Surrey Freemasons completed their 2019 Festival Appeal on 11 May 2019, with over 650 guests attending a banquet at Guildford Cathedral – as it was announced they had raised over £3.3 million for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI)

Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, was in attendance, alongside Ian Chandler, Provincial Grand Master for Surrey Freemasons, with his Executive organisers and members of the Province and their partners. The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and RMBI Executives and Trustees were also present, including Managing Director Mark Lloyd and Chair Sir Paul Williams.

The RMBI was established in Surrey back in 1850 with the opening of the very first home in Croydon otherwise known as the 'Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons'. Nowadays, the RMBI is a charity providing affordable care facilities for the elderly across the UK. In Surrey they are lucky to have two RMBI homes – James Terry Court in Croydon and Shannon Court in Hindhead.

Paul Crockett, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Surrey and Chair of the Festival, said: ‘All of the people who work and volunteer in every home will make sure that our donations make a positive difference to people’s lives; helping to keep our loved ones feeling safe, preventing isolation and loneliness and wrapping that warm blanket of security around them.’

The Province has raised over £3.3 million over the last five years through its hard work and ongoing efforts. Various fundraising events have taken place during this time from descending down the longest and fastest zip wire in Europe raising over £35,000, and a charity ball and auction of celebrity memorabilia raising £55,000, to Ian himself completing a triathlon where he raised over £10,000.

Announcing the grand total of £3,313,470, Mark Lloyd said: ‘Sincere thanks to the Lodge Charity Stewards, fundraisers and members of the Province, and their Ladies, for all they have done over the years of the Appeal. Your enthusiasm and hard work is greatly appreciated and has certainly made a huge difference to the lives of a great many.’

Sir Paul Williams OBE, responding to the announcement of the grand total, said: ‘The per capita return of your last Festival has been massively increased from £387 to £532 for this, demonstrating that Surrey truly is committed to caring about the RMBI. Everything we do and achieve is made possible by the generous support of Freemasons and their families, so I would like to thank you on behalf of every person who will benefit from this tremendous display of support.’

Responding to Jonathan Spence’s toast to the Festival President, Ian Chandler said: ‘Everyone who has contributed to this appeal has done so in the knowledge that they were helping in providing a safe and comfortable home for the residents of all the homes, especially at James Terry Court and Shannon Court where we have all witnessed first-hand the quality of care.  

‘Also, while giving priority to our appeal we have not ignored local charities who have received at least a quarter of a million pounds a year. Also, while giving priority to our appeal we have not ignored local charities who have received at least a quarter of a million pounds a year maintaining our support for the community of Surrey. This is something we should all be very proud of.’

The banquet was ended in magnificent style with a firework display over the Cathedral lawn brilliantly choreographed to the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.

Descending new heights

Freemasons from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey set themselves the daunting challenge of abseiling down Guildford Cathedral to help raise money for charity

There was a large gathering at the iconic setting for the Surrey 2019 Festival on Saturday May 6th, with the Provincial Grand Master, Ian Chandler, leading a brave band of 47 fellow masons and their family and friends. This also included the oldest participant, 84-year-old Freemason Vic Pierson.

Those taking part climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the Cathedral in groups of four every half an hour before abseiling down individually from a height of 160 ft. to rousing applause.

In total, the abseil helped raise over £20,000 for the Surrey 2019 Festival appeal and even more is expected to be added in the coming weeks as sponsorship is collected.

Ian Chandler, PGM, commented: ‘It's great to see so many people here raising money for such a deserving cause and adding funds to the 2019 Festival.

‘Thanks go to everyone concerned, especially W Bro Terry Owens and his incredibly supportive family for organising the event and for ensuring the whole thing went off safely and according to plan, not to forget his daughter Zoe who was the first down on the wire.’

Surrey Freemasons have held their Annual Service at Guildford Cathedral and Provincial Grand Master Eric Stuart-Bamford and his wife, Libby, hosted a lunch before the service for the civic dignitaries and their partners including mayors and council leaders and Charles Fowler, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey.

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