Celebrating 300 years

Last Wednesday’s Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter was a special meeting as HRH The Duke of Kent celebrated his Golden Jubilee as First Grand Principal with a special investiture of Grand Ranks

Afterwards HRH The Duke of Kent was photographed with the Pro First Grand Principal, Second Grand Principal and Third Grand Principal to mark the occasion.

Read the First Grand Principal’s address here.

Read the Pro First Grand Principal’s address here.

Published in SGC

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

13 September 2017 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 June 2017 were confirmed.

Meetings in 2018

The Board of General Purposes will meet in 2018 on 13 February, 20 March, 15 May, 17 July, 18 September and 13 November.

Attendance at lodges under the English Constitution by brethren from other Grand Lodges

The Board considers it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to secretaries of lodges. Only brethren who are members of lodges under recognised jurisdictions may visit English lodges. They must produce a certificate (i.e. a Grand Lodge certificate or other documentary proof of masonic identity provided by their Grand Lodge), should be prepared to acknowledge that a personal belief in TGAOTU is an essential Landmark in Freemasonry, and should be able to produce evidence of their good standing in their lodges. It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements of Rule 125 (b) are met.

It is particularly noted that the hazard of admitting a member of an unrecognised constitution arises not only in connection with overseas visitors, or individuals resident in this country who belong to an unrecognised constitution overseas, but there are also lodges of unrecognised constitutions meeting in England, and care must be taken that their members are not admitted to our meetings.

Attendance at lodges overseas

Brethren are reminded that they are permitted to visit lodges overseas only if they come under a jurisdiction which is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England. A list of recognised Grand Lodges is published annually, but as the situation does change from time to time, brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s office via their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.

The Board recommends that the terms of this warning should be repeated:

  1. verbally in open Lodge whenever a Grand Lodge Certificate is presented, and
  2. in print once a year in a lodge’s summons.

Brethren should also be aware of the masonic convention that communications between Grand Lodges be conducted by Grand Secretaries. They should therefore not attempt without permission to make direct contact with the Grand Secretary of another Constitution. This does not preclude direct contact on a purely personal level between individual brethren under different Grand Lodges.

Prestonian Lectures

2018: The Board has submitted a nomination to the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund and they have appointed C.P. Noon as Prestonian Lecturer for 2018. Bro Noon states that the title of his lecture will be A Good Workman Praises his Tools: Masonic Metaphors in the Ancient World. 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 desires to emphasise the importance of these lectures, the only ones held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It is, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official lectures will 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.

Amalgamation

The Board has received a report that Merlin Lodge, No. 6156 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Prudence Lodge, No. 4127 (Cheshire). A resolution that the lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation was approved.

Erasure of lodges

The Board had received a report that twelve lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: United Temperance Lodge, No. 3107 (Cheshire); Garden City Lodge, No. 3112 (London); Edric Lodge, No. 4299 (Middlesex); Theobalds Lodge, No. 4726 (Hertfordshire); Wealdstone Lodge, No. 5236 (Middlesex); Streatham Vale Lodge, No. 5623 (Surrey); Pymmes Park Lodge, No. 6193 (London); Tamesa Lodge, No. 6806 (Surrey); Lodge of Reliance, No. 7476 (West Kent); Eros Lodge, No. 7783 (London); Lodge of United Endeavour, No. 7854 (London) and Grays and Orsett Daylight Lodge, No. 9766 (Essex).

A resolution that they be erased was agreed.

Presentation

There was a presentation by Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master, on the Improvement Delivery Group. 

Expulsions from the Craft

Nine brethren have been expelled from the Craft.

Library and Museum Charitable Trust

There was a report from the Council of the Library and Museum Charitable Trust for the year ended 31 January 2017.

List of new lodges

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 with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:

14 June 2017

9948 Bahamas and Turks Tercentenary Lodge (Nassau, Bahamas and Turks)
9949 Yuma Lodge (Long Island, Bahamas and Turks)
9950 Derbyshire Motorcycle Lodge (Ilkeston) Derbyshire

Special Communication of Grand Lodge

A special communication of Grand Lodge to celebrate the Tercentenary will be held on Tuesday, 31 October 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall. Admission is by ticket only.

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, 13 December 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 14 March 2018; 13 June 2018; 12 September 2018 and 12 December 2018. 

Annual Investiture

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.

Published in UGLE

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’

Published in Features

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

14 June 2017 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

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:

1

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Fees 2018

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:

2

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.

Prestonian Lectures

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.

Amalgamations

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.

Expulsions

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.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 00:00

Lodge link for Grand Organists

For the first time, it is believed, the Grand Organists in the Craft and the Royal Arch are both current members of, and were initiated into, St Cecilia Lodge, No. 6190, the lodge for organists

Carl Jackson is Grand Organist for UGLE and Provincial Grand Organist in Surrey, while David Cresswell is Grand Organist for Supreme Grand Chapter. Carl is also director of music at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, and organist and teacher of academic music at King’s College School, London.

David is director of music at St Nicholas parish church, Chiswick, and a court assistant for the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Striking  the right chord

Freemasonry Today caught up with renowned musician Thomas Trotter as he practised on the Grand Temple’s newly refurbished pipe organ for its inaugural concert

The pipes of the Grand Temple organ positively gleam as Thomas Trotter runs through the programme for a special concert to be held in the Temple the next day. The organ’s restoration has used enough gold leaf to cover the surface of a tennis court and introduced a new organ chamber in the centre of the Temple’s east wall. As he practises, Trotter’s hands dance over the three manuals while his feet expertly work the pedals beneath to create an epic sound from Bach’s Toccata in F.

The concert will not only be the culmination of the organ’s refurbishment but also the first of many celebratory events linked to the 2017 Tercentenary. One of Britain’s most widely admired musicians, Trotter is looking forward to playing to a full house: ‘The Grand Temple is a unique space, it’s incredibly plush and sumptuous. The carpets dampen the sound quite a lot so I’m going to have to work hard.’

A grand history

The organ was built by Freemason Henry Willis III for the inauguration of
the Grand Temple in 1933. 

It included numerous state-of-the-art developments that Willis had adopted following visits to the US, many of which were designed to help the instrument cope with its setting: a modern, efficiently heated building. Some 80 years of accumulated wear, however, threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes.

Thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, organ builders Harrison & Harrison of Durham have been able to restore the instrument to its former glory, retaining its console, mechanism and pipework. The projection and presence of the sound has been markedly improved by giving a greater degree of opening to the expressive swell enclosures, within which much of the pipework is situated, and also by removing heavy fabric hangings from the east wall. 

‘The curtaining would have soaked up the sound like a sponge. Now with the marble walls exposed, the sound is reflected off into the hall. It’s like having your windows cleaned – before it would have been a bit musty and unfocused,’ says Trotter. ‘I’m thrilled that people are still spending money on their instruments and buying new ones. There are far fewer organ builders than there were 50 years ago, but the standard is as high as it’s ever been.’

‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’ Charles Grace

Past in tune with present

The refurbishment has seen the addition of a new case on the east wall, clad to match the original design. It contains a chorus of five stops, balanced to augment rather than dominate the Willis sound, and a solo stop for special occasions – the Grand Tuba. ‘In the recital I’m going to use some of the old pipes and compare it with the new stops, which have made a big difference and are quite striking.’ 

The Grand Temple is in good company, with the organs at Westminster Cathedral and Liverpool Cathedral also built by Henry Willis III. ‘Every organ is different, but there are certain characteristics that follow through all the Henry Willis III organs and I can hear them here,’ says Trotter. ‘There’s a certain brightness about some of the stops that are representative of what Willis was doing in the 1930s.’

As the audience take their seats in the Grand Temple the next day, there is an almost palpable sense of expectation about how the organ will sound. With Trotter hidden behind the organ, a camera positioned behind his shoulder will stream his performance onto the wall of the Temple for the audience to see. He does not disappoint. 

‘I was very pleased with the way the concert was received,’ says Charles Grace, Project Manager
for the Grand Temple organ restoration. ‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’

In addition to performing pieces by Bach and masonic composers Mozart and Liszt, Trotter plays Reginald Goss-Custard’s Chelsea Fayre. It’s a fitting nod to the instrument’s proud history, with Goss-Custard’s brother Harry the recitalist at the opening of the Temple organ in 1933.

Note perfect

Thomas Trotter has performed as 
a soloist with conductors Sir Simon
 Rattle, Bernard Haitink and the late Sir Charles 
Mackerras, among many others. He
 regularly gives recitals in venues such as 
the Berlin Philharmonie; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna; and London’s Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls. In 2012 he was named International Performer of the Year by the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016

Concerted interest

Sir,

Among your readers there may be many who enjoyed the inaugural organ concert given by Thomas Trotter last September.

This year, again as part of the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations, there will be two further hour-long concerts. 

The first will take place at 5pm on Wednesday, 8 June, featuring Ian Tracey, organist at Liverpool Cathedral, in a wide-ranging programme.

As before, you will be able to see what the organist is doing, with a filmed display on the walls of the Grand Temple. Tickets (for which there is no charge) can be booked at https://goo.gl/zHW67w, and I do hope that many will take advantage of what should be another great occasion.

Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple Organ, Freemasons’ Hall, London

Published in More News

Chapter support for surgical research

Established with £587,629 in 1967, the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund is a registered charity supporting the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS). By the end of 2013, the fund’s capital was £3.7 million, despite providing more than £4.3 million in grants during the previous 45 years. 

However, with lower returns and the increased cost of financing Fellows to undertake surgical research, fulfilling the fund’s aspirations was becoming difficult. Supreme Grand Chapter therefore decided to launch an appeal to support the RCS in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Arch, and £2.5 million was raised. From this year, two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships will be supported. 

To reflect these changes, the fund was renamed The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (FFSR) on 1 January 2015.

Published in More News

Change of name for surgical research fund

Since being established with the capital sum of £587,629 in 1967 the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund did not receive any additional capital donations - until 2014. The fund was created as a registered charity with the aim of supporting the work of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Prudent investment and making grants of an amount in keeping with available income meant that by the end of 2013 the fund’s capital was £3.7m despite having given over £4.3m in grants to the college during the previous 45 years. However with lower returns and the ever rising cost of funding fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons to undertake surgical research, the ability to fulfil the aspirations of the fund was becoming very difficult.

In these circumstances the trustees were delighted when the Supreme Grand Chapter resolved to launch an appeal to support the work of the college in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Arch.

The generosity of the Royal Arch masons and Freemasons generally, resulted in the sum of £2.5m being raised, greatly exceeding expectations. It was decided that the funds raised by the appeal should be invested and administered together with the Grand Lodge 250th Fund. It is intended that from 2015, four, or possibly 5 fellows will be supported.

It has been agreed that the fellowships will be allocated to the Craft and the Royal Arch in proportion to the contribution of funds, so that there will be two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships supported. The fellows who are to be supported are selected by the fund’s trustees in discussion with the President and other senior members of the college. These fellows are some of the brightest and best surgeons in the land and the funding enables them to spend a year working on innovative treatments for medical conditions which affect us all.

In order to reflect these important changes, it has been decided that the name of the fund be changed to 'the Freemasons Fund for Surgical Research' with effect from the 1st January 2015.

Published in SGC

HRH The Duke of Kent reflects on the bicentenary of the Royal Arch as it raises more than £2 million for the Royal College of Surgeons

This October we marked a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch. While celebrating this landmark I particularly wish to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear of the tremendous support the companions have given to the appeal.

In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2 million. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.

I also know that the College president, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College’s successful Research Fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.

To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year’s celebrations. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!

The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent presided over the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16 October 2013 in the Grand Temple to mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient masonry. With lunch held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, the day included a Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, No. 9812, in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 was given. 

Published in SGC
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

200 years of grand union

Working as one

With December marking the bicentenary of the union of the Grand Lodges, John Hamill explores the people and planning behind the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The formation of the Antients Grand Lodge in 1751 – instigated mainly by Irish brethren in London who had been unable to gain entry to lodges under the premier Grand Lodge – marked the start of a period in which two Grand Lodges existed side by side. Initially there was great enmity between the two, and both sides threatened dire consequences against any members who became involved with their rival. But as time went on, except at the centre, relations relaxed, particularly in the Provinces where the beady eyes of the respective Grand Secretaries did not extend. Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps. 

Indeed, it was because of two such brethren that the first serious attempt, in 1801, to start negotiations towards a union foundered. When it was announced that talks might begin, there were groups within both Grand Lodges who did not wish to see it happen and sought to wreck it. Charges were brought in the Antients Grand Lodge against Francis Columbine Daniel for being active in both Grand Lodges, resulting in his expulsion. Daniel was a doctor and apothecary, best remembered today as having invented the inflatable life vest and for receiving an ‘accidental knighthood’. Daniel believed that the new Deputy Grand Master of the Antients, Thomas Harper, had engineered his expulsion and sought his revenge.

Rooted in rivalry

Harper had been very active in both Grand Lodges, being a Grand Steward in the premier Grand Lodge in 1796 when he was also Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients. He was a jeweller and printer, making masonic jewels that are now highly prized and collected. Quite how someone so prominent had got away with being so publicly active in both Grand Lodges is the subject of another article, but Daniel forced the premier Grand lodge to recognise the fact and they expelled Harper in 1803, bringing any talk of a union to a halt.

In 1806, the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge since 1791, was elected Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. As he had done in England, he appointed the Earl of Moira as his Acting Grand Master. Moira seems to have seen the Prince’s election as an opportunity to bring the premier Grand Lodge and Scotland closer together. However, the Scots saw the election as simply allowing for a closer relationship between the two Grand Lodges, rather than an actual joining together.

‘Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps.’

Nevertheless, talk of union seems to have turned the minds of the Prince and Moira to the situation in England. In 1809 they approached the Antients with the idea of setting up a joint committee to explore a possible ‘equable union’. A stumbling block was the fact that Harper was still Deputy Grand Master of the Antients and was very much in charge in the extended absences of the Grand Master John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl. The negotiators were appointed and in 1810 Harper was welcomed back into the premier Grand Lodge.

Apart from the formal Grand Lodge Minutes and odd bits of correspondence, little evidence survives about the negotiations, which dragged on for nearly four years. Part of the problem was that while the premier Grand Lodge team had been given authority to make decisions, those representing the Antients had to have any decisions agreed within a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge. 

A grand achievement

Matters were not helped by the fact that the Antients’ Grand Secretary, Robert Leslie, was firmly against the project. A somewhat prickly character, he had been Grand Secretary since 1790 and, unlike his counterparts in the premier Grand Lodge, was a salaried official, earning £100 a year. Indeed, so much was he against the union that even when it was accomplished he refused to hand over the records of the Antients Grand Lodge.

Proceedings might have ground to a halt in 1813 had it not been for major changes at the head of both Grand Lodges. The Prince of Wales resigned as Grand Master and was succeeded by his younger brother the Duke of Sussex. In November 1813 the Duke of Atholl resigned as Grand Master of the Antients, who elected another royal brother, the Duke of Kent, as their Grand Master. 

It says a great deal about the authority of princes in those days that within six weeks they had knocked heads together, and agreed and drawn up Articles of Union. They also planned the great ceremony, which took place at Freemasons’ Hall on 27 December 1813, when the union was declared and the Duke of Sussex was installed as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Published in Features
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