“Have you ever driven along the Hagley Road in Birmingham and wondered about the strange windowless building near Stirling Road? Thanks to Ron Parker, we now know some of the answers”, quoted a Senior Mensan in their magazine. The building houses the Provincial Grand Lodge of Warwickshire which oversees activities in almost 200 Lodges throughout the province. On a Saturday in early September a group of Mensans from the West Midlands were delighted to accept an invitation to attend a day at the Warwickshire Masonic Temple in Edgbaston.
Gathering at the Clarendon Suite in Stirling Road in the Buttery Bar for a complimentary tea or coffee, they were then escorted by a Mason, resplendent in purple Masonic clothing, to one of the temple’s lodge rooms where meetings are held. The group were officially greeted by a very senior member of the Masonic Province of Warwickshire. After this they were given an informative talk by another Mason, who described the layout and meaning of the room, its artefacts and what Freemasonry is.
A display of Masonic aprons and badges was explained and thus began a question and answer session. A lady Mensan began by asking about the Masonic Lodges for Women she had just read about in the literature given to us all and was informed that there are at least two in Birmingham. “Who can be a freemason?” “Anyone of good character and who holds a belief in a supreme being!” was the answer, “However, we never discuss religion or politics in lodges”. A tour of the library unearthed many interesting and rare books, including such treasures as a Breech’s Bible of 1599 and an original Baskerville Bible. These were rediscovered in 1971 after they had been hurriedly stowed in packing cases for safe keeping at the outbreak of war in 1939.
The Mensans were then invited to browse the museum, containing items related to such dignitaries as Rabbie Burns, and to wander in and out of the various lodge rooms where masons were present to answer any questions. The tour ended in the main concourse, containing displays of the charities to which Masonic money is donated, and where we were treated to a small buffet. A Mason from the charity fund explained that Masons donate in excess of £20 million to charity each year, which is the main outward sign of Masonry. At least 25% of this money goes to organisations with no link to Masonry whatsoever.