The original scheme designed in 2001 has had many voluntary revisions, has been subject to imposed changes and even to enforced prolonged delays. However we remained determined to see the project through to completion.
The raising of the funds necessary to finance the project was always a massive problem with the major part of the money being raised locally by Staffordshire masons. In 2016 the financial position changed dramatically with U.G.L.E. underwriting a major part of the projects cost to enable it to be completed by 2017 to coincide with the Tercentenary celebration of Grand Lodge.
Like so many building projects what you see is not always the full cost of construction. Unfortunately the National Memorial Arboretum site sits on a disused sand and gravel quarry, where the material extraction has been exhausted and the quarry refilled with loose uncompacted non load bearing material. A major cost was therefore the formation of suitable load bearing structural piles through the loose fill material down to a more stable base. Preliminary soil core samples revealed a minimum quarry depth of just over 6 metres. On top of the piles were formed steel reinforced concrete ground beams.
With a solid foundation to work upon the stone masons could then begin the construction of the super structure.
Detailed drawings were produced for every single piece of stone used. A giant three dimensional jig saw. The circular columns are a striking feature but turning stone on a massive lathe is not one of the easiest techniques, perhaps only being surpassed by the difficulty in turning the two circular globes which sit on the column apexes.
Throughout, the scheme continued the theme of using natural materials in its construction. The various textures and colours of the natural stone have been selected to emphasise the different aspects of construction and the symbolism and historical base of Freemasonry. The stonework being of smooth buff sandstone with the columns constructed in Cotswold Gold Limestone to resemble molten brass. Hopefully this symbolism highlights both the ability and craftsmanship of the operative masons but also the historical significance of the ceremonies upon which freemasonry is based.
Of course the paving also has great significance; the chequered paving being the most obvious. The paving in front and behind the memorial is blue and is an approach to the inner part of our garden. This paving is laid in rows of three, five and seven divided by inserted brass strips.
Within the centre of the garden is a permeable area Cotswold aggregate. This removes the necessity for any mowing equipment to enter the inner garden area and provide a permeable surface for water drainage.
There are several other details not described here and their significance will we are sure be relevant to freemasons and add those final pieces to the project which will make our Masonic Memorial Garden a memorial for which all freemasons look forward to visiting and for which they can be justly proud.
The Masonic Memorial Garden was completed for our remembrance service held on site on the 11th November 2016.
An official opening and luncheon took place on the 18th April 2017 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations of Grand Lodge.