The loss of regularity in our Masonic doings 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 principles.
Just before the coronavirus lockdown, on the 17th March 2020, two significant Provincial happenings marked that day for those keen on our 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. at the Grange, Derby.
The significance of the Grand Master’s instruction is that the internal developments of the Grange, being already time-tabled and well under way was also suspended. The Plaques being part of the ongoing development are in place but for now stand-alone objects. The two Plaques are to commemorate two significant aspects of the Grange’s history. This remarkable building during its 200 year presence has been a Family Home, Wartime Planning Facility, Residential Training School and now a Freemasons Hall.
The Blue Plaque
This Plaque sited on the South Front acknowledges and honours the Architect; Lewis N. Cottingham. As a designer he possessed extraordinary flair and as a traditionalist remarkable skill and expertise. He was also an accomplished and sensitive restorer & conservator. His design for the Grange is unique as it is his only known ‘Classical Villa’ making it a particularly special building. It is now much altered owing to its various functions and changing times and tastes. The Grange fire of 1990 destroyed a considerable part of the internal fabric of the East wing. Nonetheless, the essence of its quality still exists although some is hidden behind external walls. The South front which overlooks the grounds fortunately remains largely intact. The plaque is to honour this celebrated Architect for this remarkable and notable Georgian building. Cottingham is also recognised with a plaque on the Savings Bank in Bury St Edmunds.
Provincial Grand Lodge & Rolls Royce Plaque
This 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 within this building. RR purchased the Grange in 1939 for use as a development facility for the Merlin Engine. There was a desperate need during the period 1939-49 to develop the RR Merlin as it was the UK’s best option against the power and might of the Luftwaffe despite its known lack of power compared to the German units. The pioneering work pursued in Derby under the guidance of Stanley Hooker with the re-design of the super charger significantly changed the engine. The modified Merlin coupled with R.J. Mitchell’s Spitfire proved to be more than a match for the enemy as it conquered the skies during the Battle of Britain. Being continually updated and improved this Derby designed engine changed the balance of the war as Merlin powered both aircraft and tanks thus making an impact in every theatre of war in Europe and beyond.
*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.
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 PPGPursuivent ( Provincial Heritage Officer )
Rolls Royce has been very helpful in assisting and checking the validity of our plaque and also kindly facilitating our use of the Rolls-Royce logo. This is a rare privilege and in honour of this we have used the Rolls Royce Heritage colour for the plaque.
W.Bro Colin Clayton, Provincial Librarian