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Exhibition – English Freemasonry and the First World War
September 15, 2014 - May 15, 2015
Due to popular demand the closing date for this exhibition has been extended to Friday 15th May 2015
When Britain declared war on 4th August 1914, English freemasonry faced unprecedented circumstances. Freemasonry was and is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings was and is forbidden, but during this period the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body for freemasonry in England and Wales and across much of the British Empire, had to deal with the impact of global war.
This major new exhibition will examine the effect of the First World War on freemasons in England, on those fighting on the Western Front and elsewhere and on freemasons held as prisoners of war. The war created new, war-related charitable causes for which freemasons raised funds, prompted a response from the established masonic charities and fostered the formation of a major new masonic charity in the post war period.
Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street in London, completed in 1933, was dedicated to the freemasons that died in the war. It was one of many different types of memorials created by Freemasons. The end of the war saw a significant increase in membership of masonic lodges and geographical expansion which created new challenges for the Grand Lodge.
Amongst the objects, images and documents on display will be lodge fittings created from appropriated war materiel, souvenirs from freemasonry on the front line and diaries kept by masonic prisoners of war. Charitable giving is recorded in programmes and publications and amongst the many types of memorials on view will be medals and books.
In September 2014 the Library and Museum is publishing a richly illustrated book to coincide with the exhibition called English Freemasonry and the First World War. The book draws on the extensive collections held by the Library and Museum. The book will be available from Letchworths Shop, cost £15.
The Library and Museum is a member of the First World War Centenary Partnership.