Thursday, 31 March 2016

Sacred geometry and Classical influences on Liverpool architecture during the 18th & 19th century

Sacred geometry became an important part of 18th and 19th century architecture, specifically being used in the mansions and country houses of the wealthy, but these designs can also be found in other public buildings, the architectural quirks giving an aesthetically pleasing sense of style. Many of these houses can still be seen and are open to the public and reveal overwhelming architectural beauty. The architecture reveals perfection, the use of the classical styles giving a sense of light and space. Geometrical patterns and symbolism are used to convey messages of wealth, power and status, but also of the divinity that is embedded in the architecture itself. Here is a selection of photos from a number of these houses and public buildings in Liverpool.

Perfection and precision: The dome of Liverpool Town Hall, built in the later 18th century.

The Ballroom in the town Hall.

The Classical style of Liverpool Town Hall.

The dome seen above the hall way when entering Elm House.

Elm House, Anfield, Liverpool. Built early-mid 19th century.

The dome at Sudley House, Liverpool.

Sudley House, Liverpool. Built in the early 19th century.

The dome situated above the hallway of Lowlands. It gives a sense of space and light on entering the Hall.

Lowlands, West Derby, Liverpool.

A skylight over the balcony and stairway of Woolton Hall.

Woolton Hall.

There is even a dome in a Liverpool pub; The Herculaneum Bridge or Peglegs as it is affectionately known as. 

The Herculaneum Bridge pub in the Dingle, a fine example of a mid-Victorian pub.

Built on the side of an old sandstone outcrop.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Installation at Ellesmere Lodge No. 758, Runcorn, Cheshire

The installation of Brother Gary Oates as Worshipful Master of Ellesmere Lodge No. 758 in Runcorn, Cheshire, took place recently on the 17th of March. Ellesmere Lodge has an interesting history, starting its life in the Victorian era when Runcorn was a thriving port and industrial town on the banks of the River Mersey. The lodge was consecrated on the 18th of January, 1859, first meeting in a school room. However, the lodge grew quickly, drawing candidates from as far away as Birmingham and Sheffield, and from across the river in Widnes, St. Helens and Liverpool.

It was not long before a purpose built residence was needed, and the lodge moved into the Freemason's Hall above the Masonic Hotel, Runcorn, in 1863. The lodge stayed there until 1932. The lodge's reputation also grew, attracting the likes of the Rt. Hon. Lord de Tabley who visited in 1867, and who was the Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire, and other local dignitaries such as Major George Cornwall Leigh M.P. and the Rt. Hon. Wilbraham Egerton M.P, the latter later becoming Provincial Grand Master.

The lodge now meets at Runcorn Masonic Hall, and Gary is eager to continue the work of this historical lodge. He has a busy year ahead, and with the help of his son Matthew who joined just over a year ago, he hopes to take the lodge into a successful year.

The Temple Room where Ellesmere Lodge meet.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Sacred Geometry

Here are a few examples of sacred geometry found on my travels to some English and Welsh Churches and Cathedrals, both medieval and modern; the divine architecture that is gloriously displayed to celebrate God, being the same that is celebrated in Freemasonry. The beauty, glory and divinity of the Great Architect of the Universe being displayed within the very architecture itself.

The beautiful vaulted Gothic ceiling of the medieval Chester Cathedral. The sense of space and precision is always breath taking.

A modern interpretation of the above - cast iron was used in this vaulted ceiling in St George's Church, Everton, built in 1814.

Gothic in iron; the other surviving 'cast-iron' church in Liverpool is St. Michael's-in-the-Hamlet, built the following year.
A 'Romanesque' church doorway, now blocked off, showing the pillars and archway with geometrical designs. Note the perfect circle. St Bartoline's Church, Barthomley, Cheshire.

The remains of a medieval sundial now embedded in the wall of the Church. St Bartoline's Church, Barthomley, Cheshire.

A stained glass window in St. Oswald's Church, Winwick, old Lancashire, showing three perfect sections
to the window, a common feature of medieval Churches and Cathedrals.

St. Anthony's Church, Liverpool, built 1833. The Gothic structure uses no pillars and it is one large open structure inside, giving a perfect sense of space. The 'egg-shaped' arches of the catacombs below take the weight of the building.

The interior of St. Bartholomew's Church, Rainhill, Merseyside, built 1838 in the Classic style. The sense of space and the use of Classical design provides an aesthetic beauty. The Bell Tower is modelled on an Italian Church.

All photographs by Dr David Harrison.

© Dr David Harrison 2016.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Blackballing and Ballot Boxes

The use of balloting using black and white balls in lodges dates way back to the eighteenth century, the method being a democratic, though anonymous means of electing new candidates and joining members, and to settle disputes within the lodge—a secret ballot in effect. So when a candidate is proposed and balloted for, a brother feels that he is not the right person to be involved in Freemasonry, they can choose a black ball, whereas if they favour the candidate, they would choose a white ball.

For example, in the Lodge of Probity, a lodge founded in 1738 which still meets in Halifax, Yorkshire, it was recorded in the minutes on the 10th of August, 1763, that a certain Robert Kelly was rejected as a new member with a ballot of ‘five yes, and seven no’.[i] In the same lodge, after a dispute between two brethren, balloting was used to determine whether either or both brethren should be expelled, and in January 1767, a final ballot was taken to determine whether one of the brethren should be readmitted as a member, the result being recorded thus:

For: 12 good masons

Against: 6 bad Brors.

It was thus agreed that this particular brother could visit and the dispute should never be brought up in the lodge again.[ii] In the York ‘Union’ Lodge, a lodge founded in 1777, the use of black and white balls for balloting was evident, as on 19th January, 1778, the lodge blackballed a new candidate and no reason was given. He obviously just wasn’t the right type of person for the lodge![iii] 

Other societies that became increasingly popular in the nineteenth century, such as the Oddfellows, also used a similar system of balloting, and there was even an instance of a ‘Discussion Class’ held at the Mechanics’ Institute in Warrington, Lancashire, using a similar method of balloting, proposing new members who had to be accepted by a majority; the class tried to become exclusive and twice rejected a would-be ‘debater’ on grounds of class, leading to the rules being changed.[iv]

The use of black and white balls also reflects the use of white and black within the lodge; the chequered floor of the lodge room and the use of dark clothing and white gloves, giving the working of the lodge an overall theme as well as a striking visual effect, reflecting the light and darkness of human nature; the black choice a negative one, the white choice being positive.

In rule 190 of the 1919 edition of the UGLE Constitutions, it states that ‘No person can be made a Mason in, or admitted a member of, a Lodge, if, on ballot, three black balls appear against him; but the by-laws of a Lodge may enact that one or two black balls shall exclude a candidate’.[v]  Thus, an effective and indeed, a flexible way of balloting has been used for centuries within lodges, to guarantee that ‘no Lodge should introduce into Masonry a person whom the Brethren consider unfit to be a member of their own Lodge.[vi]  Today, some lodges use a ‘yes’ or ‘nay’ box instead of black and white balls for voting.

The above article is taken from the book A Quick Guide to Freemasonry by Dr David Harrison and published by Lewis Masonic © 2013. Available from

All photos taken by Dr David Harrison © 2016.

[i] T.W. Hanson, The Lodge of Probity No. 61 1738-1938, (Halifax: Lodge of Probity, 1939), p.71.
[ii] Ibid., p.74.
[iii] Robert Leslie Wood, York Lodge No. 236, 1777-1977, (York, 1977), p.15.
[iv] W.B. Stephens, Adult Education and Society in an Industrial Town: Warrington 1800-1900, (Exeter: University of Exeter, 1980), p.81.
[v] See the Constitutions  of the Antient Fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons under the United Grand Lodge of England, (London: Freemasons Hall, 1919), p.97.
[vi] Ibid, p.98.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Hidden Symbolism of Lewis Carroll

The works of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) are filled with hidden symbolism; from the acrostic poems and riddles that accompanied his stories to the mathematical problems he published. The characters also represented certain people from the time of Carroll, Alice for example was based on Alice Liddell, the daughter of a friend and colleague. Carroll used word play and logic, and his most remembered works Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with their themes of escapism and fantasy still fascinate us today.

Lewis Carroll was born in Daresbury, Cheshire, and he may have drew some of his inspiration from the area of his childhood. The white rabbit for example features in a legend of Bewsey Old Hall, which is based in nearby Warrington. The white rabbit, according to the tale, would be chased across the grounds by ghostly hounds. The Cheshire Cat may have been inspired by a cat carved on a church in Grappenhall, a nearby village, located a few miles from Daresbury in Cheshire. The carved cat is on the outside of the Church tower, and is sometimes hard to spot, the carved cat blending into its sandstone background.

Lewis Carroll spent a good part of his childhood in Daresbury where his father Charles Dodgson was Perpetual Curate of All Saints Church there. The font where Carroll was baptised is now situated in the churchyard, and there are windows (below) dedicated to the author, along with a visitors centre that is attached to the church.

The font that Lewis Carroll was baptised in. Now located in the churchyard.

The Cheshire cat appearing on a barn building in Daresbury.

All Saints Church, Daresbury. Lewis Carroll's father Charles Dodgson was Perpetual Curate there.

The Ring O' Bells pub in Daresbury, Victorian Mock-Tudor at its best. the building on the left was a court house and is now an extension to the pub.
The village in Summer.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison.

© Dr David Harrison 2016.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Pendle: Symbolism, magic and Freemasonry

The 'Eye of God' on the Church Tower at Newchurch.
The area of Pendle in Lancashire, is a hilly, windswept part of the English countryside that encompasses a number of villages and includes the famous and imposing Pendle hill. The area is steeped in folklore, and is well known for the imfamous witch trials of the early seventeenth century. The connection to the witches has left a legacy of a land richly associated with mystery and magic, and there are traces of the witches story in most of the surrounding areas, such as the villages of Newchurch, Barley and Roughlee.

In Newchurch there is a rich array of symbolism, the most prominent being what is referred to as the 'All-Seeing Eye' on the tower of St. Mary's Church. According to the Church literature, it is known as the 'Eye of God' and was used by the Wardens of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a viewpoint to watch for wedding or funeral processions approaching the Church. Another theory put forward is that it was a representation of the eye of God watching the locals. It is certainly made to look like an eye today, and it has become a popular tourist landmark.

The faded skull, crossbones and hourglass on the
Nutter grave in the churchyard.
Also in the grave yard is a grave of the Nutter family marked with a skull and cross bones. Alice Nutter was one of the women tried as a witch in 1612, and although she isn't buried in the grave, it has become somewhat of a memorial for tourists leaving flowers in memory of her. There is also Pendle Lodge No. 4703, named after the area and being founded in 1925 in nearby Nelson. Another nearby town called Colne has an early Masonic history dating to the 1720s, the Freemasons of Colne having a very early Royal Arch Chapter.

The mist over the enigmatic Pendle hill.

A cottage in Newchurch.

The Pendle Inn, built in 1930. Popular with walkers and tourists to the area.

The Nutter family still reside in the Pendle area. Here is a memorial plaque in the church for a branch of the Nutter family.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and Freemasonry

The ethos of Freemasonry has never been so best exemplified than when a member of the society can make good from bad, and Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles did just that; from the lust of Empire building that was franticly taking place during the early nineteenth century, Raffles not only founded a city when he established Singapore, but he founded an international trading centre.  He created churches and schools for the indigenous population, allowed local businesses to operate, outlawed slavery in the city, and drafted the first constitution of the new Singapore, taking a complete moralistic stance on its development.

            Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was born on the 6th of July 1781, on the Ship Ann, off the harbour of Port Morant in Jamaica.  He was the only surviving son of Benjamin Raffles, a captain trading in the West Indies.  As a child Raffles was sent to an Academy at Hammersmith, then, at the age of 14 he became an employee of the East India Company, working as a clerk at East India House in London, an event which was to determine the rest of his relatively short life.  Raffles held high ambitions, and he gained the post of Assistant Secretary in Penang, and with a large increase in salary, he then married his first wife Olivia before setting out for Southeast Asia in 1805.  He had a passion for knowledge, and learned the Malayan language on the voyage.

This new position opened up a new world for Raffles and he entered into the sphere of colonial networking, finally joining Freemasonry in July 1812, in the Lodge Virtutis et Artis Amici, in Buitenzorg, Java, under the Grand Orient of the Netherlands.  He was subsequently raised in the Lodge De Vriendschap in Surabaya, Java, in July 1813, serving as Worshipful Master the same year.  His close friend and associate Thomas McQuoid was also a Freemason and a founder of the Lodge Neptune which was based in Penang and McQuoid was ‘Perfected’ with Raffles in Rose Croix Chapter La Vertueuse in Batavia in 1816.  Thomas McQuoid became a long time friend and business partner of Raffles, supporting him in key decisions as his confidant.

Raffles’ wife had died in 1814, and certain charges had been made against him regarding mismanagement and improperly purchasing land.  Raffles also succumbed to Ill health – something which plagued him during his career in Southeast Asia - and forced him to leave Java and return to England on the 25th of March of 1816, just after his ‘Perfection’.

On his journey home, Raffles stopped off at St. Helena, meeting Napoleon, referring to him as a ‘monster’.  Back in England, with his health recovered, he remarried; he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, published his work The History of Java and was knighted, receiving support from Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Price Regent – the future George IV.  Raffles was celebrated while in London, the charges against him were dropped, and he was offered the position of Lieutenant General of Bencoolen – a British garrison located in south west Sumatra.

            He took up the position and after arriving at Bencoolen, with renewed confidence he immediately set about bringing in new reforms.  In 1818 he passed a new ‘Regulation’ that would bring about the eventual abolition of slavery in the area and banned cockfighting.  The slave trade had been abolished in Britain in 1807, but slaves were still kept throughout British colonies, such as the West Indies and throughout settlements in Asia.  Even after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, the territories of the East India Company remained exempt.  English Freemasons had been as divided on the issue of slavery as much as the population of England had been, with some Freemasons – especially in the port of Liverpool – such as merchant Thomas Golightly and Liverpool MP Sir Isaac Gascoyne, openly supporting the slave trade before its abolition in 1807.  Internationally, divisions on the issue of slavery were still evident among Freemasons, most famously with the American brethren; with George Washington keeping slaves, and Benjamin Franklin being an ardent abolitionist.

Raffles had a moralistic passion which drove him on to introduce new reforms in the new colonies liberalizing the severe Dutch colonial system and to curb Dutch expansion in Southeast Asia.  He was overtly anti-slavery and held a modern vision for the governance of Bencoolen; he had sent fellow Freemason and politician George Canning a memorandum which set out his aims – especially mentioning the idea of establishing a station at the eastern exit of the straits of Malacca before the Dutch did.  The Dutch were always a problem to the British in Southeast Asia, and Singapore, which became the hub for the British Empire in Southeast Asia, was to be free of Dutch influence.

George Canning was a supporter for the abolition of slavery, and was at the time serving as the President of the Board of Control, an office that was responsible for overseeing the East India Company, and thus Canning was very much interested in British influence in South East Asia.  Canning had become a Freemason in 1810 and he joined two of the most prestigious lodges in London; Lodge No. 4 which was one of the four original lodges that had formed the ‘Premier/Modern’ Grand Lodge of 1717, and the Prince of Wales Lodge No. 259, the membership of which included the Prince of Wales himself.  Canning was a well connected gentleman, and was also a member of a number of clubs in London such as Whites, giving an ambitious politician such as Canning a nexus of powerful contacts.

Raffles became intensely involved in the settlement and administration of Singapore from 1819; partly surveying the island, setting out plans for settlement, establishing places of education and worship and in 1823, he drafted the constitution of Singapore, specifically prohibiting slavery and gaming – following his moralistic stance which he had practiced in the administration of Bencoolen.  Tragedy had struck while Raffles was in Bencoolen when, after an outbreak of dysentery, he lost three of his children.  His own health had suffered once more, and after finalising the constitution of Singapore, he set off on his final journey for England.

He finally returned to England on 22 Aug 1824, over a year after he left Singapore, founding the Zoological Society of London in Apr 1826, along with various members of the nobility, clergy, eminent naturalists and gentlemen, some of whom were also Fellows of the Royal Society.  Raffles had always been interested in making notes of the plants and animal life of Southeast Asia – but most of his specimens and effects were destroyed in a fire on a ship as Raffles set off for England.  He became its first chairman and president, and his zeal for zoology and botany – and indeed the promotion of them as a science, is in tune with Raffles’ passion for education.

Raffles died of apoplexy, a day before his 45th birthday on the 5th of July, 1826. He had been suffering from bouts of illness for some years.  Because of his anti-slavery stance, he was refused burial inside his local parish church, St. Mary’s in Hendon, by the vicar, whose family had made its money in the slave trade.  Stamford Raffles was an extraordinary man, his courage in banning slavery from the colonies under his jurisdiction, and his zeal for education testifying to his modern outlook.  It is no wonder that in parts of Southeast Asia today, he is celebrated through Freemasonry.

Lodges connected to Raffles

The Dutch Freeasons were probably the first to set up an organised lodge in the Far East, but the beginnings of Singapore’s Lodge is traced to the founding of Freemasonry in the Eastern Archipelago. This began with the establishment of the Lodge at Bencoolen in 1765. Raffles certainly attended a number of lodges in the region - Lodge Virtutis et Artis Amici, in Buitenzorg, Java, Lodge de Vriendschap in Surabaya and Chapter La Vertueuse in Batavia.  Such was the influence of Raffles that the local Lodge bears his name and coat of arms as their insignia.
Freemasonry in Singapore began with the first ‘mother’ lodge, Lodge Zetland in the East No. 748 E.C established and consecrated on the 8th of December 1845, in a house at Armenian Street.  At that first lodge meeting, twelve leading members of the small European community in Singapore - among them senior lawyer, William Napier, deputy superintendent of police, Thomas Dunman and Straits Times editor, Robert Carr Woods - were proposed for initiation. On the 15th of December 1845, William Napier became the first initiated Brother, next was prominent citizen Mr William H. Read followed by soldier, Lieutenant Benjamin Bloomfield Keane. Other notable Freemasons in Singapore’s early history included the first attorney-general,Thomas Braddell; Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke, Admiral Henry Keppel, John Coulson Smith, former headmaster of Raffles Institution, and Thomas Owen Crane, Justice of Peace, and trustee of Raffles Institution.  The Masonic Hall in Singpore was built in 1879, and was known locally as the ‘Haunted House’ as the local people misunderstood the ceremonies that went on there.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

In Search of the Light

While the vaccine discovery was progressive, the joy I felt at the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities [smallpox], blended with the fond hope of enjoying independence and domestic peace and happiness, was often so excessive that, in pursuing my favourite subject among the meadows, I have sometimes found myself in a kind of reverie.’ – Edward Jenner.

Last week I had a conversation with a brother about the uncertain times we live in; political uncertainty, war, the shrinking of the middle-class, how hard it is for people to get by these days, all manner of things came up. Then another conversation with another brother touched on a similar line of thought; that we live in dark days, and what would our Masonic brethren from the past who had changed the world in their time make of today’s world? Are there any Masonic heroes today? Are there heroes today such as Edward Jenner, Alexander Fleming, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Winston Churchill?

They were men who did great things, moralistic men, and as Freemasons, they seemed to keep down all vain and unbecoming thoughts and just get on with the job. When Alexander Fleming published his discovery of penicillin in 1929, little attention was paid to his article, but his discovery has since saved countless lives. They searched for the light, sometimes fighting against the odds, be it fighting for what was right, fighting against tyranny or be it researching to gain that knowledge that would forever change mankind for the good.

Freemasonry does indeed teach us to make a daily advancement in our Masonic knowledge, to keep searching for the light, and in learning our ritual, we aim for perfection. So did Freemasonry assist in helping these men achieve their goals? I believe it did help; they all doggedly fought on and achieved their objective – it was hard, but they changed the world for the better and they still inspire the world today. For me, that is how we can learn from Freemasonry; we must continue to search for the light, to strive to bring it into in the darkness, and to be influenced by the great men who were Freemasons before us.