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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Globes and Masons and Prisoners of War

An article in today's Burton Mail announces that two historic globes will soon be auctioned in England.

"Historic" would be an understatement.

The globes were owned by the Royal Sussex Masonic Lodge No. 353, and their heritage is surprising. The members of Royal Sussex Lodge are merely their most recent owners—they were acquired by them in 1817.

According to works by Brother John T. Thorp, during the ongoing battles between Britain and France that lasted from the 1740s, on up through the Napoleonic Wars from 1793 until 1814, French prisoners of war were held in Britain. Between 1803 and 1814, no less than 120,000 French soldiers and sailors were imprisoned in towns across England. It was a very different time and place, then. POW officers signed a "parole", which was an agreement, on their honor, not to try to communicate with or escape back to their country. In return, they received a great measure of freedom, at least in England. Officers were paid a minimal amount to provide for food and separate lodging, and could actually go out and find work, or even start a business.

French prisoners brought their Freemasonry with them, and were allowed to form lodges in towns where there were none meeting. According to an article in the January 2006 MQ Magazine, almost fifty such French lodges sprung up in these POW towns, under the authority of the Antients Grand Lodge (prior to 1813 unification with the "Moderns"). In the town of Ashby, such a lodge was formed, Loge Des Vrais Amis de l’Odre Ashby-de-la- Zouch (Lodge of True Friends of the Order).

According to the article in the UK papers, the French Masons had the globes for their lodge created by George Adams, of Charing Cross, London, considered to be the most important globe maker of the 18th Century (he made globes for Captain Cook). However, Yasha Beresiner's paper Masonic Globes claims the globes were actually made by Dudley Adams.

Royal Sussex' first master was WBro. George Mugliston, a Frenchman living in England who had previously visited Loge Des Vrais Amis de l’Odre, bought them (or otherwise snagged them) from the French in 1817. The wooden stands, pained gold, were built by the prisoners. The globes are expected to fetch at auction between $30,000 and $40,000.

For more about Freemasonry among prisoners, see:
French prisoners' lodges: A brief account of fifty lodges and chapters of freemasons, established and conducted by French prisoners of war in England and elsewhere, between 1756 and 1814 by John T. Thorp

Behind The Wire by Keith Flynn

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