Beneath the imposing shadow of the magnificent 11th century Windsor Castle, Berkshire Freemasons and their friends were a high profile addition to the street scene on 31st January 2015, there to promote the Windsor Masonic Open Day
The centrepiece of the day's external promotion was the 'Freemasonry – What's It All about?' gazebo. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council provided a rare special dispensation to site this gazebo on the Guildhall concourse, giving a prime location for our display. This centrepiece caused considerable interest from passers-by, who were encouraged by the team to visit the open day at the masonic hall. The team even wondered at one point whether HM The Queen had turned out her guards to parade past!
The masonic hall in Church Lane, located just behind the Guildhall, is a building of some antiquity having been built in 1725 to house a charity school. It was sold to Castle Lodge (now Windsor Castle Lodge No. 771) in 1862 for £500 and remains under Windsor Castle Lodge ownership to this day.
It has the most superb painted lodge room and is well worth a visit, for its beautiful décor alone. There is no documentary evidence, contrary to common myth, that it was built by Sir Christopher Wren, who actually built and designed the nearby Guildhall in 1702. The Guildhall has unique architectural features such as the cantilever roof with pillars of an exquisite design and workmanship, that do not actually touch the actual ceiling, and is well worth a visit. The masonic hall might not have actually been built by Wren, but he did live in Windsor during some of that period, so one can see why this story perpetuates.
The masonic hall itself was dedicated on 24th November 1864 by VW Bro Aeneas J McIntyre QC, Grand Registrar in charge of the combined Province of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The ceremony was followed by a banquet held at the Guildhall for some eighty Freemasons. The bill for this dinner was £26.6s.0d.
When guests went through that famous red door they were met and greeted by a dedicated team answering the key question: 'So... Freemasonry – What is it really all about?'
Ask a hundred Freemasons this question and you probably would get a hundred different answers. Explanations were given about Freemasonry's huge charitable giving programme, individual personal development, masonic symbolism and the fact we all have serious fun! However, the summary had to be, 'Taking the good man on a journey of self-discovery and making him even better.' Visitors were offered a tour round the centre, including its magnificent painted temple and if really lucky given a cup of tea.
Nearly 100 people visited the Windsor Masonic Hall during the day and 27 of them expressed an interest in becoming new members. More importantly, Berkshire Freemasons once again demonstrated the spirit of openness and the benefits of Freemasonry to our community.
A review was printed and posted online in the Windsor Observer: http://www.windsorobserver.co.uk/news/roundup/articles/2015/02/04/107309-freemasons-of-berkshire-thrown-open-the-doors-of-their-windsor-hall-for-open-day/
Everyone involved agreed the event had surpassed all expectations and it has set the benchmark for all future events.
The next Open Day will be at Berkshire Freemason's headquarters in Sindlesham on 25th April 2015.
Berkshire Freemasonry - Coming to a town near you, very, very soon!