The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire
Stephen Martin Blank - Provincial Grand Master
Freemasonry in England and Wales is divided into Provinces, which are broadly the same as Counties, and I am the leader of Freemasonry in Cheshire, appointed by HRH the Duke of Kent, who is the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). So, my official title is the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Cheshire – ProvGM for short!
There are approximately 4,500 Freemasons in Cheshire meeting in around 175 Lodges at 31 meeting places all around the Province – from the Wirral to Hyde; from Runcorn to Chester and on to Crewe and Sandbach. Half of our members also belong to a sister Order called the Royal Arch in which we have about 80 lodges, called Chapters. UGLE celebrated its 300thAnniversary in 2017 and my Province, the oldest in UGLE, will celebrate its own Tercentenary in 2025. However, meetings of Masonic lodges are recorded well before 1717.
Freemasonry is a Fraternity and you can read more about it on these pages or indeed on the UGLE website www.ugle.org.uk. Our meetings take the form of ceremonies performed from memory designed to impart moral lessons in a way that makes a profound impact on those who progress through them. The ceremonies are then followed by a dinner with some formalities and usually a great deal of friendly banter. Different lodges have different levels of formality, quality of dining and indeed cost; the members decide. Any man who believes in a Supreme Being, by whatever name called, may apply to join. We are neither a religion nor a substitute for religion and our members are of all faiths and races.
Although we are not a charity, charity forms an important part of what we do. In 2018 Freemasonry as a whole gave around £48m to charitable causes – almost all of which was collected from Freemasons. We don’t collect from the general public. Of that £48m, 18% went to support Freemasons in need and the rest to their dependents and non-Masonic charities such as medical research, hospices and disaster relief. You can also read more about the work done by our National Charity, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) https://mcf.org.uk/or our local Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity (CFC) on these pages. Although UGLE is an organisation for men, there are two organisations in England for lady Freemasons and we enjoy cordial relations with both; further information can be found at https://www.owf.org.uk/ and http://www.hfaf.org/.
Above all, my members enjoy their Freemasonry and all of us have met people or been to places through our Freemasonry that we would never have done otherwise. People join in their twenties – read about our highly successful Universities Scheme lodge here– or in later life.
Freemasonry – providing Genuine Social Purpose
In an increasingly divisive world, many people are looking for unity and purpose to help guide their way.
Compassion and respect are more important now than ever before.
Freemasonry is one of the oldest social and charitable organisations in the world, open to those of all backgrounds.
Its roots lie in the traditions of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles.
The organisation’s aim is to empower members to be the best they can be, both for themselves and for society around them.
It does this by providing a structure of support to help them make positive contributions to their local communities, whether it be through fundraising events or volunteer work.
In an uncertain world, the Masonic principles of integrity, respect, and charity ring as true today as they ever have before.
Freemasonry tries to make good men better. Individuals aim to shape their lives around five core principles:
Why do people become Freemasons?
Watch this video to find out more.
There are many different reasons why people become Freemasons – an important one is camaraderie. Many friendships made through Freemasonry endure for life, and lodge dinners which follow our formal meetings offer members the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company in a more relaxed and informal environment.
Other reasons put forward by members include a sense of belonging and structure – which are not always easy to find in today’s fragmented society – and a desire to help other people by getting involved in the local community.
Members take part in the Ceremonies – which are small morality plays performed from memory – and there are formal toasts at the dinners which follow. These have helped many men to improve self-confidence and life skills such as public speaking.
Most importantly of all, Freemasonry is about enjoyment; if members didn’t enjoy Freemasonry, they would not remain part of the organisation, as most do, for life.
A Freemason’s Lodge
The term “Lodge” not only refers to the place where Freemasons meet, but also to Freemasons who meet in that place, and between Freemasons’ Lodges all around the world there is a relationship based on recognition and fraternity. These buildings, or lodge rooms, exist all over the world; it is no secret that they are Masonic Lodges as most of them are clearly marked on the outside as such.
The lodge is the centre of all activities carried out by Freemasons. The main section of a lodge room is based on some elements taken from what we know of the design of King Solomon’s Temple and usually contains decorative chairs placed in specific positions and other bespoke furniture, creating a room filled with symbolism mirroring the way teachings in Freemasonry are carried out.
Freemasons’ lodges can be small, accommodating around 10 to 30 members, or even very large where hundreds of Freemasons can meet. Most lodges have separate dining rooms where Freemasons socialize as well as other social rooms – and bars!
Take a tour of a Freemasons’ Lodge with the Provincial Grand Master.
Lodges meet regularly throughout the year to carry out ceremonies, vote for individuals proposed to join the Lodge, hold meetings etc.
These same principles unite Lodges all over the world accepting Freemasons from each other’s lodges and embodying the sense of fraternity which is central to Freemasonry.