A huge crowd of over 10,000 were in attendance with seven races, plenty of family fun and special guest Tony Hadley making up the second day of the Best of British Festival at Windsor Racecourse on Sunday July 2nd.
2017 marks the official 300th birthday of Freemasonry, celebrating how 300 years ago, on June 24th 1717, four London Lodges came together to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The Tercentenary is being commemorated with a calendar of high profile events including the Windsor Race Day.
In the bright sunshine, it was a glorious day of racing and free entertainment including a fun fair which further enhanced the family atmosphere. The special day ended with a fantastic evening concert by ex-Spandau Ballet member Tony Hadley.
During the course of the day, Richard Hone, President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, presented a grant award to Professor Sonia Blandford of the "Achievement for All" charity of £240,000 to help thousands of under-performing children in their education.
Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons Martin Peters said: 'This was a wonderful and very special celebratory event with over 4,000 Masons and their families and thousands of other racegoers enjoying an incredible occasion.
'From the many favourable comments I received there can be no doubt that we opened up the public’s perception of Freemasonry in a beneficial way. Myself and Peter Lowndes, the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to such a brilliant event to celebrate our Tercentenary - matched only by the glorious weather.'
300 years of heritage on display at Reading Museum from 14th February to 27th May 2017
Freemasons have been a part of the community in Berkshire since at least 1724 and a display of Masonic artefacts spanning 300 years will be on display in Reading Museum from 14th February to 27th May 2017.
The Tercentenary is not only an important historical landmark; it is celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry and its heritage. The display reveals how Freemasonry has developed in the local community from the 1700’s, the core values of the organisation and the role it plays in society, including the charitable works undertaken.
The display includes items from the Napoleonic and First World Wars and of particular note is a Master’s chair dating from about 1800. It has an ornate painting on the back containing Masonic symbolism (squares, levels, pillars, columns, chequered floor) and is thought to have been made by a Scandinavian carpenter who was a Napoleonic prisoner of war.
In addition, one of Oscar Wilde's Masonic membership certificates, on which Wilde's 'Masons Mark' can be seen, is on disply. On temporary loan from the vaults at London’s Museum of Freemasonry, this is the first time ever that Oscar Wilde’s certificate has been put on public display. Originally initiated into Oxford University's Apollo Lodge, his connection with Reading was his infamous incarceration in the town prison 1895-1897 and his writing of ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’.
There was a reception to mark the official opening of the exhibition in Reading Museum on Monday 13th February 2017 attended by The Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Berkshire, The Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes and a number of Mayors from Berkshire local authorities. Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master for the Masonic Province of Berkshire formally opened the exhibition.
On Saturday 29th April, Mark Dennis, Curator of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons' Hall in London will give a public talk in Reading Museum to coincide with the exhibition.
Martin Peters, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire commented: 'Freemasonry is more relevant today than it ever has been, particularly with regard to its community involvement and contribution to local good causes. I am delighted that we have been given the opportunity to present Freemasonry in this way and on behalf of our 3,000 members in Berkshire I thank Reading Museum for showcasing our work.'
Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading Lead Member for Culture, Sport and Consumer Services, said: 'I'm delighted to see the Berkshire Freemasons have put together this fascinating glimpse into local Freemasonry heritage, hosted at Reading Museum, to mark 300 years of national Freemasonry. It is great to see this organisation’s rich history made accessible to the public.'
Brendan Carr, the museum’s Community Engagement Curator said: 'It has been intriguing to work with the local freemasonry community to produce this display. It is a story weaved into Berkshire’s wider social history over three centuries. The Museum is about presenting the facts and using real objects to promote understanding. I hope that this not so secret look at 300 years of heritage will dispel some of the myths that have built up around Freemasonry.'
Berkshire Freemasons provide hundreds of Christmas presents for sick and disadvantaged children
A magical Christmas is assured for hundreds of needy children in Reading after the Freemasons of Berkshire raised over £8,000 to provide toys and gifts for Reading Family Aid and the children’s wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
On Tuesday 20th December a wonderful collection of toys, games consoles, TV monitors and much, much more, were delivered to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, for use in the Lion, Dolphin and Kempton Wards, the Children’s Day Clinic and the Buscot Baby Ward.
Local Freemason Mark Heppelthwaite originated the fundraising in 2015 and it was so successful that it is now an annual appeal by Freemasons across Berkshire to provide Christmas presents for the many sick and disadvantaged children in the area.
The gifts were presented to Ian Thomson, the Charity Director of the Hospital and members of the nursing staff, by Martin Peters, the Provincial Grand Master of the Berkshire Freemasons accompanied by David Jarvis and Roy Stone.
This follows a presentation on Monday 5th December when Mark, David, and Roy also delivered hundreds of toys to Ruth Perkins and her team of helpers at Reading Family Aid for the Toys and Teens Appeal that will help to provide Christmas presents to over 1,200 underprivileged children in and around Reading.
Ruth said that her team were once again amazed at the generosity of Berkshire Freemasons and she thanked all of the Lodges and their members for their support in providing for those less fortunate than themselves.
Martin Peters, Provincial Grand Master, said: 'This is the second successful year of support for this appeal by the Berkshire Freemasons. Due to the overwhelming generosity of the 95 Lodges in the Province of Berkshire and their members we raised the staggering total of over £8,000 to provide the gifts for Reading Family Aid and the children’s wards of the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
'Mark Heppelthwaite and Roy Stone, who took on the challenge of procuring the hundreds of gifts involved, have been extraordinarily busy. It would have been impossible to achieve our aim without the fantastic support from the management and staff at Toys R Us, Reading and we are truly most grateful to them all. To enable us to complete the requested lists and more they also visited Currys/PC World, Smythes and ASDA, to purchase the five TV monitors, Playstation remote controllers, and in excess of fifty DVDs, and much more.'
Berkshire Freemasons provide visit to Windsor pantomime for sick and disadvantaged children
A magical start to the Christmas season was given to 500 children by the Freemasons of Berkshire with a visit to the Theatre Royal Windsor on Tuesday 6th December to watch Jack and the Beanstalk. Coachloads of excited children arrived with parents and carers, to be greeted by Father Christmas in the lobby and handed a goody bag filled with fun items, the glowsticks being a particular success.
The cast of Anthea Turner as the Fairy, Timmy Mallet as the King, Jason Gardiner as the Giant’s Henchman, Stephen Blakely as Dame Trot and Kevin Cruise as Simple Simon were joined by Luke Harley and Anna Campkin as Jack and Jill. The children provided a great audience, putting as much into the performance as the cast and the noise they made was wondrous to hear! Ice cream for all added to the festive fun and as usual the end of show singing and malarkey was a big hit!
Martin Peters, the head of the Berkshire Freemasons, met the guests of honour from Daisy’s Dream, Windsor Family Friends, DASH, Varity at Work and the Sebastian Trust together with children from Pathway Special Needs, Addington School, Bourne End Academy and Stony Dean School Amersham. They all had a great time assisted by the less than elfin ‘Elves’ and willing helpers made up from Freemasons across Berkshire who were directing the children to their seats and dishing out goodies.
Michael Brown, the organiser of the Panto Project said: 'The Berkshire Freemasons Panto Project was enjoying its 12th consecutive year. The aim is to give a magical day out for children who are terminally ill, disabled, under privileged, or with educational difficulties. We buy all 600 seats in the theatre and distribute the tickets to the various organisations. The project is funded through the Berkshire Masonic Charity, with help from the Maidenhead Advertiser Louis Baylis Trust, and individual masonic lodges and Freemasons from across Berkshire.'
Mike continues: 'We do all the preparation so that all the organisations have to do is get the children here and we all ensure that they have a great time'.