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.'
The Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum was dedicated by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England Peter Lowndes on Tuesday 18th April
He was assisted by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery, in the presence of over 200 invited guests, who included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire Ian Dudson, the Mayor of the Borough of East Staffordshire Beryl Toon and the Mayor of Tamworth Ken Norchi, as well as the Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton and the Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire John Lockley.
The garden in Staffordshire commemorates Freemasons who have served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice in helping to defend their country in two World Wars and other conflicts.
Many people have been involved in the work to design and build the garden and one freemason Eddie Ford from Burton-upon-Trent has worked tirelessly to see the project to fruition.
From the Grand Secretary
By the time you receive this issue, our Tercentenary year will be well under way and our Rulers will have already attended overseas events in Denmark, Mumbai, India, and Zakynthos, Greece, at our unattached Star of the East Lodge, No. 880. His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent has also attended a church service at Canterbury Cathedral for the Provinces of East and West Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We now await the broadcast in April of the long-anticipated Sky TV documentary Inside The Freemasons.
It is an exciting year as we build towards our showpiece event at the end of October. So far, it is likely that we will welcome around 160 Grand Lodges from around the world to celebrate with us at the Royal Albert Hall and look forward to our next 300 years. We now need to build on our successes and use this year to show ourselves as the vibrant and relevant organisation which is Freemasonry.
Looking forward to the Tercentenary in this issue of Freemasonry Today, Keith Gilbert highlights the planning and organisation of celebratory events taking place across not just the UK but the entire world. As Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes notes in his Senior Insights column, these are exciting times, so we should celebrate in style by showing our pride in being Freemasons.
When it comes to showing the best in Freemasonry, Spinnaker Lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight is a shining beacon. We find out how its members are encouraging younger Freemasons into the Craft with a shared interest in all things sailing. The sixth specialist lodge in the Province to be consecrated in the past four years, Spinnaker will be visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs to raise both its own profile and that of Freemasonry in 2017.
Best foot forward
In the north-west of England, we meet a 54-strong group of Freemasons, their families and friends who trekked across Morecambe Bay. Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master Norman Thompson and his intrepid travellers not only raised money to help victims of the Cumbria floods, but also showed how Freemasonry is connecting with local communities. The team joined some 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade to brave the wet and puddled sands for a memorable day that is now an annual event in the Provincial calendar.
The opportunities for Freemasonry are not just in the face we show the world, but are also in our governance, our leadership, our retention and our management of masonic halls. The Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, David Wootton, reports on how he and his team are leading the implementation and delivery of our agreed strategy for Freemasonry to 2020. As David notes, there is much to do but also much to enjoy.
‘We need to use this year to show ourselves as vibrant and relevant’
A year to be proud of
From fundraising to the formation of new masons clubs, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the reasons to celebrate Freemasonry in 2017
I have received a copy of the Report of the New and Young Masons Clubs’ Conference and was delighted to learn just how well the clubs are progressing with more than 30 established across London and the Provinces. This is a fantastic achievement and I would encourage those new Freemasons in Provinces without such a club to consider setting one up. You would have our full support and I am sure you would be greatly encouraged by your Provincial hierarchy.
I have asked Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales and Third Grand Principal, to act as the focal point for the movement. It really is a splendid initiative and I congratulate all those involved.
I have frequently said how proud we should be of all our charities, and not just the big four. They all do tremendous work. The astonishing sum of £14.5 million was raised through the hard work of our brethren. The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Festival total of nearly £7.75 million is the highest total ever achieved.
Across the board, the money raised per capita by all four Provinces in Festival during 2016 was extraordinary and of a similar level. Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has launched a scheme to give £3 million to your local charities next year in recognition of both its own formation and, of course, our Tercentenary. This not only shows your generosity but is also aimed at promoting our involvement in the community.
Cause for celebration
I know that some of you have become frustrated at not being able to get hold of a Tercentenary Jewel. Please be assured that there are now plenty available in Letchworth’s Shop. Unfortunately, initial demand far outstripped supply. In spite of your frustration, may I ask you to beware of cheap imitations. Sadly, they do exist and are being offered at a very reduced price, but they are unauthorised and unlawful copies. We are working closely with the Provinces to get them all removed.
The forthcoming Sky documentary entitled Inside The Freemasons gives us a great opportunity to capitalise on the publicity being generated, and we anticipate that other high-profile events throughout the year will keep us in the public eye and produce some really positive results.
These are exciting times; let us celebrate in style by showing our pride in and talking about our membership. I am absolutely certain that we will all enjoy a splendid year in 2017.
‘Your generosity is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated’
With a passion for sailing, the members of Spinnaker Lodge want to help younger Freemasons navigate their way through the Craft, as Matthew Bowen discovers
It’s not often that you hear the words ‘pontoon party’ and ‘Freemasonry’ together. Formal suits aren’t exactly de rigueur at the marina and aprons tend not to mix well with high winds. But the members of a new lodge see sailing and Freemasonry as perfect crew mates.
In November 2016, Spinnaker Lodge, No. 9932, became the sixth specialist lodge in the Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight to be consecrated in the past four years under the leadership of Provincial Grand Master Mike Wilks. Like other specialist lodges, such as Football Lodge and Chequered Flag Lodge, Spinnaker centres its proceedings around a common interest; charitable giving will focus on supporting boating charities – and members will travel to meetings by boat.
So how to go about creating a specialist lodge? The first step, according to the lodge’s inaugural Master, Frank Milner, was to see how many of the Province’s 9,000 members were interested in sailing. As the proud owner of a Moody 27 yacht himself, Frank tested the water by issuing a circular, Calling All Yachtsmen.
One of the first to respond to Frank’s invitation was Adam Harvey, who is now the Junior Warden at Spinnaker Lodge. ‘I’ve been sailing since I was 12 or 13,’ he says, ‘so when I saw the invitation I couldn’t turn it down. It struck me as a good thing to have something else to bond over in addition to being brothers.’
Frank’s original intention had been to start a sailing club, rather than a masonic lodge, but encouraged by a 25-strong crew of the keenest boatmen in the Province, he decided to push his idea further. Together they took on the challenge of founding the new lodge.
‘It’s been a learning curve,’ says Frank. ‘If you join an established lodge, the traditions are already in place, but when you find yourself making on-the-spot decisions about how to run a double initiation ceremony, for example, you realise you have a task on your hands.’
Some of the decisions were easy to make: naturally, all members must have an interest in boating (though owning a boat is not a requirement) and they must all be prepared to learn the words to the official lodge song, What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.
Navigating new waters
Deciding how to appeal to new, younger members, however, has proven to be a trickier affair. ‘We are working hard to bridge the gap between young, trendy sailing guys and our traditional formalities by developing our meetings to meet their expectations,’ says Frank, determinedly. In the face of declining membership, he believes that appealing to the younger generation is crucial for Freemasonry, and his greatest hope for the new lodge is to see younger masons coming up through the ranks.
To make ritualistic masonic life appeal to millennial males, Frank is aware that he must be flexible with the rules. As well as applying the principles of brevity, the lodge will operate in a somewhat nomadic fashion as it casts its net wider in the search for new members.
Meetings at the lodge’s official headquarters, the Royal Naval and Royal Albert Yacht Club in Southsea, will be limited to twice a year, with three more taking place at other masonic centres along the coast, where members will cast anchor for the weekend. By visiting new marinas and hosting social events at sailing clubs, it is hoped that the profile of Spinnaker Lodge will rise among those who could potentially make perfect new members.
Given that the modern man is likely to be time poor, what would convince him to join Spinnaker Lodge? ‘Aside from the personal development opportunities, younger members will be able to tap into the knowledge of more experienced sailors,’ says Frank. By joining older brethren on their boats, younger sailors will be shown the ropes on different crafts.
‘We are working hard to bridge the gap between young, trendy sailing guys and our traditional formalities by developing our meetings to meet their expectations’ Frank Milner
As far as Adam is concerned, special interest lodges are the way forward for Freemasonry, enhancing the appeal of joining as well as creating greater enthusiasm among masons. And when it comes to getting greater commitment from existing members, the founding members of Spinnaker Lodge know there’s nothing more powerful than family.
By holding lodge meetings at weekends, and setting up temporary bases in marinas within easy distance of a masonic hall, Spinnaker Lodge offers family members the chance to meet and socialise. Senior Warden Adrian Cleightonhills, who sails a Southerly 32, says, ‘I’m keen that Freemasonry shouldn’t just be for the man of the house. It can take a fair amount of his time and I feel that it should be done with the encouragement, and involvement, of his family.’
Women and non-masonic members of the family won’t take part in lodge meetings, but they’ll keep the party going while the meetings take place, which is proving to be a popular notion. ‘When we’ve spoken to potential new members, this is the thing they show most interest in alongside the sailing,’ says Adrian.
Anchored in tradition
But Spinnaker Lodge will not only apply itself to appealing to new members; moral and spiritual values will not be compromised, and the lodge will remain dedicated to being a force for good in the community. Spinnaker will choose a sailing charity to support each year – this year it’s the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – and the personal progression of members will be enhanced by developing them as sailors as well as men. And while the lodge would like its membership to double over the next five years, it’s not its biggest priority and won’t be achieved at any cost.
At the lodge’s first meeting in January this year, Spinnaker initiated two new members, both in their 20s and both keen boatmen.
They are the future of the lodge, and their success within it will ultimately reflect the lodge’s success as a whole. The winds of change are certainly blowing in Spinnaker’s sails and, as Frank says, ‘it’s all up for grabs’.
Refresh for Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral has received two grants totalling £12,500 from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, which will help to pay for the renewal of ancient flagstones.
The Dean of Ripon John Dobson received the two grants – one for £7,500 from West Riding Masonic Charities Limited, and a second of £5,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation. These were presented by David Pratt, PGM; Jack Pigott, Chairman of West Riding Masonic Charities; and Paul Clarke, APGM.
Best foot forward
When a group of Freemasons came together to make their way across Morecambe Bay, they not only enjoyed the stunning Cumbria views but also raised money for good causes on the way
On a warm clear day last year, a group of 54 people, made up of Freemasons, their families and friends, trekked across Morecambe Bay.
The intrepid team, which included Cumberland & Westmorland Provincial Grand Master, Norman Thompson, and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Ian D’Arcy, joined 1,000 walkers at Arnside Promenade, where Cedric Robinson MBE, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay, took charge.
Robinson led the group on to the beach following one of the most beautiful coastlines in Britain, cutting through Silverdale and out across the sands, heading down the bay towards Heysham. Many walkers, some barefoot, braved the wet and puddled sands as the expeditionary group followed the receding tide down the bay, taking in the glorious views across to Lancaster, the Lake District fells and Furness Peninsula.
‘Two hours into the journey, a race commenced across the thigh-deep water to the other side’
Two hours into the journey, walkers gathered in the middle of the bay alongside the River Kent. On Robinson’s command, a race commenced across the thigh-deep water to the other side. Fortunately, it was not too cold and, once everyone had safely crossed, the group changed direction, heading back up the bay towards Kents Bank, negotiating the wetlands and gullies along the way as they approached dry land at the railway station.
With gift aid, the masonic walkers and supporters raised in the region of £2,400 for the Provincial Grand Master’s charity, helping victims of the Cumbria floods, among other deserving causes.
The walk has become an annual event in the Provincial calendar, with the next one happening on Saturday, 17 June 2017 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations. Cumberland & Westmorland invites members and friends of all Provinces to come along for a thoroughly enjoyable day.
RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Masterfor Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, visited the headquarters of Lifelites on Wednesday 15th December 2016 for a demonstration of some of the equipment that is provided by the charity to children’s hospices
Lifelites began as project within the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and became an independent charity in 2006. It provides specialist entertainment, educational and assistive technology packages to over 9,000 children and young people with life-limiting, life-threatening and disabling conditions in children's hospices including Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People based in Loughborough.
Caroline Powell, Lifelites Training Manager, drives the Lifelites' training strategy to ensure all of the donated equipment is utilised to its full potential by hospice staff was delighted to demonstrate some of the equipment including Eyegaze which makes a computer accessible for disabled young people. Through a sensor, Eyegaze allows them to track their eye movements enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate, can now do so with this magical technology – they can tell their carers what they would like to eat or drink and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them.
Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites said: 'We are hoping to provide Rainbows in Leicestershire with another new package of our latest technologies in 2018 and will be fundraising for that project in the New Year.'
The annual carol service attended by Freemasons of the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland was held at Leicester Cathedral on Sunday 11th December 2016
The Rev Canon Johannes Arens, Canon Precentor welcomed over 200 members and their family and friends to the cathedral for the service, including the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Jim Buckle and Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder.
The congregation were supported in singing carols by the Senior Trebles and Songmen of the Cathedral Choir and accompanied by the Cathedral Organist, Simon Headley. Carols sung included ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’, ‘Long Ago, Prophets Knew’, ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’, ‘See Amid the Winter's Snow’, ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’.
Lessons were read by W Bro Ian Hammond, Master of the Howe and Charnwood Lodge No. 1007, W Bro Kelvin Johnson, Provincial Grand Secretary, W Bro Paul Roberts, Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, the Provincial Grand Master, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Assistant Provincial Grand Master. The sermon was given by the Rev Canon Jeff Hopewell.
After the service, wine and mince pies, provided by the Province, were served in the cathedral by members of the Derek Buswell Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards No. 9705.
Opening evening for the curious
Freemasons from lodges in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland were invited to bring their sons, friends and colleagues who might be interested in finding out more about the ancient fraternity to an open evening at Syston Masonic Hall on the 14th November 2016.
In the past three years, unlike the national trend, membership in the Province has seen a rise – particularly amongst younger masons who are keen to join and to mark the Tercentenary of United Grand Lodge of England in 2017. It is aimed to welcome 300 new members across Leicestershire and Rutland joining the 3,000 strong membership which meet in the 76 lodges across the two counties.
A total of 80 gentlemen accompanied by their hosts packed into the lodge room to listen to a number of short talks on what Freemasonry is, how it developed, why people join and charitable aspects which were given by W Bros Phillip Dodd, Brian Golland and Marc Taylor. Additionally Bro Andrew 'Jock' Keenan introduced the Light Blue Club which is the social club for newer members. It was so well attended that extra chairs had to be brought into the lodge room to accommodate everyone.
The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro. David Hagger, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Jim Buckle and the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder were also in attendance to support the event and answer any questions from the guests.
After the talks, the guests and their hosts enjoyed a sumptuous buffet and a chance to chat with their hosts about masonry on a more casual basis.
The Provincial Grand Master said: 'We are finding that more and more younger people are attracted to Freemasonry as they seek a social environment with strong values and traditions that also supports the local community in charitable giving.'
He added: 'Whilst we would be delighted if our guests this evening consider joining our fraternity, I trust that they have all left with an extremely positive attitude about the Freemasons.'