Celebrating 300 years

Local communities are set to benefit following a surprise £50,000 donation to Brecon Hospital from Brecon Freemasons, in the Province of South Wales

The generous donation was made at the Brecon Freemasons’ Festive Board, which took place at the Castle Hotel in Brecon, to mark 300 years since the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.

Professor Vivienne Harpwood, Chair of Powys Teaching Health Board, receiving the donation on behalf of the hospital, said: 'I am so grateful and humbled by this generous donation from Brecon Freemasons. We knew in advance that the Freemasons wished to make a donation to Brecon War Memorial Hospital, but the size of the donation was very much under wraps until the cheque was presented to us.

'This will make an amazing difference, and we look forward to working with the Brecon Freemasons to use this donation for the benefit of local communities.'

Graham Richards, Charity Steward of Brecknock Lodge No. 651, presented the cheque saying: 'The highlight of our Tercentenary celebrations was the presentation of a cheque for £50,000 for the benefit of the Brecon War Memorial Hospital in appreciation and a recognition of the services and care given to Freemasons and their families and indeed to the whole community of Brecon & District.'

The Tercentenary has been an opportunity for fundraising and charitable works across the UK. John Ingham, Worshipful Master of the Brecknock Lodge, said: 'The first lodge in the UK was established in 1717, and here in Brecon our first recorded meeting was in 1764 with the Brecknock Lodge meeting in its current form since 1855. What better way to mark this momentous occasion than by upholding one of the main tenets of our organisation, the support of charity.

'Over £70,000 was donated to good causes and I would like to thank all Lodge members for their support.'

Donations by Brecon Freemasons included £5,000 to Wales Air Ambulance, £200 to Calan Domestic Violence Services and £15,000 shared between the following 15 local and international charities:

A club for everyone

With the New and Young Masons Clubs Conference 2017 seeking to build on Freemasonry’s foundations, Matthew Bowen meets the organiser, Dan Thomas, to see why the future is in safe hands

On 14 October 2017, the walls of the Severn Street Masonic Hall in Birmingham echoed with the sounds of progress. Within the ancient building, 100 new and young Freemasons from across the country gathered to discuss ways of ensuring the Craft’s relevance in the 21st century. They were there for the annual New and Young Masons Clubs Conference (NYMCC).With more than 30 new and young masons clubs operating in Metropolitan and the Provinces, the annual conference – now in its third year – plays a vital role in inspiring change. This change can occur within clubs themselves by offering ideas and advice on best practice. It can also happen across Freemasonry as a whole by bringing new brethren face-to-face with some of the most senior masons in the country.

FRESH PERSPECTIVES

The responsibility of hosting the event this year fell to The Five of Nine Club and its chairman, Dan Thomas. Dan joined St Peter’s Lodge, No. 7334, in Warwickshire eight years ago, aged 27. As a young policeman, Dan finds that Freemasonry complements his life and he enjoys every challenge it brings. Attending the NYMCC in 2015 inspired him to share his enjoyment among his peers and launch The Five of Nine Club for new and young masons. 

‘I went to that conference just wanting to have a look at what was going on, and came away with so much information that, when we launched the club, it was like we had been given a two-year head start,’ says Dan. ‘These clubs are all about bringing young masons together. There may only be one young brother in a lodge within the Province, but by getting them involved in the club, they feel a wider sense of community.’

Aside from pulling together to organise the NYMCC, The Five of Nine Club also arranges regular social activities that have so far included go-karting, paintballing and a brewery tour. ‘The focus is on enjoyment,’ explains Dan, with the hope being, he adds, that ‘enjoyment translates into higher retention rates among junior masons.’

Recruitment and retention are equally important goals for masonic clubs, as reflected by the theme of this year’s conference – ‘Building and Maintaining the Foundations’. According to Five of Nine Club patron and Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire David Macey, Dan and the club have excelled at both. ‘We set Dan some fairly optimistic targets to hit within 18 months, and he smashed them in six,’ he says. 

Though new and young masons clubs champion the views of a specific group of masons, the benefits they bring are being felt across the board. As David says, ‘The club’s energy and vitality is brilliantly infectious, not just within the youngsters they’re influencing, but on us senior masons as well.’

One of the senior masons present, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, delivered a keynote speech on how new and young masons clubs and the UGLE can work together. Dan was honoured when the Deputy Grand Master announced he’d like to attend. ‘The fact that he wanted to give a talk shows how important new and young masons clubs are to Freemasonry, and recognises the phenomenal work being carried out by every club,’ he says.

EVERYDAY FREEMASONRY

Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Deputy Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group Gareth Jones also took the stage. He joined Freemasonry as a 26-year-old in the 1980s, and believes it is as relevant today as it has ever been. For Gareth, Freemasonry is ‘a place away from the pressures of everyday life to sit quietly, reflect, learn and make daily advancements’. He spoke on the need for masonry to become more intertwined in communities, about the Improvement Delivery Group and on how Freemasonry must improve its reputation. ‘Let’s be frank – our image has traditionally been stuffy, middle-class and only for older people who can afford to join. It’s these ways of thinking that we need to get away from,’ he said, praising efforts being made by the clubs to revitalise the Craft.

QUALITY CONTROL

‘We talk about [the] reduction [of] membership over last two years,’ Gareth adds, ‘but this is a symptom rather than a problem in itself. The problem has been, to a growing extent, one of quality in how we have engaged with communities and the media, and the way we’ve brought people in and looked after them once they’ve joined. We’ve put in a lot of effort in the last few years to address those problems, and these clubs are proving to be an effective way of arresting the decline we’ve seen since the mid-nineties.’

With the buzz around the new and young masons clubs, it would be easy to get carried away in the excitement. A key theme of the conference, however, was the importance of installing proper governance and setting clear objectives. David stressed at the conference that ‘structure is imperative to channel enthusiasm and pass it on to others’.

David led the conference into a breakout session on how to launch, manage and grow successful new and young masons clubs. Reflecting on the event and on his role as patron of The Five of Nine Club, David says, ‘It sounds as if I’m being condescending when I say, from the bottom up, that we’re learning so much from an age group we were in danger of neglecting.’

With buy-in at such senior levels, Dan is confident this is just the start for new and young masons clubs, and expects to be attending conferences for years to come. ‘Since last year’s conference, there’s been an unbelievable increase in numbers of clubs across the country,’ he says. ‘We’ve seen more recognition in Quarterly Communications and more senior support coming forward in support of the clubs.’

Find out more about clubs in your area - click here.

Published in Initiatives & Clubs

South Wales Freemasons held a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at St Lythans, near Wenvoe, to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry and raise money for the Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) Appeal

More than 3,000 distressed children and their families will be helped by the £4,000 raised at the event.

The picnic will help to provide TLC Teddies to A&E hospitals in South Wales, including Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital.

Port Talbot Masonic Lodges marked the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England by ‘adopting’ an ornamental garden in Margam Country Park and installing a commemorative monolith which was engraved with references to the 300th anniversary and Port Talbot Lodges

Future plans to further establish the Garden with the help and co-operation of Margam Country Park staff will include bilingual information boards and seating, along with the planting of flowers in the box hedge beds, to provide both the local community the facility to sit, quietly relax and reflect in a peaceful area, with the aim to be a lasting legacy for all.

The impressive monolith was donated by Michael Walton, an Officer of the Afan Lodge No. 833 in Port Talbot.

The Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Gareth Jones OBE unveiled the stone in the company of many masonic members and partners, including the Rev Edward Dowland-Owen, the Vicar of Margam Abbey, who blessed the Monument and Garden, as well as Leaders of the Neath Port Talbot Council Rob Jones and Neil Evans, the Estate Manager of Margam Country Park Michael Wynne and Head Gardener Jeannette Dunk.

It was also particularly fitting that the stone be laid within the Park and Margam Castle, which was formerly the home of the Talbot family, who assisted with the cost of the impressive Port Talbot Masonic Hall and generously enabled Masonic progress in the town.

A pioneering programme of non-contact boxing, combined with intensive one-to-one support will be helping young people from deprived backgrounds in South Wales to turn their lives around, thanks to a grant from South Wales Freemasons

The £16,000 grant will pay for 150 young people go through the Empire Fighting Chance charity’s programme of non-contact boxing combined with intensive, tailored support focused on education, employability and wellbeing.

Run from boxing gyms in Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil and Barry, the programme uses punch bags, skipping and a focus on technique, which improves discipline and physical and mental health. Participants also receive regular mentoring, numeracy and literacy classes, counselling and help preparing for the job market.

The grant from South Wales Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends from across England and Wales.

Despite significant progress over recent years, there are still parts of South Wales that suffer from some of the worst poverty in the UK. Young people face a devastating mix of issues that limit life chances, most notably low academic achievement, poor mental health and high unemployment. Despite the huge challenges they face, few services exist to support them.

Results from the charity’s pilot programme in Bristol point to success. An impressive 87% of the pilot’s participants progressed into employment, education or further training, while 92% reported that they felt more confident in themselves after completing the programme.

One young person suffering from very low self-esteem, depression and anxiety had this to say about the Empire Fighting Chance programme: 'Getting involved has changed my life, I now have a job, my own property and life is looking good. I feel more confident in pursuing my career and I no longer have any problems with my rent.'

Martin Bisp, CEO of Empire Fighting Chance, is confident that the new project will be a success: 'We’re very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their help in making this project possible. Together we’ll transform the lives of many vulnerable young people.'

Alan Gardner from South Wales Freemasons commented: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Empire Fighting Chance. This is a charity that does what it says on the tin – it helps some of our most deprived young people to have a fighting chance of making something of their lives.'

On Saturday 14th October, Penarth Masonic Hall celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a special dinner to commemorate their forefathers foresight, exactly 90 years to the day

14th October 1927 was the date that the Foundation Stone was laid for the building of Penarth Masonic Hall by RW Bro Col Sir Charles L.D Venables Llewelyn, Bart., in a public ceremony attended by hundreds of people.

The Foundation Stone can be seen inside the Penarth Masonic Temple in the North East corner. As well as Sir Charles' association with the Hall through the Foundation Stone and the remarkable picture of that event, he also donated a chair which bears his name.

Sir Charles Venables Llewelyn was the Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Eastern Division from 1913 to 1938. Penarth Masonic Hall was one of two that he laid that Foundation Stone for during his tenure, the other being Maesteg in 1924.

He was also responsible for consecrating 30 Lodges throughout South Wales, although he was unable to be present at many due to his War Service. He was able to preside however, at Rhondda Lodge in Pontypridd, and Vale of Glamorgan Lodge in Barry, both in 1919.

Windsor Lodge was founded in 1878 and sought new premises, as its then home in Station Approach, Penarth - now Penarth British Legion - struggled to seat 250 members. Penarth Masonic Hall was built on playing fields at Stanwell Road, once used by Penarth Athletic Club. This was to accommodate the growth in Freemasonry due to the expansion of Cardiff & Penarth Docks.

The first sod was cut in 1927 by 87 year old Frederick George (Daddy) Hodges. The Grand Temple, which was open to the public recently as part of Cadw’s Open Heritage Events, has a magnificent domed ceiling decorated with stars and planets representing the Northern Heavens in September. It was designed Dan Jones, FRAS, and built by Tucker Bros, Broadway, Roath, Cardiff at a final cost of £10,500. The Hall was opened to coincide with the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of Windsor Lodge.

During a fine meal, pictures of the Founding Forefathers and of the historic laying of the Foundation Stone were projected on a large screen, as well as pictures of all the Honours Boards. Paul Haley, Provincial Communications Officer for South Wales, then explained how the evening had enabled past, present and future Freemasons to dine together and look ahead in making the Hall fit for another 90 years, as well as giving a brief history of the Hall. Chris Pratt of Windsor Lodge then gave a Toast to Penarth Masonic Hall, before a further toast was taken from special commemorative shot glasses that were manufactured for the occasion.

All proceeds from the evening will go to making the building fit for another 90 years and, of course, to prepare for its Centenary.

A grant of £4,000 to the Wales Air Ambulance from South Wales Freemasons has brought the total Masonic support given to air ambulances across the country to almost £4 million since 2007

Wales Air Ambulance operates right across Wales, covering over 8,000 square miles of remote countryside, bustling towns and cities, vast mountain ranges and 800 miles of coastline.

The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, is funded by Freemasons and their families from across England and Wales. During 2017, Freemasons from around the country will be presenting 20 regional air ambulances with grants totalling £180,000.

Catrin Hall from Wales Air Ambulance said: ‘We are very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their continuing generosity.

'Without support like this the Air Ambulance would not be able to carry on flying and our life-saving work could not continue.’

Roy Woodward, Deputy Grand Master from South Wales Freemasons, recently visited Wales Air Ambulance, accompanied by John Davies, Freemasons Charity Officer. He said: ‘We are proud to be able to support the Wales Air Ambulance. Thanks to the tireless efforts of their doctors and aircrew, many lives of local people are saved every year.’

Wales Air Ambulance relies entirely on charitable grants and donations. To make a donation, please click here.

A blue plaque has been unveiled on Cardiff Masonic Hall in Guildford Crescent to commemorate 263 years of Freemasonry within Cardiff

Brian Langley, the Chairman of Cardiff Masonic Hall, was invited to join the Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones OBE in the task of unveiling the blue plaque.

The plaque now sits secured proudly above the front doors of Cardiff Masonic Hall for all to see. It was also proudly shown to all those who recently visited the Hall as part of the CADW Open Doors Heritage Initiative during September 2017.

Original records show Corinthian Lodge No. 226, the first Cardiff Lodge, was warranted in August 1754.

Lodges met at the Cardiff Arms Hotel until 1855, when moved to its own premises at 4 Church Street. Again, with the growth in membership, new lodge premises were established in Working Street on 12 January 1877.

In 1893, the United Methodist Church was determined to sell their building in Guildford Street and relocate. The premises were originally built in 1863 for the United Methodist Church at an initial cost of £1600 and boasted seating for 800 parishioners.

The architect Mr John Hartland was well known at the time and other Cardiff examples of his work still in existence are Capel Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church in the Hayes and Bethany Baptist Church in Wharton Street, now incorporated into Howells department store. 

Three Masonic Lodges, Glamorgan Lodge No. 36, Bute Lodge No. 960 and Tennant Lodge No. 1992, who were at that time meeting above a potato store in Wharton Street, made an offer of £4,500 which was accepted. In 1894, the Cardiff Masonic Hall Company was incorporated, funded by member's subscriptions raising the necessary sum plus a further £2,300 for alterations and furnishings.

The premises were finally opened to Freemasonry on 26th September 1895 by the Provincial Grand Master Lord Llangattock, who presided over its first meeting assisted by officers of Provincial Grand Lodge and distinguished brethren totalling around 500.

The building is based in design on Regency Classical coupled with the ancient Doric architecture of Greece.

In 1904 the building was fitted with Electric Lighting at the expense of the Master of Duke of York Lodge. A suitable illuminated scroll was presented to him in recognition of his gift.

In 1918 and in the following eight years, the directors acquired the cottages to the north of the building. These acquisitions enabled the building of a new temple which was named after the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of that time, Edgar Rutter.

The contribution to the community during those 263 years is immeasurable and represents a social history of the life and times of an emerging capital city from its beginnings.

South Wales Freemasons are celebrating the Tercentenary 300 years of Freemasonry within the United Grand Lodge of England and are affixing blue plaques to many of its Masonic Halls across South Wales.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00

First Guernsey public parade for 100 years

More than 300 Freemasons and their families attended a service in Guernsey in celebration of the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England, which was represented by Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson

The service was held at the island’s principal church and was led by the Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Tim Barker.

Prior to the service, the brethren paraded in full regalia through the town of St Peter Port for the first time since the bicentenary in 1917.

They were joined by Jersey Provincial Grand Master Kenneth Rondel, who formally handed over the South West Provinces Tercentenary banner to Guernsey & Alderney Provincial Grand Master David Hodgetts. The service was followed by a festive lunch, at which the Dean was an honoured guest.

A dementia support house has been opened at the RMBI’s Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court care home in Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, following a £300,000 donation from the Province

The new dementia support house, E Wyndham Powell, has 12 bedrooms, reminiscence areas, themed corridors and an internal courtyard with sensory plants. The new facilities are designed to support older people with complex needs and include additional nursing rooms with overhead hoists, a palliative care suite and specially equipped bathrooms.

Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, and Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, welcomed Lord and Lady Northampton to the official opening at the home in Porthcawl. Lord Northampton addressed guests before unveiling a commemorative plaque.

Gareth paid tribute to the late Edward Wyndham Powell, after whom the support house is named. Edward played a key role in organising the £300,000 donation from the Province to support the renovation.

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