No Secret Anymore

W Bro Ken Cownden puts in a lot of work for our enjoyment.  His ‘Further Thought for the Day’ papers are full of interesting articles. A recent issue contains an intriguing item for potential and new members as well as being informative to most Essex Freemasons.  It is about ‘Secrecy’.  Ken explains, “We all understand that ‘Secrecy’ in Freemasonry comprises of a small number of signs, grips and words to distinguish each other as a member and which Degree.”

Ken then takes his readers into the period between World War I and II “when Freemasonry grew considerably, membership registers were available, public parades often included Masons in regalia, notices for meetings were published in the local press and there was freedom of information about both Freemasons and Freemasonry”.

This changed dramatically, Ken explains, with the rise of Nazism in the mid-1930s and on the outbreak of World War II. Such openness and gatherings ceased in fear of a Nazi invasion bringing horrendous persecutions as in the countries which had been overrun by the Nazis.  In England, existing Freemasons became extremely concerned for the safety and security of their families as well as their own.

Freemasons’ lodges were decreed hostile by the Nazis and their property seized.  Brethren were required to declare their membership, similar to the forced registration of the Jewish people and were similarly later rounded-up and sent to concentration camps for extermination. An aura of ‘Secrecy’ developed which continued after hostilities ended, giving rise to much foolish and incorrect speculation (false news) about Freemasonry and its members.

With his interest in French masonry since 1984, Ken describes similar devastation in both Occupied and Vichy France. “From a Masonic point of view” Ken concludes “we were indeed fortunate that the Nazis did not get to the British Isles and wreak similar destruction and havoc to even more lives and society as they did.”

This aura of ‘Secrecy’ which Ken described, plus a growing discrimination against Freemasons, was allowed to linger on the way it did until three years ago in February 2018 when the new Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, Dr David Staples, launched the “Enough is Enough” campaign, writing to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and placing full-page press advertisements pointing out that 200,000 Freemasons had raised £33 million the year before for good causes.

With all the volunteering work and charitable donations made by Freemasons during the Covid-19 crisis, perhaps now more than ever we should metaphorically, as Doris Day once sang, shout it from the highest hills that our ‘Secret’ is ‘No secret anymore’.


One Volunteer is Worth Ten Pressed Men

In every Freemason there is a desire to do good work for the Community and help others. For a number of Brethren this desire has grown stronger during the COVID-19 crisis and they have responded to the many calls for volunteers. They do their bit to help others overcome the pandemic so that everyone can get back to doing the things we all love to do.

One Volunteer, W Bro Paul Thurgood, registered via the Southend Borough Council Volunteer Hub  as a Covid Vaccination Marshall at Saxon Hall. Paul (right) is also a Director of Saxon Hall but is seen here with the Mark APGM W Bro Richard Goodwin (left) in their volunteering roles as the new car park attendants.

Since The Grand Master’s Directive on 17th March 2020 a number of Essex Freemasons have volunteered to do good work for the Community. To commemorate one year of volunteering during the pandemic in March 2021, the Provincial Communications Team plan to publish a special Feature to honour all those who have volunteered either officially or have gone that ‘extra personal mile’ to help others.

If you have volunteered anywhere in any way or helped others, since 17th March 2020 please send details of your volunteering to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and join Volunteers from across the Province in this special Commemorative Feature for the annals of Provincial history and, more importantly, as an inspiration for generations of Freemasons to come.


“We’ll Meet Again” - it’s not If but When!

Dame Vera Lynn lived to be 103 (1917 – 2020), born in East Ham she referred to herself as ‘the girl next door’. Singing ‘We’ll Meet Again’, she gave hope to many millions throughout WWII.  Currently the iconic first line of her song gives hope not only to the Brethren of Old Easthameians Lodge No 7693 but to the rest of the Brethren in the Province of Essex and throughout the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).

In January 2021 VW Bro Dr David Staples FRCP, Grand Secretary of UGLE, gave counsel with two primary principles: Firstly, to obey the law and government guidance, and secondly for individual Lodges to do what is right for them as they are allowed within the first rule.

Grand Lodge wants to support Brethren who do not feel ready to return to meetings. VW Bro David said “They are under no pressure whatsoever to feel they must come back.” Nevertheless, Grand Lodge also wants Lodges to avoid making decisions which may prolong not meeting, perhaps even until next year, when there may be younger brethren who would be happy to meet with eased restrictions. 

No Lodge will be criticised for not holding a meeting in accordance with their Lodge by-laws at this time, but when the suspension is lifted, albeit with restrictions in place, those Brethren who wish to have their ‘fortitude’ recorded in Masonic folklore should not be prevented from meeting.

 Fortitude is a great attribute but Freemasons also bear in mind their wider responsibilities especially to the vulnerable, the majority of whom may not return until the pandemic is fully under control and the time-honoured meetings can be arranged again. At present those days may seem to be in the distant future but the good news is We’ll Meet Again” - it’s not If but When!


The Rivers of Babylon

Many people in lockdown or shielding enjoy listening to the former hit song ‘Rivers of Babylon’ because of its catchy tune and appropriate wording for these times. The lyrics are from Psalm 137, written over 2,500 years ago, about another group of people also in ‘captivity’. The song is also meaningful to Essex Freemasons who are Companions in the Holy Royal Arch, as it relates the beginning of a story which is central to the teachings of core Freemasonry.

Nebuchadnezzar II expanded the Babylonian empire and ruled Egypt, Syria and Judah. After sacking Jerusalem, he took thousands into captivity as forced labour where they remained until Babylon was captured by Cyrus II of Persia.  One can easily visualise a leading Judean captive of royal descent called Zerubbabel (meaning ‘Born in Babylon’) sitting down by these rivers and thinking of the land of his forefathers called Zion, so named after the hill on which David had founded the city of Jerusalem.

Zerubbabel summoned up the courage to ask Cyrus if he could lead a party back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. Cyrus gave Zerubbabel approval to leave Babylon, appointed him the Governor, as a Prince, of Judah and decreed the Temple should be rebuilt.

55 miles south of Baghdad, situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Babylon was once one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the ancient world. In our modern world the equivalent today is also referred to as the ‘Babylon-on the-Hudson’. The Royal Arch Masons there even have ‘The Zerubbabel Society’ for Companions who pledge to donate $100 a year, or more if they can afford it, with a special jewel which can be worn at all Royal Arch functions.

There are some differences in the Royal Arch Masonry found between the banks of the Hudson and East rivers, and throughout North America, compared with English Freemasonry. A frequent visitor may also notice a difference in a majority of the population on that continent where it is deemed as basic good manners and good citizenship to view yourself as just one member of the community, regardless of whether the community is a town, an organisation or a family.

Such good-manners and good-citizenship make for an ‘Excellent Companion’, just part of the legacy which Zerubbabel unknowingly has left for all Royal Arch Masons of today, dating from those ancient times when he sat down by ‘The Rivers of Babylon’.


Lodge of Enlightenment


Bringing together Freemasons who are, or have served as, Secretaries and Treasurers in order to share among themselves their vast experience and knowledge.

Meeting on the fourth Monday in January (Installation) and the third Monday in June and September


‘The Square’, Upminster Masonic Hall, Deyncourt Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 1DF 




1599:  The oldest Craft regulation for the appointment of a Lodge Secretary to act as a ‘clerk and scribe’ is found in the Schaw Statutes drafted for the Lodge of Kilwinning and was applied to all the lodges in Scotland. 

1670:  Lodge of Aberdeen stipulated that a Clerk is to be chosen ‘everie yeire’.

1737:  Lodge of Antiquity No 2 (founded circa 1691) was the first English lodge to record the election of a Secretary when John Howes, ‘having paid his dues, was chose’.  

1994:  Consecration of the Lodge of Enlightenment No. 9550, formed for Secretaries and Treasurers. The Founders appreciated that the Brethren chosen for these two important offices become key to the success of their own Lodges and whilst carrying out their duties they gain an extensive level of expertise and skill which can usefully be shared with others for the benefit of the Craft.

2019: ‘A History of the first 25 Years’ was compiled by W Bro John Helliar PSGD, PAPGM, DSEM to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Lodge.



The Founders also considered that the Lodge Badge should clearly show the purpose and activity of the Lodge.  The jewels of the Secretary and Treasurer, a quill pen and a key, rest on an open book surmounted by the square and compasses, which is surrounded by a double circle containing the wording Lodge of Enlightenment No 9550 and Plus Lucis, which is Latin for ‘More Light’, summing up the aim of the Lodge in giving more light where there is darkness.



The aim of the Lodge of Enlightenment continues to bring together the valuable vast experience of serving and past Lodge Secretaries and Treasurers in one Lodge where they can share their knowledge with each other and their visitors in a relaxed and friendly way. New members and visitors find not only friendliness but also a deep-rooted love for Freemasonry among all the Lodge members.



Enjoyment: Except for the Installation meeting there are no other ritual ceremonies. This makes for a relaxed environment in which to listen to guest speakers or watch a demonstration. Useful and interesting subjects are chosen with concepts and themes for you to take away and use to enhance the attractiveness of your own Lodge meetings.

Discovering: Although the routine duties of a Secretary and Treasurer are referred to in the Book of Constitutions and the Lodge By-Laws, on joining the Lodge of Enlightenment you will discover more ways as to how you can better serve your own Lodge.

Learning: With so much to learn from each other, the Lodge of Enlightenment has become a Lodge of choice for Secretaries and Treasurers to meet and communicate together with good humour and professionalism. New ideas, Masonic information and examples of best practice are all brought to light through the many informal conversations at the meetings and festive boards.

Keeping Pace: Membership is ideal for Secretaries and Treasurers who want to keep pace with new developments in Freemasonry and play a large part in the success of their own Lodges rather than just carrying out the routine duties of their offices.

Strengthening: From encouraging the enthusiasm on your first contact with new members into your Lodge through to communicating with Provincial or Metropolitan Grand Secretaries, the Lodge of Enlightenment peer group support will help you strengthen the general prospects and future reputation of your own Lodge.



I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.


Written by Bro Rudyard Kipling

Past Secretary of the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No 782 EC



Young Freemasons' Youth Programme Benefits Local School

The Essex Cornerstone continues to lead the way, supporting a growing range of good causes across the county with a youth programme focussed on local charities dedicated to helping young people and children in need.

Last year the Essex Cornerstone started a scheme to supply NHS hospital wards with iPad/tablet devices to allow patients to communicate with their relatives whilst patient visiting has been restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The success of this scheme led many other Provinces to take up the challenge as well.

Following this success, at the start of the second COVID-19 peak, with schools closing, we were approached by W.Bro Henry Bass to see if we could help support his local school, Templars Academy in Witham, to provide computers to help support home learning.

Ten months after the first national lockdown, with schools across England once again closed due to the pandemic, it is clear that many students still do not have access to a computer, laptop or data.

The Essex Cornerstone rose to the challenge and quickly provided the school with 10 laptops.

Cornerstone Chairman Dr Jack Gilliland commented “We are delighted to have been able to provide support to Templars Academy, and know that the laptops we have donated will help school children access online learning during the lockdown. Being able to provide this support at a time of need harmonises with the ethos of the Essex Cornerstone supporting young people”.

Quotes from the School

Miss Victoria Gooding, Head of School, Templars Academy, “The laptops that were very generously donated to Templars Academy will without doubt support our families to access online learning. Families are struggling at the moment; without adequate or sufficient access to technology, some families have either no way of accessing the live or recorded lessons and the learning that is set on a daily basis. Some of our families are working from printed copies of work because of this, but the laptops being given to them will enable them to easily log-on and use Microsoft Teams or access the school website. The laptops also support our families who have many siblings. Again, we are very grateful for how this provides learning opportunities for our students who are most disadvantaged.”

Faye Welsher, MAT Safeguarding Lead and Family Liaison Officer Templars Academy, “I just wanted to put in writing a huge thank you for the generous gift of the laptops. We have identified specific children that will hugely benefit from this.  The families are completely overwhelmed and grateful”.

Jane Bass, “Can I also, as CEO of Connected Learning MAT, the Academy Trust, of which Templars is a member school, say a big thank you for your generous gift of laptops. For pupils of the school, who do not access to IT devices whilst trying to learn at home, these will make such a difference to their learning”.


12 Million Steps for Muscular Dystrophy

112 Essex Freemasons stepped up to the plate for the Provincial ‘500 Step Challenge’. In the eight days from 23rd to 30th December 2020, the Brethren recorded a total of 12,378,321 steps, the equivalent of walking 6,189 miles.  St Philip Lodge No 4221 whose four team members, Alan Keith, Andy Cross, Joe Wiggins and Paul Leacock marched into first place with an average of 20,478 steps each day and gave their prize-winning charitable donation to Muscular Dystrophy UK, in memory of the late Spencer Walsh, the brother-in-law of Andy Cross, who sadly passed away on 7th December 2020.

For Andy Cross, the sexagenarian Treasurer of St Philip Lodge, every step was a challenge, suffering with heel pain in his right foot from a ligament inflammation (plantar fascia) he still managed to complete 242,926 steps.  Exactly 100 years ago, the Founders of St Philip Lodge were also taking challenging steps. The Warrant of the Lodge was granted on 13th December 1920 and arrangements for the Consecration were well under way. As the Founders look down from Grand Lodge above, they must be feeling very proud of the current St Philip Lodge members as they begin their Centennial year.

The leading individual was Clive Cheeseman with a total of 275,784 steps from second placed Henry de Gray Lodge No 6627. His team was followed in order by Cornerstone, St Kath’s Turkey Trotters, Spero Lodge, Orsett Lodge, The Beeleigh Abbey Lodge, Round Table Lodge of Essex, Old Parkonians Lodge, The Dragon of St George, Albert Lucking Chubbsters, Sons of Benfleet, Old Easthameian, Essex Quadrant Lodge, Team Wakering, Haven Step Brothers, Prittlewell 3 Amigos, Shenfield Lodge, Saint Cedd, Paul Geadey Gaggle, Alan Keith Quadrant, Lodge of Amity No 5753, Team Higgins and The Dragon of St George.

The widow of Spencer, Mrs Jill Welsh has written “I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Province of Essex Freemasons for the ‘500 Step Challenge’ donation. This been donated to Muscular Dystrophy UK, a cause very close to our hearts having lost our son to this cruel disease at the age of 17. With tributes also from family and friends we have been able to send in excess of £2,000 to this worthy charity. With my deepest gratitude”.

The motto of St Phillip Lodge is ‘Amicitia Caritas et Veritas’ which means ‘Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’. It is in that spirit the Lodge thanks every brother who took part in the 500 Step Challenge and to everyone who has donated to the Essex Freemasons Community Fund to make this possible. ‘Thank you, Brethren,’.


“O Wonderful Masons!”

Following a presentation about the rebuilding of ‘The Square’ at Upminster, the late Rodney Lister Bass OBE, as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent of Essex, declared “O Wonderful Masons!”.  The captivating story of this magnificent achievement by a number of inspirational brethren and skilled craftsmen and the challenges they overcame which led to the PGM’s exclamation can now be viewed in a new video.  

Entitled ‘Rebuilding The Square’, the well-narrated video holds the viewers’ attention with many examples to show how inspired business acumen, resourceful planning, quality workmanship, efficient energy saving applications and creative interior designs all contributed to the successful rebuild of the property whilst saving well in excess of £100,000 without compromising the quality and splendour which can be seen today.

The original Upminster Masonic Hall on the site was built in 1955/56 for £8,200 but had fallen into a state of disrepair. Resourceful planning was needed to work around the meeting and dining needs of over 2,000 members of 55 Lodges, 23 Chapters and 32 additional Masonic orders.

Very professionally produced with computer animations and actual photographs the video story begins on 13th December 2013 explaining how a new board of directors dramatically took control, assessed the situation and unknowingly began a programme of rebuilding lasting seven years. The main video can be viewed in six nuggets starting with the Beginning and followed by The Large Temple, The Small Temple, The Exterior, The Entrance Doors and Commendations.

The first five nuggets explain the major developments including how the ceiling of the new Constellation Temple was created together with the innovative improvements to the heating, lighting and flooring and how some work was carried out at night to keep on schedule because of a heatwave. Viewers can also see how many of the features of the Great Eastern Hotel’s Grecian Temple, built in 1912, gave inspiration for the new Grecian Temple using authentic materials for the intricate work.

The new bar which had been installed at the Masonic Centre in Clerkenwell for over £100,000 in 2014 was acquired by the directors at Upminster for £6,000 just one year later when that centre closed. The video explains how additional business acumen resulted in the bar being completed at zero cost and describes how that acumen was used to make other significant cost savings throughout the whole project including the exterior with its historical entrance doors from Jodhpur in India.

Everyone who views the new video will not only find it a pleasure to watch, being both entertaining and informative, but will also be as impressed as the late Provincial Grand Master of Essex, Rodney Lister Bass, when he exclaimed “O Wonderful Masons!”.

Watch the video at


Saxon Hall Vaccination Centre

Police swoop on ‘lockdown rave’ at Saxon Hall ... to find 80+year olds queueing for their Covid jabs!

Southend’s freemasonry centre, Saxon Hall, in Aviation Way, opened its doors last week to NHS front line staff, offering the building for use as a vaccination centre in the battle against Covid19.

On the chilly opening day, the first 80-year-old-plus invitees for a jab turned up for their 8am appointments almost an hour early, and kept coming.

Helping the queues grow even longer was the late arrival of the actual vaccines – and then there wasn’t enough supply to meet demand, which led to further delays, and lengthening queues, while fresh supplies were sourced.

And then police arrived. Chairman of Saxon Hall Dennis Baum, pressed into willing duty as a car park attendant, said: “They had been notified that there was a rave taking place at Saxon Hall – only to find 80and 90-year-olds with wheelchairs, zimmer frames and walking sticks patiently queueing for their vaccinations.”

Dennis added that although the earlier queues had resulted in a few grumpy old men and women, “as a balancing act, many more very appreciative people couldn’t have been more grateful to receive the vaccine, and thanked Saxon Hall and Essex freemasons for providing the venue”.

In the days following, local voluntary organisations, including the Leigh Lions, Community Police and OneLove Soup Kitchen Southend, made queueing a lot more comfortable for those awaiting the vaccine by providing gazebo shelters, hot drinks, blankets and wheelchairs, as well as helping with steward duties and providing refreshments for the hardworking NHS staff.


A Snack in Time Helps Covid Ward Front Line

Essex Freemason, David Wiles, was at the till paying for petrol, when the cashier asked if he would like to buy a snack bar for the nursing staff who were not even getting to eat on the Covid wards at Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, just a few miles away. A paramedic in the queue behind David confirmed this was indeed the case. So, David bought 10 snack bars there and then.

Being the Charity Steward for Rosslyn Lodge No 1543, which meets in Braintree, David immediately posted what had happened on his Lodge’s WhatsApp page. The story was picked up by all the Lodge members and within a week they had chipped-in £25 each, raised £500 and bought 240 snack bars and 120 cans of energy drinks which David delivered to Broomfield Hospital on Friday 8th January 2021.

Received by Nurse Lauren Dicker and her colleagues on Heybridge Covid Ward, David and his fellow Essex Freemasons from Rosslyn Lodge were thanked by Lauren for all their efforts and support.

Just 22 years old, Nurse Lauren, who has had Covid herself and returned to the front line, completes 12 to 14 hour shifts and had worked every day for the last seven consecutive days.  After her shifts she distributes food and helps raise charitable donations online for PPE and other equipment and so does not get a lot of sleep before going back onto the Ward.

“An absolute superstar” were the words used by Stewart Nardi of Rosslyn Lodge when he told BBC Essex about Lauren and continued “We will be doing this again very soon”. Lodge Secretary, Mike Hall, is proud of the support of the Lodge members saying that they were all ‘chuffed to bits’ especially when Lauren said “We thought we had been forgotten!”


Never Too Late to Become A Freemason

In his 84th year, Bro Voltaire proved it is never too late to become a Freemason by being Initiated and made an Entered Apprentice of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris. Among the distinguished visitors was Benjamin Franklin who later became Master. Born in 1694 and famous for his travels, wit and irrepressible grin seen on hundreds of paintings, sketches, caricatures, statues and busts, Voltaire once wrote “Let us always march forward along the highway of Truth, my brothers, grinning decisively”.

Philosopher, historian, and writer who also led many campaigns against injustice, inequality and tyranny and who introduced the term “Human Rights”, Bro Voltaire is described on his tombstone monument in Paris as the ‘Immortal symbol of the Age of Enlightenment’.

Learning to be a successful investor whilst living in London in the late 1720s Voltaire never had to rely on book sales or aristocratic patronage for the rest of his life. He loved England, especially the coffee houses and the London Exchange, writing that “There the Jew, the Mahometan and the Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same religion”.

Having lived a long, full and eventful life, it appears that one of the World’s greatest ever Philosophers found in Freemasonry the same ‘Brotherly Love’ and tolerance for all religions and denominations to work together, similar to that which had impressed him so much in the London Exchange where “the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts the Quaker’s bond”

Voltaire’s grin and wit stayed with him all his life, even during his dying hours when a Jesuit priest, who had been sent for, urged him to renounce the devil to which Voltaire softly replied “Now is not the time to be making enemies”. Fortunately for the Age of Enlightenment, which greatly influenced the development of Freemasonry, Bro Voltaire also refused to renounce any of his works before his ‘passing’ to the Grand Lodge Above on 30th May 1778.

Subscribe to this RSS feed