Lever’s interest in Masonic items began when he became a Freemason in 1902. He was initiated as the first member of the new Lever Lodge, founded by his workers. He became a senior Mason at both local and national level, founding several lodges and was a patron of Masonic charities. He saw Freemasonry as a way of improving social and personal conduct among his male workforce.
Lever bought his Masonic collection in the 1920s from Albert Calvert (1869-1946), an unsuccessful businessman. Calvert was passionate about Freemasonry and probably began collecting items after becoming a Mason in 1894. His businesses were in mining but were not very successful. By 1918 they had failed and he was forced to sell some objects. He wrote to Lever in 1920 offering mainly jewels and regalia for £2000, but accepted Lever’s offer of £1750.
Over the next three years Calvert offered Lever various ceramics, glassware, books and manuscripts, for a total price of £1850. Lever declined the offers but eventually bought them for £650.
Calvert was convicted of fraud in 1922. Lever knew this, but did not doubt the authenticity of the items he had bought. His instincts were correct because the collection is one of the largest and most important of its kind in Britain.
The collection contains approximately 640 items many from the 18th century. It includes jewels, aprons, collars, cuffs, sashes, ceramics, glass items and certificates.
Lever’s personal Masonic items are in the Lever the Collector gallery. The rest of the collection is in store.
Access to the collection is currently restricted while we carry out cataloguing.