Long Sutton Freemasons are set to give the public a rare glimpse of life behind lodge doors when they host an open event to mark the organisation’s 300th anniversary.
Members of the three lodges who meet at Garthwaite Memorial Masonic Hall are hosting a series of exhibitions on Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1, to give people an insight into what the society is about.
“The masonic movement has been in existence since 1717, there’s various events going on all over the country and we thought being one of the most southern lodges in this province that we should open it up to give people the chance to have a look around,” explained chaplain and charity steward John Noble.
“People have a lot of funny ideas about the masonic movement, many of which come from the television, and none of which are true, so we are putting on some exhibitions and displays to explain what we do.
“They can come and talk to us, ask questions and if they would like to discuss joining the lodge, there will be every opportunity,” he added.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.
It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies and members are expected to be of high moral standing.
People join for a variety of reasons such as to make new friends and acquaintances, to help deserving causes, to make a contribution to society and as an enjoyable hobby.
Three lodges meet at Garthwaite Memorial Masonic Hall – the Senior Alexandra Lodge, Saint Mary Lodge and Fenland Daylight Lodge – which have a combined membership of around 140 men.
The building and the trust which looks after it are named after freemason Herbert Garthwaite who, along with his sister, bequeathed the funds and land for the building of a Masonic Hall in the town.
The Alexandra Lodge has a history spanning 150 years, while the Saint Mary Lodge formed in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Mr Noble said many men returning from war wanted to re-join so it became necessary to form a second lodge in order to reduce the time it took for members to reach various roles.
Items used during various masonic ceremonies will be on display during the two open days, alongside exhibitions focussing on charity work.
The lodge room will also be open to visitors and set out as it would be for meetings, while the dining hall will be set up as for a function too. Free tea and coffee will also be available.
• As well as giving visitors an insight into Freemasonry, members will also be encouraging others to think about joining the organisation themselves.
Members are taught its principals by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
It instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life, with values based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness.
“We try to encourage our members to be better men,” explained Mr Noble. “Everybody is treated the same, we keep politics and religion out of the lodge, but any man can join as long as he is over the age of 21 and doesn’t have a criminal record.
“There’s a great social side and we also do a great deal for charity – people do not realise how much money is donated by the brethren of the lodge.
“We are always looking for younger members to keep it going. Unfortunately there’s so much going on in their lives, and with jobs, it’s very difficult for us to keep younger members.
“However, anyone who is interested should come along to the open event to find out more.”
• The open event runs from 10am to 4pm on Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1, at the Garthwaite Memorial Masonic Hall, 12 Park Lane, Long Sutton, PE12 9DH. For more information, visit www.longsuttonfreemasonry.com
• Anyone who has photos or other items of memorabilia relating to the Freemasons which they would like to lend for the displays can contact Mr Noble on 01406 363487.