Kidderminster masons have built their new lodge rooms attached to the Chester Road Sports and Social Club

The arrangement is proving a success, with goodwill and mutual support that sees the cricketers busy in summer and the masons fully occupied in winter. Strengthening this relationship, Robert Vaughan, Worcestershire Provincial Grand Master (shown above, left, with club chairman Norman Broadfield), presented a cheque for £3,000 towards a new electronic cricket scoreboard.

A career set in stone

Emily Draper, twenty-six, is Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice. Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemason support has helped Emily to carve out a dream career

Perched on a dusty block of stone, Emily is fresh-faced and buoyed from the morning’s assessment with her tutor from City of Bath College. It’s just a few degrees above freezing in the drafty workshop that leans against the south-east side of Worcester Cathedral, but Emily doesn’t seem to mind. Clasping a chisel in her gloved hand, she absent-mindedly smudges dust on her fleece with the other. ‘I didn’t know whether to dress up or not for the photos,’ she says, ‘so I just wore my normal work stuff.’

Chatting to a colleague, a man about twenty years her senior, Emily is charming and sincere. Her youthful presence and the jovial atmosphere of the workshop contrast with the dignified serenity of the cathedral. ‘It’s my dream job,’ she enthuses later, now in the warmth of the on-site office. Her face flushes with the pride she has in her newfound career; it’s her passion for the trade that won her the position as Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice.

‘I’ve got the chance to do something that is not only personally fulfilling but also makes my family proud. It’s a career close to my heart’

The right fit

Funded by local Freemasons and the Grand Charity, Emily currently splits her time between the cathedral, where she is learning the intricacies of sculpting stone under the tutorage of master mason Darren Steele, and City of Bath College, where she studies the theoretical methods of stonemasonry two days a week. When asked about her decision to pursue an apprenticeship in stonemasonry, Emily says: ‘I think it just arrived in my consciousness one day. I’ve always been interested in history, and Worcester Cathedral has always been in the back of my mind because I was brought up near here.’

Emily’s professional journey began after she completed a degree in Fine Art from The Arts University College at Bournemouth. She enrolled in the stonemasonry diploma at City of Bath College, balancing work and college while driving the seventy-five miles between the two. ‘It was a lot to deal with, especially when you don’t know whether you’ll end up with a job,’ she says. ‘It was a risk, but definitely a calculated risk. I hoped that if I worked really hard it would make me employable.’ 

The risk paid off when, in August last year, Emily beat forty-five other applicants to win the apprenticeship at Worcester Cathedral. ‘The head of my course recommended I went for it, but I didn’t think I’d hear back. It was nerve-wracking. When I found out I had been shortlisted, I was over the moon.’

For Darren, Emily stood out as a strong candidate: ‘We had a tremendous amount of interest in the apprenticeship, but Emily came out on top as she showed the passion and enthusiasm in stonemasonry as a career that I was looking for.’

Preserving history

Although Emily’s grandfather died when she was just twelve, she credits him as the main influence in her career path. ‘He was a mechanical engineer and an illustrator, so his trade was very hands-on and creative – but also industrious. It’s clear I get a lot of my passion for stonemasonry from him,’ she says. Coincidentally, Emily’s grandfather was also a Freemason at a chapter in Devon.

For Emily, the fact that Freemasons are providing the funding for her apprenticeship proves she is on the right track: ‘I’ve got the chance to do something that is not only personally fulfilling but also makes my family proud. I only have memories of my granddad from when I was a child, but my work brings me very close to him as I feel like it’s something that he would have liked me to do. It’s a career that’s very close to my heart.’

Restoring a cathedral as grand in size and splendour as Worcester is an endless task. ‘By the time you’ve gone half way round, the bit behind you has started falling apart again,’ says Darren. The work being carried out is particularly impressive because the conservation team at Worcester Cathedral does not use power tools at any stage of the restoration process. Even for the stonemason industry, Emily says, this is rare: ‘It’s sometimes frustrating, but very fulfilling creating something that matters using your hands.’

Using traditional techniques means that achieving something as straightforward as a flat surface becomes an art form in itself for Emily and her team. ‘In order to actually work something by hand and make something that is technically perfect, you have to have respect for the building,’ she says. ‘There’s an argument that you can get the same job done twice as fast by using power tools, but I think it’s important to keep traditional hand skills alive. In a building like this you benefit from having a hands-on approach as you respect the stone more. You want to make it perfect.’

Lofty ambitions

In 2010, Darren and his counterparts founded the Cathedral Workshop Fellowship, a partnership of eight Anglican cathedrals – Worcester, Gloucester, Lincoln, Canterbury, York Minster, Winchester, Salisbury and Durham – created to develop the professional training of new and experienced stonemasons. This unique community, of which Prince Charles is patron, has developed a qualification championing traditional hand crafts, as well as an exchange programme to allow apprentices to move between the country’s cathedrals to try working on different types of stone. Darren has arranged for Emily to spend a fortnight at Salisbury Cathedral in the spring to hone her carving, a skill in which she has shown promise.

For the past twenty years, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcestershire has aimed to ensure that Worcester Cathedral always has an apprentice stonemason in training. It’s a worthy ambition but also costly – £25,000 over five years.

Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire Richard Goddard says: ‘I think it’s very important that we support our heritage and also our roots. We have had a close relationship with the cathedral for more than one hundred and fifty years and it’s something we should continue to support.’

Emily’s first major contribution to the restoration of the cathedral is a large restorative phase on the library parapet wall. She took a sixteenth-century weather-worn coping stone and reworked and replaced it. Emily’s still coming to terms with the sheer scale of work her job entails, but the rewards of contributing to a piece of history make it more than worthwhile. ‘I thrive on the pressure of working with the knowledge that whatever I add could be there for another thousand years.’

Securing the future of the cathedral

Over the past twenty-three years, the entire exterior of Worcester Cathedral, including the chapter house and cloisters, has been systematically restored. The huge project, which began in 1988, first focused on strengthening the tower, then the cathedral’s Works Department moved in a clockwise direction around the rest of the building. The last major restoration project finished in 1874, so the task had to ensure the building could face the next hundred years. A special thanksgiving service was held in September 2011 to commemorate the completion of the work, which cost £10m in total. More than £7m was raised by public appeal and around £3m was received in grants from English Heritage, the Wolfson Foundation, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcester and other grant-making bodies.

Published in Features
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 01:00

Big boost for Midlands Air Ambulance

At the annual meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Herefordshire, Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master, presented Midlands Air Ambulance with grants totalling in excess of £50,000. This represented money raised and given by local Freemasons over a three year period.

An additional £12,000 was also presented to Midlands Air Ambulance by the Provincial Grand Masters of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, on behalf of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. This donation is part of over £1 million donated by the Grand Charity since 2007 to air ambulances and similar rescue charities throughout England and Wales to support them in the delivery of their life-saving services.

Annie Newell, Fundraising Manager for Midlands Air Ambulance, on receiving these donations, expressed her sincere gratitude for the commitment, and generous support given to the charity by Freemasons over the years.

Rodney Smallwood emphasised how “Midlands Air Ambulance plays a vital role in our rural community, and without either government or National Lottery funding, their services are in need of support.  Helping local projects and such services, is important to Freemasons as these donations demonstrate. It is with a sense of pride that the masonic Square & Compass logo is displayed on the tail fins of the three distinctively coloured red and yellow Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters as they take to the air on their mercy missions.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:00

Robotic surgery launch

The recently registered charity appeal ROBOCAP, which uses state-of-the-art robotic technology treatment for prostate cancer, was officially launched in Herefordshire, in an event organised by local Freemason Howard Pitts.

Appeal chairman Les Kinmond introduced the three consultant urologists of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, Graham Sole, Biral Patel and Aloysius Okeke. They described this advanced form of keyhole surgery, which offers surgeons three-dimensional imaging and magnification in order to give greater precision and allow for minimally invasive surgery with the reduced incidence of complications.

Cllr Olwyn Barnett, chairman of Herefordshire Council, urged local mayors to support this appeal, and local mason Brian Wilcox, Mayor-elect for Hereford City, said that ROBOCAP would be his official charity during his term of office.

Friday, 25 November 2011 12:21

Support in Safe Hands

Rodney Smallwood, Provincial Grand Master for Herefordshire is piloting the county’s Masons in a sustained and dedicated programme of support for Midlands Air Ambulance.

At a recent meeting with Annie Newell Community Liaison Officer at Midlands Air Ambulance base at Strensham, Rodney Smallwood presented a donation of £25,000.

An annual national grant, this year totalling £192,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity which is distributed countrywide, formed part of this local donation, with the remaining £21,000 being the amount raised for the Air Ambulance within Herefordshire’s Masonic Lodges.

Such continued support over the years, both nationally and locally, has been acknowledged by Midlands Air Ambulance with the display of the Masonic Square & Compass logo on the tail fin of their three distinctly coloured helicopters.

Rodney Smallwood praised Midlands Air Ambulance staff for their dedication and expertise, and these sentiments were echoed by the Provincial Grand Masters of Gloucestershire, R W Bro Adrian Davies, and Worcestershire R W Bro Richard Goddard, both present on this occasion, who also presented donations to the Air Ambulance.

Mr. Graham Sole, Consultant Urologist at Hereford Acute Trust, meeting with local Freemasons, has welcomed the lead taken by Masons from Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and South Worcestershire in the launch of the “Robocap” appeal.

This is a newly Registered Charity set up to generate funds to purchase a 'da Vinci’ surgical system which uses the latest robotic technology to provide the most up to date and advanced form of treatment for prostate cancer. Approximately one thousand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the three Shires.

Graham Sole speaking with Herefordshire Freemasons at Kyrle Street Hereford, supported the fact that such state-of-the-art robotic surgery will offer surgeons superior 3D HD imaging and magnification, with greater precision for the optimal performance of minimally invasive surgery, resulting in a quicker recovery and reduced incidence of complications.

The initial target of £400,000 would allow delivery and installation of such a unit at a location within the 3CCN area. The full cost of the robotic system is £1.6 million.

To date in excess of £100,000 has been raised following the lead taken by Freemasons from the three counties. Worshipful Brother David Sparrey of Eastnor Lodge Ledbury is a Fundraising Trustee of the Charity.

Very Worshipful Brother The Reverend David Bowen, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, welcomed the opportunity given to local Freemasons to be in the vanguard of this public appeal, and ultimately achieving the appeal’s slogan “Taking surgery beyond the limits of the human hand” for local people.

Friday, 16 September 2011 17:47

WORCESTERSHIRE DIGS DEEP

The Province of Worcestershire celebrated raising over £1.6 million to support the RMTGB at a glittering event attended by more than 700 brethren and their wives and partners.

 

The evening, held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, marked the conclusion of a five-year Festival Appeal that included many successful initiatives – from a Provincial lottery, which raised £36,500, to the sale of a range of masonic-themed merchandise.

‘The brethren of Worcestershire, and their wives and partners, have dug so deeply and, through their tremendous support, made a real difference to the lives of so many children,’ said RMTGB president Mike Woodcock.

Those present at the event included the Provincial Grand Master for Worcestershire, Richard Goddard, and the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence. Guests were treated to a range of musical entertainment before the result was announced.

Published in RMTGB
Friday, 16 September 2011 17:28

Fair owner honoured as event reaches milestone

Worcestershire Provincial Grand Master Richard Goddard joined the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and other dignitaries at the 10th Fun for Kids Day fair in May, presenting Robert Wilkinson, the fair’s owner, with a Certifi cate of Merit

Wilkinson offers use of the fair, plus ice creams, candyfloss and other delights, free of charge to some 500 disadvantaged local children, slowing the rides to allow the least able to enjoy an experience not normally available to them.

Started by the Kings Heath branch of the Worcestershire Associated Masonic Lodges in 2002, the fair has become highly valued by local special schools. Masons act as stewards, and raise funds for drinks and a St John’s ambulance.

World Kickboxing Champion Drew Neale, of Vernon Lodge No. 560, has received his Grand Lodge Certificate from Worcestershire Provincial Grand Master Richard Goddard.

Last October Drew won the Scandinavian Open in the 82 and 84 kilogram events, was also successful in the team category and was nominated best fighter in the tournament.

He decided to follow up these successes by travelling to Italy in December to regain his World Championship, in which he was successful. He is now one of the few British sportsmen who can claim to be a British, European and World Champion!

As the PGM remarked: “This is a first for me – I have never presented a Grand Lodge Certificate to a world champion before!”

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