The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: David Harrison
David Harrison’s latest book is a cracker – very readable and full of marvellous detail. He draws from earlier researchers such as Neville Barker Cryer’s book on the York statutes and finds a few errors with these. The characters he presents are fascinating and colourful. It becomes clear that the early members of the Grand Lodge at York were powerful and influential people in Yorkshire. They were often related to each other. Many were Catholics and Jacobite supporters. No wonder the Premier Grand Lodge was worried about them!
They were educated men with scientists, writers, artists and actors among their number. They were a long way away from London and thus were able to profess Hanoverian support while in reality intensely aware of their Northern roots and their links with the Irish and Scots. We are told that the army of the Jacobite rebellion of ‘45 passed through Yorkshire unharmed and without any problems for the local Yorkshire population – suggesting clear support for the rebellion. Many early members had been on the Grand Tour and were very interested in classical architecture and history. This was reflected in the magnificent building to be found around York remaining to this day. Harrison provides a number of photographs of the buildings as well as some of the source documents. We are also given photographs of some of the characters presented.
We hear how bad boy William Preston linked with the Grand Lodge of York to set up his Grand Lodge South of the River Trent and also how the antagonism of the Premier Grand in London was often tempered at local level by members belonging to both Grand Lodges at the same time! There is a good bibliography for further reading and Harrison has provided vignettes for all the main characters of the time – particularly the Presidents of the Grand Lodge. What a fascinating lot they were! We are given footnotes for further explanation as well as online sources and journals for further reading. Harrison has clearly done a lot of homework and the book should be taken slowly to digest all that is being presented. The printing is clean and well presented; some older eyes might have welcomed a slightly larger print. Harrison tells his story within the context of the social influences of the time and it is clear why a later United Grand Lodge would seek to eliminate political discussion within the lodge. I really enjoyed the book – and all for under a tenner!
Reviewed by Charles Pendleton
Arima Publishing, 2014
ISBN 978 1 84549 629 6