Celebrating 300 years
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2017

From the Grand Secretary

By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.

It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.

Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.

When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.

Best foot forward

In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.

The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’

Published in UGLE

A sense of optimism

With planning for the Royal Albert Hall celebrations well in hand, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert looks forward to the expanding calendar of events in the Provinces and Districts

The team of volunteers planning the central Tercentenary events is growing. In addition to myself, we have Tim Pope, the secretary of the Planning Committee; Ian Chandler, who is responsible for organising the transport for our distinguished guests over three days, as well as our own brethren, from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) to Battersea Evolution (BE); and Gerry Hann, who is masterminding the major celebration at the RAH.

Taking on coordination of aspects of the three-day central events are Marc Wentworth (Mansion House), Stephen Finch (BE), John Clark (streaming the RAH across the country and the world) and Bob and Darren Upton (Grand Connaught Rooms).

Places at the RAH and BE have been allocated to Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts, who are now considering best practice for distribution among their brethren. Recent successes, such as the tickets for the Grand Ball selling within a short time of release and the sale of Tercentenary Jewels already passing 14,000, gives me a total sense of optimism.

The number of enquiries about dining places at BE means that we would be able to fill the venue twice over. Feedback from 2017 Provincial and District representatives on interest in their events suggests large numbers will be attending, and leads me to feel that 2017 will be a highlight in our masonic lives.

Spreading the word

Another success was the distribution of the Tercentenary Sticker in a copy of Freemasonry Today. What a great opportunity to show people we Freemasons have a very important birthday to celebrate.

John Parry, the organiser of the Met’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Show, set up the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge on Twitter and started using the tagline ‘Where will you stick yours?’ Just five days after launching the challenge, it had 1,000 hits a day, and by day 15 it had more than 22,600 impressions on Twitter.

But you can help us get more. Just put your Tercentenary Sticker, which would have come with your previous copy of Freemasonry Today, in an interesting or fun place, take a photo and tweet it to @JohnMetevent. Use the hashtag #tercentenarychallenge and you could win a prize for the best idea, most unique photo or largest number of retweets.

Published in UGLE
Monday, 12 December 2016 14:45

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2016

From the Grand Secretary

It does not seem possible that I have already completed my first six months as Grand Secretary. I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from all the staff at the United Grand Lodge of England and the encouragement I have been given from all those who provide such tremendous support in their own time to make Freemasonry such a vibrant and relevant organisation.

We are in the process of preparing a comprehensive Communications Plan to ensure that we capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by our Tercentenary celebrations.

We start 2017 with the five-part Sky television documentary Inside The Freemasons. We then have a vast number of events planned throughout the Metropolitan, Provincial and District areas, indicating the tremendous enthusiasm that this milestone has generated.

Sense of continuity

In this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert discusses the precision planning going into the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea events that will be part of the central Tercentenary celebrations, with a 2017 calendar giving a flavour of the many activities taking place at a local level. Also marking our 300th year, we report on the opening of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry’s newest gallery, which explores three centuries of masonic history to show how our values of sociability, inclusivity, charity and integrity have stood the test of time.

With Sir Thomas Lipton best known as the man who brought tea to the British masses, our piece on this famous Freemason explores how he improved the lives of the tea blenders and pickers with increased wages. We find out why Lipton set sail in his steam yacht during World War I to report on the devastation wrought by the typhus epidemic in Serbia and how he helped to set up
a trust to provide meals to the poor of London.

Our profile of Wayne Ingram illustrates how the core masonic values typified by the likes of Sir Thomas Lipton are still alive and well. From organising charity football matches in a war zone through to a 13-year crusade to give a boy life-changing facial surgery, Wayne is a serial fundraiser who thinks nothing of putting other people’s welfare before his own. ‘I don’t really think about my involvement,’ he says of the many causes he’s supported. ‘I’m just glad it happened.’

As a new generation takes Freemasonry forward, we meet 26-year-old Alex Rhys, who has just conducted his first initiation. While keen to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining members, Alex believes that it is the sense of continuity found in Freemasonry that appeals to younger masons, who enjoy tapping into a tradition that stretches back to 1717.

I hope you enjoy our winter edition and wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

‘I am extremely grateful for the first-rate support I have received from staff at UGLE.’

Published in UGLE

Made in England

As more events are announced in the build-up to 2017, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning Keith Gilbert finds out how the commemorative jewel was made

Where do you think the Tercentenary Jewel was made? When this question was posed to 25 brethren from different lodges, 18 answered ‘China’, five said ‘India’ and one chose ‘Poland’. Only one person guessed right: both the jewel and ribbon were made in England.

Following a competitive tender, the United Grand Lodge of England commissioned Toye, Kenning & Spencer to take the ideas of the jewel committee, which sits within the Tercentenary Planning Committee, and produce the Tercentenary Jewel.

Established in 1685, Toye, Kenning & Spencer is one of the oldest family businesses in the UK, manufacturing for more than 300 years.

I visited its Bedworth factory near Coventry to see the ribbon woven and the hand stitching of this ribbon on to the jewel. I also saw one of the Jacquard looms still operating and weaving the material for the sash to be worn by Royal Arch Companions. The loom was made by a Coventry firm in 1890 and still works efficiently today.

The metalwork manufacturing of the four versions of the Tercentenary Jewel took place in the heart of Birmingham’s jewellery quarter. I had made an assumption that the gilt metal jewel was pressed out in three pieces and enamelled in an oven, with the ribbon stitched by machine. I was astounded to see the 50-plus processes used to make this basic version. The six-piece silver and gold versions involved even more processes.

To date, about 6,110 gilt metal, 597 silver gilt and 14 gold versions of the Tercentenary Jewel have been ordered and it is anticipated that with the start of the new masonic season further orders will flood in.

Event planning

Arrangements for the celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall and Battersea Evolution are progressing well. Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters now know their allocation of places at both venues.

It is for them to decide who will obtain places and there is plenty of time for this, as we do not need to know until the end of the first quarter of 2017.

The theatrical extravaganza being choreographed for the day, which will then be streamed for those not lucky enough to obtain a seat, will be a special part of the day. More information on all aspects of this event will be circulated nearer the time.

There have been many more Metropolitan, Provincial and District events added to the calendar. There are exhibitions at Reading Museum and the Museum of Norwich, as well as the opening of the Surrey Travelling Exhibition of Freemasonry in Woking; the District of Madras is celebrating Freemasonry in India; a 300-mile bike ride is starting from the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, finishing at Freemasons’ Hall, London; a musical/gala dinner in The Hong Kong Club is being organised by the District of Hong Kong and the Far East; there will be services in Salisbury, St David’s in Pembrokeshire, Leicester and Chelmsford cathedrals; there will be an Essex musical gala in the Grand Temple; and a gala dinner in Sindlesham.

Lodge celebrations indicate how our brethren wish to show their support for the Tercentenary. The Master of the Lodge of Good Intention, No. 6927, meeting in Barnstaple, has chartered MS Oldenburg, a beautiful seagoing vessel that regularly makes the journey between the mainland and Lundy Island.

Brethren and their families are being invited from the 12 lodges that meet in north Devon for a river cruise out of Bideford in August 2017. The ship has been tastefully modernised, but retains her original panelling and brass fittings below decks. The Worshipful Master of Mercury Lodge, No. 7289, is holding his Ladies Festival in Bournemouth on 24 June 2017, and is raising funds for Marie Curie and Combat Stress. And Paynters Stainers Lodge, No. 4256, will hold a White Table with families and friends. The celebrations will be held at Painters’ Hall in November 2017 with entertainment provided by The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

I am sure there are many more local and lodge-centred celebrations planned, so please email updates to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The new Craft tie

At Quarterly Communication in June, the Pro Grand Master announced the introduction of a new Craft tie. The introduction of a tie very different from the present Craft tie could have been seen as an imposition so soon after the introduction of the current version. However, the only change being made is the replacement of the square and compasses with the new logo, making this a seamless move to the adoption of the new logo. The old Craft tie is no longer being made, and the new tie is now available. However, both are acceptable for wearing in Grand Lodge or elsewhere as worn previously.

Published in UGLE

Community spirit

When considering a major celebration, we often focus on the nationwide events. Keith Gilbert, Coordinator of Tercentenary Planning, explains  why local activities can mean so much more

The major celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s recent 90th birthday are very important for national and individual pride – from the 900 horses and 1,500 participants in the private grounds of Windsor Castle through to the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral and the 10,000 attending the Patron’s Lunch in The Mall. But it is at the street parties and the gatherings in local halls and civic centres where the many who have been unable to attend the big central events can celebrate our Sovereign’s wonderful reign, and which individuals will remember in the years to come.

In a similar vein, our Tercentenary celebrations are being held at various levels. Nationally, the Tercentenary will be marked at a meeting to be held on 31 October 2017 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which will be followed by a banquet at Battersea Evolution; arrangements are progressing well. More than 190 Grand Masters from around the world have been invited as our guests, and although many would wish to bring several other brethren from their Constitutions to accompany them at those events, it has been explained that there is great demand for the available places. 

Instead, those other brethren, along with wives and partners, are being invited to a parallel, ticketed event in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, where proceedings at the Royal Albert Hall will be streamed live. This facility will also be offered to the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges.

On 30 September 2017, UGLE will also hold a Grand Ball in Freemasons’ Hall. The Temple will be transformed with an illuminated dance floor, while surrounding rooms will host bars and buffet areas, with food and drinks included in the one price. 

Other events in 2017 include the opening of the Freemasons’ Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 18 April; the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Paving Stones at Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April; the classic vehicle rallies across the country between May and July; and a series of organ concerts. 

The global gala

Around the Provinces, Districts and in London, the number of events has now exceeded 100. In India there will be a performance of masonic plays, with a concert and the production of a documentary by the District of Madras, as well as the holding of an Asia Oceanic Conference; there will be a major celebration in East Africa; a meeting of Freemasons in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands; an evening of masonic music in Johannesburg; celebrations in Ghana; and in Rotorua, New Zealand, there will be a meeting of all Grand Lodges in the region. These are but a few of the events in our Districts.

All Provinces have planned at least one event to celebrate the Tercentenary, with some choosing to hold several. Certain activities, such as the refurbishment of part of Bradgate Park near Leicester, supported by Leicestershire and Rutland, will have a lasting legacy. Musical concerts and choir festivals with Freemasons, friends and the community are planned in Truro, Worcester, Kendal, Middlesbrough and Hull. 

Celebratory dinners and balls are to be held in Blackpool, Gorleston, Ipswich, Bushey, Exeter, Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth, as well as on HMS Drake in Portsmouth and at Guildhall in London (to name but a few). Services of Thanksgiving were referred to in the spring edition of Freemasonry Today and there will also be family and fun days at Marwell Zoo, the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Windsor racecourse, Weston Park, in Wokingham and in Nottingham city centre, and parades will take place in Guernsey and Jersey. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather to give a flavour of the celebrations.

Local celebrations

As with the Queen’s birthday celebrations, however, it is at the local events organised by brethren in their own lodges where many of us will celebrate the creation, 300 years ago, of the first Grand Lodge in the world.

In New Zealand, United Manawatu Lodge, No. 1721, has purchased an adjacent building, the site of the first Baptist church in Palmerston North, to save it from being turned into offices. Built in 1928, the current church structure is one of the few historical buildings left in the city centre and, once refurbished, it will be reopened as a community theatre. Through this project, the lodge is connecting itself and the longevity of English Freemasonry with the preservation of an early historic building. 

Also in New Zealand, Prince of Wales Lodge, No. 1338, has been working on a Roll of Honour comprising all the members who have served their country in times of war. More than 150 brethren, who served in many major and minor conflicts, will be honoured with their names recorded and a recognition of the medals awarded, including the Victoria Cross. 

A suitable board on which to display the Roll of Honour is in preparation and a formal dedication with national and local dignitaries will be held as close as is possible to ANZAC Day – Tuesday, 25 April in 2017. The theme of the ceremony will be the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge and the service of the members of Prince of Wales Lodge over many years. 

Meanwhile, Lodge of Loyalty, No. 358, will be celebrating its bicentenary in 2017. It has chosen to link its own celebrations to the Tercentenary, widening the invitations to produce an event with even greater impact.

Other plans include the enactment of a 1717 ceremony; an old-time musical; Burns celebrations on a greater-than-usual scale; a grand banquet involving members of the Time Immemorial lodges; a celebration of the music of Daniel Purcell, who died in 1717; and a White Table event involving four lodges to be held on 24 June 2017.

The Tercentenary gives us all a chance to reflect on Freemasonry today. It is an opportunity for our lodges to celebrate and consider their position as we look forward to the next 100 years. Likewise, it gives individuals a chance to reflect upon their own part in the development of the Craft, and how they might enjoy their Freemasonry with more of their friends who are yet to see the fellowship we have.

If your lodge is planning a special event to celebrate the Tercentenary, please send details to Keith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in UGLE

Countdown to the main event

The Coordinator of Planning for the 300th anniversary celebrations at UGLE, Keith Gilbert, explains how preparations are progressing in the run-up to October 2017

When did the planning start?

The Board of General Purposes established a committee of the President, Deputy President, Grand Secretary, Grand Treasurer and two Provincial Grand Masters in October 2013. This committee prepared the ground and gave the general direction. A broad outline for the Tercentenary celebrations was designed, projects agreed upon and venues booked. Soon after, Provinces and Districts were invited to consider their responses and to outline their plans for local celebrations.

What activities have been planned so far?

Every Province and District is planning one or more events and the range is extensive. They include services of thanksgiving at the cathedrals in Canterbury, York, Bristol, Chester, Durham, Exeter, Liverpool, Llandaff, Peterborough, St Albans, Truro, Wells and Winchester, as well as family fun days, balls and banquets, choir and music concerts, and celebrations in song and dance in East Africa, the Caribbean, India and Bermuda. The range and quantity show how our Provinces and Districts have embraced this important milestone in our history. Where is the MAJOR UGLE event being held?

The celebration of 300 years will be held in the Royal Albert Hall on the afternoon of 31 October 2017, followed by a dinner at Battersea Evolution. Invitations to the Grand Masters of all Grand Lodges recognised by UGLE have been sent, together with invitations for representatives of each Province and District. The latter invitations are based on the membership of the Province and District. Provincial and District Grand Masters have been informed that these invitations are likely to be on a ratio of 1/70. 

Why is the event not being held on the anniversary of the first Grand Lodge, 24 June 1717?

It was decided to hold the major international gathering on 31 October 2017 to give a window of 16 months (from the start of our 300th year) for UGLE, Provinces and Districts to host events. 

What will be the format?

It will be a special meeting of Grand Lodge, while ‘called off’. Apart from some traditional elements, such as addresses and processions, there will be a theatrical extravaganza, which is being coordinated by Gerry Hann, a Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire. Preparations and the booking of professional musicians and performers have already taken place. There will be opportunities to dine and take refreshments in the Royal Albert Hall. Some 2,000 guests will then go on to dine at Battersea Evolution, where a banquet is being organised by Mark Scholfield, a Past Grand Steward. This will include a reception, wine with dinner, and drinks afterwards. 

How can all UGLE Freemasons witness the celebration?

Whichever venue had been chosen it would have been impossible to facilitate all those who wanted to attend. For that reason the event at the Royal Albert Hall will be streamed live around the world. It will be for Provinces and Districts to decide if they wish to make use of this facility. The plan is for a rough-cut one-hour video to be available that evening and then a professionally edited version will be provided by the weekend. Brochures containing articles about the Tercentenary and a broad outline of the event will be available several weeks beforehand, with a downloadable update of proceedings produced a few days before. In this way, meetings and dinners can be held within Provinces and Districts, with the opportunity for local celebrations enabling a feeling of involvement with the central event.

Why do you think you were asked to participate?

It was after a conversation I had at the Annual Investiture Dinner in April with a member of the committee. I finished my year as Secretary of the 2014-15 Board of Grand Stewards and had been liaising with several of the officers of Grand Lodge. Previously I had been Provincial Secretary and then Assistant Provincial Grand Master in Hertfordshire and we hold our annual Provincial Meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, so I had some experience of working with those who are based in the building. 

‘The range and quantity of celebrations show how our Provinces and Districts have embraced this important milestone in our history.’

Marking three centuries

•   The concert in the Grand Temple on 30 September 2015 started the celebrations and also marked the refurbishment of the organ by Supreme Grand Chapter

•   Paving stones naming the Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross will be laid on the steps of Freemasons’ Hall in London. 

•   The existing Freemasons’ Memorial Garden is being refurbished at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, which will publicly show Freemasons’ involvement in national projects. 

•   To celebrate the TLC Appeal presenting more than a million teddies to children in hospitals nationwide, a series of teddy bears’ picnics will be held across the country. 

•   The Library and Museum at Freemasons’ Hall is being extended to include a new room and exhibition about 300 years of Freemasonry. 

•   A car rally will be held across Provinces, calling at well-known motoring centres en route. 

Published in UGLE

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