Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest, non-religious fraternal organisations. The precise beginnings of Freemasonry are unclear but there areearly references to them beginning in the 17th Century in the operative stonemasons trade. The ideals became attractive to masons (i.e. non-stonemasons) hence the term ‘Free-masons’. From the 1660’s onwards there is more evidence of ‘gentlemen’ being made Free-masons in ‘non-operative’ Lodges. Whatever the early origins, by 1717 the four London Lodges which existed came together to form the first Grand Lodge. They elected from their number the first Grand Master who was one Antony Sayer.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland were formed in 1725 and 1736 respectively and, with the expansion of The British Empire, Freemasonry began to spread around the globe. In 1751 a rival Grand Lodge appeared mainly consisting of Irish Masons. They dubbed themselves ‘Antients‘ and the First Grand Lodge ‘Moderns‘ because, as they claimed, the First Grand Lodge had made innovations to the Order. These two labels have persisted to the modern day and are frequently referred to in Masonic circles.
The schism which had evolved was addressed by the two existing Grand Lodges looking at standardising ritual, procedures and regalia. As a result, The United Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1813 with an agreed standardised ritual being demonstrated to existing Lodges of that time by ‘The Lodge of Reconciliation’. By 1833 the first ritual books were being published and Freemasons have held their ceremonies and rituals largely with conformity since this time.
The Masonic Province of Hampshire came into being in 1767 with Thomas Dunckerley becoming it’s first Provincial Grand Master (PGM). Dunckerley is unquestionably the most important Hampshire Freemason in masonic terms. Dunckerley saw service in the Royal Navy, later became a barrister and was commissioned into The Hampshire Militia. He presided over eight Lodges at the time of his appointment. Reputedly the illegitimate son of George II he was granted an allowance from The Privy Purse which seems to confirm this fact. This money allowed him to pursue his passion for Freemasonry and through his enthusiasm the order spread. Dunckerley was also the head of the small Province of Isle of Wight becoming it’s PGM in 1772. In 1869 the Province of Hampshire and the Province of Isle of Wight amalgamated to form the Masonic Province of Hampshire & Isle of Wight which exists in this form to the present day.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has 47 masonic provinces in England & Wales each of which have a Provincial Grand Master. The current PGM of Hampshire & Isle of Wight (H&IOW) is Right Worshipful Bro. Michael J. Wilks. There are currently 255 Lodges in H&IOW Province which is divided into six areas, each of which is headed by an Assistant Provincial Grand Master (APGM) with Barrie Conrad Hewitt being the current APGM for the South East. Havant Lodge 4689 is within the South East area.
Each Lodge has an identical format with a Worshipful Master at it’s head and various offices held by other Masons. Masonry is ‘progressive’ and therefore a Mason usual only holds the office of Worshipful Master for one year before his successor is installed. If a normal progression ‘up through the officer ranks’ is followed it takes six years to become Worshipful Master. It is possible to achieve this position in less time but these are exceptional circumstances rather than ‘the norm’.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learned by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.