Canterbury Cathedral played host this week to HRH The Duke of Kent who visited on Saturday 18th February 2017. He attended a special Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry - the first Grand Lodge was founded in London in 1717.
The Duke, a cousin of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and perhaps most familiar to the general public in his role as President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, had two reasons for being in attendance. He is both Patron of the Canterbury Cathedral Trust, and Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. In this capacity he is the Head of Freemasonry in England and Wales.
He was welcomed by the Dean of Canterbury, The Very Rev’d Dr. Robert Willis, who led the hour-long service. During his sermon, Dean Robert thanked the Duke for his long standing support of the Cathedral. He recalled the support of the Royal Family when the cathedral was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. He also paid tribute to the longstanding and generous support of the Masonic community whose relationship with the Cathedral extends back for well over 100 years.
The service was attended by over 1500 Freemasons and family members from across Kent, Surrey and Sussex as well as by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Canterbury. The Lord Mayor, Councillor George Metcalfe, read one of the lessons.The second reading was given by Vid Calovski, a member of one of Canterbury’s twelve lodges, St Augustine’s No 972.
In addition to the Tercentenary of English Freemasonry in 2017, His Royal Highness is celebrating fifty years as Grand Master. He was elected to that office in 1967 and has served continuously since then.
After the service the Duke met many members of the congregation and attended a luncheon in the Cathedral Lodge Hotel. Amongst the people he met were the organising team for the day: Roger Odd, Roger Croucher and Ray Venness.
Canterbury Cathedral is currently undergoing the largest restoration project in its history. The interior and exterior are covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be restored to as close to its original condition as possible. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex has funded repairs to the North West Transept Tower including new Pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.
Freemasons continue to provide Bursaries to support the training of Apprentice Stonemasons in the Cathedral’s restoration department.
Geoffrey Dearing, the Head of Freemasonry in East Kent said: “The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years, bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make Society a better place, is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.”