Mysterious organisations in Wendover

Wendover News is aware of three mysterious organisations that go round the Wendover area doing good things. One is best known for its funny handshakes and secret ceremonies; another has given lots of money to worthy causes – including Wendover News – and the last is probably best known for dressing up as Santa and racing plastic ducks along the Heron stream. What they all have in common, is that they provide a huge amount of support to charities and seem to have fun doing it!

A generation ago, Freemasonry had a reputation for secrecy and strange rituals. The foundation for most of the stories was an accumulation of misinformation and misunderstanding. Today, things have changed. The organisation is very keen to publicise its activity – particularly its work with charities. It claims to be the second largest charity funding organisation after the National Lottery. For example, Freemasons paid for the London Air Ambulance G-LNDN and the two new super-ladders for the London Fire Brigade. Closer to home, Bucks Freemasons support hundreds of local charities.

Wendover resident Richard Peck is a Freemason with Hampden Lodge 6483 that meets in Aylesbury. The name association of the Lodge with Wendover is obvious, but many of the members also live in Wendover and the lodge supports many of our local charities, including the Florence Nightingale Hospice Trust and the PACE Centre. Rather than being secretive, Richard was very keen to explain that modern Freemasonry is open and welcoming. “We do everything we can to demystify Freemasonry. It’s about integrity, friendship, respect and service to our community – we exist to ‘make good men better’ through charity work, friendship and shared experiences. Our ceremonies are morality plays that teach us how to live a good life serving others, and many of us give our time to charities outside Freemasonry as part of our way of life”.

Freemasonry is one of the oldest social and charitable organisations, having existed for many hundreds of years for men, and well over a hundred years for women. It is not a religion, it welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds, as long as they have a belief in a supreme being and have not been convicted of any crime. Freemasonry has been open to all faiths for longer than many other organisations and perhaps to keep harmony, there are several subjects Masons just don’t talk about at dinner or in meetings – business, religion and politics.

The origins of modern Freemasonry lie with the stonemasons who travelled to build the great cathedrals of Europe. Like any job site where lives depend on the skills of craftsmen, you wouldn’t want an unqualified mason building grand arches that bear hundreds of tons of stone. The masons, most of whom could not read or write, developed a set of passwords to recognise a skilled mason by, and to prove that they were qualified builders. At the end of the working day, they met in lean-to shelters or ‘lodges’ at the side of the cathedral; these gave their name to the Lodge rooms that now exist in many towns and villages.

The idea that every person is equal is a fundamental principle of Freemasonry and many of the ceremonies link back to the customs, aprons and tools used by the early craftsmen. As Freemasonry evolved from an ‘operative’ organisation to one where anyone could join, the requirement to be a skilled mason changed to being ‘a good man of mature age (18) and true’. The ‘secret’ passwords were retained as a way to prove membership as the movement grew massively through the Victorian era and spread across the globe. There are now more 6 million masons around the world who recognise each other as brothers under the United Grand Lodge of England. An interesting fact is that women Freemasons also call each other ‘brother’, and have the same ceremonies, aprons and tools.

To find out more about Hampden Lodge and local Freemasonry visit or email More information: United Grand Lodge of England: Freemasonry for Women: and

The Lionel Abel-Smith Trust – often referred to as ‘LAST’ – is a charitable trust providing financial grants in Wendover parish and Moor Park. For those who haven’t studied a road map of Wendover recently, Moor Park is a row of about 50 houses that runs parallel to the canal off Halton Lane but before Perch Bridge in the northern end of Wendover.

The Trust was created in December 1977 by the Lord of the Manor of Wendover, Lionel Abel-Smith, to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. His family had been the principal landowners in Wendover from the 1790s and, with great generosity, Mr Abel-Smith gave cottages and a substantial cash endowment to found the Trust. He said then that he wished to create something for the benefit of Wendover and its inhabitants. As a result, since 1977 the Trust has been able to award over £2 million in grants to individuals and organisations in our community.

LAST invites applications for grants early in the year for their annual review but will accept urgent requests at other times. The applications are judged against strict criteria by a committee of trustees and awarded to individuals, clubs and organisations. Typical individual grants include medical necessities, educational needs and the pursuit of talent. Notable major institutional grants in recent years include refurbishment of the Memorial Hall, the construction of a retractable roof and changing rooms at the Community Swimming Pool and the refurbishments of St Mary’s Church and St Anne’s Hall.

Lastly, some colourful characters who are far from secretive: Rotary.

Rotary is no longer a male only organisation and famously the Rotary Club of Wendover and District has more women than men as members. It is a humanitarian organisation that supports all sorts of groups and organisations as well as raising money for charitable projects at local, national and international level. The Rotary foundation, its award giving body, has been awarded 4 star rating (the highest level) by the international Charity Navigator. At local level, one current project is brightening up a dreary meeting area near the Gutmann Stadium in Stoke Mandeville Hospital to make it more pleasant for wheelchair users and their families but particularly for the competitors when they meet for UK wide competitions.

Since Covid, Rotary in Wendover has concentrated on local Charities especially PACE and our local Foodbank, the Trussell Trust. Its biggest international project to date was building and equipping a library for a school in South Africa with guidance from the Charity BookAid. Rotary in Wendover has also made its mark nationally with Cheryl Law, a past president, who is now on the National Committee with fund raising responsibilities for the Rotary Foundation.