The public got the opportunity for the first time every to look around The Thames Lodge, the Henley Masonic Centre on the Reading Road over the weekend as part of the Heritage UK days.
This remarkable building was built on the Reading Road in 1890 on a site given by prominent Freemason, W. D. Mackenzie, over 140 years ago, and stands today, where all new and existing members own the building. Seven local lodges meet at this lodge where their individual intricately sewn banners hang from the ceiling of the Temple. The Temple with its stunning interior has chairs in rows around the walls which are sectioned into different areas by warden chairs and ceremonial pedestals. The chairs surround a bold and beautiful chequer board carpet. The door to the Temple has a brass knocker in the shape of the old stonemason tools, a square and a compass a nod to the origins that Freemasons were originally stonemasons above a hole on the door so that you can see who is entering.
Freemason Cliff Hunter, “We asked permission from the provincial level who in turn got authorisation from the Grand Lodge in London to open for Heritage UK days. Last year the Masons published their first annual report which showed we raised £46m across England for charity. We also recently raised £595K for the Ukraine war. We are trying to encourage transparency of the Masons. You can look at the history of us and understand that we’ve been around for hundreds for years but opening the lodge is about encouraging new members. We want to take away the mystery. The ceremonies aren’t that strange, they are just short plays. It is also about the social aspect – when meet we have a meal afterwards. The money we raise is all from our members we don’t go outside the organisation. We’ve also signed up to host the Living Advent Calendar this year in our dining room but we’ll have the Temple open for people to see too.”
Visiting over the weekend was Joan Ayres from Kidmore End who brought her father’s masters medal to show which was designed by her cousin. Cliff commented, “He had never seen one like this and it was very unusual. It is quite nice that families give back their aprons to the lodges after members die as these are handed out to new members and it’s a nice honour to wear a former freemason’s apron.”
Freemason Geoff Walsh said, “We had a stonking 166 people go through our doors and were at hand to explain the history of the Henley Masonic Centre and show that we don’t bite and have absolutely nothing to hide, as well as explaining the details of the charity work that we do including our Teddies for Loving Care charity for which I keep Townlands Hospital well stocked with teddies. We had our friends at our local branch of the Royal British Legion well represented too with a lovely display from them for the Poppy Appeal as well as having some of their members visit us too.”
“The vast majority of our visitors had walked by our building many times before and were clearly very curious about what lay inside – many locals who have lived here in Henley for years and had never been through our doors before. Saturday and Sunday were just joyful for we Henley Freemasons to be involved with and I shall certainly now enable our Henley Masonic Centre opening an annual event! We are truly very thankful to all of our Henley folk and to those from further afield who took the time to join us at the weekend and hope that they enjoyed their own visits as much as we loved seeing and chatting with everyone too.”
If you are interested in becoming a Freemason go to https://henleymasoniccentre.org.uk/