The story of the Great War memorial window in Cheshire

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

At the turn of the 20th Century, the compact City of Chester was blessed with two masonic halls, situated about one mile apart at the north east and south west of the city centre

The first at Queen Street was a large converted Town House in the ‘Rows’ of Chester where, interestingly, some of the lodges can trace their roots back to before the formation of United Grand Lodge in 1813. The second was a new Freemason’s Hall in Hunter Street, built specifically in 1909 to accommodate the growing numbers of members.

It seems fitting to record the decision made 100 years ago, in December 1918, by four Chester Lodges, meeting at Hunter Street, to fund and erect a Memorial window to the valour of the members who died in during the Great War of 1914 to 1918, and in honour of those Chester masons who had served their country.

The four lodges in the Province of Cheshire, the Lodge of Independence No. 721, Clarence Lodge No. 2386, Travellers Lodge No. 2609 and Deva Lodge No. 3447, formed a small committee and plans were put in place. Four years later, on the 13th April 1922 the Lodge of Independence gave notice of a special Emergency Meeting to be held on the 24th April 1922 to witness the Unveiling and Consecration of the Memorial Window: - “in gratitude for peace, in memory of the fallen, and to honour the Chester Brethren who served in the War.”

The window, some 11 feet in height and 8 feet in width, has for its central light the figures of Aaron and Hur holding the hands of Moses, with masonic symbols and the Arms of Chester appearing in other portions of the window. It was unveiled by Hon. Lord Leverhulme and consecrated by the Very Revd. The Dean of Chester, Rev. F.S.M. Bennett, Provincial Grand Chaplain. There were, according to the Attendance Register, 66 members the Lodge of Independence, and 105 visitors, including many members from the other three lodges – Clarence, Travellers and Deva.

Freemasons’ Hall, Hunter Street, Chester, was sold in 1994 to enable the re-development of Chester City Centre, and all lodges vacated the building by the 1st August 1995. The sale included an agreement for the Memorial Window to remain in situ until arrangements were in place for its safe removal. When the time came for the window to be removed, the metal framework was found to be badly corroded and with lead missing was in danger of imminent collapse. Restoration, cleaning and re-leading took and a new metal framework was provided by Paul Richards of Bridgegate Lodge.

The new Freemasons’ Hall ‘Cheshire View’ was identified for the move, with the main temple constructed in the roof-space of the existing building and a new wing added to provide a second temple, and dining room.

Originally, it was planned to install the Memorial Window in the East of the new Second Temple, behind the Master’s Chair, where it would be illuminated by an appropriate external window. All was to be prepared and ready for the Official Opening and Consecration of the Second Temple, on the 22nd April 1997. Unfortunately, calculations failed to appreciate the height of the mounting framework and the elevation of the Master’s Chair from the floor. The Memorial Window therefore had to be installed behind the Senior Warden’s Chair where sufficient height existed.

Electric lights now illuminate the Window, instead of daylight, and they fully reveal its magnificent details. Standing in the West, it now affords great enjoyment for the Master and Brethren seated in the East. It also forms a fitting centre-piece for the Temple and a talking point for the many visitors, both masonic and non-masonic, reminding them of the sacrifice of those who never returned to their loved ones and firesides after the Great War.

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