Youth agriculture

Focused on helping secondary school students at risk of exclusion, Jamie’s Farm brings together farming, family and therapy. Alex Smith takes a trip to the charity’s new site in Monmouth to find out how a grant from Freemasons is helping to cultivate change in disadvantaged children

Thirty-five children will be excluded from school in the UK today. Of those, more than 99 per cent will leave without five good GCSEs and so will struggle to be accepted for post-16 apprenticeships or training. Each of these will cost the taxpayer £350,000 during their lifetime. 

The figures come from the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Ministry of Justice, but Jamie’s Farm wants to change the status quo, ‘to enable disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally’. The charity was founded in 2005 by Jamie Feilden, a former history teacher at Manor School in Croydon. Frustrated with the bad behaviour of some pupils, Jamie conducted an experiment. He brought in some lambs from his family farm in Wiltshire, set up pens in the playground and tasked his students with looking after them. 

Amazingly, the worst-behaved seemed to benefit the most, becoming calmer and more focused. So several months later and helped by his mother, Tish, a psychotherapist who’d worked with children all her life, Jamie’s Farm opened its barn doors for the first time.

Thirteen years on, the charity has grown into a national organisation, with facilities in Bath, Hereford, London and Monmouth – and a fifth opening in East Sussex in April 2019. A lot has changed in the last few years, but according to Ruth Young, education manager and resident mother hen of Jamie’s Farm Monmouth, the curriculum is still the same. 

‘We have three principles: farming, family and therapy,’ says Young. ‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they arrive. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, with others it’s better wellbeing or more self-belief.’ 

ROUTINES AND RELAXATION

Once the young people have signed a contract forbidding mobile phones and sugary snacks, the week-long residential begins in earnest. The farm hands start at 7:30am, their first task being to prepare breakfast, often using ingredients from the farm garden. Once they and their teachers have eaten together, they start the first activity, which could be anything from feeding animals to chopping wood. Then it’s time for lunch, followed by an hour-and-a-half walk, dinner, evening entertainment, and finally, bed.

It’s a strict routine, but the children are given time and space to communicate their feelings. This is often done during group sessions, with students giving ‘shout-outs’ to others for commendable actions, such as bravery, or simply doing something they didn’t want to. For more sensitive issues, one-on-one conversations are offered by the farm’s therapy coordinator. They’ll often talk about what’s going on at home; what’s bothering them. This information is shared with the child’s teacher, who follows it up with appropriate parties to provide support. After the residential, there’s a follow-up programme, including visits to the child’s school, to ensure each student achieves their potential.

‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they come here. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, for others it’s better wellbeing or better self-belief’

THE POWER OF RESPONSIBILITY

The results have been extraordinary. From 2017 to 2018, more than half of Jamie’s Farm participants stopped being at risk of exclusion just six weeks after going on the residential; 56 per cent showed increased engagement and 66 per cent showed improved levels of self-esteem. And six months later the percentages are even more impressive.

‘It’s about giving responsibility to young people who’ve never had it before,’ says Young. ‘A lot of them have never seen the countryside before, let alone a farm. But they love it,’ she says, pointing to Hannad, a student trying – successfully, in the end – to catch a chicken. 

‘It’s been fun; we eat together and talk about how we’re feeling and give shout-outs to people who we’ve seen doing good work. I was a bit nervous at first, but we’ve all bonded now. I feel more confident talking about myself,’ explains Hannad, a year-11 student at Harris Academy in Battersea, London.

‘Even within the first day, we notice a change,’ says Dave Pearson-Smith, senior visit coordinator at Jamie’s Farm. ‘By the end of the week, the difference can be like night and day. They stand up straighter, they look healthier – it’s extraordinary.’

On a tour of the farm, Young points out the garden, kitchen, equipment shed and woodworking area – much of which has been facilitated by the £39,000 grant from Monmouthshire Freemasons, which came through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. ‘Wellies, overalls, waterproofs, gardening tools – a lot of this is down to the grant,’ says Young. ‘Some young people arrive at the farm without proper clothing, but thanks to the Freemasons, we can say, “We’ll take care of everything.” We’re very grateful for their support.’

‘The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic’

MONEY WELL SPENT

‘It’s made a massive difference,’ says Katie Francis, fundraising and volunteer manager for Jamie’s Farm. ‘The grant will cover all our student activity costs each year, such as games and clothing for the young people, pet food, seeds, art materials, woodworking tools… but it’s also our running costs. The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic.’

Richard Davies, Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, says that supporting Jamie’s Farm was an obvious choice. ‘I visited the farm with the Deputy and the Provincial Treasurer, and we were so impressed with what we saw,’ he says. ‘We pledged that we will give them whatever support we can.’ 

In the last 20 years, Monmouthshire Freemasons have given over £600,000 to local causes, and are always looking for new ways to support their Province. ‘We noticed some dilapidated beehives on the farm,’ says Richard, ‘so we’re funding their replacement and offering training so the staff can maintain their bee stocks, perhaps producing their own jars of honey with the masonic logo on them.’

As for Jamie’s Farm, it will continue cultivating change in children who need it most. ‘When my teacher mentioned Jamie’s Farm I thought, “I’m not going to enjoy this… no phone, no sugary drinks, no TV,”’ recalls Ellie, a year-11 student from Harris Academy. ‘On my first day, I was like, “What am I going to do?” But I’ve enjoyed it so much. Before I came here I always felt like I had someone on my back, but now I feel like most of my worries have gone. I’ll just look at a view and think… it’s all so beautiful.’

For more information and to make a donation, visit www.jamiesfarm.org.uk

To celebrate 200 years since the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Monmouthshire, a gala dinner was held at the Newport Masonic Hall on 31st May 2018

The occasion was the regular meeting of Charles Lyne (Installed Masters) Lodge No. 2964, which was attended by the Provincial Grand Master Richard Davies and the Deputy Grand Master Christopher Evans, together with Richard Lewis, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Bristol Province

This was particularly relevant as it was the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Bristol who presided over the consecration of the New Province of Monmouthshire at The King’s Head in Monmouth on 1st June 1818.

During the meeting, David Powell gave a talk on ‘Events leading up to and the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Monmouthshire in 1818, and the first 50 years of the Province’. He talked about the early arrangements with what are now the neighbouring Provinces under one Provincial Grand Master.

He emphasised the special relationship with Bristol in particular, highlighting the role the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Bristol played as the Consecrating Officer at the Kings Head on 1st June 1818. Commemorative plates were also presented by Richard Davies to each of the Masonic Halls within the Province.

To further commemorate this occasion, Richard Davies, with members of the Provincial History Group, toasted the Provincial Grand Lodge of Monmouthshire at an informal lunch at The King’s Head on 1st June 2018.

Life is good

After an attack left Clive Jones blind at the age of 26, he put the pieces of his life back together with the support of the community. Now, Freemasonry is helping him to give back

Eleven years ago, Clive Jones found himself freewheeling down a steep hill in High Wycombe on a tandem bike with an ex-Navy friend, praying the brakes would work. The four-day charity ride to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War would last 252 miles, stretching from Buckingham Palace to Cardiff Castle. 

It was Clive’s most challenging fundraising event, and not just because the tandem was laborious to ride. The journey was all the more remarkable because Clive was blinded in 2000 in an unprovoked assault while serving with the Welsh Guards. After losing his sight, he has spent the last 18 years rebuilding his life.

Today, Wales-born Clive is a busy father of three, optimistic and active within his local community in Shropshire, and keen to raise money for deserving charities or individuals in need. But the memories from December 2000 are never far away. ‘I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ he says now. 

Clive was only 26 at the time of the incident, married with two young daughters. Joining the army had been his childhood dream, and he had planned to serve for many more years. The assault brought those dreams to an end.

‘After the assault, I was in a coma for a week. When I woke up, I soon realised there was something very drastically wrong with my eyes,’ he remembers. ‘I had been a highly capable soldier, and when I woke up, I was a scared child. I don’t feel embarrassed saying that now. I couldn’t even do the simplest things, like tying my own shoelaces.’

Clive’s initial fears related to his job and his family’s financial security, but he was also anxious about the future of his marriage. He need not have worried: Clive and Stephanie have now been married for 22 years. They have a 13-year-old son in addition to their two daughters, now aged 19 and 22. ‘The charity Blind Veterans UK (BVUK, formerly St Dunstan’s) taught me how to live again,’ he explains. ‘I’m now highly independent at home and within my local community, so life is good.’

 KEEPING IT LIGHT

One of the most important skills Clive gained with BVUK’s help was learning how to use a computer: ‘That gave me a lifeline to the outside world again, and it has done a hell of a lot for my confidence.’ He also took up archery in 2001, becoming a British Blind Sport indoor and outdoor national champion. ‘To be fair, a blind man in charge of bows and arrows does sound a bit scary,’ Clive says, laughing. 

In the past he has organised competitions on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and he has recently re-embraced the sport. But whatever the activity, a sense of humour is an essential part of Clive’s armoury – especially when fundraising. So far, he has raised in excess of £76,000; his efforts include sponsored walks, raffles, auctions and his legendary curry nights. One particular event took place on St David’s Day in 2016, when Clive decided that everyone attending should wear something Welsh.

‘I wore a full-length red dragon onesie and it was so blooming hot!’ he recalls. ‘Some people think I have a dry sense of humour; others reckon I have a rather sick sense of humour – maybe it’s a bit of both. But life is short, I say, so enjoy it.’

Jeremy Lund, Shropshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, is a staunch admirer of Clive’s optimism. ‘The sacrifices Clive has made for charity are remarkable. There was even the wearing of the despised England shirt for every match during the Six Nations tournament in 2016,’ he says, with tongue firmly in cheek. ‘The effort nearly broke him.’

Keith Stokes, a long-time friend and a member of St Mary’s Lodge, No. 8373, describes Clive as ‘open and lovable’. He adds: ‘That’s why his charitable work is so well supported, because everyone wants to be there. He even organises charity darts nights and, let me tell you, trying to play darts with a blind man is a bit dangerous!’ 

‘If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master’

A SENSE OF BELONGING

While Clive may laugh in the face of adversity, the one thing he’s very serious about is his commitment to Freemasonry. He was 30 when he became a Freemason, following a BVUK summer camp at HMS Sultan in Gosport.

‘Nineteen out of the 25 people attending were masons, and I’d always liked what the organisation represented,’ recalls Clive, who, after enquiring further, was proposed by another blind veteran and initiated on 25 April 2005.

‘The sense of belonging was immediate,’ he says. ‘It’s a very inclusive organisation, and being blind has never been an issue. In St Mary’s, my Mother Lodge in Market Drayton, I’m now in the Master’s chair for the third time [his previous tenures were 2011 and 2012]. I’m Worshipful Master of the Armed Forces Lodge, No. 9875, in Monmouthshire – which I was very proud to help found. I also run two masonic groups for blind veterans. One involves a phenomenal weekend every year in Brighton, and the other is a week in Llandudno. If anything, being blind has spurred me on.’

Acting as Worshipful Master three times has given Clive a very clear idea of what the role requires. ‘The ability to listen is really important. The Master is the head of the lodge, but he’s only as good as his officers and members. If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master.’

Certainly, Clive has loved the opportunities to lead his lodge: ‘I actually quite like the strains and stresses of it, which is just as well. When I was assaulted, I also suffered some short-term memory loss, so it’s more difficult for me to learn the rituals and retain all the information.’

With Shropshire aiming to raise a total of £1 million during its five-year Festival Appeal, St Mary’s Lodge has already reached 150 per cent of its target – a phenomenal achievement a year ahead of schedule. Being part of an organisation with such strong values also makes Clive very proud. 

‘It’s so rewarding to make a financial difference to people’s lives, or to be able to relieve everyday hardships. The “helping” aspect of our work is just wonderful.’

The desire to help others is part of Clive’s own personal mantra, but it’s something he plays down. ‘He’s very thoughtful, but he’s definitely not comfortable with being appreciated,’ Alex Knight, the manageress of Clive’s local pub, the Kings Arms, says. ‘He came to my wedding and gave us the most unique gift. I’m a big Petula Clark fan, and Clive arranged for her to send us a message of congratulations. It was mentioned in one of the speeches at the wedding, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone turn a brighter shade of red than Clive did that day!’

‘I have never wanted to be recognised for my charity work, but the past few years do seem to have involved a lot of awards,’ Clive acknowledges. ‘Being awarded Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton is really special. We moved here after my assault to get a fresh start, and it’s wonderful to be accepted by my adopted home town.

‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give. It’s not a wealthy town, but what we don’t have in money, we’ve got in heart.’

Looking ahead, Clive admits that the only downside of being so busy is that he doesn’t spend enough time with family and friends. ‘I would love an eighth day in the week. However, the sense of achievement within my life is fantastic. My happiness comes through helping others to be happy.’

‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give’

Clive’s community

‘Clive’s blindness has not defined him – far from it. Instead, he has achieved his own victory over blindness and developed into a truly inspirational Freemason. His fundraising and caring for others is remarkable, and the Province of Shropshire is blessed and proud to be able to share and learn from his infectious enthusiasm for life. He is an ambassador for all that is good and true about Freemasonry.’ Peter Allan Taylor, Past Provincial Grand Master for Shropshire

‘Clive lost his sight in the service of his country but has not allowed this to hinder him in his masonry or in his other fundraising activities. If anything, he is energised by it. To his many masonic friends and acquaintances, he embodies the spirit of “Darkness Visible” – communicating light to those around him. He is truly an inspirational man and mason.’ Jeremy Lund, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Shropshire

‘I’ve known Clive as a friend for some 27 years. We served in the Welsh Guards together and now we’re both members of St Mary’s lodge. I admire Clive’s tenaciousness and his positivity, and the fact that he is so widely respected within the lodge and the community of Market Drayton. He is a brilliant Master because he likes everyone to be involved and to feel comfortable, and he brings such a sense of fun to every meeting he holds. He’s phenomenal, really.’ Keith Stokes, friend and fellow Freemason

Recent recognition for Clive

April 2016
Honoured by Blind Veterans UK for his charitable work

July 2016
Finalist in the Courage category in the Pride of Shropshire Awards

February 2017
Finalist in the Inspiration category in the Soldiering On Awards

September 2017
Finalist in the ITV Fundraiser of the Year, Midlands, category at the Pride of Britain Awards

March 2018
Named Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton for his contributions to charity and community life

Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy has left Freemasons' Hall to kick-start her 2,500 mile journey to 47 famous landmarks to raise awareness of Lifelites and £50,000 for the charity

Dubbed 'A Lift for Lifelites', Simone will see Freemasons in nearly every Province in England and Wales and will be stopping at landmarks such as Hadrian’s Wall, Angel of the North and Bletchley Park in vehicles including a classic Rolls Royce, a camper van, a four seater plane, an E Type Jaguar and even a zip wire.

Simone said: 'With the help of Freemasons and their vehicles around the country, I’m on a mission to raise the profile of our work and raise more funds to reach more children whose lives could be transformed by the technology we can provide.'

We'll be updating this page regularly, including images, as Simone continues on her epic quest.

Day 14 – Thursday 7 June

That's a wrap! Simone completed her 14 day challenge and finished in style on ThamesJet speedboat with guests including United Grand Lodge of England Chief Executive Dr David Staples. Her fundraising currently stands at over £103,000.

Day 13 – Wednesday 6 June

It's the penultimate day, starting with a trip to Bedfordshire at the Shuttleworth Collection. The next stop was Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire, which included completing a lap in a Jaguar, before driving this to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. The last trip was to the home, studios and gardens of former artist Henry Moore in Hertfordshire.

Day 12 – Tuesday 5 June

Day 12 took in journeys across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The first stop was Gordon Boswell Romany Museum in Lincolnshire before using two vehicles, a Hudson Straight Six Touring Sedan and a Range Rover, to Bressington Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. There was still time to grab lunch at Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk before a BMW took Simone to her final stop in Cambridgeshire, which included a punt on the River Cam.

Day 11 – Monday 4 June

Simone crammed in four locations to start the week, with a wide variety of vehicles used. The day started in Yorkshire Sculpture Park before driving a 1977 Bentley to the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire. It was from here that Simone then picked up a DeLorean to take her to Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire before completing the day by driving a gold Rolls-Royce to Victoria Park in Leicestershire.

Day 10 – Sunday 3 June

The week concludes with trips to Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire and East Riding, as well as the news that Simone had already hit her £50,000 target. Trips included the Millennium Bridge in Northumberland, the Angel of the North and a scenic drive across the Yorkshire Moors to Bolton Castle.

Day 9 – Saturday 2 June

Day nine saw visits to the Provinces of West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland, with landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria and transport provided by a horse and cart.

Day 8 – Friday 1 June

Two Rolls-Royces helped provide the transport on day nine, with Simone starting at the Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire, driving down to New Place in Warwickshire and then to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. There was still time to conclude the day by visiting Manchester Cathedral in East Lancashire.

Day 7 – Thursday 31 May

At the halfway point, Simone made trips to Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire – starting out at the Georgian Hall Dunham Massey, then heading to the RAF Museum Cosford in a custom built Rewaco Bike and finally, to Arthur’s Stone.

Day 6 – Wednesday 30 May

Day six was solely focused in North Wales where Simone took on the challenge of the fastest zip wire in the world. This was then followed by making the journey to Chester in a six month old blue McLaren Spider and flanked by the Widows’ Sons motorcyclists and Blood Bike volunteers.

Day 5 – Tuesday 29 May

Day five was a journey across the borders for Simone as she ventured to Oxfordshire before heading west to Monmouthshire and continued to South Wales and West Wales. Landmarks included Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, Caerleon Amphitheatre in Newport, the Donald Gordon theatre in Cardiff and ending the day in the county town of Carmarthen to meet the Provincial Grand Lodge of West Wales.

Day 4 – Monday 28 May

Simone began day four by driving an Aston Martin DB9 to the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare with help from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. A 1928 MG Riley saloon then took Simone to her next port of call, Clifton Suspension Bridge where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol had a 1966 Austin Mini Cooper waiting to take her to Caen Hill Locks. It was here that Simone met representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, before the final stop of the day saw her clock up the miles to Shaw House in Berkshire to be greeted by members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire.

Day 3 – Sunday 27 May

Day three involved journeys to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It started with a visit to Lulworth Cove in Dorset to be met by members from the Provincial Grand Lodge in a yellow camper van and to receive a donation of £2,000. Simone then ventured to Buckfast Abbey to receive a donation of £5,000 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire before departing in a classic Rover to head to Lanhydrock House and Garden in Cornwall, where she received another donation of £1,750.

Day 2 – Saturday 26 May

Simone took to the sky for day two, meeting a representative from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and Isle of Wight who drove her to Southampton to board a flight to Jersey, to meet members of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Guernsey and Alderney.

Day 1 – Friday 25 May

Simone has begun her challenge, leaving in a taxi escorted by a fleet of Widows Sons motorcyclists. This is the start of her 14 day road trip with a difference, using a variety of unusual and extraordinary forms of transport.

The next destination for Friday was Richmond Park where Simone was met by representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex after arriving in a Porsche 550 Spyder. Further destinations included Guildford Cathedral, where Simone was met by a Noddy car, and Brighton Royal Pavilion, where the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex made a donation of £5,000.

Lifelites has a package of their magical technology at every children’s hospice across the British Isles and their work is entirely funded by donations. Through the journey they are seeking to raise £50,000 – that’s the cost of one of their projects for four years.

You can sponsor Simone by clicking here

Published in Lifelites

Clive Jones, a blind former soldier and Freemason, has been awarded Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton

Market Drayton, a small market town in north Shropshire, thrives on the contribution made to its community life by many of its citizens. The Town Council has the right to bestow the award of ‘Honorary Townsman’ upon those whose accomplishments are considered to be outstanding and therefore worthy of this prestigious accolade.

Due to his unselfish and constantly successful dedication to charity and the local community in which he lives, Clive was presented with the accolade of Honorary Townsman at the Town Hall reception on 8th March 2018. He received the honour from the Town Mayor counsellor M Erwin and enjoyed the evening with his wife Stephanie and their three children, as well as friends from St Mary’s Lodge No. 8373 in the Province of Shropshire.

Clive, originally from the village of Rogiet in South East Wales, was the founding Almoner at the concecration of Armed Forces Lodge No. 9875 in the Province of Monmouthshire on 18th January 2013. It was a very proud moment in his masonic career, and it's now that Clive finds himself as Worshipful Master of the lodge. Clive is also the current Worshipful Master of St Mary’s Lodge.

In July 2016, Clive was informed of his success in becoming a finalist in the Pride of Shropshire Awards in the Courage category. He was also informed that he had also been chosen as a finalist in the Soldiering On Awards in the Inspiration category, where he celebrated this achievement at a Champagne and Canopy reception at the House of Lords in February 2017.

In September 2017, Clive was informed of his nomination and success in becoming a finalist in the Fundraising category at the Pride of Britain awards, after raising more than £76,000 for charity.

Upon being award Honorary Townsman, Clive was presented with a medal which has a picture of a buttercross on it, which is a memorial to commemorate the great fire of Market Drayton which happened in 1651. It also has the spire of St Mary’s Church on it which is a central point of the market town.

At the Jasper Tudor Lodge No. 4074 Installation meeting on 17th February 2018, it suddenly transpired that the last four Provincial Charity Stewards were all in attendance

This provided the opportunity for a memorable photograph and a unique event as the four brethren are collectively responsible for raising over £2.5 million pounds for the Province of Monmouthshire.

This is even more impressive considering there are less than 1,500 Monmouthshire Freemasons.

On Saturday the 28th November a Gala Dinner was held at Newport Masonic Hall

This fully booked event was the culmination of several months work by the APGM W Bro Chris Evans and his committee who are heading a ‘mini festival’ to replenish the charitable fund which supports only charities and good causes within the Province of Monmouthshire.

The main event of the evening was the Provincial raffle which raised the staggering sum of £6,500. All thanks must go to the lodge Charity Stewards and others who distributed the tickets very well. Almost all the prizes were donated by the lodges and the first prize was £500 with many  other high value prizes also.

The crowd were entertained by a very humorous after dinner speaker in the person of WV Bro Michael Roff, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire along with a soloist singer Bro Mark Pearce who has entertained many times with his rich baritone voice.

It is hoped a similar event will be held next year to continue the good work helping the less fortunate. The funds were considerably enhanced by the auction of three limited edition prints of the murals which used to stand in Newport town centre.

On the 28th of November the annual presentation evening was held at Newport Masonic Hall

There were 40 awards given to local good causes and charities totalling £30,000. The evening was without doubt a great success, and, listening to the thanks and descriptions of the activities that these volunteers do for others within our community, we are very fortunate that our fundraising makes such a difference.

We are also fortunate that such hard working people are prepared to put such tremendous effort into helping others. There was a wide spectrum of charities assisted, from Langstone Church who need funds to repair vandalism to 500 year old windows to Monmouth Music Theatre who have enrolled many youngsters who are currently preparing to perform The Wizard of Oz to the general public.

The funds have been raised by the Brethren of Monmouthshire who only last year completed a five year festival for the RMTGB which raised £1.2 million pounds. There has been many innovative methods used for raising funds, from a Provincial Christmas card competition to a variety performance put on by the Jasper Tudor Lodge No. 4074. Along with more traditional methods such as a well supported Provincial raffle and a dedicated team of Charity Stewards who encourage the Brethren of the Province to take out Gift Aids so they give regularly.

We may occasionally complain about the level of fundraising that we are asked to do, but when you see the heartfelt thanks of those who benefit from our funds then it does give encouragement to continue supporting them.

On Friday 3rd of October at Blackwood Masonic Hall a dinner was organised by the Islwyn Lodge No. 4725 in aid of the Jacobs Starz charity

The guest speaker was Warren Gatland, the Welsh rugby coach, who entertained all those who attended with very frank responses to the questions that were put to him regarding the Welsh team, the Lions tour and the future of Welsh rugby.

The purpose of the evening was not only to enjoy ourselves in the company of like minded people but to make a difference to others by our donations.

The Provincial Grand Master for Monmouthshire, the RW Bro the Rev Malcolm Lane, was surprised at the level of support for the raffle and the following auction. A total of almost £4,000 was raised for Jacobs Starz, which was founded by the inspiration of Jacob Eales who died in 2009 from a cancerous tumour at the age of 15. It was Jacobs dream to set up a charity that could help others whose future appeared bleak.

Jacobs father attended the evening and was visibly touched by the generosity of people who had never even met his son but were willing to support his ideals.

Surprise find at Monmouth Masonic Rooms

Brethren of Loyal Monmouth Lodge No. 457 were surprised when a medieval guard tower was discovered in monmouth's masonic building during a preparatory survey and inspection for much needed repairs

The three storey guard tower, complete with arrow slits was hidden inside our Tyler’s flat when Lord Llangattock, a Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, commissioned local architect George Vaughan Maddox to convert a theatre into masonic rooms in the 1840’s.

Ongoing research with Monmouth Archaeology and CADW indicates a cluster of four or five medieval buildings joined together and much altered through the centuries. The temple is thought to be a medieval hall with upper floors removed. Its huge chimney breast structure has been identified in the undercroft or basement, once used as a wool merchant’s premises. A second wool store in the front car park was converted into four cottages in 1840’s and demolished 1938.

Underneath the building is a once defended steep access tunnel to a still visible medieval quay on the River Monnow. How many lodges have salmon fishing rights at the bottom of their garden?

Imported limestone blocks in garden walls may have come from Monmouth Priory or more probably an adjacent Roman building.

Reference to deeds identified twelve dwellings, a brew house and timber yard. Also a 500 year covenant attached to 1830’s documents approximate to Edward I murage grant (a tax) of 1297 and another in 1315 for completing or repairing town walls, defences and reconstruction of fortified Monnow Bridge, now one of the only three in Europe. A 600-year covenant links with 1181 Assizes of Arms. Some of the town wall and what is believed to be remnants of Monk’s Gate circular flank tower can be seen in our car park.

Medieval wall finishes have also been found on stone wall of rear staircase high above the tunnel. Initial investigation of undercroft earth floor has revealed two earlier floors underneath and at least one room below which has been infilled.

The Monmouth town ‘open doors’ weekend was a great success with the Masonic Hall attracting over 250 visitors. A considerable number when you consider the building was only open for a total of six hours.

The lodge members are now tasked with the unenviable job of trying to restore the building before its too late. One wall has become porous and the funds needed to repair the roof are daunting.

Special thanks to W Bro Bill Hall who has been responsible for a considerable amount of research into the building's history.

Should a brother wish to offer free specialist advice or be able to help with either labour/materials or funding, the lodge members would be more than pleased to hear from you.

Please contact W Bro Neil Mounter:

c/o Monmouth Masonic Hall
Monk Street
Monmouth
NP25 3NZ

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