The Masonic apron is the badge of membership for Freemasons. It symbolises the protective apron worn by stonemasons and in its original form was a complete lambskin. When a member joins he completes three ceremonies or ‘degrees’.
When a lodge can demonstrate one hundred years of continuous working it can apply for a ‘centenary warrant’ and its members are allowed to wear a centenary jewel. A decorative bar is available for bicentenaries.
Freemasons have collected for charity from the earliest days of the organisation. One system used is ‘Charity Festivals’. These originated from a collection carried out after a celebratory meal in the late 1700s. Members donating a sum of money become ‘Stewards’ for the year and can wear a medal or ‘Masonic jewel’.
Freemasonry is not the only fraternal organisation. The oldest of these were formed in the 1700s. The range of organisations is very wide – from Old Friends to Druids, Oddfellows to Knights of the Phoenix, Buffaloes and Freemasons.
Martin Folkes (1690-1754) was an antiquary who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 23 for his study of mathematics. He served as President of the Royal Society from 1741-1752.
An estimated 120,000 French soldiers and sailors were brought to England as prisoners of war during the period 1793-1815.
At the time when the Bastille prison was stormed by the Paris mob on 14 July 1789, English freemasonry was approaching a peak of respectability and prestige.
On the two pillars are Joseph Bonaparte and Cambacères, two leading freemasons of the period. The apron was on display in the Freemasonry and the French Revolution exhibition which ran until 18th December 2009.
During the French Revolution the Sèvres porcelain factory just outside Paris, originally established and patronised by the French Royal Family and nobility, turned to producing items which reflected the new political situation.
The Library and Museum’s latest exhibition about Masonic charity includes an outline of the history of what was originally known as the Royal Cumberland School for the Daughters of Indigent Freemasons.
This silver candelabra was presented to Dr Robert Crucefix at a meeting held at the New London Hotel, Bridge Street, Blackfriars on 24th November 1841 to mark his contribution towards freemasonry which included the development of what was the forerunner of today’s Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.
By 1847 supporters of the Masonic Asylum for Aged and Decayed Freemasons, the forerunner of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, had raised funds to purchase land in Croydon on which to build a home for 50 residents.
The first female freemason of modern times is Maria Deraismes (1828-1894). She was initiated on14th January 1882.
The Order of Women Freemasons (“OWF”) established a travelling lodge to visit areas where no lodges were established and to initiate new members.
To mark its centenary the Order of Women Freemasons commissioned the newest addition to the select number of commemorative pieces which the organisation has produced – a pendant.
In the 1860s Grand Lodge began a comprehensive rebuilding of the site in Great Queen Street around the first Freemasons’ Hall built by Thomas Sandby in 1774-6. Purchases of properties along Great Queen Street enabled the site to be expanded.
The Library and Museum has recently purchased this Masonic jewel with an unusual, if not unique, design. In the form of an oval pendant, 3.5 inches high, the jewel features a Square and Compass design around the letter G, a sunburst above and a set of steps below.
Sir Alfred Robbins perceived influence in the governing of freemasonry in the early years of the twentieth century led to him being described as “the prime Minister of English freemasonry”.
Henry Bladon was born in 1867 and initiated into Duke of Cornwall Lodge No. 1839. He was proposed by his father, Joseph, who was Senior Deacon of the lodge.
William Wix (1768-1849) was an attorney and Fellow of the Royal Society and held the office of Provincial Grand Master of Essex from 1801-1824 (and of Grand Superintendent from 1801-1846).
Badges, medals and jewels are amongst the earliest surviving objects associated with freemasonry. In the eighteenth century, when the first Grand Lodge in the world was formed, it was not uncommon to wear a badge, often very elaborate, which provided visual evidence of membership of an organisation and of rank within that organisation.
This song about the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine was composed by Robert Wentworth Little (1840-1879).
The True Mason appears in an 18th Century song book, The Musical Entertainer. The words were by John Bancks and appear in the 1738 edition of Anderson’s Constitutions. Both Bickham and Anderson call him Brother, so it must be assumed that he was a freemason.
The Duke of Sussex, who had become Grand Master at the Union, died on 21st April 1843. It was decided a statue in Freemasons’ Hall would be the best tribute to him.
The Library and Museum’s project of cataloguing the many thousands of lodge jewels in its collection is continuing.
Penshaw Lodge No 3194 was formed one hundred years ago in 1906 and still meets at the Masonic Hall, Shiney Row in County Durham.
The founder’s jewel for Loyd Lindsay Lodge No 3058 formed in 1904 and named after one of the first winners of the Victoria Cross, Robert James Loyd-Lindsay.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on 27th January 1756. Most of his early life was spent travelling around Europe studying and giving concerts as a child prodigy.
On 18th October 1905, King Edward VII officially opened Kingsway, a new roadway linking the Strand with Euston Station which had been the largest road building scheme in London since the construction of Regent Street in 1820.
The current exhibition at the Library and Museum is about the first Freemasons’ Hall which was built in 1776 in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, as the headquarters for the growing membership of the Grand Lodge of England.
Jewel of the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Bucks, which flourished between the 1770s and the 1820s.
The Ancient Order of Foresters is one of the oldest friendly societies, with its origins in Yorkshire in the 1790s. Philanthropy and virtue featured prominently in the principles and ritual of the Society.
Eighteenth-century British intellectuals were very interested in the Druids; they were attracted to the idea that ancient Britain had not been peopled by savages but had an order of learning and wisdom that had rivalled – and possibly influenced – the Greek philosophers and the astrologers of ancient Persia.
The Library and Museum has recently purchased this French Masonic clock.
St John the Baptist, whose feast day is 24th June, and St John the Evangelist, whose festival is celebrated on 27th December, are regarded as the “patron saints” of freemasonry.
During the Second World War metal was required for the production of aircraft and armaments. Masonic charities traditionally issued medals or jewels each year commemorating fundraising events (known as festivals). During the war Masonic charities replaced their metal steward’s jewels with card or plastic versions.
A group of Portsmouth freemasons began to think about the formation of a new lodge early in 1945. Solent Lodge No 6182 was formed shortly after the Second World War.
As the first official engraver to Grand Lodge, John Pine established a tradition of high-quality engraving and decoration in masonic documents and publications which has continued to the present day.
The early archives of one of the most fascinating buildings in London are to be made available to the public by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry as part of a cataloguing and conservation project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Freemason Sir Henry Irving was the first actor to be knighted (in 1895) having dominated the London stage as an actor and as manager of the Lyceum Theatre (from 1878) with his productions of Shakespearean plays. He died a wealthy man with a fortune estimated at more than £2 million in modern terms.
Pictorial music covers such as this became common from the middle of the nineteenth century following the invention of colour lithography which enabled multi coloured printed work to be produced in quantity and cheaply.
The archives include a bill for a lodge dinner that took place on 1st December 1775 at an unknown location. The total bill was more than £14 and is annotated in a number of places to show the number of bottles ordered although we do not know how many were present.
The Doyle Cup is one of two presented to Lieutenant General Sir John Doyle by the Freemasons of Guernsey in 1806, one of a number of generous gifts presented at that time including a set of captured horse furniture originally intended for the Viceroy of Mexico.
This is an exceptionally rare piece and was acquired by the Library and Museum at auction in June 2003. Apparently dating from the late eighteenth century, it shows a lodge meeting in a bottle with a group of men in regimental uniform positioned around a table.
A fine example from our extensive collection of pierced masonic jewels, the John Gale jewel, so called from the name enscribed on it, dates from around 1770. Very few of the jewels in the collection are named so it is relatively rare and its design is unique.