Rowley Court closed its doors and turned off all non-essential equipment in March after United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) suspended all Masonic meetings in accordance with the Government COVID-19 lockdown.
Brethren local to Rowley Court kept an eye on the building to check that it came to no harm. The weeks passed with weeds growing and spiders taking over the hall. But then, the easing of the lockdown restrictions in May meant that a dedicated small maintenance team comprising Keith Heys, Gordon Brown, Malcolm Morrison, Adrian Gifford, Graham Dowling, David Jackman and Alan Physick could come together to bring the building back from the brink. Weeds were cleared, gutters cleaned and drains emptied – just before the onset of a period of heavy rainfall resulting in three floods in three weeks within 300 yards of the building.
Inside the building, windows and doors have been cleaned; spiders forced to find a new home and the bar completely stripped out and disinfected. The team then got to work on to how to make the building COVID-19 safe for meetings. Enquiries as to what was required were met with vague answers. The team visited local hostelries and shops to examine how they had made their premises COVID-19 safe. On return to Rowley Court the team looked at the way in which brethren and visitors used the building prior to the pandemic and what procedures needed to be changed.
After trial and error, the team worked out how the building could be used to ensure compliance with social distancing; marking out the floors and seating areas. The hallway between the temple and the dining hall has been closed off except for moving between the two halls. A one-way system around the dining hall was considered but was rejected in preference of moving people in ‘bubbles’.
Brethren will now enter the building via the main door where each person’s temperature will be checked before moving into the hall; green you may enter, amber you should return home and self-isolate, red you should return home, contact the NHS COVID-19 help line and request a test.
Robing and disrobing will take place in the main hall, with brethren moving in bubbles to the temple before and after a ceremony. There will be no festive board for the time being although the bar will be open. The bar has been marked off with two service points, manned by only one steward.
At the end of a ceremony, lodge equipment that has been used will be returned to the tyler’s cupboard where it will be quarantined for 36 hours. It is up to the brethren to use their common sense; ensure they maintain a safe distance from each other and use the numerus sanitising stations that have been located around the building.
Cleaning procedures have been updated to include high traffic areas using ‘Viricidal’ cleaning solution which kills 99.9% of all known viruses. The building will be thoroughly sanitised every 30 days with Viricidal disinfectant. The new procedures and protocols have been vetted by Lancaster City Council Environmental Health Department with no advisory comments.
Rowley Court is probably one of the safest COVID-19-free buildings in the Lancaster area and will host Vale Chapter of Installed Principals installation ceremony on Wednesday 26 August, which will be the first meeting within the Province of West Lancashire since the lockdown.