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The Royal Arch Festival month came to an end on Thursday 18th April at Shildon Masonic Hall.

Babington Boulton Chapter No. 1121 played host to the final event ‘Adding More Theatre to the Principal Sojourners Story”.

In attendance was the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent, together with a full deputation of acting Provincial Offices on this their last visit of this masonic year.

The Chapter was opened by the three principals and after the minutes were confirmed, the Provincial Director of Ceremonies was announced at the door.

The Provincial officers processed into the Chapter, followed by the Grand Superintendent who was then introduced to the three principals.

The next business of the evening was to exalt Brother John Abraham of Tristram Lodge No. 2415, and during the ceremony the Provincial team presented “Adding More Theatre to the Principal Sojourners Story”.

After the ceremony everyone retired to the festive board.

In response to his toast the Grand Superintendent thanked the acting Provincial officers for all their support over the past year and wished them well for the future.

He continued that in total there had been 10 events held over the Royal Arch Festival Month, starting back in March with the Keystone Connection, followed by the Ceremony of the Veils, Talking Heads, Royal Arch Roadshows and Adding More Theatre. He hoped that all of these events had helped to prove to brethren that the Royal Arch is a wonderful order to be a part of.

The Grand Superintendent then presented the newest exaltee Companion John with the Provincial mentoring card for the Royal Arch, advising him to scan the QR code to find out more about the Royal Arch.

He then concluded by hoping that everyone that could make it would attend the Annual Convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter on Saturday 18th May at the Fed, Dunston. If you wish to dine tickets are available on ticket tailor through the following link.

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Behind the ‘Veils’ at Tees Royal Arch Chapter

On Thursday 14th March 2024 the Grand Superintendent John Thompson together with a full team attended the second event in the Royal Arch Festival Month at Stockton Masonic Hall where Tees Royal Arch Chapter hosted a presentation of ‘The Ceremony of the Veils’. The Companions present were intrigued and enthralled by the presentation of this ancient ceremony by The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham and the Companions of Tees Chapter.

Following a review by Supreme Grand Chapter back in 1834, this ancient ceremony was stopped and is seldom seen in English Chapters. Therefore consequently, it is no longer regularly practiced outside the Province of Bristol. The Ceremony of the Veils used to be a preliminary to the Exaltation and an integral part of the Royal Arch ceremony but can now only be practiced annually by a Province.

The ceremony performed on the evening is very much part of the Royal Arch system in Ireland, the United States of America and in Scotland where it is known as the Excellent Master Degree. Early descriptions state that the ceremony took place in a room adjacent to the Chapter Room to seek admission.

At the time that the passing the Veils ceremony was in use in England, the qualification for admission to the Royal Arch was that of being an Installed Master in the Craft.

At the beginning of the ceremony the 4 veils are closed. The candidate is lead through the veils by the Chapter Scribe Nehemiah, and before each veil, in turn, is opened, the candidate is challenged by a sojourner for a sign and password. If successful, the candidate passes through and a portion of scripture is read, after which he is given the sign and password leading through the next.

At the final white veil, which is closed to hide the main chapter room, the candidate is announced by the Scribe Nehemiah to the three principals, who then ask him to prove himself by giving the passwords which had been conferred on him. At this point the demonstration was concluded and what would follow would be the exaltation ceremony.

After the demonstration the companions retired to the festive board for the meal.

In the response to his toast the Grand Superintendent thanked all those who took part in the demonstration, and reminded those present about the events going on in The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham Royal Arch Festival Month and more details can be found in the latest issue of ‘Insight’.

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Grand Rank Appointments 2024 | Durham Freemasons

The Provincial Grand Master/Grand Superintendent is pleased to announce that the Grand Master/First Grand Principal has been pleased to appoint to and promote in Grand Rank a number of Durham members, These ranks will become effective at the April 2024 meetings of UGLE and the Annual Investitures of Grand Officers to be held on the Wednesday 24th and 25th April, at Freemasons’ Hall in London.

We are extremely proud of all of them all and look forward to seeing them adorned in their new regalia and insignia when they return to our Lodges and Chapters.

Billingham Masonic Hall

Receiving First Appointments

David John ATKINSON         – PAGDC

Roderick Andrew SCOTT     – PAGDC

David DORWARD     – PGStB

Promoted to Past Grand Sword Bearer:

John David WATTS         – PGSwdB

Promoted to Senior Grand Deacon:

Dr Rakesh BHALLA     – SGD

Promoted to Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

Martin RANKIN     – AGDC

Promoted to Past Junior Grand Deacon:

Thomas Fred GITTINS     – PJGD

Hearl Roger LENTON  (nominated by YWR) – PJGD

Receiving First Appointments:

Stewart Kunzmann BELL      – PGStB

Nigel FALLOW               – PGStB

Peter Garland WILKIE           – PGStB

Promoted to Past Assistant Grand Sojourner:

Stanley FITCHES, MBE        – PAGSoj

We congratulate them all on their respective preferment in recognition of their commitment and dedication to Freemasonry and wish them the best of health and happiness………….to continue to enjoy their Freemasonry.


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The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham Royal Arch Festival Month

The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham is holding a Royal Arch Festival month from mid-March until mid-April 2024.

A fantastic number of events are being held across the Province, with a view to promoting the Royal Arch and its direct link to Craft Masonry.

These events include:

The Keystone Connection

The Grand Superintendent of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham and the Provincial Grand Master of the Mark talk about the Royal Arch and the Mark Degree.

The Ceremony of the Veils

A Presentation to be given by The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham and the Companions of Tees Chapter No. 509. This ancient ceremony is seldom seen in English Chapters, and it is a year since it was last presented in Durham.  ‘The Ceremony of Passing the Veils’ was an integral part of the Royal Arch ceremony and was practised as a preliminary to the Exaltation ceremony. In 1834 the basis of the current ceremonies was established and agreed by Supreme Grand Chapter and the ‘Ceremony of the Veils’ stopped being practised thereafter. The ceremony can be demonstrated once annually by a Province, so this is a rare opportunity to witness something that at one time was an integral part of our Masonic Heritage.

Talking Heads

A couplet play between a new Master Mason and a Royal Arch Companion explaining the Royal Arch in the ante room whilst getting ready for their Lodge meeting.

Royal Arch Roadshows

A presentation by the Provincial team about the origins of the Royal Arch and the splendour of its ceremonies.

Adding More Theatre to the Principal Sojourner’s Story

The Provincial team act out in more detail the Principal Sojourner’s journey in the Royal Arch ceremony.

Discover More

An event for prospective members interested in joining the Royal Arch.

Please check the events page for further details and how to book your place.

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A Burns Night Exaltation in Staindrop

On a wet January evening, the companions of Rose of Raby Royal Arch Chapter assembled at Staindrop Masonic Hall to welcome the Grand Superintendent John Thompson accompanied by a full team of provincial officers, on this their first visit of 2024.

This was an extra special evening for the Chapter, not only being honoured with a full team visit, but also witnessing the exaltation of Andrew Pye of Tristram Lodge.

The three principals conducted the opening of the Chapter.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies then announced that John and his team were at the door, and then followed the procession into the Chapter room.

The First Principal welcomed John into the Chapter, and the team then took their places to witness the exaltation of Andrew.

The Officers of the Chapter conducted an excellent exaltation ceremony, a highlight of which was the Mystical Lecture delivered by Owen Guy-Fisher.

The Chapter was closed, and all retired to the festive board.

In response to his toast John thanked the Chapter for a wonderful evening and for the cheques to Durham Benevolence and TLC teddies.

He continued by congratulating the 3rd Provincial Grand Principal Dr Rakesh Bhalla on his appointment as Assistant Provincial Grand Master, together with John Watts as Deputy Provincial Grand Master, the investiture taking place at Gateshead Masonic Hall to a sell-out lodge room.

The Grand Superintendent then went on to mention the Chapter Festival Month that is coming up in March and April, where one of the events ‘The Keystone Connection’ would see him, in his words, ‘Face Off’ with David Hanson the Provincial Grand Master of the Mark degree. Details of this and all the events happening can be found on the events page of the website.

The Provincial Team were thanked by John for turning out in full and supporting him.

Before the final toast of the evening, the Visiting Support Officer John Crombie Parker reminded everyone that the 25th of January was ‘Burns Night’, and even though Haggis was not served at the festive board, the evening could not pass without him delivering some ‘Rabbie Burns’.


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Provincial Buildings Strategy Presentations

We will be hosting two seminars to support our management teams and those who support our buildings.



These presentations will be of interest to Masonic Hall Management Teams, Directors, Trustees and anyone with an interest in the management of buildings.

The focus will be on the legal ownership of masonic halls, maintenance, repair and development opportunities, as well as minimising expenditure particularly utilities and rates.

There will also be an opportunity to engage with the Provincial Asset Management team who are happy to assist and advise where necessary.

To book your place please use the ticket Tailor on the provincial website at the following link , these links will be live from Friday 12th January 2024

Please note we are hosting RA Reps seminars at the same venue at the same time, please ensure you click on the correct link when sourcing your tickets.

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Provincial Grand Master’s / Grand Superintendent’s Christmas Message

Dear Brethren and Companions,

It is with great thanks and appreciation that I look back over 2023 and another year as the head of the Freemasons of Durham, a role I carry out with immense pride.

Many thanks to you all for the support you have given to me and our team as we continue to implement those changes which will take our Province forward.

Some of our Lodges and Chapters have felt the need to return their warrants this year with much sadness but also with great dignity. A task forced by many reasons including the low numbers, and increasing costs due to the economic challenges we all now face.

Freemasonry I feel will persevere and will be stronger going forward. The Pro Grand Master has recently launched the strategy for the next 7 years of our organisation, as we head towards 2030. A strategy I hope we all can endorse next year.

I’m proud of our Lodges and Chapters who have supported Durham Benevolence over the past year with donations increasing at a very generous rate. The support is needed now more than ever as we try to support those most in need within our Province.

It’s vital we support our communities, our food banks, and our elderly. Durham Freemasons, when called upon, always step forward and it gives me a deep sense of pride when I see individuals volunteering and Lodges and Chapters going ‘above and beyond’ to support the charities in our Province.

As 2024 approaches I’m very optimistic that we will tackle our challenges together as we continue to support each other. Our charitable support, I’m sure, will still be needed more than ever as the economic uncertainty continues, but working together will make us Stronger Together.

Andrea and I wish all Durham Freemasons and your families a very Merry Christmas and healthy and Happy New Year.

Best regards to you all,

John Thompson ProvGM / GSupt

Stronger Together

Please click the link below to listen to John deliver his Christmas message.

Christmas message

Stronger Together

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A Double Exaltation At Universities Chapter

Full Team Visit Universities Chapter

On a cold December evening, the Companions of Universities Chapter No. 2352 Gathered at Durham Masonic Hall to welcome the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent John Paul Thompson accompanied by a full team of his provincial officers.

This was an extra special evening for the Chapter, not only being honoured with a full team visit, but also to witness a double exaltation of Brothers Rhys Samuel Benedict Sutton-Harry and Adriano Lopez Deonate, both members of Universities Lodge.

The Chapter was opened by the three principals, with Excellent Companion Phil Twizell acting as Z and Excellent Companion John Bamborough Gibson as J for the evening.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies announced that the Grand Superintendent and his team were at the door, and then followed the procession into the Chapter room.

Excellent Companion Phil welcomed the Grand Superintendent, and the team then took their places to witness the double exaltation, performed excellently by the Officers of the Chapter.

Following the ceremony, the Grand Superintendent presented the candidates with a mentoring card showing a QR code which he told them would lead them to more information on what they had gone through that evening.

He was then delighted to take the opportunity to be able to present Supreme Grand Chapter certificates to three previous exaltees.

After the Chapter was closed, the Companions retired to a candlelit festive board where a meal was served befitting the special occasion.

In response to his toast the Grand Superintendent said it was great to see that the Chapter’s planning strategy was evident, and that it was paying off shown by the number of younger members.

He went on to mention the great work done by Durham Freemasons via Durham Benevolence and the Norman Jackson Bequest to Universities Lodge No.2352, where on the anniversary of what would have been his 75th Birthday, they had made grants totalling £75,000 to the Prince’s Trust, and that this would help Masonry make a real impact in the community.

The Grand Superintendent finished by hoping that those Companions present would have a happy and enjoyable festive season.

In the response to the toast to Provincial Officers, the Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Excellent Companion David John Green, mentioned that Provincial Grand Chapter would be holding a Chapter awareness month in March and April 2024, and to watch out for further information.

Stronger Together

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The Durham Cornerstone Launch

Mon 13 November saw the launch of the Durham Cornerstone by the Provincial Grand Master at a regular meeting of Sanctuary Lodge who traditionally pay their respects to the fallen in a moving tribute held annually at this meeting. The evening also saw Brother Sam Jones and Brother Darren Robinson raised to the third degree in an excellent ceremony overseen by Provincial Deputation led by the Provincial Grand Master.

The Act of Remembrance consists of a recital of The Fallen by Laurence Binyon followed by the Last Post. Following a two-minute silence, reveille is played after which the Kohima Epitaph. The hall has in darkness save for a red glow and the flicker of candlelight as WBro Peter Johnson sang an incredibly moving version of the song ‘Bring Him Home’ from the musical Les Misérables.

The Durham Cornerstone

The event was complemented by the attendance of well over 70 brethren which included over 30 Light Blue regalia wearing brethren all seated on the centre leg. This was no coincidence and was meant to represent the importance of the Durham Cornerstone, being guided by the head of the table, and supported by the stronger arms of the outer legs. The Durham Cornerstone logo includes the date the Province of Durham was formed, 1734 which also represents the 1 (st) Regular Step, the 7 liberal arts and sciences of the Second Degree, the 3 degrees of Craft Masonry and the 4 (th) step to complete your masonic journey through pure and antient masonry. Our Foundation; Our Future

The Durham Cornerstone will extend across the entire geographic area of the Province of Durham but will be sub divided into four semi-autonomous Regional Committee led areas, the NE, NE, SE and SW.

The aim of The Durham Cornerstone is to encourage inclusion, involvement, and development by Engagement through social events for members, non-members/masons and partners/families, Discovering all aspects of masonry through visits to masonic themed attractions, talks, events etc. Exploring by encouraging visits to other lodges and RA Chapters and Develop Masons (Craft/RA) by developing knowledge and skills through learning and development events.

This will be achieved by organising a range of relaxed, socially focussed, and affordable events open to both Masons, non-masons, and their families as appropriate. The Durham Cornerstone will also act as a forum for open and candid discussion and be a conduit to inform Province of ideas and issues that are affecting our members and potential new members.

All new masons and current masons up to Provincial Rank are automatically members and once current members attain Provincial preferment, they will not be excluded but lead positions will always be allocated to those wearing Light Blue Regalia to retain the focus on supporting our newer members. The Durham Cornerstone will be part of the Province under a Steering Group chaired executively by the PGM, the Steering Group will be co-chaired by one of the area leads on a rotational basis with the Provincial Engagement Lead and will include the Provincial Grand Mentor, The Provincial Membership Officer, Provincial Learning & Development Officer, a representative of the Provincial Communications Team and a standing Cornerstone Member who will act as major events coordinator for the Cornerstone.

Each area group will be supported by an Area Mentor who will act as Group Mentor. Each group will also be supported by an Area Membership Officer. Their roles will be to support the group.

The four geographical Cornerstone leads selected on a two year rotating basis are as follows:

North East Cornerstone:

Leads Bro Connor Goodfellow and Bro Mick Clark


North West Cornerstone:

Leads – Bro James Newton and Bro Jake Walker


South East Cornerstone:

Leads – Bro James Finney and Bro Tony Graham


South West Cornerstone:

Leads – Bro Chris Bains and Bro Michael Turfrey


The respective leads will be looking for Hall Cornerstone representatives who will join the respective area Cornerstone committees so if you are interested in getting involved email the respective leads.

We want our newer masons to know that they are part of something much bigger than just their respective lodges, they are not only members of our Province but also members of a worldwide fraternity. Watch out for events to be published soon and get involved.


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A Sad Night for St Helen’s Royal Arch Chapter

On Thursday 14th September, the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal Excellent Companion David Hanson attended St Helen’s Royal Arch Chapter No.531 at Raby Road, Hartlepool.

The Chapter was opened by the three principals, Z – Excellent Companion Dennis McIndoe, H – Excellent Companion Terry Potter and J – Ian Toy. After the minutes the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of ceremonies announced that the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal was at the door of the Chapter.

Excellent Companion David was welcomed into the Chapter by the three principals, there then followed a proposition from the Scribe E. Excellent Companion Neil Syres that any remaining Chapter funds be donated to the HMBA charitable account. After the proposition proved successful, he then gave a brief history of the Chapter, which was well received by those present.

The next business of the evening was to vote on surrendering the warrant of the Chapter, which proved, with a heavy heart from the companions of the chapter, successful.

A notably upset first principal, Excellent Companion Dennis, passed the warrant to the 2nd Provincial Grand Principal Excellent Companion David.

David then read out the following words:

“With the closing of the volume and the opening of a door think not this Chapter has ended, think what has gone before.

Remember all those worthy men who as Masons came, and who developed love and skill and worked in friendship’s name.

When you take up the labourer’s tools, to gently put aside, think not their work has ended, think; how they were applied.

Remember well the lessons taught, to Companions tried and true, of Principals worthy of the name and their sash of crimson and blue.

When your Pedestal is covered and the tools laid at rest, think not their teaching ended, think more a message blessed.

Remember the special meaning to Companions all, of rebirth and life and learning and waiting for the call.

With the sounding of the sceptres and as the lights at last go out,think not your Chapter has ended, dispel all lingering doubt.

Zerubbabel, Haggai, Joshua, remember as you depart, your Chapter will live forever, in every Companion’s heart.”

The Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies asked the companions to stand, then Excellent Companion David paraded the warrant around the room halting by the entrance.

The companions then retired passing the warrant with silence and dignity to the festive board to enjoy a happy end to very poignant evening, in the knowledge that the members of the Chapter were moving on to other Royal Arch Chapters within the Province of Durham.

Stronger Together

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