Being a Freemason is about what you can do for other people, not what Freemasonry can do for you.
…ask what you can do for Freemasonry
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.
Alfred John Robertson Nolan was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1884. He began his stage career as an eccentric dancer and comedian at the end of the 19th Century. Billed as Alf Nolan he started to appear in pantomime, as did his wife-to-be Minnie Hobbs and her sister Maud. In 1898, at a novel end-of-run performance of Aladdin at Brighton’s Eden Theatre, in which the children took all the principal roles, Minnie appeared as Abanazer and “made the audience roar with laughter at her eccentricities” and Maud Hobbs “was a dainty little Princess Beauty”.
In 1908 Alfred and Minnie Frederica Hobbs were married. By the time of the 1911 census they were living in London with their two year old daughter Frances, Minnie’s sister Maud and their widowed mother Hannah. Alf and Minnie developed a dance act and appeared as ‘Betty Hobbs and Nolan’ or sometimes ‘Nolan and Hobbs’ acrobatic dancers. They continued to appear in pantomimes and were in the Arthur Rigby Company production of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in 1913/14.
As was the case for so many, the Great War then interrupted their careers and Alf joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. It was also during the war years that he joined Freemasonry. He was initiated into the Highgate Lodge No. 1366 on 11th September 1916, remaining a member until his death.
As well as their regular dance routines the duo continued to appear in pantomime in successive years after the war through to the early 1920s. The 1922/23 seasonal offering was ‘Jack and Jill’ which opened at the Royal Theatre, Worcester on Boxing Day 1922 before going on tour. In 1922/23 they appeared in ‘Red Riding Hood’ at Bradford Prince’s Theatre and they were already booked to appear the following season at the Leeds’ Royal Theatre, but fate intervened. They had toured South Africa during 1924 and shortly after their return they were performing their ‘Toy Soldier and Rag Doll’ routine at a London cabaret club. It was a strenuous routine requiring Alf to make many lifts. They were not far into the dance when Alf dropped to the floor………and died, it was October 13th 1924.
The post mortem revealed that although his heart was strong in itself a blood clot had caused the heart attack and a verdict of natural causes was recorded. Betty pursued her stage career for a year or so with a new partner named Harry Deans but then decided to teach dance at her own ‘Betty Hobbs’ Dancing School’.
In 1928 she married Frederick Ison, a one-time vaudeville artiste and also a Freemason being a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098. In the 1930s and the 1940s there were several Betty Hobbs’ troupes performing including the ‘Betty Hobbs Globe Girls’ and the ‘Betty Hobbs Superb Eight’ who were resident at the Holborn Empire for a while during the 1930s.
Betty died at her home in Eton, Surrey, (now Berkshire) on 16th July 1943. Alf and Betty had both been members and keen supporters of the Variety Artistes’ Federation and at the meeting following Betty’s death the federation Chairman, Dave O’Gorman, requested members to stand as a sign of respect for the departed. The dance school continued and the good name of Betty Hobbs lived on after her death with former pupils always proud to mention their training ground and their association with Betty’s dance companies in their curriculum vitae.
If you ask five Freemasons why they joined, you will get at least five different answers. Each person has their own reasons. (I say “person” because there are female freemasons, albeit not as part of the United Grand Lodge of England) These reasons can be intensely personal and for many there is not a single reason.
Some of the reasons people give include:
Wanting to join an organisation
To meet other people
Looking for a new challenge
To have fun
To learn new skills
For me this is a very significant reason. My father, grandfathers and great-uncle were all masons at points in their lives. It has been part of my consciousness from an early age and I had always wanted to join.
This is not unusual; many masons are brought in by blood or in-law relations. It is wonderful to see how Freemasonry can reunite families who live significant distances apart, when one member has a special occasion to celebrate, such as becoming Worshipful Master of their Lodge.
I knew my father went out in the evenings “suited and booted” with his case and I wondered what it was all about. I read as much as I could but nothing prepared me for the warmth and affection I found when I was initiated.
A note of caution here – the ritual is available on the Internet if you look – but please don’t, it will spoil your evening if you do.
Wanting to join an organisation
Humans are social animals and many love the engagement with others that joining an organisation brings. The wide ranging spread of freemasonry really helps with this desire. Lodges exist throughout the country and wider world. Changing address does not mean that you lose contact with Freemasonry. Also, if you have to move for some reason, what better way is there to build a new local network of friends than by joining a Lodge in your new area?
To meet other people
Freemasonry brings together people of varying backgrounds, faiths, skills and interests and gives them a common bond. Whilst membership of a golf club tells you that a person likes and plays golf, being a freemason tells you about their moral values and being an initiation society ensures that all freemasons have a common shared experience.
Looking for a new challenge
Freemasonry offers a number of challenges, from learning the ritual, to public speaking, acting as secretary or treasurer or even the highest accolade any member can be given by his Lodge, to act as Worshipful Master.
Freemasonry is inextricably linked with charity. It is unusual in that all funds raised come from the membership. Freemasonry does not look to raise money from non-Masons but expects all Freemasons to give freely within the bounds of their personal capability. Charity is described as the “distinguishing characteristic of a freemason’s heart.”
There is always a degree of banter and joking within a group. Within freemasonry there is a tendency to be supportive and a recognition of the effort required to memorise long tracts of text and deliver them with sincerity to a candidate. The ritual also encourages the amicable settlement of any differences before entering the Lodge.
The discussion of religion and/or politics is expressly forbidden within masonic meetings. This removes the foundation for many arguments and has enabled brethren to meet across an otherwise unbridgeable divide. For example, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel is a Palestinian.
It should be remembered that first and foremost Freemasonry is a hobby. For some officers within the Lodge it can sometimes seem like a job, particularly when others are enjoying the camaraderie at the bar and you are still collecting dining fees! However, when you go visiting you can forget all that and let someone else take the strain.
Visiting is one of the joys of being a freemason. Seeing how other Lodges “have always done it” differently to your own Lodge means every Lodge meeting is a joy. Meeting old friends and new is the cornerstone of freemasonry.
Learning new skills
Freemasons who take an active role within the Lodge will learn many things. The ritual elements are single act plays, delivered out loud by a small cast to a highly supportive audience. As an active officer, masons will gradually become comfortable with the idea of speaking in public. They will also have learnt the art of memorising the words and standing in the right place at the right time.
Secretaries and treasurers learn the skills required to successfully organise and run what is essentially a small not-for-profit business. Those attaining the office of Worshipful Master will learn how to manage to consensus and to rule their Lodge.
If this post has inspired you to join Freemasonry, all you need to do is ask.
The first in our series on Freemasons in the entertainment business of yesteryear.
Henry Barnard, theatre proprietor, variety agent, fishmonger and Freemason.
Henry Barnard, theatre proprietor, variety agent, fishmonger and Freemason was born in South London in 1867. He was a fishmonger by trade and despite his various other sources of income, and theatrical activities with more grandiose names, he was always content to list himself as such. He lived his adult life in 43 Marsham Street, Pimlico. It was from these premises that he conducted his fishmonger business and, in the early 1900s, from where he operated as a variety agent successfully sending packages of variety artistes’ on tours to Cape Town, South Africa.
Harry was also a director of the Camberwell Palace of Varieties, a venue that was often used for meetings of the Music Hall Home Fund and their charity matinees. He was associated with the Music Hall Home Fund for almost twenty years and at different times held the positions of chairman, secretary, vice president and treasurer. It was during his involvement with the Fund that the very first Music Hall Home was founded for performers, even before the more successful Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund & Institution (VABF&I), which survives to this day, was established at Brinsworth House, Twickenham. The Music Hall Home Fund’s first residential premises were in York Road, Waterloo. They later moved to a larger house in Camberwell and finally to Gypsy Hill near the Crystal Palace.
After the VABF&I Home in Twickenham was founded by Joe Elvin the two establishments ran in parallel but the first Music Hall Home struggled financially and the notion of amalgamation was muted, and was probably inevitable. 1913 was not to be a happy year for Harry. On April 25th 1913, there was an especial general meeting at Three Stags Hotel to pass the resolution to amalgamate the Music Hall Home with the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund and Institution Home at Brinsworth House. There was much disappointment and concern for the future among those attendees who had worked so hard to see the Gypsy Hill home established but as the current treasurer, Harry, who had himself contributed £2/10/00 to the ‘rival’ VABF&I fund was tasked with the liquidation and transferring of all assets and funds from the Gypsy Hill Home to the VABF&I at Twickenham.
Harry was also one-time president of the Terriers Association, a fraternity which had been founded in 1890 by a group of performers who had not been able to join The Grand Order of Water Rats because of their numerically restrictive membership rules at the time. At the time of their transition to the ’Benevolent Order of Terriers’ in 1913 the new rules excluded him as an active member. This was another disappointment so soon after the liquidation of the Music Hall Home, but sweetened perhaps at the last Terriers Association banquet when he was presented with an illuminated address and a Terriers’ Jewel as a mark of appreciation for all that he had done.
Harry was introduced to Freemasonry by friends in Pimlico Lodge No.1772 which had been consecrated in 1878 and had initially met, at the Morpeth Arms Tavern just along the road from his fishmonger’s premises. By the time Harry was initiated in October 1904 the Lodge met at the Victoria Mansions Restaurant in Victoria Street, a leisurely ten minute stroll in the other direction. Harry embraced Freemasonry and in November 1906 he was listed as a founder member of Lord Desborough Lodge No.3200. He happily paid the qualifying fees to become a life governor of the Royal Masonic Institute for Boys and the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls (since amalgamated) and he was also vice president of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute.
He and his wife Esther, née Phillips, were married in 1890 and had four children. Their only son Henry Phillips Barnard, or Harry Jnr. traded as a fishmonger, initially from 43 Marsham Street and then moved along the road to larger premises at No. 58 from where he traded as a ‘high class’ fishmonger. Harry Jnr. not only followed in his father’s fishmonger footsteps but also followed him into Freemasonry when he was initiated into Lord Desborough Lodge in February 1921. He was also a member of Grenfell Chapter No.3077 at Taplow. Harry Snr. died at his home on July 31st 1922 aged 55.
Long before their initiation a person has already prepared themselves for life as a Freemason.
Most people think you become a Freemason by going through an initiation ceremony and to some extent they are correct. However, long before a man is initiated, he will need to have become a Freemason in his heart. The ceremony of initiation simply confirms that transition.
Candidates for Freemasonry are typically looking to make themselves better men by being more useful to society in general and are already volunteering or involved in charitable activities. For example, there is a strong association between the Scouting movement and Freemasonry. The values instilled into young people during their time in the Scouts mirror those valued by Freemasons. There are several Lodges, such as the Be Prepared Lodge no 9845, for whom this bond is part of the reason they exist.
Freemasonry nurtures an inherent desire to be more than an individual, to serve the community and to grow as a person. Scouts learn to always do their best and to be prepared. The aim being to help them achieve their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential so that they become constructive members of society. The degree structure of Freemasonry leads the individual on a spiritual (not religious) journey from ignorance to enlightenment or self-awareness.
Candidates will come via a variety of routes but all will be looking to become something more than they are today. If you believe that you are ready to take the next step on this journey, we recommend that you read through the following paragraphs and the What is involved? section and when you are ready, contact us to discuss how to take things forward.
The essential qualifications for becoming a Freemason are:
You believe in a Supreme Being
You are at least 21
You are free and of good report
Belief in a Supreme Being
Craft Freemasonry is open to men of all faiths and does not focus on the name they use for that Supreme Being. Freemasonry acknowledges and respects that people find different routes to understand their own spirituality.
Being of mature age
The rules of Freemasonry require that a man has reached what was considered the age of majority at the time of their writing. Certain lodges in Oxford and Cambridge had a dispensation to initiate at 18 as they were aligned to the universities and this is being expanded under the Universities Scheme to cover more and more universities. The rule is intended to ensure that men are sufficiently mature in their thinking to make such an important decision.
Free and of good report
Freemasonry and therefore the ritual text predates the abolition of slavery and the requirement to be free or freeborn harks back to that time. Being of good report is a reference to the need for all candidates to be of high moral standing and with no unspent convictions.
This post marks the official launch of the Hungerford Lodge no 4748 website. It is amazing to think that when the Lodge was founded in 1925, the era between the “War to end all wars” and the Great Depression, the times, dates and places of Masonic meetings were regularly published in the local papers.
There then followed a period of retrenchment, during which publicity was considered a bad thing. In part, this was due to the suppression of Freemasonry and persecution of freemasons on the continent during the run up to World War 2 and the war years. Although this changed with the changes to the European political landscape, there has been significant continued opposition to freemasonry.
It has taken a long time to get back to the point where Masons are encouraged to be open and proud of their membership. When the idea of the Hungerford Lodge having an online presence was first discussed at our General Purpose Committee, our current Master (or leader for the year) expressed his own inner struggle with the idea. He was initiated in the early 1970’s and has been a member of the Lodge during the time when news media coverage has typically been negative and Masons were taught to be cautious about revealing their membership. He recognised the need for greater openness as we had evidence that Hungerford residents were largely unaware of the existence of a Lodge of Freemasons within their midst, never mind the good we were doing for the community in general.
The fact that we, as a Lodge, now feel comfortable with a website and a presence on both Facebook and Twitter is a significant positive step, in this writer’s opinion. Furthermore, this openness is not limited to the Hungerford Lodge but the United Grand Lodge of England has a presence on the main online and social media platforms and has recently constructed a YouTube channel.
Some Lodges, in particular the North Harrow Lodge no 6557 have used the online world to turn a decline in numbers into a success story, which has truly inspired the Hungerford Lodge no 4748 to take this step into the online world.
We hope that you find the information on our site useful and we hope that:
If everything you have read about Freemasonry before you found this site was negative, we have succeeded in putting the other side of the story.
If you have thought about joining Freemasonry, this site answered your questions. If not, please contact us and we will attempt to answer any lingering questions and use the experience to improve our website.
If you are already a Mason, please come and visit us when you are in the area.