Saffron Walden Masonic Hall ‘House of Jewels’

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In the afternoon of Saturday the 10th July 1999 the Masonic Hall in Saffron Walden was destroyed by a horrendous fire which consumed the roof, the Temple and part of the robing room with all contents either destroyed by fire or by water, it was to take two years before the building was rebuilt and refurbished. Over time various items, mainly furniture was located and replaced, and the Temple and hall was finally re-dedicated on the 26th October 2001, but something was still missing, personality.

Step forward Jack Richards. Jack Richards was a Chartered Accountant and a dedicated Freemason and was presented with a fifty-year certificate in both Craft and in the Royal Arch. Jack was initiated into Audley Lodge No.7281 in October 1957. Jack was a Lewis, his father was at the time an acting ProvADC in Essex Craft masonry. Jack joined Cullom College Lodge No.2951 in 1967 originally an Essex Lodge that met at the Roebuck Hotel, Loughton but in May 1971 transferred to Oxford Freemasons Hall.

In Royal Arch Jack was exalted into Walden Chapter No.1280 in 1961 and became MEZ in 1975. In October 1978 Jack became a founder member of Cullom College Chapter and in his varied career Jack was also MEZ of Dacre Chapter No.2086, Hertfordshire, which he joined in 2000, Joshua of Essex First Principals' Chapter in 1997; a Founder of Oxfordshire First Principals' Chapter in 1987 and in 2009 Jack became MEZ of High Barnet First Principals' Chapter in Hertfordshire. Unfortunately Jack died in 2017.

It came as a big surprise to learn that Jack, who out lived his wife Pamela, had bequeathed two £5,000 donations each to Audley Lodge and to Walden Chapter to be specifically used to house part of his magnificent collection with specialist cabinet makers Luminati, based in Devon, tasked with manufacturing the bespoke display cabinets. It is quite fitting that twenty years after the fire that destroyed the ambiance of Walden Masonic Hall and Temple that a selection of Jack’s Jewels and badges were put on display in time for the 150th meeting when Walden Lodge No.1280, in December 2019.

Walden Lodge No.1280, who had purchased the freehold of the building in 1927, who held its sesquicentenary meeting in the presence of the then R. Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, (Essex), Rodney Lister Bass OBE and his accompanying Provincial team. In addition, during the summer of 2019 the Hall Association redecorated the hall with modern lighting and the insignia’s of the orders that meet at Freemasons Hall was also put on display to enrich the newly decorated and modernised dining area. With thanks to Jack the Masonic Temple and dining room has become a building to be proud of.