Celebrating 300 years

As part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th Anniversary celebrations, Freemasons from across Leicestershire and Rutland took part in a historic parade through the streets of Leicester – which last occurred in 1923

In glorious sunshine, over 100 Freemasons of all ages gathered in Jubilee Square wearing their Masonic Regalia and subsequently paraded to Leicester Cathedral via the High Street, Gallowtree Gate, Market Place, Grey Friars and on to St Martins prior to a Service of Thanksgiving. 

During the 18th and 19th Century, Freemasons regularly took part in public processions including assisting with the laying of many foundation stones for buildings such as the Town Hall and the Children’s Hospital at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The last occasion was on the 24th June 1923, when a special Masonic Service was held at St George's Church to commemorate the Centenary of the laying of the first Foundation Stone in 1823.

A 20-piece brass band, consisting of members from Croft Silver Band, Wigston Band, Kibworth Band and Foresters Band, began to play at precisely 2pm and proceeded on the route. The Freemasons, including several Masters of Lodges, were lined up in two rows, and followed the band in procession and a steady pace. At the rear was the Provincial Standard Bearer bearing the Leicestershire and Rutland Banner, who was leading the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Peter Kinder and the UGLE’s Deputy Grand Secretary Graham Redman.

Many shoppers in the area were intrigued at the unusual sight of the Masonic procession and stopped to watch as it went by. The Procession arrived promptly at Leicester Cathedral at 2.15pm and was welcomed by the Dean, Very Reverend David Monteith who conducted the Service of Thanksgiving. 

The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: ‘This was a wonderful occasion to mark the Tercentenary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge in the world. I sincerely thank all the brethren who took part in this historic procession, the likes of which Leicester hasn’t seen for nearly 100 years.

‘I hope that it will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic society which has been an integral part of our local communities for 300 years.’

iSight Cornwall has received a significant donation of £15,000 via the Masonic Charitable Foundation Grant Awards

iSight Cornwall, who are based in Newham, Truro, were presented with a £15,000 Community Award from the Freemasons of Cornwall following a successful public vote organised with the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The Community Awards are a major part of Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary celebrations.

iSight Cornwall was one of six self-funded charities who were recently nominated by the Cornish Freemasons with everyone encouraged to vote, including family members, friends and the general public, the public vote deciding the level of Award each charity would receive. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing three million pounds to 300 charities across the country, with awards ranging from £4,000 to £25,000.

It is estimated that there are some 22,000 people living with sight loss in Cornwall, a figure that is expected to grow to 32,000 over the next 15 years. Founded in 1856, iSight Cornwall is the only charity in the county dedicated to supporting people with sight loss to lead active and independent lives.

Terri Rosnau-Ward, Chief Executive of iSight Cornwall, said: ‘We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that took the time to vote for us, we really appreciate your support. This award will help us to extend our Community Development service so that we can reach even more people living with sight loss across Cornwall and to give them the support and advice they need. We would especially like to thank the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall for nominating us for these amazing MCF Awards.’

Mike Pritchard, the Provincial Grand Charity Steward for the Province of Cornwall, commented: ‘The response we’ve received to the MCF Awards, nationally, has been outstanding, but especially so here in Cornwall. The support for the six self-funded charities nominated has also been immense and shows how much local charities mean to the Cornish communities. I feel extremely proud to have been invited to present this award and see for myself what an incredible charity iSight Cornwall is.

'The support and equipment available to visually sight impaired people is staggering, I’ve seriously had my eyes opened to some very special equipment that I didn’t realise even existed, but clearly is essential to so many.’

The Provincial Grand Master for Cornwall Stephen Pearn added: ‘To have met so many wonderful Cornish charities in the last few years is a truly remarkable and emotional experience. The welcome, together with the extra special tour I received at iSight Cornwal,l has been extremely special and a day I will remember for a long time to come.

'To present £15,000 to this special charity fills me with joy knowing what a difference this will make for them and it’s so well deserved. The support all the charities have received in these MCF Awards has been staggering and I sincerely wish to thank everyone – especially the Cornish public for their support.’

To find out more about iSight Cornwall’s services please click here.

East Kent Freemasons have given a grant of £31,000 to the Canterbury Cathedral Trust to support the fourth year’s training for a young apprentice stonemason at the Cathedral, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation

At a recent ceremony, Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing, presented the donation to the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis, saying how pleased the fraternity was to be able to continue their support for the scheme.

In reply, the Dean thanked him and all who had contributed saying how much it meant to the Cathedral and to the young apprentices who were just coming into 'these wonderful crafts here at the Cathedral'.

The apprenticeship programme at the Cathedral offers vocational training to young people that is truly life-changing. Seven apprentices are currently employed at Canterbury – four stonemasons, one painter and decorator, one scaffolder and one chef.

Apprentices are recruited through Kent schools, colleges and advertisements in the local press. Coming from varied backgrounds, they are encouraged to explore their creative talents within the inspirational setting of the Cathedral as well as developing the technical and life skills needed for a career in their chosen trade or craft. Whilst these training placements are exceptional opportunities in their own right, the Cathedral also makes every effort to provide subsequent employment for the apprentices.

Heather Newton, the Head of Conservation at the Cathedral, explained how the donation would be used: 'We are incredibly grateful to the Freemasons of East Kent and to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for this continuing support. There are lots of expenses associated with training Craft apprentices.

'We need to cover everything from travelling costs to and from College, to tools, specialist clothing and the time of more experienced Masons who act as trainers and mentors for our young people.'

This latest grant is in addition to the gift of over £300,000 presented to the Cathedral by the Provinces of East and West Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as part of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. It continues a long and much valued relationship with the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion which dates back over 150 years.

The Freemasons of Cornwall have donated £25,000 via the Masonic Charitable Foundation Grant to the Cornwall Blood Bikes charity, after it received the most votes in a countywide public poll

Thanks to this remarkable donation, the charity is buying a brand new 1200cc BMW response bike and two further second-hand bikes upgrading its ageing fleet that runs throughout the year in all weathers.

Cornwall Blood Bikes was one of six self-funded organisations in the county to be nominated for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) Awards, which saw £3 million handed out to 300 charities and other organisations across the UK as part of its Tercentenary Year of celebrations.

All 80 Lodges, their Brethren, together with family members and friends took part in the vote. The promotion and support for the MCF Grant Awards within the local communities resulted in an unprecedented local response.

The Blood Bikers received the highest out of a £58,000 pot of cash for Cornwall, with iSight Cornwall receiving £15,000, Bosom Buddies UK £4,000, Penhaligon’s Friends £4,000, Young People Cornwall £4,000 and Ellie’s Haven Cornwall £6,000.

The volunteer bikers, who transfer life-saving medical supplies out of hours across the county and further afield saving the NHS in Cornwall around £250,000 each year in taxi fares, arrived at Truro Cathedral to meet the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cornwall, Stephen Pearn for the official cheque presentation.

Ian Butler, Fundraising Manager for the Blood Bikes, thanked the public and Masonic Lodges of Cornwall for their amazing support: 'To have this amount of money donated to us is fantastic. It is an iconic day in the Blood Bikes history. We have been overwhelmed by the public response and want to thank the Freemasons across all of Cornwall for their support. It would take nearly two years and a lot of hard work to raise that amount of cash.

'We have already ordered a brand new BMW that is due to arrive in April next year. We are also buying two second-hand bikes to replace two in the fleet that have clocked up 140,000 miles each. The new bikes will cut down on maintenance and off-road time as well as making us more efficient. This is a brilliant start to our campaign to update our fleet of machines.'

Speaking at the official presentation, Provincial Grand Master Stephen Pearn said he was delighted for the Blood Bikes: 'The donation from The Masonic Charitable Foundation will literally save lives and it’s also a great way to advertise what the charity does. Cornwall’s Masonic Benevolent Fund has been supporting a lot of communities across Cornwall for many years. It’s a great organisation that is fun to be a part of as well as helping others. Our members come from all walks of life.”

The Charity Steward for Caradon Lodge No. 8543, who meet in Saltash, Ross Fisher, has been giving blood since he was 18 was especially pleased with the Blood Bike's donation: 'Since 1995 I have been donating platelets (these are formed in the blood and help it clot and to stop bleeding). Last week was my 250th donation. I have four times more platelets in my blood than the average man. I keep fit and well and feel very proud that I’m able to help others in times of need. The Blood Bikes are a dedicated team giving their time to keep such a vital service running.'

Also attending Saturday’s presentation were several volunteer bike riders local to the St. Austell area. The oldest member of the Blood Bikes team, Conrad Dowding 80, from Launceston, who is still enjoying life on two wheels, said: 'I joined the charity after I lost my wife, Pam to breast cancer. I couldn’t do anything to help her which is why I joined the Blood Bikes team. It was my way of giving something back. I feel part of a great team that is working together to do something worthwhile. We get no NHS funding, we use our own bikes and we work out of hours and can be called on at anytime.'

Five other local Cornish charities also won substantial grants totalling £33,000 and can be viewed here.

A new and exciting exhibition opened in Leicester on Friday 6th October 2017, as local Freemasons marked the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the formation of their governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England

The exhibition provides insights into what Freemasonry is all about and how it has become a significant social institution that is supportive towards local communities.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? explores the intriguing relationship between present, past and the future of Freemasonry across Leicestershire and Rutland. The exhibition covers well known historical figures and Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland through the years and showcases current into Freemasonry and its members, as well as featuring a look into the future of Freemasonry.

This welcoming local journey through Freemasonry shares personal stories and insights of Freemasons across the ages, particularly those that have affected the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland.

The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, said: ‘Freemasonry provides a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships and achieve their potential. This exhibition is an exciting project and I hope it will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.’

The exhibition is a collaborative project between Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, Newarke Houses Museum and the Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office, bringing together a varied and engaging exhibition for all. The exhibition has been kindly constructed by volunteers at the WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Coventry with printing by Gartree Press Ltd, Leicester.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? has been developed and created by a young and exciting local curator, Sophia Kyprianou in conjunction with local Freemasons. She commented: ‘Throughout my time working on the exhibition I have been amazed at how much Freemasonry is supportive, committed and involved at the heart of so many local communities across the counties. Unearthing stories from past and present Freemasons has been incredibly interesting and is something I am keen to share with the public in a creative way throughout the exhibition; giving an insight into what Freemasonry is and how it continues to be an integral part of modern society.’

The exhibition was formally opened by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, Peter Lowndes on a visit to the region.

Freemasonry, What’s it all About? is at Newarke Houses Museum, The Newarke, Leicester, until the 31st January 2018. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am-5pm, and Sunday from 11am-5pm.

For further information about the exhibition and venue, please click here.

Older people who have never learned to use the internet are to be helped online thanks to a £66,000 grant to Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons

Age UK will recruit at least 20 “Digital Champions” who will support and guide 2,000 older people to use communication tools like email, Skype and FaceTime, which younger people take for granted. 

The Digital Champions project is aimed at helping these older people to access online information on everything from benefits to bus timetables. With many services becoming digital by default, older people who are not online face more hurdles in their daily lives to access both private and public sector services. There will also be an emphasis on online safety and protection from viruses and fraud.

The project is supporting older people across Leicestershire and Rutland, with a focus on people in rural areas. It aims to combat loneliness and isolation by helping these budding “silver surfers” to keep in touch with family and friends online.

Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland’s Digital Champions will be holding up to four sessions a week across Leicestershire and Rutland. They will be for around 15 people each and be held in community settings such as libraries, village halls and residential homes, whilst there will also be one-to one sessions available.

Tony Donovan, Executive Director at Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, said: 'We are very grateful to Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for their generous grant which will improve the quality of life for thousands of older people.

'More than four million older people nationally have never used the internet and we need to help them to benefit from all the advantages of a digital world that most of us take for granted.'

The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to support Age UK’s Digital Champions.

'As well as fighting loneliness and depression, getting older people online has great practical benefits. A household without internet access is on average £650 a year worse off.”

More than 1,000 Lincolnshire Freemasons and their families and friends gathered in Lincoln Cathedral for a unique service

Wearing Masonic regalia and parading in the Cathedral for the first time, they were marking the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary and the formation of the first Grand Lodge. The service was conducted by the Dean of Lincoln, the Venerable Christine Wilson, and the Provincial Grand Chaplain of Lincolnshire, the Rev John Spriggs.

The Rev Spriggs said: 'What we know is that 300 years ago formed the first Grand Lodge. From that small beginning, Freemasonry has grown and spread throughout the world.

'As Freemasons we are justly proud of our Craft and all it achieves in the lives of its members and their families, and in the wider community.'

Also in attendance were the Provincial Grand Master Graham Ives, with the Lord Lieutenant Mr Toby Dennis and Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill.

After the service, the PGM Graham Ives presided at a lunch a few miles away at the Epic Centre at Lincolnshire Showground.

The final journey of the Provincial Tercentenary travelling banner made its way through Cornwall on Saturday 14th October, terminating with a Civic Parade through the streets of St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly

The Provincial travelling banner has been specially designed by all eight Provinces that make up the South West region. Each of these Provinces have enjoyed being the custodian of the banner throughout its entire journey arriving at many special locations.

The final leg was supported by the Provincial Grand Masters for Cornwall, RW Bro Stephen C Pearn, and Devonshire, RW Bro Ian Kingsbury, together with a special guest, the United Grand Lodge of England's Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton.

Despite the arrival of the impending Storm Ophelia, the weather, whilst overcast, remained dry and warm. Proceedings started with a bumper lunch at The Mermaid Inn on St. Mary’s Quay, followed by an enthusiastic Civic Parade in full Masonic regalia through the streets, which was supported by local islanders.

The parade continued its way through the streets until it reached Godolphin Lodge No. 7790 , where those who had paraded assembled in the Lodge room together with several lady guests to hear an historic oration by the Provincial Orator for Cornwall, W Bro Mike Murton.

The special events then concluded with a Festive Board held in the stunning conservatory at the Star Castle Hotel.

Shropshire Freemasons celebrated the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary with a magnificent Choral Evensong in Shrewsbury Abbey on Sunday 1st October

With over 300 people in attendance, the banners of the Province were paraded into the Abbey and the brethren were invited to wear full regalia for the service. The event was held in the presence of Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Peter Taylor, his Deputy Roger Pemberton and many distinguished guests.

A procession of banners from the province lodges began proceedings with a pageant of colour and ceremony, with the Provincial Sword, Banner and Standard holding pride of place before the High Altar.

The sermon was preached by the Grand Chaplain Revd Canon Michael Wilson, and the service conducted by the Provincial Grand Chaplain Revd Phil Niblock.

The Abbey's great organ was also played by W Bro Jeremy Lund and as proceedings ended, it was agreed by all those in attendance that the Evensong was a memorable way to mark 300 years of Freemasonry.

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.

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