In March 1982, the 22 Masonic units which met at the Gerrards Cross Masonic Centre were given 28 days notice to quit. The shares in the company which held the lease on the premises had been sold outside of Freemasonry and the new owners had plans to convert the premises to a night club (later called “Masons”, and which didn’t last very long!).
A committee was set up to find suitable alternative premises for conversion into a Masonic Centre as the two nearest existing centres – Slough and Marlow – could not accommodate all those units which now found themselves homeless. Under the Chairmanship of W. Bro. Leslie Harborne, they looked at redundant schools, discarded factories, country houses, village halls – no stone was left unturned.
In October 1984, news was received that the Old Church School, adjoining St. Mary’s Church, was soon to become available as the arts and crafts group currently using it were leaving. Negotiations were started for the lease and planning permission obtained to convert the building into a Masonic & Community Centre. The negotiations were complicated by the fact that the premises are owned by two charitable trusts and needed clearance from the Charity Commissioners. However, work went ahead two years and nine months after the search started and was completed in September 1985. The centre opened in October 1985 and was dedicated on 11th November by R.W. Bro. Lt. Col. The Rt. Hon. Lord Burnham, D.L., Provincial Grand Master.
The Centre, with its large Temple and three dining rooms, soon attracted a number of Lodges, Royal Arch Chapters and other units, and expansion continues to this day. A self contained “apartment”, with its own entrance, provides a Lodge of Instruction room, with offices above which house the Provincial Grand Lodge of Buckinghamshire Secretariat.
The Centre, with its large Temple and three dining rooms, soon attracted a number of Lodges, Royal Arch Chapters and other orders, and expansion continues to this day. The large, high-roofed rooms provide comfortable and airy accommodation for both Masonic and non-Masonic functions, including weddings, wakes and birthday parties.
The Centre has negotiated a 99 year lease which will enable further renovation and decoration to take place. Whilst a mortgage is in place to buy the lease, a Centre Appeal Fund has been holding a series of functions and events to speed up the improvements. The Lodge Room has been completely refurbished and new seats installed. A Chapter Room has been set up. The kitchen has moved to a much larger room at the other end of the building. A new bar, with the Provincial Office above it, has been built, largely thanks to a bequest from Don Varney, a Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire. New robing facilities have been put in place, again thanks to a bequest, this time from Alan Bennett. The most recent project, completed in Autumn 2013, was to remove the wall between the two dining rooms and fit a sound-proof screen. This allows larger functions such as Ladies’ Festivals to take place as well as catering for larger units to meet there.