On Saturday 14th October, Penarth Masonic Hall celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a special dinner to commemorate their forefathers foresight, exactly 90 years to the day
14th October 1927 was the date that the Foundation Stone was laid for the building of Penarth Masonic Hall by RW Bro Col Sir Charles L.D Venables Llewelyn, Bart., in a public ceremony attended by hundreds of people.
The Foundation Stone can be seen inside the Penarth Masonic Temple in the North East corner. As well as Sir Charles' association with the Hall through the Foundation Stone and the remarkable picture of that event, he also donated a chair which bears his name.
Sir Charles Venables Llewelyn was the Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Eastern Division from 1913 to 1938. Penarth Masonic Hall was one of two that he laid that Foundation Stone for during his tenure, the other being Maesteg in 1924.
He was also responsible for consecrating 30 Lodges throughout South Wales, although he was unable to be present at many due to his War Service. He was able to preside however, at Rhondda Lodge in Pontypridd, and Vale of Glamorgan Lodge in Barry, both in 1919.
Windsor Lodge was founded in 1878 and sought new premises, as its then home in Station Approach, Penarth - now Penarth British Legion - struggled to seat 250 members. Penarth Masonic Hall was built on playing fields at Stanwell Road, once used by Penarth Athletic Club. This was to accommodate the growth in Freemasonry due to the expansion of Cardiff & Penarth Docks.
The first sod was cut in 1927 by 87 year old Frederick George (Daddy) Hodges. The Grand Temple, which was open to the public recently as part of Cadw’s Open Heritage Events, has a magnificent domed ceiling decorated with stars and planets representing the Northern Heavens in September. It was designed Dan Jones, FRAS, and built by Tucker Bros, Broadway, Roath, Cardiff at a final cost of £10,500. The Hall was opened to coincide with the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of Windsor Lodge.
During a fine meal, pictures of the Founding Forefathers and of the historic laying of the Foundation Stone were projected on a large screen, as well as pictures of all the Honours Boards. Paul Haley, Provincial Communications Officer for South Wales, then explained how the evening had enabled past, present and future Freemasons to dine together and look ahead in making the Hall fit for another 90 years, as well as giving a brief history of the Hall. Chris Pratt of Windsor Lodge then gave a Toast to Penarth Masonic Hall, before a further toast was taken from special commemorative shot glasses that were manufactured for the occasion.
All proceeds from the evening will go to making the building fit for another 90 years and, of course, to prepare for its Centenary.
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.'
Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons have donated a grant of £8,000 to help victims of the recent flooding in Millom and Haverigg
Heavy rain in these areas last weekend resulted in an estimated 300 homes being flooded. Many of these properties have no insurance, as a result of being flooded on previous occasions.
The Provincial Grand Master of Cumberland and Westmorland, RW Bro Norman Thompson DL, announced the grant during a meeting with the Mayor of Millom, Councillor Angela Dixon.
Of the £8,000 grant, £5,000 comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, with remaining £3,000 coming directly from Provincial funds.
Councillor Angela Dixon, Mayor of Millom, said: 'I’m very grateful to Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons for their generous grant. The recent flooding in Millom and Haverigg hit us very hard and we need all the help we can get to get back on our feet.'
RW Bro Norman Thompson DL said: 'Having your home flooded is a terrible blow for anyone. In this case it’s even worse as these are homes that have flooded before and for which insurance was often unobtainable.
'I am pleased that we can offer a little help to our neighbours in Millom when they need it.'
A blue plaque has been unveiled on Cardiff Masonic Hall in Guildford Crescent to commemorate 263 years of Freemasonry within Cardiff
Brian Langley, the Chairman of Cardiff Masonic Hall, was invited to join the Provincial Grand Master for South Wales Gareth Jones OBE in the task of unveiling the blue plaque.
The plaque now sits secured proudly above the front doors of Cardiff Masonic Hall for all to see. It was also proudly shown to all those who recently visited the Hall as part of the CADW Open Doors Heritage Initiative during September 2017.
Original records show Corinthian Lodge No. 226, the first Cardiff Lodge, was warranted in August 1754.
Lodges met at the Cardiff Arms Hotel until 1855, when moved to its own premises at 4 Church Street. Again, with the growth in membership, new lodge premises were established in Working Street on 12 January 1877.
In 1893, the United Methodist Church was determined to sell their building in Guildford Street and relocate. The premises were originally built in 1863 for the United Methodist Church at an initial cost of £1600 and boasted seating for 800 parishioners.
The architect Mr John Hartland was well known at the time and other Cardiff examples of his work still in existence are Capel Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church in the Hayes and Bethany Baptist Church in Wharton Street, now incorporated into Howells department store.
Three Masonic Lodges, Glamorgan Lodge No. 36, Bute Lodge No. 960 and Tennant Lodge No. 1992, who were at that time meeting above a potato store in Wharton Street, made an offer of £4,500 which was accepted. In 1894, the Cardiff Masonic Hall Company was incorporated, funded by member's subscriptions raising the necessary sum plus a further £2,300 for alterations and furnishings.
The premises were finally opened to Freemasonry on 26th September 1895 by the Provincial Grand Master Lord Llangattock, who presided over its first meeting assisted by officers of Provincial Grand Lodge and distinguished brethren totalling around 500.
The building is based in design on Regency Classical coupled with the ancient Doric architecture of Greece.
In 1904 the building was fitted with Electric Lighting at the expense of the Master of Duke of York Lodge. A suitable illuminated scroll was presented to him in recognition of his gift.
In 1918 and in the following eight years, the directors acquired the cottages to the north of the building. These acquisitions enabled the building of a new temple which was named after the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of that time, Edgar Rutter.
The contribution to the community during those 263 years is immeasurable and represents a social history of the life and times of an emerging capital city from its beginnings.
South Wales Freemasons are celebrating the Tercentenary 300 years of Freemasonry within the United Grand Lodge of England and are affixing blue plaques to many of its Masonic Halls across South Wales.
As part of their Tercentenary celebrations, Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons have donated a brand new fully equipped and liveried motorcycle to Blood Bikes Cumbria to support them in their vital work across Cumbrian communities
The bike carries the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland’s provincial emblem and the square and compasses symbol.
Since May 2014, Blood Bikes Cumbria have provided an out of hours, 365 days a year transport service for urgently needed blood, drugs, human tissue and other medical requirements between hospitals, medical centres and blood banks across Cumbria. The Great North Air Ambulance Service also receives supplies daily to keep their helicopters stocked.
Blood Bikes Cumbria is run entirely by volunteers, the drivers all undergo specialist advanced training to operate the bikes under ‘blue light’ conditions. There is also a specialist team of volunteer dispatchers who take calls and co-ordinate the deliveries.
At a special presentation evening in Kendal, the motorcycle was handed over to a team of drivers from Blood Bikes Cumbria by Past Pro Grand Master The Marquess of Northampton and Provincial Grand Master, Rt W Bro Norman James Thompson DL.
W Bro Thompson said: ‘The Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland are delighted to be able to support this relatively new charity who do vital work for our Cumbrian communities, often behind the scenes.
‘Our brethren and families will be pleased to see this motorcycle put to good work for the benefit of all who need emergency medical supplies in the county.’
Sunday 3rd September may have been cold and wet in rural Wiltshire, but that didn't stop over 1,000 Freemasons and their families from braving the elements to attend Salisbury Cathedral for a very special evensong service
The Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Philip Bullock welcomed civic leaders including the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Mrs Sarah Rose Troughton, who was accompanied by her husband Mr Peter Troughton CBE, as well as the High Sheriff Lady Marland who joined Masonic leaders RW Bro Anthony Wilson and RW Bro George Francis PAGM for lunch before the service.
The service itself was the culmination of two years preparatory work by Assistant Provincial Grand Master W Bro Stephen Bridge who worked very closely with Canon Precentor Rev Tom Clammer in organising the event.
W Bro Stephen Bridge said: ‘It was a truly remarkable event - looking down the nave of the Cathedral it was quite incredible to see so many people present and proudly wearing Masonic regalia, which was a moment of intense and humbling delight and something that will stay fresh in the memory for many years to come. It’s at times like these that all of the planning, negotiation and apprehension became worthwhile.
‘We have celebrated the Tercentenary in Wiltshire’s most beautiful and impressive place of worship. In doing so we have not only honoured those Brethren who founded the first Grand Lodge, but also the generations of operative masons who built and maintain such an inspiring building. I can think of no more appropriate place for us to mark such an important Masonic event and I trust we have also contributed to the start of a mutually supportive relationship with the Cathedral, something that can only help promote Freemasonry in Wiltshire and beyond.’
RW Bro Philip Bullock was effusive in his praise of the event and the support it received. He commented: ‘It was a thrill to see the nave of the Cathedral so full. The support was quite amazing and we had Brethren from every part of the Province attending. It was also a particular pleasure to welcome members of the three branches of our Masonic Widows Association.’
By attending a service that was part of the Cathedral’s ordained pattern of worship, Wiltshire Freemasons provided an admirable public window, helping local communities understand the true values of Freemasonry. It is hoped that the service might be repeated in the not too distant future.
Please scroll through the gallery at the top to view photos from the service
To celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary, Derbyshire Freemasons made awards to 14 charities in the county, totalling £25,000
The awards recognise the good work these charities do for local people and the impact their work has on the community. As well as a financial contribution, each charity was presented with a crystal award engraved with the charity name and the Derbyshire provincial logo.
Pictured on 26th July at Pride Park Stadium in Derby, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire held their first ever Community Charity Awards ceremonial dinner.
The first award was to a Centre in Heanor who care for the elderly during the day. Stepping Stones provide transport to the centre where fresh hot meals and drinks are provided as well as entertainment and professional care. They were represented by Jo Dixon, Eileen Cheeseman and Julie Riley.
The Drop Inn
In 1999 in Belper, reports of the youth of the town causing trouble, taking drugs, taking part in vandalism and intimidation prompted one person to address the concerns of those young people. She didn't believe that they could all be so bad. That person was Andrea Fox and in 2000, The Drop Inn was founded where the young people set the ground rules and formulated the policies and since then it has grown and developed into what today is a Foundation for Youth Innovation. They were represented by Andrea Fox and Layton Davies.
In Chesterfield, Fairplay are a group whose aim is to improve the lives of children and young people with disabilities. They offer support to children and young people up to the age of 25 and to their parents and siblings. That support is in the form of play schemes, Saturday clubs, youth clubs, activity days, independent living groups, parent support groups and family trips for parents and siblings. Representing them at the event were Thomas Boden, Elaine Pauk, John Chambers and Heather Fawbert.
The Place Project
Housing expansion in villages brings all sorts of problems for schools, doctor's surgeries and shops. It also creates a need for somewhere for youngsters to play, and two years ago The Place Project was established as a community group to transform the run- down and underused recreation ground that serves the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell. Whilst the local Parish Council gave them a small grant over three years they realised that nothing would happen without hard work and a willingness to raise the money needed.
They are now on their way, progress is being made and a re-vamped playground and recreation ground are no longer just a pipe-dream. Representing the Group were Paul Yorke, Carole Bowskill and Ian and Caroline Pendleton.
Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre
Derbyshire Children’s' Holiday Centre were probably the oldest Charity amongst the recipients on the evening. Established in 1891, the Charity provides holidays for children from Derbyshire whose lives are such that they will benefit from a change to and respite from their daily lives. They were represented by Bill Tomlinson and David Harris.
The Hardy Group
“Life doesn't end when Dementia begins”
That is the opening line on the website of The Hardy Group, a thriving group of people living with dementia, as well as current and past carers who through their own experiences support each other along their journey with dementia. A Foundation Derbyshire Awards winner in 2016, they were represented by Bernard Crowther and Dave Roberts.
Based in Bakewell in North Derbyshire and The High Peak, Helen's Trust is an end of life Charity which provides support to terminally ill people who wish to be cared for and to die at home. They fund and co-ordinate non-nursing care such as sitting services overnight and regular carer respite during the day.
Now in their 16th year, they work with respect, compassion and dignity and are motivated to go that extra mile for the beneficiary showing professionalism and a willingness to become engaged with and embedded in the local communities of North Derbyshire. Zoe Woodward and Debbie Fennell were there to collect their award.
In the Derbyshire Dales and based at St Oswald's Hospital in Ashbourne are a group called Careline. Careline offers a free telephone befriending service to people in the Derbyshire Dales. They aim to make people's lives better by calling those who feel in need of support – they could be elderly, less able to get out, recently bereaved, lonely or isolated but Careline offer friendship and a social interaction. Representing them were Annette Eley and Gordon Hart.
P3 Artemis House
People from all walks of life and through a variety of circumstances can find themselves homeless - the Erewash area is no different to many others. P3 Artemis House in Long Eaton provides a safe place for homeless adults to live and combines with it a personalised support package to tackle the root cause of their homelessness.. Erewash Borough Council work closely with them and often refer those in need to them. Representing them were Jo Fieldhouse, Christine Nutt, Kerry Dungavel and Katrina Bucklehurst.
Long Eaton and District Friendly Invalid and Handicapped Group
This group was recommended for their work in helping the disabled and those with an invalidity. They are called the Long Eaton & District Friendly Invalid & Handicapped Group who have been in existence for over 50 years. Their aim is to create an outlet not only for the handicapped but also for able-bodied elderly individuals who rarely get the opportunity to do anything or see anyone. Amonst the representatives were Mahrie Harvey, Kath Haywood, Beryl Ash and Marion Drage.
The Chapel-en-le-Frith Mobile Physiotherapy Service
Some years ago, a charity called The Chapel-en-le-Frith Mobile Physiotherapy Service was started whose objects were to promote and maintain a mobile physiotherapy service in the rural district of Chapel-en-le-Frith, and to make available treatment to patients physically incapable of attending hospital and who were not able to afford the cost of home treatment by a private physiotherapist.
That service has been welcomed by all those living in the area and is recognised as having made a difference to the lives of all those who use it. Representing the service was Lesley Boler.
In Glossop, North Derbyshire, is a charity called The Bureau or Glossop's Voluntary and Community Network. They believe that all members of the community will have both support needs of their own and a capacity to support others at various times in their lives – in some cases simultaneously.
They offer a huge range of services which include helping people who are struggling to manage, or live independently by accessing a wide range of local services. Julie Farley, Cheryl Pike, John Harris and Martin Gallagher were there to collect their award.
Shoutout is an inclusive group in South Derbyshire for people with additional needs, and also for their families and friends. They aim to encourage people of all abilities to come together on equal terms and to encourage inclusion within the wider community. Representing them were Kia Higham, Sue Dixon, Kim Coe and Robert Coe.
Staunton Harold Sailability Trust
The final award went to the Staunton Harold Sailability Trust - a relatively new charity who offer sailing to children with physical or mental disabilities. Whilst the charity may be new it will continue the work of the sailing club at Staunton Harold who have been supporting sailing for children and young adults with varying disabilities for the past 15 years. Representing them were Kevin and Lesley Needham and Richard and Jackie Tivey.
Cliff jump raises over £1,000 for Masonic Charitable Foundation
Tony Andrews and Digby Lund, both from Lodge of Science and Art No. 8429 in Loughborough, made a jump off a cliff in Malaga on Sunday 3rd September 2017 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2022 Festival
The 2022 Festival aims to raise £1.8 million by Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons over the next five years.
The pair have so far raised over £1,200, and Digby’s wife Yvonne also jumped for charity with Tony's wife Elanor providing moral support.
Having arrived at Alumnecar, the group were met by their paraglider pilots, Antonio and Jose, who arrived by air demonstrating how best to land. The intrepid paragliders were taken up into the hills along a single track road via numerous hairpin bends to the take-off site. The launch site was on the south side of a sharp ridge offering wonderful views out to sea.
Having arranged the wing, the pilots set about strapping themselves and their guests into their harnesses after which a full safety briefings were delivered. They were then given take-off instructions to simply to run down the slope until the ground fell away.
The flights down were very smooth and offered amazing views out to sea and along the coast. Digby's flight showed the advantage of being so much taller than Antonio when taking off from such a steep slope, a couple of steps and then off into the blue yonder.
Tony said: ‘We were all lucky enough to have relatively good landings, though I did collect a lot of the beach in my shoes and some in my knees.’
Digby said: ‘Having all safely returned to terra firma, we exchanged feelings about our flights, the heightened heart rate before and during take-off, the gradual relaxing as the flight continued and then the increasing tension as the ground rapidly approached. We all agreed the venture had been well worthwhile and hope the donations will fully reflect our efforts.’
Leicestershire and Rutland Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: ‘Congratulations to Digby and Tony for their fundraising efforts and I'm pleased to learn they landed safely without harm.’
You can still sponsor Digby and Tony by clicking here
To celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry, following the formation of the first Grand Lodge in June 1717, the Widnes Group of Lodges and Chapters held a church service in the magnificent St Luke’s Church – a Grade II listed building which dates back to the 12th century
As this was a special occasion, the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison had granted a dispensation to allow the wearing of regalia, which added a lot of colour to the occasion. Tony also supported the occasion by attending with his wife Maureen, along with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton and his wife Sue, Widnes Group Chairman Neil Pedder and his wife Liz, Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon and his wife Yvonne along with other officials and committee members of the Widnes Group.
Wider support for the occasion was given by neighbouring groups including Warrington Group Chairman Andy Barton, Woolton Group Chairman Andy Whittle and St Helens Group Vice Chairman Graham Williams along with members of their groups.
The service was conducted throughout by the Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst and commenced with the Provincial Grand Master processing into the church accompanied by the Provincial Team. This was followed by a very warm welcoming address to all attendees by Kevin Poynton who then mentioned that as part of the Halton Heritage Week at Widnes Masonic Hall and to continue the Tercentenary celebrations, the Hall will open to the public for viewing, with pop-up exhibitions, guided tours around the lodge rooms and explanations as to what Freemasonry is about.
Following Kevin’s address, the congregation then sang the first hymn of the service, ‘Praise, my soul, the King of heaven’. All the music throughout the service was provided by the Provincial Grand Organist Stephen Derringer, who in the words of Yvonne Horabin the church treasurer: 'brought our magnificent newly restored organ to life'.
There was then a Bidding Prayer from Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst which was followed by Tony Harrison giving a brief view of Freemasonry in the community.
Tony added that in 2015, the four main London charities donated £14,249,547 to charitable causes and their own West Lancashire Freemasons’ charity donates monies in the region of £500,000 per annum to deserving cases and causes throughout their Province. In conclusion Tony said: 'Brethren, as we celebrate the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge, there is a temptation merely to look back upon our history; however, this 300th anniversary, coinciding as it does with the start of our own 2021 Festival, affords us a glorious opportunity not only to show the world what we stand for and believe in, but also to look to the future, to continue the tradition of caring for those in need and to face the challenges of the future with that vigour, enthusiasm and commitment, which have ever been the defining characteristics of our Order.'
The offertory collection raised the grand sum of £367.57, with all proceeds going to St Luke’s Church. Prayers of thanksgiving were then given by Neil Pedder and then Rev Godfrey Hirst led the congregation in saying the Lord’s Prayer and a commitment to future endeavour.
The final hymn of the service was then sung, ‘I vow to thee. My country, all earthly things above’. After the Blessing by Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst, the National Anthem was sung and then Tony Harrison and the Provincial Team processed out.
Have you heard the one about the three Essexboys?
The Essex Cornerstone Club is bringing younger masons together to create new connections across the Province, as Peter Watts discovers from three of the founding members
Lazy stereotypes abound when it comes to Essex, yet it’s one of England’s most diverse and under-appreciated counties. It boasts a lively mix of busy commuter towns, rural villages, regal Roman settlements and colourful seaside resorts. Essex also has a huge number of Freemasons, with around 10,000 members meeting in hundreds of lodges.
Since 2016, Essex has also been home to the Cornerstone Club, which was founded to connect young masons from across the Province. Three of its founding members – self-declared, born-and-bred ‘Essex boys’ – talk among the cockle sheds of Leigh-on-Sea, which sits on the northern side of the Thames Estuary: ‘With the Cornerstone Club, we want to capture the spirit of Essex,’ announces chairman Elliott Chevin. ‘It’s such a large Province with so much to offer.’
Elliott and his co-founders Jack Gilliland and Jack Saunders discuss the beginnings of the club, which has attracted 150 members from Essex’s large but not particularly youthful masonic community. Elliott, 41, took to Freemasonry enthusiastically in his 20s, but only realised the full range of potential masonic experiences as he moved higher up the ranks, out of his own lodge and into the wider Province. This was also when he began to meet other young Essex masons.
‘There was an age gap between me and everybody else in my lodge,’ he says. ‘I enjoyed the meetings, the meals, the beer, and I loved meeting different people, but the interests of somebody in their 20s can be very different to those of someone in their 60s.’
After Elliott became more involved at the Provincial level, he met more people of a similar age and formed a circle of younger masonic friends. ‘I wanted to find a way to extend this, as I knew there were masons in Essex who had never had that sort of access.’
Supported by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Paul Reeves, Elliott recruited a six-man team of young masons, among them Jack Saunders. Now 31, Jack has been a Freemason for three years and helps to manage the Cornerstone Club’s social media presence.
‘We looked at the data for the Province and saw there were around 500 masons under 40 – one or two per lodge – and we wanted to join them together,’ says Jack. ‘It’s great being with different people [in lodge], but sometimes you want to speak to someone who has the same life experience.’ The club has blossomed, and half its 150 or so members are under the age of 30 – the youngest being 19.
The Essex Cornerstone Club combines its home county’s get-out-and-do-it spirit with a deep respect for masonic tradition. ‘We didn’t want to create another commitment, something that was compulsory,’ says Elliott. ‘We wanted to create something so compelling they’d want to be there. It’s not just meetings and beer – although beer and meetings are important – but a mix of social and educational events that deepen and strengthen knowledge as well as being fun.’
Events have included a tour of the museum at Freemasons’ Hall, playing paintball, a trip to a local brewery, a chance to go inside an Apache helicopter, a family day at Romford Greyhound Stadium and marshalling at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a charity run raising funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice.
The imagination demonstrated by these activities may account for the club’s success. ‘We expected an initial burst of interest but have continued to build on those numbers every month,’ says co-founder Jack Gilliland, 33. ‘After every event, people have talked about it on social media, and we always get new members. It’s the mix. We’re not just a drinking club; we have thrown in educational events and charity and community engagement.’
‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family’ Elliott Chevin
The club is focused on holding events in different parts of the Province to enable members from all over Essex to participate, but also to ensure all new young Freemasons in the county are aware of the club. Here, the support of the Province is essential.
‘When a new young mason signs up, we will go to a meeting to welcome them and talk about how to connect with Freemasons of a similar age,’ explains Elliott. ‘We also try to be there every time they do a ritual or event. The Province was very supportive [when setting up the club] and it was important we moved in step with them in order to use their ability to communicate with Essex’s 10,000 Freemasons.’
Jack Saunders admits the club initially had to reassure lodges that it wasn’t planning to poach any younger masons. Now lodges all over Essex help to spread the word, understanding that the Cornerstone Club operates to everybody’s benefit. ‘It’s supplementary, not competitive,’ he explains.
Jack Gilliland is one of three generations at his lodge, which he attends alongside his father and grandfather, and believes this mix of ages is one of the appeals of Freemasonry. ‘There aren’t many other places where people in their 20s and their 80s can discuss life experiences,’ he says. ‘I’ve never had that outside family and Freemasonry.’
MORE THAN A CLUB
Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, appreciates the way the Cornerstone Club has enriched masonic life in his Province. ‘It’s clear by the significant number of young Freemasons who have signed up to the club just how enthusiastic our younger members are about Freemasonry, and this bodes well for the future,’ he says.
The club is active on social media and Elliott is excited by the potential of technology to build a national or international network of young Freemasons. It uses Facebook to give younger masons a private support system, so they can discuss masonic principles without fear of embarrassing themselves in front of older masons or non-masonic friends.
Elliott is now considering the creation of a Cornerstone Lodge, as a way of maintaining friendships for those who have become too old to attend the club itself; at 41, he is already anticipating his own retirement.
‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a Cornerstone Lodge; a way for people to stay connected to the club for life?’ he says. ‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family. Before the club existed you had to hope you’d make a connection with somebody or, if you were lucky, find there was somebody of a similar age in your lodge already. Now people can make an instant connection with others around their own age while also expanding their masonic knowledge. That could help somebody stay in Freemasonry for 50 or 60 years.’
FIND OUT MORE: Read more about the club at www.essexcornerstone.com