A well-planned cooperative effort, ably supported by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), has enabled a significant £60,000 donation to be made to Thames Hospice, on behalf of the Freemasons of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

This great example of fraternal cooperation resulted in a significant grant to support the construction of its new hospice in Bray near Maidenhead. 

After several weeks of planning, the Provincial Grand Masters of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Anthony Howlett-Bolton and John Clark respectively, together with representatives of their Provincial Charities, met up with Debbie Raven, CEO of Thames Hospice, to formally present their combined donation in front of the site of the new hospice, which was from the Berkshire Masonic Charity, the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund and the MCF.

Serving both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Thames Hospice opened in 1987 but is now no longer able to keep up with the increasing number of people who need their care and services. As well as the increase in numbers, the charity is dealing with more complex and challenging medical conditions and, as a result, the decision was taken to build a larger facility. In 2017, planning permission was given to construct a new state of the art facility on land donated to the charity near Bray Lake. Inpatient rooms will increase from 17 to 28 and there will be more dedicated space to treat outpatients as well as to provide therapeutic and other activities.

This new Thames Hospice will open in 2020, with the £60,000 donation helping towards the building of two dedicated rooms in the £22 million facility. These rooms will be quiet areas for reflection and remembering loved ones as well as offering help and advice to families.

After the presentation ceremony, Debbie Raven gave an outline of how Thames Hospice is developing and some of its future plans. Once the new building is complete, there will be a permanent reminder of the contributions that the Freemasons of the two Provinces have made.

Debbie commented: ‘I cannot thank the Freemasons enough for their generous support towards our new Hospice. The donation comes on top of several others from their charitable funds and the incredible support they have given over many years. It will make a significant difference to our patients and their families.'

Together with Debbie, both Provincial Grand Masters acknowledged the cooperation and support given to this collaborative donation by the MCF and the continuing work they do in supporting the Hospice movement in England and Wales.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: ‘Working together with our fellow Freemasons in Buckinghamshire and the MCF has allowed us to make a significant contribution to Thames Hospice to help them in the wonderful work they are doing to help families across our counties.’

John Clark, Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, commented: ‘The Freemasons of Buckinghamshire are delighted to be part of this joint initiative supporting the essential work performed by Thames Hospice. We look forward to establishing a long and fruitful relationship with them.’

The sun was out and the sunblock was on, as 20 cyclists from the Provincial Grand Lodges of Leicestershire & Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire gathered in Leicester on Saturday 29th June 2019 for this year’s 83 mile Charity Cycle Ride – raising £7,000 in support of the Rainbows Children’s Hospice and the Masonic Charitable Foundation

To wish them good luck on their journey, Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving from Rainbows, said: ‘Thank you so much to all of those taking part today, yet again the support from the Freemasons is essential to Rainbows Children’s Hospice.’

Also there to wave them off was the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, who said: ‘We are all extremely proud of the work we do to support Rainbows and the Masonic Charitable Foundation and thank all of those riders for raising such a fantastic amount today.’

On the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures well in excess of 33 degrees Celsius, 20 cyclists including Freemasons, friends and family set off from Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester early in the morning before the sun was at its strongest. The route took the four groups out from Leicester and on towards Loughborough before heading through Shepshed and onto Derby in the first leg of the journey of over 33 miles.

The first stop was at the Masonic Hall in Derby, where tea, coffee, bacon sandwiches and much needed water were in abundance. The break was very much appreciated as the day was beginning to warm up, however time was of the essence, and it was not long before the next leg out through Long Eaton and on to Nottingham.

By now the temperatures were soaring, but that did not stop the determined cyclists to battle the searing heat and traffic as they arrived at the Masonic Hall in Nottingham for a rest in the shade and to restock with supplies.

The afternoon sun meant that water stops were frequent, but with determination and hard work, the cyclists made their way from Nottingham back into Leicestershire; finally finishing at Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester at around 6pm.

Isolated and vulnerable older men in Gateshead will be able to have fun and make new friends, thanks to a £10,000 grant from Durham Freemasons to Teams and Bensham Community Care

Around 20 local men are already collected by minibus and taken to a lunch club once a week, where they can socialise, take part in quizzes and games, including very popular Wii competitions, and get a home-cooked lunch. Demand is high, and the grant will fund a second weekly lunch club.

Many of those who attend the club are widowers and the club provides an invaluable chance to talk about their loss with others who have gone through the same experience. It is well-established that older men are far less likely to talk about their feelings than women.

Older men are also much more likely to lose their social networks following the death of a spouse, as their wives tended to be the ones who maintained social networks, as well as the ones who usually prepared meals. Club members often tell staff that having a proper home-cooked lunch is something they especially enjoy.

The benefits of regular social interaction on both physical and mental health are well recognised, with major improvements to both.

The grant from Durham Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Michelle Scott, Trustee at Teams and Bensham, said: 'I’m very grateful to Durham Freemasons for their generous grant. Older men can be very difficult to reach, and we’ve found that our lunch club is a really good way to break their isolation and help them to lead more fulfilling lives.'

John Arthur, from Durham Freemasons, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Teams and Bensham expand their work with older men in Gateshead. There are far too many who are isolated, lonely and vulnerable, and the opportunity to make new friends, have fun and get a good home-cooked lunch can make a huge difference to their lives.'

Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone

27 June 2019 
Unveiling and Dedication, The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent

Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, 

It is an enormous pleasure for me to be here today to unveil the Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall.

One of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world, Freemasonry’s roots lie in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our castles and cathedrals. Which is why it is so fitting that this stone – commissioned by Granville Angell, Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer – has been carved by Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason, Emily Draper. She beat forty-five other applicants to win this apprenticeship, which was jointly funded by the Worcestershire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Emily’s grandfather was a Freemason at a Lodge in Devon, whilst her Great Uncle was one of the Freemason Victoria Cross recipients we are honouring here today. I would like to express our thanks to Emily for all her dedication and hard work that went into creating the Remembrance Stone.

We would also like to show our appreciation of the expertise that went into producing this work by presenting you with this set of stonemasons’ tools to aid you in your future projects.

I have recently returned from visiting my cousin, Princess Elisabeth, in Belgrade. Whilst there I attended the 100th Anniversary gala for the foundation of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia – a region whose troubled legacy extends back through the centuries, as well as our own military involvement in the recent past.

Serbs, Croats and Slovenians were well represented and this is just one example of how Freemasonry brings peoples together and provides a safe space for those with very different outlooks to support and learn from each other.

Having served in the Armed Forces for more than 20 years I understand the common values shared by Freemasonry and the Services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition.

It is an extraordinary fact that 14% of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons.

It is now time to unveil this splendid stone. It will stand as a tangible reminder of those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross. I am sure you will agree that this Remembrance Stone is a fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice.

Published in Speeches

Buckinghamshire’s Provincial Grand Master John Clark and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Gary Brodie have completed the first in a series of challenges undertaken by the Provincial Executive – raising over £6,000 on behalf of the Bucks 2021 Festival, in aid of the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The challenge was to row 26 miles in two canoes along the River Thames, one being rowed by PGM John Clark and his son Jack, the other by APGM Gary Brodie and Simon Williams, with Peter Lawrence following in a single canoe.

The rowers, accompanied by a support team, set off on Thames Paddle at 6am on 15th June 2019. As they reached each lock the support team plucked the canoes from the Thames and transferred them to the other side to allow them to continue their journey.

Along the way they were greeted by a host of well-wishers and supporters. At Cookham Lock, John Keeble, Grand Superintendent of Buckinghamshire, was waiting with his wife to offer his support, while at Boulter’s Lock they were greeted by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Hugh Doughas-Smith and John’s wife Sarah.

The weary, but jubilant, team arrived at their final destination many hours later to the cheers of a reception group. The glow of a job well done pervaded the air and with over £6,000 raised for the Bucks 2021 Festival, it was indeed a mammoth feat of endurance and tenacity.

A donation of £75,000 from Lincolnshire Freemasons has given a welcome early boost to a relief fund set up in readiness for the rebuilding of homes in and around Wainfleet after the floods

And in a surprise presentation to Steve Hallberg, Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire’s Mark Master Masons, the Mark Masons of Cumberland and Westmorland added a further £2,000 to the pot, taking the donation to £77,000.

The fund has been set up by the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, which is bringing together fundraising efforts behind the long-term recovery plan which will swing into action once the floodwaters have receded.

Already there have been about 500 people from a number of agencies working around the clock to provide an emergency response to the incident, which has forced the evacuation of almost 300 homes.

But it’s the recovery phase that will take time, and that’s where the Freemasons’ donation will be directed. Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler said: ‘To see anyone driven from their home by flooding is heartbreaking, especially when it’s in your own community.

‘The emergency response to the incident has been extremely effective through the days after the torrential rainfall followed by the breach of the banks of the River Steeping, but that is only part of the story. The recovery phase will be long, and will take considerable effort.

‘I’m pleased that we have been able to move so quickly in making this donation of £75,000. It underlines that Lincolnshire Freemasons are determined to help put the heart back into this part of Lincolnshire, and we have every confidence that the Lincolnshire Community Foundation will make sure the money is used effectively in making that happen.’

The donation is made up of three Masonic grants of £25,000 each, from The Province of Lincolnshire, the Mark Benevolent Fund, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The latter two are national charities subscribed to by Freemasons all over the country, including those in Lincolnshire.

James Murphy, Joint CEO of the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, said: ‘There are lots of people for whom properties in Wainfleet are their "forever home". We shall be doing what we can to return things to normal for this community. It’s when something like this happens that you find out how good a community is, and Wainfleet’s is particularly strong.

‘The Lincolnshire Community Foundation is working in partnership with the Recovery Coordinating Group to raise funds and support Wainfleet and the surrounding area. Money donated will help to relieve hardship, complete repairs, make good loss or damage, help to prevent the flooding happening again, and to improve the response in the event that it ever does. 100% of donations will be spent in and around Wainfleet.’

To donate online, please go to the Total Giving page at this link.

Bury Freemasons, the East Lancashire Masonic Charity and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have come together to support Grace’s Place – a children’s hospice located in Radcliffe – with a grant of £5,000 to fund a cuddle cot and special cuddle blanket

This will helps families who have just lost a young child to spend precious hours, even days, together during the grieving process, taking after life care to another level.

The presentation was made by Chris Eccles, the Bury District Charity Steward, accompanied by the Provincial Grand Charity Steward Steve Clark. The Hospice has fantastic facilities to make this very difficult time for children and families as pleasant as possible.

With the final pieces of equipment now in place, the Hospice is proud to announce it has now opened its doors.

A spokesperson from Grace's Place said: ‘Over the last year the building has been transformed to make sure families feel comfortable here – we’ve got children’s and family bedrooms, a toy-filled play area and space for mums and dads to relax.

‘We’ve also got a state-of-the-art sensory room – fantastic for children to develop their motor and communication skills – or just to chill out in. And a Snowflake Room, a private and peaceful room where bereaved families can spend time together and say their last goodbyes.’

Learning for life

More than 70 young people in and around Swindon who face social barriers are receiving a major boost to their education, thanks to a £50,000 grant from Wiltshire Freemasons. Peter Watts talks to the inspiring teenagers who are improving their career prospects with the Villiers Park Educational Trust Scholars Programme

Over the past 10 years, hundreds of young people from deprived or difficult backgrounds have been able to achieve their full potential thanks to the work of the Villiers Park Educational Trust. The pioneering four-year Scholars Programme is run by the trust, a social mobility charity that targets high-ability children from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing them with regular mentoring sessions. The programme also pays for them to go on residential trips and workshops designed to improve their confidence, motivation, resilience and employability, as well as giving them the chance to enjoy opportunities that they may not otherwise have been made aware of. A £50,000 grant from Wiltshire Freemasons via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will fund one of these mentoring positions in Swindon for two years. ‘This generosity allows our mentors to continue doing their amazing work,’ says deputy director of development Rosie Knowles. ‘It’s particularly great for us to have the Freemasons commit to more than a single year of funding, as we are focused on immersive long-term interventions.’

The charity currently operates in Swindon, Hastings, Bexhill, Tyneside, East Lancashire, Crawley and Norfolk, and hopes to widen its offering to other areas if more funding becomes available. There are four mentors in Swindon, who support children through their GCSEs and A-levels. ‘The mentors build up fabulous relationships,’ says Knowles. ‘They provide support and guidance and help young people develop skills to become more rounded individuals. Everything is built around developing these skills, as this is what empowers them to thrive and be self-sufficient in their success.’ The children are also able to give something back. ‘We encourage them to run self-led and inquiry-led projects in their schools,’ says Knowles. ‘This creates a ripple effect and a culture of positive learning. These young people really are incredible.’

Rahul Vital, 19

My family is from India and we moved to Swindon when I was five. My mum and dad had to drop out of school at a young age, which was why I was scouted for Villiers Park. In India, you weren’t rewarded for good work at school, but were punished for bad work – quite different to here in England.

The importance of education was made clear to me by my parents. I was encouraged to learn an instrument, take up art and do sports. I was approached by Villiers Park in year 9 and assigned a mentor, who helped me prepare for exams and job interviews, and create a CV. I also met other students on residential trips. I am now studying cancer biomedicine at University College London. Aspects of that came from a Villiers Park residential, where we learnt about cellular biology. I knew I wanted to do medicine or something with the sciences and these courses reinforced that decision. 

The programme helped with a lot of the stress I had at A-level. My mentor, Becki, would talk about how we were doing. She reassured me and I got an A* and 3 As. It’s definitely given me confidence. I wasn’t good at presentations, but going to these classes, learning to speak effectively and doing personal statements has been a lot of help. As a result of this I would definitely be willing to do something similar to help others. It was such a relief, so it would be great to do that for somebody else.

Jaime Hessell, 16

None of my family had been to university, but now I really want to go – that’s because of Villiers Park. I have taken as much from it as possible because I feel so lucky to be involved. I was shy before and it’s given me more confidence. I can now talk in front of the other Scholars and their parents. 

I always enjoyed school, but Villiers Park has shown me new things. We did a workshop and that gave me an interest in sociology, which is what I want do at university. We learn a bit of everything. It has given us a wider understanding of what is out there, beyond just maths and English. I am currently doing AS-levels and next year will do A-levels in maths, sociology and environmental studies.

My mentoring sessions with Becki and Julie have been incredibly helpful. Through Villiers Park, I joined the INVOLVE project, which has meant teaching maths to year-7s. I want to be a teacher, so it’s given me more of an understanding of what it’s like, what a stress it is but also how rewarding it can be. I had lower-ability students, and one of my pupils didn’t know her three times table, so I taught her every week until she was able to recite them. I also like to show them why you need maths for different things, such as architecture and business.

Acacia Baldie, 17

I live with my mum and my brother and we moved to Swindon just before the Villiers Park Scholars Programme started. I think the trust chose me because I was doing okay at school and they saw my potential. I love school, but had always thought university would be too expensive and you had to be very smart to go. I changed my mind after learning a bit more. We have regular mentor sessions where you learn employability and interview skills, and exam preparation tips. You also have paid-for residential trips where a specialist in your subject will talk to you. The mentors have all been really supportive, and explain everything clearly. They ask you about yourself and what you need help with. It’s life skills, the sort of thing school and college doesn’t focus on.

I am doing four A-Levels this year: fine art, textiles, biology and geography. My plan is to do Korean studies at university – I have identical offers from SOAS and Sheffield. Why Korea? I really liked the language and enjoy Korean shows. Plus I have Korean friends and I love the history and culture. My mentor helped me choose my subjects. I originally wanted to teach English in Korea but my mentor made me realise I should focus on what I enjoy, which was the culture.

Jordan Jones, 18

I was the first in my family to go to university and Villiers Park is about showing more options to people like me. Some of my peers weren’t looking at university, but I wanted to be an architect, so I knew I had a different career path. Villiers Park approached education in a different way to schools. They didn’t judge us, they were interested in how we got there and in how we used creative thinking. At school you have to appease all the people around you, but Villiers Park takes you out of that and allows you to be your own person and to flourish.

I went to Villiers Park thinking architecture was for me, but I looked at university courses with my mentor, Becki, and realised I wanted to be more involved in the design and maths of why a building works, so I am now studying civil engineering. I was so grateful, because I would have barrelled into a course and found out it wasn’t for me. I started at Plymouth University in September. It’s a challenge, but I have the structure of how to revise and study from Villiers Park, and it’s nice to have that ongoing support. A lot of people I know never had it at all, so I’m just grateful I got it in the first place.

For details, visit www.villierspark.org.uk

‘The mentors have all been really supportive, and explain everything clearly. They ask you what you need help with. It’s life skills, the sort of thing school doesn’t focus on’

A superb night was held at the Charles Lyne (Installed Masters) Lodge No. 2964 this month, as Monmouthshire Freemasons launched their 2024 Festival with a £50,000 donation to the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)

The meeting included a presentation from Les Hutchinson, Chief Operating Officer of the MCF, on the work of the organisation before Richard Davies, Provincial Grand Master for Monmouthshire, presented Les with a cheque for £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. He also displayed to members the new festival tie and jewel.

Following the meeting, members were entertained by the talented group of young people from Chordis Caerllion. Richard Davies together with David Powell, Provincial Grand Master of the Mark Master Masons of Monmouthshire, were very proud to support Chordis Caerllion, as they presented them with new percussion instruments.

More than 700 lonely people in North East Lincolnshire are being helped to a better quality of life thanks to the volunteers of charity Friendship at Home, who have been supported with the first instalment of a £15,000 donation from the region’s Freemasons

The charity, based in the Annie Chapple Centre in Aspen Court in Cleethorpes, was set up to reduce loneliness and isolation and improve the quality of life for older people. It offers one-to-one befriending of older people in their own homes, as well as running social mornings and afternoons, exercise activities, telephone befriending and a range of dementia support services including a dementia choir.

Operational Manager Lyse Stephenson said the charity, which supports people over 60, was finding an increase in demand for its services from those with dementia. She said: ‘Dementia cuts people off, and we need to help them to be integrated – but the demand for our services is overwhelming.'

She said the charity was inundated with calls to support group work, adding: ‘It does work so well, but with predictions that one in three of us will suffer problems with dementia, we need more volunteers to meet the huge demand we face.’

Currently there are 175 volunteers, but more are needed, said Lyse. ‘More volunteers would enable us to offer help and support to greater numbers of people – and we have helped thousands in the 13 years the charity has been running.’

The Lincolnshire Freemasons donation has come from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which will give £5,000 a year for three successive years.

Pete Tong is the Freemasons’ Provincial Charity Steward in Lincolnshire. He said: ‘The work of the MCF is an important element of the Freemasons’ support for causes in the community – both masonic and non-masonic. The MCF gave £8.5m to more than 400 charities last year; all of it money given by Freemasons themselves. And we topped that up with more than £100,000 to a further 150 non-masonic good causes in the historic county of Lincolnshire.’

Lyse added: ‘The Freemasons’ donation is so important to us alongside the other funding streams and supporters. It will be used to help us to cover running costs so that we are able to concentrate on the people who matter most – our service users.’

Could you be a Friendship at Home volunteer? To find out what’s involved and how you might be able to help, contact volunteer co-ordinator Dawn Charlton by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling 01472 602500.

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