Library & Museum of Freemasonry
(above) The solid silver Burdett Cask
The Library and Museum has recently
acquired a number of interesting objects.
The Burdett Casket, a presentation casket
with important Masonic connections, was
purchased jointly with the Provincial Lodge
of Mark Masons of Middlesex from a private
European collector, and is now on display at
the Library and Museum.
The casket is made of solid silver and
is approximately eight inches long, five
inches wide and five and a half inches deep.
A column of ivory topped by a globe is
at each corner.
The casket is finely chased on each side
around a central enamel decoration
including the coats of arms of the Royal
Arch and the Mark. The lid is finely
decorated with leaves and more enamels –
this time the coats of arms of Middlesex and
Surrey – and at the top is the figure of
charity with a child at her feet.
The lid opens with a small triangular key
to reveal a presentation scroll. The casket
was made by Mappin and Webb and has its
own specially designed leather case
The casket was presented to Sir Francis
Burdett on 19th February 1892 to mark his 21
years as Provincial Grand Master of Mark
Masons in the (then combined) Province of
Middlesex and Surrey.
Burdett was born in 1813 and spent
his early years in the army in India, where
he was initiated into the 13th Dragoons
Lodge No 400, meeting under the Irish
On his return from India in 1849
he began to take a more active part in
Freemasonry and became Senior Grand
Warden of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
In 1869 he was appointed a Past Senior
Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge
when the Grand Lodge of Ireland selected
him as their representative.
He was chosen to be the first Provincial
Grand Master of the Provincial Grand
Lodge of Middlesex in the same year and
was installed in 1870, having first been
installed as Master of Burdett Lodge
In 1871 Burdett became Provincial
Grand Master of Mark Masons in the
(then combined) Province of Middlesex
and Surrey and also Grand Superintendent
of Royal Arch masonry in Middlesex. He
held these offices up to his death on 31st
May 1892, three months after the casket
Diane Clements, director of the Library
and Museum, was amazed when she first saw
the casket. “I had only seen black and white
images of the casket, and so when I first saw
it ‘in the flesh’ I was absolutely stunned. It is
a fantastic addition to the collection here at
Freemasons’ Hall as an important piece of
“I am very grateful to the Mark Province
of Middlesex for their financial support and
to other Middlesex Masons for their help –
including with French translation!
“Thanks are also due to Terry Iles, a
member of Jewels of the Craft, who first
alerted me that the casket might be available.
He was enormously helpful in putting me
in touch with the right people.”
The ‘Releif’ seal
Library & Museum of Freemasonry
Chinese porcelain bowl
Although the Library and Museum already
has an extensive collection of Chinese
export porcelain bowls, occasionally a
version comes to light which is different.
Recently the Library and Museum
purchased a punch bowl (about eleven and
a half inches in diameter) decorated with
the coat of arms of the Premier or Moderns
Grand Lodge, taken from its seal.
There are a number of examples of bowls
with the Antients coat of arms, but fewer for
the Moderns. The Library and Museum also
possesses the original steel seal of the Premier
Grand Lodge, and this is now on show
alongside the bowl.
The border decoration of the bowl
dates it to around 1795. No records are yet
known which shed light on who might have
commissioned the bowl (which would have
been made to order) and in what circumstances.
As Diane Clements points out, the article
by the former Librarian and Curator, T. O.
Haunch, in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum
(Volume 82, 1969) on English Craft
Certificates provides some additional
The seal is the variation known as the Releif
seal (from the misspelling of ‘relief’ shown
on it). The obsolete spelling “releif” is used
consistently in the minutes of Grand Lodge
between April 1737 and October 1757,
during which period the minutes are all
written in the same hand.
Only this version of the seal is used in
Premier Grand Lodge certificates, and it is
probably from a certificate that the image
was copied by Chinese decorators.
The steel seal preserved in the Library
and Museum is inscribed on the reverse
“I Cartwright London Sculp”. A James
Cartwright, described as an “Ingraver” is
recorded as a member of Lodge No. 197,
meeting at the Jack of Newbery, Chiswell
He may be the engraver of the seal
(and possibly of some early Grand Lodge
certificates), but no further information is
known. Lodge No. 197 subsequently ceased
meeting and was erased in 1775.