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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Carlisle exhibition marks milestone for Freemasons

Three priceless chairs and a dress designed by Jean Paul Gaultier will feature in the largest exhibition of Freemasonry held outside London.

Freemasons photo
John Beadle, left and Ian Milburn at the Masonic Hall. Portland Square

Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum has been chosen as the venue which will showcase the items, each described as national treasures.

‘Into the Light: the Story of Freemasonry’ aims to dispel some of the myths that have grown up around the organisation, which is re-branding itself as more open and inclusive.

Keith Beattie, provincial grand orator for the Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons, and John Beadle, chairman of the Carlisle Group, have organised the exhibition in partnership with Tullie House and the United Grand Lodge in London.

Mr Beattie, of Workington, said: “How Freemasonry started, and how it started in Carlisle will be dealt with quite extensively. It’s bright and breezy and has never been done before.

“It’s got a national importance to it. This is also an opportunity to put the record straight.”

Mr Beadle added: “It’s going to be phenomenal, the largest exhibition of Freemasonry ever seen outside London.”

Renowned designer Gaultier’s dress, designed in his 1980s heyday, was bought by the Grand Lodge because some of its motifs were inspired by Masonic symbolism. It has not been on display since the 1980s.

The ornate gilded Grand Master’s throne will be transported from the United Grand Lodge of England in London along with the senior and junior warden’s chairs

The throne, which dates from 1791, was used by the Prince of Wales George IV, who was Grand Master of the organisation.

The chairs have been constructed in such a way that they can easily be dismantled and have been likened to Georgian IKEA.

The job of taking them apart, transporting and re-assembling them is so delicate that only two conservation companies in the country are qualified to do the work. The display will also showcase material from other fraternal societies which existed in Carlisle including The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, The Good Templars, The Ancient Order of Rechobites, The Independent Order of Oddfellows, The Ancient Order of Foresters and The Orange Order.

Several Masonic aprons and sashes will go on show alongside three wooden gavels crafted by Bishop Thomas Bloomer.

The gavels are said to be made wood taken from the Carlisle Tithe Barn and are now housed in St Michael’s Lodge.

Andrew Mackay, head of collections and programming at the museum, said: “Using the material from London is very important for is. It is an opportunity to bring national treasures to the region.”

There are 14 lodges in Carlisle, the oldest of which are Union Lodge, Bective Lodge and Border City Lodge.

“The number of lodges in Cumbria and Carlisle is huge so it seemed to be the obvious place for an exhibition.” said Mr Mackay.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday May 25 through to July 7.

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