Celebrating 300 years

Brethren Beyond the Seas

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A new exhibition at the Library and Museum is celebrating the links between Grand Lodge and its overseas daughter Grand Lodges

In June 1917, in the midst of the First World War, the United Grand Lodge of England celebrated its 200th anniversary. The war had undermined any ambition to stage a major imperial and international event, but the celebrations were attended by a number of overseas Freemasons. The Grand Master thanked ‘brethren beyond the seas’, praising their support for Britain in the war effort.

The war helped to foster a stronger relationship between the English Grand Lodge and its daughter Grand Lodges overseas. The Library and Museum’s new exhibition, Brethren Beyond the Seas, celebrates those links, displaying items from across the former British Empire, many of which have never been exhibited before.

John Stephens was one of the founders of the first English Constitution lodge in New South Wales, Australia: Lodge of Australia, established in 1828. He had become a Freemason in 1824 in London’s Lodge of Regularity (now No. 91). In March 1829 he wrote to London acknowledging receipt of the Lodge of Australia warrant; the letter, on display at the Library and Museum, is believed to be the oldest known letter received by Grand Lodge from Australia.

Among the jewels are those for St John’s Royal Arch Chapter, No. 495, in Toronto, which ceased working in the 1820s, and an unusual presentation jewel for Albany Lodge, No. 389, which met in Grahamstown, South Africa, and was presented to Benjamin Norden in 1834.

The exhibition also features an album of photographs of lodge meeting places in South Africa, including the hall where Fordsburg Lodge, No. 2718, met in Johannesburg in 1898, alongside the local butcher.

A further highlight is an elegantly bound souvenir programme, produced by masonic entrepreneur George Kenning in 1878 for a dinner he hosted in honour of American Freemasons.

Brethren Beyond the Seas runs until 23 February 2018; admission is free

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