Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons
To mark the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason
The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend to discover what it means to be a Freemason today and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?
From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, many viewers will recently have had the pleasure of watching the documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’.
There were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy including coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, and the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge, as well as a feature with UGLE’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC.
Although the documentary was recently shown on Sky 1, if you missed it, fear not, as a special edition on DVD is now available to pre-order: it consists of two DVDs, featuring all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.
The ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD will be released by June 15th and is now available to pre-order from Letchworths Shop by clicking here
A year to be proud of
From fundraising to the formation of new masons clubs, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the reasons to celebrate Freemasonry in 2017
I have received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with more than 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new Freemasons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy.
I have asked Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal, to act as the focal point for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.
I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. The astonishing sum of £14.5 million was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75 million is the highest total ever achieved.
Across the board, the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has launched a scheme to give £3 million to your local charities next year in recognition of both its own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.
Cause for celebration
I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in Letchworth’s Shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly, they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.
The forthcoming Sky documentary entitled Inside The Freemasons gives us a great opportunity to capitalise on the publicity being generated, and we anticipate that other high-profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results.
These are exciting times; let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.
‘Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated’
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
9 December 2015
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge of 9 September 2015 were confirmed.
Annual Investiture of Grand Officers (27 April 2016)
So that sufficient accommodation can be reserved for those brethren who are to be invested and their friends, admission to the annual investiture is by ticket only. Brethren to be invested for the first time may invite to be present with them.
Masonic Year Book
The next edition of the Masonic Year Book, 2016–2017, will be available next summer. the charge will be £14 per copy, plus postage and packing where appropriate. It is not proposed to produce a new edition of the Directory of Lodges and Chapters during 2016. Copies of the 2015 edition will still be available from Letchworth’s Shop.
The Board emphasises that these copies should be available to all the members of private lodges and not regarded as for the exclusive use of the secretary to whom, for administrative reasons, they are dispatched. As in previous years copies will be dispatched direct to Secretaries of lodges.
Prestonian Lectures for 2016
The Board has considered applications for the delivery of the official Prestonian Lectures in 2016 and has decided that these should be given under the auspices of the following:
Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No. 7665 (London)
Bristol Installed Masters Lodge No. 8168 (Bristol)
Temple of Athene Lodge No. 9541 (Middlesex)
The lecturer, W Bro Dr R.A. Berman, states that the title of the lecture will be: Foundations: new light on the formation and early years of the Grand Lodge of England.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation
The MW The Grand Master has approved the name “The Masonic Charitable Foundation” as the title for the new umbrella organisation under which the existing main masonic charities will operate from 2016. He has also agreed that the President and Deputy President of the new charity should take precedence among the Grand Officers immediately after Past Grand Chancellors. The Board accordingly recommends a number of amendments which will be required to the rules in the Book of Constitutions and to the plates in the Appendix. The Board has also noted several existing anomalies particularly in the numbering and descriptions of the plates and recommends that the present opportunity be used to correct these.
Notice of Motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared on the Paper of Business.
It has been brought to the attention of the Board that many lodges are less meticulous than was formerly the case in recording, and subsequently preserving, minutes of their meetings. Rule 144 of the Book of Constitutions requires every lodge to keep a minute book and lays upon the Master or the Secretary the duty of regularly entering the names and particulars of all candidates, together with the names – and, in the case of visitors, their lodges and masonic ranks – of all those present at each meeting, and minutes of the business transacted. Any deficiency in this respect will inevitably have an impact on those who in later years may be charged with the duty of writing lodge histories and may even in an extreme case prevent a lodge from being able to establish its entitlement to a Centenary or Bi-Centenary Warrant. The Board therefore trusts that the Grand Lodge will endorse the following guidance which, apart from being largely a matter of common sense also draws in some respects on previous edicts of the Grand Lodge.
1. Every care should be taken to ensure the permanence of minutes or other records. In the present context a “Minute Book” is a permanently bound volume in which the particulars required by Rule 144 are entered either in handwriting or by affixing sheets by means of permanent glue or gum (and not by means of adhesive tape, which deteriorates over time and loses its effectiveness). A loose-leaf folder or binder is not a suitable substitute for a bound book and the Board recommends, for the avoidance of any doubt, that such folders and binders be not used.
2. Rule 144 is not complied with by keeping minutes exclusively or partly in electronic form. The Board feels impelled to point out that, apart from the inherent risk of corruption of electronic data, the software necessary to read an electronic document is liable to become obsolete within a relatively short time.
3. Where minutes are handwritten, record ink or some other permanent ink should be used.
4. No valid objection can be raised to the use of a typewriter or a word-processor, provided that each typed or printed sheet is irremovably affixed to the Minute Book and initialled by the Secretary before being submitted for confirmation by the lodge. Care should, however, be exercised in ensuring that the ink or other printing medium used in producing such sheets is itself permanent in nature and is not liable to deterioration in the conditions in which Minute Books are stored.
5. Similarly, loose attendance sheets may legitimately be used to record the signatures of members or visitors present at lodge meetings in numbers beyond the capacity of the normal signature or attendance book. The Board is of opinion that the requirements of the second part of Rule 144, Book of Constitutions, are met if these sheets are irremovably affixed to the minutes of the meeting to which they refer, provided that each sheet is initialled by the Master or secretary. In stating this opinion the Board does not wish to encourage the use of loose sheets to the exclusion of signature books, which serve a useful purpose as a record of the attendance of officers and distinguished visitors. The use of a signature book, however, does not obviate, and never has obviated, the need for the names and details of all those present at a meeting to be entered into the Minute Book: it cannot be too heavily stressed that all names appearing in the signature book must continue to be recorded in the body of the minutes.
6. Lodges are advised to take steps for the permanent housing of lodge records which have ceased to be of day-to-day use. The Board suggests that in order to ensure that future office holders or historians are aware of where the records have been deposited, a comprehensive list be placed in the current Minute book and transferred to its successor when its turn comes to be laid up in safe-keeping.
The Board has received reports that the following lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants:
(a) Bergnet Lodge, No. 6841, in order to amalgamate with Mimmine Lodge, No. 4932 (Hertfordshire); and
(b) Shrewsbury Lodge, No. 7211, in order to amalgamate with Wentworth Lodge, no. 1239 (Yorkshire, West Riding).
The Board's recommendation that the lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the respective amalgamations was approved.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that seventeen lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are:
Lodge of Perseverance, No. 371 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Unity Lodge, No. 1637 (Middlesex), Bushey Hall Lodge, No. 2323 (Hertfordshire), Amatole Lodge, No. 2406 (South Africa, Eastern Division), Robert Mitchell Lodge, No. 2956 (Middlesex), Unity Lodge, No. 3044 (South Africa, Eastern Division) Vulcan Lodge, No. 3181 (London), Rebunie Lodge, No. 4279 (South Africa, Western Division), St Richard’s Lodge, No. 4469 (Sussex), Dulwich Lodge, No. 4616 (Surrey).
Beverley Lodge, No. 5006 (Surrey), Septem Lodge, No. 5887 (Surrey), Lodge of the Open Road, No. 5983 (London), Lodge of Meditation, No. 6747 (London), Perfect Ashlar Lodge, No. 6951 (Surrey), Legion Lodge, No. 8634 (Northumberland) and Harbour Lights Lodge, No. 8770 (Sussex).
The Board's recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Quarterly Communication meetings
9 March 2016, 27 April 2016 (Annual Investiture), 8 June 2016, 14 September 2016, 14 December 2016 and 8 March 2017.
Supreme Grand Chapter meetings
28 April 2016, 9 November 2016, 27 April 2017.
Slick new look for masonic shopping website
We're very pleased to announce a brand new website for Letchworth's Shop: http://letchworthshop.co.uk/
The shop, based in Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden, sells gifts, stationery, postcards and souvenirs, a wide range of official publications, books and magazines and Craft and Arch regalia. Other regalia can be obtained to order.
It also offers a range of items which can be personalised for individuals, lodges or chapters.
All major credit cards are accepted.
Telephone orders: 020 7395 9329 (during opening hours)
Members of the London Grand Rank Association staff the Shop on a voluntary basis working with the Shop Manager, Kevin Duffy.
Monday to Friday 10.30am to 5.30pm
Saturday 10am to 2.30pm
Except Bank Holiday weekends, Christmas and Easter when Freemasons' Hall itself is closed.
Inspired by Freemasonry
The project, Through the Door, encouraged leading poets to explore archive material and then produce new work, with the aim of sharing the capital’s heritage more widely, as well as introducing poetry and the archives to new audiences.
The Library and Museum worked with David Harsent, who recently won the TS Eliot Prize for poetry. He produced six sonnets and a shape poem inspired by masonic archives.
All the poems have been published in a book called Through the Door, which is available from Letchworth’s shop, and some of the archive material is currently on display in the museum.
Attention to retail
With Freemasons from across the world flocking through its high-arched doors, Letchworth’s is proving to be a popular draw for visitors. Manager Kevin Duffy reveals why the shop at Freemasons’ Hall offers so much more than souvenirs
What attracted you to the position of shop manager?
I applied to work in Letchworth’s eleven years ago.
I’d managed high street stores before; I’m not a mason myself, but the idea of working for Freemasonry was intriguing. The shop was much smaller then, perhaps twelve foot by twelve foot with some cabinets and a till. There was nothing there really, but Diane Clements (Director of the Library and Museum) handed me the keys and said, ‘Off you go.’ It was the perfect challenge.
How have things changed in the shop?
For one thing, it’s three times bigger! We’ve just completed our third refit to include a clothing section and a jewellery counter. What started as a modest collection of Grand Lodge publications has expanded into nine different product ranges, including regalia, homeware, audio and the usual quirky gifts like teddy bears, book lights and heraldic shields.
Why has the shop been so successful?
The shop wouldn’t be anything without the knowledge of the Freemasons in this building. With so many products, it’s impossible to know everything about all of them, so I rely on the expertise of the people around me. Whether it’s a London Grand Rank Association volunteer relaying customer requests or somebody from the Library and Museum giving me advice about regalia, I listen to what they have to say. All that has come together to produce the incredible shop we have now; it’s been a communal effort to get to where we are.
How has the internet affected sales?
Some people see it as a threat, but for Letchworth’s it’s been a massive advantage as so many members live outside London. Ever since we launched the website eight years ago, the number of overseas visitors has also grown tremendously. It’s been a fantastic resource for spreading the Letchworth’s name, as well as bringing in sales of its own. In 2007, online accounted for twenty per cent of all sales, but today it brings in just under half when combined with mail order. It’s fantastic when you get visitors from the other side of the world coming in and saying they wish they had something like this where they come from. They also spend more than the British customers; average spend for overseas masons is from £70 to £80, but for UK Freemasons it’s from £20 to £30.
Is there competition in the world of masonic retail?
There’s a friendly rivalry with the external masonic shops, especially those based across the road from us. We all want Freemasonry to be a good experience.
All the profits that we make in Letchworth’s are gift-aided to support the work of the Library and Museum.
Are masonic items always high quality?
There are always some companies out there who try to get involved in any market in the cheapest way possible. You can tell in an instant if it’s a poor product, and we won’t touch it. If you stock bad-quality products, word will spread – one customer will tell ten others and then your business goes backwards. On the flip side, if you provide good products and great service, it cements a good reputation.
‘The shop wouldn’t be anything without the knowledge of the Freemasons in this building... it’s been a communal effort to get to where we are.’
How has Freemasonry changed over the past decade?
Freemasons’ Hall has become much busier, and that’s had a direct impact on the shop. Seven years ago, the building had maybe six lodge meetings on a Saturday; now there can be up to twenty-nine. There’s also a more open feel about the Hall. That’s probably down to the public tours and an increased international interest in Freemasonry.
What’s your favourite part of working at the shop?
I love working here, but it’s the people who really make it. The camaraderie is what helps drive the business forward. I rely so much on the input of my staff and volunteers, especially when it comes to expanding the range. My performance as a manager is very much tied up with theirs, and fortunately we have a dynamic team.
What does the future hold?
My ultimate goal is to keep developing the shop.
You’ve always got to keep moving forward in business, and that’s what I strive to do by challenging the staff, volunteers and United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) to keep coming up with new ideas. We could easily fill a shop three times the size of what it is now. But we wouldn’t fill it with any old product; it would have to have good-quality stock that I would be proud to sell.
How it all began
Past Junior Grand Deacon and long-time member of the UGLE team, Ken Garrett recalls Letchworth’s early days
Our first purchases were very modest and in line with items that could be found in most museums and buildings open to the public – key rings, coasters and a set of postcards of sites within the building. We were able to back these up with the Grand Lodge publication Freemasons’ Hall, which had colour slides and an explanation of most of the photos.
We recruited sufficient brethren from the London Grand Rank Association to man the shop full-time, then we waited to see what the outcome would be. After a slow start the shop got accepted, first by visitors and then – somewhat reluctantly, it seemed – by members, who usually only made a quick visit before going to a meeting. We steadily increased the number of items for sale as demand arose.
From small beginnings, Letchworth’s has blossomed into a major shop and I trust fulfilled the hopes of all who recall its birth.
14 March 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In December I mentioned that one of the many important aspects of mentoring was to give guidance to our members about how to talk about their involvement in Freemasonry, and Freemasonry generally, to those not involved, particularly their family and friends.
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. We will all have different stories to tell, no doubt, but in most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject, which naturally leads to the answer, "if you are interested why not come and see".
The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the Lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open. We must make it clear to everyone that when a new member joins us, there should be no surprises in respect of either his time or financial involvement that will come with his membership
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins and not the number of people who are members.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworths or other such shops and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained as well as, of course, the vast majority of the words we use in our ceremonies. It is important to explain to people that there are very few thing we keep private in Masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
Brethren, some people still try to ridicule us about such things as "funny handshakes". There is no Masonic handshake. We know that they are confusing it with the modes of recognition in the three main ceremonies. I would suggest that the majority of Freemasons do restrict their use of these signs to the ceremonies rather than using them in everyday life and I would encourage that to be the case.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another Brother as "doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us", we would say something like "we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us".
Similarly we should not explain our objects as "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth", but would be rather more coherent perhaps saying "Respecting everyone, looking after others and being honest".
In modern parlance this isn't rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes or any preferential treatment in any walk of life. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others.
I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred, as I have little doubt such things have happened in the past, but, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved and experienced they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a Lodge, they will be amongst men who they will find to behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve, share many of the same interests and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow man. In short, to be among like minded men.
As their membership develops they are very likely to find enjoyment in the more detailed aspects like the meaning of the ritual as well as the delivery of it, the ceremonial or, perhaps, the dinners, although I hope the enjoyment would not be limited to just the dinners.
You will be thinking to yourselves, very probably, that I have left out an important aspect – our Charities. Brethren we are not the only organisation that supports charities and people can easily be extremely generous in this regard without becoming a Freemason. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say "we do a vast amount of charitable work and raise a huge amount of money every year". This is true but, as I have said before in Grand Lodge, Charity is not our reason for being. Having said that, Brethren, of course we should blow our own trumpets in this respect and, whilst Charity may not be our raison d'etre, it is certainly a most important part of Masonic life of which we should be and are hugely proud. Indeed, it is a very natural result of leading our lives according to the Masonic line and rule.
Our four main Charities are all something of which we should be hugely proud, but our overall charitable giving goes way beyond even that.
Brethren, I most certainly am not saying don't talk about our Charities, quite the reverse, but what I am saying is don't use our Charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of fun and enjoyment that we derive from our membership.