Having followed in the footsteps of his teacher and
mentor, Thomas Sandby, as Professor of Architecture at
the Royal Academy, Soane would have been attracted
by the invitation to follow in Sandby’s footsteps as a highranking
Some time in December, Soane was appointed Grand
Superintendent of Works and declared as such by the Duke
of Sussex, (1773–1843), the first Grand Master of the United
Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), on 27 December. He
was reappointed in 1816 and held the same rank to his dying
day. He was made President of the Board of Works in 1814,
to enable him to supervise the building of the new
On 4 June 1823 Soane was elected to the UGLE Board
of Finance for a four-year period and exactly five years later,
in 1828, he was nominated to the Board of General Purposes,
where he served for the next seven years.
At the ceremony on 27 December an Ark of the Masonic
Covenant was centrally placed in the temple and played a focal
point in the proceedings when the two Grand Masters and
their respective deputies advanced toward it to perform the
symbolic act of Union of the two Grand Lodges. The Ark,
an idea conceived by the Duke of Sussex, had been built
by John Soane and presented to newly formed United Grand
Lodge, at his own expense.
The first Minutes record: “…the ark of the Masonic
Covenant, prepared, under the direction of W. Brother John
Soane, Grand Superintendent of the Works, for the Edifice
of the Union and in all time to come to be placed before the
Throne.” Sadly, the Ark was burnt and destroyed in the
disastrous fire of 5 May 1883.
His initial association with the Craft may have been on
a purely business basis, which he had almost neglected. It
took several letters from one of the joint Grand Secretaries,
William Henry White, following on the Grand Treasurer’s
initial approach, for Soane to submit finally his valuations,
which were gratefully received and faithfully applied.
Existing correspondence shows that in all transactions with
Grand Lodge, there were delays in execution of the contracts
and the final payments to Soane were delayed because of a
shortage of funds in Grand Lodge. This caused considerable
embarrassment to Grand Lodge and some concern to Soane,
as recorded in his diaries.
His involvement with the valuation and acquisition of the
adjacent properties at 62 and 63 Great Queen Street extended
to negotiations of price and counselling Grand Lodge on the
excessive cost required by the vendors. On his advice alone,
Grand Lodge refused to pay the price demanded.
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