To celebrate 300 years since the formation of the first Grand Lodge in June 1717, the Widnes Group of Lodges and Chapters held a church service in the magnificent St Luke’s Church – a Grade II listed building which dates back to the 12th century
As this was a special occasion, the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison had granted a dispensation to allow the wearing of regalia, which added a lot of colour to the occasion. Tony also supported the occasion by attending with his wife Maureen, along with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Kevin Poynton and his wife Sue, Widnes Group Chairman Neil Pedder and his wife Liz, Widnes Group Vice Chairman John Gibbon and his wife Yvonne along with other officials and committee members of the Widnes Group.
Wider support for the occasion was given by neighbouring groups including Warrington Group Chairman Andy Barton, Woolton Group Chairman Andy Whittle and St Helens Group Vice Chairman Graham Williams along with members of their groups.
The service was conducted throughout by the Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst and commenced with the Provincial Grand Master processing into the church accompanied by the Provincial Team. This was followed by a very warm welcoming address to all attendees by Kevin Poynton who then mentioned that as part of the Halton Heritage Week at Widnes Masonic Hall and to continue the Tercentenary celebrations, the Hall will open to the public for viewing, with pop-up exhibitions, guided tours around the lodge rooms and explanations as to what Freemasonry is about.
Following Kevin’s address, the congregation then sang the first hymn of the service, ‘Praise, my soul, the King of heaven’. All the music throughout the service was provided by the Provincial Grand Organist Stephen Derringer, who in the words of Yvonne Horabin the church treasurer: 'brought our magnificent newly restored organ to life'.
There was then a Bidding Prayer from Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst which was followed by Tony Harrison giving a brief view of Freemasonry in the community.
Tony added that in 2015, the four main London charities donated £14,249,547 to charitable causes and their own West Lancashire Freemasons’ charity donates monies in the region of £500,000 per annum to deserving cases and causes throughout their Province. In conclusion Tony said: 'Brethren, as we celebrate the Tercentenary of Grand Lodge, there is a temptation merely to look back upon our history; however, this 300th anniversary, coinciding as it does with the start of our own 2021 Festival, affords us a glorious opportunity not only to show the world what we stand for and believe in, but also to look to the future, to continue the tradition of caring for those in need and to face the challenges of the future with that vigour, enthusiasm and commitment, which have ever been the defining characteristics of our Order.'
The offertory collection raised the grand sum of £367.57, with all proceeds going to St Luke’s Church. Prayers of thanksgiving were then given by Neil Pedder and then Rev Godfrey Hirst led the congregation in saying the Lord’s Prayer and a commitment to future endeavour.
The final hymn of the service was then sung, ‘I vow to thee. My country, all earthly things above’. After the Blessing by Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst, the National Anthem was sung and then Tony Harrison and the Provincial Team processed out.
Have you heard the one about the three Essexboys?
The Essex Cornerstone Club is bringing younger masons together to create new connections across the Province, as Peter Watts discovers from three of the founding members
Lazy stereotypes abound when it comes to Essex, yet it’s one of England’s most diverse and under-appreciated counties. It boasts a lively mix of busy commuter towns, rural villages, regal Roman settlements and colourful seaside resorts. Essex also has a huge number of Freemasons, with around 10,000 members meeting in hundreds of lodges.
Since 2016, Essex has also been home to the Cornerstone Club, which was founded to connect young masons from across the Province. Three of its founding members – self-declared, born-and-bred ‘Essex boys’ – talk among the cockle sheds of Leigh-on-Sea, which sits on the northern side of the Thames Estuary: ‘With the Cornerstone Club, we want to capture the spirit of Essex,’ announces chairman Elliott Chevin. ‘It’s such a large Province with so much to offer.’
Elliott and his co-founders Jack Gilliland and Jack Saunders discuss the beginnings of the club, which has attracted 150 members from Essex’s large but not particularly youthful masonic community. Elliott, 41, took to Freemasonry enthusiastically in his 20s, but only realised the full range of potential masonic experiences as he moved higher up the ranks, out of his own lodge and into the wider Province. This was also when he began to meet other young Essex masons.
‘There was an age gap between me and everybody else in my lodge,’ he says. ‘I enjoyed the meetings, the meals, the beer, and I loved meeting different people, but the interests of somebody in their 20s can be very different to those of someone in their 60s.’
After Elliott became more involved at the Provincial level, he met more people of a similar age and formed a circle of younger masonic friends. ‘I wanted to find a way to extend this, as I knew there were masons in Essex who had never had that sort of access.’
Supported by Deputy Provincial Grand Master Paul Reeves, Elliott recruited a six-man team of young masons, among them Jack Saunders. Now 31, Jack has been a Freemason for three years and helps to manage the Cornerstone Club’s social media presence.
‘We looked at the data for the Province and saw there were around 500 masons under 40 – one or two per lodge – and we wanted to join them together,’ says Jack. ‘It’s great being with different people [in lodge], but sometimes you want to speak to someone who has the same life experience.’ The club has blossomed, and half its 150 or so members are under the age of 30 – the youngest being 19.
The Essex Cornerstone Club combines its home county’s get-out-and-do-it spirit with a deep respect for masonic tradition. ‘We didn’t want to create another commitment, something that was compulsory,’ says Elliott. ‘We wanted to create something so compelling they’d want to be there. It’s not just meetings and beer – although beer and meetings are important – but a mix of social and educational events that deepen and strengthen knowledge as well as being fun.’
Events have included a tour of the museum at Freemasons’ Hall, playing paintball, a trip to a local brewery, a chance to go inside an Apache helicopter, a family day at Romford Greyhound Stadium and marshalling at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a charity run raising funds for Haven House Children’s Hospice.
The imagination demonstrated by these activities may account for the club’s success. ‘We expected an initial burst of interest but have continued to build on those numbers every month,’ says co-founder Jack Gilliland, 33. ‘After every event, people have talked about it on social media, and we always get new members. It’s the mix. We’re not just a drinking club; we have thrown in educational events and charity and community engagement.’
‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family’ Elliott Chevin
The club is focused on holding events in different parts of the Province to enable members from all over Essex to participate, but also to ensure all new young Freemasons in the county are aware of the club. Here, the support of the Province is essential.
‘When a new young mason signs up, we will go to a meeting to welcome them and talk about how to connect with Freemasons of a similar age,’ explains Elliott. ‘We also try to be there every time they do a ritual or event. The Province was very supportive [when setting up the club] and it was important we moved in step with them in order to use their ability to communicate with Essex’s 10,000 Freemasons.’
Jack Saunders admits the club initially had to reassure lodges that it wasn’t planning to poach any younger masons. Now lodges all over Essex help to spread the word, understanding that the Cornerstone Club operates to everybody’s benefit. ‘It’s supplementary, not competitive,’ he explains.
Jack Gilliland is one of three generations at his lodge, which he attends alongside his father and grandfather, and believes this mix of ages is one of the appeals of Freemasonry. ‘There aren’t many other places where people in their 20s and their 80s can discuss life experiences,’ he says. ‘I’ve never had that outside family and Freemasonry.’
MORE THAN A CLUB
Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, appreciates the way the Cornerstone Club has enriched masonic life in his Province. ‘It’s clear by the significant number of young Freemasons who have signed up to the club just how enthusiastic our younger members are about Freemasonry, and this bodes well for the future,’ he says.
The club is active on social media and Elliott is excited by the potential of technology to build a national or international network of young Freemasons. It uses Facebook to give younger masons a private support system, so they can discuss masonic principles without fear of embarrassing themselves in front of older masons or non-masonic friends.
Elliott is now considering the creation of a Cornerstone Lodge, as a way of maintaining friendships for those who have become too old to attend the club itself; at 41, he is already anticipating his own retirement.
‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a Cornerstone Lodge; a way for people to stay connected to the club for life?’ he says. ‘The club is all about connecting with people – creating an extended family. Before the club existed you had to hope you’d make a connection with somebody or, if you were lucky, find there was somebody of a similar age in your lodge already. Now people can make an instant connection with others around their own age while also expanding their masonic knowledge. That could help somebody stay in Freemasonry for 50 or 60 years.’
FIND OUT MORE: Read more about the club at www.essexcornerstone.com
The Temple Builder
For Alexander Burnett Brown, architecture, charity and Freemasonry were inextricably entwined. Philippa Faulks finds out about the man who built an opulent temple inside London’s Great Eastern Hotel
In 2000, the Conran group was mid-way through renovations of a jaded hotel just south of Liverpool Street Station, London. Puzzled by what appeared to be an additional room on the blueprints, the builders broke down a wall to reveal the double doors of a magnificent masonic temple.
Media intrigue ensued, dubbing the discovery a Dan Brown-style mystery. But for those in the Craft, the temple was an open secret; many masons had long been privy to the Great Eastern Hotel’s Grecian Temple, created in 1912 by architect and eminent Freemason Alexander Burnett Brown.
Born on 25 May 1867 in Newcastle, Northumberland, Brown’s parentage is unknown, but the census of 1871 recorded him as living at Ryde, Isle of Wight, with his grandparents.
Brown was a scholar at Charterhouse school, Godalming, Surrey, and left in 1883 prior to joining the Royal Artillery in 1885. Six years later, the 1891 census describes him as an ‘architect and surveyor’. In 1893, he married Amy Elizabeth Reynolds from Buckinghamshire; they had two sons, Alexander Denis and Geoffrey Trevor.
Brown served as aide-de-camp to the Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Gibraltar from 1893 to 1900, and took part in the China Relief Expedition in 1900, promoted to Major in the same year. His architectural career led him to be elected as Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Surveyors’ Institution, and he formed a business partnership – Messrs Brown & Barrow – with Ernest Robert Barrow.
A MAN OF OFFICE
Brown’s masonic career was as varied as it was long. He was initiated in Sir Francis Burdett Lodge, No. 1503, Middlesex, on 8 November 1893; passed on 14 February 1894, and raised on 11 April that same year; and served as Worshipful Master in 1897.
He went on to be a founding and joining member of numerous lodges in and around London. Brown also served as the Provincial Grand Secretary of Middlesex, as well as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex.
In 1906 he was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works by the United Grand Lodge of England, serving until 1934 with promotions to Past Grand Deacon and Past Grand Warden along the way. His masonic memberships also extended to the Royal Arch and Mark Masonry, and he was a 32nd Degree mason in Ancient and Accepted Rite.
Brown’s support of masonic charities and institutions was just as prolific. He was Vice-Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys; Patron of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls; and Chairman of the Building Committee for the new girls’ school in Rickmansworth. He also served on the Board of Management and Committee of the Royal Masonic Hospital, and was an assessor of the architectural competition for the new masonic hospital at Ravenscourt Park.
MASONRY ON TRACK
Brown’s masonic and architectural careers proved harmonious. While Grand Superintendent of Works, his firm Messrs Brown & Barrow was instructed by the Great Eastern Railway (GER) to create the Grecian Temple in the Great Eastern Hotel.
Freemasonry was flourishing and several hotels owned by the railway companies had established close links with the Craft, incorporating masonic rooms into their fabric. In 1901, the Great Eastern added an Egyptian-style temple in the basement, but by early 1912 had decided to create another on a much grander scale, on the first floor.
Using the initial designs made by the chairman of the GER, Freemason Lord Claud Hamilton, Brown and Barrow set about creating a Grecian-inspired masterpiece. This feat, according to author Mark Daly (London Uncovered, 2016), was accomplished through the personal financing of Lord Hamilton, his family and other railway directors.
No expense was spared, with the temple costing around £50,000 – over £5 million at current prices. Marble of the highest quality was used for the columns, wall panelling and flooring, and lavishly carved mahogany chairs sat beneath a dazzling sunburst ceiling.
The Grecian Temple was formally dedicated on Tuesday, 5 November 1912, with the ceremony performed under the banner of Bard of Avon Lodge, No. 778. The Dedicating Officer was Grand Secretary Sir Edward Letchworth, with Brown acting as Worshipful Master. Many lodges have since graced the temple – notably Caledonian Lodge, No. 134, which met there from 1920 to 1947.
The magnificent temple remains unchanged today. The Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel now occupies the building and proudly offers the temple as a venue for events ranging from fashion and art shows to promotions for HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Brown died at the sanatorium at the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Hertfordshire on 1 April 1948. He would likely be proud that his beautiful creation is still being enjoyed by so many.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 40 WINTER 2017
The Temple in the Hotel
Readers of ‘The Temple Builder’ article in the last issue might be interested in further information about Alexander Burnett Brown’s interesting masonic career. His architectural career aside, he was Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex when HRH The Duke of York was the Provincial Grand Master, and became Provincial Grand Master when HRH became George VI on the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.
Right Worshipful Brother Alexander Burnett Brown was held in very high esteem by the brethren of Middlesex, so much so that a lodge was consecrated in 1945 as Alexander Burnett Brown Lodge, No. 6133, in his honour. Both his sons were the lodge’s First Master and Senior Warden.
It is unfortunate to record that from 1996 the lodge began to fail despite strenuous efforts. In 2000, I had to inform the Province of the situation, and the Warrant was duly surrendered.
David A Walters, Middlesex Masters Lodge, No. 3420, Staines, Middlesex
I very much enjoyed the article on Alexander Burnett Brown, architect and eminent Freemason, especially with reference to the Grecian Temple at the Great Eastern Hotel. I was initiated in that Temple in September 1981 into Semper Fidelis Lodge, No. 4393. The most memorable part of the ceremony was descending the magnificent winding staircase into the Temple.
Within a couple of years, the lodge had to leave the Great Eastern Hotel and move to Great Queen Street as the then-owners found it not economical to have lodge meetings on Saturdays. I would be interested to obtain a copy of any photograph of that winding staircase as a reminder of my 36 happy years in Freemasonry.
Geoffrey Cathersides, Fraternitas Lodge, No. 6046, East Kent
For me it was especially interesting to read the article on the Grecian Temple in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. Having served in the Rifle Brigade, I became a joining member of its London Life Brigade Lodge, No. 1962, in 1975. I have a vivid memory of my first visit, descending the marble staircase into the temple and being in awe at the ceiling, furniture and surroundings.
I deem myself very fortunate to have had this experience. Sadly, thereafter it was closed to Freemasonry. However, being a listed structure the Grecian Temple will remain unique.
Bernard Dribble, Wellington Lodge, No. 341, Rye, Sussex
More than 300 Freemasons and their families attended a service in Guernsey in celebration of the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England, which was represented by Past Assistant Grand Master David Williamson
The service was held at the island’s principal church and was led by the Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Tim Barker.
Prior to the service, the brethren paraded in full regalia through the town of St Peter Port for the first time since the bicentenary in 1917.
They were joined by Jersey Provincial Grand Master Kenneth Rondel, who formally handed over the South West Provinces Tercentenary banner to Guernsey & Alderney Provincial Grand Master David Hodgetts. The service was followed by a festive lunch, at which the Dean was an honoured guest.
For the first time since it was founded in 1934, members and guests of Blundell’s Lodge, No. 5467, held their meeting in Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon
The event took place by permission of school head Nicola Huggett, who was guest of honour alongside Richard Swarbrick, chairman of the Old Blundellian Club.
Lodge Master John Shepherd and Devonshire Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury each presented Huggett with a cheque for £1,500.
The £3,000 will help fund a project in Laos that is organised by Community Learning International, and supported by Blundell’s School, which helps provide opportunities for children to develop their skills and knowledge.
The lodges of the Furness and South Lakeland area in West Lancashire have come together to organise a fundraising boxing and dinner evening for the past 31 years
Held each January at the Cumbria Grand Hotel, Grange-over-Sands, with the support of Kendal Amateur Boxing Club, the event is always a sellout. This year, £9,500 was raised, bringing the total over the event’s lifetime to more than £190,000.
With the money distributed equally between masonic and local, non-masonic charities, the emphasis is on helping less well-known good causes that are often overlooked.
At a presentation evening at Barrow-in-Furness Masonic Hall, attended by Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison, £4,800 was presented to 11 recipients representing local, non-masonic charitable organisations.
A dementia support house has been opened at the RMBI’s Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court care home in Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, following a £300,000 donation from the Province
The new dementia support house, E Wyndham Powell, has 12 bedrooms, reminiscence areas, themed corridors and an internal courtyard with sensory plants. The new facilities are designed to support older people with complex needs and include additional nursing rooms with overhead hoists, a palliative care suite and specially equipped bathrooms.
Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, and Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, welcomed Lord and Lady Northampton to the official opening at the home in Porthcawl. Lord Northampton addressed guests before unveiling a commemorative plaque.
Gareth paid tribute to the late Edward Wyndham Powell, after whom the support house is named. Edward played a key role in organising the £300,000 donation from the Province to support the renovation.
In an unprecedented move, Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons opened the doors to several of their Masonic Halls across the region on Saturday 9th September 2017 for everyone to see inside as part of the National Heritage Open Days and to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England
Over 600 people wanted to see and know more about Freemasonry and took the time to visit one of the Halls.
At Freemasons’ Hall, London Road, Leicester, Dale Neal from BBC Radio Leicester did a live outside broadcast as part of the Monica Winfield show. His reaction when he saw the decorative Holmes Lodge Room live on air was priceless, similar to those of other visitors and was just simply “Wow!” Dale spoke on air to the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger about Freemasonry and organiser of the event David Turner, who described some of the history surrounding the historic building which has been the Provincial Headquarters since 1910.
Other Masonic Halls which opened their doors were Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Hinckley, Lutterworth, Market Harborough and Syston.
At Hinckley Masonic Hall, amongst the many visitors was the Deputy Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Jan Kirby with her consort Mike Kirby, who were delighted to learn about the building and its historical past. After the visit the Deputy Mayor said: 'It was a pleasure to be shown around your lovely Masonic rooms and told the history of the Masons within Hinckley.
'It was explained to us that you are all just people who are like minded from all parts of our community who want to help others. Many people do not realise the charitable works that the Masons do for our community.'
Another visitor was Mrs Shirley Ashmore who was only too pleased to view the large board recording the names of the Past Masters of the Knights of Malta Lodge No. 50 which occupies a prominent position within the Lodge Room. This board was presented to the Lodge in 1967, by her mother, Mrs Hipwell, in memory of her late husband Cecil Hipwell who was the Master of the Lodge in 1948.
Andy Hardy-Smith, organiser at Market Harborough, said: 'The reaction from the public was good and it has been suggested that perhaps we should open our doors again in the future. It was an opportunity for one of our potential new members to come along and is now intent on joining.'
Malcolm Talbot from Ashby-de-la-Zouch said: 'The day proved a great success and started with visitors queuing outside before we even opened our doors. We had a steady stream of visitors appearing throughout the day.'
Victor Petrie from Lutterworth said: 'We had several visitors including a couple who were passing through Lutterworth while on holiday and two members from Rugby, Warwickshire. All the visitors were greatly impressed with the facilities available at the centre and asked many questions when they were shown round the Lodge Room.'
The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: 'We are thrilled that so many took the opportunity to come and have a look around our Halls and we hope that it helped them better understand the history of our Halls and Freemasonry in general.'
Despite inclement weather, the Province of Somerset safely delivered the special south west Tercentenary banner to the Province of Devonshire in the magnificent Exeter Cathedral
The banner recognises the special fraternal bond that exists between the South West Provinces and has toured to the Provincial Grand Lodges of Jersey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Devonshire will pass it on to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall later in the year.
The Provincial Teams from Somerset and Devon paraded in regalia and met in the nave of Exeter Cathedral where the banner was formally passed over.
Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master of Somerset, and Ian Kingsbury, Provincial Grand Master of Devon, greeted one another and expressed their delight to be able to publicly show and acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge.
The efforts of Dorset Freemasons, with the support of Freemasons across the country, have given over 200 children a free adventure holiday for a week
This project, conceived in Dorset, was a unique way for Freemasonry to work for the benefit of the wider community, as well as providing an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate 300 years since the formation of the first Grand Lodge. The Masonic Province of Dorset was delighted to host 209 deserving children for a Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure holiday.
122 children from Dorset schools were joined by a further 87 from 14 other Provinces as far afield as Durham and Cumberland and Westmorland at a cost of £500 for each participant, which was funded by Freemasons.
At the beginning of their stay, each child was given £20 pocket money, two specially designed t-shirts and a matching baseball cap as souvenirs. One of the organising team commented: ‘All the young people and many of the leaders on arrival were overjoyed and amazed at what Freemasonry had provided for them. Several children were moved to tears at not only being presented with t-shirts and a cap but pocket money as well. You could see on many faces that they were experiencing something beyond their imagination and dreams.’
One of the highlights of the week was the visit by the Assistant Grand Master and former Lord Mayor of London Sir David Wootton who, in the company of Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt and the organising team, spent the morning watching the delight of the children dragon boat racing and raft building at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
After joining the children for lunch at Osmington, he witnessed a host of activities including abseiling, fencing, aeroball, the giant swing, archery, a sensory trail and a beach walk. Following the children’s dinner, and before the evening camp fire, he had pleasure in presenting children with a group photograph and certificate in memory of and testament to their exciting stay.
The free holiday was organised by Dorset Masons and was entirely funded by many Masonic Lodges and their members across England and Wales.