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Durham At Its Best AGM 2024

Saturday 22nd June 2024 saw the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham hosted at The Fed Gateshead.

The Provincial Grand Stewards, distinguished by their maroon regalia were on hand to a with military precision, and as we have become accustomed with a warm welcome and a smile greeting brethren on their arrival at the venue.

As the final rehearsals and preparations were taking place a throng of the early arrivals took the opportunity to chat and renew friendships within the various robing and changing rooms, before taking their seats in Provincial Grand Lodge.

Prior to the normal ceremonial of the Annual General Meeting our Cornerstone Light Blues attended a roll call to be welcomed to the Annual Meeting and invested with the newly designed lapel badges by the Provincial Grand Master.

The Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Martin Rankin, then called the brethren to order to receive the various processions of Distinguished Guests, Past Rulers and Heads of Orders into the meeting, the final procession  being the acting Officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham leading the Provincial Grand Master, John Paul Thompson through the doors to some 700 Durham Freemasons in attendance and to a trumpet fanfare, entitled appropriately `Stronger Together’ commissioned by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, John David Watts and written and performed by Hebburn Lodges Master Mason Luis Schmidt Master Mason.

At the banquet the Deputy Provincial Grand Masters toasted the Provincial Grand Master, and presented him with a framed commemorative copy of the Stronger Together score signed by the acting Provincial Officers of the year.

Stronger Together Full Score : Click Here

With Provincial Grand Lodge opened in due form, apologies and minutes of the 2023 Annual Meeting confirmed it was time for all present to remember in Memoriam the 114 brethren we lost since our last meeting in June 2024.

After the Roll Call of Acting Provincial Grand Lodge Officers and Lodges, the Provincial Grand Master welcomed the brethren, his Distinguished Guests, and Heads of Other Companion Orders.

With the Provincial Grand Treasurer’s Statement of Accounts considered and accepted by the Brethren present and the Treasurer re-elected for another 12 months along with the accountants, it was time to perform the most important and pleasurable part of the day, to appoint, invest and promote those brethren receiving honours.

A Provincial Appointment is given in recognition of a Brother’s dedication and commitment over a sustained number of years, during which time he has shown the prerequisite attributes to be considered for a Provincial first appointment. The Honour rewards him not only for his service to Freemasonry to date, but in an expectation of continued support to the wider Province in future.

After the Principal Officers had been re-appointed and this year’s Provincial Grand Wardens had been individually Appointed, Invested, and placed in the West and South respectively, the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies called upon the Provincial Deputy Director of Ceremonies, aided by the Provincial Stewards to take post.

The Stewards then expertly collected each recipient, escorting them before the Provincial Grand Master to be Invested, receiving their certificate of appointment from the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, and finally taken to their seat and acknowledged with the customary court bow, bursting with pride.

First Appointment and Promotions: Click Here

To Meet The Wardens: Click here

A collection was then taken in aid of Durham Freemasons Charity where a fabulous amount of £4285.00 inclusive of Gift Aid.

John then delivered his address:

“Thank you all for your patience on this busy and warm morning”.

In congratulating the brethren whom he had appointed and invested, John said that each honour was the result of careful consideration and recognition for their deserving contribution. He hoped they had enjoyed the proceedings and that they would continue to support their Lodges, Masonic Halls, and Province with the same enthusiasm and dedication which had culminated in their respective appointments.

Stating they should “Embrace and enjoy the new responsibilities that come with these honours”.

John then introduced to Provincial Grand Lodge those brethren he had the pleasure of supporting in April on receiving appointments to Grand Rank, who were afforded rapturous applause, going on to recognise senior members of the team who were retiring and had given exceptional service to our Province……….

To read the full address delivered by the Provincial Grand Master Click Here

There being no further business from the Secretary John spoke of the outstanding service to freemasonry and directed the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to bring The Provincial Grand Tyler, WBro George Field to the dais, where he was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in recognition of his 39 years exemplary service to freemasonry followed by loud acclamation.

As the brethren settled John further acknowledged the retiring Provincial Grand Secretary, Thomas Fred Gittins, PJGD thanking him on behalf of everyone present and wishing him well for the future. The Provincial Grand Director of ceremonies was then directed to escort Tom to the dais where he was awarded and presented with the Provincial Grand Masters Certificate of Service to Freemasonry, stating that “His outstanding contributions have significantly enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of our organisation, reflecting the highest standards of Freemasonry” again leading to a crescendo of loud applause,

Provincial Grand Lodge was then closed in due form which was followed by the first 2 verses of the National Anthem, before the processions that had so ceremoniously entered the venue at the start of the meeting, processed out.

A hive of activity soon followed as the Provincial Stewards and the catering staff went about transforming the venue into a banquet hall for 420 people. The venue looked magnificent and full to capacity for all to enjoy and the meal was duly served by the catering staff to the happy gathering to round off a fabulous day enjoyed by all.

Well done to everyone who made the day such a success, and congratulations to those who received a Provincial Appointment.

Stronger Together

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“Breaking” News – A Jarrow Grange Double Golden Jubilee

On the 13th May 2024 the Members of Jarrow Grange Lodge no. 8551 and their many supporting visitors met to celebrate a double Golden Jubilee. The Lodge itself was consecrated just over 50 years earlier on 27th April 1974 and it was exactly 50 years to the day that they initiated their first candidate, Tom Race.

Representing the Province, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, WBro Clinton Leeks was on hand to present the Lodge with 2 “cracking” certificates, the first in recognition of the Lodges contribution to Freemasonry in the Province and the second in recognition of WBro Tom Race’s service and whilst WBro Tom was unable to be present, his certificate was gratefully accepted by the Lodge members present

In the Lodge Room, those present were treated to a “smashing”  recitation of the Lodge History, first compiled for the Lodge’s 25th Anniversary by the late WBro Ron Smith and updated and narrated on this occasion by WBro John Anderson. Opening with 31 Founder Members from the Local Lodge’s and with 7 joining members at the first meeting, Jarrow Grange was built on firm foundations.

The name of the Lodge was chosen in recognition of the period when in the early 19th Century, Jarrow was a rural village with a population of only 1566 that largely consisted of the old church of St Paul, that had been the home of the Venerable Bede, 3 farms and a few cottages. The oldest of the farms in the area was “The Grange” which was built by Robert Ellison in 1666. Whilst that fine old building, depicted on the Lodge’s Summons, was demolished in 1909 to make way for the new Co-operative Bakery, part of the “fractured” remains, the inscribed lintel stone dated 1666, can still to be seen today above the side entrance of Christ Church Parish Hall and the Grange gave its name to many local landmarks, including the Grange School and Grange Road on which the Masonic Temple in Jarrow now proudly sits.

Jarrow Grange Lodge is noted for the friendly atmosphere that pervades all of its meetings and whilst it has never been a large Lodge, their members are noted for their commitment to their own Lodge, to all of those in the local area and to the fine building in Jarrow.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Master was delighted to present WBro Leeks with a wonderful cheque for £1000 in aid of the Masonic Charitable Foundation to be allocated against the Lodge’s future 2032 Festival Target which will no doubt be “shattered” by the wonderful efforts of this very fine Lodge.

The evening was topped off by a fine festive board in a packed dining hall which was very reminiscent of the wonderful traditions of earlier years. Here’s to the next 50 years!

If any of our readers are wondering about our use of synonyms for the word “breaking” in this article, please speak to Clinton the next time you see him !!!

“Our lips are sealed”.     

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West Boldon Forest Playschool

In a heartwarming display of community support, the Durham Freemasons, represented by John Watts, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), represented by Duncan Maw, made a to West Boldon Lodge Forest Playschool. Alongside Allan Britton, on their visit, John, Duncan, and Allan were treated to an insightful tour of the facilities, guided by Aylen, Fiona, and Jasmin. The day was marked by memorable moments, including John engaging with the children in a storytelling session, while Duncan lent a hand in the gardens. This collaboration exemplifies the spirit of giving and the profound impact it can have on the development of young lives.

A generous grant of £35000 from the MCF will underpin the Forest Playschool’s efforts at their 13 Hectare haven, a natural tapestry of woodlands and wetlands. The program’s weekly outdoor sessions are a beacon of exploration and growth, inviting children to immerse themselves in nature, forge friendships, embrace new experiences, maintain physical activity, and cultivate self-assurance and adaptability by directly interacting with the great outdoors. The overarching mission is to level the playing field, offering every child a head start in life that rivals that of their more privileged counterparts.

An estimated 120 children and their families from South Tyneside stand to gain from this philanthropic gesture. Courtesy of the Durham Freemasons, these fortunate recipients will enjoy the privilege of participating in two complimentary Forest Playschool sessions each week for the duration of the next three years.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation, sustained by the contributions of Freemasons, their families, and benevolent friends throughout England and Wales, played a pivotal role in securing this funding.

Stronger Together

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Dragons Den – Durham Freemasons in Association with Princes Trust

Provincial Crest

Hundreds of young people looking to build new skills will be given a push in the right direction thanks to a £75,000 grant from Durham Freemasons.

The Norman Jackson Bequest fund has committed a massive £50,000 to support community projects delivered across the region by youngsters taking part in The Prince’s Trust’s Team programme, with a further £25,000 donated to the work of the national charity.

“To commemorate Prince Charles turning 75, in his coronation year, we wanted to give a significant grant to a charity or charities connected to the King,” said John Watts, Deputy Provincial Grand Master with Durham Freemasons.

“When we heard about the projects being carried out locally across our province area by those undertaking The Prince’s Trust Team programme, it seemed the perfect fit.”

The 12-week personal development course offers young people, aged 16 to 25, the chance to develop new skills by taking part in a variety of activities and tasks, including a two-week community project.

By working together, with a focus on helping others, Team members brush up on essential skills such as teamwork, confidence and leadership.

Prince’s Trust Teams are held in 13 locations across the Durham Freemasons’ jurisdiction, three times a year, including Stockton, Darlington and Bishop Auckland Teams, delivered by Education Training Collective (Etc.).  The grant will now fund community projects for all 13 Teams for the next two years. 

Volunteers from the Freemasons also committed their time and expertise to act as “dragons” for the young people as they pitch for funding in “Dragons’ Den” style presentations.

With the first round of projects off the ground, the Etc. Prince’s Trust Stockton Team created a play area in the garden at Thornaby Methodist Church.  Stockton Team leader, Sarah Sherriff, said: “It was a big job as the area was so overgrown, but it made a big difference to the church and the community groups that use it.”

Successfully pitching for £657 from the Durham Freemasons’ fund Sarah said: “The team were nervous at first, but they had done their research and so once they got into it, they relaxed and did really well.

“Raising funds for the community project is a struggle these days, so to have this funding helps massively and for the young people it helps with their confidence and public speaking, which is great experience.”

Team member Tamzin Walder, 23, from Stockton, said: “We were so grateful for the support we received.  To see the finished garden and the amount of work we had put in as a team was breath-taking.”

Other Team projects delivered so far include masonry work carried out on the playground at Timothy Hackworth Primary School in Shildon, a refresh of the sensory room for New Steps Care in the Community in Chester-le-Street, redecorating the Tanfield Football Club changing rooms, and building goat pens and chicken coops at Bill Quay Farm in South Shields.

The Etc’s Head of Department for The Prince’s Trust, Gillian Hutchinson, said: “This funding will make a huge difference to Teams delivered across the wider area.  Having financial backing means our young people can make a real difference to their communities. But, beyond that, to have Durham Freemasons engaging with our Team members, through the Dragons’ Den presentations, listening to their plans and offering advice and support, is invaluable.”

The Freemasons’ Deputy Provincial Grand Master, John, said: “What we have experienced so far in our first round of funding is wonderful.  Not only do we get to support a great charity, but we get to see and engage with the young people involved firsthand, and then the projects they deliver benefit the wider community.

“It has been amazing to see the excitement of the young people as they successfully pitch their community projects to us, and then, coming back to see the projects complete, we can see the change in the young people with the growth of their self-belief and self-confidence.

“Some of our members have come back from the “Dragons’ Den” presentations and said, this is one of the most meaningful things they have been able to do as Freemasons.”

Durham Masonic Charitable Foundation contacted Prince’s Trust delivery staff in the North-East with a desire to support the charity and mark the King’s Coronation year. King Charles III established the Prince’s Trust in 1976 with a desire to support young people from all backgrounds. 2023 also marked the King’s 75th birthday.

During a meeting with members of Durham Benevolence at the Prince’s Trust, Cheryl’s Trust Centre we discussed some very practical funding support which the foundation could provide to Prince’s Trust Teams in their catchment area. – The Dragon’s Den Funding for Community Projects on Team Programme.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation were kind enough to donate a total of £75,000 to the work of the Prince’s Trust in this, the Coronation year! This is comprised of a £25,000 donation to the Prince’s Trust Charity and a further £50,000 to be used over 2 years for the support of community projects that young people across the region will deliver as part of their Team programme.

The members of Durham Freemasons have become our new Dragons – meeting young people, supporting their project plans and funding the delivery of worthwhile projects across the region.

Stronger Together

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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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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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Durham City Youth Project

Through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarding grants to local and national charities, Durham City Youth Project (DCYP), based in Framwellgate Moor were awarded a grant of £15,000 over 3 years, which will benefit the well-being and development of 600 children and young people.

Following the award, Warren Crake, DCYP Lead Youth Worker and Katy Wood, Parks and Countryside Coordinator from Durham County Council, invited local Freemason Stewart K Bell to one of their working sessions and see at first hand their work in action

The DCYP a.k.a. ‘Pity Me Piranhas,’ are showing a presentation created as part of their entry for the ‘John Muir Award Scheme,’ that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with the natural environment in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. Participants are required to spend 25 hours of time discovering a local wild space with opportunities to explore conserve and share.

The group of youngsters descended on ‘Pity Me Carrs  Local Nature Reserve,’ where they made discoveries of many species of insects, protected newts, amphibians and various mammals, even bats when they did a night session. Using an Electric Bat Detector, they could identify the species by listening to their calls or recording them for sound analysis on a computer.

The delivery of the presentation was a delight to witness, young people working together as an organised group, enjoying each other’s company, and learning about the local countryside while taking part in environmental studies showing how each person can do their bit to sustain nature for future generations to enjoy.

Stewart thanked Katy, Warren and especially the children for his invitation to the presentation evening.  Congratulating them all on the wonderful work, they are doing, Stewart said he was proud that the Freemasons were giving financial support not only to local charities, but also to those seeking assistance nationally and worldwide, and that the Freemasons of Durham would welcome an invitation for a return visit to DCYP.

Stronger Together

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