The Prestonian Lectures – Part 2

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

It is interesting to see that neither of those two extracts (mentioned in part 1) announcing the revival of the Prestonian Lectures made any mention of the principal change that had been effected under the revival, a change which is here referred to as their new form. The importance of the new form is that the Lecturer is now permitted to choose his own subject and, apart from certain limitations inherent in the work, he really has a free choice.

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Nowadays the official announcement of the appointment of the Prestonian Lecturer usually carries an additional paragraph which lends great weight to the appointment: The Board desires to emphasize the importance of these the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It is, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures will be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.

The Prestonian Lecturer has to deliver three “Official” Lectures to Lodges applying for that honour. The “Official” deliveries are usually allocated to one selected Lodge in London and two in the provinces. In addition to these three, the Lecturer generally delivers the same lecture, unofficially, to other Lodges all over the country, and it is customary for printed copies of the Lecture to be sold, in vast numbers, for the benefit of one of the Masonic charities selected by the author.

The Prestonian Lectures have the unique distinction, as noted above, that they are the only Lectures given “with the authority of the Grand Lodge”. There are also two unusual financial aspects attaching to them. Firstly, that the Lecturer is paid for his services, though the modest fee is not nearly so important as the honour of the appointment.

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Secondly, the Lodges which are honoured with the Official deliveries of the Lectures are expected to take special measures for assembling a large audience and, for that reason, they are permitted‑on that occasion only to make a small nominal charge for admission.

Of necessity the Lectures are given orally to different kinds of Masonic audience (ranging from ordinary Lodges to Study Circles and prominent Research Lodges). The subjects are usually popular and simple themes, or at least capable of being expressed in clear and uncomplicated language. In three cases within the period covered by this volume (1924‑1960) the Lectures dealt mainly with esoteric matters‑always of the highest interest to the listeners‑but the nature of their contents prevented them from being printed and they are necessarily omitted from this collection. They are:-

1924 W.Bro. Capt. C. W. Firebrace, P.G.D. – The First Degree.

1932 W.Bro. J. Heron Lepper, P.G.D. – The Evolution of Masonic Ritual in England in the Eighteenth Century

1951 W.Bro. H. W. Chetwin, P.A.G.D.C. – Variations in Masonic Ceremonial.

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

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My reasons for publishing these lectures, through Freemasons Are Us, is to ensure that they are not overlooked and that new Freemasons, Masonic students and Freemasons in general can easily access this well researched, well written and sanctioned material, after all, the education of our people is paramount to their retention.

Also, as all of the lectures are now out of print, the only chance one has of obtaining copies are through sites like “ebay” where copies have fallen into the hands of non-Freemasons who expect a higher than normal price, purely because they are Masonic. The other reason is that these days many of them can only be accessed through larger Masonic libraries which not every brother has time to visit or search.

Therefore, I hope that by publishing the lectures though this site, the legacy of many faithful brethren will not be lost and that they will prove a valuable aid in Masonic study as well as a motivational tool for further research and study.

The first lecture in this series will be:

1925: The Development of the Trigradal System by Lionel Vibert

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