The Peppercorn Ceremony takes place every year on Kings Square in the Towne of St George, Bermuda and surrounds the Ceremonial payment of the “rent” of one peppercorn for the use of the Old State House, Bermuda’s oldest building, by the Master, Officers and Brethren of Lodge St George #200, on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The Old State House was originally constructed from Bermuda Limestone, Cedar trees and turtle oil around 1619. It appears in an early map of the islands printed in 1620 and was distinctive with its flat roof and Italian collianate design. It served as the House of Assembly, Law Courts, Town Hall and occasionally a military barracks. In 1815 the Capitol of the Islands was moved from the Town of St George to the new City of Hamilton and thus all administrative functions moved from the Town. The State House building thus became vacant.
Lodge St George #200 is a Freemasons Lodge operating under the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the oldest Scottish Lodge operating outside of Scotland. Freemasons have been meeting in the Town of St George since around 1794, finally receiving a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in August 1797. The Lodge met in various places in the town including taverns and members houses. In 1815 the Lodge voted to build their own building to conduct meetings and purchased a piece of land next to where the Somers Supermarket sits today. Shortly after that point and before building commenced, the Capitol of the islands was moved to the new City of Hamilton and the State House became vacant. The Governor of the islands at the time, Sir James Cockburn, offered the now vacant building to the Worshipful Master, Officers and Brethren of Lodge St George in “free and common soccage” for the annual rent of one peppercorn. It should be noted that this was not an unusual arrangement in those days and “peppercorn rents” were quite common. In the interests of transparency, it should be noted that Sir James was a freemason himself.
The building changed shape a number of times over the next two hundred years but was restored to its original shape and design in 1971. The newly renovated building was reopened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
The Peppercorn Ceremony in recent years has taken place on the Wednesday closest to St Georges Day (April 23rd). it has been timed to coincide with the annual State Visit of His Excellency the Governor of Bermuda to the Town of St George.
His Excellency the Governor, in all his ceremonial finery, inspects the band and troops of the Royal Bermuda Regiment whilst the Master, Officers and Brethren of Lodge St George parade onto the square in full Masonic regalia. The ceremony is followed by a garden party hosted by His/Her Worship the Mayor of St Georges at nearby Somers Gardens.
This year being the 200th Anniversary of the Grant of the building, there have been a number of functions including special meetings. Masons will be visiting from overseas to take part in this years ceremony and the brethren of Lodge St George will be joined by the Brethren of Irish and English lodges in Bermuda. On the morning of the Ceremony a marble plaque celebrating the Bi-Centennial will be unveiled by this years special guest The Most Worshipful the Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The Grand Master Mason, Bro. Iain Robert Woolridge Gordon of Esselmont who will be visiting Bermuda from Edinbugh in Scotland for the event is accompanied by the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Bro David Begg as well as Douglas Trevor Philand, Second Grand Principal and Grahame John Smith, Grand Scribe E. of the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.
Peppercorn Ceremony Opening Reception Docksiders Restaurant & Bar - Sunday, 17 April - 5:30pm
An Opening reception for the events surrounding the Peppercorn Ceremony.
Bus Tour of the Lodge Rooms of Bermuda - Monday, 18 April - 9:00am
Open to visiting Masons and their families. Includes light lunch. Pick up 9:00am City Hall Car Park, 9:30am pick up at Grotto Bay Hotel Drop off in the city at around 2PM drop off at Grotto Bay on request. Event is free of charge.
Scottish Composite Meeting Festive Board - Lodge Somers Isle, Hog Bay Level - Tuesday, 19 April - 7:00pm
The festive board immediately following a Composite 2nd degree conducted by a mixed team from the three Scottish lodges in Bermuda.
Peppercorn Lunch - Tempest Restaurant, Water Street, St. George's - Wednesday, 20 April - 1:00pm
A post Peppercorn Ceremony lunch for those who participate in the ceremony which is also open to significant others. (Grats and drinks not included)
Charity Gala Banquet - Grotto Bay Resort, Pool Side - Friday, 22 April - 7:00pm
The Gala Banquet, under the esteemed patronage of [GMM], will be relaxing evening meal with fraternity shared by all.
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