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More Than Grandparents

More Than Grandparents is an Independent registered charity based in Sunderland run by, and for, kinship carers and their families. Clinton Leeks, OBE, Durham’s Assistant Provincial Grand Master, assisted by Robin Middleton, representing the Durham Freemasons Charity, presented a MCF grant of £13,500, to Melanie Nichols, the founder of the charity.

Melanie has since given an update as to where this funding has been utilised, and how the funding has led to the charity working much more closely with the freemasons of the Province of Durham;  

“We are so grateful to have been supported by the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The funding has meant we have been able to continue supporting vulnerable kinship families who simply don’t get the support they need and deserve from statutory services. 

Too often families are left struggling financially as a direct result of stepping in to do the right thing caring for a child that would otherwise have entered the care system. Too often they are left managing their child’s trauma and challenging behaviour. Too often they are left managing extremely difficult relationships with birth parents and supervising contact arrangements and all of this whilst often having other caring roles caring for a sick partner or elderly relative and managing their own life limiting health conditions. 

This funding from the MCF has allowed us to plug some of the gaps in services to ensure that kinship families feel fully supported, reduce isolation, ensure they understand their rights and entitlements, have better access to mental health support, have access to parenting support and to give them a sense of belonging.

Raising someone else’s child is a huge responsibility particularly if the child you are caring for has emotional difficulties as a result of ‘early years trauma’. For a grandparent parenting a second time around it can be exhausting and isolating and at times extremely stressful and a daunting experience.

We hold regular peer support meetings where you can have a cuppa and a chat to people who have had similar experiences. We arrange regular social events, many which have been held with the support of Durham Freemasons at Queen Street Masonic Hall, allowing opportunities for respite and relaxation to reduce feelings of isolation and to encourage positivity and mental and physical well-being. “

Melanie Nichols, CEO,  

More than Grandparents

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Diamond Celebration at Trinity

The year started out with celebration for the members of Trinity Lodge, who meet at the masonic hall at Archer Street in Darlington.  Clarence Stoddart (Clarry) was celebrating 60 years of continuous membership of Freemasonry in general and Trinity lodge in particular, having been initiated 30/12/1963.  Clarry, who now lives in Cheshire, had made special effort to travel over to attend Trinity lodge for the regular January meeting and to share this special occasion with the rest of the members.  The Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Andrew Foster, was in attendance and was formerly and warmly welcomed into the lodge by members and visitors, in manner usual among masons.  Andrew was delighted to have the opportunity to attend and present Clarry with a 60 year certificate to mark his service to Freemasonry within Durham Province, advising that usually this privilege (awards 60 years and above) falls to the Deputy Provincial Grand Master.  Andrew was honoured and delighted to be offered the opportunity to attend the celebration and present the certificate as on this occasion the Deputy Provincial Grand Master was unable to attend. 

Andrew sat at the front of the lodge with Clarry and discussed Clarry’s membership of 60 years, initially highlighting that his 50 year certificate was presented by John Webster, Past Assistant Provincial Grand Master.  Clarry informed the brethren that he was proposed into Freemasonry by his father in-law, John Firby, who was a member and past master (1963) of Trinity Lodge.  Clarry recalled John telling him that if he proposed his membership that the ask was for him to attend as often as he could and progress through the offices to become a Worshipful Master when that opportunity arose.  Work commitments meant that Clarry had to move to the North West around the time that he was Junior Warden of Trinity Lodge.  Clarry never faltered in his promise to John, despite moving away he used to book time off from work on Wednesday afternoons in order to attend Trinity Lodge meetings and give his absolute best for each of the offices he held including when he attained the chair of Kind Solomon; 27/12/1976.  Clarry also proposed his brother, Harold, into Trinity Lodge who became master in 1989.

Clarry also shared other memories with the brethren including a time years gone by where he recalled things were certainly more formal within Freemasonry.  Clarry had been told by the lodge Director of Ceremonies (DC) that he was the DC for their ladies night.  Ladies nights back then saw the ladies in their fancy dresses wearing long sleeve gloves as part of their ensemble.  The role of ladies night DC came with numerous duties and planning to ensure the evening ran smoothly including liaising with the band master and attendees, filling out the dance cards with requests.  On this particular occasion Clarry had been asked if the band could play The Twist, to which he thought would be acceptable.  The band played The Twist and it appeared to go down well.  Shortly after this dance Clarry was pulled aside and quietly informed “we do not have dances like that at this lodge”.

There was another celebration that shared the evening when Derek Wilde was initiated into Trinity Lodge.  Clarry welcomed Derek to Trinity and told him that he had joined a very good lodge.  Clarry also presented Andrew with a personal cheque towards Durham Benevolence for £500 to which Andrew thanked Clarry for and reassured it was gratefully received and will be faithfully applied.  Celebrations continued downstairs at the festive board before the night concluded.

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Duncan Visits Radio Stitch

Duncan Visits Radio Stitch

Taking up an invitation from Stitch Radio our Provincial Almoner Duncan Maw visited their state of the art Studio’s within the University Hospital of North Tees.. The Hospital radio station were keen to learn about how Freemasons care for their brethren in need, their families and, when they are no longer with us, their widows.

Duncan was able to bring alive how Durham Freemasons operate as one big family. Looking out for each other and when things become hard lending that helping hand. He was keen to stress that Our commitment doesn’t end when our Brethren pass to the grand lodge above and talked about how we keep in touch with and support their dependents especially in the event of a members lodge being no longer in existence.

The Interviewer was intrigued to learn of the various forms of support provided to freemasons throughout the province by Durham Benevolence and the MCF. They were also surprised at the enormous contribution to local charities that are made by Lodges, Durham Benevolence and the MCF.

Listen to Duncans interview Here:

Should anyone be interested in helping with the ongoing support we give to the widows of closed lodges please email Duncan at


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A personal message from the Provincial Almoner:

“At this special time you may find yourself alone and isolated. DON’T BE! Throughout the festive period my mobile is on for anyone who would benefit from a chat over the phone! We are stronger together. Duncan Maw your Provincial Almoner 07971 350951”

Stronger Together

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Service Opportunity – as a Dragon 

Service Opportunity – as a Dragon 

Please see attached the dates and locations for the next round of Dragons Den panels where we are looking for 2 Freemasons to receive the “pitch” of the Prince’s Trust teams students and allocate funding from the £75,000 grant we made to commemorate Coronation year. 

I’m keen that as many of our members as possible have the opportunity to participate in this volunteer role providing valuable masonic service to our communities.  

ProvGCS Paul Quinn will receive expressions of interest and allocate. 

I suggest no more than 1 Dragon from the autumn 2023 wave be allocated to each panel with the second dragon being new to the role. 

Time commitment is about 1 hour on the date listed and another hour in week 12 to attend the student’s end of course presentation.

Delivery PartnerTeam programme LocationTeam addressDragons Den Date Presentation                                                             date (end week 3 / start week 4 )
Term 1: September 2023
DeltaConsettThe Hub, Roseberry Terrace, Consett DH8 5RT1pm   Tuesday  30th January 2024
DeltaBirtleyBarley Mow Village Hall, Bedford Avenue, Birtley, DH3 2AJ1pm   Tuesday 30th January 2024
EtcDarlington207-209 Northgate, Darlington, DL1 1UE10.30am       Friday 2nd February 2024
EtcBishop AucklandThe Four Clocks Centre, Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, DL147EJ1.30pm       Friday 2nd February 2024
TWFRSouth ShieldsSouth Shields Community Fire Station, John Reid Road, South Shields NE34 8FS1pm Monday 5th February 2024
Farringdon (Sunderland)Farringdon Community Fire Station North Moor Road Sunderland Tyne and Wear SR3 1TJ1pm Tuesday 6th February 2024
DeltaStanleyOxhill Community Centre, Kyo Lane, Stanley DH9 7LG1pm  Tuesday 6th February 2024
TWFRWashingtonWashington Community Fire Station, Glover Industrial Estate, Spire Rd, Sunderland, Washington NE37 3AG1pm Wednesday 7th February 2024
DeltaBrandonBrandon Carrside Youth Centre, Carr Avenue, Brandon DH7 8QG1pm  Wednesday 7th February 2024
DeltaChester le StreetBethal United Reformed Church, Chester le Street,  DH3 3QF1pm     Thursday 8th February 2024
EDHCHoughallHoughall Campus, Durham, DH1 3SG11am Thursday 8th February 2024
EtcStocktonStockton Riverside College, Harvard Avenue, Thornaby, TS176FB1.30pm  Friday 9th February 2024
DeltaSeahamDawden Community Centre, Queen Alexandra Road, Seaham SR7 7NH1pm   Friday 9th February 2024
EDHCPeterleePeterlee Campus Willerby Grove, Peterlee, SR8 2RN1pm Thursday 7th March 2024

If you would like to be involved, please email Paul on

listing the date(s) and location(s) you are available for. 

John D Watts 


Chairman of Durham Benevolence 

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2024 Masonic Group Break

Applications are now open for the Provincial 2024 Masonic Group Break. This time, it will be at The Queens Hotel in Blackpool. Commencing on the 17th of June for 4 nights, at the cost of £350.00 per person.

Situated on South Promenade, overlooking the Irish Sea, Queens Hotel offers live entertainment, home-cooked food. The bright and airy bedrooms are traditionally decorated, and each has a radio, television, and tea/coffee facilities. All rooms feature a private bathroom, and some have wonderful sea views. The Theatre Bar regularly hosts live cabarets, comedy and music. The spacious restaurant serves a full English breakfast and a Table d’hote evening menu.

Just a 10-minute walk from Pleasure Beach, Queens Hotel is just 200 meter’s from South Pier. Blackpool Tower and the Grand Theatre can be reached in a 25-minute seafront stroll.

#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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Hippotherapy at Heel & Toe

Children with disabilities will receive horse therapy thanks to Durham Freemasons. 

More than 100 children with disabilities in the North East of England will receive specialised therapy in the form of Hippotherapy at Heel & Toe Children’s Charity, thanks to a major grant from Durham Freemasons. 

The £60,231 grant will support Heel & Toe Children’s Charity’s new therapy known as Hippotherapy which is a technique that uses the movement of a horse to treat a variety of conditions, in this case children with disabilities and complex needs. Hippotherapy uses the horses’ regular rhythm of walking to improve children’s balance, strength, joint range, righting reactions, tone, flexibility and sensory processing which are essential in the development of motor skills. 

The funding will make a significant difference in the lives of children and their families by providing this unique therapy. Heel & Toe are working in partnership with Washington Riding School to help local children with disabilities and complex needs in the North East and surrounding areas. 

Heel & Toe Children’s Charity provides a range of therapies to children with disabilities and complex needs. The charity provides Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Conductive Education, Hippotherapy, Hydrotherapy and Massage Therapy to children aged between birth and 19 years old. 

The charity has two therapy centres based in Chester-Le-Street, County Durham. A land based therapy centre based in Pelton which incorporates five therapy rooms and a Hydrotherapy Centre based in Perkinsville which incorporates a Hydrotherapy pool, a Sensory Integration Room and Re-bound therapy room which uses a sunken trampoline that helps work on core stability and balance. 

This project will allow children to access a 45 minute session of Hippotherapy per week. Children with a wide range of challenges and diagnoses can benefit from hippotherapy, including Cerebral Palsy, developmental delay, genetic conditions, downs syndrome, coordination disorders, neuromuscular conditions amongst others. 

The grant from Durham Freemasons to Heel and Toe comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. 

Heel & Toe Children’s Charity Deputy Chief Executive, Amanda Tweedy said: 

John David Watts from Durham Freemasons, said: 

In the pics :- John Watts, Paul Quinn, Amanda Tweedy, Jo Parsons, Emily and her daughter Florence

Thank you from Jane Long, Development Executive

Stronger Together

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Lucie Marie Wylie

In July “The Hartlepool Masonic Benevolent Association” sponsored four pupils from the Dyke House Academy School to participate in the Tall Ships race from Den Helder Holland to Hartlepool, the HMBA followed the exploits of one of the trainees ‘’Lucie Marie Wylie’’ on what has turned out to be a life changing experience.

Lucie was assigned to the ‘’Class B’’ 24-metre Gaff rigged Pilot cutter the ‘’Jolie  Brise’’ and enjoyed the experience so much that immediately after her return she joined the local Sea Cadets. Since joining the cadets Lucie has passed two courses. One of which is basic first aid and the other basic seamanship. 

Lucie has also completed for the Hartlepool Sea Cadets unit in a swimming competition against other regional units and has now been selected to represent the region in a second competition on 25th November 2023.

Before starting out on this adventure Lucie had wanted to become a surgeon, but as stated previously this really was a life changing experience, this is her last year at school and she has recently started applying for colleges places. Most noticeably she has started the application process to join the Royal Navy College for Marines in the hopes of becoming a Royal Marine Commando.

It’s obvious that this young lady has made the most of the opportunity and is credit to her family, Hartlepool and the Freemasons, and her infectious enthusiasm has now rubbed off on her sister Hannah who has also joined the Sea Cadets. They both took part in the Trafalgar Parade held in Middlesbrough in October and attended the Remembrance Day Parade on the 12th November in Hartlepool. 

Lucie stands proud and tall in her Hartlepool Royal Marine uniform during the Remembrance Day service where she also had the honour of laying a wreath, before the parade took place she met with the Provincial Grand Master of Durham RW Bro John Paul Thompson who has been following her advancement.

Final word from Lucies mam Sarah

😂 “She would never of found her path without the Freemasons

Stronger Together

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Benevolent Representatives Round Table Forum

25th November – Benevolent Representatives are invited to attend a round table forum to discuss how to increase the impact of the Benevolent Representative and their role.

This is designed to provide an opportunity to Benevolent Representatives to contribute ideas to improve the impact of our Masonic Charity in the Province of Durham.

Those attending are also welcome to remain and attend the Lodge Charity Stewards/ Almoners Seminar which follows the forum between 09.00am and 10.00am.

Stronger Together

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