Inside The Freemasons – Episode 4: Sky1 Monday 8th May 8pm

Sir David Wootton, AGM
Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England

In the public consciousness, Freemasonry is thought of as secret society busily plotting world domination. In the fourth episode of the ground-breaking series, “Inside The Freemasons“, we hear from Masons themselves, about why they join and what they find fulfilling about Freemasonry.

To some members, secrecy is part of the brotherhood’s appeal but as Sir David Wootton, a former Lord Mayor of London and one of the highest-ranking Masons in the country, explains, Freemasonry only went underground in response to Hitler’s persecution of its members during the 1930s and World War II. Their secrecy has drawn criticism ever since.

Freemasonry is also accused of being stuck in the past when it comes to women. For 300 years, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has been male only and for many members, like Dean O’Connell, Worshipful Master of the Russell Lodge in Bedford this is part of the appeal. As Dean prepares to host his Lodge’s annual Ladies Night, where his wife Mitch has been co-opted into delivering a thank you speech on behalf of the female guests, we find out what the women think of their husbands’ unusual hobby.

For many devotees, one of the major attractions of Freemasonry is the learning and performing of ceremonies but some Lodges take it to a higher level. With its requirement of a showbiz connection, Chelsea Lodge (past members include Bob Monkhouse and Peter Sellers) prides itself on giving particularly good ritual and meets every week without fail to rehearse. Its Worshipful Master, Chas Elliot – a former entertainer and theatre producer – is under pressure to deliver a suitably impressive 2nd Degree ceremony that will attract an audience of over 200 Masons.

Freemasonry has always provided a safety net for members and their families who fall on hard times. In South Wales, local undertaker and singer, Matthew Simms, received a Masonic grant that helped him complete his Master’s Degree in Music. Now, after two years of planning, he is to become the founding member of a brand new, music themed lodge. But can Matthew and Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies, Peter Jones, pull off the two-hour Consecration ceremony without a hitch and repay Matthew’s debt to Freemasonry? The filming of the traditional consecration service is a first for television.

Dean O'Connell, WM of the Russell Lodge
Dean O’Connell, Worshipful Master of the Russell Lodge in Bedford
(c) Emporium Productions

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