Despite its small size, the Province of Shropshire knows how to punch well above its weight. Back in 2014 when the then Provincial Grand Master Peter Taylor launched a Festival for the Province (the fifth smallest of the 48 Provinces) its 1,200 members found themselves facing the challenge of raising no less than £1 million over the following five years
Undaunted, the then 34, although now 36, Lodges inspired their members to rise to that challenge magnificently.
Under the chairmanship of the Provincial Grand Charity Steward, Simon Aucott, a Festival Fundraising Committee organised, co-ordinated and supported the work of the Lodge Charity Stewards throughout the Province in finding ever more inventive ways by which they, their families and friends might go about raising the vital contribution to the work of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Events ranged across and beyond the usual spectrum.
Members of the Province, among many other events, jumped out of aircraft, held promise auctions, went on a group cycle ride from Telford to Rotterdam, held dinners, garden parties and wine tastings. There were Christmas Fairs and a spectacular concert to mark the end of the First World War. The Provincial Director of Ceremonies organised a competition for members to guess his annual mileage on masonic business during a single year; the answer was tens of thousands!
And just to prove that the having wheels is not the only way of fundraising, international walking champion Roger Michell walked between all the Lodges of the Province to present a travelling Maul which then accompanied him and his wife Linda on a walk from Freemasons' Hall in Shrewsbury to Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street for Quarterly Communicatiion in June 2019, where Roger's achievement in walking over 1,000 miles was recogised in Grand Lodge by the Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, and UGLE donated £1,000 to the appeal.
Eventually, the appeal came to a close and at a spectacular Gala Celebration Event at the Telford International Centre, organised by the Festval Celebration Committee chaired by Melvin Gough, the final total was revealed: an astonishing £1,217,094! This, pointed out the current Provincial Grand Master Roger Pemberton is the second highest per capita contribution ever made to the MCF. The Provincial Grand Master went on to praise the efforts of everyone who had worked so hard over the period of the Festival, singling out in particular the committee Chairmen and the Festival Treasurer, Dennis Hill.
The Gala was a brilliant celebration of all the efforts of the many Freemasons, families and friends and was attended by 580 people, including HM Lord Lieutenant in Shropshire, Anna Turner, and civic dignitaries as well as other eminent guests including the Assistant Grand Master, Sir David Wootton, and the President of the MCF, Richard Hone, and Chief Operating Officer, Les Hutchinson. Shropshire Freemasons were proud to welcome them all and to showcase who they are and what they do in the community. In addition to the sumptuous dinner, guests were entertained by magicians and singing waiters to add to the special evening.
Shropshire won't be required to hold another Festival until 2030, but the fundraising efforts won't stop any time soon: the Province, Lodges and indivdual Freemasons will build on the experience gained over the period of the Festival to continue to raise funds for many local charities, as they have over many years. Although there may be fewer parachute jumps by the Provincial Grand Master!
Somerset’s Deputy Provincial Grand Master Ben Batley had been looking for something special to leave a ‘Masonic Footprint’ around the Province to mark its charitable giving
It was then on a visit to Freemasons' Hall in London that he came up with the answer – a plaque recently unveiled by the Duke of Kent to commemorate the opening of the Masonic Charitable Foundation's refurbished offices, suitably adapted, would be perfect
Following consultation with the plaques designers and the MCF, Somerset’s new ‘Masonic Footprint’ was created.
The first plaque was installed in Somerset at the headquarter offices of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for the county at Hestercombe House. This was to mark a donation of £16,500 given over three years as a bursary fund by Somerset Freemasons to enable disadvantaged and vulnerable participants to take part.
Ben Batley commented: 'We are delighted with the result. Whenever we make a charitable donation, our ‘Masonic Footprint’ will be left with the charity to encourage engagement with the public about the good works that we do.'
As part of the Tercentenary celebrations back in 2017, Norfolk Freemasons decided to create a single source containing a definitive written historical record of all their lodges
To that end a small committee was formed with the aim of gathering together and compiling all available histories into a single document. The overriding brief being that the histories included must have been produced by and for the Lodges – their own histories, in their own words.
The resultant three-volume history of their individual lodges provides a comprehensive overview of Freemasonry in Norfolk and includes all available material to 31st December 2018.
Ahead of Grand Lodge Quarterly Communications in September, the Provincial Grand Master for Norfolk Stephen Allen, together with other members of the Norfolk Provincial Executive and two members of Norfolk Blues, their group for newly joined Norfolk Freemasons, were pleased to present a copy of the Compiled History of Norfolk Lodges to Martin Cherry, Librarian at the Museum of Freemasonry, at Freemasons' Hall.
Martin Cherry said: 'It was a real pleasure to meet Stephen and his team to receive this fantastic record of Norfolk Freemasonry into the Museum collection.'
From the Grand Secretary
I trust you have all had an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the new Masonic season. September marks the start of my third year in post, and how time flies when you’re busy! UGLE thankfully quietens down in August, giving staff and the Organisation time to take stock of what we have achieved over the last year, and where we want the next 12-18 months to take us.
Undoubtedly one of the major highlights this year was the dedication of a memorial stone to those, our members, awarded the Victoria Cross. The Most Worshipful Grand Master commented that, having served in the armed forces for more than 20 years, he understood the common values shared by Freemasonry and the services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition. It is an extraordinary fact that 14 per cent of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons and we were proud to be able to recognise and celebrate this at Freemasons’ Hall in London. Perhaps we should be mindful of that part of our ritual, delivered on the presentation of a Hall Stone Jewel to a new Worshipful Master, which tells us that it should ‘ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self’.
Freemasons’ Hall was, of course, built as a peace memorial to those brethren who lost their lives in the Great War and we have been thinking hard about how we can use our fabulous Grade II-listed building to help inform and educate people about Freemasonry. By the time you read this, having worked closely with the Museum of Freemasonry, the first members of the public will have undertaken a redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall. It sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year. It helps us launch a new approach as to how we define and regard ourselves. We are less apologetic for the misguided views of others, and instead talk about the positives of membership, both in terms of the benefits for the individual member and for society at large. What other organisation can boast charitable donations of more than £45 million a year? What other boasts an annual delivery of over five million hours of unpaid community and voluntary service? What other seeks to make people better individuals through philosophical and philanthropic engagement?
Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members and one that we should all be proud of: that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. Our purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges, Freemasonry teaches us to chip away at our inadequacies, revealing the better person we can be, one more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn. Of course, all Freemasons will know and appreciate these points, but it is now our aim and intention to share these messages with the public, starting with the new public tour and closely followed by other supportive material.
We have an amazing history, often at the forefront of monumental social and economic change, as anyone who has watched the DVD of our Tercentenary celebrations cannot fail to appreciate. We have such a story to tell and intend to be confident and committed when speaking about our many strengths and the reasons why we are just as relevant today as we have been in decades and centuries past. Watch this space, and let us know how you think we are doing!
In other developments, we intend to produce, for the first time in our history, an annual report explaining to you, our membership, how your fees and dues are spent, while explaining to both you and the public what it is that UGLE does and how well we do it. Many of you will be involved in helping us collate the information we need, so look out for this over the coming months as we work towards a publication date of March 2020.
‘Project Hermes’ is in full swing, looking at how we can update our processes to modernise the management of our membership, ensuring that some of the more laborious and outdated demands placed upon Lodge and Provincial Secretaries concerning collecting data, paying dues and keeping up-to-date records are simplified and made more accessible to those who need to see, use and work with them. We hope to be able to have a much fuller article explaining this in our next edition.
In short, as ever, there is plenty going on to keep us all busy, but if you find yourself in London with an hour or so to spare, please do book into our new tour via the Museum of Freemasonry website – we can guarantee an enjoyable way to make that all-important daily advancement in Masonic knowledge!
Dr David Staples
‘Our redesigned tour of Freemasons’ Hall sets out to explain not only our history, but also our contemporary relevance, and includes a newly commissioned 10-minute film, which will be seen by our 40,000-plus visitors a year’
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has unveiled a new film capturing behind the scenes footage of a Lodge meeting and interviews with Freemasons, as well as delving into Freemasonry’s unique history and symbolism, including the famous handshake
The film provides unique insight into what happens in a Lodge meeting, who the Freemasons are and what it means to be a Freemason, as well as stunning new footage of Freemasons’ Hall in London.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive, said: 'We wanted to create a film which not only explains our history, but showcases modern Freemasonry and reflects our status as one of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world.
'I’m often asked what it’s like to be a Freemason and I hope this video will go some way to answering that question and provide insight into who we are, what we do, our history and our relevance in today’s society.'
The roots of modern Freemasonry lie with the medieval stonemasons that built our castles and cathedrals, yet it is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago. In 2017, UGLE celebrated its Tercentenary – 300 years since the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge – with a spectacular event at the Royal Albert Hall.
The new film will also form part of the redesigned public tours of Freemasons’ Hall and the Museum of Freemasonry and will be seen by over 40,000 visitors to the building each year.
You can view the full film alongside a series of short videos here.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is delighted to be taking part in the world’s largest architecture festival Open House London on 21st and 22nd September 2019 at its headquarters Freemasons’ Hall – offering visitors architectural tours, fun family activities and access to the Museum of Freemasonry
Open House London gives free public access to over 800 buildings, walks, talks and tours over one weekend in September each year. The event started 25 years ago with the first Open House London in 1992 and gives free access to London’s best buildings as a way of inspiring the public about the benefits of great design.
Freemasons’ Hall, in Covent Garden, is renowned as one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London still used for its original purpose and will be opening on both days of the event this year from 10am to 5pm.
Some of the many highlights will be Bright Bricks models, with lots of opportunities for children to get creative and design miniatures of their own, and an exciting kids’ trail featuring a make-an-apron station. There will be Freemasons in regalia in the magnificent Grand Temple to answer any questions the public have about Freemasonry, whilst the Masonic Charitable Foundation will have a stand to provide an overview of the support given to communities and deserving causes throughout the country.
The Museum of Freemasonry will be also open, displaying one of the world’s largest collections associated with Freemasonry, including Winston Churchill’s apron and the large throne made for the future King George IV, who was Royal Grand Master from 1790-1813.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive, said: 'We’re excited once again to be taking part in Open House London this autumn and offering thousands of visitors the opportunity to see the stunning Art Deco interior of our building.
'Freemasons’ Hall is always free to the public, but for this event we are putting on some extra attractions, with Freemasons in regalia to answer all your questions, a Bright Bricks ‘Make and Take’ activity for children and guided tours every 90 minutes, which showcase the architecture and history of the building and will include a newly commissioned 10-minute film.'
You can find out more about what’s on at Freemasons’ Hall during Open House London here.
Last year, Cheshire’s Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank set a challenge to members to organise an event promoting awareness and building support for the Cheshire Freemasons Charity
John Miller was first to step forward and so developed the idea of organising a sponsored bike ride from Chester to London, utilising only the intricate canal network and towpaths that weave between Cheshire’s’ county town and capital city.
The route was agreed from the Masonic Hall in Queen Street, Chester, to Freemasons’ Hall at Great Queen Street following the Shropshire Union Canal to Wolverhampton, then the routes through Birmingham, picking up the Grand Union Canal near Solihull and following that into the heart of London, some 230 miles and crossing several masonic Provinces.
The team consisted of 16 riders with a support team of two and given the rough terrain and general riding conditions it was agreed to limit each day to between 40 and 50 miles allowing the challenge to be completed within five or six days. Riders were tasked with raising sponsorship and several Cheshire businesses sponsored the exclusive team shirts produced in order to support logistical costs such as travel, accommodation and food.
A black tie benefit event was also held within the Province which greatly contributed to the costs of the task ahead. To make the most of the fine English weather, the departure date was set for 6th June and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master David Dyson was present to see the team off safely from the Chester start point, and the Provincial Grand Master put a date in his diary to meet the exhausted riders outside the doors of Great Queen Street on the 11th June, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is Storm Miguel – which for three days of the journey tested each and every rider for their tenacity, and for how waterproof their kit truly was.
In the main the team discovered that waterproofs aren’t that effective in the face of a tropical storm, and indeed for two of the riders who managed to fall in to the canal, and are now affectionately referred to as the ‘Cheshire Splash Masters’. Cheshire’s Provincial Office reached out to Provinces that the riders would pass through en route.
Shropshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were all kind enough to offer a warm welcome and kind words of encouragement, as well as contributions, a true reflection of communication, commitment and teamwork by Freemasons. It is noteworthy that during the ride, many conversations with members of the public took place, lifting the profile of Freemasonry in general, and additional contributions were made by many of these non-Masons met along the way in support of the rider’s objectives.
A joint effort between the riders and HQ meant the Communications team were able to promote the event on social media platforms, using the dynamic mapping of GPS, daily blogs and great pictures sent by the riders each day.
Followers loved watching the daily progress made by the cyclists. The event organiser, John Miller, was keen to ensure the fundraising aims were kept clearly in the spotlight throughout the event via the online donation link and ‘interviewed’ members of the team at each overnight stay so this could be broadcast. The ride ended with the entire team completing the journey.
The total fundraising was then announced that over £22,000, which this was increased at Quarterly Communications the following day when the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes made a donation to the Cheshire Freemasons Charity of a further £1,000.
In honour of all English Freemasons awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross (VC), the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE) Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, unveiled a unique Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall on 27th June 2019
The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.
The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.
The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).
Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London.
Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.
This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects.
The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history.
“It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”
Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone
27 June 2019
Conclusion, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund
Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren.
Sir may I thank you for unveiling this superb memorial dedicated to all those English Freemasons who have been recognised with this country’s highest award for courage and valour in the face of the enemy and also to say how privileged we are that it has been dedicated and unveiled in the presence of one of those valiant men, Brother Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC.
Sir, two years ago you unveiled our splendid memorial to those 65 English Freemasons who received the award during WW1, which was part of our Country’s remembrance that it was 100 years since the Great War. At the time I did receive mail from the odd “Brother Angry and disgusted” saying what about the rest! Today we recognise them all. Also at this time Brother Granville Angell told me he was having a stone made in the form of a VC for our memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, a garden that had been opened earlier in the year. I politely told him that I thought it would be inappropriate and I thought that was that but I had reckoned without the determination and persistence of Brother Granville who then waited for the new Grand Secretary.
How wise he was and I can think of no more fitting place for it to be than here in Freemason’s Hall, the Masonic Peace Memorial Building, where I suspect far more Masons will see it and which is the spiritual home of Freemasonry.
May I thank you again, Sir, for graciously unveiling this fine memorial, thank you Brother Johnson for being here to represent all those brave men who have been awarded the VC, congratulate you Brother Granville on your persistence and generosity, our thanks to Emily Draper the splendid stone mason who produced it, to all those who have taken part in or helped to organise today’s dedication and finally to all of you for attending and witnessing another milestone in our proud history.
Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone
27 June 2019
Unveiling and Dedication, The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent
Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren,
It is an enormous pleasure for me to be here today to unveil the Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall.
One of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world, Freemasonry’s roots lie in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our castles and cathedrals. Which is why it is so fitting that this stone – commissioned by Granville Angell, Past Assistant Grand Sword Bearer – has been carved by Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason, Emily Draper. She beat forty-five other applicants to win this apprenticeship, which was jointly funded by the Worcestershire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Emily’s grandfather was a Freemason at a Lodge in Devon, whilst her Great Uncle was one of the Freemason Victoria Cross recipients we are honouring here today. I would like to express our thanks to Emily for all her dedication and hard work that went into creating the Remembrance Stone.
We would also like to show our appreciation of the expertise that went into producing this work by presenting you with this set of stonemasons’ tools to aid you in your future projects.
I have recently returned from visiting my cousin, Princess Elisabeth, in Belgrade. Whilst there I attended the 100th Anniversary gala for the foundation of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia – a region whose troubled legacy extends back through the centuries, as well as our own military involvement in the recent past.
Serbs, Croats and Slovenians were well represented and this is just one example of how Freemasonry brings peoples together and provides a safe space for those with very different outlooks to support and learn from each other.
Having served in the Armed Forces for more than 20 years I understand the common values shared by Freemasonry and the Services – camaraderie, respect, integrity – and the ideals of service and tradition.
It is an extraordinary fact that 14% of all Victoria Cross recipients have been Freemasons.
It is now time to unveil this splendid stone. It will stand as a tangible reminder of those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross. I am sure you will agree that this Remembrance Stone is a fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice.