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.’
Dorset Freemason John Howland proudly presented a donation of £1,000 to Poole Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which was raised by members of Northbourne Lodge No. 6827
John appreciates the remarkable work conducted by the NICU and reflected: ‘When I became Master of Northbourne Lodge, I realised I had an opportunity to repay them in some small measure for not only saving my granddaughter's but also my daughter’s life.’
John’s 13-year-old granddaughter Hannah, who was born prematurely at 26 weeks in 2005, was present when the cheque was handed over to staff nurse Felicity Metcalfe.
Poole NICU cares for babies requiring special care, whether it is due to pre-maturity, illness at delivery or health problems during the baby’s stay at hospital. The money will go towards procuring one of nine much needed £3,000 state-of-the-art ‘Hot Cots’, which are vital in enhancing the NICUs on-going success in safeguarding premature babies.
Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Graham Glazier said: ‘This work by Northbourne Lodge is a terrific embodiment of the values of Freemasons all over the UK. We believe in playing a key role in our communities and regularly give time and money to charitable ventures.’
A charity providing life-saving support has received a cash donation of nearly £10,000 from Berkshire Freemasons
This huge sum was gathered through a series of contributions from Berkshire Freemasons and given to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance in January 2019.
The bulk of the funds were from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Berkshire Masonic Foundation, while further funds were being provided by individual lodges in Berkshire.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, the Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: 'We are thrilled to continue supporting the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Thanks to the tireless efforts of their doctors, paramedics and pilots, many lives of people in the Thames Valley are saved every year.'
Freemasons are very large contributors to the air ambulance charities; Berkshire Freemasons have contributed over £75,000 in the last ten years. Nationally, the contributions are in excess of £2 million.
Thames Valley Air Ambulance operates across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, providing frontline emergency car using four rapid response vehicles and one air ambulance.
Neil Harman, Director of Fundraising for Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: 'We are very grateful to Berkshire Freemasons for their continuing generosity. Without support like this our crew would not be able to provide advance critical care and our life-saving work could not continue.'
Freemasonry provided its own version of the Six Nations when two Provincial rugby teams locked horns for the first time in Wigan, as they competed for the Freemasons Rugby Challenge Cup on 9th February 2019
Leicestershire & Rutland Light Blues RFC accepted an invitation to participate in the inaugural match of the Province of West Lancashire’s new masonic rugby team, with the cup donated by both clubs to encourage the development of provincial masonic rugby teams and a healthy rivalry.
Wigan, a town more familiar with Rugby League, was the battleground and despite stormy conditions throughout the night, the sun was shining in front of a 200-strong crowd and the pitch in excellent condition.
Both sides began the match with enthusiasm and, with ‘brotherly love’ being temporarily put to one side, a true rugby spirit. Despite it being their first match – and for some of their players, the first ever game – West Lancashire were competitive with resilient defence and probing attacks, but the first half finished with Leicestershire & Rutland holding a narrow 13-10 lead.
While West Lancashire Freemasons Rugby Football Club (WLFRFC) fielded an all-masonic team, part of the ethos of Leicestershire Light Blues RFC, who have been established for a number of years, is to work as a recruiting platform and a conduit into Freemasonry. The fresh, and somewhat younger, legs of the Leicestershire & Rutland team proved decisive and, after a hard-fought second half, they were victorious with a 30-10 victory.
The Freemasons Rugby Challenge Cup was presented to the Light Blues RFC Captain Andrew 'Jock' Keenan by the WLFRFC Honorary Patron, Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, Tony Harrison for a well-deserved victory.
WLFRFC Honorary President, linesman and Deputy Grand Superintendent from Royal Arch Province of West Lancashire Dr Paul Renton presented man-of-the-match awards to West Lancs’ Hooker Mark Brant and to Leicestershire & Rutland’s Fly Half Ollie Stanley.
Fundraising on the day raised £960 which included a generous donation of £103 by Leicestershire and Rutland members.
WLFRFC Chairman & Founder Garry Hacking praised the generosity and support of all who attended the match from both Provinces and thanked Daniel Quelch and Andrew Keenan for their guidance, advice and help in setting up the West Lancashire team.
Dorset Freemasons stepped up to the mark when a 'recovery café' run by the Essential Drugs & Alcohol Service (EDAS) in Poole needed extra funds
Members of the Lodge of Meridian No. 6582 and St Aldhelm's Lodge No. 2559, Magnaura Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Dorset Provincial Grand Master’s Discretionary Fund joined together to fund an information system which will allow the cafe to widen the services it provides.
The Serenitea Café provides an alcohol-free social environment for people in recovery, as well as members of the public. Dorset Freemason Mark Burstow and Lionel Turner of Magnaura Conclave visited the cafe to find out more about its work.
Mark Burstow, who also acts as the Province's Communications Officer, said: ‘A key element of our activities as Freemasons is to play an active part in our communities and support charitable activities such as these. The support that Serenitea will offer is invaluable helping individuals to cope whilst on their path to recovery.’
Kate Allard, of EDAS, said: ‘This donation will help us provide events that members of the community can enjoy in a safe space; we are very grateful for this generous donation.’
Hope Support Services, founded in 2009 in Ross on Wye, provides support for young people aged 11-25 when a close family member is seriously ill with a life-threatening condition, especially those with cancer. They provide support at this stressful time through sessions where young people can gather together in Ross, Leominster and Hereford.
They arrange various activities and outings, and also provide support online, through Facebook and Skype, and are in the process of developing an app with help from Comic Relief which will enable young people to communicate with each other and to link with other charities which might be able to provide help.
Their aim is to provide emotional support for their young clients, of whom there are around 300, and to prepare them for bereavement. They also run a Building Better Opportunities course for those young people who are wanting to find work.
In 2017, they were approached by St Michael’s Hospice to run their services for the children of cancer patients being cared for by the Hospice. Children looked after in this way can be as young as five, and around 130 children and young people are cared for through this initiative.
They have eight full and part-time staff, plus a session worker and two online workers. There is also a Youth Management Team, who have benefited from the services themselves in the past and now help with planning and holding the charity’s range of activities.
On receiving the donation, Hope Support Services warmly thanked the Freemasons of Herefordshire for the generous grant, which will go towards developing the activities provided for young people at this difficult time in their lives.
Only 17 Freemasons have been Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire since its formation in 1792 – and four of them are in this picture
Still regularly attending meetings are the men who have been in charge – with one break of two years – since 1981.
They are Gordon Walkerley Smith (1999-2008), David Wheeler (the current incumbent, installed in July 2018). Geoffrey Mawer Cooper (1981-1997) and Graham Ives (2008-2018)
The break in the chain was caused by the unexpected death, two years after taking the office in 1997, of Dr John Allin.
The longest time in office was 41 years, between 1895 and 1936, when the Provincial Grand Master was Lord Worsley, Fourth Earl of Yarborough – though as David Wheeler pointed out: ’In those days it was a largely ceremonial office with others representing the Provincial Grand Master on many occasions.’
Amphibious Lodge No. 9050 in Wimborne, Dorset, have showed their commitment to the care of the wider community by supporting a local charity, The Greenwood Club, with a donation of £510
The Greenwood Club is part of the Dorset Area for Outstanding Natural Beauty project 'Stepping into Nature'. They aim to provide positive shared experiences and memories for those living with dementia and their amazing carers. The members learn green woodworking skills, rural crafts and cooking outdoors in relaxing woodland surroundings.
Amphibious Lodge Charity Steward Stew McKell met with the Club at their site in the woods of Holton Lee, where he spent some time with the group and then presented the cheque to volunteer Jill Hooper.He was asked by several of the carers how the monies were raised and he explained how Dorset Freemasons raise money through a number of ways such as events and raffles to help support local charities.
The Provincial Grand Master of Dorset Graham Glazier said: 'I am delighted that Amphibious Lodge have decided to support such a worthy local charity.
'The Greenwood Club activities are designed to help individuals with dementia gain a sense of achievement, which is terrific for their self confidence and independence.'
Lincolnshire Freemasons have given £5,000 to help improve the quality of life for those most in need in one of the country’s most deprived wards
This is the East Marsh in Grimsby, which has the unenviable status of being in the bottom 1% on a national deprivation league table. The money, which has come through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, has been given to Harbour Place who are based in Hope Street, Grimsby, and support rough sleepers, the homeless and other socially excluded people.
In September last year, the charity moved to the Hope Street premises, which allowed it to launch a permanent night shelter in support of its Street Outreach Project, which has been running since April 2011, and has now been expanded.
Project Director Robin Barr said: 'A key part of the project’s activities include supporting and advocating on behalf of clients through signposting, referral and access to a wide range of statutory and voluntary sector agencies. Since opening the Hope Centre in September 2018, Harbour Place has registered over 175 clients for the new service.'
'Since the move to Hope Street more than 50 people have been helped to find permanent accommodation, more than 30 of whom have been through the night shelter.'
Robin said that success was an indication of the significance of the £5,000 donation: 'Our records indicate that if we can work consistently with someone over a short period, we can usually assist them to find accommodation.'
The donation was made by Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master, David Wheeler, and Pete Tong, the Provincial Charity Steward.
Pete said: 'The message we brought away from the staff and volunteers at Harbour Place was that for more people than we might have imagined, the prospect of living on the street was too close for comfort. For many, the financial cushion which keeps the roof over their head is very thin indeed.
'They told us of one man they were helping who had been a respected professional in the community, but after problems resulting from a marriage break-up he had been reduced to living on the street.
'The successes achieved by the team of staff and volunteers are hard won, and we trust our donation will help their efforts to be even more effective.'
Over 70 young people in and around Swindon will receive a major boost to their education, thanks to a £50,000 grant from Wiltshire Freemasons
The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, will pay for a Villiers Park Educational Trust learning mentor, as part of the social mobility charity’s Scholars Programme.
The Swindon Scholars Programme is for high ability students in Years 10-13, who face barriers – such as a low household income or eligibility for free school meals – that typically have the knock-on effect of putting them at an educational disadvantage compared to their peers.
As part of the intensive and personalised four-year scheme, students will have regular meetings with their learning mentor, who will provide advice, guidance and support in helping each scholar to reach agreed personal goals.. The programme, which operates in seven schools and colleges in Swindon, has been shown to improve exam results, raise aspirations and motivation and increase vital skills such as confidence and communication.
Villiers Park Educational Trust is a national charity providing support to 14-19 year olds to raise their academic, employability and personal skills. The Swindon Scholars Programme has been running in the area for eight years. Last year, 62% of Year 13 students on the programme achieved A*-B grades in their A-levels (compared to a national average of 53%) and over 64% went to university (compared to 33 % nationally).
Rosie Knowles, Deputy Director of Development at Villiers Park, said: 'We’re very grateful to Wiltshire Freemasons for their grant which will make a tremendous difference to the lives of the young people we work with. By providing support that’s tailored to their specific strengths, as well as areas for development, we know they will be helped to understand their options and accomplish their best.'
Philip Bullock, Provincial Grand Master of Wiltshire, said: 'The best possible start in life is to get a good education. By helping promising young people in our community to gain confidence and other vital skills, Wiltshire Freemasons donation will give them the opportunity to access top universities and transform their life chances.'