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The Story Behind the Making of the Tercentenary Stamps

The Isle of Man Post Office wanted to mark 300 years of Freemasonry and recognise the vast charitable donations made by the organisation in the Isle of Man and elsewhere.

There are many ways to design a stamp; photographic, illustrative or representative, but we wanted this issue to honour important places, people and events. Perhaps the most important of these was to pay respect to His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, Grand Master, in his 50th year in office. It is worth observing that he has occupied the office for one sixth of the 300 years of UGLE. To mark this, a subtle ribbon runs around the edge of each stamp in the set of six, with the repeating letters HRHDOKGM50.

We were given a tour of Grand Lodge and the museum of Freemasonry; our starting point for the research for these illustrative stamps was the collar jewels worn by officers within the lodge and the rich lapis lazuli blue and gold of a grand officer's regalia. The jewels are symbolic adaptations of the many styles that are in use around the world, designed to be familiar to all masons, but importantly attractive to non-masons. Each stamp also has a geometric or architectural pattern worked into the background, a reference to a lodge and a GPS reference. The final stamp has three GPS references, but also the call signs of three Air Ambulances; this important reference is to the charitable giving that runs through Freemasonry. If you hold a UV light over the stamps and you will see the official tercentenary logo glowing in pale blue security ink, invisible to the naked eye.

These stamps are available to collectors and the public and you can order them from – special sets will be available, including a First Day Cover, a special sheetlet of six stamps and framed editions.

The individual stamps in detail (the long read)

The 20p stamps bears the Steward's jewel, a Cornucopia or 'Horn of Plenty'. It is a symbol of abundance and reminds Stewards that it is their duty to see that the tables are properly furnished at refreshment, and that every Brother is suitably served. St Trinians lodge on the Isle of Man has been chosen as it is the lodge of the former chairman of the Post Office, Alex Downie OBE, APGM IOM, who has been incredibly helpful in providing text and resources. The geometric pattern on the stamp contains a bright star and concentric rings, representing the brightest star in the firmament. The studies of mathematics and geometry are encouraged amongst all masons, being several of the arts mentioned in the ritual. The GPS reference in the stamp is that of Freemason's Hall in the Isle of Man.

The first class stamp bears the Inner Guard's jewel; two swords in saltire. The sword is also the jewel of the Outer Guard or Tyler, and symbolically enables these officers to "keep off all intruders and cowans to Freemasonry and suffer none to pass but such as are duly qualified". Barbican is a Lodge that meets at Grand Lodge, Great Queen Street. It is a small Lodge representative of London Masons. The patterned background takes inspiration from the ceiling and other adornments in the lodge rooms at Great Queen Street in London, this pattern has Art Deco influence and represents beams of light emanating from a centre. The GPS reference in the stamp is that of The Grand Master's throne in the main lodge room at Grand Lodge, Great Queen Street, London.

The 50p stamp bears a stylised version of the Junior and Senior Deacons' jewel, a dove bearing an olive branch. It symbolises a faithful messenger, and dates back to the story of Noah in 'Genesis'. After forty days and forty nights, a raven was sent out to check if there was any dry land after the flood, it didn't return. Next a dove was dispatched, it returned with an olive branch – a sign that the waters were receding. The background star motif is taken directly from the central boss in the ceiling of the great hall or Lodge Room No 1 at Grand Lodge. The central star is surrounded by smaller stars or lights. Dolphin is a Lodge in Bristol that operates under the Bristol Province in the West of England. The GPS reference in the stamp is that of Freemason's Hall in Bristol.

The £1.30 stamp bears the jewel of the Junior Warden, a plumb rule that symbolises moral uprightness and integrity; it denotes the connection of Heaven and Earth and teaches us to walk in a righteous manner and maintain a straight and undeviating line along the paths of virtue. The Art Deco-inspired pattern is an abstract form taken from the plumb rule, by which we try uprights; again Art Deco in style, it is a simple pattern to match the simplicity of the actions of a virtuous life. Hampden Lodge is a Lodge in Aylesbury, as far from the sea as any lodge can get in England. The GPS reference is that of the Masonic memorial garden at the National Memorial Arboretum. The ground staff very kindly gave the GPS reference by going to the centre of the garden.

The £1.74 stamp bears the jewel of the Senior Warden, a level, symbolising equality. It was used by ancient civilisations as a symbol of equality and justice. The simple and elegant tiled window pattern is inspired by the windows at Freemason's Hall in the Isle of Man. Antiquity is one of the oldest surviving lodges and was one of the four that met at the Goose and Gridiron so long ago. The GPS reference is that of the blue plaque in Paternoster Square / St Paul's Churchyard that marks the former site of the Goose and Gridiron.

The £3.40 stamp bears the Worshipful Master's jewel, the Square, which symbolises morality. It is an angle of ninety degrees or the fourth part of a circle and is the symbol of regulated life and actions. It is the masonic rule for correcting and harmonising conduct on principles of morality and virtue, and as a symbol, it is dedicated to the Master. The Master's symbol, being a square, is represented in this pattern by an overlaid tiled pattern of right angles. Petts Wood Lodge is a lodge in Bromley, one of whose brethren has been so helpful in bringing this stamp issue to fruition. On this stamp there are three very special GPS references; the landing pads of the Air Ambulances at: Caernarfon, Wales (G-WASS), RAF Benson Thames Valley (G-TVAL) and London, (G-LNDN). This symbolic reference to the results of charitable giving honours Freemasons, who have donated millions of pounds to these causes.

The Buckinghamshire Connection

Ben Glazier a member of Hampden Lodge, No. 6483, which meets in Aylesbury, explains his involvement in the design of the Isle of Man Tercentenary Stamps, Ben said: "I was commissioned to do this a long time ago by the Isle of Man Post Office and as Royal Mail is not producing a set, I have been working with Grand Lodge, which has adopted these as the official stamps of the Tercentenary Celebrations.

The stamps gained Royal Approval a few weeks ago and will be presented to His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, Grand Master in May to mark his 50th year as Grand Master. If you have a close look at the stamps, you will see that there are a number of hidden mysteries and codes, but also the names of six lodges. One of these, I am pleased to say, is Hampden Lodge.

This means that Hampden Lodge will go into the histories and records of the Tercentenary and will of course feature in Stanley Gibbons reference books forever."

How to order your own unique set of the stamps

These stamps are available to collectors and the public and you can order them from – special sets will be available, including a First Day Cover, a special sheetlet of six stamps and framed editions.

To find out more:
Isle of Man Freemasonry 
Isle of Man Post Office. 
United Grand Lodge of England 

Buckinghamshire Freemasons

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