Brethen of Valour
Special paving stones outside Freemasons’ Hall pay tribute to English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I
A set of paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during World War I was unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April.
The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the Armed Forces regardless of rank or status – and almost one in six of the 633 VC recipients during the First World War were Freemasons.
Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under other Grand Lodges in the British Empire. Freemasons’ Hall itself is a memorial to the 3,000-plus English Freemasons who gave their lives in World War I.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with Lord Dannatt, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London; the Mayor of Camden; senior officers from the military services; a group of Chelsea Pensioners; and representatives from the VC and George Cross Association as well as some of the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those who were being commemorated.
The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges as well as passers-by.
Music was provided by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir. Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the President of the Board of General Purposes, Anthony Wilson, welcoming those attending.
Derham set the scene at the outbreak of war in 1914 with the aid of archive film showing how young men ‘flocked to the flag’ in the expectation that the war would be over by Christmas – and how the reality set in that it was not to be a short war but one that would affect every community in the country.
Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded a VC in 1918.
The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read extracts from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.
The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The memorial stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain, Canon Michael Wilson. The Grand Master and Lord Dannatt then inspected the stones, after which family members and other invited guests had an opportunity to view them before entering Freemasons’ Hall for a reception in the Grand Temple vestibule area.
You can watch highlights of the unveiling of the memorial to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War here
A special commemorative programme for the ceremony, including portraits and brief details of the 64 brethren of valour, can also be viewed here
Letters to the Editor - NO. 38 SUMMER 2017
We will remember
I wasn’t really sure who to address my comments to regarding the Victoria Cross memorial paving stones unveiling ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall, except Grand Lodge, brethren and friends. Freemasonry stood tall and exemplified what we are about in the unveiling of the wonderful memorial to those gentlemen who were Freemasons, and who paid the final sacrifice. This was a wonderful day for Freemasonry and a day of pride for Freemasons. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of it.
Lou Myer, Ubique Lodge, No. 1789, London
Known and yet not well known
Past Grand Chaplain and member of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree, Rev Dr John Railton explores the origins of the Unknown Warrior
At the west end of the nave of Westminster Abbey, covered by a slab of black Belgian marble, is the grave of the Unknown Warrior. The body was brought from France to be buried here on 11 November 1920 and, in the week after the burial, it is estimated that over one million people visited the Abbey. Now one of the most visited war graves in the world, my father’s cousin David Railton first conceived the idea when he came across a grave marked by a rough cross, which bore the pencil-written legend ‘An Unknown British Soldier’.
David volunteered as an army chaplain when he was just thirty-one. Leaving his position as a curate in Folkestone, he went out to the Western Front on 11 January 1916 and served with the ‘Tommies’ in the trenches for the duration of World War I. His faith, compassion and courage are all evident from what survives of his wartime correspondence with his wife, Ruby. It was in the late summer of 1916 that he was awarded the Military Cross for his part in saving an officer and two soldiers from certain death in the High Wood action on the Somme. A month later, the idea of a tomb dedicated to an unknown soldier was planted in David’s mind and his vision began to take shape.
In an article published in Our Empire in November 1931, David describes vividly how the notion came to him: ‘I came back from “the line” at dusk. We had just laid to rest the mortal remains of a comrade. I went to a billet in front of Erquinghem, near Armentières. At the back of the billet was a small garden, and in the garden, only about six paces from the house, there was a grave. At its head, there stood a rough cross of white wood. On the cross was clearly written in deep black-pencilled letters: “An Unknown British Soldier”, and in brackets underneath, “of the Black Watch”.
‘It was dusk and nobody was near, except some officers in the billet playing cards. I remember how still it was. Even the guns seemed to be resting, as if to give their gunners a chance to have their tea. How that grave caused me to think! Quietly and gradually there came out of the mist of thought this answer clear and strong: “Let this body – this symbol of him – be carried reverently over the sea to his native land.”’
Plans taking shape
The idea stayed with David throughout the war and after the Armistice, but he was reluctant to do anything about it – mainly because he thought that an idea from a humble padre would be unlikely to find favour with those in authority. After the war, David returned to his curacy in Folkestone and was then appointed vicar of St John the Baptist in Margate. For a long time he contemplated writing to General Sir Douglas Haig, but never did. It was with the encouragement of his wife that eventually, in August 1920, David wrote to Bishop Herbert Ryle, Dean of Westminster Abbey. He suggested that the remains of an unidentifiable serviceman be buried in Westminster Abbey as the representative of the thousands of soldiers who had died in the war.
Ryle appears to have embraced the idea and approached both Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. Prime Minister David Lloyd George received it enthusiastically because it fitted so well with his own vision of a ‘national memorial’, which Sir Edwin Lutyens had been commissioned to design and which we all now know as the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
Once the proposal had been adopted and a formal announcement made on 19 October, a Memorial Service Committee under the Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon was established, arrangements were made swiftly and orders were issued.
On Sunday, 7 November 1920, four individual parties of soldiers were sent out to the four principal battlefields – Somme, Ainse, Arras and Ypres – to exhume four corpses. They were identified as British by their boots and buttons, but their ranks were unknown. The corpses were sewn into sackcloth, taken to a swiftly built temporary Chapel at St Pol, laid out on trestles and covered with Union Flags under the supervision of Rev George Kendall – an army chaplain who had been sent out from London with two undertakers.
Brigadier General L J Wyatt had succeeded Haig as General Officer Commanding British Forces in France and Flanders. According to his letter to the Daily Telegraph in November 1939, at midnight on that Sunday night, after the chaplain, the undertakers and the exhumation parties had all dispersed, General Wyatt entered the chapel with a member of his staff, Colonel Gell. He selected one covered body and then, with Colonel Gell, lifted it into a prepared plain deal coffin shell, before securing and sealing the lid.
The chapel stayed under guard overnight. The coffin shell containing the Unknown Warrior was placed in a coffin of English oak and was prepared for transit back to England by train and a Royal Naval destroyer.
On Thursday, 11 November 1920, the Unknown Warrior travelled by gun carriage from Victoria station via The Mall and Trafalgar Square for the ceremony to unveil the Cenotaph in Whitehall at precisely 11.00am. The Union Flag covering the coffin was the one used by David throughout the war, both as an altar cloth for services on the battlefield and as a shroud at the battlefield burial of soldiers killed in action. After unveiling the Cenotaph, the King laid a wreath on the coffin and then walked in procession behind it to Westminster Abbey. The Unknown Warrior was buried at the west end of the nave and the grave filled with soil brought from France.
A year later, David carried his Union Flag to the altar in Westminster Abbey where it was dedicated to, and then laid up over, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The flag remained there for thirty-two years until 1953, when it was moved because it was obstructing the view of the cameras filming the Coronation. It has hung in nearby St George’s Chapel ever since.
My father was in the Honourable Artillery Company during World War I, having signed up six months before his eighteenth birthday. However, being sixteen years younger than David, he didn’t get out to France.
I do know from my conversations with my father that he and David were in frequent touch with each other during the immediate post-war years and met several times, probably during the mid 1920s when David was Vicar of St John the Baptist in Margate and my father was a schoolmaster in Essex. The impression I have is that my father found David to be a role model.
The concept of a Tomb of an Unknown Warrior was picked up almost immediately by France and, later, by the United States along with many other nations.
But the original idea came from David.
David Railton was born in Leytonstone on 13 November 1884, the second son of George Scott Railton, the first commissioner of The Salvation Army.
David graduated from Keble in 1908 and was ordained the same year, taking his first curacy at Edge Hill, Liverpool. It was there that he met his wife, Ruby. They moved to Kent in 1910 and their first daughter was born in 1913. David was appointed curate in Folkestone in 1914. He moved from Margate to take up a post as curate at Christ Church, Westminster, then took incumbencies in Bolton, Shalford and Liverpool, before retiring in 1945 at the age of sixty-one.
Letters to the Editor – No. 29 Spring 2015
As a resident of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution’s Harewood Court, I am passed a copy of Freemasonry Today by one of my colleagues as I appreciate many of the historical inclusions.
I have known the story well of the Unknown Warrior for my father was one of the bearers of the gun carriage in St Pol in 1920. My late husband was a member of City of London Rifles Lodge, No. 5606, and in the late sixties we attended a ladies night at the Russell Hotel. My father was invited to attend, and shortly after arrival he pronounced that he knew one of my husband’s colleagues. The last time they were together was in St Pol in 1920. The colleague was a sergeant in the Royal Engineers burial party. They had plenty to chat about!
Jeanne N H Kick, Harewood Court, Hove, East Sussex
12 June 2013
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
our June meeting always has a full agenda with the meeting of the Grand Charity and I am sure you would like me to thank the President of the Grand Charity and all whose hard work has made their work so effective over so many years. What is not required now is a long address from the chair and I will be brief.
Brethren, you will recollect that last year, in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we sent a loyal message to Her Majesty on the occasion of the sixtieth Anniversary of her accession to the Throne.
Last Tuesday a service was held in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the sixtieth year since her Coronation. Her actual Coronation was on the second of June 1953 and the ceremony was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Interestingly, Archbishop Fisher was a committed Freemason serving as Grand Chaplain in 1937 whilst being Bishop of Chester. He was re-appointed Grand Chaplain in 1939 just at the time he was made Bishop of London.
At the Quarterly Communication the day after the Coronation, on the third of June 1953, the Earl of Scarbrough, Grand Master, gave a loyal address to Her Majesty on the occasion of her Coronation and I quote, “Brethren, we meet in Grand Lodge this afternoon on the day following the Coronation of our Gracious Queen. This is an event which stirs the hearts of us all – in these Islands, in every part of the Commonwealth and, indeed, throughout the world. We Freemasons, remembering in particular the many greatly-prized links which we have had, and those which we still have, with the Royal House, have our hearts full of loyalty and prayer towards Her Majesty”.
Brethren, we often joke that nothing in Freemasonry ever changes or that, if it does, it takes a good many years to do so. In this case I know that it is true and that as we celebrate the Coronation – sixty years later – those sentiments expressed by Lord Scarbrough are as true today as they were then. Long may that be the case.
We celebrate another royal sixtieth anniversary this year, that of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s sixty years as a subscribing member of the Craft. The Grand Master sent him a message of congratulations to mark the occasion and, in reply, Prince Philip asked for his thanks and best wishes to be expressed to all members.
Brethren I have to announce that the MW The Grand Master has appointed VWBro Sir David Wootton Past Grand Sword Bearer and, of course last year’s Lord Mayor, to succeed RWBro David Williamson as Assistant Grand Master with effect from 12 March 2014. On that day either the MW The Grand Master or I will have the pleasure of investing him. I must add that Bro Williamson will be continuing as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter.
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence believes that it is vital to show the rest of the world why Freemasonry is enjoyable
I would like to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of ‘pure antient masonry’. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our pure ancient masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a supreme being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives ‘a context and background to the individual’s way of life as they seek to live it’.
Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality – it does not have any sacraments or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of tolerance. Therefore, to ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, discussions of religion, like discussions of politics, are strictly prohibited.
Encouraging our ideals
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – which was a time of religious intolerance – was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men – that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. In today’s language, we can articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles that we should be very proud of and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt that our principles will appeal to those who are not masons if they are aware of them.
The future of the Craft is dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. The other side of this coin is that we should therefore be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Freemason is told in the charge after initiation and for a very good reason – unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general as well as their own lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly and in an informed way about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long-term future.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
A word of warning for younger Freemasons: be careful what you wish for! Eighteen months ago as part of the annual visit made by the masons of the southern area of the Province of East Lancashire, one of the younger visitors, Steve Stanley, was making his first visit. He was the Junior Warden of the Lodge of Union, No. 268, from Ashton-under-Lyne.
During luncheon, the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, spent some time chatting to every brother who was present. When Steve took his turn to have a few words with such an eminent guest, he didn’t miss the chance to ask, ‘Would you like to attend my installation on 16 January?’ There was a pause before the Deputy Grand Master responded, ‘We’ll have to see what is possible.’ And that was that.
The Deputy Grand Master must get similar requests all the time and the other members of the lodge had to work on Steve to convince him that there was little, if any, chance of his actually receiving a visit from such an august Freemason.
However, some sixteen months later it became clear to one or two members of the Lodge of Union that there was a distinct possibility that something special might just be about to happen. On the evening of 16 January, after Steve was presented, it was announced that the Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies sought entry into our lodge! When he announced that Jonathan Spence, the Deputy Grand Master, demanded to be admitted you could have heard a pin drop. Steve looked up and I saw him mouth a few syllables that demonstrated that he understood what was about to happen.
The Deputy Grand Master entered with a small retinue, and as he walked past, he gave the Master Elect a clear and definite wink. Nor did the surprise end there. Right Worshipful Brother Spence accepted the gavel, took the Chair and performed the whole ceremony in a brisk, exact and perfect way that demonstrated to seventy-eight other masons just how it could be done. Steve was well and truly installed. The rest of us saw a ceremony that will not soon be forgotten.
Kevin Hall, Lodge of Union, No. 268, Ashton-under-Lyne, East Lancashire
Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence surprised a young Freemason at his installation
It’s probably fair to say that Freemasonry in Monaco has been low-key for a number of years, following its conditional acceptance by the Monégasque authorities in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Port of Hercules Lodge was formed in 1924 under the English Constitution, and many Monégasques who wished to become Freemasons sought membership outside the principality. In more recent years, three lodges were formed under the German Constitution, but it became apparent that the Monégasques who had joined lodges in France would like one of their own. Accordingly, the first steps were taken three years ago to establish a Grand Lodge in Monaco, and this meticulous planning came to fruition on 19 February in Monte Carlo.
The Grande Loge Nationale Regulière de la Principauté de Monaco was formed by seven lodges, one formerly meeting under the English Constitution and three each under the German and French.
The consecrating officer was Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, assisted by the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, Rüdiger Templin, as Senior Warden; and the Past Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of France, Jean-Charles Foellner, as Junior Warden. The ceremony was directed by Oliver Lodge (Grand Director of Ceremonies) with the help of Nick Bosanquet and Sebastian Madden (Deputy Grand Directors of Ceremonies) and Malcolm Brooks (Grand Tyler). The team from UGLE also included Nigel Brown (Grand Secretary), Alan Englefield (Grand Chancellor), Reverend Dr John Railton (Grand Chaplain) and Ron Cayless (Grand Organist).
The consecration ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and included the unveiling of the lodge boards, the familiar scriptural readings from the Bible, the symbolic use of corn, wine and oil, and the censing of the lodge and its officers. It was conducted almost entirely in English, but the Rulers-designate took their obligations in their own languages. Jean-Pierre Pastor was installed as the first Grand Master, and he then appointed and installed Claude Boisson as Deputy Grand Master, and Rex Thorne, Knut Schwieger, Renato Boeri and John Lonczynski as Assistant Grand Masters.
Other Grand Lodges were represented by more than a hundred delegates and many presented gifts to the newly installed Grand Master, including a magnificent ceremonial sword from the United Grand Lodge of England. The new Grand Master appointed and installed his officers, before the UGLE team withdrew, leaving the Grand Master and his new team to complete essential business. Monaco’s Grand Lodge had been launched in splendid style.
With a quiet dignity and impish sense of humour, Reverend Canon Richard Tydeman, MA, OSM, PSGW, came into Freemasonry in 1937. John Hamill celebrates his considerable achievements
Richard Tydeman, who died aged 94, had a great love of the English language and its proper usage. A highly regarded preacher and after-dinner speaker, he also compiled crosswords for the Church Times, produced verse and plays, and wrote a column for Freemasonry Today under the heading Reflection.
A Suffolk man through-and-through, Tydeman was born in Stowmarket and educated at Woodbridge School, before attending St John’s College Oxford (BA in 1939, MA in 1943). He trained for the priesthood at Ripon Hall, Oxford, and was ordained in 1943. After a brief curacy in Staffordshire he returned to Suffolk first as a curate and then as a priest in charge of Ipswich and Woodbridge. He was an Honorary Canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral from 1959 to 1963.
In 1963, Tydeman moved to London as Rector of St Sepulchre-Without-Newgate and a Deputy Minor Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. He was preacher of Lincoln’s Inn from 1973 until his London retirement in 1981. He then returned to Suffolk before moving to Cornwallis Court in Bury St Edmunds.
Tydeman’s long life was supported by three pillars: family, faith and Freemasonry. He was proud that his daughters – Reverend Rose Williams and Deaconess Sue Pierson – followed this path. He also protested as elements of the Church attacked the Craft. When the General Synod in 1986 announced it was to investigate the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity, he wrote to the Church Times asking what right the Synod had to speak for Christianity.
He came into Freemasonry in 1937 in the Phoenix Lodge No. 516, at Stowmarket. He was Provincial Grand Chaplain for Suffolk in 1957 and Grand Chaplain in 1966 and 1967. He was later promoted to Past Junior Grand Warden in 1989 and Past Senior Grand Warden in 2004 of the Grand Lodge. In 1988, he was appointed a member of the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry.
In 1941, Tydeman came into the Royal Arch in the Lewisham Chapter No. 2582, at Warley in Staffordshire. He later joined two chapters in Suffolk, was Grand Scribe N in 1971 and from 1980 to 1987 was Grand Superintendent in and over the area. In a debate in Grand Chapter on changes to the Royal Arch ritual in the late 1980s, he announced that he was privileged to be Grand Superintendent in a small province of 17 chapters that worked 18 rituals.
Tydeman’s three addresses – ‘A New Approach to Mystical Hebrew’ (the ‘bumble bee’ lecture) of November 1979; ‘The Words on the Triangle – An Alternative View’ of November 1985; and ‘History, Mystery and Geometry’ of November 1987 – added to the revision of the Royal Arch in the 1980s.
His contribution to Masonic thought was acknowledged in 1971 when he was appointed Prestonian Lecturer, his subject being ‘Masters and Master Masons’, while his explanation of how the Grand Stewards gained their red apron – given as the response to the Visitor’s Toast at the 1978 Installation Banquet of the Grand Stewards Lodge – has become part of Grand Stewards folklore.
He also held high office in many of the additional degrees, including the highest in two of them: from 1980 to 1996 he was Grand Sovereign of the Red Cross of Constantine, and from 1994 to 2002 he was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry. In both of those capacities, he travelled extensively, impressing many of the members with his dignity and impish humour.
Even in these days of increasing longevity, 94 years of life, 74 years of Freemasonry and 70 years as a priest are achievements worthy of celebration. Those of us who were privileged to know him will mourn his loss but raise a glass to many happy memories.
As Letchworth marks its one-hundredth year, John Hamill reports on the centenary of a very special lodge
On 28 March 2011 in Lodge Room No. 10 at Freemasons’ Hall in London, almost 150 brethren gathered for an emergency meeting. Nothing unusual in that – until you look at the signature book and discover that those present included the Pro, Deputy and Assistant Grand Masters, the Metropolitan Grand Master for London, the President and Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, the Grand Chaplain, Grand Secretary, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Presidents of the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, and other senior brethren.
What, you might wonder, other than a Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, would bring such illustrious company together in one tyled meeting? The reason is a joyous one – to take part in the centenary celebrations of Letchworth Lodge, No. 3505. But why such eminent brethren for a Hertfordshire lodge? The answer, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is all in a name. The ‘Letchworth’ after which the lodge was called is not the delightful Hertfordshire town, but Sir Edward Letchworth who was Grand Secretary from 1892 to 1917. As for why the celebrations were in London, when the membership of the lodge was formed in 1911, it was restricted to the permanent clerks in the Grand Secretary’s Office. And even today is limited to those employed in the capital’s masonic headquarters.
Although a Secretary to the Grand Lodge was appointed in 1723 (becoming Grand Secretary in 1734) and the premier Grand Lodge had a permanent building in Great Queen Street from 1775, it was not until 1838 that the Grand Secretary’s Office came into being. From the of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 until 1838, the Grand Secretaryship was a joint office shared by William White, who had held the same office in the premier Grand Lodge, and Edward Harper, who had been Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients.
In 1838, Harper ‘retired’ and White was asked to take on the role of Grand Secretary. He agreed but on one condition: that Grand Lodge employed two full-time clerks to assist with paperwork. As a result of the expansion in members and lodges in the Victorian period, by the time Letchworth became Grand Secretary in 1892 the office had grown to seven clerks. As they had to be Master Masons it was suggested they should have a lodge. There was one problem: nine was the minimum number of petitioners and there were only seven clerks.
By 1911, there had been an expansion of the Craft and clerk numbers grew to 15. They approached Letchworth to petition for a lodge, and the consecration took place on 28 March 1911. Sir Edward himself was the Consecrating Officer, assisted by the President of the Board of General Purposes, the President of the Board of Benevolence (now the Grand Charity), the Grand Chaplain and Grand Director of Ceremonies and the Chairman of the Board’s Officers and Clerks Committee.
Sir Edward stated that the lodge’s purpose was ‘to meld the clerks into greater harmony’. It would also assist Grand Lodge by bringing into Freemasonry suitable candidates that might become clerks in the office; and get brethren through the Chair in a reasonable time for additional duties. The latter was important, as many lodges had more than 100 members and it could take 15 or more years to reach the Chair.
The lodge’s first year was a busy one with two candidates and three installations. The Master designate had been installed at the consecration and at the July and November meetings two of the senior clerks were installed. In 1913, the lodge began a practice that was to continue until the 1970s – that of initiating as serving brethren members of the portering and maintenance staff of the Hall. They were to assist the Grand Tyler by laying up the lodge rooms and acting as Assistant Tylers whenever Grand Lodge met.
The First World War halted progress of the lodge and office, as half the staff were on active service. Only one did not return, Ponsonby Cox, and another, Guy Mercer, was awarded the Military Cross. Those too old for military service kept the lodge and office going. To help in the office, the rule requiring clerks to be Master Masons was put into abeyance and three lady clerks and two ‘lady typewriters’ were taken on. The latter, Miss Haigh and Miss Winter, proved far from temporary, spending the rest of their working lives as private secretaries to Grand and Deputy Grand Secretaries.
The huge increase in the Craft four years after the war, and the plan to rebuild Freemasons’ Hall as a permanent war memorial, led to an increase in office size. Between 1925 and 1927, five boy clerks were taken on as ‘temporary’ staff ; each of them eventually becoming members of the lodge. There were similar problems during the Second World War, when again the rule on clerks being Master Masons was set aside and women were taken on. They proved so popular and useful that in 1949 the rule (No. 33 in the current Book of Constitutions) was put into abeyance. The lodge had difficulties meeting and reduced its wartime gatherings to two per year. The only ceremonial work was the annual installation of the Master.
The immediate post-war years saw an enormous growth in the Craft. This led to expansion of the office and an increase in the membership of the lodge. Much of the work was in making serving brethren, as the portering and maintenance staff had also grown, and many took on additional work as Tylers for lodges meeting at Freemasons’ Hall.
By the late 1960s, however, things were slowing down and doubts were expressed about the future of Letchworth Lodge. Membership had been limited to Permanent Clerks, but in 1977, Grand Secretary James Stubbs was approached about opening the lodge to the full office, to which he agreed. In the early 1980s, under Grand Secretary Michael Higham, the lodge was opened to the whole of the male staff at Freemasons’ Hall and the staff of other masonic headquarters in London. This has resulted in a vibrant lodge with a steady stream of candidates. The changes have also brought the staff of the various masonic offices in London closer together. Sir Edward Letchworth’s hopes at the consecration can truly be said to have been achieved.
As the Grand Secretary’s lodge, Letchworth has had great support from Sir Edward and his successors. Sir Philip Colville Smith became an honorary member when he became Grand Secretary in 1917. (Sir) Sydney White joined the lodge when he was appointed Chief Clerk in 1918, was its Master in 1920, and was a regular attendee even after election as an Honorary Member when he became Grand Secretary in 1937. (Sir) James Stubbs was elected an Honorary Member when he was appointed Assistant Grand Secretary in 1948, while Michael Higham became a joining member when appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in 1978, and is still active. Nigel Brown joined when he was appointed Grand Secretary in 2007 and members are delighted to have him as their Centenary Master. He was thrilled to have been installed by Michael Higham.
Being involved in central masonic administration, the members of the lodge were only too aware of the privilege extended to them to have the Pro Grand Master present the Centenary Warrant. The happy occasion was followed by a reception and banquet in the Grand Temple vestibules.
14 September 2011
An address by the RW The Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
It is very good to see you all here today and I hope you have had a very enjoyable and refreshing summer. The summer is not only a time for the re-charging of batteries, but I find it is also a time for reflection and preparation for the challenges ahead. As our Masonic activities begin again for the Autumn I thought it would be appropriate for me to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of Pure Antient Masonry, being the Craft and Holy Royal Arch. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our Pure Antient Masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a Supreme Being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives "a context and background to the individual's way of life as they seek to live it”. Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality; it does not have any sacraments; or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion, set by the late Reverend Professor John MacQuarrie, former Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of Tolerance. To ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, of course, discussions of religion like discussions of politics are strictly prohibited!
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, a time of religious intolerance, was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men, that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. I suggest that, in today's language, we could articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles of which we should be very proud and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt our principles will appeal to those who are not masons, if they are aware of them. Once it is clearly understood that the nature of our ritual, often written in an elegant older style of language, is that of a morality play, many of the genuine misunderstandings will fall away.
The future of the Craft is obviously dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles, I believe, should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. It is very important that we all only recommend to our Lodges men who we know subscribe to our principles, who we believe will enjoy being members of the Craft and who will mix happily with the other members of their individual Lodge.
The other side of this coin is that we should be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Mason is told in the Charge after Initiation and for a very good reason. Unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general and their own Lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our soon to be announced strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly, and in an informed way, about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long term future.
In 1986 he began thirteen very happy years as Rector of St Nicholas Church, Harpenden where his ministry was marked by high-quality worship, good preaching and much sensitive pastoral work. He was appointed an honorary Canon of St Alban’s Abbey in 1996.
In 1999 he returned to Devon as Canon Residentiary and Treasurer at Exeter Cathedral where his financial and management skills were greatly appreciated and lead to his acting as Dean for thirteen months from 2004.
In 2006 he was appointed Dean of St Edmondsbury and his work on the fabric there will be a lasting memorial to him. His work was sadly cut short by the discovery of a disabling brain tumour in 2008, from which he never recovered.
Throughout his busy Church life he was also a devoted and very open Freemason, in a period when Freemasonry was not looked kindly on by the Synod and other Church groups. He served as Grand Chaplain 1999-2002 and was a very active and thoughtful Third Grand Principal 2002-2010. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
The Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London was opened with the aplomb that the Grand Chapter team exhibit on all occasions, and Lord Millet was installed as Metropolitan Grand Superintendent by the First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent. In his address, Lord Millett laid stress on this as the start of a new era, and the opportunities for many more Companions to serve London Royal Arch Freemasonry and to participate more fully.
More than anything else, it was the thunderous singing of the opening hymn that set the tone for the afternoon by an attendance which had swelled to over 4,500. If it didn’t actually lift the roof off the Royal Albert Hall, it certainly provided some serious competition for the traditional last night of the proms. The ceremony of inauguration of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London was launched by spirited singing of an anthem by the London Masonic Choir, after which the Grand Chaplain delivered an Oration. He spoke of London as a city of contrasts and diversity and said that the same was true of London Freemasonry. In London, as in any masonic community, there were lodges which had allegiance of trade, profession or school. In spite of their diversity, they were all united in the masonic bonds, not only of brotherly love, relief and truth, but also of compassion, so important in Freemasonry, which was not coldly indifferent to the needs of others. He had seen how in Provinces, a Provincial Grand Lodge can add a dimension to the unity of a provincial area, giving it a sense of identity, of its own peculiarity, its own specialness, and so it would be too with London. He finished with two quotations – one from the anthem ‘Behold how good and joyful’ sung earlier, and the other ‘From the foundation laid this evening, may you raise a superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder’.
After the Grand Master had installed Lord Millett as Metropolitan Grand Master for London, Lord Millett thanked the Grand Master and his team for the way they had carried out the ceremony. He said how London had always been at the heart of English Freemasonry, and would now face the challenge of developing Freemasonry in London. But there was also a need to adapt to the changed status of London. We had had a tremendous send-off, and it was up to us now, he said. Lord Millett’s first act was to invest and install Russell Race, already well known to many London Freemasons, as Deputy Metropolitan Grand Master.