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Masons have been involved with Winchester Cathedral from the very outset. The medieval operatives in charge of the original building project faced the challenge of a completely waterlogged site adjoining the River Itchen and, using the established technology of their time, they erected the stone superstructure on a raft of newly felled timber. This was fine as long as the wood remained saturated but when the Victorians introduced drainage in the nineteenth century, the raft began to rot and the building started to subside. In 1905 a London architect prescribed progressive excavation and the insertion of substantial concrete underpinning. This involved working underwater and freemason William Walker, an experienced diver, spent the next six years carrying out the project. His success was recognised nationally by King Edward VII who appointed him MVO, and locally by the pictured bronze bust inside the cathedral and another in Cathedral Close.
More recently, the pub just a few steps away has now been renamed ‘The William Walker’ (pictured). His gravestone in Beckenham cemetery is inscribed ‘The diver who with his own hands saved Winchester Cathedral’.
Brother Walker may well have been the most famous speculative mason associated with our cathedral but he was certainly not the first. The Lodge of Economy was consecrated in Winchester in 1761 and, from records dating back to 1801, the earliest confirmed masonic involvement was in 1819, when four brethren of that lodge refurbished a roof boss from the Quire. When this prominent boss
(pictured), bearing the arms
of King Henry VII, next came
down for maintenance in
the 1950s, their initials
and ranks were found
recorded on the reverse.
These brethren were
doubtless among those
present at the burial ‘with
masonic honours’ of mason
Jonathan Inggs the same
year. He was interred in
the Cathedral Green, where
his footstone can still be
found. Just two years later,
George Chard, organist and choirmaster for almost 50 years, was initiated. In 1833 he was elected Mayor of Winchester, the second mason known to have held the office. Since then, more than 60 mayoralties of the City have been held by freemasons.
The north transept contains a splendid stained glass window (pictured) commemorating Edward Bly, a barrister whose work regularly brought him to Winchester Assizes, and who joined Economy before the First World War. He served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Division and was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. By contrast, worshippers are enjoined to remember another member of Economy, Humphrey Salwey, by a stone set diagonally in the floor of the south transept on the route taken by the Choristers from the vestry to their stalls. He was the first Headmaster of The Pilgrims’ School, the school set up in 1931 in the Close to provide preparatory education for these boys and the Quiristers of Winchester College.
Down the years a substantial number of ordained clergy, entered as ‘Clerks in Holy Orders’ in their lodge registers, have ministered in Winchester parishes and throughout the Diocese and some have risen to higher office. The Reverend Edward Moor was appointed 1st Prebendary in 1933 and became Master of Economy 10 years later; while Economy mason, Leslie Lloyd Rees, incumbent of Holy Trinity Winchester, became Bishop of Shrewsbury and later returned as Assistant Bishop of Winchester. Another personality, who was a mason and member of several Winchester lodges, was Ernie Pittard. He was in charge of the team of vergers who attend to the practical operation of the building on a daily basis, and a successor to Stephen Blake who had acted similarly in an earlier generation. Even now, masonic laymen can still be regularly encountered making their contribution as cathedral guides.
Many people have ample cause to remember mason Paul Woodhouse. For some he was a much-loved master at Peter Symonds School, for others an inspirational Major commanding the Winchester Company, 4th Battalion the Hampshire Regiment at the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war he was elected to the City Council and became Mayor in 1956. Paul’s lasting legacy arose from a substantial sum he was able to bequeath to the Dean and Chapter enabling them to complete the funding for an extension to the Cathedral Refectory. In his memory the high quality dining and conference facility was named the Paul Woodhouse Room.
All this comes as no surprise, since the prompting to explore the Craft can only be satisfied in men with a (unspecified) religious belief and those who become Freemasons are enjoined to do good unto all, but more especially unto the household of the faithful. Long may this relationship continue to prosper.
David Sermon 5
Insight • Issue 5

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