Celebrating 300 years

Going the distance

Iestyn Llewellyn is celebrating his 40th birthday by running a marathon for every decade. Matthew Bowen meets the Berkshire Freemason putting his body on the line for charity

Turning 40 is a significant landmark in any person’s life. Some ignore it, others throw parties or buy bright yellow sports cars. Iestyn Llewellyn, however, has chosen to celebrate his 40th birthday by pushing his body to the limit for a good cause.

The Berkshire-based police officer and member of Goring Gap Lodge, No. 8359, which meets in Pangbourne, is aiming to complete four marathons in the four home nations during his 40th year, raising money for children’s bereavement charity Daisy’s Dream. He’s two down, having completed the Virgin London Marathon in April and the Great Welsh Marathon in May. Next up is the Loch Ness Marathon at the end of September, with the Dublin Marathon set firmly in his sights in October.

‘I thought about doing the six nations,’ says Iestyn, who admits to being no runner, ‘but I’m very glad I chose four now.’ He confesses to almost being put off marathons for life after the first one, but says it was the chance to raise money for good causes that has kept him motivated.

Iestyn’s wife, Alex, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. The treatment she received at the Berkshire Cancer Centre saved her life, and she now has the all-clear. It was when Iestyn held a fundraising dinner to thank the centre for all it had done for his family that his journey began.

When Alex was undergoing treatment, the couple’s children, Gwen and Morgan, were just three and nine years old, respectively. They found it hard to process what was happening to their mother and the whole family struggled. ‘Gwen wouldn’t go anywhere near Alex when she had her tubes in,’ Iestyn remembers, ‘and explaining cancer to a nine-year-old was incredibly tough.’

Iestyn had witnessed the devastation that cancer can cause before. His father’s second wife died from breast cancer, leaving Iestyn’s half-sister without her mother. She was supported through this difficult period by a bereavement counsellor, and Iestyn saw the positive impact this had on her ability to cope. It’s this experience that made him seek out Daisy’s Dream.

CHILD SUPPORT

‘I wanted to find a local charity that offered children support like my sister had received,’ Iestyn recalls, ‘and was pleased to find one based in Berkshire.’ Daisy’s Dream works with families across the county, delivering individually tailored one-to-one and group support to children who are going through difficult times, whether that’s a bereavement from cancer or other illnesses, or from an accident, suicide or violent death.

Encouraged by the success of that first fundraising dinner, Iestyn held a second in 2014 – this time for Daisy’s Dream. While preparing to host this one, he discovered that the charity had a spare spot on its London Marathon team. ‘I’d never run anything over 10K before then, but I signed on and ended up doing London and Paris the following year,’ he says. The wheels were set in motion.

Daisy’s Dream is, quite understandably, delighted with Iestyn’s efforts. ‘His enthusiasm and passion for helping children through bereavement is contagious, and he’s such a nice, fun guy, too,’ says Claire Rhodes, who works for the charity as a fundraiser. ‘We don’t receive any government funding, so it’s thanks to all the local champions like Iestyn that Daisy’s Dream is here to provide free, professional therapeutic support and advice for those children facing the dreadful news of the terminal illness or death of a loved one.’

Had Iestyn known about Daisy’s Dream during Alex’s treatment period, he would most likely have asked for its support. ‘They’re a wonderful bunch of people who do amazing things for kids,’ he says. ‘They offered to speak with Morgan and Gwen once I’d told them our story, but I told them to focus on children with a more immediate need.’

At the halfway point in Iestyn’s marathon effort, he has raised nearly £1,400. He’s on track to reach his £2,500 target by the end of the fourth marathon, and won’t rest until he’s achieved his goal. Doggedly determined, Iestyn exclaims, ‘I’ll hold a dance in the village hall and go around begging until I have it all.’

While Iestyn first learned about Freemasonry though his father, who was a member, it was Iestyn’s father-in-law who asked him to join Goring Gap Lodge in 2001. It took eight years for the seed to germinate, but Iestyn’s decision to join in 2009 was made easier by already knowing so many people in the lodge. ‘It’s quite the family affair,’ he says. ‘My uncle-in-law and cousin-in-law are both members, as was my grandfather-in-law while he was alive.’

‘I grew up with a strong moral code… Freemasonry runs on these values’ Iestyn Llewellyn

COMMUNITY MINDED

Goring Gap Lodge has supported Iestyn’s fundraising efforts from the beginning. The Worshipful Master donated profits from a Ladies Night held last year to Daisy’s Dream, and many of the members have dug deep into their pockets to sponsor Iestyn on his numerous fundraising challenges – none has been convinced to sign up to a training run yet, though.

When asked whether he’d consider going for a run with Iestyn, Mark Prior, Acting Senior Grand Deacon, says, ‘Iestyn’s one of the more athletically gifted members of our lodge and it would take me about six months of training to get up to his lowest standards.’

Mark has nothing but respect for Iestyn’s efforts. ‘He’ll do anything he can to give something back, helping so many people in society restore something they’ve lost, or might never have had in the first place.’

Freemasonry has complemented the way that Iestyn chooses to live his life, enhancing rather than changing it. ‘I grew up with a strong moral code, knowing what was right and what was wrong,’ he says. ‘Freemasonry gives me something to hang my hat on, outside the police force, that runs on these values.’

Being a Freemason allows Iestyn to mix with similarly minded people and relax in an environment where he feels he belongs. In addition to his lodge’s charity work, it’s the brotherly love that keeps him committed, despite a hectic work/life schedule.

‘Being a mason allows me to meet people from all walks of life,’ he says. ‘Raising money gives us a common aim and it’s what I do it for; whether that’s raising funds for an individual wheelchair or contributing towards a bigger effort such as supporting victims of a natural disaster.’

Marathons and fundraising dinners are just the tip of the iceberg for Iestyn, who finds as many ways as he can to give back to his community. He’s a Scout leader, youth football coach and organiser of the Rotary Club of Pangbourne’s Christmas float, which hands out sweets to children in Goring every year. For the moment, however, the focus is on training. Despite a few injury scares, there’s no doubt he’ll overcome whatever obstacles stand in his way.

To support Iestyn’s marathon challenge, visit his fundraising page at goo.gl/82eSCU

Published in Features

The Freemasons of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire sponsored the Racing and Family Fun Day at Windsor Racecourse celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry

A huge crowd of over 10,000 were in attendance with seven races, plenty of family fun and special guest Tony Hadley making up the second day of the Best of British Festival at Windsor Racecourse on Sunday July 2nd.

2017 marks the official 300th birthday of Freemasonry, celebrating how 300 years ago, on June 24th 1717, four London Lodges came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The Tercentenary is being commemorated with a calendar of high profile events including the Windsor Race Day.

In the bright sunshine, it was a glorious day of racing and free entertainment including a fun fair which further enhanced the family atmosphere. The special day ended with a fantastic evening concert by ex-Spandau Ballet member Tony Hadley.

During the course of the day, Richard Hone, President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, presented a grant award to Professor Sonia Blandford of the "Achievement for All" charity of £240,000 to help thousands of under-performing children in their education.

Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons Martin Peters said: 'This was a wonderful and very special celebratory event with over 4,000 Masons and their families and thousands of other racegoers enjoying an incredible occasion. 

'From the many favourable comments I received there can be no doubt that we opened up the public’s perception of Freemasonry in a beneficial way. Myself and Peter Lowndes, the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to such a brilliant event to celebrate our Tercentenary - matched only by the glorious weather.'

Berkshire Freemasons Family Fun Day and the start of the Classic 300

Glorious weather greeted the Classic 300 cars and almost 2,000 people in Windsor Great Park on Sunday May 21st, as part of the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary celebrations

As well as the start of the Classic 300, there was a bear hunt and teddy bears picnic, a 300 mile walk to the Copper Horse, displays from over 20 charities together with the Berkshire Masonic Charity and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, a ‘time tunnel’ explaining the history of Freemasonry and the Egham Brass Band who made sure the day went with a swing.

UGLE's Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, started the Classic 300 at 2pm having first viewed the cars, talking to their owners and visiting VIPs. Oliver Lodge, Grand Director of Ceremonies, introduced HRH The Duke of Kent to the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Sayonara Luxton, Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, Colin Hayes, Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire and Chairman of the organising committee for the event, and other dignitaries including Provincial Grand Masters from other Provinces and members of the Classic 300.

Over 100 classic vehicles of all types - car, motorcycles, commercial vehicles and even a six-wheeled Range Rover fire engine - turned up for the occasion and made for a spectacular sight in the sunshine, as HRH The Duke of Kent flagged them off for the start of the Classic 300, an 18 mile drive around Great Windsor Park.

Elsewhere, the 300 mile challenge for 300 people to walk one mile each to the Copper Horse along the Long Walk was easily achieved with over 400 people taking part. In fact, over 800 miles were walked as they realised that it was a mile back to the show ground as well!

The bear hunt was also a great success with many proud new owners enjoying a picnic with their TLC bears.

Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons, said: 'It has been a wonderful day, with a really good turnout and it is quite clear that everyone enjoyed themselves.'

Rachel Jones from the Masonic Charitable Foundation commented: 'We all very much enjoyed the event – what a fantastic way to celebrate the Tercentenary year and raise awareness of Freemasonry.'

This was the national start of the Classic 300. Over many weekend dates between now and October 1st the series continues all over the UK, with separate runs to the Isle of Man, the Lakeland Motor Museum, Thruxton Race Circuit, MFest300 in the Midlands, the Shelsley Walsh hill climb, Ashton Gate rugby and football stadium, Brands Hatch race circuit, Beaulieu Motor Museum and many more famous motoring venues. The national final will take place at Brooklands Circuit in Surrey on Sunday October 1st.

Scroll through the gallery at the top to view some of the classic vehicles on display

300 years of heritage on display at Reading Museum from 14th February to 27th May 2017

Freemasons have been a part of the community in Berkshire since at least 1724 and a display of Masonic artefacts spanning 300 years will be on display in Reading Museum from 14th February to 27th May 2017.

The Tercentenary is not only an important historical landmark; it is celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry and its heritage. The display reveals how Freemasonry has developed in the local community from the 1700’s, the core values of the organisation and the role it plays in society, including the charitable works undertaken.

The display includes items from the Napoleonic and First World Wars and of particular note is a Master’s chair dating from about 1800. It has an ornate painting on the back containing Masonic symbolism (squares, levels, pillars, columns, chequered floor) and is thought to have been made by a Scandinavian carpenter who was a Napoleonic prisoner of war.

In addition, one of Oscar Wilde's Masonic membership certificates, on which Wilde's 'Masons Mark' can be seen, is on disply. On temporary loan from the vaults at London’s Museum of Freemasonry, this is the first time ever that Oscar Wilde’s certificate has been put on public display. Originally initiated into Oxford University's Apollo Lodge, his connection with Reading was his infamous incarceration in the town prison 1895-1897 and his writing of ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’.

There was a reception to mark the official opening of the exhibition in Reading Museum on Monday 13th February 2017 attended by The Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Berkshire, The Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes and a number of Mayors from Berkshire local authorities. Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master for the Masonic Province of Berkshire formally opened the exhibition.

On Saturday 29th April, Mark Dennis, Curator of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons' Hall in London will give a public talk in Reading Museum to coincide with the exhibition.

Martin Peters, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire commented: 'Freemasonry is more relevant today than it ever has been, particularly with regard to its community involvement and contribution to local good causes. I am delighted that we have been given the opportunity to present Freemasonry in this way and on behalf of our 3,000 members in Berkshire I thank Reading Museum for showcasing our work.'

Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading Lead Member for Culture, Sport and Consumer Services, said: 'I'm delighted to see the Berkshire Freemasons have put together this fascinating glimpse into local Freemasonry heritage, hosted at Reading Museum, to mark 300 years of national Freemasonry. It is great to see this organisation’s rich history made accessible to the public.'

Brendan Carr, the museum’s Community Engagement Curator said: 'It has been intriguing to work with the local freemasonry community to produce this display. It is a story weaved into Berkshire’s wider social history over three centuries. The Museum is about presenting the facts and using real objects to promote understanding. I hope that this not so secret look at 300 years of heritage will dispel some of the myths that have built up around Freemasonry.'

Revving up for the Tercentenary

Celebration of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary year will continue this Sunday when the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club launch the Classic 300 at Windsor Great Park – the first in a series of individual classic vehicle runs

A large gathering is expected as UGLE’s current Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent will be in attendance and will be officially starting the event.

Fans of classic cars will certainly be in their element, with a vast array of vehicles set to be displayed on the Review Ground, a large grassed area, from 10 am before proceeding on a short symbolic run at 2:30 pm.

The Classic 300 has 18 national classic car runs taking place across England and Wales this year at famous venues including the Isle of Man’s TT, Brands Hatch and the Brooklands motor circuit in Surrey. The runs are open to Freemasons and those with an interest in Freemasonry and classic or future classic cars.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire will also be holding a number of Tercentenary events on Sunday at Windsor Great Park including a 300 mile walk, which refers to 300 people walking one mile, and a teddy bears’ picnic. Everyone who takes part in the mile walk will receive a commemorative certificate to celebrate the Tercentenary.

Entrance to Windsor Great Park is free and parking is available for everyone.

You can find out more about the Classic 300 here

Published in More News

Berkshire Freemasons provide hundreds of Christmas presents for sick and disadvantaged children

A magical Christmas is assured for hundreds of needy children in Reading after the Freemasons of Berkshire raised over £8,000 to provide toys and gifts for Reading Family Aid and the children’s wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

On Tuesday 20th December a wonderful collection of toys, games consoles, TV monitors and much, much more, were delivered to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, for use in the Lion, Dolphin and Kempton Wards, the Children’s Day Clinic and the Buscot Baby Ward.

Local Freemason Mark Heppelthwaite originated the fundraising in 2015 and it was so successful that it is now an annual appeal by Freemasons across Berkshire to provide Christmas presents for the many sick and disadvantaged children in the area. 

The gifts were presented to Ian Thomson, the Charity Director of the Hospital and members of the nursing staff, by Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons accompanied by David Jarvis and Roy Stone. 

This follows a presentation on Monday 5th December when Mark, David, and Roy also delivered hundreds of toys to Ruth Perkins and her team of helpers at Reading Family Aid for the Toys and Teens Appeal that will help to provide Christmas presents to over 1,200 underprivileged children in and around Reading. 

Ruth said that her team were once again amazed at the generosity of Berkshire Freemasons and she thanked all of the Lodges and their members for their support in providing for those less fortunate than themselves.

Martin Peters, Provincial Grand Master, said: 'This is the second successful year of support for this appeal by the Berkshire Freemasons. Due to the overwhelming generosity of the 95 Lodges in the Province of Berkshire and their members we raised the staggering total of over £8,000 to provide the gifts for Reading Family Aid and the children’s wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

'Mark Heppelthwaite and Roy Stone, who took on the challenge of procuring the hundreds of gifts involved, have been extraordinarily busy. It would have been impossible to achieve our aim without the fantastic support from the management and staff at Toys R Us, Reading and we are truly most grateful to them all. To enable us to complete the requested lists and more they also visited Currys/PC World, Smythes and ASDA, to purchase the five TV monitors, Playstation remote controllers, and in excess of fifty DVDs, and much more.'

Friday, 30 December 2016 14:48

Magical start to Christmas for 500 children

Berkshire Freemasons provide visit to Windsor pantomime for sick and disadvantaged children

A magical start to the Christmas season was given to 500 children by the Freemasons of Berkshire with a visit to the Theatre Royal Windsor on Tuesday 6th December to watch Jack and the Beanstalk. Coachloads of excited children arrived with parents and carers, to be greeted by Father Christmas in the lobby and handed a goody bag filled with fun items, the glowsticks being a particular success.

The cast of Anthea Turner as the Fairy, Timmy Mallet as the King, Jason Gardiner as the Giant’s Henchman, Stephen Blakely as Dame Trot and Kevin Cruise as Simple Simon were joined by Luke Harley and Anna Campkin as Jack and Jill. The children provided a great audience, putting as much into the performance as the cast and the noise they made was wondrous to hear! Ice cream for all added to the festive fun and as usual the end of show singing and malarkey was a big hit!

Martin Peters, the head of the Berkshire Freemasons, met the guests of honour from Daisy’s Dream, Windsor Family Friends, DASH, Varity at Work and the Sebastian Trust together with children from Pathway Special Needs, Addington School, Bourne End Academy and Stony Dean School Amersham. They all had a great time assisted by the less than elfin ‘Elves’ and willing helpers made up from Freemasons across Berkshire who were directing the children to their seats and dishing out goodies.

Michael Brown, the organiser of the Panto Project said: 'The Berkshire Freemasons Panto Project was enjoying its 12th consecutive year. The aim is to give a magical day out for children who are terminally ill, disabled, under privileged, or with educational difficulties. We buy all 600 seats in the theatre and distribute the tickets to the various organisations. The project is funded through the Berkshire Masonic Charity, with help from the Maidenhead Advertiser Louis Baylis Trust, and individual masonic lodges and Freemasons from across Berkshire.'

Mike continues: 'We do all the preparation so that all the organisations have to do is get the children here and we all ensure that they have a great time'.

PhD scholarship funding in Berkshire

To mark the University of Reading’s 90th year and the Pharmacy Department’s 10th year the Berkshire Freemasons are funding a PhD Pharmacy student with a grant of £15,000 from the Berkshire Masonic Charity (BMC). This postgraduate scholarship will be known as the Berkshire Masonic Charity Scholarship in Pharmacy, and the grant will be paid at £5,000 per year over 3 years

The first cheque for £5,000 was presented on behalf of the BMC by John Palmer, Secretary of the BMC, and Stan Crooks of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101, the Berkshire Universities Scheme lodge, to Dr Becky Green, Head of the Pharmacy Department, in the presence of University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell.

Windsor open day marches to success

Beneath the imposing shadow of the magnificent 11th-century Windsor Castle, Berkshire Freemasons and their friends were a high-profile addition to the street scene to promote the Windsor masonic open day.

The centrepiece of the promotions was the ‘Freemasonry – What’s it all about?’ gazebo. Nearly 100 people visited Windsor Masonic Hall during the day, with 27 expressing an interest in becoming a member. 

The local council provided a special dispensation to site the gazebo on the Guildhall concourse, giving a prime location for the display – with the unexpected benefit of seeing a Guards Band pass by during the event.

Thursday, 19 March 2015 09:07

Windsor Masonic Open Day 2015

Beneath the imposing shadow of the magnificent 11th century Windsor Castle, Berkshire Freemasons and their friends were a high profile addition to the street scene on 31st January 2015, there to promote the Windsor Masonic Open Day

The centrepiece of the day's external promotion was the 'Freemasonry – What's It All about?' gazebo. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council provided a rare special dispensation to site this gazebo on the Guildhall concourse, giving a prime location for our display. This centrepiece caused considerable interest from passers-by, who were encouraged by the team to visit the open day at the masonic hall. The team even wondered at one point whether HM The Queen had turned out her guards to parade past!

The masonic hall in Church Lane, located just behind the Guildhall, is a building of some antiquity having been built in 1725 to house a charity school. It was sold to Castle Lodge (now Windsor Castle Lodge No. 771) in 1862 for £500 and remains under Windsor Castle Lodge ownership to this day.

It has the most superb painted lodge room and is well worth a visit, for its beautiful décor alone. There is no documentary evidence, contrary to common myth, that it was built by Sir Christopher Wren, who actually built and designed the nearby Guildhall in 1702. The Guildhall has unique architectural features such as the cantilever roof with pillars of an exquisite design and workmanship, that do not actually touch the actual ceiling, and is well worth a visit. The masonic hall might not have actually been built by Wren, but he did live in Windsor during some of that period, so one can see why this story perpetuates.

The masonic hall itself was dedicated on 24th November 1864 by VW Bro Aeneas J McIntyre QC, Grand Registrar in charge of the combined Province of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The ceremony was followed by a banquet held at the Guildhall for some eighty Freemasons. The bill for this dinner was £26.6s.0d.

When guests went through that famous red door they were met and greeted by a dedicated team answering the key question: 'So... Freemasonry – What is it really all about?'

Ask a hundred Freemasons this question and you probably would get a hundred different answers. Explanations were given about Freemasonry's huge charitable giving programme, individual personal development, masonic symbolism and the fact we all have serious fun! However, the summary had to be, 'Taking the good man on a journey of self-discovery and making him even better.' Visitors were offered a tour round the centre, including its magnificent painted temple and if really lucky given a cup of tea.

Nearly 100 people visited the Windsor Masonic Hall during the day and 27 of them expressed an interest in becoming new members. More importantly, Berkshire Freemasons once again demonstrated the spirit of openness and the benefits of Freemasonry to our community.

A review was printed and posted online in the Windsor Observer: http://www.windsorobserver.co.uk/news/roundup/articles/2015/02/04/107309-freemasons-of-berkshire-thrown-open-the-doors-of-their-windsor-hall-for-open-day/

Everyone involved agreed the event had surpassed all expectations and it has set the benchmark for all future events.

The next Open Day will be at Berkshire Freemason's headquarters in Sindlesham on 25th April 2015.

Berkshire Freemasonry - Coming to a town near you, very, very soon!

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