Behind the scenes at the Lincoln Masonic Centre

Residing in a former inn on Nettleham Road is a society of secrets. For 225 years, Freemasons have gathered for closely guarded meetings in the city – and, for the first time, this Lincoln Masonic Centre will be opening its doors to the public.

The building, formerly the Nightingale Inn, has been the permanent meeting place of Lincoln’s masonic lodges since 2013, when it was purchased and renovated by the Masons.

Before this, for 50 years, meetings were conducted in the Assembly Rooms on Bailgate. The first lodge was formed in the Saracen’s Head Hotel in 1730.

The Lincolnite was invited to the lodge for an exclusive tour of the Nettleham Road HQ.

We met with David Wheeler, who is due to be installed as the Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire this month. David, who worked in Lincolnshire Police for many years, followed a line of family Freemasons.

He said he didn’t always aspire to join, but that it was the moral teachings and community aspect of the society that eventually sparked his interest.

David took us through the ground floor community space, which the Masons hire out for occasions.

Then, atop a winding staircase was the first hint of Masonic artefacts and symbology. A giant framed cloth mapping a biography of Freemason imagery covers the wall. And, at the very top, is the all-seeing eye; reminding humanity that thoughts and actions are observed by a ‘supreme being’.

Next was the Robing Room and then the all important Lodge Room, where the group’s meetings, or ceremonies, are conducted on a monthly basis.

Freemasons describe the movement as a fraternal, non-political, non-religious society which models itself on metaphors of medieval stonemasonry, where craftsmen would use secret words and symbols to recognise each others’ legitimacy.

It’s also a membership group steeped in rumour and conspiracy, fuelled by its exclusive traditions. One simple search engine browse can result in a kaleidoscope of whispers from corruption in the justice and political system to nepotism and other sinister impressions.

Many however regard the Masons as a force for good, and groups are active and open about their work in the local community as well as their fundraising accomplishments.

There are 21 lodges across Lincolnshire, home to 3,500 Masons. Among the society’s activities is active fundraising. In 2017, the county’s lodges awarded grants totalling £100,000 to a range of local charities.

How should we view the Masons today? David Wheeler added that modern Masons have gone to considerable effort to dispel corrupt notions and are a lot more open today.

He welcomed anyone who has questions about the organisation to ask a Freemason about what they do.

The Lincoln Masonic Open Day takes place on Saturday, June 9 between 10am and 3pm.

Masons will run an open house-style event complete with exhibits of the various Masonic Orders and also the charities they support.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the Lodge Room where they will learn about artefacts on show.