Lodge of Light, No. 468 (Warwickshire); Ryburn Lodge, No. 1283 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Captain Coram Lodge, No. 2737 (London); West Cheshire Lodge, No. 2977 (Cheshire); Lodge of Israel, No. 3170 (KwaZulu-Natal); Home County Lodge, No. 3451 (Surrey); St Ann’s Lodge, No. 3691 (London); Sincerity Lodge, No. 4424 (North Wales); St John’s Lodge, No. 4779 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Federation Lodge, No. 4807 (Warwickshire); Constancy Lodge, No. 6359 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Onward Lodge, No. 6528 (Cheshire); West London and Electric Lodge, No. 7404 (Middlesex); Frizington Lodge, No. 8082 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Concord Lodge of Monmouthshire Provincial Grand Stewards, No. 9010 (Monmouthshire) and Humanitas Lodge, No. 9261 (Middlesex).
A recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Grand Lodge accounts for 2017
The Audited Accounts of Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2017 were approved.
Election of Grand Lodge auditors
The re-election of Crowe Clarke Whitehill LLP, as Auditors of Grand Lodge was approved.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Grand Lodge received a talk by Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
List of new lodges
List of new lodges for which warrants had been granted by showing the dates from which their warrents became effective
26 April 2018
9962 Sewa Lodge Sierra Leone and The Gambia
9963 Phoenix Lodge Yorkshire, North and East Ridings
9964 Artemis Lodge Sussex
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held at noon on Wednesday, 12 September 2018. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019 and 11 September 2019.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details were given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 14 November 2018, 25 April 2019 and 13 November 2019.