'Secret society’ opens its doors to Doncaster public

They get called a ‘secret society’ – but Doncaster’s Freemasons have opened up their doors to the public in a bid to blow that image away.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 2:50 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 2:56 pm
Helen and Lyndon Walters, of Sprotbrough, visited the Masonic Hall open day and took along items belonging to Helen's late grandfather Walter Croxall, who was a Mason at Rufford Lodge. Picture: NDFP-27-04-19-MasonicOpenDay-6

The organisation invited the public into their Masonic Hall on Priory Place to show the public what they are all about – and to encourage new members to get involved.

It followed on from a similar open day last year, which had been their first for many years.

The masons have been in Doncaster for some 200 years, and members believe the 'secrecy' image comes from wartime. Before World War Two the Doncaster masons would hold public processions and even go for picnics in Clumber Park. A picture hangs from the wall of the Masonic Hall of masons in full regalia at a function at the Mansion House in 1909.

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But it emerged during the war that Hitler was persecuting Freemasons, arresting and murdering them. As a result, they withdrew from the public gaze, a move which it is believed may have led to the reputation for secrecy.

Ian Smith, a Doncaster mason added: "Would a secret society have Masonic Hall written on their front door, with the symbols of the organisation, the set square and compass?" 

Ian, a retired undertaker who has been a mason since he was aged 24, said masons rules forbid members using their positions to provide unfair advantages to other members. If they did, they could be expelled. He said Freemasonry promotes character development, good moral conduct and fairness in all things.

This year’s visitors included mayor of Doncaster, Coun Majid Khan. He was among those to receive guided tours

Lodge chairman David Idle said: “Freemasons are the subject of many misunderstandings by the public, and we think that our reticence about our activities may be partly to blame.”

He said that was why they decided to open the doors to the public, conducting tours through the Lodge rooms where their ceremonies take place, and providing an exhibition of Masonic artefacts and regalia.

Secretary Roger Powell added: “There were many visitors of different ages .Several masons used the occasion to show their wife, partner and children the Masonic Hall.”

The group gives out thousands of pounds in grants to charities in the borough from its own fund raising work. Recipients have included Doncaster Housing for Young People, Arksey Primary School and Hickleton Harriers junior football club.