A Lifetime of possibilities
Director of Special Projects John Hamill salutes the vital work of amateur masonic historians and their unceasing efforts to uncover new information and reveal new insights
Among the many things I have been privileged to be involved with over the 46 years that I have been a member of the Grand Lodge staff, masonic historical research is my favourite occupation and something I am looking forward to spending more time on when I fully retire.
When I first started work in what was then called the Grand Lodge Library and Museum in the summer of 1971, a number of my academic friends questioned whether there was anything left in masonic history to research. I very quickly found that there was more than a lifetime’s worth of possibilities. New discoveries come to light, old accepted theories need to be re-examined and there are still many areas in which only the surface has been skimmed.
In my time at Grand Lodge, the major change has been the growing interest in masonic history in academic circles. With an in-depth knowledge of the periods they are studying, academic historians have brought new insights and taught lay masonic researchers to look at Freemasonry in the context of the time they are investigating rather than in isolation. Their interest, however, has also brought a tension between the academics and the lay researchers – the former sometimes being dismissive of the efforts of the latter.
CENTRE OF RESEARCH
Outside the archives of Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter, the great storehouse of masonic historical information is the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, the premier lodge of masonic research. For just over 125 years, the members of that lodge have produced an amazing range of papers, comments and notes covering the widest spectrum of the history and development of Freemasonry in all its branches, both at home and overseas.
In the past 50 or so years, the lodge members have been solidly in the historical camp but in the earlier days the Transactions contain many speculative papers drawing parallels between Freemasonry and other initiatory rites and systems. These comparisons were usually drawn in the search to find an answer to that still unanswered question: when and why did Freemasonry receive its birth and early nurture?
Over its history, the membership of the lodge has been eclectic. Some were academic historians and many others had academic training in other disciplines. A surprising number were scientists, engineers and architects who brought to their masonic research the same rigorous discipline of searching, analysing and testing evidence that they had learned in their own fields.
Most of the members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge were, and continue to be, amateurs in the best sense of that word. Their work might not meet with the rigorous standards of a modern university history department, but without it our knowledge of the history of Freemasonry would be greatly diminished. The discoveries they made, the way in which they brought together information from disparate sources and made it available through the Transactions has made life, in many ways, easier for the academic historians.
There is a wry irony in the fact that while some academic historians are slightly dismissive of the amateur masonic historians in their own published works, they regularly refer to papers by the ‘amateurs’ of Quatuor Coronati.
We live in an age of ‘experts’ but I believe that there is still a place in masonic research for those dedicated brethren who delight in their involvement in masonic history, spend hours scouring archives for new information and many times bring new insights to what are often considered closed cases. Long may they continue so we may enjoy the fruits of their hobby.
‘There is still a place in masonic research for the dedicated brethren who delight in their involvement in masonic history’
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.
14 June 2017
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, as we approach the 24th June 2017, the actual date of our Tercentenary Anniversary, it is very fitting that at this meeting we look back on our history with pride. John Hamill, in his inimitable style, has reminded us of the debt we owe to the Time Immemorial Lodges whose foresight set us on our current path and the Grand Master will be unveiling a plaque recognising this next week. Whilst mentioning the Grand Master it is fitting to remember the debt we owe him and recognise that today is 50 years to the day since he was elected as our Grand Master. How fortunate we have been.
We also congratulate W Bro Cyril McGibbon whose 105th birthday it is today. He still attends every meeting, rather appropriately, of Lodge of Perseverance No. 155 and recently proposed the toast to the ladies at their last ladies’ evening.
On the 18th April we remembered all our brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum and, a week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered with pride those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside the Tower Entrance to Freemasons’ Hall. For those unable to witness that event a DVD has been produced, the proceeds of which will be donated to the VC and GC Association.
And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a real force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky TV programme has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. The series has been well received and our Provinces are reporting a real upsurge of interest which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, brethren, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, even how best to do so. For those without Sky TV, a DVD has been produced which is available in the Letchworth’s shop as from today.
Brethren, as Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. I congratulate you all. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me and, at the recent Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity, a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. These are fantastic results and, brethren, I now have firm figures which show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with over £15 million in grants, but helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.
Brethren, this year the nation has been rocked by a number of serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund which have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund and I have been assured by the PGM that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified. Thank you so much.
Brethren, whilst congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers who have been globe-trotting on our behalf. The Deputy Grand Master has paid a second visit to India this year, this time to attend the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations having previously been to Bombay and then followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica. The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities’ Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar and just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in The Eastern Archipelago having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of their Lodge of Loyalty.
Carrying out these visits is a great privilege and our brethren in the District really value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge. Their hospitality is most generous as they try to kill us with their kindness. Sleep is rarely on the agenda.
Brethren, many of you here today, in fact I would say the majority of you, are wearing the Tercentenary jewel and I have been impressed by the take-up of them, particularly in the Districts. Now that we have overcome the supply problem I hope you will encourage members of your lodges to acquire one if they have not already done so.
That brings me neatly on to the subject of the very fine Tercentenary Master’s collar ornament. Many Masters’ collars display the 250th or 275th jewel and as from 24th June, surely the 300th would be more appropriate and if lodges are not displaying any jewel then surely now is the time to show pride in having reached this landmark. It is a very fine silver gilt ornament and whilst I have one here, the best way for you to see it is to acquire one for your lodge.
Finally, brethren, at this meeting, I normally tell you to enjoy the summer break and come back refreshed which, of course, I hope you will. But, the number of events between now and September is staggering. May I suggest that you enjoy them and use them to reinvigorate our lodges. I feel immensely proud to be leading such a vibrant organisation at this time.
Thank you all.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
14 June 2017
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 8 March, 2017 and of the Annual Investiture of 26 April, 2017 were confirmed.
Rule 153 – Cheque Signatories
Rule 153 was amended in June 2013 to require that every cheque drawn on a Lodge’s bank account be signed by two duly authorised members of the Lodge, of whom the Treasurer must, unless it is impracticable, be one. The Rule had previously permitted a Lodge to resolve that a single signatory should suffice.
The object of the amendment was to reduce the risk of misappropriation of funds, by requiring a second signatory in every case. The Board still considers that to have been an appropriate objective, but has noted that Lodges have experienced difficulty in relation to bank mandates in respect of a second signatory. The Board recommended that Rule 153(b) be amended to enable cheques to be authorised on the sole signature of the Treasurer. Notice of motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared on the paper of business.
Annual Dues 2018
The Board recommended, in accordance with Rule 269, Book of Constitutions, that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2018 shall be:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
The Board recommended, in accordance with Rule 270, Book of Constitutions, that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Contribution to the Masonic Charitable Foundation
Under Rule 271, Book of Constitutions, Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution payable to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The Trustees of the Masonic Charitable Foundation have requested that for 2018 the annual contribution 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 this effect was approved.
2016: Foundations: new light on the formation and early years of the Grand Lodge of England
The Lecturer, W Bro Dr R.A. Berman, has informed the Board that in addition to the three official deliveries to Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge, No. 7665 (London), Bristol Installed Masters Lodge, No. 8168 (Bristol) and Temple of Athene Lodge, No. 9541 (Middlesex), the Lecture was also delivered on twenty-three other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Berman for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
2017 The Grand Design
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2017 is RW Bro Dr J.W. Daniel, PSGW. Four official Prestonian Lectures for 2017 have been or will be given under the auspices of 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 Board had received reports that the following Lodges had resolved to surrender their Warrants:
(a) Lodge of Dedication, No. 7428, in order to amalgamate with Excelsior Lodge, No. 1155 (London); and
(b) Lodge of Concord, No. 7233, in order to amalgamate with Holloway Lodge, No. 2601 (London).
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board had received a report that twenty Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:
Addington Lodge, No. 1937 (KwaZulu-Natal); Lord Charles Beresford Lodge, No. 2404 (East Kent); Gwalia Lodge, No. 4213 (South Wales); Rosarium Lodge, No. 5147 (London); Horselydown Lodge, No. 5384 (London); Danson Park Lodge, No. 5700 (West Kent); Lodge of Assembly, No. 5747 (Warwickshire); Curfew Lodge, No. 5891 (London); Diligence Lodge, No. 5954 (Middlesex); Wilcumestou Lodge, No. 6090 (Essex); Lodge of United Friendship, No. 6284 (East Kent); Trident Lodge, No. 6407 (Nottinghamshire); Cowley Lodge, No. 7571 (Middlesex); Latton Priory Lodge, No. 8402 (Essex); Gayton Lodge, No. 8640 (Cheshire); Lodge of Good Report, No. 8646 (Middlesex); Oakfield Park Lodge, No. 8671 (West Kent); Manor Abbey Lodge, No. 8873 (Worcestershire); Lewes Priory Lodge, No. 9201 (Sussex) and Sure and Stedfast Lodge, No. 9365 (Worcestershire).
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
As required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions, eight Brethren had recently been expelled from the Craft.
Grand Lodge Accounts 2016
The Audited Accounts of the Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2016 were adopted.
Election of Grand Lodge Auditors
Crowe Clarke Whitehill LLP were re-elected as Auditors of the Grand Lodge.
Talk: 1717 – Foundation and Formation
A talk was given by VW Bro J.M. Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor.
List of new Lodges for which Warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective:
8 March 2017
9944 Lodge of XV (Braintree, Essex)
9945 Buckinghamshire Classic Car Lodge (Beaconsfield Buckinghamshire)
27 April 2017
9946 Berkshire Lodge of Enlightenment (Berkshire)
9947 Constructors’ Lodge (Berkshire)
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 September 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 13 December 2017; 14 March, 2018; 13 June, 2018 and 12 September, 2018.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 25 April 2018), 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 will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 8 November, 2017; 26 April, 2018 and 14 November 2018.
Director of Special Projects John Hamill considers the unique status of time immemorial lodges and their vital contribution to Freemasonry
As is well known, on 24 June 1717, four London lodges came together and elected a Grand Master. They agreed to revive the annual feast and to hold quarterly communications, in effect bringing the first Grand Lodge into existence. While much has been said of this now-momentous event, little has been said of the lodges that brought Grand Lodge into being.
According to James Anderson in the 1738 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, the four lodges were at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul’s Churchyard; the Crown Ale House in Parker’s Lane, near Drury Lane; the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden; and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster.
Of those lodges, the Crown Ale House ceased meeting circa 1736 but the other three still meet today. Because their dates of origin are unknown, and they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, they have the status of being ‘time immemorial’.
Today, the lodge at the Goose and Gridiron is now Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2. It was certainly in existence in 1691 and may well have been the lodge within the London Masons Company that Elias Ashmole attended in 1682. It became No. 1 of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 and until 1760 was known by the name of the tavern at which it met.
In 1760, the lodge took the name of American & West Indian Lodge but in 1770 assumed its present name. When the two former lists of lodges were combined after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, lots were drawn and Grand Master’s Lodge of the Antients Grand Lodge became No. 1 on the new United Grand Lodge register, with Lodge of Antiquity the No. 2.
From 1809 until his death in 1843, HRH The Duke of Sussex was permanent Master of Lodge of Antiquity. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his taking office, he permitted the lodge to have its officers’ jewels made in gold.
The lodge at the Apple Tree Tavern is now Lodge of Fortitude & Old Cumberland, No. 12. For reasons lost in time, the lodge accepted a constitution from Grand Lodge in 1723 and became No. 11 on the first numbered list of lodges in 1729. As a result it lost its time immemorial status and, despite attempts in the 19th century to regain that status, it wasn’t until the run-up to Grand Lodge’s 250th anniversary in 1967 that it was restored. The first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, was a member of this lodge.
The lodge at the Rummer and Grapes in Channel Row is now Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge, No. 4. Named Old Horn Lodge in 1767, it united with Somerset House Lodge in 1774 and took that name. In 1828 it united with Royal Inverness Lodge, the first lodge warranted under the United Grand Lodge, and took its present name.
Despite the Great War, a celebration of the bicentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 23 June 1917. Members of the three original lodges were processed into the hall to mark their status. At the meeting it was announced that to commemorate their actions in 1717, the officers’ collars of the three lodges would have the addition of a central garter blue stripe, and their Masters were called up to be invested with their new collars by the Grand Master. Later in the year the Duke of Connaught further honoured them by becoming the permanent Master of the three lodges.
At the celebrations for the 250th anniversary in 1967 and the 275th in 1992, the Masters of the time immemorial lodges were processed into Grand Lodge. The Master of Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge presented the Bible to the Grand Master; the Master of No. 12 presented the square and compasses; and the Master of No. 2 presented the Wren maul.
Today, to mark the part played in 1717, the present Grand Master will assume the office of Master of the time immemorial lodges at a joint meeting of the three in June. It is a fitting tribute to these distinguished lodges without whose actions in 1717 we might not be celebrating this year.
'Because they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, these lodges have the status of being “time immemorial"'
8 March 2017
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Diane Clements: Ninety-nine years ago today, Charles Graham Robertson, a railway clerk from Dorking in Surrey, was fighting with the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front. He realised that his position was being cut off so he sent two men to get reinforcements while he stayed at his post with one other man and a Lewis gun. He managed to kill 'large numbers of the enemy' but no reinforcements arrived and realising that he was now completely cut off he and his fellow soldier withdrew about ten yards. He stayed there for some considerable further time firing his Lewis gun but was again forced to withdraw. In this new position he climbed on top of a parapet with his comrade, mounted his gun in a shell hole and continued firing at the enemy who were pouring across the top of, and down, an adjacent trench. His comrade was killed and Robertson severely wounded but he managed to crawl back to the British line, bringing his gun with him. He could no longer fire it as he had exhausted all the ammunition. For his initiative and resource and magnificent fighting spirit which prevented the enemy making a more rapid advance, Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross in April 1918. A few months later, after the end of the First World War, in February 1919, he was initiated in Deanery Lodge No. 3071 in London. He is one of over one hundred and seventy holders of the Victoria Cross who have been identified as freemasons, representing more than 13% of the total recipients.
John Hamill: The Victoria Cross was a product of the Crimea War. In many ways this was one of the first ‘modern wars’, reported from the battle field by newspaper journalists. The media, then as now, liked stories of heroes and villains, and it soon became apparent that there were many heroes but no award available to acknowledge the heroic actions of the ordinary British serviceman. Other European countries already had awards for their armed forces that did not discriminate according to class or rank. In 1856 with increasing public support, Queen Victoria ordered the War Office to strike a new medal which was made open to all ranks. The Victoria Cross is awarded for valour 'in the face of the enemy' to members of the British armed forces and to members of the armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories.
Many have been inspired by the stories of those such as Charles Graham Robertson but holders of the Victoria Cross were often modest men who didn’t make a fuss and many masonic researchers have worked hard to track down their masonic links, including the 2006 Prestonian lecturer, Granville Angell. Diane and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those researchers today.
The Victoria Cross was awarded 628 times for action in the First World War. Over 100 recipients have so far been identified as Freemasons of whom sixty-three were members of English Constitution lodges.
As many of you will know this building, now known as Freemasons’ Hall, was formally opened in 1933 as the Masonic Peace Memorial and it was, and is, a memorial to all those Freemasons who died in the First World War. Acknowledging this and as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the United Grand Lodge is going to have a memorial pavement laid outside the Tower doors with details of all the English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. The date we have chosen for the ceremony is 25th April.
DC: On 25th April 1915 a battalion of over 1,000 men from the Lancashire Fusiliers landed on a beach at Gallipoli. During the landing, the men were met by very heavy and effective fire from the Ottoman Empire troops defending the beach and lost over half their number. The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements and managed to gain the cliffs above the beach. Amongst them were Major Cuthbert Bromley, Lance Corporal John Grimshaw, Private William Kenealy, Sergeant Alfred Richards, Sergeant Frank Stubbs and Captain Richard Willis. The courage of these six men was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross to each of them and the event was hailed in the Press as '6 VCs before breakfast'. Three of these men were Freemasons.
Richard Willis had joined St John and St Paul Lodge No. 349 in Malta in 1901. He retired from the army in 1920 and took on an education role within the RAF before working as a teacher. Cuthbert Bromley, who had been a member of Invicta Lodge No. 2440 since 1909, was wounded during the landing and sustained further wounds over the next two months. He was evacuated to Egypt to recover and in August 1915, whilst returning to the Gallipoli peninsula aboard a troopship, he was killed when the ship was torpedoed. After the war John Grimshaw became a recruiting officer for the army. He joined Llangattock Lodge No. 2547 in 1928. Frank Stubbs died during the landing. William Kenealy was seriously wounded in a later battle on the Gallipoli peninsula and died in June 1915. As a result of a wound sustained in the action Alfred Richards had to have his leg amputated and was discharged from the army as unfit for further service. Despite this he served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.
JMH: Also as part of this year’s Tercentenary celebrations a Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will be unveiled next month on 18th April. Since planting began in 1997, the National Memorial Arboretum has become a special place honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways. It’s not a cemetery but covers 150 acres of trees and planting, a peaceful place of remembrance. There are more than 300 dedicated memorials on the site acknowledging the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces, the Police, and the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. The idea of a Masonic Memorial Garden was the millennium project of a group of Provinces led by Staffordshire. Realising the project was not without its difficulties but, assisted by additional finance from Grand Lodge, has now been fully realised. The garden is entered between two pillars, topped with globes, leading to a squared pavement on which are two large ashlars. The Province of Staffordshire held a service in the garden on Armistice Day last year.
DC: I am sure that many of those here today are familiar with the name of Toye, Kenning and Spencer, one of the country’s oldest companies still in operation and, of course, the manufacturer of masonic regalia and the Tercentenary Jewel. The company also has a long tradition of making military decorations although not the Victoria Cross. It may not be so widely known that the grandfather of W Bro Bryan Toye, Alfred Toye, was awarded the Victoria Cross, at the age of twenty for his actions on the Western Front in March 1918 when he established a post that had been captured by the enemy, fought his way through the enemy with one other officer and six men, led a counterattack and was able to re-establish the line. Continuing his military career after the war, Brigadier Toye, as he became, joined Freemasonry in Grecia Lodge No. 1105 in Egypt in 1930.
Following the Armistice on 11th November 1918 which ended most of the actual fighting, a series of peace treaties were negotiated between the two sides. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany was signed on 28th June 1919 and it was registered by the Secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations in October that year. The First World War had led to the fall of several empires in central and eastern Europe, the first of which was the Russian Empire overthrown in an internal revolution by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 and which led to civil war. Britain and her allies got caught up in this and were forced to send a Relief Force to North Russia in June 1919. Three men were awarded the Victoria Cross during this action. One of them was Royal Navy Commander Claude Dobson who led a motor boat flotilla to the entrance of Kronstadt harbour. In his 55 foot boat he passed through heavy machine gun fire to torpedo a Russian battleship. In 1925 Dobson joined Navy Lodge No. 2612. As the action in which he was involved falls within the period of the First World War and its treaties, he will be included on the memorial.
JMH: Armistice Day in November 1920 was a day of mellow sunshine. It was the second time that the Armistice had been marked but was to be especially significant as it was on that day that the King, George V, unveiled the cenotaph in Whitehall and also the day that the Unknown Warrior was interred in Westminster Abbey. The coffin carrying the Unknown Warrior was carried into the Abbey between two lines of men, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross during the war or otherwise distinguished themselves by special valour. They were known as the 'Bodyguard of Heroes'. Sixteen of this honour guard have been identified as Freemasons.
One of them was Captain Robert Gee who had been a member of Roll Call Lodge No. 2523 in London since 1907. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30 November 1917 in France when an attack by the enemy captured his brigade headquarters and ammunition dump. Gee, finding himself a prisoner, managed to escape and organised a party of the brigade staff with which he attacked the enemy, closely followed by two companies of infantry. He cleared the locality and established a defensive flank, then finding an enemy machine-gun still in action, with a revolver in each hand he went forward and captured the gun, killing eight of the crew. He was wounded, but would not have his wound dressed until the defence was organised.
One of the names to be marked on a paving stone outside is Eric Archibald McNair, who was initiated in Apollo University Lodge No. 357 in 1913. He was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of just 21 in 1916. On 14 February 1916 on the Western Front in Belgium, Lieutenant McNair and a number of men were flung into the air when the enemy exploded a mine, several of them were buried. Although much shaken, the Lieutenant at once organised a party with a machine gun to man the near edge of the crater and opened rapid fire on the enemy who were advancing. They were driven back. Lieutenant McNair then ran back for reinforcements, but as the communication trench was blocked he went across open ground under heavy fire. His action undoubtedly saved a critical situation. Sadly Lieutenant McNair did not survive the war but died in August 1918. His name is amongst those included on the Roll of Honour that is been displayed at the Shrine in the vestibule outside the Grand Temple.
It seems fitting that, in this Tercentenary year, the building is adding a further memorial to those that fought in the First World War. It would also be fitting, I believe, to stand for a moment in remembrance of those sixty-three men of valour whose names will be a part of this building for so long as it shall stand.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
8 March 2017
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 December 2016 were approved.
Election of the Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent KG was re-elected as Grand Master.
Grand Lodge Register 2007-2016
The tables below show the number of lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.
Charges for Warrants
The Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2017 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:
The recommendation was approved.
The Board had received reports that the following lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Totteridge Lodge, No. 6130, in order to amalgamate with Old Elizabethans Lodge, No. 7987 (Hertfordshire); and Sherborne Conduit Lodge, No. 9484, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Benevolence, No. 1168 (Dorset).
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of lodges
Twenty-three lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. They are:
Hammersmith Lodge, No. 2090 (London); Royal Hampton Court Lodge, No. 2183 (Middlesex); Malden Lodge, No. 2875 (Surrey); Morpeth Lodge, No. 4176 (Northumberland); Plymouth Hoe Lodge, No. 4235 (Devon); Ceredigion Lodge, No. 4550 (London); Ashton Upon Mersey Lodge, No. 4654 (Cheshire); Concordia Lodge, No. 4793 (Sussex); Worcester Park Lodge, No. 5402 (Surrey); Simplicitas Lodge, No. 5704 (Surrey); Oaks Lodge, No. 5921 (Surrey); Lodge of Integrity, No. 6328 (Cheshire); Albany Park Lodge, No. 7432 (West Kent); Bywell Castle Lodge, No. 7739 (Northumberland); Lowther Lodge, No. 7809 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Warlingham Lodge, No. 7977 (Surrey); Owain Glyndwr Lodge, No. 8015 (South Wales); Huntercombe Lodge, No. 8264 (Buckinghamshire); Langdon Hills Lodge, No. 8477 (Essex); Bramble Lodge, No. 8541 (South Africa, Eastern Division); Prestbury Lodge, No. 8880 (Cheshire); Abridge Lodge, No. 9637 (Essex) and Lodge of Scribes, No. 9671 (Durham).
A Resolution to recommend that they be erased was approved.
Twelve brethren were expelled from the Craft.
For valour: Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War
A talk was given on this subject by Deputy Grand Chancellor John Hamill and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
List of new lodges
Warrants have been granted to the lodges below with the dates from which their Warrants became effective, date of Warrant and Location/Area and No. and name of the lodge:
14 December 2016
9942 Dorset Sportsmen’s Lodge (Poole, Dorset)
9943 Collegiate Lodge (Coventry, Warwickshire)
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 14 June 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 13 September 2017, 13 December 2017, 14 March 2018 and 13 June 2018.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 26 April 2017), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 27 April 2017, 8 November 2017 and 26 April 2018.
The red aprons
Director of Special Projects John Hamill explores the history behind the Grand Stewards, the lodge without a number
Like many membership organisations, Freemasonry relies on volunteers to run smoothly. One of the longest-serving groups of volunteers is the Grand Stewards, whose members, because of their privilege of wearing crimson collars and edging to their aprons, can cause confusion when they visit outside London.
The Grand Stewards’ prime function is to organise the Grand Festival, which immediately follows the annual investiture of Grand Officers on the last Wednesday in April each year. That has its origins in the famous meeting that took place on 24 June 1717 when the first Grand Lodge was formed. Indeed, for the first few years the annual feast and election of the new Grand Master appears to have been all that Grand Lodge did.
As the 1720s advanced and the number of lodges and members increased, organising the Grand Feast became more complex, so a number of individuals volunteered as stewards for the event.
In 1728, to formalise the arrangement, Grand Lodge invited 12 individuals to form a team to take on the preparations. This proved successful and the stewards became Grand Stewards, with their own jewel of office to be suspended from a crimson ribbon and the privilege of having their aprons lined and edged in the same colour. The original jewel was said to have been designed by William Hogarth, himself a Grand Steward in 1735.
The Grand Stewards received a further privilege in the same year when they were given a warrant as the Stewards Lodge. Originally they also carried a number but, in 1792, the Grand Stewards Lodge was formed, which was permitted to meet ‘without number, but first on the list of regular lodges’. Like the three time immemorial lodges, which formed the original 1717 Grand Lodge, the Grand Stewards Lodge meets without a warrant.
The Grand Stewards grew into a powerful body, with 12 representatives of the lodge entitled to attend and vote in Grand Lodge (usually only the Master and Wardens represented a lodge). The Grand Officers, for much of the 18th century, were chosen from among their number. Both these practices were lost after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, although the Grand Stewards retained the right to occupy the front rows on the north and south areas of the Grand Temple.
Up until the Union, the outgoing Grand Stewards had the right of nominating their successors, which naturally led to the office becoming associated with a small group of London lodges. Although the Antients Grand Lodge used stewards occasionally and had a Stewards Lodge (in effect, their Committee of Charity), they did not have a similar system of Grand Stewards.
After the Union in 1813, the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Sussex, began to formalise many of the pre-Union practices. In 1815, 18 London lodges were given the privilege of each year nominating one of their members for appointment by the Grand Master as a Grand Steward. Many of these lodges had previously provided Grand Stewards for the premier Grand Lodge.
The Grand Stewards were to assist at great ceremonials and the Quarterly Communication. In addition to organising the Grand Festival, they were to bear its cost. This later proved to be problematic and the present system was evolved, whereby Grand Lodge sets the ticket price for the Grand Festival and the Board of Grand Stewards makes its plans in the full knowledge that any costs exceeding those funds will fall on the board itself.
In making the new arrangements in 1815, the Duke of Sussex set up a curious anomaly. During their year of office, the Grand Stewards are Grand Officers. At the end of their year they become Past Grand Stewards and retain the right to wear their distinctive regalia but cease being Grand Officers – unless they are promoted or already hold Grand Rank.
On a number of occasions, I have seen consternation cross the brow of a lodge Director of Ceremonies when a Past Grand Steward visits his lodge. He does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?
Is he saluted? And where does he fit in on the toast list…?
‘A Past Grand Steward does not fit into any of the conventional groups, so where does he go in the procession?’
The title deeds of the Craft
Director of Special Projects John Hamill traces the origins of the Antient Charges and what they reveal about masonic values
On the first occasion on which a brother is installed as Master of a lodge he is required to give his assent to a Summary of the Antient Charges and Regulations, read out to him by the Secretary. This summary first appeared in print in the second edition (1775) of William Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry, in which he outlined the installation ceremony and since 1827 has formed part of the Book of Constitutions.
For something to be called a summary begs the question: ‘Of what?’ The charges and regulations are predominantly based on The Charges of a Freemason, first published in the first edition of the Constitutions, compiled by the Rev Dr James Anderson in 1723 and printed in every subsequent edition of the Book of Constitutions. They are divided into six sections: Of God and Religion; Of the Civil Magistrate; Supreme and Subordinate; Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices; Of the Management of the Craft in Working; Of Behaviour (with six subsections).
Anderson stated that he had ‘digested’ them from a series of old documents relating to masonry in England, Ireland, Scotland and ‘lodges overseas’. The latter was something of a pious fiction as there were no lodges overseas until the late 1720s.
These documents used to be known as the Old Manuscript Constitutions and are now, collectively, the Manuscript of Old Charges. More than 130 versions of them have survived (many now in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry) and more than 20 other versions have disappeared. Many of them are parchment rolls almost six feet in length and up to nine inches wide.
‘Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual.’
The two oldest versions – The Regius Poem circa 1390 and the Cook manuscript circa 1420 – are in the British Library and their content applies only to stonemasons. The next oldest is the Grand Lodge No. 1 manuscript, which carries the date 1583 and includes elements relating to speculative masonry. The majority of the extant versions can be dated to the 1600s when we begin to get evidence of speculative lodges, and a small group are from the 1700s and appear to have been copied out of antiquarian interest.
There are differences between the surviving versions, but they have a common tripartite form. They begin with an invocation to God, followed by a history of the mason Craft, and end with a series of charges, that is the duties that a mason owed to God, the law, his employer, his family and society in general. Some of the versions from the late 1600s in the final section begin to give us our first glimpses of ritual and ceremonial.
Making a mason
In the custom of the times during which they were written, the historical section is an amalgam of legend, biblical stories, folklore and some facts tracing masonry almost back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It includes many biblical, historical and legendary figures as at least promoters of masonry, if not in fact Grand Masters. When Anderson digested his version of the history he made no difference between operative and speculative masonry, giving birth to the idea that Freemasonry was a natural outgrowth from the operative Craft, an idea that has been much disputed by masonic historians over the past 50 years.
It is clear from some of the later versions of the Old Charges that reading of them was a part of the original ceremony of making a mason. Indeed, some masonic historians have characterised them as the ‘title deeds’ of the Craft. Their importance to us today is not only that they are the originals of the Antient Charges that we all subscribe to, but as evidence that the fundamental principles and tenets of the Craft are truly time immemorial, immutable and unchangeable.
The wider context
Director of Special Projects John Hamill reflects on the impact that broad trends within society have had on Freemasonry
We often comment on our hopes that the individual Freemason – by putting into practice the principles he learns in his lodge – will have a positive effect on the society in which he lives and works. However, we rarely look at how society, and the great changes it has gone through in the past 30 or so years, has impacted on Freemasonry.
Indeed, until the formation of the Membership Focus Group, whose ongoing work has been reported in recent issues of Freemasonry Today, there had been no major attempt to look at Freemasonry in the context of the society in which it currently exists.
At a recent meeting I had the privilege of presenting a memento to a lodge’s senior member who was celebrating the 75th anniversary of their initiation. Also present were his younger brother, who had just celebrated 68 years in the Craft, and his great-nephew, who has recently joined the lodge as the fourth generation of the family to do so.
It was one of the happiest meetings I have been to for a long time and stirred up one or two thoughts.
It took me back to my own entry into the Craft in 1970 in my father’s lodge on Tyneside, at which he and five of my uncles and three of my cousins were present. That might seem unusual today but in the context of the time it was not uncommon.
Indeed, from my work over the years with the membership registers and helping others compile lodge histories, I would argue that up to the 1970s, particularly outside the major cities, Freemasonry was very much a family affair. In many lodges with a history going back to Victorian times you see the same family names occurring. In small towns, family members would often be spread over several lodges meeting there, as was the case in my own family.
To my mind, family relationships and personal and professional friendships were the bedrock of Freemasonry and the major recruiting ground for new members. That began to break down in the 1970s because of gradual changes in society, particularly as the population became more mobile.
Research by sociologists has shown that up to the 1970s, most of the population were born, educated, worked and died within about 30 miles of where they were born. When education was complete, you looked for a job where you lived. The huge economic changes of the latter part of the 20th century, with the gradual disappearance of England’s industrial base, led to enforced mobility. You no longer worked where you lived; you moved to where you could find work.
That, in turn, had a great effect on family and community life, with families growing apart geographically and community organisations, such as Freemasonry, having a narrower base from which to draw members. Those factors, combined with a huge growth in new possibilities for leisure activities, meant that Freemasonry was no longer the first thing to come to mind when an individual was considering what to do with their free time.
Increased mobility also had an effect on existing members. When forced to move location for work they would try to maintain their links with their lodge but, almost inevitably, the ties would loosen and break. Sadly, Freemasonry at that time did not have systems in place to deal with such a situation or to introduce members to Freemasonry in their new area, and after a time their membership simply lapsed. Happily, that has all changed in recent years.
New thinking and new programmes such as the Membership Focus Group and the mentoring scheme should have an effect on future recruitment and retention of members. Key to it all, however, is good communication – but that is a topic for the future.
‘The huge economic changes of the latter part of the 20th century, with the gradual disappearance of England’s industrial base, led to enforced mobility… You moved to where you could find work.’