The installation of a new lift in Liverpool Cathedral has been completed thanks to a donation of £69,000 by the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity, which continues a tradition of more than 100 years of Masonic support for the Cathedral.
A Choral Eucharist conducted by the Rev Canon Myles Davies (Acting Dean) celebrated the completion, which will enable more visitors to reach the beautiful Lady Chapel, and so allow the Cathedral to make better use of it for worship and for events.
The Lady Chapel is the oldest part of the cathedral, celebrating its centenary in 2010, and is the place where many visitors choose to pause and reflect. It contains some fine architecture and the magnificent “Noble Women” windows. However, it was built in an era when accessibility was not at the forefront of people’s minds and, up until now, it has only been accessible via stair cases both inside and outside the building. The new lift, which gives access from the main Cathedral floor to the Undercroft, wheelchair access to the Lady Chapel, and secure access to the choir accommodation, marks the last major development in the Cathedral’s policy to provide unrestricted access for all.
Rebecca Bentham, Fundraising Manager of Liverpool Cathedral Foundation, said the project to redesign the lower area of the cathedral will take place in phases as funding is secured. The entire project, including the lift, will cost just under £500,000 and the cathedral is working hard to raise funds for each phase.
New facilities for those using the Lady Chapel will allow it to be used as an alternative option for events, which will increase the revenue potential of the cathedral.
At the dedication service the Rev Canon Myles Davies said: “This accessible lift is a wonderful addition to the cathedral enabling so many more people to access the Lady Chapel. As a result of the generosity of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity we are able to offer a much better experience to all who visit our cathedral.”
John Smith CEO of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity said: “We are pleased to be able to help improve access to the Lady Chapel for disadvantaged people. Freemasons have a long history of supporting the cathedral that goes back as far as 1906 when local Freemasons donated the funds to build the Chapter House”.
At the dedication ceremony the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker, said: “The Province and the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity have had an association with Liverpool Cathedral which began over 100 years ago.
“In 1904, our Grand Master, King Edward VII laid the foundation stone for Liverpool Cathedral.
“In 1906, our Pro Grand Master, The 3rd Earl Amherst, laid the foundation stone for the Chapter House. The Chapter House was funded by the West Lancashire Freemasons in memory of the first Earl of Lathom, our Provincial Grand Master from 1873 to 1898.
“In 1924 the cathedral and the Chapter House were consecrated, and one of my predecessors, the then Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, John Hearn Burrell, and his team, conducted the service to dedicate the Chapter House.
"Within my own memory, I recall 2001, when we celebrated 175 years as a separate Province. How appropriate that in our celebrations the Province donated £40,000 to Liverpool Cathedral to provide bursaries.
“The Freemasons of West Lancashire have continued to be involved the cathedral and supported it over the years, and this support has comprised both personal service and involvement as well as financial support. Indeed, it was one of our senior Masons, Brian Jackson, a volunteer worker in the cathedral, who facilitated the initial application by the cathedral for financial support in connection with the provision of a disabled lift to enable access to the Lady Chapel, which was the first part of the cathedral to be completed.
“As they say, the rest is history, the result being a grant from our Grand Charity of £5,000 and total grants from our West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity of £69,000.”
Peter concluded by saying: “We were attracted to the project, for two reasons - first, the project provides much needed help to disadvantaged people who wished to access the cathedral's Undercroft and the Lady Chapel, and secondly, it reinforces our long relationship with the cathedral.
“We are grateful to the cathedral for the opportunity to share in the dedication of this disabled lift and to Rebecca Bentham who has been instrumental in organising the event.”
The members of Excelsior Lodge No.3580 celebrated their centenary with a special meeting held at Hope Street Masonic Hall in Liverpool.
Excelsior Lodge was consecrated in Hope Street in 1912 and continued to meet there for their first 56 years. Following the ‘Great Fire’ in Hope Street in 1968, they moved to the Masonic Hall in Garston, but due to the large numbers wishing to attend the celebrations, they were given permission to hold the centenary meeting in Hope Street.
The Worshipful Master of Excelsior Lodge, Gary Jones, opened the meeting and after confirming the minutes he opened the lodge in the second and third degrees. At this point, the Inner Guard announced that the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Keith Kemp sought admission to the lodge.
Gary, said he would be pleased to admit him into the lodge, upon his entry Keith announced the arrival of the Provincial Grand Master, Peter Hosker. Peter was escorted into the lodge room by Neil MacSymons (PrDCDC) at the head of the Provincial team in full splendour with the Provincial Grand Sword Bearer, Brian Blanchfield, holding the sword upright and the Provincial Grand Standard Bearers, John Stansfield and Martin Lynton (deputising), with their standards making the procession even more majestic and colourful.
Peter was accompanied by two of his Assistant Provincial Grand Masters, Roy Skidmore and Philip Gunning, the Provincial Senior Grand Warden, Paul Renton, the Provincial Junior Grand Marden, Ian Sanderson, and the rest of the Provincial team, along with Howard Griffiths (Garston Group Chairman) and 13 other Grand Officers. With over 125 brethren attending the celebration, there was not a spare seat in the temple.
Keith introduced Peter to Gary, who gave him a very warm welcome and invited him to take the gavel and occupy the chair of King Solomon, which Peter said on this occasion he would be pleased to do. Peter then appointed his Provincial officers to their respective positions and proceeded to open Provincial Grand Lodge.
In his opening address to the lodge, Peter said he was delighted to be able to celebrate the 100 years of continuous meetings that the lodge had achieved. Peter then requested Geoffrey Lee (Provincial Grand Secretary), to read out the details on the centenary warrant, which he did in his usual articulate style. The warrant was then delivered into the hands of Peter who took great pleasure in presenting it to Gary Jones.
Peter then requested Rev Graham Halsall (Provincial Grand Chaplain) to deliver an oration. Graham started his oration by taking the assembled brethren back to the mid 1800’s to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow That was first published in the book ‘Ballads and Other Poems’ in 1841. Graham read the first verse: “The shades of night were falling fast, As through an Alpine village passed a youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice, A banner with the strange device, Excelsior!
Graham continued his oration with a translation of ‘Excelsior’ – ‘Onwards and Upwards’ he referred to the founding of New York City and the way ‘Excelsior’ defines the city ‘How far - How high’. During the final part of the oration Graham spoke of the way ‘Excelsior’ defines Freemasons, particularly the distinguished members of the lodge. He also congratulated the lodge on its support of the charities over the years, as he noted the lodge was a Gold Patron of the Samaritan Fund and the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. He also congratulated the lodge on the number of younger Masons who were filling all the progressive offices, which he said was a great indication of the lodges future.
The oration was followed by a dedication prayer after which Peter closed Provincial Grand Lodge and invited Gary to resume his chair, with the lodge officers then resuming their positions.
Gary then asked David Atkinson to give a short talk on the history of the lodge.
David started by saying that the consecration of the lodge was carried out by the then Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Robert Wylie and other officers of the Provincial team on 18 April 1912. The lodge consisted of many brethren from all walks of life, from the Liverpool and surrounding areas, many of whom were either business men, traders, labourers and service personnel, including sea fairing brethren. It was agreed that the lodge would meet on the third Saturday in the month and that all brethren must wear bow ties, unless they held Grand or Provincial Grand rank.
The first regular meeting of the lodge was held on 20 April 1912 with 13 members and five visitors present to witness a double initiation, which was not unusual for the lodge in its early years.
Throughout the periods of the First and Second World Wars, the members of Excelsior were undaunted and continued with their meetings, and at the meeting in May 1919 a motion to amend the bye laws in relation to the meeting of the lodge from the third to the first Saturday of the month was unanimously carried.
Unfortunately due to the great fire in 1968 much of the lodge history was destroyed, however, as a result of the remaining books of declaration it can be seen that the lodge continued to thrive between 1923 and 1968 with many initiations taking place with subsequent second and third degree ceremonies.
The first installation meeting to be held at Garston took place on 19 April 1969 and the lodge continues to meet at the Masonic hall at Island Road South, Garston on the first Saturday of the month, October to May.
David has produced a history of the lodge which contains a dialogue of the distinguished members of the lodge throughout its100 years, which was presented to all the brethren present at the festive board.
Gary then thanked Peter and the Provincial team for a magnificent ceremony and he presented him with three cheques for £3,580 made out to West Lancashire Freemasons' Charity, The Friends of Tithebarn, The South Liverpool Foodbank and one for £800 made out to KIND. Peter said that he was delighted he had been able to attend with his team and he was pleased on behalf of the recipients to accept the magnificent sum of £11,540, which he was sure that the cheques would be gratefully received and faithfully applied.
With the centenary celebration complete, Peter retired from the lodge accompanied by Grand Officers and escorted by the Provincial team. The final lodge business was transacted by Gary, before he closed the lodge and all retired to a splendid meal at the festive board.
Roy Skidmore replied to the toast to the Grand Officers saying: “it is a great pleasure to be here and be part of this wonderful celebration.” He then proposed a toast to the Provincial Grand Master in which he gave a comprehensive summary of Peter’s career, his work in Freemasonry and his work in the community which Roy said he had drawn from the CV on the West Lancashire Provincial website entitled ‘Peter John Hosker OBE - The Man and the Mason’, which he recommended the brethren to read.
In his reply Peter said: “It was a pleasure to lead such a celebration, a centenary is a very special landmark and I enjoyed going back into the chair.” He thanked Roy for his proposition of the toast and the brethren for the way they had receivecd it. He then conveyed his warmest congratulations to the lodge members and said it was a privilege to come along and share the celebration. He then said he had found the history of the lodge very interesting and he named a few of the brethren that stood out, these included; Brian Jackson, PJGD, William Roberts (Longest subscribing member) and Sam Robinson, PAGDC, a long serving Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, and now Deputy Chairman of the Liverpool Group of Lodges and Chapters.
Peter then presented Gary with a past masters jewel that was returned to the lodge in 2005 by family members of Edward Dewar who had been installed as WM in 1928. Peter said the members of Excelsior had decided that the oldest known past masters jewel should be presented to the Worshipful Master of the day at the time of the lodge centenary.
Proposing the toast to Excelsior Lodge, Peter said that he hoped the lodge would continue to prosper for very many more years to come.
Gary responded to this toast saying: “It is a privilege to respond to this toast, the lodge has a really good relationship and has lots of light blues coming up through the ranks. He thanked the brethren for their tireless work over a number of years in the planning of the centenary celebration. He then presented Peter with a set of cufflinks and a tie pin that had been commissioned to celebrate the centenary. He also presented Peter and Roy with flowers for them to take home to their wives.
Three prizes, a three litres of Jack Daniels, a £50 Tesco voucher and a bottle of whisky were up for grabs in the raffle; first prize went to Stephen Lyon from Royal Victoria Lodge No.1013. The sum of £585 was raised from the raffle and this will be donated to the Hope Street Masonic Hall Appeal Fund, in thanks for allowing the lodge to hold its centenary meeting in Hope Street.