Monday, 29 February 2016

Edward Jenner - Freemason

It has been said that the discovery of the smallpox vaccine in the late eighteenth century by Freemason, Edward Jenner has saved more lives than the work of any other man: Jenner has been fairly described as the ‘father of immunology’. The publication in 1798 of Jenner’s findings that cowpox could protect against the feared and usually fatal disease – smallpox – gained him instant support by members of the scientific community. Recognition of his work was reflected in the foundation of the Jennerian Society in London in 1803 by admirers in order to promote vaccination among the poor; Jenner was actively involved in its affairs. Government grants followed and Jenner carried out further experimental work on his vaccine. His interest in science led him to form a number of scientific societies and he was to become a Fellow of the Royal Society.
     Jenner was an active Freemason, serving in 1812 as Master of the Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship, No. 270, based in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. This lodge was regularly visited by the Prince of Wales – the future George IV – and was a lodge that was to become associated with the Jenner family.

The Defeat of Smallpox

Jenner was born in Berkeley in 1749 and had been inoculated against smallpox while at school. This inoculation, or variolation as it was termed, was a method of deliberately introducing smallpox to a person, thus giving them the disease so they could acquire immunity. It was a practice that carried its own risk of infection to others but was seen as safer than becoming infected with the disease during an outbreak. However, this variolation was to adversely affect his general health throughout his life and no doubt gave him the impetus to find an effective and safer method of immunity against the disease.
     At thirteen Jenner was apprenticed to a local surgeon before going on to study surgery and anatomy under the celebrated surgeon John Hunter in London, who became a lifelong friend. He returned to his native Berkeley in 1773 and set up a successful practice of his own. It was here in 1796 that Jenner made his observation that milkmaids who had caught the milder disease known as cowpox – which resulted in a blister rash mainly on the hands – seemed to be immune from the more aggressive and deadly smallpox.
     To test his theory, Jenner had to experiment by introducing cowpox to someone who had not had smallpox, which he confidently did with James Phipps, the eight-year old son of his gardener. Jenner made a few scratches on the boy’s arm and rubbed into them some infected material from the hands of a milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes, who had contracted cowpox. Jenner then introduced smallpox to the boy through the traditional variolation technique and, as predicted, the boy did not develop the disease. Jenner subsequently tested many other people with his vaccine, proving his theory that cowpox gave a greater immunity to smallpox.

Natural Philosophy

Edward Jenner was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1789, not for his medical work but for his research on the study of the then misunderstood nesting habits of the cuckoo. Indeed, Jenner embraced the study of nature in a wider sense, examining many aspects of the natural world in order to gain a deeper understanding of what he saw as God’s work. He was also an avid fossil-hunter and geologist: in 1819 he found a fossil of what would become known as the plesiosaur. At this time, a theory was developing that regarded fossils as the remains of species that could be extinct, a theory which Jenner came to support, saying that ‘Fossils are…monuments to departed worlds’.
     Fascinated by new ideas concerning any form of natural philosophy, Jenner had taken an interest in ballooning, launching his own balloon in 1784, which successfully flew a number of miles. He also enthusiastically studied the hibernation of animals during winter as well as the mystery of bird migration. He suggested that some birds left Britain for the winter and returned for the summer – a theory that contradicted the tradition that birds slept in mud for the winter.
     He maintained an active correspondence with other eminent Freemasons of the period who shared his theories and ideas; Freemasons such as Sir Joseph Banks, a member of the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge, No. 4, who served as president of the Royal Society, and Erasmus Darwin, initiated 1754 into Lodge St. Davids, No. 36 (S.C.), who was involved with the Birmingham-based Lunar Society, a number of whose members were Freemasons.
     The Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship held a Science Select Lodge organised by Jenner where lodge members had to produce a paper on a specific scientific subject; this Science Select Lodge was reminiscent of the Lunar Society meetings. Other lectures had taken place within masonic lodges throughout the country, such as the Old Kings Arms Lodge, No. 28, London, the lectures being intricately entwined with the lodge meeting itself. Another example of scientific teaching taking place within lodges can be seen in the Lodge of Lights, No. 148, Warrington, which held lectures on Newtonian gravitational astronomy in 1800 and 1801. All three lodges are still working today.
     The Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship continued to celebrate the life and work of Edward Jenner after his death in 1823 and other members of Jenner’s family, such as his nephews Henry Jenner and the clergyman William Davies, became members. The lodge emblem, used to this day, commemorates the gift to Jenner of a wampum belt by the Five Nations of North America after Jenner personally sent them a sample of the cowpox virus along with a copy of his work on vaccination; Jenner wore this belt in front of his apron at the last masonic meeting he attended.
     In 1825, members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Gloucestershire subscribed sufficient funds to erect a memorial statue to him in Gloucester Cathedral.
     Jenner certainly studied many aspects of the ‘hidden mysteries of nature and science’ and seemed to have found in Freemasonry a means by which he could convey his scientific beliefs as well as his spiritual and moralistic values. His studies of nature were firmly in balance with his belief in God’s grand design of the universe. In a letter to his friend the Rev. Thomas Pruen, Jenner wrote:

    ‘The weather may be inconvenient for the designs of man, but must always be in harmony with the designs of God, who has not only this planet, our Earth, to manage, but the universe. The whole creation is the work of God’s hands. It cannot manage itself. Man cannot manage it, therefore, God is the manager.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Egyptian Chapter Room - Masonic Hall, Hope Street, Liverpool

Here are a few photos of the Egyptian Chapter Room and the large Temple Room which are found deep in the heart of the Masonic Hall, Hope Street in Liverpool. The Egyptian style d├ęcor of the Chapter Room is famed throughout the West Lancashire Province, and the attention to detail adds to the aesthetic feel and atmosphere of the Room, with scarabs hidden away in unsuspecting corners and crevices and examples of stylistic Egyptian symbolism. The Room itself only dates from the 1920s when the Hall was refurbished, and seems to capture the British obsession with Ancient Egypt at that time. There is also an adjoining Egyptian style dining room - a photo of which can be seen below.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Another Masonic portrait of Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke

Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke, 1st Bt.
Collection - Leicestershire Provincial Grand Lodge
Care of the Fowke family.
The subject of the above portrait of Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke, 1st Baronet (1782-1856), Provincial Grand Master for Leicestershire from 1850 -1856. It was probably commissioned to celebrate his position as Provincial Grand Master, showing him in full regalia with gavel in right hand. He has aged since his earlier portrait which can be seen on an earlier blog post here which is dated to c.1820. Despite the obvious age difference, both portraits show similar characteristics of the 1st Baronet; the nose and mouth in particular are very similar, and the subject exudes confidence and has an overwhelming air of authority, something that is quite fitting for a member of the British aristocracy in the mid-Victorian era.
Certain male members of the Fowke family became prominent Freemasons in the Leicestershire Province, and it was the 3rd Baronet Fowke that married into the Rawdon family - a family I am researching for a book on Liverpool merchant and philanthropist Christopher Rawdon.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Festive boards and Table Lodges

There have always been festivities attached to lodge meetings, some lodges actually have their meal before the lodge meeting rather than after, and some lodges style themselves as Dining Lodges; lodges that specialise in a more distinguished dining experience. Feasting has always been a central part of Freemasonry, with a Grand Feast being held from the early eighteenth century on the day of St John the Baptist on the 24th of June and St John the Evangelist on the 27th of December. Table lodges are another way of celebrating festivities within a lodge; a table being set up within a tiled lodge, with food, drinking, smoking and music being part of the lodge meeting.

English Masonic tradition has the first Grand Feast being held at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in St. Paul’s Churchyard in London, in 1717. The Grand Feast became a central tradition for the Modern Grand Lodge, though the location changed throughout time, meeting in 1797 for example at Canonbury Tower, near Islington, London. A Grand procession to the Grand Feast also took place, though this was discontinued in 1745, and the various Provincial Grand Lodges also held a banquet during their meetings.

Before the union of 1813, local lodges, both ‘Antient’ and ‘Modern’, celebrated St John’s Day in June with a feast, and another important feast being held on the 27th of December, which was the day of St John the Evangelist (the two dates reflecting not only a celebration of Christian feast days, but also the Summer solstice and Winter solstice). In fact, the Grand Lodge of Wigan, which continued the ‘Antient’ traditions, endeavoured to celebrate both the St. John’s days as important feast dates until they re-joined the UGLE in 1913, electing their Grand Lodge Officers on St John the Evangelist Day.

Surviving lodge minutes from the eighteenth century recite how much alcohol was consumed before and after lodge meetings, displaying not only rather large alcohol bills, but reprimands for intoxicated lodge members. The large alcohol bills, along with bills for tobacco, were commonplace, with many lodges having to pay them off at a later date, drinking and smoking obviously being a vital part of the lodge night. From the many toast lists and Masonic songs that survive from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, drinking and dining was an essential part of the Masonic experience, and for the lodges that used a table in the actual lodge room, there would have been an eclectic mix of ritual and feasting.[i] Dining and feasting was thus entwined with the essence of Masonic brotherhood, creating a deeper bond between the brethren of the lodge.

Table lodges were on the whole, discontinued after the union of ‘Antient’ and ‘Modern’, but the setting up a table within a tiled lodge room still occurred with the Lodge of Sincerity which came under the Wigan Grand Lodge. Table lodges still occur in the USA, normally set up in a ‘U’ shape, whereas in lodges under the UGLE, the festive board after the lodge meeting seemed to have developed as a separate part of the lodge meeting in an un-tiled dining room. The festive board is where the lodge members and guests can eat, drink, toast and talk, but in certain lodges, such as Harmonic Lodge in Liverpool, there is still a remnant of the Table lodge – during their festive board, the working tools are presented after a ceremony.

The above article is copyright to Dr David Harrison 2014.

[i] See David Harrison, The Liverpool Masonic Rebellion and the Wigan Grand Lodge, (Bury St. Edmunds: Arima, 2012).

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Joseph Brant - A Masonic Legend

The story of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk ‘American Indian’ who fought for the Loyalists during the American War of Independence has been retold by the Iroquois peoples of the Six Nations and American Freemasons for centuries, and today Brant is featured in many Masonic Histories and is the topic of many websites.  The story that is the most endearing is how Brant, a Mohawk chief, witnessed an American prisoner do a Masonic sign and spared the life of his fellow Mason.  This action went down in history, and Brant became the embodiment of the ‘noble savage’ to Victorian England.  This article will explain the events leading up to this event, and how Brant, in death, created even more controversy as the legends of his life grew and expanded.

            Brant was born in 1742 in the area around the banks of the Ohio River, his Indian name was Thayendanegea, meaning ‘he places two bets’ and as a child he was educated at Moor’s Charity School for Indians in Lebanon, Connecticut, were he learned English and European History.  He became a favourite of Sir William Johnson, who had taken Brant’s sister Molly as a mistress, though they were married later after Johnson’s wife died.  Johnson was the British Superintendent for Northern Indian Affairs, and became close to the Mohawk people, and enlisted their allegiance in the French and Indian War of 1754-1763, with a young Brant taking up arms for the British.

            After the war Brant found himself working as an interpreter for Johnson.  He had worked as an interpreter before the war and assisted in translating the prayer book and the Gospel of Mark into the Mohawk language, other translations included the Acts of the Apostles and a short history of the Bible, Brant having converted to Christianity, a religion which he embraced.  Around 1775, after being appointed secretary to Sir William’s successor, Guy Johnson, Brant received a Captain’s commission in the British Army and set off for England, where he became a Freemason and confirmed his attachment to the British Crown.  Brant was raised in Hiram's Cliftonian Lodge No. 814 in London, early in 1776, though his association with the Johnson’s may have been an influence in his links to Freemasonry. Guy Johnson had accompanied Brant on his visit to England, the Johnson family having Masonic links.  Hiram’s Cliftonian Lodge had been founded in 1771, and during Brant’s visit to the lodge, it had met at the Falcon in Princes Street, Soho.  The lodge was erased in 1782.  Brant’s Masonic apron was, according to legend, presented to him by George III himself.

On his return to America, Brant became a key figure in securing the loyalty of other Iroquois tribes in fighting for the British against the ‘rebels’, and it was during the war that Joseph Brant entered into Masonic legend.  After the surrender of the ‘rebel’ forces at the Battle of the Cedars on the St. Lawrence River in 1776, Brant famously saved the life of a certain Captain John McKinstry, a member of Hudson Lodge No.13 of New York, who was about to be burned at the stake. McKinstry, remembering that Brant was a Freemason, gave to him the Masonic sign of appeal which Brant recognized, an action which secured McKinstry’s release and subsequent good treatment.  McKinstry and Brant remained friends for life, and in 1805 he and Brant together visited the Masonic Lodge in Hudson, New York, where Brant was given an excellent reception.  Brant’s portrait now hangs in the lodge.

            Another story relating to Brant during the war has another ‘rebel’ captive named Lieutenant Boyd giving Brant a Masonic sign, which secured him a reprieve from execution.  However, on this occasion, Brant left his Masonic captive in the care of the British, who subsequently had Boyd tortured and executed.  After the war, Brant removed himself with his tribe to Canada, establishing the Grand River Reservation for the Mohawk Indians.  He became affiliated with Lodge No. 11 at the Mohawk village at Grand River of which he was the first Master and he later affiliated with Barton Lodge No.10 at Hamilton, Ontario.  Brant returned to England in 1785 in an attempt to settle legal disputes on the Reservation lands, were he was again well received by George III and the Prince of Wales.

            After Brant’s death in 1807, his legend continued to develop, with numerous accounts of his life and his death being written.  One such account lengthily entitled The Life of Captain Joseph Brant with An Account of his Re-interment at Mohawk, 1850, and of the Corner Stone Ceremony in the Erection of the Brant Memorial, 1886, celebrated Brant’s achievements and detailed that a certain Jonathan Maynard had also been saved by Brant during the war.  Like McKinstry, Maynard, who later became a member of the Senate of Massachusetts, had been saved at the last minute by Brant who had recognized him giving a Masonic sign.  Brant’s remains were re-interred in 1850 with an Indian relay, were a number of Warriors took turn in carrying his remains to the Chapel of the Mohawks, located in Brant’s Mohawk Village which is now part of the city of Brantford.  Many local Freemasons were present, and his tomb was restored with an inscription paid for by them.

            The legend of Brant saving his fellow Masons was examined by Albert C. Mackey in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry in which he referred to a book entitled Indian Masonry by a certain Brother Robert C. Wright.  In the book, Wright states that ‘signs given by the Indians could easily be mistaken for Masonic signs by an enthusiastic Freemason’.  Using Wright’s claims that the Indians used similar Masonic signs or gestures within their culture, and these were mistaken by over enthusiastic Freemasons, Mackey was putting forward an argument that the stories of encounters with ‘Masonic’ Indians were perhaps in doubt.  Mackey then put forward the question ‘is the Indian a Freemason’ before examining a number of historically Native American Indians that were Freemasons, including Joseph Brant and General Eli S. Parker, the Seneca Chief who fought in the American Civil War.  Mackey concluded that ‘Thus from primitive and ancient rites akin to Freemasonry, which had their origin in the shadows of the distant past, the American Indian is graduating into Free and Accepted Masonry as it has been taught to us. It is an instructive example of the universality of human belief in fraternity, morality and immortality’.  Mackey presented that the Indians, in recognizing the Universal ethos of Freemasonry within their own culture, were drawn to the Craft.  Thus an understanding into Brant’s moralistic approach to fellow Freemasons who were prisoners during the war was being sought, his actions fascinating Masonic historians well into the twentieth century.

Brant became a symbol for Freemasonry, his story being used as a metaphor for the Masonic bond, a bond which became greater than the bond of serving ones country during wartime.  Brant also came to represent a respect for the Native American Indian during a time when the USA was promoting the ‘manifest destiny’, an ethos which the United States government saw as God’s right for them to settle the Indian lands of the west.  Brant’s myth even exceeded the traditional Victorian image of the ‘noble savage’, his meeting of other Freemasons while visiting London such as the writer James Boswell and Masonic members of the Hanoverian Household such as the Prince of Wales compounded this.  Brant once said ‘My principle is founded on justice, and justice is all I wish for’, a statement which certainly conveyed his moralistic and Masonic ethos.
The above article originally appeared in MQ Magazine, issue 23, October 2007, copyright Dr David Harrison.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The City of York: A Masonic Guide - by Dr David Harrison

My new book The City of York: A Masonic Guide is due for publication in a few months time. The book gives the first complete street-by-street guide for all traces of Freemasonry within this beautiful ancient city, packed with new photographs, references and maps that will allow the reader to feel the weight of Masonic history in York. It will act as a companion piece to my previous book The York Grand Lodge (Arima 2014), and I will be giving Masonic history walks in the city as part of a series of events to accompany the launch of the book.
York was the central location for the Grand Lodge of All England during the eighteenth century, and indeed, has some very early references to Freemasonry dating to the early seventeenth century. The book examines this part of York's Masonic history, as well as the regular Masonry under the United Grand Lodge of England, which also has a rich history in the city. The work looks at locations that are linked to Freemasonry, such as the pubs, churches, libraries, museums, Masonic Halls and of course the Minster itself, and will be available through Lewis Masonic for pre-orders.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke first Baronet - Freemason

Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke 1st Bt.
Collection - The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke first Baronet (1782-1856), was a prominent Freemason, serving as Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire from 1850 - 1856 and was Senior Grand Warden for the United Grand Lodge of England in 1821.

The Fowke's were an old Leicestershire military family, and there were other prominent Freemasons in the family, such as Col. Sir Thomas Fowke, who was the first Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and another member of the family Sir John Fowke Lancelot Rolleston JP, was also a prominent Leicestershire Freemason in the nineteenth century.

It was the third Baronet Sir Frederick Ferrers Conant Fowke that married Edith Frances Daubenry Rawdon, the grand daughter of Liverpool merchant Joshua Rawdon. I am currently working on a biopic of Liverpool Merchant and Philanthropist Christopher Rawdon, Joshua's elder brother, and it is interesting that the meeting of these two families - one aristocratic, the other a wealthy Merchant Unitarian family from Liverpool, combines two different rich histories.

The portrait of Sir Frederick Gustavus Fowke is by an unknown artist and is dated c.1820. It has a certain rustic quality to the painting, but is a very striking portrait non-the-less, revealing Sir Frederick in his distinguished regalia.