What a Freemason openness drive revealed about Hackney planning councillors: a mason-free zone

Masons©DA0418: Freemasons HQ Covent Garden 040418 © david.altheer@gmali,com
Like it or love it: the HQ is an art deco classic. Worth popping inside

THE FREEMASONS have an image problem. Their clubs — lodges, they call them — are considered secret societies. The masons’ main site says, however, that “most people know Freemasons for their charity work”.

Despite that, the 300-year-old organisation has thought it necessary to launch a transparency drive, which motivated Loving Dalston to look at Hackney council’s planning sub-committee. Planning committees are often the target of accusations of local-authority corruption in England, if not around the world — claims that they accept paid holidays and other gifts from property investors.

Masons©DA0418: Russian gift @ Freemasons HQ Covent Garden 050418 © david.altheer@gmali,com
What would the Russian lodge (branch) give but portraits within a Russian doll?

Freemason HQ declined to reveal how many members it had on the Hackney  sub-com and neither would the council. The register of committee members’ interests does not require such a membership to be listed.

So Loving Dalston, using all the tact it could muster, asked subcom members. All but one, who did not reply, said they were not Freemasons and never had been. Some made their denial emphatically. The non-replier may simply have considered the question an impertinence, as was clearly the view of one respondent.

The masons emphasise that membership of such a committee is  compatible with membership of a lodge. Undue influence is against their beliefs.

One of the country’s oldest lodges, now extinct, was at Stoke Newington, and lodge No.2511 still uses the name St John at Hackney, although it meets at a Bloomsbury hotel. 

The movement started in England, with high ideals of service and justice, and spread across the world, even to Russia. A Guardian investigation this year found two lodges at the Palace of Westminster.

David Altheer 060418

* Backstory: Darkness over Hackney

Masons©DA0418: Freemasons HQ Covent Garden 050418 © david.altheer@gmali,com
Art deco style pervades the building at 60 Great Queen Street WC2B 5AZ

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