On a cool, slightly damp, March morning, 45 Woolton Masons and their families gathered at Bryn Masonic Hall where arrangements had been made to leave our cars to join our Ogden’s coach for a weekend trip to London which had been organised by the group chairman Andrew Whittle. Unfortunately the weather was not too kind so a group photo was postponed until later in the day. The Woolton Group have organised several events to celebrate the ‘Tercentenary of Freemasonry’. Shortly after starting our journey the group chairman, ably assisted by his vice chairman Mike Cunliffe, served light refreshments to the travellers.
The weekend consisted of two nights at the lovely Guoman Tower Hotel overlooking the River Thames, right next to Tower Bridge with breakfast and a three-course dinner on Friday evening Located in a convenient area, this sprawling, modern 801 bedroomed hotel is a three minute walk from St. Katherine’s Docks (marina with shops) and a seven minute walk from both the Tower of London and Tower Hill tube station. After an uneventful journey, we arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and waited on the coach while Andy checked in with reception. On his return he informed us that we had all been checked in and our rooms were ready. This gave us some free time to unpack and then explore the area before dinner at 7.30 pm. During dinner Stephen Riley informed us that Andy Whittle had just received notification of his appointment to grand rank in the Royal Arch and this was met with great acclaim and a short rendition of ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’.
On Saturday morning, after a group photo, the coach took the majority of the party to Covent Garden where there was free time to explore the area and shops. Others had decided that having been to London before they would like to ‘do their own thing’; one couple even had time to visit the top of the Shard and partake in lunch. At 2pm the majority of the group, including the ladies, visited Freemasons’ Hall which is the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and the principal meeting place for Masonic Lodges in London. Grand Lodge has been in Great Queen Street since 1775, the present hall being the third building on the site.
What a magnificent building it is! The building houses 20 temples and judging by the many Masons entering and leaving there were several lodge meetings taking place. There were also many members of the general public from different nationalities visiting Freemasons Hall to look at the exhibitions. Our expert guide took us through the exhibition area to the Grand Officers’ changing room, showing us the portraits of the Grand Masters and then down the processional hallway to the entrance of the main temple where we were shown the magnificent bronze doors, each weighing one and a half tons, supported by five hinges on each side and that can be opened by pushing with a single finger. The inscriptions on the doors depict the story of Freemasonry.
Our guide opened the doors and what a sight was beholden. The temple is magnificent with one inch squares of Italian mosaic, probably the best example of such work in England, colourfully decorating the freeze. As we entered the temple the newly refurbished organ, started to play. The sound was exceptional and we paused to listen to the music for a few minutes. Our guide then explained the colourful mosaic pictures up on the frieze. Afterwards we were allowed to take some pictures as a memento of our visit. The tour lasted just on an hour and afterwards there was some time for some Masonic shopping before we boarded the coach to take us back to the hotel.
On Saturday evening, Andy Whittle had arranged dinner for us on a ‘London Showboat Thames Cruise’ which included entertainment. The four-course meal, with wine, was delightful and throughout a young lady called Gerie entertained us with songs from the shows. Once we had eaten, Gerie performed for us again including the hit song “Big Spender”. Whether by coincidence or a prearranged set-up, Gerie started the song and immediately then sat on Mike Cunliffe’s knee! Not getting much out of Mike she turned her attention to Kevin Poynton! There were other guests on board with us some celebrating birthdays or special events. One couple got engaged.
The cruise lasted some four hours and we docked at 11pm to begin our coach journey back to the hotel. From the back of the coach the ‘Rose Choir’ continued to regale us with popular songs but they never did find ‘Molly Malone’.
After a late breakfast, we left the hotel by coach at 10.30 am on Sunday morning to visit Camden Lock which hosts a large and varied market with artisan goods and a vast variety of different nationality foods stalls. At 2 pm we boarded a waterbus narrowboat which took us along the Regent canal waterways of London to Little Venice where we disembarked and met with our coach for a quiet return journey back to Bryn.
A visit to Freemason’s Hall is highly recommended to anyone who hasn’t been. The party would like to express their sincere thanks to group chairman Andy for organising a varied and interesting trip to London and there is little doubt that the social committee will organise another trip in the future – where to next time?