Tuesday, 13 June 2017 09:45

A garden to remember in Staffordshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always in good form

With Visiting Volunteers helping Freemasons and families in need complete the crucial paperwork required to access grants, Steven Short discovers that masonic support comes in many guises

Away to meet Freemason Robert James at his home in Bridgend, South Wales, to do some paperwork. Arwyn is a Visiting Volunteer, a recently introduced role with a remit to help those seeking assistance from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to fill in the application forms correctly.

‘The forms aren’t complicated once you get to know them,’ says Arwyn, who is a member of Dewi Sant Lodge, No. 9067. ‘But it’s a bit like when you get a tax return: you look at the paperwork and you think, “Oh crikey, I’ll have a look a bit later,” then a couple of weeks pass, you realise you haven’t done it, so you have a go and send the form off… then you realise you haven’t filled in all the right sections.’

Every year the MCF supports hundreds of members of the masonic community. The support can come in many different forms, from help with essential living costs to grants following redundancy or bereavement. Grants can also be allocated for education or training for children and young people, for medical treatment or counselling, or even for minor home improvements.

The first step for anyone applying for financial assistance from the MCF is to fill out the relevant paperwork – something that, historically, wasn’t entirely straightforward.

In the past, whenever a Freemason or their dependant wished to apply for a grant, it was a requirement that they be visited by someone who would help them complete the relevant paperwork. This person would also need to ensure that all necessary supporting evidence was in place, that Ts were crossed and Is were dotted. 

This task often fell to the local lodge almoner and it would come on top of existing pastoral care responsibilities – which might include attending funerals in a lodge’s name, visiting widows and brethren who no longer attended their lodge, and making hospital visits. Furthermore, the almoners would have no formal training or receive any support in this additional administrative work.

This increased workload combined with a lack of specialist knowledge meant the application forms submitted could sometimes contain errors. As a result, the system was revised in 2014 and a programme of Visiting Volunteers trialled across seven Provinces.

The role of the Visiting Volunteer is, as the name suggests, to visit the Freemasons and their families who apply for grants, helping them to correctly complete application forms, and to collect and collate all the information necessary for a request to be considered. The volunteers also have to prepare an objective, detailed report to support the application.

Unlike the overworked almoners – who are now able to dedicate their time to their community-focused duties – Visiting Volunteers are thoroughly trained in the application process.

George Royle, South Wales Provincial Grand Almoner, helped to develop this new model and recruited the Visiting Volunteers who now help with applications in his Province. ‘We have an initial two-day residential training programme,’ he says, ‘which is followed by regular refresher training.’

‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more efficiently… It’s a great step forward’ George Royle

IN THE KNOW

The intensive training means that the Visiting Volunteers (also known as Petition Application Officers in the Province of South Wales) are up to speed on how forms need to be completed and aware of all the documentation that is required to support an application.

‘We learnt about things such as state benefits,’ says Arwyn, ‘so that we can highlight to applicants what benefits they might be entitled to. We also looked at confidentiality, data protection and safeguarding issues.’ 

Once a form has been completed and all the documentation collated, the Visiting Volunteer sends the application straight to London. Previously almoners submitted everything to their Provincial Grand Almoner. ‘I would check everything,’ says George, ‘and if something was missing, I would have to go back to the almoners, who would have to go back to the applicants. I would then countersign an application and send it off. Now all I get is an email copy for reference, and much less paperwork in the office.’

POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

To date, Arwyn has worked with around 18 brethren and describes the experience of helping others as hugely satisfying. Someone he has assisted recently is Robert James, who applied for a grant for medical assistance with a heart condition. ‘I was on the NHS waiting list for an operation,’ says Robert. ‘The list just seemed to be getting longer. Some fellow Freemasons said I might be eligible for help from the MCF to get seen privately.’

As with every request he is asked to oversee, Arwyn’s involvement with Robert began with a phone call. ‘Calling someone and introducing yourself is a great way to start, as you can put applicants at ease and they have the name and number of a real person who can help them.’ The initial call also gives the Visiting Volunteer the opportunity to tell the applicant what to expect from a visit and what documentation they will need to gather ahead of it.

‘Within a couple of days of initially applying, I had spoken to Arwyn on the phone and arranged a time for him to come around. It was really quick and easy,’ says Robert.

George agrees that the new system has streamlined the application process considerably. ‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more speedily and efficiently. I’ve known decisions about grants being made in a fortnight,’ he says. ‘It’s a great step forward.’

‘The first time Arwyn visited we discussed my situation in a bit more detail and looked at what I might be eligible for,’ says Robert.

The pair also discussed confidentiality issues – Visiting Volunteers are bound by the codes and policies of the MCF as well as by data protection laws. ‘People are sharing personal and sensitive information,’ says Arwyn, ‘they need to feel you can be trusted.’

It is also felt that divulging delicate information to a properly trained, objective third party is easier than sharing it with a local almoner, who the applicant may know well and see regularly at lodge.

A visit from a volunteer can last anything from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on what needs to be done, and the number of visits required varies. The second time Arwyn visited Robert at home, they completed the application form together and checked that all supporting documentation was in order.

‘The experience was marvellous,’ says Robert. ‘Within three weeks of Arwyn sending off the forms I was in having my operation. My heart is fantastic now. I feel like a new man.’

What does it take to be a Visiting Volunteer?

To recruit the much-needed Visiting Volunteers in South Wales, Provincial Grand Almoner George Royle placed an advert on the Freemasons’ website. ‘I interviewed 21 people,’ he says, ‘and selected 12.’ George describes his team as ‘extremely dedicated officers who are all willing to go the extra mile’.

Visiting Volunteer Arwyn Reynolds says he applied because the role requires many of the skills he honed in his professional life.
‘I had a keen sense of confidentiality because of my work in HR and as a manager,’ he says, ‘and I know the importance of communication skills and being able to engage with people.’

Other desirable attributes for being a Visiting Volunteer are an ability to remain objective and a good level of literacy, numeracy and IT skills. For Arwyn, the role also appealed because it came at a time when he was winding down his professional life but wanted to continue to use his time in a positive, useful way.

Find out more: For support, contact the Masonic Charitable Foundation in confidence on 0800 035 60 90 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Features

Planning without permission

A bold architect and consummate self-publicist with keen masonic interests, Batty Langley’s career saw him attempting to improve Gothic forms as well as spending time in Newgate Prison

Batty Langley was a man so dedicated to his passions in life – architecture, garden design and Freemasonry – that he named his sons Hiram, Euclid, Vitruvius and Archimedes. He is succinctly summed up by Eileen Harris in ‘Batty Langley: A Tutor to Freemasons’ (Burlington Magazine, May 1977) as: ‘…a Rococo pioneer, the leading spokesman of the opposition to the Burlington establishment, a champion of English craftsmen; above all, an avid freemason, passionately devoted to the education of his brethren’.

Born to Daniel and Elizabeth Langley, Batty Langley was baptised in Twickenham, Middlesex, on 14 September 1696, his unusual forename a tribute tohis father’s patron, David Batty. Daniel Langley was a gardener in Twickenham, a suburb along the River Thames; when Batty was old enough, he took on some of his father’s clients, among them the owner of Twickenham Park House, for whom he designed a serpentine labyrinth.

CAREER PLANS

In the ensuing years, Batty Langley would become a professional landscaper and surveyor. In his New Principles of Gardening, published in 1728, he offered his services for ‘Buildings in general Surveyed, Valued and Measured… Grottos, Baths, Cascades, Fountains, &c. made… and Sun-Dials of all Kinds made for any Latitude… Gardens in general, Made, Planted and Furnish’d with Fruit and Forest-Trees, Ever-Greens, Flowering Shrubs, &c.’

One digression from his work occurred in 1724, when Langley was sent to Newgate Prison for debt, where he resided in the masters’ side of the gaol, reserved for those who could afford to pay for their food and accommodation. In his first book, An Accurate Description of Newgate: Written for the Publick Good. By B. L. of Twickenham, Langley explains that he paid ‘Six Shillings and Six-pence to the Turnkey [on admission] and Ten Shillings and Six-pence to the Steward of the Ward… for his Garnish Money… to provide a sufficient Quantity of Sea-Coal for Firing, Brooms to sweep the Ward and Candles for Light in the Evening…’

Describing the prison in architectural terms, Langley wrote that it was ‘situated in an Elegant Part of the West of the City of London, called Newgate Street… the architecture is according to the Tuscan Order, magnificently built with Stone, with great Strength and Beauty’.

'Cocking a snook at the establishment was not in his best interests commercially’

ENTHUSIASM FOR LIFE

After the formal establishment of Freemasonry in 1717, it is believed that Langley became an enthusiastic member, although his name is absent from surviving records. However, he appears to have immersed himself thoroughly in the conduct of several liberal arts, which were illustrated profusely within the books on architecture he published over the decades. Practical Geometry (1726) bore a dedication to Lord Paisley, who was installed as Grand Master the previous year. This was followed by The Builder’s Chest-Book (1727), a massive compilation of the works of many architects.

Langley published The Builder’s Jewel in 1741 with an initial print run of 2,000 copies. The evidently masonic frontispiece, designed by Langley and engraved by his brother Thomas, is signed ‘Batty Langley Invent A L 5741’. The reference is likely to be to the masonic calendar: ‘A L’ stands for Anno Lucis, meaning ‘in the year of light’, and 5741 is the date according to the idea that Earth was created in 4,000 BC.

The book’s elaborate illustrations depict a multitude of masonic symbols, including a plan of a lodge in the centre. The intricate design has been featured on many items of masonic stoneware, examples of which can be seen in the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street.

INTRODUCING ORDER

Langley’s best-known piece of self-promotion came in the form of Ancient Architecture, Restored, and Improved, published in 1742 and reissued in 1747 as Gothic Architecture, Improved by Rules and Proportions.

The book, complete with engravings by his brother, illustrated Langley’s attempts to improve on the original Gothic forms by giving them classical proportions and creating a scheme of architectural order. His work provided inspiration for buildings across the country, as well as further afield. Indeed, George Washington used Langley’s works as sources for the distinctive windows at his Mount Vernon mansion in Virginia, USA.

Lessons in geometry, architecture and design were dutifully given by the Langley brothers to help fledgling Freemasons to fulfil their charge to learn and, in reflection of the words of the architect Edward Oakley (whose influential 1728 speech featured in the Book of Constitutions of 1731), to ‘…be industrious to improve in, or at least to love and encourage some Part of the seven Liberal Sciences… for the Advancement of this Divine Science of Masonry… and to the Honour and Instruction of the Craft’.

Langley died at his home in Soho, London, in 1751. He may no longer be a well-known name, but his passion for Freemasonry and its teaching is admirable.

Gothic over Greek

Batty Langley’s writings in 1734-35 caused a furore within the established world of architecture and design.

Publishing in the Grub Street Journal under the pseudonym of Hiram, Langley’s weekly dissections included a lashing of a series of anonymous articles entitled ‘Critical Review of the Public Buildings, Statues and Ornaments in and about London and Westminster’. Unbeknown to Langley, they had been written by James Ralph, a supporter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, who had introduced Palladian/neo-Palladian architecture to Britain – a style that drew on the formal classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

Emboldened by his own anonymity, Langley launched into a scathing attack on all things beloved by the Burlingtonians, including the works of Andrea Palladio, Inigo Jones, John Webb, Burlington himself and his partner William Kent. Langley cocking a snook at the establishment was probably not in his best interests commercially and he did not secure many commissions, but he continued to be a strong vocal protagonist of his beloved Gothic architecture.

Published in More News
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

More than money

Head of Charity Grants Katrina Baker explains how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is looking to do more than simply award funds to eligible charities

As the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) enters its second year of operation, we have already established ourselves as one of the largest grant-making charities in the country.

As well as £15 million awarded to individual Freemasons and their families in the past year, we have already given over £4.5 million to more than 425 charities. Over the next few months, hundreds more will benefit from our Charity Grants programme and this year, 300 further charitable causes will benefit from an additional £3 million through our Community Awards - Tercentenary Fund.

Since the formation of the MCF, we have witnessed first-hand the growing strain faced by charities due to funding cuts and increased demand for their services. Crucially, many of them simply do not have the necessary time or resources to cope and, as a consequence, are unable to source the income, training and volunteers they require. With this in mind, we have started to explore other ways of supporting the charities we fund – ways that go beyond providing money alone.

A VALUABLE RESOURCE

The MCF has the ability to be more than just a grant maker. We have a number of valuable resources at our disposal – experience and expertise, a substantial community of Freemasons, a central geographical location, a vast number of significant relationships within the charitable sector and, of course, an ability to provide funding in a way that will have the biggest impact.

Using the knowledge we have built up over 228 years, we want to begin by assisting charities to become as efficient and effective as possible. We will provide advice and support, and over time we plan to establish a pool of expertise from within the masonic community that charities can utilise.

Through our experience and continued work with hundreds of charities, we aim to develop learning events for the benefit of the whole sector. Held in partnership with other leading charitable organisations, these events will be used to bring together specific knowledge and further education across the field. Two events are already being discussed with other charities and the Association of Charitable Foundations, and we hope to hold one later this year.

Making the most of our central location within Freemasons’ Hall, we also plan to hold regular networking events where the charities that we support get a chance to meet us, each other and other grant makers to forge stronger relationships across the sector.

Finally, we hope that in the future we will be able to work with organisations that support the entire charitable sector, such as independent think tanks, who use their practical insights, research and knowledge to highlight key issues in the field.

'We aspire to link charities in need of volunteers or experts with individual Freemasons, lodges and Provinces who can support them in their work’

SUPPORT NETWORK

The charities we fund have told us that there is an increasing need for this kind of support and, indeed, many of our peers in the grant-making world are already providing services beyond grants. There is one thing, though, that sets us apart from other organisations in the sector, and that is the backing of an active masonic community committed to giving its time and money to worthwhile causes.

At present, we work to ensure that Freemasons and their families are involved in our grant-making processes, from asking for feedback on local projects we assist to facilitating grant presentations. However, we aspire to link charities in need of volunteers or experts with individual Freemasons, lodges and Provinces who can support them in their work.

It is our hope that Freemasons across the country will be willing and eager to contribute their time, expertise or communication networks to benefit the charitable projects we are funding in their local area.

If we work together, we can not only start to build stronger relationships between the charities supported by the MCF and the masonic community that funds their work, but we can also ultimately ensure that those organisations are better placed to achieve their aims and make a difference to the most vulnerable people in our society.

FIND OUT MORE: Charities funded by the MCF are looking for volunteers around the country. If you are interested in getting involved or have a skill that you are willing to offer, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

Sussex mason receives French honour

Leslie Penhye, of Temple Lodge, No. 4962, in Sussex, has received the Chevalier de L’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur for his service on HMS Quorn at Gold Beach on D-Day

The ceremony was attended by PGM Chris Moore and the Deputy Lieutenant for East Sussex, Juliet Smith, as well as family, friends and lodge members. The French Honorary Consul Captain François Jean presented Leslie with his award.

Leslie, 91, served on the destroyer HMS Quorn from 1943 until it was torpedoed and sank off Le Havre in the early hours of 3 August 1944, killing 130 men.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

Girls’ school honours former pupil

A former pupil of the Royal Masonic School for Girls (RMSG), Dorothy Mortimer Watson, died on active service in World War I on 13 March 1917 while serving with the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) in Malta

On the centenary of her death the school celebrated her life with a memorial service and a plaque. Honoured guests included Colonel Sue Bush from the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) – the service that TFNS later became – and former pupil Anne Grimwood, a retired QARANC officer,
who left the school 60 years after Dorothy.

Other guests included Library and Museum of Freemasonry Director Diane Clements, Archivist Susan Snell and Assistant Archivist Louise Pichel.

Pupils had researched and produced creative work on the topic, which formed the central part of a school assembly tied in with International Women’s Day.

Dorothy had been admitted to the school following the death of her father, Christopher Holmes Watson (Lodge of Perseverance, No. 213, Norwich), in 1894.

Published in More News
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Dorset’s Blackmore Vale Lodge, No. 3625, donated £500 to Sturminster Newton High School to pay for airport transfers when its choir and band recently went on tour in New York

The students performed in the Empire State Building and on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as well as visiting many landmarks in the city.

It is rare that a candidate has one of his ceremonies carried out by the Provincial Grand Master

But such was the case for Gary Wright of St John’s Lodge, No. 8660, which meets at Workington in the Province of Cumberland & Westmorland.

After being initiated in his mother lodge, he was passed in St Bega Lodge, No. 8796, in St Bees and raised in Huddleston Lodge, No. 6041, in Millom.

It was at Millom that Gary’s ceremony was carried out by PGM Norman Thompson, who also presented the candidate with a Tercentenary Jewel.

Charles Yelland, APGM of the Province of Devonshire, presented a cheque for £2,002 on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to Barnstaple’s North Devon Hospice

The Province has donated nearly £50,000 to the hospice since 1984, through individual donations from Devonshire’s 138 lodges and grants from the MCF and its predecessor charities.

The hospice provides expert palliative and family-centred care for patients within the community, including day care, in-home care, and bereavement and carers’ support groups.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 06:00

Stamford Fair proves a big hit

A group of students attending the Willoughby School in Bourne, Lincolnshire, enjoyed all the fun of the Stamford Mid-Lent Fair

The visit was organised by Ian Hall of Lodge of Merit, No. 466, along with members of the Stamford Masonic Centre.

Freemasons from Showmen’s Lodge, No. 9826, in the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, volunteered their time and their rides for the community event.

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