THE Berwick Masonic Lodge has taken steps to debunk a few myths about freemasonry and is hoping it will attract some new blood.
The St David’s Lodge of Freemasons has launched a new website and recently invited members of Berwick Town Council and Berwick Civic Society for a tour of the Masonic Hall.
“There are many myths about freemasonry,” said George Crawford, the 187th Master of the Lodge. “We are not a secret society and you do not have to wait to be asked to join.
“Indeed the new website has a booklet that people can down load which explains more about Freemasonry and how anyone who is thinking about joining the Lodge can proceed. We hope our new website will explain to the people of Berwick what Freemasonry is all about.”
The new website also takes visitors back some 400 years into Berwick’s past as it is known that a Masonic Lodge was operating in the town in 1641.
The Master of the Lodge sits on a chair with this date carved into it when the lodge meets. There were also lodges in Tweedmouth and the website explains the dates of these lodges and shows some of the artefacts that resonate with Berwick’s history.
“We know that the freemasons of the town had their own corps of defence volunteers during the Napoleonic period and helped guard the town walls,” said George. “In fact we still have part of their uniforms in our possession.
“We also have two banners which were said to have been sent for safekeeping from Wark Castle at the time of Flodden.”
Throughout the past freemasonry was very open in the town and everyone knew who the Masons were - something that the Lodge is keen to promote today.
In 1810 a deputation and procession of members of the lodge marched to the laying of the foundation stone of Berwick Pier and the members played a major part in the laying of the new fishquay at Eyemouth.
Above all the lodge is keen to point out they are not an elitist movement as their members include a wide range of occupations in both white and blue collar occupations.
The lodge has clergymen, farmers and tradesmen amongst its members who meet once a month in the purpose built Masonic Hall on the corner of Church Street and Walkergate.
The hall will shortly be visited by the borough archivist and museum curator to view and exchange records and this is very important to members.
“We are conscious of our history in the town and are constantly searching for more information,” said George. “We lost four of our brethren in the First World War and in 1916 the Lodge meeting had to completed by candlelight because of an air raid.”
St David’s are very proud of the fact that they are the envy of many Masonic lodges because they are one of the few lodges in the United Kingdom who have a purpose built building.
Constructed in 1872 at a cost of £1300 it contains many Masonic details and emblems in the structure both inside and out.
St David’s Lodge owns the building but other lodges including their daughter lodge Berwick St George and other Masonic Degrees who meet here also use it.
Being more open within the town is the lodge’s aim and guided tours of the Masonic Hall for community groups and organisations are being considered at the moment with a section about the tours on the website.
Charity is the essence of freemasonry and each year masons give millions to national and local organisations.
George explained: “Membership is open to all men, all we ask is that they have some form of belief in a supreme being whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious belief and are of good repute.”
In the interest of harmony all discussions of religion and politics are banned in Masonic lodges.
St David’s Lodge was admitted to the United Grand Lodge in 1828 and hopes to continue as part of Berwick’s future for many years to come. In particular the lodge hopes to open itself more to young people perhaps as part of their Citizenship or History studies.
At the same time they are striving to fill in the gaps from their past and if anyone has any information, photographs or other details of freemasonry in Berwick, the lodge would be delighted to hear from them, both for their own records, their daughter lodge and the town archives.
Indeed only last week they discovered with the help of the archivist that after being contacted by someone researching their family tree that one of their brethren James Palmer Huffam from Spittal had been awarded the Victoria Cross in 1918.
“We have been told that somewhere in Tweedmouth for example is a house with a fireplace that has a carving of a square and compasses which means it must have been a lodge meeting place. We would love to be able to photograph this if at all possible.” said George.
To find out more about this fascinating previously hidden part of Berwick’s history visit www.stdavids393.org.uk.