The Visitor – Arena’s resident non-resident – travelling London’s Lodges

Turns out there are Masonic Centres all over our great City and I’m visiting all of them: dedicated Masonic Centres, old public houses where our predecessors met and creaky places of yore with a bit of masonic history. I am Bro Edward Compton and I am ‘The Visitor’.  Part travelogue, part Through the Keyhole – I’ll be showing you Freemasonry across all of London.

For this edition, I travelled to Southgate Masonic Centre to meet members of the Maryland Lodge No 5984. 

Set in the London suburb of Southgate, close to the underground station, Southgate Masonic Centre is home to nearly 90 masonic units, including Craft Lodges and Royal Arch Chapters, as well as Mark and Royal Ark Mariners Lodges, many appendant Orders and Rose Croix.  Dedicated in 1968, the Centre has provided a home to masonic orders from London, Middlesex and Hertfordshire for over 50 years.  

The Centre has three temples, two large ones and a smaller one dedicated to Royal Arch.   Lodge of Instruction rooms are also available and each temple has its own separate dining hall. As well as visiting for this meeting, my Chapter also meets here.  It’s a very hospitable and well-run Centre with great food and attentive staff.  There is a large bar area for pre-prandial drinks and a menu that caters for most tastes – and the treasurer’s budget.  The Centre also has its own Museum Collection, which can be viewed in the many showcases around the building.  Walking through the hallways, there is an impressive array of medals and masonic memorabilia displayed in glass cabinets, you could spend many an hour looking through this wonderful collection. Whether you are at a meeting or just passing, it’s worth a visit just to view it. 

Today I was at the Southgate Centre to visit the Maryland Lodge No 5984.  Consecrated in 1944, Maryland celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2019 and today’s meeting was to Install their new Worshipful Master.  Coincidentally, as soon as I entered the Centre, I was greeted by the soon-to-be WM, Bro Valentin Zdravkov Tatanov, who asked me to join him for a drink before we went into the temple.  He said, “You are my guest – I am going to pay for your dining” – the exact same words I said to my fiancé Amy on our first date.  However, having already paid the dining fee, he’s insisted on treating me next time – what a lovely chap.  Entering the temple, the organist was playing the Godfather theme tune as I walked in, which got me a bit worried as not many people survived in that film!  Was it a hint that without a great review of the meeting, I might find myself “sleeping with the fishes”…

The meeting itself was excellent, with nice touches of humour throughout.  The Deacons’ floor work in the temple was precise and regimented and you could tell that they worked great as a team.  When the Director of Ceremonies grabbed the Inner Guard to go up to the Worshipful Master, the guest organist played a rendition of Tony Orlando’s ‘Knock Three Times’ which made me chuckle (I’m going to request that in my Lodge).  The Secretary and newly appointed Treasurer (W Bros Bob and Michael Kelsey) were a splendid partnership, probably due to the fact that they were father and son – it was like watching a great comedy act!  It was a shame to have to retire from the temple for a brief moment, as I have yet to go into the Chair (though as Junior Warden in my mother Lodge, I’m getting close); so, alas, I missed the inner workings – but if the work before and after was anything to go by, I am sure it would not have disappointed.  Along with about half a dozen others, we spent this part of the ceremony in the bar but due to having to work the next day I had to decline the alcoholic beverage (I drive a big red London bus and whilst the bus can get tanked up, I can’t).  At the bar I noticed that all of the members were wearing white gloves embroidered with ‘Maryland 75 Years’; they have their own tie with the Maryland Lodge emblem displayed on it, too.  The gloves and tie are given to the members when they join the Lodge, and they are very proud to wear them to their meetings – it’s a nice touch and another example of the close bond which exists here. 

It was a wonderful meeting and it was a pleasure to listen to W Bro Valentin’s work, which was word perfect – he’ll make a fantastic Worshipful Master – and I’m not just saying that because he’s buying me dinner.  The DC, W Bro Iain Usher, ran a very tight ship for a seamless performance, too. 

At the Festive Board, Maryland makes their visitors very welcome.  I was sat on the main table with, to the left of me, the newly appointed VO, W Bro Glenn Brown; and to the right a 98-year-old Brother, W Bro Morris ‘Mo’ Freeman PGStB, who was fascinating to listen to and wonderful company.  Southgate do their own catering in-house and I was blown away by the quantity and quality of the food for the money paid (just £37).  My lucky streak with Lodge raffles continued and I managed to leave the Festive Board with my very own Maryland 75th Year anniversary gloves, which I guess makes me an honorary member.  It was the gloves or a bottle of wine – I took the gloves as it was a great memento of such a wonderful Lodge and meeting, and because the bottle of wine wouldn’t fit in my case!

Maryland Lodge is a particularly warm and friendly group who work very well together and I was made to feel very welcome. I am looking forward to visiting again and taking up the WM’s meal deal.  If you have a Lodge or Chapter that deserves to feature in Arena, then if you can find me, maybe you can invite “The Visitor” (Wasn’t that the A-Team? Ed).