In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the new National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent

It was agreed by all that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.

Sixteen years later, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, The Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to more than 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.

The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.

A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and mason Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was then undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain the Reverend Bernard Buttery.

Published in UGLE
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 09:45

A garden to remember in Staffordshire

As part of the Tercentenary celebrations, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden in Staffordshire

In late 2001, Lichfield mason Roger Manning suggested the creation of a masonic memorial to be sited at the newly created National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent.

It was agreed that the masonic garden should serve in the remembrance of all Freemasons, whether they had died in the service of their country or through sickness, accident or old age. There would be no reference on the site to specific lodges, groups or individuals.

Over the next 16 years, following four different Provincial Grand Masters, two architects, more than a dozen designs, planting failures, floods, dozens of detailed reports and many meetings, the Masonic Memorial Garden was finally unveiled on 18 April 2017 to over 300 brethren and civic dignitaries.

The service was witnessed by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton, President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson and Grand Secretary Willie Shackell.

A welcome to all in attendance was given by local builder and brother Eddie Ford, who had been responsible for the garden’s development over the entire 16-year period. The dedication service was undertaken by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, the Reverend Bernard Buttery.

Civic leaders at the event included the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson; the Mayor of East Staffordshire, Cllr Beryl Toon; and the Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Ken Norchi. Provincial Grand Masters from many neighbouring Provinces, together with representatives from all of the 96 Staffordshire lodges, were also present.

Planting an idea: how Staffordshire masons planted a special garden at the National Memorial Arboretum is outlined by Peter Atkins

The simple, yet symbolic Masonic Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire is a permanent memorial to all brethren who gave their lives for peace and freedom. 

Masonic involvement in the Arboretum started when Staffordshire’s former Information Officer, Roger Manning, realised the significance of Freemasonry supporting the concept and talked to members of his Lodge, St John’s of Lichfield No. 1039. 

The Masonic Garden was adopted by the Lodge, which made the initial financial contribution and introduced the concept to the leaders in the Province. The then Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Thomas D C Lloyd, now Provincial Grand Master, committed his support and it was soon adopted. 

By early 2002 sufficient money had been contributed by Lodges across the Province for a substantial plot to be bought. The site was dedicated in June that year, during Freemasonry in the Community week. 

The Assistant Grand Master, David Williamson, assisted by the then Provincial Grand Master, Kevin Chawner, cut and turned the first sod in the presence of some 400 Freemasons, their families and friends together with local civic leaders and the Lord Lieutenant of the County. 

Six months later a yew tree hedge was planted around the plot. Sadly it did not survive, and a second planting took place the following winter. 

Around £20,000 has been spent so far and Staffordshire Masons gratefully acknowledge the contributions from the neighbouring Provinces of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Cheshire.

More funding is needed to complete the garden which, in plans drawn up by retired architect and Deputy Provincial Grand Master John E Griffiths, includes a stone arch at the entrance. 

Bro Griffiths, explaining his thoughts on the design, said: “It is a very open and exposed site and I wanted the ashlars to be protected as if they were in a forest glade, enclosed by a hedge, with one entrance. 

When the hedge is fully grown, and we have the arch in place at the entrance, it will beckon people, draw them in, to see what I call the pearl within.” 

The costs of the garden have been kept down by the contribution of Eddie Ford, a builder by trade from nearby Burton and a truly operative Mason, who laid the chequered paving and supervised the positioning of the two ashlars, each weighing three and half tons. 

Bro Lloyd was on hand to welcome the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, when he made a detour to see the garden during an official engagement at another area of the Arboretum last October. 

Peter Atkins is Information Officer for the Province of Staffordshire 

National Memorial Arboretum 

The National Memorial Arboretum was conceived by the founder director, David Childs, after visiting the USA and seeing the Arlington Cemetery and the National Arboretum in Washington DC. He thought the concepts could be merged into a meaningful living tribute in the UK, which would acknowledge the sacrifice made by the whole nation so that people could live in peace and freedom. Today, it pays tribute to those who died in war and also reminds people of the 80 million lives lost in conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries. Warwickshire Royal Air Force Lodge No. 9456 created Masonic history when they held the first Lodge meeting at the National Memorial Arboretum on November 1, last year (2006). More than 40 members spent the day at the Arboretum, which began with a visit to the Masonic Garden and included a Lodge meeting in the Visitor Centre during which the Master, W Bro Paul Brennan, initiated his son Gary Stephen. The day ended with a Festive Board provided by catering staff at the Arboretum. The National Memorial Arboretum is open every day, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, from 10am. Admission is free, and a visit is highly recommended.

www.thenma.org.uk  

www.pglstaffordshire.co.uk  

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