by Jack Dyson, KentOnline, 13 August 2022

The freemasons are shrouded in myth, mystery and conspiracy. The group has been charged with a range of dodgy dealings, including attempts to take over the world. But inside one Kent masonic temple, its members bristle at such conjecture. “We’re not a secret society – we’re a society that has secrets,” says secretary Steve Wyatt. Members of the Freemasons have to be “honest, upstanding individuals” and must believe in a higher power, according to society co-presidents Steve and Paul.

A conviction doesn’t necessarily bar you from being a freemason – because somebody has done something wrong once, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people, they say. The Union Lodge has 66 members from across Kent, Kent and Essex who take part in an elaborate playlet-style ceremony every week at their meetings. The men wear aprons, masonic medals and collars denoting their positions, before sitting down for a meal called a festive board. The dinners feature toasts to the Queen and the grand master, the Duke of Kent, and charity work is the lodge’s main focus. Freemasons were originally a guild of skilled builders, formed during the Middle Ages to build churches.

They developed their own handshakes to tell what type of stonemason they were and their qualifications. Lists of its most famous brethren include the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Mozart, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Buzz Aldrin. The Catholic Church has long forbidden its members from becoming freemasons, amid concerns about its secret rituals.