Essex Freemason’s 28 years labour of love for gnomes universal

Sanctuary for legendary guardian figures whose speculative duty is to guard the earth’s treasures underground

In April 2023 Robert Chambers of Walden Lodge No. 1280 which meets at Saffron Walden was presented with his 50-year certificate by Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Philip Lovelock, who talked about Robert’s masonic and civilian life. Robert was Master of the Lodge in 1983, 2012 and 2014 and was also the Chair of Essex Police Authority for nine years, a local councillor and has a keen interest in gnomes.

The current Worshipful Master of Walden Lodge, Richard Peet, was intrigued to learn this and visited Robert to discover more. The first gnome, bought in Switzerland in 1989, takes pride of place on the front windowsill. But it was as leader of the local Conservative Party, on losing control in the local government elections in 1995, that gave Robert more free time, so he decided to start a sanctuary for ‘poor and distressed’ gnomes, one of the first of its kind back then.

The local papers, BBC and ITV all took an interest. Good news travels fast and within three days of the news story being first published, local gnomes seeking sanctuary in a new home began to arrive.  One gnome arrived from Belgium, then others followed from around the world, including Canada, Singapore, and Australia. Some were accompanied with heartbreaking letters of lost loved ones or from gnome owners who were unable to cope, such as a bereaved widow whose late husband had bought her four gnomes as a wedding present, and she was now too old to continue to look after them.

Robert said, “The gnomes often arrive in a poor state and require a bit of TLC before being found a place in the gardens.” He added, “There is a downside as every two years I have to repair and repaint the gnomes affected by the English weather.” With over fifty gnomes in the grounds of their home, Robert and his wife Kate have for 28 years given sanctuary to the poor and distressed legendary figures from around the world whose speculative duty is to guard the earth’s treasures underground.


Photo L-R:

A gnome worshipful master, four master masons (the widow’s gift), a grand master (made of marble and so heavy that it requires two people to lift - close up photo below), Robert Chambers, a provincial grand master and last, but not least, on the far right the much smaller gnome is an entered apprentice.