Shifting gears

The success of the Classic 300, a nationwide series of classic car runs supporting UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations in 2017, has given rise to Square Wheels Lodge, No. 9966, consecrated in the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire. Edwin Smith meets the lodge that’s making a lot of noise

You have to be a certain sort of person to have a love for classic cars,’ says Peter Manning, Primus Master of Square Wheels Lodge. ‘And there’s an affinity between classic cars and Freemasonry.’

If the early days of the lodge are anything to go by, he’s not wrong. The lodge was only consecrated a few months ago, but already it has 90 members and a calendar brimming with events. 

The genesis of the lodge, Peter explains, can be traced back to the Classic 300 – a series of 17 classic car rallies that took place across the country during the Tercentenary year, under the auspices of what was then the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club. When chairman John Cole chose to retire, the decision was taken to move the club from its base in Reading. ‘We settled on Warwick,’ says founding Secretary, now Senior Warden Peter Hughes, ‘because it’s at the centre of the country, it’s close to a lot of motor production, and it’s got a lovely masonic hall.’

The name of the classic car club was also changed to Square Wheels. It’s not necessary to be a Freemason in order to be a member of the car club but, Peter says, ‘the consensus was that the club could easily give birth to a lodge. We created a petition and David Macey, the Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master, who’s a petrolhead himself, supported it wholeheartedly.’ 

With the two Peters on the case, along with Lodge Secretary Bernard Foad tinkering under the bonnet, preparations accelerated. The warrant was secured in July last year and the consecration took place in October at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon – a ‘brilliant venue, full of classic cars,’ says Peter Manning. Some 253 people attended, including three Provincial Grand Masters: David Macey was the Consecrating Officer, Mike Wilkes of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight was the Consecrating Senior Warden, and Bob Vaughan of Worcestershire was the Consecrating Junior Warden. 

The oil used during the ceremony was, appropriately, ‘Castrol R’ motor oil. ‘I wanted to burn it by putting a few drops in the censer,’ says Peter. ‘You really get the smell when it’s burning, but our Provincial Grand Chaplain suffers from asthma, so it wasn’t a good idea.’

'We'll take our wives and partners with us. They'll have the morning off while we have our meeting and then we'll go for a run around the Cotswolds and head home.’

The lodge has 75 founding members, 20 honorary members and welcomed a further 15 members early this year. It will primarily be based at Alderson House, a handsome Grade-II-listed Georgian building on the High Street in Warwick. Some of the lodge’s meetings in 2019, however, will take place elsewhere. 

‘We’ll have four meetings a year,’ says Peter Manning. ‘Two in Warwick and the other two will be peripatetic – we’re taking the lodge to the members around the country.’ On 4 May, the lodge will meet in Bristol. ‘We will be taking wives and partners down with us. They can have the morning off while we have our meeting. After lunch, we will go for a run around the Cotswolds, have afternoon tea, and then head home.’ 

Another meeting is planned for Burton-on-Trent in July. ‘We want to spread the word around the country,’ says Peter Manning. ‘That’s one of the principal aims: for the lodge to visit its members rather than waiting for them to come to us.

‘I hope it’s going to be an extremely active lodge,’ he adds, ‘both masonically and socially. We want to make sure that partners get involved. At a lot of lodges, I think a problem can be that wives occasionally feel alienated, or at least not a part of it. But, clearly, we don’t want that to be the case.’ To that end, Peter Manning and others have also planned to organise an informal picnic every six weeks at a beauty spot or a National Trust venue. 

There’s a need to keep ‘clear water’ between the car club and the lodge itself, but it is hoped that by touring around the country and remaining open to non-Freemasons, the club will fuel the future of the lodge. ‘The idea is to promote Freemasonry to the public through the club,’ he says. ‘We’re hoping it will be a feeder for initiates into the lodge.’ 

The cars themselves may prove to be a draw as well, with a huge range of vehicles in the club, from legendary marques to cute vintage runabouts. ‘There are some fairly heavy motors in the club,’ says Peter Hughes, but it’s his 1970 Fiat 500 that he describes as his ‘pride and joy’. ‘The biggest problem with my Fiat is keeping it away from my daughters,’ he says. It’s a far cry from the challenges he came up against in his early motoring life. He raced in Formula 3, and even shared a grid with the late, great Ayrton Senna. ‘I emphasise “shared a grid with”,’ he says, laughing. ‘It wasn’t “racing”. He went one way while I seemed to go backwards by comparison.’

Peter Manning is also very keen to emphasise that the club isn’t all about luxury or high-powered sports cars. On the contrary, ‘there’s a huge cross-section of vehicles,’ he says. ‘We’ve got loads of members who have MGBs and Austin 7s and goodness knows what. We’ve also got some beautiful pre-war Bentleys, but the nice thing is that it’s reflective of Freemasonry.’ What does he mean by that? ‘It might sound a bit poetic,’ Peter says, ‘but I mean it in the sense that everybody here has got the same passions: motoring and Freemasonry. It doesn’t really matter what you drive – we all enjoy it for what it is. It’s a great atmosphere we’ve created.’

Looking to the future, Peter Hughes is adamant that Square Wheels Lodge has the pulling power needed for further growth. Some of his back-of-the-envelope calculations based on research carried out by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs suggest that there might be as many as 10,000 Freemasons who own classic cars. ‘It’s predominantly a hobby for males over the age of 40,’ he says. ‘Which sounds a bit like Freemasonry.’ 

Other specialist motoring lodges are also beginning to spring up. ‘There’s a new one at the Mini factory in Oxfordshire, as well as Derbyshire, Cheshire and West Wales. I think a lot of Provinces are looking at this.’ He points to the Widows Sons, the association of Freemason motorcyclists, as an example of a community that can be built around a special interest. ‘They are huge on the charity side of things and everybody knows them – they have done very well. I think it’s a pattern we could follow.’ 

In fact, Peter Hughes sees no reason why there couldn’t be a national Freemasons’ association for classic vehicle enthusiasts. ‘I’d quite like us to take a lead; it would encourage people to visit other Provinces and build ties through meetings and cross-visiting. That’s got to be the next project.’

HRH Prince Michael of Kent has agreed to become president of Square Wheels, formerly the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club

Formed in 2002 and open to non-masons, the club has been renamed to reflect the national reputation it enjoys. Prince Michael is also president of the Royal Automobile Club and an honorary member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

Pictured here, Square Wheels chairman Mark Pierpoint shows Prince Michael his Rolls-Royce Shadow 1 at Buckingham Palace in 2016, when Prince Michael inspected 90 British vehicles on behalf of the Queen.

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The Masonic Classic Vehicle Club has undergone a makeover and been re-branded 'Square Wheels' at the NEC’s Classic Motor Show

This is the largest indoor classic car show of the year, attracting nearly 71,000 visitors over the long weekend of 10-12 November. The theme of the stand was the Classic 300 - a series of vehicle runs which took place throughout England this year.

Vehicles on display at the NEC were a stunning 1922 Rolls Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Tourer, a 1967 Ford GT40 in Gulf livery and an XKSS Jaguar, as well as a 1957 BSA A10 Super Rocket and a 1999 Honda VTR Firestorm, both courtesy of the Widows Sons Chapter.

On the Square Wheels stand, 20 new members were signed up, whilst lots of little teddies were also sold to visitors to help swell funds for the Teddies for Loving Care campaign.

As part of the rebrand, meetings will now be centralised in the Midlands to make the club more ‘national’ and the range of activities will offer members many additional diverse events, to help it appeal to all interests. The new Officers are: Chairman Mark Pierpoint, Hon. Secretary Phil Cottrell, Hon. Treasurer Mark Bigam and Press and PR Secretary John Cole.

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Thursday, 24 August 2017 06:00

The Classic 300 makes it mark at Land's End

The latest Classic 300 run saw the travelling gavel cross the River Tamar, affectionately known as the Cornish border separating Cornwall from England

It arrived safely in Saltash, which is located in the South East of Cornwall, to begin the Cornish Leg of the Classic 300 on 20th August 2017.

The idea for the Classic 300 was conceived by the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club (now Square Wheels) to celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary. A series of 15 non-competitive classic car runs taking place in England and Wales throughout the year, it was launched back in May at Windsor Great Park when the first vehicle was waived off by The Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.

Hosted by the Cornwall Masonic Classic Car Club, 12 cars from across the county braved the wet conditions, created by the tail end of hurricane ‘Gert’, to converge at the designated starting point.

Before embarking on the 120 mile plus coastal trail, the travelling gavel, which was fashioned from a Jaguar ‘Con-Rod’, was formally handed over from Bro Kit Marquand to W Bro John Cole PAGDC, in anticipation for the next stage of its epic journey to the most South Westerly point in the England.

The route deviated from what would traditionally be the quickest road to Land’s End, with the cars peeling off towards the historic town of Looe at Trerulefoot. This was the start of a series of B roads that would dominate the day, winding their way down through to Lostwithiel and beyond towards Fowey.

The route ended with everyone arriving at the final destination of Land’s End with the addition of a beautiful post vintage Austin RP Standard. It was here that the finish line arch was inflated and positioned behind the iconic ‘Land’s End Sign Post’ – a real challenge to achieve in the wind, situated 250 feet above sea level and perched on top of the cliff.

Roy Harry-Young, one of the passengers from New Zealand, and a relative of one of the entrants, volunteered to act as an anchor holding on to the guide ropes behind the arch whilst the gavel was presented to the Provincial Grand Master of Cornwall Stephen Pearn. The sign post itself adorned the Grand Lodge address.

Roy Harry-Young commented: ‘I am not a Freemason myself, but I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and sense of inclusion that I have felt today. These sorts of events really put a human perspective on to your Fraternity, making them very visible and accessible to a greater audience. It’s obvious everyone is having a great deal of fun and sharing in a common passion of classic cars.

'This morning I never dreamed that I’d flown half way round the world to hang off a cliff holding on to a giant inflatable arch!’

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Revving up for the Tercentenary

Celebration of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary year will continue this Sunday when the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club launch the Classic 300 at Windsor Great Park – the first in a series of individual classic vehicle runs

A large gathering is expected as UGLE’s current Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent will be in attendance and will be officially starting the event.

Fans of classic cars will certainly be in their element, with a vast array of vehicles set to be displayed on the Review Ground, a large grassed area, from 10 am before proceeding on a short symbolic run at 2:30 pm.

The Classic 300 has 18 national classic car runs taking place across England and Wales this year at famous venues including the Isle of Man’s TT, Brands Hatch and the Brooklands motor circuit in Surrey. The runs are open to Freemasons and those with an interest in Freemasonry and classic or future classic cars.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire will also be holding a number of Tercentenary events on Sunday at Windsor Great Park including a 300 mile walk, which refers to 300 people walking one mile, and a teddy bears’ picnic. Everyone who takes part in the mile walk will receive a commemorative certificate to celebrate the Tercentenary.

Entrance to Windsor Great Park is free and parking is available for everyone.

You can find out more about the Classic 300 here

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Double-decker display

The Masonic Classic Vehicle Club hosted show-stopping vehicles at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham in November, with a 1952 AEC Regent 111 double-decker bus dominating the stand.

Delivered to London Transport in January 1952, the bus was selected as one of three similar vehicles to represent London Transport on a tour of the US and Canada to promote travel to Britain and the purchase of British products.

At the show, the club launched a major series of classic vehicle runs – Classic 300 – which will take place throughout England and Wales this year to commemorate 300 years of Freemasonry.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 38 SUMMER 2017

WE WILL REMEMBER

Sir,

Having received spring’s magazine and opening the first page, I was returned to my military time in Germany, 1956. The photo of the London bus took me back to my visit to Berlin on the same type bus, which took a party of members belonging to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and 17th/21st Lancers to Berlin for bank-holiday weekend. I am now 80 and a proud mason of 45 years. I wonder if any other masons of today may have been on that trip?

Phil Holmes, Liverpool Mercantile Lodge, No. 4319, Liverpool, West Lancashire

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Classic car club’s record signings

Described by many as the most beautiful racing car ever built, a 1958 Maserati 250F featured on the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club’s stand at the Classic Motor Show at the Birmingham NEC. 

The car, owned by Berkshire mason Gerry Hann, had a big teddy as the driver as part of a special display for the Teddies for Loving Care charity. 

This prestigious Formula One car, the first model of which made its debut in 1954 with world champion driver Juan Manuel Fangio behind the wheel, attracted a large number of visitors to the club stand. During the three open days, a record number of 40 new members were signed up. 

French lessons in Jersey

The Masonic Classic Vehicle Club has made an annual visit to Jersey for eight years, each time touring the island in vintage and classic cars, as well as enjoying a fraternal visit to Loge La Césarée, No. 590. Of the 11 lodges meeting at Stopford Road in St Helier, Loge La Césarée is the only one that conducts its ritual in French. The La Césarée songbook includes many World War II songs and the visitors joined in with gusto on their latest visit. 

Classic cars and bacon butties

The Masonic Classic Vehicle Club held one of its Sunday Breakfast Meets at the restaurant Zest at Lime Square, near Reading, involving a varied collection of 20 vehicles and their owners.

Coffee and bacon butties made this an enjoyable, informal morning gathering with advance publicity attracting members of the public. Among the vehicles on show were Jaguars, MGs, Bentleys, Triumphs and a few motorcycles. There was also a tiny Subaru 360 rally car, one of only three in the UK.

Classic visit from sir stirling moss

For the past 10 years the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club (MCVC) has mounted displays at the NEC Birmingham’s Classic Motor Show, the largest indoor classic car exhibition in the UK.

In 2013 the club’s display theme was Historic Competition Cars, with exhibits including a 1958 Maserati 250F F1 car owned by Gerry Hann, Berkshire Deputy PGM; a 1953 C-type Jaguar (replica) constructed and owned by Phil Cottrell of Lodge of Aviation, No. 7210, in London; a 1932 Austin 7 Ulster displayed by Roger Gourd from Merantune Lodge, No. 6149, in Surrey; and a 1922 AC Sports from the Brooklands Museum, loaned by Steve Gray.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the club year was when Sir Stirling Moss, considered by many to be the greatest British racing driver, visited the MCVC stand at the NEC.

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