At the turn of the 20th Century, the compact City of Chester was blessed with two masonic halls, situated about one mile apart at the north east and south west of the city centre
The first at Queen Street was a large converted Town House in the ‘Rows’ of Chester where, interestingly, some of the lodges can trace their roots back to before the formation of United Grand Lodge in 1813. The second was a new Freemason’s Hall in Hunter Street, built specifically in 1909 to accommodate the growing numbers of members.
It seems fitting to record the decision made 100 years ago, in December 1918, by four Chester Lodges, meeting at Hunter Street, to fund and erect a Memorial window to the valour of the members who died in during the Great War of 1914 to 1918, and in honour of those Chester masons who had served their country.
The four lodges in the Province of Cheshire, the Lodge of Independence No. 721, Clarence Lodge No. 2386, Travellers Lodge No. 2609 and Deva Lodge No. 3447, formed a small committee and plans were put in place. Four years later, on the 13th April 1922 the Lodge of Independence gave notice of a special Emergency Meeting to be held on the 24th April 1922 to witness the Unveiling and Consecration of the Memorial Window: - “in gratitude for peace, in memory of the fallen, and to honour the Chester Brethren who served in the War.”
The window, some 11 feet in height and 8 feet in width, has for its central light the figures of Aaron and Hur holding the hands of Moses, with masonic symbols and the Arms of Chester appearing in other portions of the window. It was unveiled by Hon. Lord Leverhulme and consecrated by the Very Revd. The Dean of Chester, Rev. F.S.M. Bennett, Provincial Grand Chaplain. There were, according to the Attendance Register, 66 members the Lodge of Independence, and 105 visitors, including many members from the other three lodges – Clarence, Travellers and Deva.
Freemasons’ Hall, Hunter Street, Chester, was sold in 1994 to enable the re-development of Chester City Centre, and all lodges vacated the building by the 1st August 1995. The sale included an agreement for the Memorial Window to remain in situ until arrangements were in place for its safe removal. When the time came for the window to be removed, the metal framework was found to be badly corroded and with lead missing was in danger of imminent collapse. Restoration, cleaning and re-leading took and a new metal framework was provided by Paul Richards of Bridgegate Lodge.
The new Freemasons’ Hall ‘Cheshire View’ was identified for the move, with the main temple constructed in the roof-space of the existing building and a new wing added to provide a second temple, and dining room.
Originally, it was planned to install the Memorial Window in the East of the new Second Temple, behind the Master’s Chair, where it would be illuminated by an appropriate external window. All was to be prepared and ready for the Official Opening and Consecration of the Second Temple, on the 22nd April 1997. Unfortunately, calculations failed to appreciate the height of the mounting framework and the elevation of the Master’s Chair from the floor. The Memorial Window therefore had to be installed behind the Senior Warden’s Chair where sufficient height existed.
Electric lights now illuminate the Window, instead of daylight, and they fully reveal its magnificent details. Standing in the West, it now affords great enjoyment for the Master and Brethren seated in the East. It also forms a fitting centre-piece for the Temple and a talking point for the many visitors, both masonic and non-masonic, reminding them of the sacrifice of those who never returned to their loved ones and firesides after the Great War.
Cheshire Freemasons have thrown their support behind a new initiative to tackle mental health among young people
The organisation is one of the key contributors to the Young Minds Matter programme being run by Cheshire Community Foundation (CFF).
In total, four projects have received funding of £200,000. They include The G8way, a partnership between three charities – Just Drop In, Cre8 and Wilmslow Youth – Pure Insight, Cheshire Without Abuse and Family Matters, a partnership between Visyon and St Joseph’s Family Centre.
Cheshire Community Foundation connects people who want to give back with the most effective grass-roots charities and not-for-profit organisations across Cheshire and Warrington. Funding totalling £500,000 will be made available over the next three years, made up of contributions from several of CCF’s donors including Cheshire Freemasons.
Harry Wright, Provincial Charity Steward of Cheshire Freemasons, said: 'We are delighted to be supporting the Young Minds Matter programme and the fantastic charities that have been funded through the initiative.
'This is a very much needed programme focusing on helping young people develop coping strategies to manage the early signs of mental health issues and we are glad to be a part of that.'
Zoe Sheppard, CEO of Cheshire Community Foundation, said: 'We are delighted to announce the four charitable projects that have been successful in receiving funding as part of our Young Minds Matter programme.
'Thanks to the support of our generous donors such as the Cheshire Freemasons, we now have just £136,000 to raise in order to extend support to three of these charities for a further two years.'
The four projects will be assessed at the end of the first year with further funding potentially available via the Young Minds Matter programme.
‘Suicide is the major cause of death in all people under 35 years of age’. That alarming statistic is one that will probably come as a major shock to many people. It certainly was to the group of West Lancashire Freemasons who were visiting the Warrington headquarters of the charity Papyrus, who have received a grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) of £65,342
The MCF has made the grant on behalf of the Province of West Lancashire, but on this occasion the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison was accompanied by his colleague from the neighbouring Province of Cheshire, Stephen Blank.
Papyrus, which was formed in 1997 in Lancashire, has three simple aims: provide confidential help and advice to young people and anyone worried about a young person; help others to prevent young suicide by working with and training professionals; and campaign and influence national policy. They summarise this as: Support, Equip and Influence.
The visitors were welcomed by CEO Ged Flynn, who explained the work that the charity does and also outlined the problems that are being faced nationally, as they try to de-stigmatise suicide and raise awareness of this tragic loss of young people. Ged stressed that the charity has values that it strongly promotes.
He said: 'We believe that many young suicides are preventable, and that no young person should suffer alone with thoughts or feelings of hopelessness. We believe that everyone can play a role in preventing young suicide.'
Stephen Habgood, who is the Chairman of Papyrus, then very movingly related his own story of the loss of his only child, Christopher 26, to suicide in 2009. Sarah Fitchett, a trustee of the charity, also shared her own tragic experience in speaking of the death of her 14-year-old son, Ben by suicide in 2013.
Their openness in speaking so frankly about their emotional experiences was a very moving revelation to the visitors but also cause for admiration, as they explained how they are working to try and prevent others having to experience the same trauma.
The £65,000 grant will enable the charity to engage another advisor to work on their HOPELineUK helpline (0800 068 4141), which is there to provide confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person.
Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum (MMF) recently ‘took over’ Freemasons Hall in an initiative bringing Freemasons, their families and non-Masonic friends together for a unique gathering in the iconic home of the United Grand Lodge of England
It was June 2017 when Paul Massie, Assistant Provincial Grand Master with responsibility for overseeing the MMF, first approached the Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank with the idea of inviting Masonic and non-Masonic guests from around the country to take part in a day that would be remembered by all involved. The event would consist of a Masonic Lecture and a Masonic ceremony performed by a team of MMF members from lodges across the Province of Cheshire plus a tour of Freemasons Hall for friends and family during the day – a real family occasion. With the Provincial Grand Master's enthusiastic approval, the date was set for Saturday 18 August 2018.
Invitations were sent to all 1,600 members of the MMF, inviting them to be part of a 22 strong team of light blue masons. From applications received the team was selected, its memberships ranging from one to 10 years, each keen to play their part in this unique opportunity.
The ceremony work was divided up so that all team members could play an active part, the initial challenge being the differences in ritual the members were used to performing. Director of Ceremonies Mike Christian (Preceptor of the 100 of Wirral Emulation Lodge of Instruction, No. 39) was tasked to use his experience to train the members in Emulation Ritual and create a well-rehearsed team fitting of the big occasion.
Whilst the team worked hard to perfect the ceremony, the organising committee were busy building a special website, arranging finances and the logistics necessary to put on such an event so far from Cheshire. Tony Harvey was delighted to be invited to present his 2012 Prestonian Lecture ‘Scouting and Freemasonry: two parallel organisations?’ as part of the day’s events. Harvey, a renowned Scouter and Freemason, had recently attended a meeting of West Cheshire Lodge No. 2977, the newly appointed Scouting Lodge in Cheshire, where he and Massie gave presentations on Scouting and Freemasonry and updated those present regarding the MMF event. Tony adapted his lecture to make it suitable for his Masonic and non-Masonic audience.
By midday on Saturday, guests had arrived from 17 Provinces including the District of South Africa (Western Division) and were escorted through the North doors leading up to the beautiful marbled mezzanine area in front of the main temple. Here they were able to view the temple itself as the doors were open to allow full access. The guests then moved to Lodge Room 10 and Tony Harvey delivered his Lecture and answered questions.
It was then time for the non-masonic guests to enjoy the pre-arranged tour of the Hall, the members remained to watch the delivery of the second degree ceremony – this would be a one off display by the 22 members who had come together and worked so hard for this moment. The ceremony started with the entrance of the Provincial Grand Master to music played by David Roberts-Jones. What followed was an exemplary example of teamwork with the brethren performing a faultless ceremony and tracing board.
The changes of personnel was seamless and a fine example of how ceremonies can be shared. Towards the end, the Provincial Grand Master addressed the meeting, highlighting the aims of the event and his pride at witnessing the excellent ceremony which had been performed by relatively inexperienced Freemasons from his Province. He thanked the organising committee for the work which had been done and Manor Lodge No. 4202 for allowing the ceremony to be conducted under their banner.
This event, sponsored by the Cheshire Masters’ and Masons’ Forum, is the first by any Province where a Provincial Light Blue Masons Club has invited and encouraged members from other Provinces and their New Young Masons Club (NYMC), together with their non-masonic guests, to attend and enjoy a day of social and Masonic activity together.
It is hoped this flagship Freemasons Hall event will encourage similar ones to be held in the future, where both Freemasons and non-masons can meet to enjoy a day of suitably arranged activities, possibly sponsored by different clubs around the country.
In the future, the Cheshire MMF will be hosting a range of events including team competitions amongst its members with questions on Masonic and General Knowledge, various local and provincial social events, Masonic lectures, visits to Lodges both within and outside of the Province of Cheshire and more ceremonies performed by MMF volunteers. The efforts and success of the Masters’ and Masons’ Forum will play an important part in the growth of Freemasonry within Cheshire over the years to come.
It’s the journey that matters
Via Rolls-Royce, camper van, horse and cart, speedboat and tandem bicycle, Lifelites chief executive Simone Enefer-Doy travelled 2,500 miles in two weeks to raise the profile of this hard-working charity
Providing life-changing assistive technology, Lifelites helps the 10,000 children and young people in hospices across the British Isles live their short lives to the full. On 25 May 2018, the charity’s chief executive, Simone Enefer-Doy, set off on an epic road, air and river trip to spread the word and raise funds.
The 2,500-mile challenge, called Lift for Lifelites, was to take in 47 famous landmarks in England and Wales in just 14 days. For each leg of the journey, Simone received a lift from Provincial supporters in an eclectic mix of transportation. After setting an initial target of raising £50,000 for Lifelites, the total now stands at over £104,000. Simone says she has been astounded at the support and generosity she encountered as she travelled around the country.
‘Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many people would come out to meet me on my journey and support my challenge. We have received a terrific welcome wherever we have gone, and it really spurred me on to continue whenever I felt myself flagging. I would like to thank everyone – drivers, donors and venues – for helping to make Lift for Lifelites happen. We couldn’t have done it without you.’
A plaque has been unveiled at Warrington Hospital thanking Cheshire masons for donating nearly 6,000 teddies over the past 14 years to the children’s A&E department as part of its Teddies for Loving Care appeal
Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Mel Pickup said: ‘The teddies are a valuable tool to the staff, bringing comfort to children in distress.’
Stephen Blank, PGM for Cheshire, and Kevin Poynton, AGM for West Lancashire, represented their respective Provinces at the event.
Earlier this summer the South Cheshire Masonic Golf Society (SCMGS) took part in a golfing day designed to have fun, raise funds but most importantly, donate more specialist wheelchairs and buggies to grateful recipients and their families
The day was well-attended and the hard work carried out by members and supporters of the SCMGS was given the recognition it deserved by the presence of not one, but two Provincial Grand Masters, Stephen Blank of Cheshire and John Lockley of Staffordshire.
The SCMGS event, held on 21st June 2018, is one of six run each year to raise much-needed funds that are then put towards specialised wheelchairs, ranging in price from £4,000 to £10,000. During its 40 year existence, the society has raised in excess of £270,000 and the recent meeting was a very special occasion as it marked the presentation of their 50th wheelchair – as well as their 51st and 52nd.
Accompanying the PGM's from Cheshire and Staffordshire were Harry Wright and John Skellern, Provincial Grand Charity Stewards for the two Provinces, as well as a number of dignitaries and invited guests.
Stephen Blank said: ‘It is incredible to witness how the members and supporters of the SCMGS quietly yet tirelessly raise money to help people whose lives are changed by the provision of these specialist pieces of equipment. The stories I have heard about the difference they have made really is humbling. I know I speak for John when I say how delighted to hear first-hand about the human impact Freemasons charitable giving makes.’
Noel Martin, Secretary of the SCMGS, said: ‘It may only seems a small thing, but giving a child a powered wheelchair not only changes the life of that child, it opens up the world for the whole family. I would like to thank everyone who has donated and supported us over the years, enabling a child to enjoy their life just that little bit more.’
Jack Woodfin from Deeside loves his wheelchair. Jacks mum, Cheryl, said: ‘I want to say how incredibly grateful we are for what you have done for our boy. He rides around like the coolest kid on the block and in total comfort. I am so happy and proud to walk beside him.’
Sophia Ketting, mother of Roman, another recipient, was ‘blown away’ when she heard a buggy was going to be provided for her son. Roman was admitted to the children's intensive care unit at Royal Stoke University Hospital on 15 November 2017. He was diagnosed with Myotubular myopathy, a condition that primarily affects the muscles for movement. People with this condition have muscle weakness and decreased muscle tone, a condition usually evident at birth.
Their specalised buggy offers postural support which reduces Romans risk of developing scoliosis and enables mum to transport Roman with ease. Since its provision, the buggy has supported Roman’s family complete daily activities that many of us take for granted and has dramatically increased the quality of family life.
A delegation of Cheshire Freemasons, led by Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank, attended the official opening of the ‘Better Lives Centre’ at the Bridge Wellness Gardens on 27th July 2018
The Wellness Gardens in Ellesmere Port, which opened in 2015, have needed a permanent structure at its ‘heart’ for some time. To turn what was a dream into a reality required the support and donations from a number of organisations including Cheshire Freemasons, who donated £25,000.
The charity’s main purpose is to support those with mental health and learning difficulties and to create jobs for the long-term unemployed by growing and selling fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs to the local community. Bridge Wellness Gardens provides a therapeutic environment for people suffering from a range of mental health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those with mental and physical learning disabilities.
It offers support and activities for young people struggling at school, older clients suffering loneliness and social isolation and people who just want to come and hang out on the farm. The charity is a working horticulture farm which first began operating in 2015.
Francis Ball, Chairman of Bridge Community Wellness Gardens and Farm, said: ‘The opening of the Better Lives Centre would not have been possible without the hugely generous support of a number of major benefactors as well as smaller donations from many other people in our community. It would also not have been possible without the tireless support of our dedicated team.
‘Since we opened in 2015, we have worked with hundreds of people of all ages, from school children to the long-term unemployed, helping them through what are often extremely difficult times. The Better Lives Centre will enable us to increase the amount of people we can support and the variety of work we can do to help them literally grow their lives.”
Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank said: ‘It is inspirational to see the work carried out at the Gardens. The fact it provides both a tranquil place to relax and also operates as a working farm, makes the project invaluable to the community it supports.
‘I have seen the garden project evolve over the years and it is incredible to see how much has been achieved in such a short time. The Better Lives Centre is the icing on the cake and I know I join with many in wishing Francis and his team all the best for the future – long may they make a difference to the lives of those they help.’
The theft of charity cash from behind the bar of a Sandbach pub prompted a rescue donation by Cheshire Freemasons
More than £300 in coins which filled a large glass jar at the Military Arms pub on Sandbach Common was stolen one evening when the bar was briefly unattended. The cash had been raised by regulars in aid of the Sunny Days Children’s Fund to buy holidays and treats for needy children with life altering illness.
'It was a shock when we discovered the cash was missing after all the effort that our regulars put into raising the money,' said licensee Tina Edmonstone. 'We informed the police but there was nothing we could do about the theft.'
That was until one of Tina’s regulars, Freemason Brian Osborne, reported the theft to his Saxon Crosses Lodge No. 6227 in Sandbach, which promptly decided to make up for the loss by handing the Military Arms a £300 cheque to pass on to the children’s charity.
'Such a theft was a disgraceful act by a thief, but I was delighted to be able to inform Tina that our lodge had agreed to donate £300 to make up for the loss,' said Brian. The donation to the children’s charity was also further topped up with £100 raised by customers and traders at La Boutique Market in Sandbach.
The University Lodge of Chester No. 4477 and the Association of Medical, University & Legal Lodges (AMULL) have recognised Connor Elliman for his outstanding contribution and commitment to Performing Arts over his three years of study at the University of Chester
Connor was delighted to receive an award for academic and artistic excellence at level 6 and equally pleased to learn that the award is complimented with a cheque to support his progression and help him through his Masters year.
The award was presented by Professor Andrew Thomas, Worshipful Master of the University Lodge of Chester, at the University’s Valedictory Prize-Giving held on 9th June 2018.
Professor Thomas said: 'It was a fabulous evening and Connor is a worthy recipient of the award. During his time at the University he has shown complete dedication to do well and it’s great to see this is paying off.'
Stephen Blank, Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cheshire, said: 'The AMULL’s Student Prize-Giving programme is a great example of Freemasonry working hard for the wider community, in this case in higher education. I would like to congratulate Connor for his achievements to date and wish him well with his future studies.'
The President of AMULL, David Williamson, said: 'We congratulate Connor on his outstanding achievements and are thrilled that the University Lodge of Chester has awarded him this prize in recognition of this.'
Supported by AMULL, this activity is part of a five year commitment to support excellence in achievement by outstanding individuals.