Talking to both City of London residents and people outside this rotten borough, few seem familiar even with the surface structure of this local authority, let alone its deeper and more hidden support system in the form of the ward clubs, livery companies and the various masonic lodges connected to them. This support structure can perform actions on behalf of the council – such as hosting a meeting of far-Right figures – which the council can disown should the media show an interest in the matter. That said, while our initial focus here will be on masonic lodges, the livery companies are both more significant and far better suited to performing public functions such as hosting politically contentious events.
The capstone in the City of London lodges is Guildhall 3116. As we’ve reported – more than once – since it’s founding in 1905, more the 50% of the City’s Lord Mayors have been members of the Guildhall Lodge. Here’s what David Wootton – Lord Mayor in 2011-12 – has to say about how membership of lodge 3116 fitted into his masonic career. He was speaking just after becoming Assistant Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2014:
I went on for years only being a member of Argonauts Lodge as I didn’t have enough time to do much else. It’s only in the past ten years that I’ve been able to become more involved in Freemasonry. When I was elected in 2002 to the City Council, someone said that I’d have to come to Guildhall Lodge, No. 3116. There have been close connections for a long time between the lodge and Freemasons’ Hall, with the Rulers often attending. I like doing ritual and I must have been noticed. I was offered the chair of Guildhall Lodge, started to get to know people and became aware that the then Assistant Grand Master David Williamson wanted to retire. One thing led to another and I was asked if I wanted the position. Sir David Wootton interviewed by Luke Turton, Beyond The City, Freemasonry Today website, 4 September 2014.
While Wootton is a relatively high profile figure, it is often just as productive to focus on those who are less visible, for example Aldgate councillor Hugh Morris who on his local authority declaration of interests states that he is a member of the Guildhall Lodge and Institute of Directors, as well as a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants. According to his LinkedIn profile Morris co-authored a 1999 Fabian Policy Report, so he may once have been linked to the Blairite faction of the Labour Party – although he has no political party affiliations listed on his current declaration of interests. It was during Tony Blair’s stint as UK Prime Minister in 2003 that the City succeeded in getting the franchise of the utterly undemocratic business vote system widened; so while the City’s so-called grandees are generally more drawn to Tory libertarianism, Blairism was and remains completely compatible with its values. Likewise most in the City seem to have no problem with the ideologies of the far-Right politicians recently hosted at the Guildhall by the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants, to which as we’ve noted Morris belongs. This is how Morris is described on the Aldgate ward website:
Hugh has spent some 37 years in business. Educated in York, he then went to Cambridge University from 1977–80. Subsequently he joined (what became) Accenture and stayed there for 21 years, becoming a partner in 1991 and a global managing partner in 1997. Most of his work was for City of London clients, notably the London Stock Exchange as well as the London Metal Exchange, London Market insurers and City investment banks and global banks. Since 2001 he has held a number of roles in the consulting and outsourcing sectors, including running his own business, Laureate Legal Services from 2009–11. Currently he is assisting a number of City clients to develop new business initiatives.
He had the honour to be elected to the Court of Common Council for Aldgate Ward in 2009. He is a Deputy Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Projects Sub-committee, a member of the Finance and Audit & Risk Management Committees, Deputy Chairman of the Information Systems and Projects Sub-committees, Chairman of the London Drugs and Alcohol Policy Forum, on the court of The Honourable The Irish Society, a member of the City of London Archaeological Trust and a Governor of the City of London Freemen’s School.
Morris illustrates how one specific councillor meshes with the various institutions connected to the City of London, and how they all centre on this local authority’s headquarters at The Guildhall. Morris doesn’t list membership of a ward club – civil society organisations based in the wards of the City of London – but then such a membership would be of secondary significance to a livery man and master mason of the Guildhall Lodge. And while the Guildhall Lodge is perhaps a little more than a ‘first among equals’, the livery lodges are not without significance. Here’s what someone involved with them has to say about the livery lodges:
The Livery companies of the City of London comprise London’s ancient and modern trade associations and guilds, almost all of which are styled the “Worshipful Company of…” their respective craft, trade or profession. Most Livery companies maintain their original trade, craft or professional roles to a greater or lesser degree; some still exercise powers of regulation, inspection and enforcement, while others are awarding bodies for professional qualifications. In 1515, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London settled an order of precedence for the 48 livery companies then in existence… Today there are 110 City livery companies, with all post-1515 companies being ranked by seniority of their creation. Many of these liveries have their own livery halls and a smaller number have an associated Masonic Lodge.
Almost all of the Lodges commented in their answers that they are either growing or in rude health. A number of them, particularly Cito lodge 9650 commented that it had an unusually young average age, due in part to it being linked to the Worshipful Company of Information Technology – which, as an industry, tends to have a younger demographic. Most of the lodges also mentioned that they had strong links with Royal Arch Chapters, often being a ‘feeder lodge’ for those Chapters. City Guilds Chapter No 4256 and Paviors and City Livery Chapter 5646 have a number of the Livery lodges feeding into them…
The favourite tradition of the Livery lodges according to the secretaries is that of visiting amongst themselves – the ‘Inter-Livery Lodge Visiting Scheme’. This is a tradition of the masters of each lodge visiting the other livery lodges during their year of office… Once a brother has passed through the chair of his lodge and is Freeman or Liveryman of one of the liveries he is then entitled to join The City of London Lodge of Installed Masters 8220. This lodge meets in the crypt of the Guildhall – the epicentre of the City of London and hence all the Liveries. This is a prestigious lodge and has a number of the most senior officers of the craft as members and indeed past masters. As an installed masters lodge it regularly runs presentations and question and answer sessions for the benefit of the brethren present.
For the freemen and liverymen of liveries that don’t have an associated Lodge there is the City Livery Lodge 3752… This lodge meets at the Charterhouse… A number of livery lodges are open to all livery members or a selection of liveries. However, these lodges follow their livery’s membership requirements steadfastly – to be in some way involved in its particular trade, whether professionally or as a hobby. For instance, perspective joiners of Cito lodge 9650 should be able to show that they either work in or can show significant involvement with information technology.
Similarly, Per Caelum 8602 expects that you’re a pilot or in some way involved in flying. Taurus 3981 is another lodge in the same vein, you should be involved in butchery or its industry in some way as it’s linked to the Worshipful Company of Butchers, which has that requirement of its members. Lastly Cutlers 2730 expects you to be a member of its Livery associated with sword makers and surgical instruments.
In conclusion… they are all linked to the Livery Companies of the City of London in some way and share membership with them. Secondly, they all have their own unique traditions which aren’t present in other types of lodges and they particularly enjoy their place within the ‘City’…
So Why Should I Visit… A Livery Lodge by W. Bro Rod Glyn-Thomas, Arena issue 24, Spring 2016 (pages 28/29).
The activities of the livery companies are considerably more public than those of the City’s sexist male only masonic lodges. The livery companies don’t exclude women from membership, so in some ways they resemble co-masonry but – on the surface at least – they appear less secretive. The fact that these masonic lodges, livery companies and ward clubs are entwined with the City of London council is illustrated by recent Standards Committee discussions of freemasonry:
In response to queries raised at the last meeting, the Town Clerk reported that Guildhall Lodge (like certain other lodges) were granted use of the Guildhall Crypts for meetings three times per year at no charge. Members questioned whether lodges were unique in receiving this type of discount. The Town Clerk undertook to report back on this matter.
With regard to Mansion House, the Town Clerk reported that Guildhall Lodge paid the appropriate rate for ‘City linked’ organisations. This was technically a discount from the standard rate in the same way that the Livery and charities receive a discount.
Minutes of City of London Standards Committee meeting, 8th July 2016 (Item 3.)
These matters were discussed at Standards Committee meetings over the course of nearly a year and there is no need for everything to be detailed here. To cut to the chase:
A Member, who had also been present at the Hospitality Working Meeting at which this matter was discussed, reported that there had been detailed discussion around this with over half of the Members present declaring a non-pecuniary interest by virtue of the fact that they were Freemasons. These Members were invited by the Chief Commoner to contribute to the discussions and provide any background information but refrained from voting on any outcomes.
Members were informed that the Hospitality Working Party had concluded that both the Guildhall Lodge and Londinium Lodge should continue to have free use of the Guildhall on the same basis as any other Member/staff club was. It was felt that it was no longer appropriate for the City of London Lodge of Installed Masters (who were currently charged the Members’ private hire rate of 10% of the commercial rate) to be entitled to this level of discount and that, going forward, they should now be charged a higher, ‘City Connection’ rate which was currently offered to all Livery Companies, Ward Clubs etc.
Minutes of City of London Standards Committee meeting, 19th May 2017 (Item 6.).
This then is one among many places in which a link between the City of London council, the ward clubs, livery companies and certain masonic lodges is confirmed. Despite this, when The Guardian reported last month that the City of London’s Guildhall had been hired by a livery company to host a lunch for figures such as ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, senator Armando Siri of Italy’s League party, as well as some City of London council personages, the story ended with the local authority’s disingenuous response: “The City of London released an official statement describing the event as a private lunch hosted by an outside body.” This sentence concludes the news item City row after Guildhall is used to host Italian far-right politician by Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 22 May 2018. See also our post Mark Wheatley, Racist Politicians & The City of London Using Pride To Provide Itself With A Fig-Leaf Of Respectability.
City Matters identified the livery behind this contentious event as being the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants. Is this really ‘an outside body’ as The Guardian reported the City of London council claiming, or is it a cat’s paw? Clearly when it suits the City of London this livery company and others are described as ‘City linked organisations’, to justify the discounts they enjoy when using council facilities – effectively publicly funded subsidies for events such as the far-Right lunch with Armando Siri. But when the City of London wants to shrug off responsibility these ‘linked’ and ‘connected’ organisations metamorphose into outside bodies – as is clear from the City’s statement quoted by The Guardian. We’d like Hugh Morris – and other City of London councillors – to state definitively if they want the City to treat the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants as an ‘outside body’ and to charge it the full market rate when it hires rooms from the council. If this and other livery companies are not City linked and connected, then they shouldn’t be getting discounts. We’re also keen to hear what Morris has to say about the Armando Siri event hosted by a livery company he belongs to.
Hugh Fenton Morris, Aldgate councillor & Master Mason at the Guildhall Lodge.
Sir David Wootton interviewed by Luke Turton, Beyond The City at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180614234831/https://www.freemasonrytoday.com/ugle-sgc/ugle/interview-sir-david-wootton-assistant-grand-master-former-london-lord-mayor
Hugh Fenton Morris register of interests at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180614235932/http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgDeclarationSubmission.aspx?UID=380&HID=2455&FID=0&HPID=505888065
Hugh Morris Aldgate Ward profile at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180615000456/http://www.aldgateward.com/about-us/hugh-morris/
PDF of Arena issue 24, Spring 2016, containing So Why Should I Visit… A Livery Lodge by W. Bro Rod Glyn-Thomas, Arena issue 24, Spring 2016 (pages 28/29) at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180615000947/http://www.arena.londonmasons.org/images/arena/24/Arena_24.pdf
The full list of Livery linked Lodges as given in the piece on them by Rod Glyn-Thomas (with livery in brackets where it’s not obvious): Pellipar 2693 (Skinners), Cutlers 2730, St Catherine 3743 (Turners), City Livery 3752, Feltmakers 3839, Taurus 3981 (Butchers), Painters and Stainers 4256, Needlemakers 4343, Laus Deo 4821 (Bakers), Lora et Aries 5086 (Loriners), St Julian 5107 (Innholders), Basketmakers 5639, Paviors 5646, Love and Friendship 6123 (Gold and Silver Drawers), Farriers 6305, Poulters 6876, Blacksmiths 7175, Plaisterers 7390, City of London Lodge of Installed Masters 8220, Per Caelum 8602 (Air Pilots), Paul’s Wharf 8731 (Carmen), Cito 9650 (Information Technology), City Gate 9890 (Security Professionals).
Minutes of Standards Committee meeting, Friday, 8th July 2016 11.00 am (Item 3) at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180615001941/http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=50159
Minutes of Standards Committee, 19th May 2017 (Item 6) at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180615002155/http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=60015
City row after Guildhall is used to host Italian far-right politician by Ben Quinn: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/22/city-row-guildhall-used-host-italian-far-right-politician
Councillors cry foul over party politics in Guildhall by Jo Davy: https://www.citymatters.london/city-councillors-cry-foul-party-politics-guildhall/
The City of London ward boundaries have been redrawn since Stephen Knight’s The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons was published in 1984, and the names of councillors have changed – as have demographic and other statistics – but some of its pages still give an idea of the grip freemasonry has on the City of London. That said any careful reader will note that Knight does not suggest freemasonry is a dominant power within the City, which as an institution – or overlapping group of institutions – is glued together by a variety of networks of influence including freemasonry. Outside conspiracy theory circles commentators tend not to view masonry as the most significant of these; leaving aside the financial industry, the livery companies and mainstream political parties – in particular the Conservative Party – seem to wield far greater influence. While freemasonry clearly thrives in the bankrupt political system on which the City of London operates, it is the business vote and not masonry that is the greatest impediment to democracy.
Where masonry can be seen to wield influence is over who gets certain plum posts on the City of London council, such as Lord Mayor. Collectively masons don’t look like they make any effort to influence specific policies. Despite the pretence that the overwhelming majority of City councilors are ‘independents’, beyond a shared belief among nearly all of them in the so-called free market and in promoting the interests of corporations and the wealthy, there are still clear political divisions. While contemporary masonry attracts more members among those with Conservative Party leanings, even within this broad (overwhelmingly Protestant) church there are ideological differences. Given the diversity of the small ‘c’ conservative views among those who belong to ‘the craft’, it would be both difficult and foolish for the masonic lodges either singularly or collectively to attempt to micro-manage City of London political policy. What modern masonry does is contribute to a culture of political and social conservativism within the City of London’s administrative apparatus. That said, it is just one of a number of institutions to do this, and is certainly not the most important among them. We would also emphasize that in the eighteenth-century masonry was not socially and politically conservative and back then in England at least as likely to appeal to Whigs as Tories. While never ‘revolutionary’ in the way some far-Right conspiracy theorists claim, nonetheless masonry degenerated into the utter backwardness that is now characteristic of it over time. What follows is from Stephen Knight’s The Brotherhood:
It is the continuing belief in the importance of ancient tradition which is largely responsible for the undying strength of Freemasonry: for Freemasonry underpins all the great and influential institutions of the Square Mile. According to confidential statistics from Great Queen Street (i.e. the Masonic Grand Lodge in London’s Covent Garden), there are 1,677 Lodges in London. Hundreds of these are in the City. Between the hours of eight in the morning and six at night when the City’s residential population of about 4,000 swells to 345,000 with the influx of commuters, the Square Mile has the highest density of Freemasons anywhere in Britain…
For administrative purposes the City is divided into twenty-five wards. Ten of these wards have their own Lodges. Aldgate Ward Lodge No 3939; Billingsgate Lodge No 3443 (mainly for those associated with Billingsgate Fish Market); Bishopsgate Lodge No 2396; Cordwainer Ward Lodge No 2241; Cornhill Lodge No 1803; Cripplegate Lodge No 1613; Farringdon Without Lodge No 1745; Langbourn Lodge No 6795; Portsoken Lodge No 5088; and Tower Lodge No 5159.
Five of the six Common Councilmen representing Aldersgate Ward – Arthur Brian Wilson (Deputy), Hyman Liss, Edwin Stephen Wilson, and Peter George Robert Sayles – are Freemasons. Only Michael John Cassidy is, at the time of writing, not a member of the Brotherhood. Every ward, without exception, has at least one Freemason among its representatives.
One Common Councilman who openly admits he is a Freemason spoke to me about the commonly held belief that there is an immense Freemasonic influence on affairs in the City. He asked me not to identify him as it would put him in ‘bad odour’ with his brethren.
‘I have never noticed any direct masonic influence. It’s always there, one accepts that, always just beneath the surface as it were, but I would say the City is run more on an Old Boys network than on a Freemasonry network, just as somewhere you meet people and get to know them and presumably get chummy with them…
All the main salaried officers of the Corporation are Masons. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to reach a high position in Guildhall without being an active Brother, as three senior officers currently serving and two past officers have informed me. The subject of Masonry is spoken about openly in interviews for high posts. At the time of writing, the Town Clerk, the Chamberlain, the City Marshal, the Hall Keeper, the City Solicitor, the City Architect and the City Engineer are all members of the Brotherhood…
The influential Livery Companies are almost entirely peopled by Freemasons. Like the Brotherhood, the Livery Companies – the name derives from the ceremonial dress of members – have developed from the medieval craftsmen’s guilds and from religious or social fraternities. Some companies are involved in education and some are influential in the operation of their trade. There are close links between the guilds and livery companies and the Corporation: the City and Guilds of London Institute, set up in 1878 to promote education in technical subjects and set examinations, is a joint venture. And the Lord Mayor of London is selected each year from two of the city’s twenty-six aldermen who are nominated by the 15,000 liverymen. To qualify for membership of one of the livery companies, a man must be a Freeman of the City, an honour generally awarded by Freemasons to Freemasons, although there are many notable exceptions. A number of Livery Companies have their own Lodges* and the City Livery Club has its own temple. A masonic alderman told me: ‘There are so many competing bodies, especially in the City. What with Livery Companies, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Ward clubs, there are so many competing clubs. I would have thought that most people in the City attach much more importance to their Livery than they do to their Freemasonry – although of course the majority of Livery Club members are Freemasons as well.’
The Corporation of the City of London is so strongly masonic that many connected with it, some Masons included, think of it as virtually an arm of Grand Lodge. But it must not be forgotten that the City is first and foremost a financial centre. And money to a successful financier – Freemason or not – speaks louder than anything. When it comes to a choice between serving Mammon and serving the Brotherhood, all but a few Freemasons in the City act upon the masonic principle enshrined in the fifth paragraph of The Universal Book of Craft Masonry, which declares, ‘Freemasonry distinctly teaches that a man’s first duty is to himself. . .’
*Basketmakers Lodge No 5639; Blacksmiths Lodge No 7175; Cutlers Lodge No 2730; Farriers Lodge No 6305; Feltmakers Lodge No 3839; Paviors Lodge No 5646; Plaisterers Lodge No 7390; Needlemakers Lodge No 4343, etc, etc.