Freemasonry and the French Revolution: Masonic Jewel

An estimated 120,000 French soldiers and sailors were brought to England as prisoners of war during the period 1793-1815. Many were confined to huge specially built barracks or prisons such as Dartmoor or on board prison “hulks” (ships) in harbours. Some officers were allowed to reside “on parole” within assigned limits and on certain conditions. They were often located in smaller provincial towns far from the coast./—/

A number of these prisoners of war were freemasons. Where there were enough of them in a particular area, they set up their own lodges which can be identified from surviving membership certificates. They also produced Masonic items from the scrap materials around them which could be sold locally to pay for food and clothing. There are also examples of local lodges providing additional financial support. A far fewer prisoners from the British forces were held in France but the exhibition also includes examples of letters sent by them to the Grand Lodge asking to establish new lodges during their confinement.

For further details about the exhibition please see events page./—/

A Masonic “jewel” made by French prisoners of war during the late 1700s