A new £250,000 high and low rope activity centre complete with aerial runway – the result of more than two years of fund raising, planning and construction to deliver what will be a major community project for young people across the county – was officially opened by Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, and Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, on Saturday September 15th 2018
The Ropes Course, the first facility of its kind anywhere in the country, is open to both able bodied and wheel chair users and in places, is the height of a four storey building. It's a joint project built for the Essex County Scouts at Skreens Park, Chelmsford, to celebrate 300 years of modern Freemasonry.
The High Ropes and Linear Courses, including the zip wire equipment were funded by a £145,000 donation from Essex Freemasons. Essex Scouts added to this by funding a further £120,000 to build Low Rope and Wheelchair Courses to ensure that access is provided to those of any age, including anyone with mobility issues. This has ensured that the facility will be open to all and also serves to raise awareness in the able bodied community of the issues faced by wheelchair users in everyday life.
For Essex Freemasons, who donated the money to build the runway, it will be a lasting legacy in support of young people who live in the area. It also once again confirms the organisation's ongoing commitment to the community.
'Our 10,000 members across Essex were in full support of funding a project that would be a fitting legacy in celebration of our Tercentenary year,' said Rodney Bass. “In less than 12 months they raised more than £161,000 which we decided to donate to the Scout Movement.
'Essex Scouts told us that they needed funding for a new rope activity centre that could be used by all organisations that use Skreens Park and we agreed. We immediately donated £145,000 to cover the cost of the work and decided that the balance will be used to support local Scouts across county.
'This activity centre is a wonderful facility of which my members can feel proud and one which I hope delivers many hours of challenge and enjoyment for the young people of Essex.'
Essex Scouts is one of the three largest Scout Counties in the Country, with nearly 22,000 members. Each year its adult members contribute over one million voluntary person hours in providing skills for life for young people across the county, which translated into financial terms equates to an injection into the Essex economy of nearly £8 million per annum.
Stuart Gibson, County Commissioner for Essex Scouts, commented: 'Essex Scouts are delighted and grateful to have received this generous donation from Essex Freemasons, which has enabled us to design and build an integrated Ropes Course comprising High Ropes, including a zip wire, Linear, Low Ropes and Wheelchair courses, to ensure that we have a facility that is accessible to as many people as possible. This will truly be a lasting legacy for the young people of the county.
'Skreens Park is a very busy site used by Scouts and Guides from across the country and the rest of the world. In addition, the facility is used by many local schools and other youth organisations. The Ropes courses will be an excellent facility to develop team building and group working whilst also challenging individuals in a safe environment.'
Installation of the High Ropes Courses at Skreens Park is one of dozens of projects across the county involving Essex Freemasons who regularly donate more than £1 million every year to local charities and good causes. More than 300 lodges meet in Essex from 27 different Centres and continue to play an active role in the community – Skreens Park being the latest.
Members of Essex Cornerstone Club, including President Reiss Duthie, visited Le Touquet Loge No. 89 in the French Province of Flanders, where they attended its 160th meeting
The meeting was held at the Luxurious Westminster Hotel over the weekend of 21st and 22nd July 2018 and attended by 35 members including the Provincial Grand Master of Flanders Gilbert Geeraert, Deputy Provincial Grand Master Maurice Borgmann and Assistant Provincial Grand Master Jacques Mullem, together with other Provincial Grand Officers and a number of Essex and London Freemasons who are members of the lodge.
The acting Master Steve Richards introduced a talk delivered by Essex Freemason Ken Cownden, who is also a member of Le Touquet Loge, which had been borrowed from fellow Essex mason Jim McCreadie, entitled ‘They Exchanged the Sceptre for the Trowel’. The talk counted the number of English Royal Freemasons throughout history and was well-received, as well as being translated into French for assistance for the numerous French guests.
Following the meeting, the French executive joined around 50 people who dined including non-masons, wives and guests.
Dorothy Barley Infant School in Dagenham is to receive dedicated, specialist support to help improve outcomes for vulnerable children and give them a better start in life, thanks to national charity Achievement for All and Essex Freemasons
A grant of £5,000 from Essex Freemasons, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will allow Achievement for All to work with staff at Dorothy Barley to assist pupils to achieve greater potential in life by helping to lay down firm and positive aspirations to learn and succeed. The programme, which also involves parents and staff, has been proven to give youngsters the support they need, particularly in the early years
The £5,000 grant is part of a much larger grant of £240,000 given by Freemasons to 53 schools in England and Wales through Achievement for All’s award-winning Achieving Schools programme.
Achievement for All is a leading not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with early years settings, schools and colleges, improving outcomes for all children and young people regardless of their background, challenge or need.
The grant will provide subsidised access to the Achieving Schools programme, which dramatically enhances the goals and outcomes of pupils and addresses the issues faced by children and staff though four key areas: leadership, teaching and learning, wider outcomes and opportunities, and parent and carer engagement. Schools who have benefited from this programme to date have seen a positive impact on the development of teaching, increased pupil attendance as well as improved confidence amongst pupils in their own abilities to achieve.
Christine James, Headteacher at Dorothy Barling, said: 'The grant will make a huge difference to this school. It will enable us to work closely with Achievement for All to identify children and parents in need of support and most importantly provide the time needed to concentrate on those youngsters that need it most.
'This school is very much part of the local community with parents who give us considerable support but we have some who need help and this money will enable us to make a difference.'
Colin Felton, Provincial Communications Officer for Essex Freemasons, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Achievement for All with their excellent programme at Dorothy Barling.
'Freemasons are very much part of the community and our 10,000 members are actively raising money for the MCF to ensure that grants to schools and other local charities can be made on a regular basis. We are delighted to be able to help this incredible initiative work in Dagenham.
'Developing children’s core strength and resilience can improve confidence and engage children in learning. By supporting these pupils now we can play an important part in helping them make the most of their education.'
Find out more about the £5,000 donation – watch this short video.
A place for missing men
With bereaved men often finding it difficult to seek emotional support, hands-on initiatives like DIY workshops are providing sanctuaries where they can open up. Steven Short finds out how the MCF is helping in the hospice care sector
When a partner or family member dies, those looking after them not only have to say goodbye to the person they’ve lost, but also to their own identity as a caregiver. Many people have made great sacrifices to look after a loved one, often over months or years, and as this responsibility ends it can bring a sense of ‘Who am I now?’ as well as questions about the future.
At the same time, the bereaved can often feel cut adrift from those around them – and the support they experienced leading up to the death – at a time when they perhaps need it most, facing the practicalities of sorting out funeral and financial arrangements.
Hospices across the UK have, for many years, been accompanying people on this difficult journey. And the masonic community has long supported the incredible work they do – more than £12 million has been donated towards the operating costs of hospices throughout the country. Over time, it has become apparent that women are much more likely than men to seek out care and support, and that there is a need for programmes tailored to men who are bereaved, caregivers or coming to terms with their own illness. In response, a number of unique initiatives – such as ‘man sheds’ – have been developed to help these ‘missing men’.
A NEW WAY OF FUNDING
Historically, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)’s support for hospices has been via small grants across all Provinces. However, the MCF has determined that funds should be directed to where they’re needed most, helping to plug gaps in service provision and make the biggest impact. Working with Hospice UK, some of this year’s MCF grants will focus on bereavement support services.
‘We are constantly looking to improve our grant-making,’ says Katrina Kerr, head of charity grants at the MCF. ‘Our hospice grants in recent years undoubtedly made a tremendous difference in the palliative care sector, but over time it became apparent that we could direct the funds so generously donated to us by the masonic community in a more effective, strategic way.’
Due to the spike in births after the end of the Second World War, a generation of baby boomers is entering its seventies, meaning that now is a good time for Hospice UK and the MCF to be thinking about palliative care and bereavement support.
Karl Benn, head of grants at Hospice UK, agrees. ‘In the past year, hospices have supported around 46,000 people – adults and children – in coping with the death of a loved one,’ Benn says. ‘So there is clearly a need for bereavement care. We also talked to our members, who agreed that this was an area we should be focussing on.’
Benn and his team have worked with the MCF to develop and oversee the application process as well as the awarding of the first £150,000 allocated for grants through the new programme. ‘It was heavily oversubscribed,’ he notes. ‘We received applications for £1.5 million, so making our final allocations was really difficult.’
Grants were ultimately awarded to innovative bereavement support projects at hospices in seven Provinces, namely Staffordshire, East Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire, Essex, South Wales and West Lancashire, and in London. These focussed grants were in addition to £450,000 awarded in small grants last year to support 245 hospices under the former programme. Later this year, a further £300,000 will be available to fund the bereavement and support programme, with an additional £300,000 awarded in the form of small general grants as the new programme is introduced gradually over the coming years.
‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access traditional support’ Kathy Birch, Princess Alice Hospice
REACHING OUT TO MEN
Among the initiatives are several focussed on supporting men through the bereavement process. These will be hands-on, practical initiatives, where men can, in Benn’s words, ‘do some DIY, or work on renovating furniture – something they can get involved in rather than sitting around a table talking about feelings, which isn’t right for everybody.’
Martlets Hospice in Hove, for example, will run a men’s allotment project, while St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston will introduce a ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative. At the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, Surrey, a Man Shed project is underway. The Man Shed, which will also be trialled at other hospices, offers the opportunity to engage in practical activities and learn skills while receiving ‘shoulder to shoulder’ support.
‘We had noticed at the hospice that the number of bereaved women who were coming forward to us for care and support outnumbered men by three to one, and so we sought to identify a new way to address this unmet need that was right on our doorstep,’ says Kathy Birch, day service programme lead at Princess Alice. ‘We wanted to reach out to the missing men within our communities, including bereaved husbands who have lost their sense of purpose, men who are caring for their partner and need someone to talk to, and men coming to terms with their own terminal illness.
‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access the traditional family-support offering, such as formal counselling or listening. Our data on those who seek care and support within a “traditional setting” certainly backed that up,’ Birch continues.
Kerr from the MCF agrees. ‘Men can find it more difficult to build social connections than women. It’s an unfortunate reality that men are less likely to share concerns about health and personal worries.’
The knowledge that men can find it hard to open up, especially in a formal face-to-face setting, inspired the team at Princess Alice to create the Man Shed programme. Birch says, ‘Our missing men can come together and put their skills and energy to use with a high degree of autonomy while talking to others who may be in the same situation and getting the support they need to face the future.’
A SPOT FOR SHEDDERS
The Man Shed idea originated in Australia, and Princess Alice is one of only a few hospice-based Man Sheds in the UK. As the name indicates, the shed at Princess Alice is a building consisting of a DIY workshop and a communal lounge. It was officially opened in June 2016, and within a month the hospice had 13 ‘shedders’ (patients, carers and bereaved relatives) involved in the project. By January of this year, that figure had risen to 112. Of those, 85.7 per cent are men, reflecting the need for spaces where they are able to cope in their own way.
At the Man Shed, shedders produce everything from bird boxes and chopping boards to bespoke memory boxes, which are then sold to raise yet more invaluable funds for the hospice. Shedders and project leaders also have come up with innovative ideas to help patients of the hospice, including a special raised cupholder that allows people who use a wheelchair to take a drink without having to bend over. They have also made a mobile trolley for the hospice library and benches for the garden.
‘I have cancer and I am a regular at the Day Hospice’s weekly social group,’ says one shedder. ‘I’ve recently started to visit the Man Shed and have made some smashing friends. When you walk in it feels like the sun has come out and the heaviness is lifted from your shoulders. Talking to people who know what you are going through really helps.’
Two teenage boys recently attended the Man Shed when their father was terminally ill, as he wanted them to learn vital skills while he could still be there. ‘Freemasons are fortunate to have a network of brethren around them for support during difficult times,’ Kerr says, ‘but not everyone is so lucky. Our grants will help to improve provisions for members of wider society.’
With Castle Point Lodge No. 9122 in the Province of Essex following a tradition of allowing new members to participate in ritual presentation at the earliest stage, Alan Anthony, as the lodge’s then Director of Ceremonies, posed the question of taking it a further level
Having this in mind, he then encouraged the lodge’s latest Fellowcraft member at the time, Joe Doherty, to learn and present the Second Degree Tracing Board, while still a Fellowcraft Freemason himself. Joe readily accepted this challenge and became the first member of the lodge to achieve this accolade.
Not knowing if this would continue into the future, the next Fellowcraft, Matt Harrington, was also encouraged to do the same. This was again successful and was subsequently followed by Darren Ridgwell, Adam Horn and Gregg Workman. It was at this stage, following this success, that Alan thought they may have the beginnings of what might be considered to be a 'Tracing Board Club'.
Alan set about designing and commissioning a lapel pin that would be awarded to each member who met the criteria. At their meeting on 13th March 2018, when two more members were passed, the Worshipful Master Rob Alabaster, presented these five members with the unique lapel pin consisting of the two great pillars, represented in open lodge by the Warden’s columns, and the Fellowcraft’s rosettes, depicting that it was a Fellowcraft freemason who presented the Tracing Board.
The Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Essex Nick Franklin was present and congratulated the members on their considerable achievement, saying that he hoped the new 'Tracing Board Club' would continue long into the future.
The Essex Cornerstone Club embarked on its first volunteering project of the year for Churches Homeless Emergency Support Scheme (CHESS) on 7th April 2018
The aim of the day was to assist with the clearing of gardens and driveways that had become overgrown at the head office, and to help decorate and clear the gardens at one of the temporary homes in the centre of town. They quickly split into two teams of six and got to work, which included help from a number of Essex Freemasons outside of the club.
CHESS seeks to relieve homelessness, hardship and distress amongst single adults in Chelmsford and across Essex. They do this through the provision of support services and temporary accommodation that helps those in need move on with their lives.
Barbara Buxton, CHESS Business Support Manager, explained to all those helping how volunteering for jobs like these helps to save the charity money that can now be spend on more of the core services that they provide to the community.
Having completed the project, the Essex Cornerstone Club are now planning ahead for their next volunteering projects.
Hamlet Court Lodge No. 6026 in Essex had the rare privilege of witnessing three of its brethren reaching the milestone of 50 years in Freemasonry in the same year
It is believed to be the first time in the lodge's history that an event like this has occured.
Tony Compton, Harvey White and Dennis Surgeon were initiated into Freemasonry between January and February 1968, when they were all in their 20’s.
What made this event on 9th March 2018 even more interesting is that Tony and Harvey were brought into the lodge by their fathers, and Dennis by his father-in-law. All three members have still got active roles within Hamlet Court Lodge.
All three received their certificates from Allan Clark, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Essex.
Members of Colcestria Lodge No. 7123 in Essex held their annual Ladies Festival gala dinner at the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester on Saturday 2nd December 2017, in aid of Blesma, The Limbless Veterans
Proceeds from the night totalling £1,100 were donated to Blesma at the request of the Worshipful Master Brian Chenier. As well as being employed as a Support Officer with the charity, Brian has a family connection with Blesma.
Blesma is the national charity for all limbless service men and women, their widows and dependants. Brian's late father, David, was an associate member after losing his left leg through diabetes and his mother Margaret continues the family connection as a Blesma widow. David was also a Freemason and was a member of Colcestria Lodge.
Brian said: 'As Master of my lodge I was able to nominate a charity to benefit from the Ladies Festival. Choosing Blesma was an immediate and obvious choice. The support my Mum and Dad received from the association was superb and my Dad was very proud to be part of Blesma.'
Through his work, Brian has seen first-hand the benefit this donation will have. 'Through my work and connection with Blesma I was able to really impress on my fellow Freemasons the importance of making such a donation,' added Brian.
'As Masons we do not go out and collect money from others, we give what we can out of our own pockets. I was very pleased with the generosity of those that attended the Ladies Festival, many of whom were non-masons.'
During a lodge meeting, Brian arranged for the Master of Ceremonies from the night, Paul Humphries PJGD, to present the cheque to him. Paul, himself a veteran having served in HM Royal marines, said: 'It was a pleasure to have been part of such a wonderful night of celebration and to be able to present the cheque. The work Blesma do to support our injured veterans really strikes a chord with me as a veteran and as a Mason.'
The cheque for £1,100 was handed over to Blesma Chief Executive Barry Le Grys at their office in Chadwell Heath.
It was a very special evening in Norfolk at Thorpe St Andrew Lodge No. 8010, where Laurence Corbett Whitbread, aged 95 years, received a certificate to mark his 75 years in Freemasonry
It's 75 years since his initiation into Freemasonry back in November 1942 when Laurence was initiated at the age of 20 by his Father, Edward Corbett Whitbread, who was the Master of the United Lodge of Prudent Brethren No. 145 in Colchester, Essex.
Laurence was appointed to London Grand Rank in 1972 and then promoted to Senior London Grand Rank in 1990. He joined Thorpe St Andrew in 1992 and was appointed to Past Provincial Grand Registrar in Norfolk in 2012.
His son Jonathon is also a member of Thorpe St Andrew and was proudly present to see the ceremony.
The Lodge then held a Past Master's night, with ceremonial of the highest quality as they performed a Raising. The highlight of the evening though was when Laurence Whitbread returned to the floor and delivered the Exhortation faultlessly.
Have you heard the one about the three Essexboys?
The Essex Cornerstone Club is bringing younger masons together to create new connections across the Province, as Peter Watts discovers from three of the founding members
Lazy stereotypes abound when it comes to Essex, yet it’s one of England’s most diverse and under-appreciated counties. It boasts a lively mix of busy commuter towns, rural villages, regal Roman settlements and colourful seaside resorts. Essex also has a huge number of Freemasons, with around 10,000 members meeting in hundreds of lodges.
Since 2016, Essex has also been home to the Cornerstone Club, which was founded to connect young masons from across the Province. Three of its founding members – self-declared, born-and-bred ‘Essex boys’ – talk among the cockle sheds of Leigh-on-Sea, which sits on the northern side of the Thames Estuary: ‘With the Cornerstone Club, we want to capture the spirit of Essex,’ announces chairman Elliott Chevin. ‘It’s such a large Province with so much to offer.’
Elliott and his co-founders Jack Gilliland and Jack Saunders discuss the beginnings of the club, which has attracted 150 members from Essex’s large but not particularly youthful masonic community. Elliott, 41, took to Freemasonry enthusiastically in his 20s, but only realised the full range of potential masonic experiences as he moved higher up the ranks, out of his own lodge and into the wider Province. This was also when he began to meet other young Essex masons.
‘There was an age gap between me and everybody else in my lodge,’ he says. ‘I enjoyed the meetings, the meals, the beer, and I loved meeting different people, but the interests of somebody in their 20s can be very different to those of someone in their 60s.’
After Elliott became more involved at the Provincial level, he met more people of a similar age and formed a circle of younger masonic friends. ‘I wanted to find a way to extend this, as I knew there were masons in Essex who had never had that sort of access.’
Supported by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Paul Reeves, Elliott recruited a six-man team of young masons, among them Jack Saunders. Now 31, Jack has been a Freemason for three years and helps to manage the Cornerstone Club’s social media presence.
‘We looked at the data for the Province and saw there were around 500 masons under 40 – one or two per lodge – and we wanted to join them together,’ says Jack. ‘It’s great being with different people [in lodge], but sometimes you want to speak to someone who has the same life experience.’ The club has blossomed, and half its 150 or so members are under the age of 30 – the youngest being 19.
The Essex Cornerstone Club combines its home county’s get-out-and-do-it spirit with a deep respect for masonic tradition. ‘We didn’t want to create another commitment, something that was compulsory,’ says Elliott. ‘We wanted to create something so compelling they’d want to be there. It’s not just meetings and beer – although beer and meetings are important – but a mix of social and educational events that deepen and strengthen knowledge as well as being fun.’
Events have included a tour of the museum at Freemasons’ Hall, playing paintball, a trip to a local brewery, a chance to go inside an Apache helicopter, a family day at Romford Greyhound Stadium and marshalling at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a charity run raising funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice.
The imagination demonstrated by these activities may account for the club’s success. ‘We expected an initial burst of interest but have continued to build on those numbers every month,’ says co-founder Jack Gilliland, 33. ‘After every event, people have talked about it on social media, and we always get new members. It’s the mix. We’re not just a drinking club; we have thrown in educational events and charity and community engagement.’
‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family’ Elliott Chevin
The club is focused on holding events in different parts of the Province to enable members from all over Essex to participate, but also to ensure all new young Freemasons in the county are aware of the club. Here, the support of the Province is essential.
‘When a new young mason signs up, we will go to a meeting to welcome them and talk about how to connect with Freemasons of a similar age,’ explains Elliott. ‘We also try to be there every time they do a ritual or event. The Province was very supportive [when setting up the club] and it was important we moved in step with them in order to use their ability to communicate with Essex’s 10,000 Freemasons.’
Jack Saunders admits the club initially had to reassure lodges that it wasn’t planning to poach any younger masons. Now lodges all over Essex help to spread the word, understanding that the Cornerstone Club operates to everybody’s benefit. ‘It’s supplementary, not competitive,’ he explains.
Jack Gilliland is one of three generations at his lodge, which he attends alongside his father and grandfather, and believes this mix of ages is one of the appeals of Freemasonry. ‘There aren’t many other places where people in their 20s and their 80s can discuss life experiences,’ he says. ‘I’ve never had that outside family and Freemasonry.’
MORE THAN A CLUB
Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, appreciates the way the Cornerstone Club has enriched masonic life in his Province. ‘It’s clear by the significant number of young Freemasons who have signed up to the club just how enthusiastic our younger members are about Freemasonry, and this bodes well for the future,’ he says.
The club is active on social media and Elliott is excited by the potential of technology to build a national or international network of young Freemasons. It uses Facebook to give younger masons a private support system, so they can discuss masonic principles without fear of embarrassing themselves in front of older masons or non-masonic friends.
Elliott is now considering the creation of a Cornerstone Lodge, as a way of maintaining friendships for those who have become too old to attend the club itself; at 41, he is already anticipating his own retirement.
‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a Cornerstone Lodge; a way for people to stay connected to the club for life?’ he says. ‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family. Before the club existed you had to hope you’d make a connection with somebody or, if you were lucky, find there was somebody of a similar age in your lodge already. Now people can make an instant connection with others around their own age while also expanding their masonic knowledge. That could help somebody stay in Freemasonry for 50 or 60 years.’
FIND OUT MORE: Read more about the club at www.essexcornerstone.com