Henry Sadler: the first Grand Librarian
Henry Sadler was a great Victorian Mason to whom Masonic researchers owe a great deal, says David Peabody
Masonic historians are familiar with the name of Henry Sadler, but many brethren of today are unaware of the debt of gratitude that all Freemasons owe him.
Henry Sadler was born on 19th October 1840 in the Village of Shalford, Essex, just north of Braintree. Little is known of his early life, but he became a merchant mariner at the age of 15, and by 1862 he was in London, where he spent two years as a commercial traveller.
It was at this time that Sadler's connection with Freemasonry began, when he was initiated in the Lodge of Justice No. 147. In 1865 Freemasons' Hall was greatly expanded, and Sadler was employed by the Grand Secretary's office as assistant to Charles Bryant Payne, the Grand Tyler, where he assisted in the arrangements for the quarterly meetings of United Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter.
Sadler's other duties at Freemasons' Hall included that of housekeeper, for which living accommodation was provided. He would arrange the letting and the booking of rooms, and maintain the Hall in general.
The census for 1881 confirms there were 12 people listed as residents in the Hall - Sadler, his wife Elizabeth, their six children, Elizabeth's older sister Ann, a servant, Eliza, the Irish door porter Nan Stanton, and Caleb Last, the house porter.
In 1879 Sadler became Grand Tyler and Grand Janitor, in which positions he assisted in many consecrations of Lodges and Chapters, thus becoming a well-know figure in London Masonry.
About this time, Sadler began his interest in the 'doings' of our Masonic predecessors, as he referred to it. As Grand Tyler and housekeeper, he had the ideal opportunity to look through all the old bookcases and cupboards and familiarise himself with their contents. At the same time, he started to catalogue the archives and collections that he came across.
He also began to make regular contributions to the Masonic press such as The Freemason and The Freemasons Chronicle.
This enabled him to share the information that he had found, and brought him into contact with the likes of leading Masonic figures such as R. F. Gould. G. W. Speth and John Lane, thus Sadler's reputation began to grow.
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