by W.Bro. YASHA BERESINER
Great Men and Great Freemasons
There are some great freemasons and there are some great men who were freemasons. Winston Spencer-Churchill belonged to the latter category.
Justifiably our world-wide fraternity takes pride in having men of stature as members: George Washington, Franklin D and Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, King George VI and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh; Masonic sportsmen Malcolm Campbell and Arnold Palmer; actors and composers: Clark Gable and John Wayne, Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden and Sibelius and astronaut John Glenn, jazz great Duke Ellington, even Casanova and Houdini, to mention just a few, all freemasons. But have we at times attributed too much significance to their Masonic association? Maybe more than they themselves have done?
Few would doubt the assertion that Winston Churchill was the greatest British statesman of recent history. It was, as in so many instances of fame, both personal talent and external circumstance that thrust him into the very unique historic role he was to play as a politician and the immortality he subsequently gained.
In 1901 he became a freemason. What induced him to join the fraternity? How active was he as a freemason? Why is it recorded that he changed Lodges? Why did he resign? And most importantly, what part did Freemasonry play in his life?
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born, two months prematurely, at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire on 30th November 1874. He was educated, as was his younger and only brother Jack and as befitted children of the nobility, at Harrow School and, by his own admission, was far from being a brilliant student. Reports of his education show him to have been particularly weak in maths and the classics but excelling in the English language – which was to serve him so well through his life. He always regretted not pursuing his academic career, which, nonetheless, detracted very little from his subsequent success as an author, an artist, a soldier, a statesman and a family man.
Edward Prince of Wales and Grand Master
At the time of Winston Churchill’s Masonic initiation into the Studholme Lodge No 1591 on 24 May of 1901, he was surrounded by political and military colleagues to whom Freemasonry, in line with other similar friendly and fellowship societies, was a fashionable social pursuit. All the more so for having had the Prince of Wales, about to be crowned monarch, Grand Master of the Fraternity. Prince Edward’s election as Grand Master in 1875 gave a huge impetus to Freemasonry. He was a great promoter of the Craft and gladly fulfilled his Masonic duties in the public eye. He was often involved in the ceremonial laying of foundation stones of buildings, bridges, dockyards and churches. Freemasonry was being constantly publicised and Freemasons were recognised and popular in their local communities. Edward was an immensely popular sovereign. He was a jovial leader of society and that same society tolerated, even enjoyed, his risqué behaviour as the Prince of Wales, indulging himself in food, drink, gambling and women. He vindicated himself when he succeeded to the throne in January 1901, resigning his Grand Mastership in the same year, and throwing himself into the role of king with energy and enthusiasm.
Britain, in this first decade of the 20th Century, was doing exceedingly well. Notwithstanding the humiliations of the recent Boer War – in which the young Winston had been an active and heroic participant – there was a general sense of well being and security. King Edward, known as Edward the Peacemaker for his diplomacy in Europe, was reigning over the largest empire the world had ever known. There was a sparkle to the monarchy that had been absent for the best part of 40 years. The well publicised and welcome Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904 has been credited to the king and his linguistic capacity. The new Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, elected in 1902 spent the next three years ensuring educational reforms which saw a well educated middle class and civil service enriched by qualified and educated staff. There was a general atmosphere of invincibility in all fields of achievement ranging from commerce and industry to military and political stability. Business was prospering, entertainment and travel were at a peak.
Kind Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, had been a popular Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England for a decade and a half. With him, a host of other Royals and members of the nobility and aristocracy had joined the Craft. It was not by accident that the promising young Winston was introduced expressly to the Studholme Lodge number 1591 meeting at 33 Golden Square in central London.
Studholme Lodge 1591
The Studholme Lodge, sponsored by the Weyside Lodge number 1395, was warranted on 13 December 1875 and consecrated in Surbitton, Surrey on 31 January 1876 by the Provincial Grand Master, R W Bro John Studholme Brownrigg. It was his prominent family that gave its name to the new Lodge and the family crest, consisting of a sword and serpent motif, is still in use today as the design for the Lodge jewel. The list of members of the Lodge from 1876 to 1926, headed by the Master Captain A B Cook, shows an array of peers, baronets, clergy, solicitors and barristers, service officers and many belonging to the medical profession. In 1881 the Lodge moved to London and the quality of the membership improved further. The summonses of the Lodge read like a Who’s Who of the aristocracy and social elites. In 1886 the Worshipful Master was the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir Reginald Hanson Bart and the table plan for the 21st Installation Banquet in 1897 lists no less than 15 Members of Parliament, in addition to the Master, R H Walter Long. To his left is seated the Lord Chancellor with large numbers of Lords, Earls, Sirs and other titles, including Military Brethren of high rank ranging from Admiral Markham to several Colonels dispersed throughout the dinning room.
The Studholme Lodge takes pride in having had no less that 17 Provincial Grand Masters elected from its members. Other prominent Brethren have included HRH the Duke of Clarence, the first honorary and later full member, the Earl of Yarborough, Lord Edward Stanley (later the 7th Earl of Derby) private secretary to Lord Roberts, Sir George Cave, 1st Viscount Cave, later to become Home Secretary, Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, Lord Hugh Cecil, younger son of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury and many more. These were Winston Churchill’s contemporaries on 24 May 1901 when he was initiated into freemasonry at the age of 27. Already a keen and dedicated politician, Winston had taken his first seat in Parliament as the Conservative member for Oldham just three months earlier. He was very junior indeed in comparison to the stature of the Freemasons who had accepted him into their midst. It explains why his name is not even mentioned as a member when W Bro T W Wedding addressed the lodge with a brief history, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1926.
The lodge records give the date of his initiation, 24 May 1901 with his address as 105 Mount Street, his age, incorrectly, as 26 and his occupation as a Member of Parliament. An insight into the scene on the day is given by Charles Clive Bingham, Viscount Mersey in his autobiography published by John Murray in London in 1941 A Picture of Life 1872-1940. On page 188 he states ‘ ….that month I was initiated as a freemason at Studholme Lodge (1591). While waiting for the ceremony I walked round and round Golden Square with Winston Churchill, another candidate...’. Within two months, on 19 July, Winston was passed to the second degree and on 5th March 1902 he was made a full fledged Master Mason, all the three ceremonies being conducted in the Studholme Lodge. His raising on Tuesday 5th March was by special dispensation applied for by the Secretary, Henry James Fitzroy, the Earl of Euston, Provincial Grand Master for Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, and conducted by the Master J C F Tower. At the same meeting Mr Ferdinand John St John was initiated and the Brethren dined at the Café Royal, as was customary for the lodge.
An unfortunate communication in 1955 by the then Librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England, Reginald Hewitt, to his counterpart in Iowa, USA, has led to the erroneous reports in various publications (including the notoriously unreliable 10,000 Freemasons and John Hamill and Bob Gilbert’s Freemasonry A Celebration of the Craft) that Churchill was either passed and/or raised in Rosemary Lodge No 2851. The fact is that the Studholme Lodge register of members has the name above that of Winston Churchill referring to one Geoffrey C Glyn and a further entry below that of Churchill referring to a C C Bingham . Further along the line both of these show the entry ‘Raised in No 2851 11th Nov 1901’. The entry was wrongly attributed to Churchill and notwithstanding several published corrections, the error continues to be perpetrated.
In line with the general decline in Masonic membership, the Studholme Lodge found itself with a reduced membership that necessitated its amalgamation in 1959 with the United Lodge No 1629 to form the United Studholme Lodge and amalgamated again in 1976 with the Alliance Lodge number 1827 to attain its present status as the Studholme Alliance Lodge retaining its original number 1591. Its popularity has not diminished and the Lodge was honoured in 1978 when R W Bro the Rt Hon Lord Swansea, PGM for South Wales, was elected and served as Master.
Churchills who were Freemasons
Winston will have undoubtedly been aware of the high Masonic standing of his far removed ancestor Lord Henry John Spencer-Churchill (b.1797 d.1840) the 4th son of the 5th Duke of Marlborough. A Captain in the Royal Navy, Lord Henry was a member of the household of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex at the time when the Duke was serving as the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. He died prematurely in action, serving on the HMS Dolphin in Macao, on 2nd June 1840. A large and well kept gravestone marks his burial in the rather small and hidden away Protestant cemetery in Macau.
In him we do indeed find a famous Freemason. A member of the prestigious Lodge of Antiquity No 2, he reached the peak of his Masonic career when, in 1835, the then Deputy Grand Master, the Earl of Durham was appointed Ambassador to Russia and was compelled to resign his high Masonic rank. R W Bro the Right Honourable Lord Henry John Spencer-Churchill, PSGW (since 1832) was appointed in his stead for the remainder of the year and continued in this office until 1839. By then he had served as President of the Board of General Purposes in 1834 and was appointed Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire on 2nd September 1836. He served his Province well and actively until his untimely death in 1840. His name is now immortalised in the Churchill Lodge No 702 (now number 478) which was founded in 1841 in his honour.
It is only appropriate that Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895)
3rd son of 7th duke of Marlborough and his uncle, Randolph’s older brother, George Charles Spencer-Churchill (1844 -1892) the 8th Duke of Marlborough, Marquis Blanford, should both be initiated in the Churchill Lodge on the 9th of February 1871. The two brothers were excluded from the Lodge on 22nd January 1883 – together with some eleven additional Brethren, Oscar Wilde amongst them – for non-payment of dues. They were subsequently reinstated as they had been in South Africa on Her Majesty's Service, fighting at the battle of Majub, which explanation sufficed for their re-instatement but not that of several of their contemporaries. Some ten years later another member of the Churchill family was to become a freemason in Oxford: Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill (1871–1934) 9th Duke of Marlborough and first cousin of Winston Churchill was initiated on the 7th of May 1894 aged 21 and remained active until his resignation in March 1918.
Resignation and Petitions
As a freemason, Winston Churchill was following on long standing family tradition but his overall activity during his life time is well summarised in the words of the Grand Secretary between 1937 and 1957, Sir Sydney A White ‘Winston Churchill was initiated as a young man but never progressed in the order and has taken no part for many years’.
By 1912 Winston Churchill was well on his way to political success and fame. In July of that year he was charged, as First Lord of the Admiralty, to 'put the fleet into a state
of instant and constant readiness for war, in case we were attacked by Germany.' Matters of consequence and importance were henceforth to absorb Winston Churchill’s time, talent and energies. In the knowledge that he would no longer be able to take any part whatsoever, he resigned from the Studholme Lodge but continued his membership of the Craft. On a number of separate occasions, in the coming years, his involvement in Masonic affairs was sought and he willingly participated.
A petition sponsored by the Royal Colonial Lodge No 3556, signed the 22nd of November 1917 and dated 4 January 1918 was presented to the United Grand Lodge of England for the formation of a new Lodge to be named ‘Ministry of Munitions Lodge’. With it, a letter addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master and signed by the Master and Wardens designate, stated the reasons for the need to found a lodge in connection with the Ministry of Munitions. It stated that ‘members stationed in London away from home..’ felt that following the end of the war, Freemasons from the United Kingdom and the Colonies who had been brought together in the Ministry of Munitions of War, felt the need to meet in a Masonic environment. The letter also proposed ‘Armament Lodge’ as an alternative name and finally pleaded to allow Sir Leonard W Llewelyn a newly initiated Mason to be accepted as a petitioner, in view of his special rank and standing. There were a total of 95 signatories on the petition and they included Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry and Winston Churchill, Minister of Munitions. His name, half way down the column in the third page, has an entry under Lodge number ‘clearance certificate attached - Lodge 1591’
The petition was refused by Grand Lodge on the grounds that ‘the policy of the advisors of the Grand Master has always been to decline to recommend the printing of a warrant for a new Lodge where it was intended that the membership thereto be restricted to the members of any particular department of the Civil Service of the crown’. The petition has a manuscript annotation on the back ‘NOT RECOMMENDED’ it is signed P Colville Smith G.S and stamp dated 11 Jan 1918. This was confirmed in a letter to the petitioners dated 14th January 1918 addressed to Lieut. Alfred Lewis, the Senior Warden designate and signed by the Grand Secretary V W Bro P Colville Smith:
‘Dear Sir and Brother,
The petition for the proposed Ministry of Munitions Lodge has been carefully considered by those whose duty it is to advise the Most Worshipful Grand Master on such matters, & I regret to have to inform you that they are unable to advise HRH that the prayer thereof be acceded to.’
On 27th February 1918, the Master designate W Bro E Allen, wrote a further explanatory letter in which he stated that the Brethren had felt great regret that their prayer had not been granted and that there may have been a possible misunderstanding and therefore gave a further explanation, that it was not proposed to restrict membership of the Lodge to the Ministry of Munitions or the Civil Service and that only the signatories to the petition were resident in London. Bro Allen asked that the Grand Secretary allow a deputation to meet with him and that the proposition, duly amended, maybe reconsidered.
This was the origin of the foundation of the new Armament Lodge No 3898 - sponsored by the Royal Colonial Institute Lodge No 3556 – with 65 founders, the majority of whom were associated with the Ministry of Munitions, and 25 joining members whose petition dated 30th October 1918 was granted just three weeks later on 19th November 1918. Winston Churchill, now no longer involved in the Ministry of Munitions, having been appointed Secretary of State for War and Air, was not one of the petitioners.
This was not, however, the last of Churchill’s involvement with petitions to Grand Lodge. During this period of tension and patriotic fervour that followed the end of the First World War, Clementine Churchill, Winston’s energetic and supportive wife, often visited munitions factories through England. In early November 1917 she visited the Rees Roturbo Manufacturing Company known as the Ponder’s End Shell Works, near Enfield in North London and prompted by some of the workers she wrote to Churchill’s Private Secretary, Eddie Marsh on 5th of November seeking Winston’s assistance on their behalf.
‘The workmen of Ponder’s End Shell Work have sent a petition to the Grand Lodge of the Freemasons asking that a local lodge which they are starting may be called after Mr Brindley: they want it to be called the ‘Bickerton Brindley Lodge’. The men are afraid that the Grand Lodge may turn down the request as Mr Brindley is not apparently a very important Freemason, and they asked me if it would be possible for Winston to write a line to the Duke of Connaught, who is the Grand Master, to say that he thinks Mr Brindley is a very suitable man and that it will give great pleasure to the men he employs if the Lodge is given his name. The Grand Lodge meets on Friday next when they think that the request will be considered. All the Freemasons in the Works will of course be members of this Lodge.
Please be very kind and see that Winston does this
If you wan t more explanation do ring me up.’
Winston Churchill’s response and subsequent efforts are quite extra ordinary. Within two days, on 7 November 1917, he wrote to the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, as follows:
I should be grateful if I might be allowed to call Your Royal Highness’ attention to the request which I understand will come before the meeting of the Grand Lodge on the Freemasons on Friday next, that a local Lodge about to be inaugurated at the Ponder’s End Shell Works may be named the Bickerton Brindley Lodge’ after the Manager of the Factory.
Mr Brindley’s energy and ability have proved of the highest value to the Ministry of Munitions, and he has succeeded in a remarkable degree in enlisting the enthusiasm of the workers in the manufacture of shells. If the proposed compliment could be allowed, it would be a source of much gratification to them, and a valuable stimulus to the increase of their output.
It is on these grounds that I venture to ask if Your Royal Highness would feel able to advance the matter
I am Sir
Your Royal Highness’ most obedient servant
Winston S Churchill
He also took further and more important action to support the Lodge’s application. Firstly he joined the petitioners for the new Lodge, now to be named Ponders End Lodge (aware, no doubt, that a change of name for the intended Lodge will have a far better chance of success). This final petition for the new Lodge was submitted to Grand Lodge on 10 December 1917 and nominated and recommended Henry Samuel Bickerton Brindley, PM 2015 to be the first Master. The accompanying explanatory correspondence praises Mr Brindley as Manager of the works.
Winston Churchill’s name appears on the top of one of the 4 pages of the petition and has the entry see attached slip in brackets next to it. His profession is entered as Cabinet Minister one step up from Member of Parliament. The attached slip referred to is a personally signed typewritten letter accompanying the new petition dated 10 December 1917 addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master. The text begins:
We, the undersigned, being regularly registered Master Masons of the Lodge mentioned against our respective names………are desirous of forming a new Lodge. The name ‘Brindley Lodge’ has been erased and the name Ponders End Lodge has been inserted instead in manuscript. The letter continues to recommend Brother Brindley to be the first Master. This is still not the end of Churchill’s efforts to promote the application of this particular lodge.
After the petition was submitted he personally wrote to J Colville Smith, the Grand Secretary, on Ministry of Munitions of War letterhead as follows:
My dear Sir,
As I am much interested in the application which has been made by the workers at Ponders End Shell Factory for permission to call their Lodge the ‘Ponders End Lodge of Freemasons’, I should be really obliged if you could let me know whether it has been granted,
Yours very faithfully
The hand written reply by the Grand Secretary will have followed soon after receipt of Churchill’s letter. It is dated February 23 1918 it states:
My dear Sir,
The application for the proposed Ponders End Lodge has recently been carefully considered by the advisers of the Grand Master, who with great regret came to the decision that they were unable to recommend the granting of the petition.
J Colville Smith G. Sec.
Winston’s considerable efforts, beyond the call of his immediate interest, can only be attributed to his eagerness to fulfil his wife’s innocent request. How much more could he have done that write to the Grand Master, join the petitioners, sign the covering letter and chase the Grand Secretary for results! His efforts came to nothing. The petition had been refused on 8 February 1918, 13 applicants of the 31 petitioners being members of less than 3 years standing. The reason for the refusal is undoubtedly on grounds similar to the original application of the Munitions Lodge. Was Churchill peeved? Maybe frustrated and disconcerted by this refusal to his repeated, almost formal, personal requests? Did he, as a result, have a pique against freemasonry? There is no evidence to indicate any such emotions on the part of Winston.
There are many interesting implications in this exchange of correspondence. The kind-hearted concerns of Clementine and her influence on Winston. The naivety of Churchill’s approach to the Grand Master and the presumption of effective political influence on Grand Lodge proceedings.
An element of naivety – or maybe just a perspective of freemasonry in between the wars that we are unable to appreciate today – is to be found in the context of Churchill’s only other recorded visit to a Masonic Lodge. On 10 December 1928 Winston Churchill was the guest of the Worshipful Master W H Bernau, who was Churchill’s insurance broker, at the Royal Naval Lodge No 59. He signed the attendance book – now on display together with his apron and case, in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London - indicating the Studholme Lodge, in brackets, as his Lodge. The next day Bro Bernau wrote to Churchill at Chartwell, as follows:
Dear Mr Churchill,
I wish to thank you again for so kindly coming to the dinner last night – I very much appreciate your giving up your evening in that way and I only hope you were not bored stiff.
Masonry might have as powerful an effect as the League of Nations if it could be properly worked with a central meeting ground for representations of all the Grand Lodges in the World
W H Bernau
There is an annotation on the letter in Winston Churchill’s handwriting addressed to his secretary, which curtly states:
say I enjoyed it.
This was not the end of Masonic Churchill’s Masonic contacts. On 6 October 1943
W Bro E E Natty on behalf of ‘a number of Loyal Freemasons residing in this City (Belfast)’ wrote to Winston Churchill ‘desirous of forming a Lodge to be called . . . The Churchill Masonic Lodge’ and requested his permission to do so. This led to an internal exchange of memoranda between Churchill’s Private Secretary Edward Marsh and his Personal Secretary Mrs R E K Hill. Edward Marsh effectively instructed Mrs Hill to decline the request which is reflected in Mrs Hill’s response to Mr E E Natty dated 9 October 1943: ‘….Mr Churchill would be complimented by your request …. (and) would prefer that his name should not be used in this way, since he is unable to take a personal part in the Lodge’s activities.’
What are the conclusions to be reached, then, of Winston Churchill’s Masonic career?
Clearly Winston, in becoming a freemason, complied with the fashion of the time and his friends and colleague’s sociable activities and wishes. He followed in a long-standing and distinguished Churchill family tradition of freemasons. His respect, affection and the influence exerted on him by his father Lord Randolph, will have played a part in his joining the craft. No doubt, it also fulfilled Winston’s own curios interest in the fraternity. He was a joiner and freemasonry was only one area of his interest in similar organisations. In November 1904 he accepted honorary membership in the Hawthorn Lodge of the British Order of Ancient Free Gardeners, he is recorded as a member of the Loyal Waterloo Lodge of the National Independent Order of Odd Fellows in, Manchester in April of 1907 and of the Albion Lodge, Oxford of the Ancient Order of Druids in September 1908. (his father, was also a member of the Woodstock Lodge of Independent Order of Foresters). Winston Churchill’s association with freemasonry must be placed within this context of his membership, and almost certain equal inactivity, in all these various organisations.
To state that freemasonry will not have made an impression on Churchill would be belittling the depth of our fraternity. On the other hand to imply that his life or actions were in any way fundamentality influenced by his having been a mason is unreasonable at best. There is not the slightest indication to suggest that Freemasonry had any meaning for Churchill, beyond a pleasant limited social activity. He joined when it was appropriate, he resigned when it was equally appropriate and he was pleased to lend his name to Masonic efforts within his own fields of responsibility. Had freemasonry had any significance of consequence to Churchill we would have known about it. He was a prolific author and has written extensively and in detail about his youth and his life. So have umpteen other authors and biographers. Nowhere is there to be found a mention of freemasonry in any context at all.
These facts, however, detract little from the pride we as freemasons derive in the knowledge that Winston Churchill was a freemason and descended from a long line of active and distinguished Brethren of the Craft.
Credits and Bibliography
Current Secretary of the Churchill Lodge Colin and his predecessor and lodge historian Bob Goode who composed the History written on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Lodge. My grateful thanks are extended to Natalie Adams, Archivist, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, CAMBRIDGE, for the helpful guidelines and leads and access to many source documents from the Churchill Files and to John D Forster, Education Officer at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock for his most impressive and detailed off-the cuff information (duly verified) on Henry John Spencer-Churchill. Also to the members of staff of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Great Queen Street London and the Director for the use of the Library and her somewhat reluctant assistance with primary sources
Did you know how hard is to be a masonic researcher ?
The following exchange of letters is self explanatory and published with
the agreement of Mrs Clements and W.Bro Beresiner
W.Bro. Bruno Gazzo
Editor, Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry
To: Mrs Diane Clements, Director
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
From: Yasha Beresiner, PM Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076
Ref: Primary Sources in the Library
Date: 29 July 2002
I will start by saying how appreciative I am to you and your staff with all
the assistance given me in the past weeks, lest what I am about to say
should in any way be misinterpreted as a lack of gratitude on my part. It
is not my wish in anyway to endanger the cordial relationship I have always
enjoyed with the Library and Museum.
The reason for this letter is that I was most perturbed and frustrated by
your not allowing me to view personally the Stadholme Lodge Register.
On Tuesday of last week, by virtue of my being a mere 'citizen of London' I
was able to view, at the Corporation of London archives, the Charter
granted to the City of London by William I in 1067. Last year at the
Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, I held in my hands Elias Ashmole's Diary of
1646. This morning the British Museum have informed me that there is no
document in their or their St Pancreas Library's vast archives, which is
not accessible to view by any legitimate and registered researcher.
In contrast, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry is not allowing me - a
recognised, professional author researching a commission for an article for
the official United Grand Lodge of England publication - to view first hand
the evidence I need from a document dated 1902!
There is something absurd and wrong here.
My intention is to verify the oft-stated error that Winston Churchill was
raised in Rosemary Lodge. This error is attributed to a faulty entry in the
above-mentioned Register. The error was most recently perpetrated in John
Hamill's 'Freemasonry - A celebration of the Craft' (p. 229).
I feel I need not explain why I need to be able to look and see for myself
primary sources. It is absolutely no consolation to me that, as you stated,
'Lord Northampton himself would be refused the same request'.
Furthermore, with the greatest respect I have for my colleagues Terry
Haunch and John Hamill, it is simply not sufficient for you to tell me that
they had both witnessed the error in question and that I would have to rely
on their reports and, as you put it 'live with that'. Particularly in the
light of the error mentioned in the above paragraph, which is very much a
case in point.
To err is human and I would like to make my own errors. I am sure I am not
You have been kind enough to allow me to publish the matters raised in this
letter as your Library policy. In fairness to us both and future users of
the Library, I would appreciate, when convenient, your formal written
comments before I go ahead.
With kind regards,
Past Master, Quatuor Coronati Lodge no 2076 (EC)
Premier Lodge of Masonic Research
From: Mrs Diane Clements, Director
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry
To: Yasha Beresiner, PM Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076
Date: 29th July 2002
Your letter of 29th July raised issues of considerable importance on which
you have asked me to respond and I am pleased to do so.
I cannot comment in any detail on the examples you raised relating to other
archives/libraries apart from noting that the age of a document is not
necessarily relevant to the issue of access except where the Data
Protection Act applies (with regard to maintaining the privacy of
information about people who may still be alive) or where a similar sort of
rule (e.g.70 or 100 years) is applied by a particular repository (including
the Public Record Office) for reasons of sensitivity.
The other principal factor which needs to be taken into account when
considered accessing is the physical condition of the document. Where a
document is fragile or torn or otherwise damaged, use will inflict further
damage and potentially lead to destruction unless the document is first
conserved. As an alternative form of access "surrogate" copies of documents
can be made available e.g. microfilm, facsimile or, increasingly, digital
I would now like to respond to your particular point regarding access to
the "Studholme Lodge Register" or rather the register within the series for
the period 1887 - 1909 which records the members of this lodge as well as
members of other lodges. Each register in this series exists only in the
single working copy compiled by Grand Lodge at the time.
The registers were used as current documents by Grand Lodge staff in
earlier years but are now used primarily by Library and Museum staff to
respond to requests for genealogical and other information (such as your
own enquiry). The level of use of the registers both historically and today
has meant that they are fragile and a higher incidence of handling could
destroy the material completely, thus it is therefore not possible to allow
greater access at this time.
The issue of access is one of which I and all the Library and Museum staff
are conscious and one we are all working to address. Staff are involved
with a number of measures now in hand which will significantly improve
access to the collection as a whole:
- Computerisation of the Library catalogue (and the Museum) enabling
key word searches and cross references across the library, museum and
archive collections. (The basic Library catalogue should be available by
- Cataloguing of the archives collections so that researchers can
ascertain what information we have. (This is a much longer term project as,
in most cases, there is no existing archive catalogue).
- We have been awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to
catalogue and conserve historical correspondence from 1750 - 1815
(approximately 1700 letters) and the returns submitted by Antients and
Moderns lodges during the same period. (This project is scheduled for
completion by December 2003).
- Digitisation of the membership registers from 1768 to 1886 which
will be available for public access in CD form in the Library and Museum.
(These volumes should be available by the end of 2002 and, if successful,
we will then consider a similar project for later registers).
- A conservation survey of the Library and Archive collections was
undertaken in 2001 to enable us to plan and prioritise work on those
documents and books most at risk.
I appreciate that none of these measures will resolve your concern
directly. However we have advised you that four or five previous and
current members of staff have inspected the register in question and
consider that the note re Rosemary Lodge did not relate to Churchill but to
the adjacent entry. This was specifically checked again for you last Friday
by an experienced member of staff who is familiar with the registers. As
far as I am aware you have been able to view a considerable number of other
original documents relating to Churchill as well as out biographical file
on him where the issue of the entry relating to Rosemary Lodge is also
I am looking forward to reading your work on Churchill when it is