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.”

Read Dr David Staples' speech here

Read the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent's, speech here

Read Willie Shackell's speech here

Published in UGLE

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.

Published in Speeches

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.

Published in Speeches

Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone

27 June 2019 
Introduction and welcome, Dr David Staples, UGLE's Chief Executive and Grand Secretary

Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Brethren.

Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall. Each year over 40,000 members of the public visit this building to learn a little more about the values and purpose of Freemasonry, and to marvel at this art deco masterpiece, one of the finest art deco buildings in London still used for its original purpose. It was conceived and built out of great conflict, as a lasting memorial to Peace, and to those thousands of Freemasons who lost their lives in the Great War. 

Those Lodges that contributed to the building of this great memorial are carved for posterity into the stones of its very walls, and the scroll of honour, the centrepiece of our building, just there, lists the names of our fallen. A closer look at those names shows that many Lodges held, amongst their memberships, NCOs, enlisted men and officers who would have met, and dined together, revealing something quite revolutionary at that time – that Freemasonry broke down the deeply ingrained barriers of class within British society. Those scholars of Kipling amongst you and those who are familiar with his poem ‘The Mother Lodge’ will recognise the same sentiments expressed within; that irrespective of the prevailing political and social climate, those of all races, classes, of differing religions, creeds and backgrounds have, for centuries, found a welcome within our Lodges. They are spaces where people could forget their differences and celebrate their common humanity with that most basic of human gestures – a handshake. They would be there for each other, through births and deaths, marriages, the good times and the bad as alluded to by the black and white squares of the floor carpet in every lodge room throughout the world. How ironic then that since that Great War, so many more lives have been lost, and so many more battles fought over those things which are seen, not as bringing people together, but as setting them apart.

Within our ritual, every Lodge listed on the walls around us has the right to bestow upon their Master a ‘Hall Stone Jewel’ to be worn during his period in office. I would like to read to you the part of our ritual pertaining to that presentation:

“The Hall Stone Jewel was conferred on this Lodge by the MWGM. Its form is symbolic, for on the side squares are inscribed the dates 1914-1918; four years of supreme sacrifice. In the centre is a winged figure, representing Peace, supporting a temple in memory of those Brethren who made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of King and their country. It should ever provide an inspiration to every Brother to put service before self.”

On this, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which consigned to history the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, we gather here to remember and honour those, our members, who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Treaty of Versailles serves, as every student of history will tell you, as a potent reminder that our leaders’ best intentions can lead to events never conceived without the benefit of hindsight.

The Victoria Cross is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command. It was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times. The metal from which the medals are struck is traditionally believed to be derived from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol and latterly from two cannons captured from the Chinese during the first Opium War.

More than 200 Freemasons worldwide have been awarded the Victoria Cross since its creation, making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients and some of their citations may be read in your leaflets.

Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members – that within each of us is a thoughtful, kind, tolerant and respectful individual. The 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, much as Emily has done to the rough quarried stone to reveal this within; 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.  

As Herman Hesse said ‘What we can and should change is ourselves: our impatience, our egoism, our sense of injury, our lack of love and forbearance. Every other attempt to change the world, even if it springs from the best intentions, is futile”. 

That sounds very dry and serious, but Freemasonry is anything but. We have an enormous amount of fun along the journey, meeting people we would never have otherwise met, making friends the world over, and raising £48m for charity last year and donating and estimated 5 million hours of our time to community voluntary service

It is no wonder that so many servicemen, and women, through their two Grand Lodges, find a parallel between the lives they have led in uniform and the camaraderie, support and friendship they find within lodge. 

It is for those men and women, and those still serving, and in recognition of the very high regard that the members of the United Grand Lodge of England have always had for our Armed Forces, that I am delighted to welcome you all to the dedication of this Remembrance Stone. After today’s ceremony it will be carried to its permanent home in the South West staircase of our main ceremonial entrance (just over there), under the watchful gaze of a bronze bust of Bro Sir Winston Churchill, thereby aptly filling a space that has lain empty since this building was first conceived over a century ago. It will serve as a mark of our deep respect and gratitude to those who, for their comrades, their friends, their Regiments and Ships and their country, have put service before self.  May we have the courage, in our lives, and in our own little ways, to follow their example.

Published in Speeches

A career set in stone

Emily Draper, twenty-six, is Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice. Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemason support has helped Emily to carve out a dream career

Perched on a dusty block of stone, Emily is fresh-faced and buoyed from the morning’s assessment with her tutor from City of Bath College. It’s just a few degrees above freezing in the drafty workshop that leans against the south-east side of Worcester Cathedral, but Emily doesn’t seem to mind. Clasping a chisel in her gloved hand, she absent-mindedly smudges dust on her fleece with the other. ‘I didn’t know whether to dress up or not for the photos,’ she says, ‘so I just wore my normal work stuff.’

Chatting to a colleague, a man about twenty years her senior, Emily is charming and sincere. Her youthful presence and the jovial atmosphere of the workshop contrast with the dignified serenity of the cathedral. ‘It’s my dream job,’ she enthuses later, now in the warmth of the on-site office. Her face flushes with the pride she has in her newfound career; it’s her passion for the trade that won her the position as Worcester Cathedral’s first female stonemason apprentice.

‘I’ve got the chance to do something that is not only personally fulfilling but also makes my family proud. It’s a career close to my heart’

The right fit

Funded by local Freemasons and the Grand Charity, Emily currently splits her time between the cathedral, where she is learning the intricacies of sculpting stone under the tutorage of master mason Darren Steele, and City of Bath College, where she studies the theoretical methods of stonemasonry two days a week. When asked about her decision to pursue an apprenticeship in stonemasonry, Emily says: ‘I think it just arrived in my consciousness one day. I’ve always been interested in history, and Worcester Cathedral has always been in the back of my mind because I was brought up near here.’

Emily’s professional journey began after she completed a degree in Fine Art from The Arts University College at Bournemouth. She enrolled in the stonemasonry diploma at City of Bath College, balancing work and college while driving the seventy-five miles between the two. ‘It was a lot to deal with, especially when you don’t know whether you’ll end up with a job,’ she says. ‘It was a risk, but definitely a calculated risk. I hoped that if I worked really hard it would make me employable.’ 

The risk paid off when, in August last year, Emily beat forty-five other applicants to win the apprenticeship at Worcester Cathedral. ‘The head of my course recommended I went for it, but I didn’t think I’d hear back. It was nerve-wracking. When I found out I had been shortlisted, I was over the moon.’

For Darren, Emily stood out as a strong candidate: ‘We had a tremendous amount of interest in the apprenticeship, but Emily came out on top as she showed the passion and enthusiasm in stonemasonry as a career that I was looking for.’

Preserving history

Although Emily’s grandfather died when she was just twelve, she credits him as the main influence in her career path. ‘He was a mechanical engineer and an illustrator, so his trade was very hands-on and creative – but also industrious. It’s clear I get a lot of my passion for stonemasonry from him,’ she says. Coincidentally, Emily’s grandfather was also a Freemason at a chapter in Devon.

For Emily, the fact that Freemasons are providing the funding for her apprenticeship proves she is on the right track: ‘I’ve got the chance to do something that is not only personally fulfilling but also makes my family proud. I only have memories of my granddad from when I was a child, but my work brings me very close to him as I feel like it’s something that he would have liked me to do. It’s a career that’s very close to my heart.’

Restoring a cathedral as grand in size and splendour as Worcester is an endless task. ‘By the time you’ve gone half way round, the bit behind you has started falling apart again,’ says Darren. The work being carried out is particularly impressive because the conservation team at Worcester Cathedral does not use power tools at any stage of the restoration process. Even for the stonemason industry, Emily says, this is rare: ‘It’s sometimes frustrating, but very fulfilling creating something that matters using your hands.’

Using traditional techniques means that achieving something as straightforward as a flat surface becomes an art form in itself for Emily and her team. ‘In order to actually work something by hand and make something that is technically perfect, you have to have respect for the building,’ she says. ‘There’s an argument that you can get the same job done twice as fast by using power tools, but I think it’s important to keep traditional hand skills alive. In a building like this you benefit from having a hands-on approach as you respect the stone more. You want to make it perfect.’

Lofty ambitions

In 2010, Darren and his counterparts founded the Cathedral Workshop Fellowship, a partnership of eight Anglican cathedrals – Worcester, Gloucester, Lincoln, Canterbury, York Minster, Winchester, Salisbury and Durham – created to develop the professional training of new and experienced stonemasons. This unique community, of which Prince Charles is patron, has developed a qualification championing traditional hand crafts, as well as an exchange programme to allow apprentices to move between the country’s cathedrals to try working on different types of stone. Darren has arranged for Emily to spend a fortnight at Salisbury Cathedral in the spring to hone her carving, a skill in which she has shown promise.

For the past twenty years, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcestershire has aimed to ensure that Worcester Cathedral always has an apprentice stonemason in training. It’s a worthy ambition but also costly – £25,000 over five years.

Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire Richard Goddard says: ‘I think it’s very important that we support our heritage and also our roots. We have had a close relationship with the cathedral for more than one hundred and fifty years and it’s something we should continue to support.’

Emily’s first major contribution to the restoration of the cathedral is a large restorative phase on the library parapet wall. She took a sixteenth-century weather-worn coping stone and reworked and replaced it. Emily’s still coming to terms with the sheer scale of work her job entails, but the rewards of contributing to a piece of history make it more than worthwhile. ‘I thrive on the pressure of working with the knowledge that whatever I add could be there for another thousand years.’

Securing the future of the cathedral

Over the past twenty-three years, the entire exterior of Worcester Cathedral, including the chapter house and cloisters, has been systematically restored. The huge project, which began in 1988, first focused on strengthening the tower, then the cathedral’s Works Department moved in a clockwise direction around the rest of the building. The last major restoration project finished in 1874, so the task had to ensure the building could face the next hundred years. A special thanksgiving service was held in September 2011 to commemorate the completion of the work, which cost £10m in total. More than £7m was raised by public appeal and around £3m was received in grants from English Heritage, the Wolfson Foundation, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Worcester and other grant-making bodies.

Published in Features

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