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.

A well-planned cooperative effort, ably supported by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), has enabled a significant £60,000 donation to be made to Thames Hospice, on behalf of the Freemasons of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

This great example of fraternal cooperation resulted in a significant grant to support the construction of its new hospice in Bray near Maidenhead. 

After several weeks of planning, the Provincial Grand Masters of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Anthony Howlett-Bolton and John Clark respectively, together with representatives of their Provincial Charities, met up with Debbie Raven, CEO of Thames Hospice, to formally present their combined donation in front of the site of the new hospice, which was from the Berkshire Masonic Charity, the Buckinghamshire Masonic Centenary Fund and the MCF.

Serving both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Thames Hospice opened in 1987 but is now no longer able to keep up with the increasing number of people who need their care and services. As well as the increase in numbers, the charity is dealing with more complex and challenging medical conditions and, as a result, the decision was taken to build a larger facility. In 2017, planning permission was given to construct a new state of the art facility on land donated to the charity near Bray Lake. Inpatient rooms will increase from 17 to 28 and there will be more dedicated space to treat outpatients as well as to provide therapeutic and other activities.

This new Thames Hospice will open in 2020, with the £60,000 donation helping towards the building of two dedicated rooms in the £22 million facility. These rooms will be quiet areas for reflection and remembering loved ones as well as offering help and advice to families.

After the presentation ceremony, Debbie Raven gave an outline of how Thames Hospice is developing and some of its future plans. Once the new building is complete, there will be a permanent reminder of the contributions that the Freemasons of the two Provinces have made.

Debbie commented: ‘I cannot thank the Freemasons enough for their generous support towards our new Hospice. The donation comes on top of several others from their charitable funds and the incredible support they have given over many years. It will make a significant difference to our patients and their families.'

Together with Debbie, both Provincial Grand Masters acknowledged the cooperation and support given to this collaborative donation by the MCF and the continuing work they do in supporting the Hospice movement in England and Wales.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, said: ‘Working together with our fellow Freemasons in Buckinghamshire and the MCF has allowed us to make a significant contribution to Thames Hospice to help them in the wonderful work they are doing to help families across our counties.’

John Clark, Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, commented: ‘The Freemasons of Buckinghamshire are delighted to be part of this joint initiative supporting the essential work performed by Thames Hospice. We look forward to establishing a long and fruitful relationship with them.’

Devonshire Freemasons have donated £7,500 to Devon Community Foundation to help support people in need across the county

Sarah Yelland, Deputy CEO of the foundation, was delighted to be presented with the cheque by Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Freemasons. The generous gift brings the total donated over the last four years to over £42,000 and will be allocated to the Foundation’s Community Grants, supporting hundreds of voluntary and community groups offering local people in need a helping hand.

Ian Kingsbury, who was accompanied by Dr Reuben Ayres, Devonshire’s Provincial Grand Charity Steward, said ‘It is a delight for us as Freemasons to be able to assist such a worthwhile and important local organisation, helping them to reach out to those most in need in our local communities.’

Some examples of the groups that receive grants from the Community Grant pot include:

  • Torbay - supporting a series of workshops for older women, empowering them to become involved in a range of activities, helping to build confidence and friendships.
  • East Devon - addressing social isolation of older people through a range of activities that will engage with people of all ages, encouraging inter-generational opportunities and access to services and support networks, increasing health and wellbeing.
  • North Devon - purchasing of reading manuals to assist those who are unable to read to improve their reading skills, enhancing their life and social opportunities and helping to raise confidence and self esteem.
  • Mid Devon - supporting general running costs for work which addresses homelessness in mid Devon, ensuring that those most at risk have somewhere warm and safe to live.
  • South Hams - contributing to the setting up of a new men's shed, encouraging men to get together to make items for the good of the community, promoting social inclusion and a sense of self worth

Sarah Yelland commented: ‘Thank you once again to Devonshire Freemasons for their generous and continued support. The donation further enables Devon Community Foundation to help fund local groups that may not otherwise receive the vital income they need to survive. 

‘These local community groups play an essential role in the lives of residents who are most in need and the bringing together of communities as a whole.’

The sun was out and the sunblock was on, as 20 cyclists from the Provincial Grand Lodges of Leicestershire & Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire gathered in Leicester on Saturday 29th June 2019 for this year’s 83 mile Charity Cycle Ride – raising £7,000 in support of the Rainbows Children’s Hospice and the Masonic Charitable Foundation

To wish them good luck on their journey, Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving from Rainbows, said: ‘Thank you so much to all of those taking part today, yet again the support from the Freemasons is essential to Rainbows Children’s Hospice.’

Also there to wave them off was the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons, David Hagger, who said: ‘We are all extremely proud of the work we do to support Rainbows and the Masonic Charitable Foundation and thank all of those riders for raising such a fantastic amount today.’

On the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures well in excess of 33 degrees Celsius, 20 cyclists including Freemasons, friends and family set off from Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester early in the morning before the sun was at its strongest. The route took the four groups out from Leicester and on towards Loughborough before heading through Shepshed and onto Derby in the first leg of the journey of over 33 miles.

The first stop was at the Masonic Hall in Derby, where tea, coffee, bacon sandwiches and much needed water were in abundance. The break was very much appreciated as the day was beginning to warm up, however time was of the essence, and it was not long before the next leg out through Long Eaton and on to Nottingham.

By now the temperatures were soaring, but that did not stop the determined cyclists to battle the searing heat and traffic as they arrived at the Masonic Hall in Nottingham for a rest in the shade and to restock with supplies.

The afternoon sun meant that water stops were frequent, but with determination and hard work, the cyclists made their way from Nottingham back into Leicestershire; finally finishing at Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester at around 6pm.

Flyfishers’ Lodge No. 9347 in Derbyshire held its annual fishing event at the Yeaveley Estate for a party of pupils from Alfreton Special School with additional support needs

Freemasons from the lodge were only too pleased to give their time to help with the event, which proved to be a great success. It has been an annual event for more than a decade, as part of Derbyshire Province’s work in the community.

Alfreton Park Special School is a very popular community school for pupils with special needs where the pupils benefit from the specialist teaching knowledge and expertise of the staff. Classes are small and consist of between seven and 10 pupils, each with a teacher and at least two teaching assistants. Pupil ages range between three and 13.

The majority of pupils have severe or complex learning difficulties and many have been diagnosed with autism which means they need a high level of support to help with their learning.

On the day, the party of 12 children, their helpers and teachers enjoyed a wonderful day’s fly-fishing with each pupil landing several rainbow trout. Afterwards, the party was entertained to a barbecue lunch and the Provincial Grand Master for Derbyshire, Steven Varley, presented framed certificates to all pupil participants.

The smiles on the faces of the children were more than ample reward for the lodge members to go home happy and content that they had spent a worthwhile day in supporting the school and the great work it does.

You can watch a video of the annual fishing occasion below.

Freemasons from across Norfolk held their Service of Thanksgiving at King’s Lynn on 15th June 2019, while also parading in full regalia from the Town Hall to the Minster
 
The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick Bishop of Lynn gave the sermon, while the service was led by the Revd Canon Christopher Ivory.
 
On behalf of the Freemasons, readings were given by Stephen Allen, Norfolk's Provincial Grand Master, and Canon Richard Butler, the Provincial Grand Chaplain.
 
The colourful procession of blue and gold Masonic aprons and breast jewels, included Masters of Norfolk lodges, Provincial Grand Officers and the Provincial Grand Master and his Executive. The town was represented in the procession and the service by Mayor of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Councillor Geoff Hipperson, escorted by the town Mace Bearers.

Also present was Her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant Peter Wilson. Members of the public watched and joined the service which was open to all.
 
This event highlighted the work and service to the communities by Freemasons and is only the second of it’s kind in Norfolk, with the first being in 2015 at Norwich Cathedral to mark 300 years of Freemasonry. The intention is to repeat every two years, with the 2021 event expected to be held at Great Yarmouth Minster.

The service was followed by a reception at the Town Hall hosted by the Mayor in the impressive Stone Hall and Assembly Room.
 
Stephen Allen, Provincial Grand Master, said: 'Freemasons have always been supporting the local community and charities, but we never shouted about it. We are now a much more open organisation, with an event like this giving us the opportunity to show we are part of local life.'

The Great War Memorial on Nottingham’s Victoria Embankment, which names 13,482 people from Nottinghamshire who died in the First World War, was opened during a moving ceremony on 28th June 2019 – 100 years to the day since the Treaty of Versailles was signed which formally ended the First World War

The memorial is the first of its kind in the UK, after seven years’ of research went into finding the names of every person from the county who lost their lives during the conflict.

A mere 24 hours after unveiling the Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall in London, UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, arrived at the Victoria Embankment along with invited guests. The service started at 10am and was followed by the dedication, the Act of Remembrance, the Last Post, HRH Duke of Kent laying the first wreath, the Act of Commitment and the National Anthem. The Grand Master then inspected the memorial and met the families present before proceedings came to an end at 11.30am.

The memorial is a tribute to all the people from Nottinghamshire who lost their lives in the 1914-18 conflict, including civilian casualties, nurses, two people killed in a Zeppelin air raid in September 1916 and the victims of the Chilwell shell filling factory explosion of July 1918.

Families of those who died in the Great War attended the unveiling and dedication service, together with Philip Marshall, Provincial Grand Master of Nottinghamshire Freemasons, Nottinghamshire’s Lord Lieutenant Sir John Peace, Nottingham City Council Leader David Mellen, Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Cllr Kay Cutts MBE, civic heads, the district and borough council leaders, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police Craig Guildford, the Chief Fire Officer John Buckley and local MPs.

Among the regiments taking part in the service were members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron RAF, members of the 4th Battalion Mercian Regiment, including regimental mascot Private Derby and members of HMS Sherwood. Former and current officers from Nottinghamshire Police and Royal British Legion standard bearers were also in attendance.

The £395,000 memorial has been constructed on the Victoria Embankment next to the memorial built between 1923 and 1927 on land bequeathed in perpetuity by Jesse Boot. It was principally funded by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, along with the seven district councils and generous corporate and private donations.

Also of note is the fact that the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire VC memorial, which has resided at the Nottingham Castle since its unveiling on 7th May 2010, has been moved to the site to join the two Great War memorials. During the Great War of 1914 to 1919, 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded, in total six Nottingham-born war heroes were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award of the British honours system.

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

Dozens of local charities and good causes were presented with cheques totalling just under £30,000 by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Freemasons

Lodges that meet in Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood and Brockenhurst raised the money throughout the year. It is on top of their regular donations and is designed to boost those in the community who do such valuable work.

The Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Mike Wilks, attended with his wife Kay. Also at the event held at the masonic centre in the high street were Mike Wilks’ assistant Leon Whitfield and Cllr David Rice-Mundy, Mayor of New Milton, Cllr Anne Corbridge, Mayor of Lymington and Cllr Tony Ring, Mayor of Ringwood.

The Freemasonry in the community event is designed not only to give the donations but for representatives of the organisations receiving the money to explain who they are and what they do.

Andrew Ferguson was the organiser of the evening, and on behalf of Freemasonry in the community he welcomed all those present – well over 100 - and acted as MC for the evening.

Money totalling £29,473 was presented to 44 local charities and good causes, which was 10 more than last year.

Andrew said: ‘It’s amazing how much money is raised by the local lodges and how many small charities benefit as a result. Each year I am humbled by hearing about the work these lesser known charities carry out. Freemasonry has always been about giving and we are proud to continue the tradition of helping within the local community.’

Mike Wilks said: ‘It is always enlightening to meet those who work within our communities and hear what their charities and good causes do.

‘Our members are committed to charity and it is important for us as Freemasons to help our local areas. In the South West area of the province we have centres in Bournemouth and Christchurch and they will be holding their own, similar event.’

Those receiving donations included the Friends of Lymington Scanner Appeal, New Forest Young Carers, Macmillan Caring Locally, The Acorns Project and Cruise Bereavement Care.

A new lodge in Buckinghamshire has been established for Freemasons with an interest in caravanning, camping and motorhomes

Nomadic Lodge No. 9978 will meet several times a year both in Buckinghamshire and nearby counties.

The lodge meeting will take place in the nearest masonic hall to the chosen site and will be followed by a festive board or barbeque back at the campsite, which will be open to friends and family members who are attending the event.

The consecration was also unusual as it was held in a large marquee at the showground in Winslow on 14 June 2019, where many of the founders had gathered in an array of caravans and motorhomes. A spectacular ceremony was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master John Clark, with Michael Clanfield installed as the lodge’s Primus Master.

Over 160 attended the event and the lodge is keen to welcome members and guests from Buckinghamshire and further afield.

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