Celebrating 300 years
Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00

London beneath the covers

London beneath the covers

London Hidden Interiors author Philip Davies gives an exclusive tour around some of the capital’s best conserved and least known interiors – including Freemasons’ Hall

Aldwych Underground Station
Strand, WC2R 1EP
Listed: Grade II

Aldwych Underground Station opened as Strand on 30 November 1907, rechristened Aldwych in 1915. An oddity from its inception, the Aldwych branch operated a shuttle service between Holborn and Strand; various extensions were envisaged, so the station was built, but they never came to fruition, leaving Aldwych as a dead end.

Built on the site of the old Royal Strand Theatre, the station was designed by Leslie Green using the familiar ox-blood terracotta blocks. Three lift shafts were completed in the expectation of expansion, but only one was fitted out with lifts, which still survive. As early as 1917, the eastern tunnel and platform were closed, and used as secure wartime storage for pictures from The National Gallery. After the First World War, passenger demand remained low, and closure was mooted as early as 1933.

From 1940 to 1946 the station was used as an air-raid shelter, and the tunnels for storing the Elgin Marbles and other valuables from the British Museum. The station finally closed on 3 October 1994. Today it is used for training and as a film location, with old tube stock permanently stationed at the branch. It is reputedly haunted by an actress from the theatre that once occupied the site.

‘From 1940 to 1946 the tunnels were used to store valuables from the British Museum’

Freemasons’ Hall
60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ
Listed: Grade II*

Known as the Masonic Peace Memorial, Freemasons’ Hall was built as a tribute to its 3,000 members killed in the First World War. Its design is the result of an international architectural competition launched in 1925, won by Henry Victor Ashley and Francis Winton Newman, who had extensive experience designing banks, factories, housing and hospital extensions.

The Grand Lodge of England had been based in Great Queen Street since 1774, where Thomas Sandby designed the first purpose-built Masonic Hall in the country in the form of a Roman Doric temple embellished with masonic symbols.

Originally Ashley and Newman intended to retain Sandby’s hall, but it was demolished in March 1932 after serious defects were found. The gigantic new complex was faced in Portland stone and designed on an heroic scale. No expense was spared on the sumptuous interior, which is finished in neo-Grecian style in marble, bronze, mosaic and stained glass imbued with masonic symbolism.

Set on a diagonal axis, the ground floor comprises the grand entrance hall and museum, and a marble staircase lit by full-height stained-glass windows leads to a huge marble-lined vestibule. Facing west is the war memorial window and Roll of Honour, which is housed in a bronze casket by Walter Gilbert, who designed most of the metalwork in the building.

The awe-inspiring Grand Temple – entered through bronze doors each weighing 1.25 tons – is crowned by a celestial canopy surrounded by a mosaic cornice, which depicts allegorical figures with different orders of classical architecture. Elsewhere, the Boardroom is panelled in hardwood and lit with stained glass, while Lodge Room No. 10 has huge arched bays carrying a domed roof.

‘No expense was spared on the sumptuous interior, with bronze, mosaic and stained glass imbued with masonic symbolism’

Victoria House
Southampton Row, WC1B 4DA
Listed: Grade II

Some of the worst poverty in London was previously to be found yards from the site of Freemasons’ Hall. The shocking mortality rates of Victorian Britain prompted the less fortunate to form burial clubs, so they could afford a decent funeral for their loved ones as an alternative to the pauper’s grave.

The early societies were unregulated. Many collapsed from mismanagement or fraud, but a number of reputable societies emerged, one of which was the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society. Formed as a burial society in 1843, its business was based on ‘penny policies’ collected door-to-door. Like several other societies, Liverpool Victoria grew into a huge financial institution, the sheer opulence of its building rivalling those of the great banks.

Victoria House, the headquarters of Liverpool Victoria, involved the clearance of an entire street block of Georgian houses on the east side of Bloomsbury Square, making way for the huge Grecian-style, Beaux Arts palace. Designed by Charles W Long and erected over thirteen years between 1921 and 1934, it exuded the twin values of dignity and security, as expected of the headquarters of the great financial institutions.

Beneath the heroic marble entrance hall is a large basement ballroom, fitted out in Art Deco style with chrome, silver leaf and mauve-coloured lighting – a sharp contrast to the chaste Greek classicism of the upper floors. A suite of mahogany-panelled Grecian-style boardrooms are found on the third floor, some of which have eighteenth-century marble chimney pieces salvaged from the houses that once stood on the site.

Shortlisted in 1998 as a potential new City Hall for the Mayor of London, it was refurbished by Will Alsop, retaining the historic interiors.

‘It exuded the twin values of dignity and security, as expected of the headquarters of the great financial institutions’

The British Optical Association Museum
41-42 Craven Street, WC2N 5NG
Listed: Grade II

Founded in 1901 by the optician J H Sutcliffe, the British Optical Association Museum is now hosted by the College of Optometrists, after a peripatetic existence over the past one hundred years. It was first opened to the public in 1914 at Clifford’s Inn Hall, prompted by Sutcliffe’s desire to establish ‘An Optical House Beautiful’ in line with the fashionable concepts of the Aesthetic Movement. Later it moved to Brook Street and then to Earl’s Court before arriving at its current location in 1997, a fine early-Georgian house built c1730, with a replica extension erected in 1988.

Sutcliffe’s legacy is a quirky collection of more than eighteen thousand items relating to ophthalmic optics, the human eye and visual aids, as well as archival material, paintings and prints. The museum display is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new objects, including the spectacles of famous personalities from Dr Johnson to Ronnie Corbett, and the sides of Dr Crippen’s glasses, the lenses missing after he tried to use them to cut his own throat in prison in a failed suicide attempt.

The cabinets house an extensive collection of porcelain eyebaths, binoculars, spyglasses and jealousy glasses with sideways mirrors to allow the owner to discreetly eye up potential suitors. Look for the dark adaptation goggles with red lenses used by Second World War pilots to adjust their night vision prior to take off, and the early revolving self-service cabinet of spectacles made by the Automatic Sight Testing and Optical Supply Co Ltd in 1889.

‘Sutcliffe’s legacy is a collection of more than eighteen thousand items … a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new objects’

James Smith & Sons
53 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1BL
Listed: Grade II

In 1830, James Smith established this famous firm of umbrella makers in Foubert’s Place, off Regent Street. In 1857, his son opened a shop at 53 New Oxford Street, followed rapidly by six other businesses elsewhere in London, including a hatter and barbershop. From their branch in the tiny passageway at Savile Row they sold umbrellas to many of the leading figures of their day, including Lord Curzon and Bonar Law.

The company was one of the first to use the famous Fox steel frames, named after Samuel Fox, who created the first steel umbrella frame in 1848. In addition to umbrellas, Smith’s has specialised in making canes and military swagger sticks, as well as bespoke items such as ceremonial maces for tribal chiefs in South Africa, Nigeria and elsewhere.

The superb shopfront and interior is a beautifully preserved example of a high-class Victorian West End shop, with cast-iron cresting to the faceted gilt and glass fascias, inscribed brass sills, elaborate black and gilt lettering to the upper panels of the windows and a splendid traditional box sign. Inside, the original mahogany counters and display cases are stocked with an array of canes, sticks and umbrellas, most of which are still manufactured in the basement. James Smith & Sons is the largest and oldest umbrella shop in Europe, and its shopfront and interior one of the landmarks of central London.

London Hidden Interiors by Philip Davies is an English Heritage book published by Atlantic Publishing, £40, available from booksellers everywhere. All pictures courtesy of English Heritage. www.londonhiddeninteriors.co.uk

‘The superb shopfront and interior is a beautifully preserved example of a high-class Victorian West End shop’

Published in Features
Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Spring 2013

I have long been fascinated by the study of the source and development of words, and with this comes a realisation that a word can be interpreted in several different ways. I mention this in relation to the challenge of explaining Freemasonry. This is something that remains at the forefront of my mind with all our communications – not least the recent successful media tour.

Due to the fact that we are not prescriptive, it is hard to explain Freemasonry while avoiding jargon. This has led us to explain our principles as kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and integrity. These words clearly explain our essential nature.

As you know, we had an excellent reception from local media and I have valued the feedback and support from fellow members. It is fair to say that some members were surprised at some of the words I used in interviews and this brings me back to my earlier point on how people analyse words.

Most interviews were very short, with the interviewer having researched Freemasonry on a strange website. So I used words like ‘fun’ when describing Freemasonry. I would not change the word in the context that it was said, but what I meant was that I find Freemasonry ‘enjoyable and rewarding’. 

Another example of describing Freemasonry comes from one of the pieces from our ritual that ends with being happy and communicating that. ‘Happy’ is another word that can mean many things but I know as Freemasons we can embrace it.

I hope you will find something to make you feel happy among the features that make up this issue. Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice reveals how masonic support is helping her. As the Royal Arch marks its two-hundredth anniversary in 2013, we look at how members and the chapters are helping the Royal College of Surgeons. And as smaller charities struggle in this economic climate, we shine a light on how Freemasons are helping swimming pools stay open, challenging discrimination and supporting air ambulances. These are all stories that show Freemasonry at its best.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘The challenge of explaining Freemasonry remains at the forefront of my mind’

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Charity for all 

 

Sir, I read with interest the last paragraph of the Grand Secretary’s forward in the last copy of Freemasonry Today.


At the meeting of my Derbyshire lodge, Derwent, No. 884, it was well received when I expressed a wish that the proceeds of the raffle should go to our local community swimming pool. We raised £250. I had no knowledge then of what would be written by the Grand Secretary and I suspect he had already penned his report before our 15 February meeting.


I was quite moved by the coincidence.

 

Peter Borst, Ludgrove Lodge, No. 7766, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire


 

Published in UGLE

As the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys celebrates its two hundred and twenty-fifth year, Chief Executive Les Hutchinson explains how the charity has evolved

How did you first hear about the RMTGB?

In the 1980s the face of masonic charitable support for children underwent a major change. Previously there had been two children’s charities – a girls’ charity and a boys’ charity – and they had come together to form the trust as we now know it. Having identified a need for additional skills within the new organisation, a letter was sent to every masonic Province asking: ‘Do any of your members have a son or daughter who is educated to A-level standard, capable of completing a degree and interested in a career in accountancy or management?’ My father was an active Freemason in Cheshire and North Wales and heard about the vacancies. I applied and joined the trust as a management trainee in January 1988.

What were your first impressions?

Until five years ago, the trust was based in offices opposite Freemasons’ Hall. When I first walked into the building, with its polished walnut panelling and open fireplaces, I felt like I had travelled back in time. It all seemed so old-fashioned, but the constant rattle of typewriters and adding machines suggested that the trust was a very active and focused organisation.

How did you progress from trainee?

I spent my first few years learning the ropes within the finance, petitions and fundraising departments.

At the end of my training I was drawn to petitions, as I enjoyed being at the heart of the charity, seeing first-hand the difference that our grants could make. A few years later I became a team leader, then worked my way through the ranks, taking on more responsibility as my career developed. All four masonic charities do a fantastic job, but my heart is with the trust. I was delighted to be appointed Chief Executive in 2008.

What major challenges does the RMTGB currently face?

Whether they have experienced the death or disability of a parent, or encountered a family break-up, all the children we help have experienced a significant event that has led to financial distress. It concerns me when I meet Freemasons or their families who hold deep-rooted misconceptions about our work. Often these views prevent them from coming forward in their hour of need or make them less likely to support our work. One of our biggest challenges is to ensure that people understand what we actually do.

‘We are currently helping around two thousand children. Last year we received the highest number of new applications since the trust was formed’

What are your main responsibilities?

In addition to the day-to-day management of the charity and reviewing applications for support, an important part of my role involves visiting lodges and provincial meetings. Festival appeals are a major source of income and under the current system, each Province usually supports each of the four charities once every forty years. I must ensure that we use this period of fundraising to maximum effect. Wherever I go I am always astonished and very grateful for the warmth and generosity shown towards the trust.

Has the type of support you give changed?

During my twenty-five years with the trust, the focus of our work has evolved to meet the changing needs of our masonic family, but there are those who think we exist simply to provide a posh education for posh kids. This is one misconception that we have to overcome. More than ninety per cent of the children we support go to a state school and live at home. We have also worked hard to identify how we can more effectively help children of distressed Freemasons succeed in life and today many of our grants target specific items like computers and school trips. In some circumstances, we also support the grandchildren of Freemasons, something that is not widely known within the Craft.

How are families assessed?

All our support is subject to a financial test. A family has to have a very low income – less than £5,000 a year to receive our maximum support – and nothing that we give replaces what the state should provide. Our welfare specialists help families look at what state benefits they can claim, and we review the circumstances of every family that we support each year. First and foremost we are a poverty charity.

Is the RMTGB under increasing pressure?

We are currently helping around two thousand children and young people and last year we received the highest number of new applications since 1986. Applications arising from redundancy, bankruptcy and unemployment are all increasing, as they did during previous recessions. Families often turn to us only when they reach breaking point; we would always prefer them to contact us as soon as possible. It is tragic when we are alerted to children whose well-being has suffered because the family assumed we could not help or they were too proud to contact us.

How do the four masonic charities work together?

In my view, the cooperation and understanding between the charities is closer now than it ever has been. We are all fundraising within the same group and supporting the same beneficiaries – albeit at different points in their lives. Sometimes there could be two or three masonic charities supporting the same family, so it made sense for us to move closer together. Our relocation into offices in Freemasons’ Hall helped with this process, as has the use of a single application form. We are also far more proactive and consistent in our support for almoners and charity stewards.

What’s next for the RMTGB?

Two hundred and twenty-five years have passed since the establishment of the first charity for supporting children of Freemasons. When you look back at what we have achieved, the hundreds of thousands of young people we have helped, you realise how important the trust’s work is. The needs of our masonic family will continue to change and, working ever closer with the other masonic charities, we must prepare ourselves for the challenges of the years ahead.

True to its aims

The mission of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) is: ‘To relieve poverty and advance the education of children of a masonic family and, when funds permit, support other children in need.’
This year, the charity celebrates its two hundred and twenty-fifth birthday and can reflect on a shifting social landscape that has nevertheless seen the RMTGB stay true to its aims.

In 1788, Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini and the Duchess of Cumberland set up a school for the daughters of distressed masons. A similar provision for boys was established in 1798. As these charities grew, financial assistance was also provided to support children living at home. Eventually these grants constituted the main work of the charities and a decision was made to move away from running schools altogether. A combined grant-making charity, now known as the RMTGB, became active in 1986.

Today the RMTGB provides help to children and young people by awarding financial grants to relieve poverty and help remove barriers to education. In recent years, schemes such as TalentAid and Choral Bursaries have been established to support exceptionally gifted young people. Initiatives such as Stepping Stones and the ongoing support for Lifelites (Registered Charity No. 1115655) demonstrate the RMTGB’s commitment to thousands of other disadvantaged children without a masonic connection.

To find out more about the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, visit www.rmtgb.org

Published in RMTGB

After some lean years, the Allied Arts Lodge is now regrouping with a diverse membership. Tim Arnold explains how his lodge has survived by embracing the fundamental tenets of Freemasonry

Started just after the Second World War by theatre technicians, the Allied Arts Lodge, No. 6269, is the lodge that refused to die.

A decade ago, the group was at risk of folding. Like many London lodges, its membership had been declining for a variety of reasons – deaths and resignations, for example – and the regular Lodge of Instruction had fallen into disuse, not least because of the logistical difficulties in getting members from all over London and the Home Counties to attend every week.

Many people would have bowed to the apparent reality of the situation, but a hard core of members, including Treasurer Chris Fogarty and his life-long friend Secretary Paul Ostwind, refused to give up. They believed that attracting more guests was part of the answer.

Most of the ceremonies were arranged on a scratch basis, so were not as polished as they might have liked. The committee therefore invited some hard-core ritualists from other lodges to become honorary members. One of them was John Stonely, who in turn offered to take younger members under his wing at the Lodge of Instruction he organised for the Logic Ritual Association. Festive Boards were held at Trattoria Verdi, a walk away from Great Queen Street, where Dining Secretary Richard Limebear managed to negotiate a bulk-buy deal of £30 per head – a considerable discount.

‘It’s not been easy. But in a few years’ time, we will have a strong group of initiates ready to progress’

The lodge’s Festive Boards held anonymous charity collections, rather than a public raffle, so visitors would not feel pressured into spending more than they could afford in the evening.

An Allied Arts Charities Association was also set up to encourage members to make regular donations, boosted through Gift Aid to ensure the lodge continued to look after deserving causes.

Through masonic networking, the lodge gradually started to grow. It was explained to joining members that London masonry could be an enjoyable adjunct to provincial work, in a similar way to chapter being an extension of Craft – a way to increase one’s horizons, experiences and social network.

I was invited to become Senior Warden and I gave a talk, shamelessly stolen from Clifford Drake, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, about how to use recruitment to turn around failing lodges. Space does not allow me to go into all the points, but the key message is: draw up a list of decent people who are in your circle of friends, family and workmates, and talk to them about the benefits that you get from the Craft. If they are not interested, then you have at least explained to them Freemasonry’s core values of friendship, decency and charity. If they are interested, then perhaps a couple of years on you will have a waiting list of new members.

Currently, Allied Arts Lodge is doing double ceremonies and emergency meetings, not least thanks to a particularly enthusiastic initiate, Paul Hogan, who has willingly recruited his friends and family to join. We are also starting to attract members from the City of London, reflecting the region’s different communities. Allied Arts now boasts Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, blacks and whites, and our youngest member is in his early twenties.

It’s not been easy. But in a few years’ time, we will have a strong group of initiates, ready to progress through the Master’s chair. We are organising Lodges of Instruction closer to where people live, meeting on Sunday mornings when the M25 traffic is more manageable and it is possible to get space in otherwise busy masonic centres. In the meantime, we could still do with a handful of members in our middle-batting order. So, if you want to sample London masonry, get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Roots of Allied Arts Lodge

Allied Arts Lodge was consecrated on 22 July 1946. It was started by members of one of London’s thespian lodges, Vaudeville, ostensibly to celebrate the work of theatre technicians whose work was ‘allied’ to the entertainment world. The lodge has a long-standing relationship with the Vaudeville Chapter.

Allied Arts profited from a significant growth in Freemasonry after the Second World War, possibly because men wanted to keep up the camaraderie they had enjoyed while serving in the armed forces. It was common for a daughter lodge to be set up in order to accommodate a large backlog of new members, who might otherwise have had to wait for a decade or more to advance to the chair.

Vaudeville Lodge, No. 5592, is in turn descended from the world-famous Chelsea Lodge, No. 3098, through Proscenium Lodge, No. 3435. Chelsea is known as the entertainers’ lodge, with members including actors Peter Sellers and Bernard Bresslaw, the broadcaster and author Keith Skues, and the magician Eugene Matthias.

Chelsea’s mother lodge, Drury Lane, No. 2127, also has strong theatrical connections. The latter’s founders included the actor Charles Warner and London’s Gaiety Theatre manager, Charles Harris. Drury Lane’s membership also attracted establishment figures, including Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, perhaps best known today as the face of Great War recruitment posters, featuring the legend: ‘Your country needs you!’

Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

The senior fraternity

As the Universities Scheme recruits younger members, Caitlin Davies reports on how older Freemasons are staying involved in the Craft

Three years ago, Steward Philip Hadlow heard some interesting news. Plans were afoot for a new lodge in Bedfordshire, one that would be geared towards keeping elderly Freemasons involved in the Craft.

‘The Provincial Grand Master, Michael Sawyer, and the provincial team realised we were not doing enough for our more elderly brethren,’ he explains. ‘Many have mobility problems, which means it’s difficult getting to meetings. We were looking after them when they were ill, supporting their family, but there was a need for something more proactive.’

In recent years Freemasonry has been keen to recruit younger members, but that doesn’t mean elders should be forgotten. And so Bedfordshire’s youngest lodge, the Michael Sawyer Lodge of Reunion No 9848, was born. Philip became involved because he thought it a ‘fantastic idea’.

The lodge began in 2009 and meets twice a year on a Saturday lunchtime, as some people are not keen to eat late or to go out at night at all. Philip doesn’t know of any similar scheme, and there’s been interest in the project from other Provinces.

While some members were already being picked up and taken to meetings by younger members, the lodge wanted to do more. So people were identified, sent invitations and offered travel arrangements – in some cases for a fifty-mile round trip.

‘When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about’ Philip Hadlow

The lodge doesn’t do masonic work – meetings open with a welcome, then a lecture and the Festive Board. One of the annual meetings is held in Luton, the other in another Bedfordshire centre.

John Cathrine, Provincial Information Officer, is a founder member of the Michael Sawyer Lodge and last year’s Worshipful Master. ‘It’s such a great idea. It’s something that was missing from our Province. People get to the stage where they can’t drive to meetings and they drift away from masonry.’

Not forgotten, never sidelined

John cites a past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Vic Lawrence, who lives at Prince Michael of Kent Court, a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution care home. ‘He came to the previous meeting and he wanted to make a speech at the Festive Board. He said it was really great to be invited and see old friends, all of whom he said looked older than him!’

Freemasonry in Bedfordshire traces its history back to at least 1841, when the Bedfordshire Lodge of St John the Baptist was consecrated in Luton. By the time the Province celebrated its centenary, there were forty-five lodges; there are now fifty-five.

At the last meeting of the Lodge of Re there were sixty people, including twenty honoured guests. ‘It takes time to get something like this off the ground,’ says Philip, who was Chief Steward for two years, ‘but it’s getting bigger every meeting.’

Lodge members pay annual dues to cover being a member and having two guests. ‘It’s funded until the honoured guests outnumber us two to one. It means we can treat them well. You see them sitting there opposite their friends, and they’re having a whale of a time. When they come out with a smile on their face and say, “Thank you so much, I’ve had a wonderful time”, that’s what it’s all about.’

John is delighted by the letters of thanks that the lodge receives. ‘One brother is ninety-five and not able to get out much. We’ll invite him to the next meeting for a nice day out. The letters we get say the principles and ethos of the lodge are exactly in line with what we should be doing – taking care of those who could be sidelined and forgotten.’

Published in Features

A year to remember

With the help of Freemasons around the country, the Grand Charity provides an invaluable service to those in need

For many people 2012 will be a year to remember, from visions of bunting and the Queen’s Jubilee to the sporting excellence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Yet many people struggled due to financial problems, illness or other difficult circumstances. The Grand Charity exists to help these people in need – Freemasons, their families or the wider community – and 2012 was no exception.

Masonic relief

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity received over two thousand applications for financial assistance and approved support of more than £5 million. The charity noted a continued increase in applications from younger members facing redundancy and business difficulties due to the economic crisis.

Support for the wider community

The charity provided £2.5 million in funding for non-masonic charitable causes. This included continued support for research into age-related deafness; support for ex-Armed Service personnel with grants for Help for Heroes and Combat Stress; and support for projects that tackle youth unemployment, which grew to 20.5 per cent in 2012.

Air Ambulances

2012 saw the Grand Charity celebrate more than £1 million in grants to the Air Ambulances and equivalent services since 2007. These grants provide funding for what is considered to be the country’s busiest voluntary emergency service. In 2012, each Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodge presented a share of £192,000 to its local service.

Hospice services

In 2012, £600,000 was distributed amongst two hundred and thirty-nine hospice services, bringing the total given since 1984 to £9.9 million.

We hope it is clear how valuable the work of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is. The impact achieved through its funding might be difficult to measure, but it is immense. It is only thanks to the support of the Freemasons and their families that the charity is able to make such a contribution to people’s lives.

The grants listed above are only a small selection of charitable causes that have been assisted by Freemasons through the Grand Charity in 2012; a full list is available to view at www.grandcharity.org

Enclosed within this issue of Freemasonry Today you will find the Grand Charity’s Annual Review 2012 – we hope you enjoy reading it.

Published in The Grand Charity
Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

125 years young for Cherwell Chapter

Cherwell Chapter, No. 599, has celebrated its 125th anniversary at Banbury in Oxfordshire, in the presence of Grand Superintendent Stephen Dunning. Provincial Officers were also in attendance for a demonstration of the history and meaning of the various offices and artefacts of a Royal Arch Chapter. Companions received a copy of a 110-page commemorative book, which contained the history of the chapter and the text of the anniversary ceremony.

Reflecting on the need to recruit new members, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes explains why Freemasonry should remember its history while keeping an eye firmly on the future

Having finished the two yearly regional conferences with Provincial Grand Masters, I can report that one consistent theme was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases this has already started, which means that perhaps we are getting some things right.

I have frequently said that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock-on effect.

Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard in the last issue from Edward Lord and Julian Soper about the work of the Universities Scheme. I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how we can best implement some of the principles that were mentioned across the whole Craft.

Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However, this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.

Altruistic society

At the end of last year, I visited my great grandfather’s mother lodge in Hertfordshire – and a splendid occasion it was, with a nearly faultless Second Degree ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.

The reason for mentioning this is that in the reply for the visitors, the brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is ‘regard for others as a principle of action’ and it’s rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.

If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t go far wrong. Of course, it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point as it should naturally lead to a practice of brotherly love, relief and truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving.

During the past year, the Festivals for our charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the Masonic Samaritan Fund; Cambridgeshire raised £1.285m for the Grand Charity; and Devonshire raised £3.836m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

I hope that our membership, as a whole, is far more familiar with the activities of our charities than might have been the case twenty or so years ago. The charities’ promotion of their activities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.

While three of our charities are masonic in their giving, the Grand Charity has a wide brief for giving to non-masonic bodies, provided that they are also charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved, and we should be quick to point it out.

We should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future, in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.

 

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Sir, as usual, the article from our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, in the spring 2013 edition of Freemasonry Today was both interesting and stimulating. The paragraph relating to our use of words without fully appreciating their meaning struck a very strong chord with me. 

 

From all the words available to them in the English language, our founders chose to use the word ‘speculative’ to describe our branch of Freemasonry (as opposed to the operative Freemasonry). In our modern idiom this word is defined as ‘to conjecture without knowing the full facts’. Does this describe a proportion of our brethren today?


In a recent reading of Bernard of Clairvaux, it describes his definition of this word as ‘the recollection that frees the mind of worldly distractions as a preparation for contemplation of God’. Was this definition more in the minds of our founders?


Gareth Price, Trafford Park Broad Oak Lodge, No. 4486, Manchester, West Lancashire

 


Published in UGLE

A matter of patients

As the Royal Arch marks its two-hundredth anniversary in 2013, Sophie Radice looks at how members and the chapters have been supporting the Royal College of Surgeons in groundbreaking medical research

At the Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science in London, William Dawes is trying to find out how to lessen the damage done to premature newborn babies who have suffered a stroke. Part of the surgical research fellowships scheme run by the Royal College of Surgeons, Dawes is just one of the medical pioneers in the UK whose work has been funded by Freemasons.

From investigating how to prevent acute kidney injury during major heart surgery through to exploring how to decrease mortality rates following traumatic brain injury, the fellowships scheme will be benefitting from financial support given by the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal. The fundraising exercise aims to provide a permanent reminder of the Supreme Grand Chapter’s full emergence two hundred years ago by its future relationship with the Royal College of Surgeons.

‘Schemes such as the surgical research fellowship are invaluable for surgeons,’ says Dawes, who is also being supported by Sparks, the children’s medical charity. ‘The research we have been funded for will look at ways of lessening the damage done to the brains of premature newborns who have bleeding into the ventricles of the brain. Our focus is a collection of tiny, fragile blood vessels in the germinal matrix, which is the area of brain adjacent to the wall of the ventricles. These blood vessels are vulnerable to fluctuations in blood flow, which can cause them to rupture and bleed. The younger and smaller the baby, the higher the risk. Our research will look at ways of making the cells that survive the bleed perform better so that the damage will be minimised.’

Providing crucial support

Dawes trained in Leeds and then Liverpool before moving to London, and is now at the Blizard Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine doing a PhD. ‘I knew very little about Freemasons until I discovered how much money they give to surgical research. I have since given presentations to chapters and have found the Freemasons I’ve met to be so supportive. It has been a real pleasure to speak to them about what we are trying to do – we are extremely grateful for their generosity,’ he says.

The Royal College of Surgeons launched the surgical research fellowships scheme to enable the brightest and best surgeons of each generation to explore treatments for conditions and injuries that affect millions of people worldwide. The scheme relies completely on voluntary donations from individuals, trusts and legacies, and needs more funding to continue the number of worthy research projects supported.

George Francis, Second Grand Principal of the Royal Arch Masons and Chairman of the appeal, explains: ‘In 1966, the Eleventh Earl of Scarbrough, as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, launched an appeal to mark the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge in 1717. The income from the appeal was given to the Royal College of Surgeons. We are so proud of our contribution to surgical research that it seemed natural that our 2013 Bicentenary Appeal should go into funding more research. We hope to raise well over £1,000,000.’

Professor Derek Alderson, Chairman of the Academic and Research Board at the Royal College of Surgeons, adds: ‘We feel it important that donors should understand exactly what is being done with their money, so in the past twelve months research fellows, supported by officers of the College, have made more than forty presentations to a variety of masonic bodies. We never have any problems finding young surgeons to talk about their research, but I suspect that this says more about masonic hospitality than anything else.’

Like William Dawes, Nishith Patel and Angelos Kolias have made presentations to chapters throughout the UK to discuss their vital research work

Bodies of work

Nishith Patel

Research Title: Acute kidney injury following heart surgery
Location: Bristol Heart Institute, Bristol Royal Infirmary

‘I first heard about the fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons and I jumped at the chance to apply. It is very competitive, with a four-part application process, because so many surgeons want the chance to kick-start vital research in their surgical area.

‘We are looking at the way two different methods can prevent acute kidney injury during major heart surgery. The first method is a drug trial and the second is to put the blood through an automated washer during surgery to prevent organ injury. We looked at the blood used in blood transfusions and found that some of it had gone off because it had been stored too long. Putting blood through an automated washer to remove toxins could be very useful for all those who need blood transfusions and so that has become part of our research too.

‘I was surprised that the Freemasons funded these fellowships because I knew very little about them.

I have since given presentations to small groups of Freemasons and found that they not only asked very detailed and intelligent questions but that they also seem to really appreciate and understand our work when we explain it to them.

I have found the Freemasons to be very decent and down-to-earth people who are open to hearing complex medical explanations, which is very refreshing. I so appreciate the opportunity they have given me.’

Angelos Kolias

Research Title: Traumatic brain injury: the role of veins
Location: Addenbrooke’s Hospital and University of Cambridge

‘I heard about the fellowship from my supervisor, Peter Hutchinson, who was himself supported by a Freemasons fellowship during his PhD.

Peter is now a reader and honorary consultant in neurosurgery at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

‘Head injuries still claim the highest toll in terms of lost lives and disability for those under the age of forty. The aim of my research project is to examine whether blockage of the large veins inside the head is contributing to the brain swelling after head injuries. Research in patients suffering from another condition that leads to high pressure inside the head has shown that quite a few of these patients have blockage of the veins. A novel way of dealing with this problem is the insertion of a stent, which is an artificial tube, inside the blocked vein. As a result of this, the pressure inside the head is reduced and the patient gets better. This treatment was developed in Cambridge about ten years ago.

‘Essentially, my research project aims to find out whether a similar mechanism applies to patients with severe head injuries. So far we have some promising results showing that about one-third of those who have a severe head injury and skull fracture develop blockage of the veins. Without the help of the Freemasons, we would not have been able to undertake this kind of research – we are very grateful for all their help and support.’

Without the help of the Freemasons, we would not have been able to undertake this kind of research’ Angelos Kolias

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Charity for all

 

Sir, I read with satisfaction the article ‘A Matter of Patients’ in Freemasonry Today, spring 2013. Satisfaction because it reminded me that thanks to the focus of both the Royal Arch and UGLE on the medical profession in general as recipients of our charitable giving, we have recently attracted two initiates (both GPs) who said they had previously had no idea of
the extent of our charitable work within medicine. On the basis of their discovery, they had decided that they now wanted to be part of Freemasonry.


Publicity for the charitable giving that we all do – both generally and within the medical profession – is certainly having an effect on the general public’s perception of Freemasonry. Based upon our experience here in Cyngesburie Lodge, I would suggest that it may benefit other lodges seeking to increase their membership to focus some attention on potential initiates within all branches of medicine. Appraising them of the tremendous work we do to support their profession can only be beneficial, regardless of whether or not they subsequently decide to join the Craft.


Martin Day, Cyngesburie Lodge, No. 5607, London


 

Published in SGC
Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

Charity for all

As smaller charities struggle in the current economic climate, Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemasons on a local and national level are keeping community projects in business

In 2012, donations to charity in the UK fell by twenty per cent, with £1.7bn less being given by British people between 2011 and 2012.

A report by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations suggests that small and medium sized charities are suffering most as voluntary donations – rather than National Lottery or state funding – tend to make up a larger proportion of their total income. The report, which surveyed 3,000 people, says that charities in Britain now face a ‘deeply worrying’ financial situation.

The Freemasons recognise the importance of supporting smaller charities. These charities may be small, but their projects and services can provide lifelines for people – meeting very specific needs that fulfil priorities often overlooked by the public sector and larger charities.

Since 1981 The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has donated more than £50 million to national charities, with grants going towards funding medical research, helping vulnerable people and supporting youth opportunities. It now sets aside £100,000 every year for small donations of between £500 and £5,000 to under-funded causes around the country, which often prove vital to their continued operation.

The charity’s allocation for providing minor grants to small charities doubled from £50,000 to £100,000 in 2010 following a marked increase in the number of applications the charity was receiving from smaller organisations. ‘It was clear that the increase in applications was a result of the economic climate, with smaller charities finding themselves worse off,’ says Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of the Grand Charity, pleased by the decision to increase the grant budget. ‘It meant we could reach out to more smaller charities, making a bigger impact during what has clearly been a difficult year.’

Helping small and community-focused causes is not just the domain of the Grand Charity. Local Provinces and lodges donated a huge amount to charity in 2012, around £5 million of which was reported by local newspapers. ‘Freemasons are community-minded and this is demonstrated by the local lodges that frequently donate to smaller charities,’ says Laura.

Neil Potter, Provincial Information Officer at the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire, believes that contributing to small causes is not only hugely beneficial to the community, but is also a way for Freemasons to show what they stand for.

‘Charitable giving is a great opportunity to break down the barriers that seem to have been put up over the years regarding the public and masonic relationship, and to let everyone know exactly what we do,’ says Neil. ‘Our main concern is helping people who are less fortunate than us – and it all comes from the members’ pockets. We make voluntary contributions, hold fundraising events and enjoy doing it.’

Freemasonry Today spoke to four charities that have received invaluable financial support from Freemasons in 2012.

‘The grant we received from the Freemasons is being used in the rehabilitation through sports training programmes’ Edwin Thomas

The British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association
Funded by the Grand Charity

The British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association (BEWSA) enables injured ex-service personnel to take part in sports, building friendship and camaraderie. BEWSA describes itself as ‘not an organisation for the disabled, but of the disabled’.

‘The Grand Charity has long supported charities that provide help and assistance to ex-members of the Armed Services,’ says the Grand Charity’s Laura Chapman. ‘It is a popular cause within Freemasonry. Through our minor grant funding we aim to support small charities that fulfil needs not easily accessible elsewhere, just like BEWSA.’

In May last year, the Grand Charity donated £1,500 to the charity, enabling nationwide support to continue for active disabled veterans. ‘The grant we received from the Freemasons is being used in the rehabilitation through sports training programmes,’ says Edwin Thomas, BEWSA chairman.

One weekend a month, the charity books the sport facilities at the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering RAF centre in Cosford, West Midlands, and ex-service wheelchair users are invited to join in wheelchair sporting events.

‘If they are comfortable in their chosen sport and wish to take training to the next level, then BEWSA is there to provide the encouragement, the training and the sports equipment required to participate,’ says Thomas.

JustDifferent
Funded by the Grand Charity

JustDifferent is a perfect example of a small organisation carrying out big work,’ says Laura. Toby Hewson, who has cerebral palsy, founded the charity to change social attitudes towards disability. It runs workshops in schools that are delivered by disabled young adults employed by the charity.

‘Today’s young people are tomorrow’s employers, policymakers and educators. JustDifferent believes that changing attitudes in the young is the best way to achieve long-term social change,’ says Laura. 

‘Harassment, bullying and discrimination are all sadly part of our society,’ says Karen McLachlan, fundraiser at JustDifferent. ‘The workshops give young people the capacity to challenge discrimination. Our work encourages and educates young people to be understanding and tolerant.’

JustDifferent has received acclaim for its techniques and schoolchildren engage with the workshop presenters with open-minded enthusiasm. Katie, a Year Six pupil, told the workshop presenter: ‘At first I felt sorry for you, but by the end of the workshop I felt more confident to talk to people like you. It changed my attitude towards disabled people.’

A grant of £5,000 made to the charity in May has helped the workshop reach 1,388 children.

‘To teach young people that disabled people can achieve, participate and lead is the ultimate goal of JustDifferent – and this is something the Grand Charity is very happy to support,’ says Laura.

Great North Air Ambulance Service
Funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham

Durham Freemasons have provided regular funding for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) over the years. While GNAAS has become a leading healthcare charity, its funding relies entirely on voluntary donations. ‘We receive no lottery or government funding, but we’re proud to say that when we receive donations, one hundred per cent goes towards providing the life-saving service,’ says Mandy Drake, deputy director of public liaison at the charity.

Michael Graham, Provincial Information Officer at Durham, believes support for the charity comes from a personal feeling within the Province: ‘With many lodges in rural areas, a lot of our members have first-hand experience of, or have witnessed, the amazing job that air ambulances do,’ he says. ‘Our members are always very keen to support GNAAS.’

Michael estimates that the Durham Province has donated more than £25,000 to GNAAS. ‘We purchased two rapid response vehicles at around £12,000 each, and the Mark Degree bought another, so there are three units that are totally funded by the Freemasons,’ he says proudly.

Funding air ambulance charities is a very popular cause with Freemasons, demonstrated by the Grand Charity’s air ambulance grant programme, which is strongly supported throughout the Provinces.

The Lenton Centre
Funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire

Around twenty per cent of the charities supported by the Nottinghamshire Province in 2012 had lost council funding. This was true of The Lenton Centre, a swimming pool and community leisure facility that Nottingham City Council decided to close down due to budget cuts, despite strong local opposition.

Following a campaign, The Lenton Community Association took over the centre, with funding from private donors and charitable organisations. The centre is run as a social enterprise and last year received £20,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire to fund a multi-use children’s area.

‘It’s a charity that we consider is doing a lot to help local people,’ says Neil Potter, Provincial Information Officer in the Province. ‘With local authorities having such restraints on their budgets, they find it increasingly difficult to support local charities, so our involvement in the community is becoming more important each month.’

Nicci Robinson, project manager of the children and young people’s team based at the centre, says the donation will help create a games area that can be used for sports such as football and cricket. ‘It’s a substantial chunk of what we need. The money has helped get a long-held dream off the ground.

It has kept us going through a very difficult time, while also aiding development and keeping our other activities for young people going.’

‘With local authorities having restraints on their budgets, our involvement in the community is more important’ Neil Potter

Letters to the editor - No. 22 Summer 2013

 

Sir, it was most interesting to read the article by Tabby Kinder, but more especially to note the ‘coinage’ on the collection plate – these consisted of fifty-, twenty-, ten- and two-pence pieces, with a few £1 coins. It reminded me of having motored from Durham to Cumbria with a brother so that my friend might obtain permission to send around a plate at the Festive Board for his particular charity. 

 

On the journey home I mentioned that I thought he would have collected more than the £74 he gained, there having been approximately seventy members present. He was rather displeased at my comment saying that he would have been happy with only £7.

 

I had meant to make an observation rather than a criticism, however. I cannot help but remember that when I joined Freemasonry in 1978 it seemed a customary donation was £1 for the then known alms. Yet, the vast percentage of Freemasons still put £1 in the collection these days. Compared to those days, £1 can’t buy you a cinema ticket, a pint of beer and so on, but £1 in the collection is still the norm? I agree with the remarks Neil Potter of Nottingham makes but I know we could and should do better.


Gordon Graves, Lodge of Progress, No. 8259, Chester-le-Street, Durham

 


 

Published in Features
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