As most people will know by now, Freemasons are celebrating 300 years since the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England. There are events happening up and down the country. The six Lodges that meet at the Newbury Masonic Centre have joined together to host a party at the Centre on Saturday June 24th – exactly 300 years on from the formation.
The event is open to those Freemasons meeting at the centre, their ladies and families as well as prospective members. The day is scheduled as follows
10:30am – The Centre opens
11am – Ceremony of Commemoration of 300 years of English Freemasonry and unveiling of a Plaque by Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE, Deputy Provincial Grand Master and Brian Sylvester, Newbury Town Crier and local Freemason
11:30am – Music by the Martin Jones Trad Jazz Band, Hog Roast and Soft Drinks
2pm – close
Bring all the family to view the Masonic Time Tunnel and tour the Centre.
Please note that as the event will be held in the Centre and the car park, there will be no on site parking on the day.
Peter George Townsend Ludlow is the current Father of Hungerford Lodge. This term is used to describe the member with the longest continuous service to the Lodge. He started his long and illustrious masonic career on 19th February 1957 when he was initiated into the Hungerford Lodge and he has been a constant member ever since.
Progressing steadily through the ranks within the Lodge he was installed as Master on 15th November 1966. His performance as Master obviously caught the eye of the Berkshire Provincial team as he subsequently rose to the rank of Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire and then on to Past Senior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Despite being 90, Peter is a very active Mason. He is a member of a number of Masonic Lodges and other Masonic orders within Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset and visits widely. He regularly brings a retinue of guests to our meetings.
Peter is well-loved within the Lodge and his is the calm voice we turn to when guidance is required, for example when the Lodge moved its meeting place from Hungerford to Newbury. When we recently interviewed a young prospective candidate, Peter spoke passionately about Freemasonry’s ability to keep him interested for 60 years as well as the support it has given him through troubled times such as the recent loss of his beloved wife, Daphne. Which other hobby can bring men of 23 and 90 together in this way?
At our meeting on 21st February, 65 members and visitors saw Peter presented with a certificate thanking him for his 60 years of service to Freemasonry in the Province of Berkshire. This was then followed by a certificate recognising his dedication from the Province of Somerset. Those attending were also treated to a double Passing ceremony for two of our Four Aces.
Tuesday 15th November saw Mark Wiltshire installed as the Master or leader of the Hungerford Lodge by Jeremy Dickins. Jeremy has been a real asset to the Lodge over the last year. He has worked hard at the ceremonies and has been just as diligent with the administrative side of the Lodge. Jeremy thanked his team for their support over the previous year before installing his successor in the time-honoured manner. Mark then appointed his team for the coming year, demonstrating how capable he is at memorising and reciting the ritual whilst at the same time displaying a sense of humour and a deftness of touch.
Once the ceremonial part of the evening was over, the members and guests retired to the Newbury Royal British Legion (RBL) Club for a celebratory meal. In all, 88 people sat down to dine on tomato soup, roast beef and all the trimmings, followed by a cheese board. The buzz of excitement for the evening had been building over the last few weeks and the atmosphere at the meal was electric. Masons had travelled from near and far to witness the changing of the guard as it is always a special event in a Lodge’s calendar.
Mark is part of the Provincial Outreach team and most, if not all, of the team had turned out to support their colleague. The Outreach team runs Open Days at each of the Masonic Centres throughout Berkshire with a view to making Freemasonry more accessible to the public and dispelling some of the myths propagated by the national media. The team had recently opened the Newbury Masonic Centre for one such event as part of the Remembrance Day activities in Newbury.
Once the meal was over the raffle was drawn with some splendid prizes available. The generosity of those attending meant that £500 was raised by the raffle and a further £180 was collected for alms. Mark consulted with his team and they decided to present a donation of £250 to the RBL Poppy Appeal on behalf of the Lodge. The remainder was donated the Lodge Benevolent Association for future charitable works. The RBL team were extremely grateful for the generosity.
A traditional part of the celebrations at the Installation of a new Master, is the singing of The Master’s Song. This is a combination of solo and participatory singing. Those who have been the recipient, know this is a very emotional moment for the new Master. One of Mark’s close friends, Graham Reynolds had jokingly offered to sing the Master’s Song for Mark at his installation. Mark was delighted by this offer and held his friend to this commitment. Graham’s skills as a Heating (not cooling) Engineer are more in demand than his singing skills and he was a touch out of practice. This added to the fun of the evening.
The Deputy Provincial Grand Master (deputy leader for Berkshire Masons) Anthony Howlett-Bolton was on hand to witness the event along with his retinue and they left having thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Worshipful Master Jeremy Dickins is particularly looking forward to the summer break and a rest before we restart in September. This year we have worked our Master extremely hard with a total of five (yes, five!) initiations with two doubles in the last two meetings. Jeremy started his run as Senior Warden for the Initiation of his nephew, Marc Cox.
Thanks must go to our Senior Warden, Mark Wiltshire, for his role in introducing these candidates. Mark is a very active member of the Berkshire Provincial Open Day team and has carefully nurtured the interest of these gentlemen, answering all of their questions and waiting for them to be ready to ask to join. As can be seen here, he injects a lot of fun into everything that he does and we have a splendid year ahead of us with him in the Chair.
The Hungerford Lodge is looking forward to a rosy future having completed its move to the Newbury Masonic Centre. We have arranged to dine at the Newbury Royal British Legion Club which is proving a hit with members and visitors alike. The Lodge and the Royal British Legion were both formed in the years following the first World War. With the closing of a number of local Legion clubs, our Lodge has grasped the opportunity to support the Newbury branch with both hands. The fact that they are within walking distance of the Newbury Masonic Centre and serve great food at reasonable prices just enhances the pleasure.
During our April meeting, we initiated the second pair of candidates and we were treated to an excellent rendition of the First Degree Working Tools by Marc Cox delivering his first piece of ritual in the Lodge watched by his proud father, Peter Cox (Secretary) and Uncle Jeremy.
If you would like to find out more about Freemasonry and live or work in Hungerford, Newbury or the surrounding area, please contact us. You never know, you might soon join our Worshipful Master and his Four Aces.
In a previous post, we described how Brother Bert Harrison had been honoured by the French government for his role in the liberation of France during World War Two. Bert was a Royal Navy medic and was landed on the French Mediterranean beaches as part of Operation Dragoon on 15th August 1944.
On 3rd April, at a ceremony held at the Hungerford branch of the Royal British Legion, Bert, along with two other veterans, was formally presented with his medal by a representative of the French government. Bert was supported by his family and friends, including a number of Hungerford Lodge members.
To cap off the celebrations, Bert was invited by the Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford and the Liberty of Sanden Fee to attend the Tutti Day Luncheon at which he was given a standing ovation by the 170 guests. Tutti Day is an ancient festival held on Hocktide or the second Tuesday after Easter each year. Hungerford is believed to be the last town in England celebrating this festival.
Brother Bert Harrison has been honoured as a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the French government, for his gallantry during the Second World War.
Hungerford resident Bert has been a member of the Hungerford Lodge since 1978. During the Second World War he served as a medic in the Royal Navy and as a 20-year old took part in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France on August 15th and 16th 1944. Originally code named Anvil, it was designed to complement Operation Sledgehammer, or what we now know as Operation Overlord (the Normandy landings).
Bert was part of the amphibious landing force but this action pre-dates the use of roll-on, roll-off landing craft. Bert’s part of the force was transported to the French Mediterranean beaches aboard a converted oil tanker RFA Ennerdale.
As can be seen in the official Royal Navy picture, gantry cranes were mounted on her deck so that the crew could swing the landing craft out into the sea. Bert remembered “the seas were very rough, far rougher than the norm for the Mediterranean and the Ennerdale came perilously close to up-ending.” It is a testament to Bert as a man, and that generation as a whole, that the memory he discusses is that of the landing craft being lowered into the sea and not the beach assault itself.
The letter from the French government to Bert thanked him for his role in the liberation of France, saying “I have the pleasure of informing you that the president of the Republic has appointed you to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur. “
“I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War. As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France.”
At our February meeting, the members and visitors of the Hungerford Lodge were informed of Bert’s story and the honour conferred upon him and he was applauded by all. At the Supper following the meeting, the Master asked all present to take wine with Brother Bert, asking that they stand and allow Bert to remain seated.
The Lodge is proud to count Bert as a member and honoured that he allows us to call him Brother.
Freemasonry is not a religion, but it does expect its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being. Every prospective candidate is asked to confirm that they believe in one of the recognised religions as part of the interview process.
This terminology is deliberately chosen to allow each prospective member to follow their own spiritual path. Making no distinction between religions enables men of different faiths to meet on the level. All Lodges will have the Bible open during ceremonies, but if members follow other faiths, their religious text will be open too. In this way, all faiths are treated as equal and their followers can participate fully in our organisation without discrimination.
I have discussed Freemasonry with a number of my work colleagues and everything was going well until I discussed the need for a belief in a Supreme Being. At this point, they looked at me and asked me if I really believe in the archetypal bearded old man image of a deity. I cannot believe that I am alone in having this disappointing experience.
The challenge for Freemasonry is that UK society is becoming increasingly secular. Secularisation is the transformation of a society from a close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious values and secular institutions. This process has been underway for a while, although academics argue as to whether it is a result of the permissive society of the 1960s or a process that started in the early nineteenth century and accelerated with that more relaxed world view.
Irrespective of the causes and start date of this process, the net result is that fewer people will be able to answer the “do you believe in a Supreme Being?” question positively with a clear conscience. How then do we address this specific challenge to our membership growth aspirations?
I regularly listen to the Masonic Podcast and learn something new from every episode. I was particularly struck by an idea put forward in the interview Robert Bone recorded with Dr David West which was published as episodes 23 and 24. David is a member of St Laurence Lodge 5511 in Essex and has a degree in Philosophy from Exeter and a PhD from Leicester. He has published several books and his academic background means that they are well researched and argued.
The secularisation of society was one of the many topics they discussed and it really made me think. What is the true purpose underlying the question regarding a person’s faith? Whilst the Craft ritual is deliberately not religious, we do ask for divine support in our undertakings and when we make solemn promises, these are treated in much the same way as a person swearing to tell the truth in court. Historically, swearing an oath to God served to remind to remind the person that they were making a solemn promise and that they would answer to their Maker if they broke that promise.
This parallel caused me to investigate further. How is the English legal system handling the secularisation challenge? The answer is that the option to affirm rather than swear has been adopted. This not only provides those with no professed religion, but also those with deep religious convictions that prevent them from swearing an oath, an acceptable option. The difference between an oath and an affirmation is that the oath is a religious commitment whereas an affirmation is non-religious.
As we profess to be a moral fraternal society, not a religion, is it time that we allowed people to affirm rather than swear? Is a lack of faith really a barrier to leading a moral life? Are many Lodges tacitly doing this anyway by counselling candidates about the questions? For some this may be a step too far – this post is meant to provoke considered debate for the good of Freemasonry’s future.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter using the comments area below. I moderate all comments so do not be concerned if your comment does not appear immediately.
Hi, I’m Marc Cox and I am Hungerford Lodge’s most recent initiate or joiner. I am 22 and currently working with my father, Peter, in his undertaking business based in Newbury. I was initiated into the Hungerford Lodge no 4748 on 20th October 2015. Here you can see me shaking hands with my father, joined by the Worshipful Master Phillip Hackney after my Initiation.
How long have you been interested in Freemasonry?
My father has been a Mason for 12 years so I have regularly seen him go out “suited and booted” to meetings and I have always wondered what it was all about. However, my interest was really sparked when I helped the Lodge move home.
Can you tell us more?
A year ago, the Lodge was informed that they could no longer use the facilities within the Town and Manor of Hungerford and so they had to move out. My father, as Lodge Secretary, was a big part of that moving process and, having worked in a removal business, he knew it would need a lot of people to move the furniture. Both myself and my younger brother were duly volunteered to help.
During the move, I got to know a number of the members, I saw how they all worked together, playing to each other’s strengths with nobody standing back. I also got to see the Lodge furniture and to hear about some of the history. You would be amazed at some of the things that we found during the move.
Can you give us an example?
We found black mourning rosettes which most of the members had not seen before. One of the more senior members explained to us that these had been used by Masons around the country during the mourning period for the Queen’s father, George VI, who was himself a Freemason.
What can you tell us about your Initiation?
Not much really and not because of the fabled Masonic secrecy! The ceremony is a very intense one where you are made to feel very special but you are trying to absorb so much, that trying to remember the detail is very challenging. What I do remember is that my father played a very significant part in the ceremony and it was very comforting to be led by him through this new experience.
A number of other Lodge members took it in turns with parts of the ceremony. Whilst some had some fairly sizable chunks of ritual to deliver from memory, others were more involved in guiding me around the Lodge room. I am slightly nervous about trying to learn the words but I have been reassured that the Lodge will work with me to do that.
I found out later that the current Worshipful Master or Lodge chairman had stepped aside to allow my father this honour, for which we are both very grateful. I am also very grateful to all of the Lodge members, both for allowing me to join and for the work that they put in to make my Initiation such a special night.
We finished the evening with a formal meal with toasts and short speeches which I am told is called the Festive Board. Here again, I was the centre of attention and the warmth of the welcome that I received made me feel very honoured and that I had made a wise choice in joining Freemasonry. All in all, it was a very emotional evening for both myself and my father and we were still buzzing with the excitement long after we got home.
What happens next?
My father has explained to me that the best way to understand what happened during my Initiation ceremony is to see one done for somebody else. We are currently keeping an eye on the Provincial website to see if a convenient opportunity comes up. I will also be learning my first small piece of the ritual ready for my next ceremony.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in Freemasonry?
I suggest that they look around this website to discover more and contact a local Lodge with any questions they might have. Typically, people join Lodges close to their home, work or where friends or family are already members but nowadays people can also ask to join via a direct approach to a Lodge.
If having addressed all of their questions they are still interested, then I thoroughly recommend that they join. Even though I have only been a member for less than a month, I know I have made the right decision and that I will have many happy years with the Hungerford Lodge.
Once you have finished talking about rolled up trouser legs and “funny handshakes”, one of the first questions asked by non-Masons discussing Freemasonry is “What’s In it For Me” (WIFM) as they look for a motivation to join. Undoubtedly, Freemasonry rewards people for the amount of effort they put in. However, the rewards cannot be measured in silver or gold but in terms of being a better or more rounded person.
If you are only looking to join Freemasonry for what it will give you, I suggest you are looking at the wrong organisation. Freemasonry will not:
Give you money or make you rich
Make you famous or help you get a recording contract
Freemasonry expects you to:
Contribute both financially and by giving your time to good causes, without causing problems to either yourself or your family
Attend regularly, recognising that the proper order of things is Family, Work, Freemasonry
In return, you will join the world’s first social network, meeting people from all walks of life and learning important lessons about yourself and life in general. Other pages on this site will help you understand more about Freemasonry in general and specifically the Hungerford Lodge, feel free to look around.
If you have got this far and are still reading, please feel free to apply to join the Hungerford Lodge.
After almost 90 years at the heart of the Hungerford community, the Hungerford Lodge is to move to the Newbury Masonic Centre. The Lodge has used the Town Hall and Corn Exchange for its meetings since 1925 but this association has come to an end due to the changing business needs of the Hungerford Town & Manor. This is a source of great disappointment to the members who have always been very proud to call themselves Hungerford Freemasons, and support local Hungerford charities, including funding the disabled access lift for the Town Hall.
Traditionally a celebration of the best of Freemasonry, the meeting and Festive Board held on December 9th 2014, was tinged with sadness. It was the last meeting of the Hungerford Lodge in Hungerford. Every year the Lodge celebrates Christmas with a legendary meal accompanied by the Hungerford Town Band playing Carols – who knew that Land of Hope and Glory was a Carol?
After the meal, the Lodge runs its Christmas auction. Over the years, this auction has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity through the generosity of the Hungerford and visiting Freemasons. The money raised supports the activities of the Lodge Benevolent Association, which is a registered charity and since 2009, they have donated over £25,000 to local and national charities including:
The members of the Lodge formed a steering group which was tasked with investigating the alternatives within Hungerford and the surrounding areas. Although every effort was made to remain within Hungerford, no suitable accommodation was found which necessitated a move away from the Lodge’s traditional home. It was therefore decided to approach the Newbury Masonic Centre to host them for the future. This will bring the Hungerford Craft, Chapter and Mark Lodges all back under one roof again.
To maintain a link with Hungerford, the Lodge will hold its support meetings (General Purposes Committee, Lodge of Instruction and rehearsals) in the Cygnet Room of the Three Swans Hotel. The Lodge has also chosen to hold its Festive Board in Hungerford. The steering group will continue to take feedback from the members as to what is working and what needs to change as we adjust to our new home.
The Lodge wishes to thank the management committee at the Newbury Masonic Centre as well as the Berkshire Freemasons Executive team for their advice and guidance during this difficult time.