300 years after the publication of the first Book of Constitutions, the lounge bar at Blackpool Masonic Hall was transported back in time to 1723 to listen to James Anderson, played by Martyn Jones, explain the development and publication of the first Book of Constitutions of the Freemasons.
Martyn (James Anderson) was assisted by his contemporaries John Desaguliers, played by Blackpool Masonic Hall Chairman Colin Goodwin and George Payne, played by Group Charity Steward, Robert Marsden.
In the audience were Assistant Provincial Grand Master Duncan Smith, Miss Geraldene Greenhalgh Grand Inspector for Lancashire of The Order of Women Freemasons and local Freemasons and their families and friends.
Announcing the players was the usher, Kevin Croft who is a current Provincial Grand Steward and holding the various themes together was the narrator, Blackpool Group Chairman Stephen Jelly.
The story commenced with the Reverend James Anderson, later to be Doctor James Anderson. Born and educated in Scotland, now living in London with his very good friend John Desaguliers who had crossed the channel to seek refuge in Britain. Life was good in 1723 if you had money and status.
James Anderson related the story of the 1723 Book of Constitutions which was radical in its ideas and proposals, a great influence on the thinkers of the day. The appeal of Freemasonry can be attributed to the publication of the Book of Constitutions, which contained many popular principles such as religious tolerance, high personal standards, education and self-improvement.
The Book of Constitutions provided a template for Freemasonry, these were also emulated by other societies in Britain and around the world. The basic premise being the election of officers with one member, one vote and majority rule and the right of individual lodges to regulate their own proceedings within the federal government model. An ideology based on equality, aspiration and merit.
The Irish Constitutions were based on the Book of Constitutions and its philosophy was used extensively in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin in America, also by others throughout Europe in the 1730s and 1740s.
The celebration of the tercentenary of the 1723 Book of Constitutions was organised by the Friends of the Blackpool Masonic Museum, led by the curator Martyn Jones in conjunction with the officers of the Blackpool Group and group chairman Stephen Jelly.
Martyn Jones said afterwards: “The 1723 Constitutions set a pattern for Freemasonry throughout the world. Understanding its context helps to explain the origins of modern Freemasonry and shed light on the relationship between Freemasonry and society today.”
On display throughout the evening was an actual facsimile of the 1723 first Book of the Constitutions. The only copy known to be in existence outside of London. A raffle after the event raised £240 for the Friends of the Blackpool Museum of Freemasonry.
Special thanks must be extended to the following people; Stephen Jelly as the narrator, Martyn Jones as James Anderson, Colin Goodwin as John Desaguliers, Robert Marsden as George Payne, Kevin Croft as the usher. Also, in supporting roles were Michael Tax as the slide projectionist, along with Denis Askam and Peter Chivers as the sound engineers.
Story and photography by Gordon Ivett, Blackpool Group Publicity Officer.