Three Centuries of English Freemasonry A major new gallery on the history and development of freemasonry opens in London this September at the magnificent Art Deco Freemasons' Hall, 60 Great Queen Street in London's Covent Garden
News-Antique.com - Sep 08,2016 - The beginning of modern freemasonry is recorded as 24th June 1717 when four London lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron tavern near St Paul’s Cathedral as a Grand Lodge, the first in the world, which became the governing body, and elected its Grand Master, Anthony Sayer. To mark freemasonry’s 300th anniversary, a new and permanent gallery space opens this year with highlights from lodges across the centuries, complete with interactive displays about Masonic symbolism and films with ceremonial footage, images and information. To be launched on Thursday 29th September 2016 by the current Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, the new 'Three Centuries of English Freemasonry' gallery at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Freemasons’ Hall in London's Covent Garden, traces the development of freemasonry from its origins in the early days of industrialisation, urbanisation and empire to the significant social institution which it had become by the 19th century and explores how modern freemasonry fits into today’s world.
This new gallery space, originally designed in the 1930s as the Library & Museum's Reading Room, has been transformed to walk the visitor through three hundred years of history. Entering the gallery under the three-dimensional Goose & Gridiron tavern sign (a replica, the original is in the Museum of London), the first area features a timeline, an explanation of freemasonry’s principles and of Masonic symbols and meanings. Then into the Victorian period highlighting how freemasons celebrated their membership by purchasing everyday items like furniture, china and glass to use in their lodges and to decorate their homes. The central focus is the elaborate and monumental Grand Master's gilded ceremonial throne, commissioned soon after the election of the Prince of Wales (later King George 1V), the first royal prince to be a Grand Master. The throne and two slightly smaller Wardens' chairs and footstool were made by Robert Kennett in 1791 at a cost of £157 10s for the set and are still occasionally used today for special events.
The 1700s was a time of industrialisation in Britain with people moving into cities in pursuit of work. Joining clubs and societies met their need for a sense of belonging in this new, modern world. These societies often created histories to give themselves authority. Membership was indicated by wearing distinctive symbols. Freemasonry linked itself with skilled stonemasons of the past and chose its symbols accordingly. Its values of sociability, inclusivity, tolerance, charity and integrity were shared by all its members who were drawn from across the social spectrum.
In 1813, two rival Grand Lodges amalgamated to form the United Grand Lodge of England. Masonic ceremonies and regalia became more formalised (in 1700s, Masonic aprons could be made of any material and are often pieces of folk art in their own right). Freemasonry now had a public face with Masonic buildings in towns and cities and involvement with civic life.
Freemasonry spread from Britain into Europe and then around the world, following expanding empires, which is reflected in the