The loss of regularity in our Masonic activities at this time is a great sadness, thankfully assuaged by the charity endeavours of our many enterprising Brethren who exemplify, in our name, our core message.
Just before the coronavirus lockdown, on the 17th March 2020 two significant Provincial happenings marked that day for those keen on Masonic history. (i) The instruction from the Grand Master suspending all Lodge and Chapter meetings for 4 months. (ii) The installation of two commemorative plaques on our Provincial H.Q.head quarters the Grange, Derby.
The significance of the Grand Master’s instruction is that the internal development of the Grange, already time-tabled and well under way was also suspended. Secondly, the Plaques being part of that development are in place but for now, stand-alone objects.
The two Plaques are to commemorate two important aspects of the Grange’s history. This remarkable building during its 200 year presence has been: a Family Home, a Wartime Planning Facility, a Residential Training School and now a Freemasons’ Hall lodge
This Plaque sited on the South Front acknowledges the Architect; Lewis N. Cottingham. He had flair and ability as an innovative designer and skill and expertise as a traditionalist. He was an accomplished and sensitive restorer & conservator. However, his design for the Grange is his only known ‘Classical Villa’ which makes it particularly special. It is now much altered and its various functions and changing tastes have taken their toll.
The 1990 fire destroyed a considerable part of the internal fabric of the east wing. Nonetheless, the essence of its quality still exists, some hidden behind external walls with the South front overlooking the grounds remaining largely intact. The plaque is to honour this celebrated Architect for this remarkable and notable Georgian building. Interestingly, Cottingham is also recognised with a plaque on the Savings Bank in Bury St Edmunds.
Provincial Grand Lodge & Rolls Royce Plaque
The Plaque is sited within the Grange entrance area leading toward the corridor. It acknowledges the valuable contribution to the war effort made by Rolls-Royce in this building. The Company purchased the Grange in 1939 for use as a development facility for the Merlin Engine as there was a desperate need during the period 1939-49 to develop the Merlin being the UK’s best and only hope. However, the engine was lacking in power compared to the German units. The pioneering work carried out in Derby under the guidance of Stanley Hooker and the re-design of the super charger significantly changed the odds. The Spitfire with the improved Merlin engine not only defended Britain but was used in many theatres of war. This engine became so adaptable it powered the Hurricane and Mustang fighters as well as the Lancaster Bomber.
It was at this time, I suspect, the house lost part of its original Georgian identity. Development work on the Merlin engine was crucial and top secret so unsurprisingly locations were erased. During the 19th century the house was known as Littleover Grange. The original title has again been readopted for the plaques.
Rolls-Royce has been very helpful to us in preparing and checking the validity of our Plaque as well as facilitating the use of the Rolls-Royce logo. It is a rare privilege and it is fitting in honour of this we have used the RR Heritage colour for the plaque.
The Mostyn Suite is being reconfigured and renamed as the Merlin Suite which will contain aeronautical artefacts and memorabilia associated with Rolls-Royce of the war period, including a Merlin Engine from a Lancaster Bomber. The engine was taken from a Lancaster shot down over Germany and was for some years displayed in a German museum.
The Merlin Engine is very kindly donated by
W Bro Malcolm Prentice PProv G Pursuivant
W Bro Colin Clayton