ISSUE 13, April 2005

The Campbells are coming: At speed!
Travel: Warming to Iceland
Royal Masonic Family: The Six Masonic Sons of George III, Part II
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and: Report of the Board of General Purposes
The flying eye hospital
Beamish Museum: The million pound project
  Wigan Grand Lodge: The Liverpool rebels
Chelsea Lodge: That's entertainment
Re-enactment: The way we were and: The Russian connection
Community Service: Weathering the storm
Faith and Freemasonry: God and the Craft
Education: Researching Freemasonry on the Internet and: Masonic events
Freemasons Hall: Masons at War
Grand Charity: Report and grant list and: Support for Asian tsunami
Masonic Charities: Reports from the Masonic charities
Obituaries, Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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    These range from a report of the arrest of a Freemason in Padua in 1794 to the Masonic certificate of the Regency Dandy ‘Beau’ Brummel. The collections even include the Masonic apron of Lord Carnarvon, a 19th century Pro Grand Master.
    Apart from library and archive catalogues, the internet makes more widely available a number of specialist research tools. For Masonic researchers in England, the most important of these is probably the searchable version of John Lane’s historical directory listing all Masonic Lodges warranted by the English Grand Lodges between 1717 and 1894. This has been made available jointly by the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry (
    There has been a recent announcement of a joint project between the search engine Google, the Bodleian Library and a number of American research libraries to make available on the internet full-text versions of large parts of their collections.
    It is the prospect of obtaining access at home to the complete texts of books and documents in these major research collections which will most excite the researcher. But we do not need to wait for the completion of this exciting project. Already many transcripts and images of books and documents of value to the Masonic researcher can be obtained on the internet.
    The National Archives runs a service called ‘Documents Online’ (, which allows users to purchase probate copies of wills for £3.50 each. For this price, you can purchase copies of the wills of such celebrated Masonic figures as Desaguliers, Dermott and Dunckerley. For those investigating the lives of members of a particular Lodge, the online censuses, for which there is also a charge, are invaluable tools (
    The New Opportunities Fund (NOF), part of the National Lottery, has recently funded an enormous portfolio of digitisation projects by many libraries and museums, which again contain many items of Masonic interest. A full directory of these projects is available at: It is possible here only to give some random examples of projects which include Masonic material.
    The Old Bailey Proceedings are reports of criminal trials in London between 1674 and 1839. They have been transcribed and placed online by the Universities of Sheffield and Hertfordshire (
    They reveal aspects of London’s everyday life which are not recorded elsewhere, and among the trials will be found details of a theft during a Masonic initiation at the Goose and Gridiron in 1767, and the appearance of John Pine, the engraver of the first Book of Constitutions, as an expert witness in the trial of a man accused of forging a seal die.
    The most fascinating material in the various NOF sites for the Masonic researcher are probably the various photographs of Masonic activities and artefacts. The ‘Gathering the Jewels’ site from Wales includes a digitised copy of the programme of a Masonic bazaar held in Wrexham in 1912, and a procession of Freemasons, which was part of the civic procession to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (
    The Imagine York website features a photograph of James Melrose, who was Lord Mayor of York in 1876, lived to be 100, and was a Freemason for more than 75 years (
    But the most remarkable Masonic material on the internet is on the British Pathé website ( This remarkable project has digitised the entire film archive of the famous newsreel firm.
    All the clips are available for free download in a low resolution form, and higher resolution clips can be purchased online.
    The archive gives extraordinary insights into every conceivable aspect of British life during the 20th century, and includes a number of films of Masonic stone-layings and processions in the 1920s, including the launch of the Masonic lifeboat The Duke of Connaught at Peterhead in 1922 and the unveiling of a memorial window at Sheffield Cathedral in 1920.
    It has only been possible here to give a hint of the potential of the internet for the Masonic researcher. Anybody who spends an afternoon browsing through some of the sites mentioned here will certainly find an aspect of the history of Freemasonry that has not previously been noticed. However, to research and write the history of Freemasonry, simply unearthing new facts and documents is not enough.
    It is necessary to place any discoveries in the context of current scholarly discussions and concerns. To establish what these are, the key tool still remains, for the time being, an old-fashioned library.

Professor Andrew Prescott is Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield

Search screen of the on-line versions of John Lane's Masonic Records

Freemasons join a procession in Welshpool to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Reproduced by permission of Powysland Museum and Montgomery Canal Centre

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