North Norfolk Freemasons host an open day to dispel myths of “funny handshakes” and bizarre initiation ceremonies
- Credit: Archant
They have a reputation for secrecy, funny handshakes and strange initiation ceremonies but, to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first ever Masonic Grand Lodge, Sheringham Freemasons gave everyday folk open access to their shadowy world.
At an event held at their Cromer Road headquarters, the group gave visitors a chance to find out about the history of Freemasonry and learn about the charitable work of the organisation, which sees millions handed out to good causes every year.
At Sheringham Lodge, members last year raised nearly £18,000 from donations and fundraising events, ranging from lunches and dinners, to garden parties and ladies' nights.
Donations went to north Norfolk groups including Mundesley First Responders, Sheringham Youth Football Club, Cromer Scouts, Mundesley pre-school group Pebbles, the Friends of Sheringham Woodfields School and Trunch playing field.
Sheringham lodge member Mike Pardon said Saturday's open day, which was held in partnership with five other north Norfolk Lodges, aimed to dispel some of the myths surrounding Freemasonry and give the public a chance to find out more about the work of the organisation.
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'What people often don't realise is that all the money we raise comes from within the Lodge and the majority of it goes to local charities,' he said.
Peter Macdonald, who is Master elect at Sheringham, said that since he joined 35 years ago, things have changed beyond recognition.
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'Years ago, we didn't broadcast what we did, it was all very closed up and nobody knew who was a mason and who wasn't,' he explained.
'Now, we talk about Freemasonry openly and there's a feeling that if you are a Mason, you should go out and declare it, not just because of the good work we do, but also because we would like to attract some younger members.'
Entertainment at Saturday's event was provided by Norfolk folk group Ovation, with visitors also invited to sit in on a demonstration at which members talked about their roles within the Lodge, gave an insight into some of the rituals 'brothers' follow at meetings, and spoke about the significance of their highly decorated collars and aprons.