“We can conjecture that some of the stonemasons who came to Warwick in the 18th century, to work on the rebuilding of the church, and many other parts of the town, after the Great Fire of 1694, stayed behind. One who certainly did was Francis Smith. Not only did he become Mayor of Warwick but, during his time in office, he is recorded as being one of the founder members of the Freemasons Lodge that was formed at The Woolpack Hotel in April 1728. Thus we can see a link between the Operative stonemasons who worked in Warwick and the fraternal society that is known as Freemasonry.
The Lodge formed at The Woolpack had as Master the Vicar of St. Mary's, the Rev. W. Greenwood, and one of the members was Churchwarden Humphrey Hands. The Provincial Grand Master was James Prescott, a lawyer in Warwick, who is recorded in the church burial register as having been buried at St. Mary's on March 6th 1732.
Another link is the wonderful oak pulpit in St. Mary's which was presented by the Freemasons of Warwickshire. The timber came from Stoneleigh Park, the seat of the then Provincial Grand Master Lord Leigh. It was unveiled in 1897 by the Earl of Warwick, who was in fact Provincial Grand Master of Essex!
Now to the recent past.
St Mary's continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Warwickshire Masons and they have contributed to the cost of the restoration of the magnificent medieval Beauchamp Chapel and then in 2015 funded the carving of the Madonna and Child that sits proudly towards the apex of the outside of the east wall of the chapel, the original having virtually disintegrated over the passage of time.
The fraternity is strong and The United Grand Lodge of England, the 'governing body', is headed by the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent. Throughout the centuries Monarchs, Princes, Archbishops and Bishops, Statesmen and other men of honour and integrity have been active members joining together in the love and harmony of Lodge life. A fundamental necessity for a man who wishes to join is to acknowledge a belief in a Supreme Being, in our case God, men of all religions who meet that criterion being welcome.
As presented in the St. Mary's Church Magazine and with thanks to VW Bro. Alan J. Wellan, PGSwdB., Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master. Acknowledgements to W. Bro. Robert G. Russell, PJGD, author of the History of Freemasonry in Warwickshire.