The Prestonian Lectures – Part 1


Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence


 “In the year 1818, Bro. William Preston, a very active Freemason at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, bequeathed £300 3 per cent. Consolidated Bank Annuities, the interest of which was to be applied “to some well‑informed Mason to deliver annually a Lecture on the First, Second, or Third Degree of the Order of Masonry according to the system practised in the Lodge of Antiquity” during his Mastership. For a number of years the terms of this bequest were acted upon, but for a long period no such Lecture has been delivered, and the Fund has gradually accumulated, and is now vested in the M.W. the Pro. Grand Master, the Rt. Hon. Lord Ampthill, and W. Bro. Sir Kynaston Studd, P.G.D., as trustees. The Board has had under consideration for some period the desirability of framing a scheme which would enable the Fund to be used to the best advantage; and, in consultation with the Trustees who have given their assent, has now adopted such a scheme, which is given in full in Appendix A [See below], and will be put into operation when the sanction of Grand Lodge has been received.”

The Grand Lodge sanction was duly given and the “scheme for the administration of the Prestonian fund” appeared in the Proceedings as follows:-


1. The Board of General Purposes shall be invited each year to nominate two Brethren of learning and responsibility from whom the Trustees shall appoint the Prestonian Lecturer for the year with power for the Board to subdelegate their power of nomination to the Library, Art, and Publications Committee of the Board, or such other Committee as they think fit.

2. The remuneration of the Lecturer so appointed shall be £5. 5s. 0d. for each Lecture delivered by him together with travelling expenses, if any, not exceeding £1. 5s. 0d., the number of Lectures delivered each year being determined by the income of the fund and the expenses incurred in the way of Lectures and administration.

3. The Lectures shall be delivered in accordance with the terms of the Trust. One at least of the Lectures each year shall be delivered in London under the auspices of one or more London Lodges. The nomination of Lodges under whose auspices the Prestonian Lecture shall be delivered shall rest with the Trustees, but with power for one or more Lodges to prefer requests through the Grand Secretary for the Prestonian Lecture to be delivered at a meeting of such Lodge or combined meeting of such Lodges.

4. Having regard to the fact that Bro. William Preston was a member of the Lodge of Antiquity and the original Lectures were delivered under the aegis of that Lodge, it is suggested that the first nomination of a Lodge to arrange for the delivery of the Lecture shall be in favour of the Lodge of Antiquity should that Lodge so desire.

5. Lodges under whose auspices the Prestonian Lecture may be delivered shall be responsible for all the expenses attending the delivery of such Lecture except the Lecturer’s Fee.

6. Requests for the delivery of the Prestonian Lecture in Provincial Lodges will be considered by the Trustees who may consult the Board as to the granting or refusal of such consent.

7. Requests from Provincial Lodges shall be made through Provincial Grand Secretaries to the Grand Secretary, and such requests, if granted, will be granted subject to the requesting Provinces making themselves responsible for the provision of a suitable hall in which the Lecture can be delivered, and for the Lecturer’s travelling expenses beyond the sum of £1 5s. 0d., and if the Lecturer cannot reasonably get back to his place of abode on the same day, the requesting Province must pay his Hotel expenses or make other proper provision for his accommodation.

8. Provincial Grand Secretaries, in the case of Lectures delivered in the Province, and Secretaries of Lodges under whose auspices the Lecture may be delivered in London, shall report to the Trustees through the Grand Secretary the number in attendance at the Lecture, the manner in which the Lecture was received, and generally as to the proceedings thereat.

9. Master Masons, subscribing members of Lodges, may attend the Lectures, and a fee not exceeding 2s. may be charged for their admission for the purpose of covering expenses.

Thus, after a lapse of some sixty years the Prestonian Lectures were revived, in their new form, and, with the exception of the War period (1940-1946), a Prestonian Lecturer has been appointed by the Grand Lodge regularly each year.

Extract from The Collected Prestonian Lectures 1925 – 1960 – edited by Harry Carr

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