Celebrating 300 years

Thanks to support from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, along with Leicestershire County Council and The Woodland Trust, the Bradgate Park Trust has been able to dedicate an area for quiet reflection known as the Memorial Wood which was officially opened by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 5th October 2017

In glorious autumnal sunshine, over 200 people witnessed the Pro Grand Master unveil a bronze plaque at the entrance of the Memorial Wood which was followed by a suitable short dedication by the Grand Chaplain Michael Wilson. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger then called upon Peter Osborne, Chairman of the Bradgate Park Trust, to formally accept the Memorial Wood into the care of the Trustees.

The Memorial Wood is an area of woodland to the side of the accessible carriageway that crosses the Park. It offers a tranquil setting overlooking Cropston Reservoir and is reached by a natural stone path. Rich in native wildlife species, the area is bound by traditional metal deer fencing, has seating and a central cast iron deer sculpture, set on a natural stone plinth.

Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Park Trust, said: 'Bradgate Park is a special place for many people and one that is held close to the hearts of visitors and their families. We have been able to dedicate an area for quiet reflection as the Park’s Memorial Wood next to the main carriageway that crosses the Park.

'Bradgate Park’s Bronze Oak Leaves are inspired by the ancient trees of the Park and are a perfect way to celebrate weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, or to remember someone special. They are individually cast in bronze and displayed as a lasting memento on distinctive feature wooden pillars, made from oak from the Estate, within the natural setting of Memorial Wood.'

Bradgate Park, consisting of 900 acres, is the historic home of Lady Jane Grey, the nine day Queen, and was presented in Trust in perpetuity in 1928 by Charles Bennion to the County of Leicestershire and City of Leicester, as an open or Public Park for the purposes of recreation.

The generosity of Charles Bennion has ensured that generations of the local and wider community have had access to the beautiful park, which also supports the protection of wildlife, particularly the herd of deer that freely roam the park. It is the eighth most visited park of its kind in the country. Charles Bennion was also a prominent local Freemason, a Master of four Lodges and was Provincial Grand Treasurer.

RW Bro David Hagger: 'This Memorial Wood will leave a lasting legacy for the people of Leicestershire and Rutland as part of our 300th anniversary celebrations. We therefore felt that with the connection of Charles Bennion with both Bradgate Park and Freemasonry, that this Memorial Wood was a perfect project to fund.

'I must also thank the members of my Tercentenary Committee for their help and assistance, in particular W Bro Andy Green and W Bro Dale Page. It would also be remiss of me not to mention Peter Tyldesley, the Director of Bradgate Park, and his staff, for without their considerable efforts and assistance this project would literally would not have got off the ground.'

If you have any questions about Bradgate Park’s Bronze Oak Leaves and how to inscribe them with a message of your choice, please call 0116 2362713 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Securing our future

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and  humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success

In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.

And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.

GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT

As Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.

This year, the nation has been rocked by the serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.

WORLDWIDE APPEAL

While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica.

The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar. And just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in the Eastern Archipelago, having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of its Lodge of Loyalty.

Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.

‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’

Published in UGLE

At a celebration dinner to mark the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, Northumberland Freemasons gave away £300,000 to local charities

Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland Ian Craigs hosted the event at St James’ Park where almost 800 Freemasons, their families and special guests from North East charities celebrated the Tercentenary. Special guest of the evening was Pro Grand Master Peter Geoffrey Lowndes.

Although the evening was filled with entertainment, good food and distinguished guests, it was the charitable side of Freemasonry that stole the show.

Ian Craigs explained that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland has given away £300,000 to local charities this year to boost worthwhile and deserving projects throughout the region. There are 27 lodge meeting places across North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland and the donations all went to local good causes.

Ian Craigs commented: ‘We’ve tried to donate money to charities close to each lodge building so that we can really make a positive impact on local projects and causes near to where Masonry takes place.

‘Our donations, which were all chosen by our members, will go a long way towards helping the charities concerned carry on their sterling work. This is one of the main things that Freemasons do and often we give without telling anyone. This year, we celebrate our 300th year and we’d like everyone to know how we help their local community.’

Charities benefiting from donations included the Hextol Foundation, Mustard Tree Trust and Percy Hedley Foundation who were each granted £10,000.

Others included the Berwick & District Cancer Support Group, Mind Active Charity and Leading Link who were each given £5,000 on the night.

Leading Link’s manager Julie Greener said: ‘This is a very generous donation that will help us to give valuable skills to the young people of Northumberland. At the moment, we are working on a mentoring scheme that is helping vulnerable young people in the more rural parts of the county. We are very grateful to Northumberland Freemasons for the opportunity to carry on with our work.’

In addition to the 33 charities who attended the celebration event, a further 45 will receive cheques for the good work they do to help the people of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 06:00

Tercentenary banner continues its journey

On what was one of the warmest days of the year so far, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes joined Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Michael Wilks at Hampshire and Isle of Wight's Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in Southampton

One of the highlights of the day was the official handover of the Tercentenary banner from the Province to RW Bro Philip Bullock - Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire

The specially commissioned banner has now been carried through the Provinces of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney and Hampshire and Isle of Wight and on 19th July it will be formally handed to RW Bro Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset.

This year not only marks the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England but also the conclusion of the Masonic Samaritan Fund 2017 Wiltshire Festival, which provides the ideal excuse to hold a celebration lunch in Trowbridge’s Civic Centre on Saturday 23rd September 2017.

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.'

The Classic 300 has been continuing in full force, with two runs held on the same day in Leicestershire and Bristol on July 2nd

In Leicestershire, several Freemasons participated with classic and future classic cars along with their motorcycles. The route was arranged by W Bro David Crocker and W Bro Mark Pierpoint, which started at the Devonshire Court RMBI Home in Oadby. This gave the residents a chance to look at the vehicles including the special edition Mike Tunnicliffe E-type Jaguar.

The classic car and bike enthusiasts then drove in convoy for the 15 mile journey to Bradgate Park on the outskirts of north Leicester. Upon arrival, they were warmly greeted by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger.

Many then walked through the park to the site of the Memorial Wood which is being funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Leicestershire and Rutland and the United Grand Lodge of England as part of the Tercentenary celebrations.

The Park Ranger Peter Tyldesley gave an interesting talk on the history of the park and also the construction of the Memorial Wood which is due to be opened by the Pro Grand Master RW Bro Peter Lowndes on Thursday October 5th 2017. The visitors were shown the newly installed 14 tonne granite stone, which is to be the centrepiece for the wood along with a walk around the paths, which have been created to meander throughout the one acre wood.

South West – Route 2

On the same day, the crowds also gathered on a lovely summer's morning at Ashton Gate Stadium, home of Bristol City FC and Bristol Rugby, to await the arrival of a wonderful selection of classic cars. This was the departure point of the South West Route 2 run to the world famous Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset.

A giant electronic screen on the side of the stadium welcomed all the crews as they entered the car park and after light refreshments the first cars were ready to leave. The Provincial Grand Master of Bristol Alan Vaughan, accompanied by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Jonathan Davis, presented the "travelling gavel" to John Slade, who was driving a beautiful 1967 E-Type Jaguar.

The Union Jack was raised and then at 30 intervals the other 23 cars began their scenic journey, where they passed through Cheddar Gorge, Wookey Hole and the Somerset Lowlands.

Morgans, a Sunbeam Tiger, an Aston Martin, a Triumph Stag, a Royal Sceptre, a Bentley and a Mini Cooper, to name but a few, were then cheered by the spectators as they left.

A packed house descended on Freemasons’ Hall yesterday, as the Library and Museum of Freemasonry opened its doors for a Private View of ‘Rough to Smooth’ – an exhibition of contemporary artwork inspired by Freemasonry

Visitors were treated to an exhibition of new artworks celebrating Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. In attendance was Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, Anthony Wilson, President of the Board of General Purposes, and Jacques Viljoen, the United Grand Lodge of England's very first Artist in Residence, who created the exhibition along with nine guest artists.

The ‘Rough to Smooth’ art exhibition will open to the public during this Saturday’s Open Day, which marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge. It will be a day of exhibitions, music and architecture and the chance for visitors to view the new collection of art - many of which are for sale.

Anthony Wilson commented: 'What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and the variety of responses to Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.'

The exhibition continues next week from Monday June 26th until Saturday July 1st. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entry at 4:30pm.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 09:45

A garden to remember in Staffordshire

As part of the Tercentenary celebrations, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden in Staffordshire

In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the newly created National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent.

It was agreed that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.

Over the next 16 years, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, the Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to over 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.

The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.

A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and brother Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery.

Civic leaders at the event included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson; the Mayor of East Staffordshire, Cllr Beryl Toon; and the Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Ken Norchi. Provincial Grand Masters from many neighbouring Provinces, together with representatives from all of the 96 Staffordshire lodges, were also present.

Peak Time Viewing

With a new documentary series revealing the workings of the Craft, Edwin Smith talks to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes about why this is the perfect opportunity for Freemasonry

For certain members of the general public a misconception persists that Freemasonry is a mysterious organisation shrouded in secrecy. A Sky 1 five-part television documentary series that debuted on 17 April is hoping to finally put these rumours to bed.

Coinciding with the celebration of the Craft’s 300-year anniversary, the timing of Inside The Freemasons could not have been better. ‘We’ve targeted the Tercentenary as a catalyst to being as open as we possibly can,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, adding that the decision to let the cameras in does not signify a major shift in philosophy. ‘I actually don’t think our openness is anything new. What is new is the way we’re going about it.’

The series meets members of the Craft at every level, from the Pro Grand Master to James Wootton, a Bedfordshire farmer preparing to take the First Degree under the watchful eye of his father in the first of the five episodes. The second and third episodes follow the fortunes of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft Freemason undertaking the Second and Third Degrees. After an introduction to Freemasonry in the first episode, each programme takes a theme, exploring masonic charity, brotherhood, myths and the future of the Craft.

BEHIND THE SCENES

It took a year of discussion before the project got off the ground, with the episodes then taking a further year in the making, explains Emma Read, executive producer and managing director of Emporium Productions, the company behind the documentary series.

‘These things always take a long time because everyone’s got to be comfortable [with the process]. But once we started, everyone was 100 per cent committed,’ says Read, who was also responsible for 2013’s Harrow: A Very British School documentary series and has made over 1,000 hours of factual television for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Discovery.

Read believes that UGLE felt comfortable working with Emporium and Sky because they specialise in getting access to institutions and individuals who have a reputation to protect, but about whom there are misconceptions.

‘The way that we make programmes with people is to explain that we are not here to express our opinion – this is not investigative, this is not current affairs, this is a proper documentary where we show people and places as they are,’ explains Read. ‘We film people going about their various activities and they then tell the story themselves. It could also have been called “The Freemasons in their Own Words”. It’s that kind of approach.’

With two small teams carrying out the filming, recording for hundreds of days in total, Lowndes was impressed with the discreet way in which the project was managed. ‘They’ve been very unobtrusive and therefore got the best out of people,’ he says.

‘The most effective way to make observational documentary is not with a hoard of people,’ adds Read. ‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. Why would somebody allow you to carry on filming if they didn’t like you? I wouldn’t. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work.’

‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work’ Emma Read

A DEGREE OF SURPRISE

Despite the levels of trust, certain elements of Freemasonry had to remain off camera. Some of the Second Degree is filmed, but almost nothing of the First or the Third appears on screen. ‘Naturally we would have liked to film elements of both the First and Third Degrees,’ says Read, ‘but that was where the line was drawn. As a mason, you only do those once and each is supposed to be this amazing moment – so if you know what’s coming, it’ll spoil it.’

Read did discover a great deal about Freemasonry, however, and was struck by the scale of the charitable work that is done – ‘they hide their light under a bushel, I think’ – as well as the powerful bond of brotherhood that exists throughout the Craft.

In particular, there were two men whose stories resonated with Read. The first, Peter Younger, draws on the support of his fellow Widows Sons masonic bikers after unexpectedly losing his wife, and the mother of his seven-year-old daughter, after she suffered a heart attack. The second, Gulf War veteran Dave Stubbs, recounts the way that he used to sit up at night and feel as though he had ‘been thrown away’ after leaving the army. Later, says Read, ‘we see him being elected and installed as Worshipful Master of his lodge, which is a tearful moment’.

Read expects the series to draw a varied range of responses from the public. ‘My feeling is that some people will have this ridiculous, conspiratorial approach and say, “You’re not showing X, Y and Z.” There will be other people who already love Freemasonry and hopefully there will be some people who go, “Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s completely opened my eyes to it.”’

Although Lowndes expects some concerns from within the brotherhood, he’s anticipating a positive response overall. ‘I’m sure there will be criticism from some of our brethren that we should never have got involved with the documentary. There will no doubt be things in it that some people think we should not have done. However, the general impression I have is that it will be well received – I think we’ll get a lot of support both internally and externally.’

Marking the Tercentenary of Freemasonry naturally raises the question of what the next 300 years will hold. ‘I think we have a very exciting future ahead,’ says Lowndes. ‘We now have more young people coming in and I think we’re giving them better chances to find their feet in Freemasonry than ever before. Within that age group, I can’t remember the Craft being in better shape.’

Published in UGLE

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.'

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