W Bro Simon Bennett LGR interviews
W Bro Paul Brown is a Londoner, born in Coulsdon, South London and was brought up in Purley, an area in the Borough of Croydon.
Well-travelled blood flows in his veins as his father was born and raised in Hong Kong, his Grandparents having emigrated to Hong Kong in the early 1930s and where his paternal grandfather was Initiated into Zetland Lodge No 525 in 1934. On Bro Paul’s mother’s side, his maternal grandfather had emigrated with his family after the war to the Sudan and, in 1957, he was Initiated into the Sir Reginal Wingate Lodge No 2954 which met in Khartoum.
One of Bro Paul’s links to this past is his maternal grandfather’s Grand Lodge Certificate from Sudan. When presenting Grand Lodge Certificates, Bro Paul uses it as an illustration of the continuity of Masonry. Little has changed from this ancient example and today’s version.
Returning to England for school after the War, Bro Paul’s father, W Bro Tony Brown LGR, worked in London where he met Bro Paul’s mother, a child of the Blitz, who was working for L’Oréal The family moved away from London in the late ‘70s to follow his father’s promotion. He went on to work at the company’s Manchester head office, prompting the placing of Bro Paul at Rossall, an independent school set on an historic campus on the Lancashire coastline. By his own admission, Bro Paul is not sure this was money well spent! On one occasion, his father was called into the House Master’s study following a complaint from the tuck shop as the takings were down. The reason was, being close to the family home, after his regular visits home Bro Paul then returned with lots of food which he sold on to those who could not ‘escape’ school.
On his retirement from Hong Kong, Bro Paul’s grandfather Arthur returned to the UK and was a driving force behind establishing The Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No 7665. He was Primus Master and initiated his own son Tony, Bro Paul’s father in 1964. Bro Tony is today the Lodge’s senior Past Master and longest serving member.
Bro Paul initially wanted to join the Army and was offered sponsorship from the Royal Tank Regiment and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. However, having passed his A levels, he chose to attend Huddersfield Polytechnic to take Business Studies. Having joined his father’s steel stockholding business after graduation, he found it was not for him and so returned to education, attending Manchester Polytechnic to pursue a Post Graduate in hotel management. Also attending the course was his future wife, Paula.
Bro Paul worked in the hospitality industry in a number of roles including as manager at Langham’s in London where he fell in love with wine! Following his passion, he went on to work at a number of wine companies, working his way up to be Group Wine Director for one of the most prestigious companies in the UK.
With a solid lineage in Freemasonry, it was a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ he would become a Freemason, and he ended up following his grandfather and father into The Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No 7665. He was Initiated by his father in May 1999, some two months after the birth of his son Michael. Masonry is a family affair!
Bro Paul’s Initiation, as for many Brethren, was met with excitement and nervousness. It all passed in a bit of a blur. He progressed but with the Lodge meeting four times a year, and with him now living in the Cotswolds, that was the extent of his Masonry. However, he had been ‘marked’ to become Worshipful Master for the Lodge’s centenary year of 2009 / 2010. Appointed to the Lodge committee, he was tasked to run the Lodge festive board raffle for several years to build up funds for the centenary. Achieving this with due dignity and a smile on his face, as the centenary approached, he spotted Brethren at the bar not only ready to pay for a drink but already clutching a £5 note for their raffle tickets – he had them well trained!
Being Worshipful Master for his Mother Lodge’s anniversary was at the time the extent of Bro Paul’s Masonic ambition. This changed when, as Worshipful Master, he had the opportunity to lead a delegation from the Lodge to visit and attend a meeting of their ‘Mother Lodge’ - Zetland Lodge No 525, in Hong Kong. This meeting was almost the same but with subtle differences and he became aware that Masonry was not a ‘one size fits all’.
After his year as Worshipful Master, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Bro Paul was appointed Secretary. During his time as Secretary, the Lodge was appointed to host the official 2016 London presentation of the Prestonian lecture - the only official Craft lecture sanctioned by the United Grand Lodge of England. At an Inspectorate Festival, organised by Bro Paul and hosted by the Lodge, the Lodge launched an Inspectorate Travelling Cup, accompanied by a Chinese Lion dancing in Lodge, to wish it luck on its journey through the Inspectorate.
Having the bug, Bro Paul began to increase his Craft memberships by becoming a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Paynter-Stainers and joining the Paynter-Stainers Lodge No 4256. This led to joining the City of London Lodge of Installed Masters No 8220. Through friends, he met along the way he was introduced to and joined, in 2013, Shakespear Lodge No 99, a ‘Red Apron’ Lodge.
In 2014, Bro Paul was appointed to the Metropolitan Active Office of Metropolitan Grand Standard Bearer, which he recalls as being an amazing year. He was able to attend a large number of duties and at the end of his year, wanting to continue to serve, he approached W Bro Ray Ride to ask if he would consider him becoming a Visiting Officer. Following training, Bro Paul joined Bro Ray’s Inspectorate as a VO in 2015 and then became an SVO in 2019.
Following a fortuitous meeting during his Active Office year, Bro Paul started a Wine Merchants business with a fellow Mason in Tetbury. Whilst on an escorting duty, at the Festive Board he was placed next to W Bro Mike Bracken who asked where Bro Paul lived. ‘You wouldn’t know it’ he replied, ‘Try me’ challenged Bro Mike. When he said that he lived in Rodmarton, near Cirencester, Bro Mike replied that he lived in the very next village!
Together Bros Paul and Mike started their business in February of last year, taking on the business of a wine trading company that had failed, saving the staff and stock and continuing to serve its customers. Their focus is on customer service, an attractive range of wines at decent prices – plus their people, and together they aim to be the leading quality wine merchant in the Cotswolds.
In December 2016 Bro Ray asked if during his time as a VO, Bro Paul could be followed by a film crew for Inside Freemasonry. The theme was providing assistance and support to a struggling Lodge. The piece did not make the cut, but the win was the Lodge enjoying the experience and going from strength to strength.
In 2017, Bro Paul joined Hornsey Lodge No 890 which had been taken over that year as the Lodge for Metropolitan Craft Escorting Officers. He was appointed Secretary in 2019 saying the Lodge is a great place to catch up with friends from across Metropolitan.
In late 2020, Bro Paul was telephoned and asked if he could attend a Zoom call with the Metropolitan Grand Master. During that call he was asked if he would take on the appointment of Metropolitan Grand Inspector. Although not knowing what the call was for, he was not entirely unprepared and had checked with his wife Paula, that she was on board should he commit to anything. Thankfully, she was. It was only later he learnt the Inspectorate was to be the one in which he had served as both VO and SVO.
Of Bro Pauls’ plans for his five years as a Metropolitan Grand Inspector, the key is to focus on successfully coming out of COVID, ensuring his Lodges are in good health and ‘back on the bicycle’ as soon as possible.
He is also keen to recognise and reward Almoners; charging the Inspectorate team to identify Almoners for recommendation to receive the Metropolitan Grand Lodge Almoner’s newly launched Certificate of Merit which rewards Almoners who have provided exceptional service to their Lodge. His team is also working with their Lodges to ensure Master Masons of less than three years standing are retained, and use is made of the Inspectorate tool kit – the support and information that Metropolitan arms the Inspectors and their teams with, to enthuse and motivate Lodges and to plan for their future.
Other initiatives are to bring Lodges together to provide mutual support - promote inter unit visiting, degrees by request, and to encourage the Worshipful Masters to get to know each other. He is also planning on bringing the initiates within the Inspectorate together at an event as soon as the COVID restrictions allow.
Bro Paul is proud that Paula, his wife of 31 years, and their children Catherine and Michael, have always been supportive of his Masonry. Without this support he would not have been able to participate and enjoy so much that Masonry has to offer; he is extremely thankful for their love and support. His daughter Catherine is a product designer for a London fashion company whilst Michael, coming to the end of his time studying economics at Swansea University, wants to access the financial sector. Bro Paul enjoys repeating the story of his return home after first being Installed in the Chair, and telling his family that he was now called Worshipful Master. Apparently, there was a pause and then lots of laughter, as his wife said there was zero chance of him being called that at home!
Michael is now 22 and has asked to be initiated. With his father, they have agreed to postpone this until next year, after he has sat his finals. There is no rush, as Bro Paul says he believes Masonry to be a companion on your journey through life.
Bro Paul’s first hobby was rugby. However, he admits he struggled as a player at school – he was never quick enough to get out of trouble! Nowadays he is a keen supporter of Gloucester and England. Another keen interest is antiques. If he were not in the wine trade, he would be in the antiques business. Other hobbies include watching polo and country pursuits - but of course, his biggest passion in life is Freemasonry.
Exalted in 2002, he is a member of the Royal Arch. Appointed Most Excellent Zerubbabel of Sanitarian Chapter No 3458 in 2015. In 2019, he was appointed to Metropolitan Royal Arch Active Office as a MetGStwd.
However, the COVID pandemic has meant that he and the 2019/2020 cohort of Craft and Royal Arch Active Officers have been unable to perform any duties.
His other RA units are St. George's No 5, City Guilds No 5256, Metropolitan Grand Stewards' No 9812 and London First Principals No 2712. He is also a member of the Mark Master Masons, Royal Ark Mariners and the Rose Croix orders.
Bro Paul gave me his ‘Five things you didn’t know about…’, and then said that although he is a qualified UEFA Level 2 Football Coach, he is no good at playing football and doesn’t particularly like it! His coaching started because at age seven, Michael wanted to take part in mini soccer.
So, Bro Paul raised his hand saying he would help by taking a coaching course to learn some games and techniques to manage 30 children. This then grew, culminating in him managing Cirencester ladies’ side, primarily to achieve his Level 3 qualification. His son gave up football in 2010 aged 11, so did a relieved Bro Paul!
Arena wishes W Bro Paul success during his time as one of our new Metropolitan Grand Inspectors.
Five things you didn’t know about…
- 1. Is a qualified UEFA Level 2 Football Coach
2. During prep school he recorded an album at Abbey Road Studios
3. Is a Gloucester and England Rugby fan
4. Collects early Masonic ritual books
5. Is an antiques enthusiast
Paul Brown’s CV
1999 – Initiated into Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No 7665
2008 – Installed as Worshipful Master of Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No 7665
2010 – Joined Paynters Stainers Lodge No 4256
2011 – Joined City of London Lodge of Installed Masters Lodge No 8220
2013 – Joined Shakespear Lodge No 99
2017 – Joined Hornsey Lodge No 890
2002 – Exalted into Sanitarian Chapter No 3458
2011 – Joined St George's Chapter No 5
2012 – Joined City Guilds Chapter No 4256
2015 – MEZ of St George's Chapter No 5
2018 – MEZ of St George's Chapter No 5
2019 – Joined Metropolitan Grand Stewards' Chapter No 9812
2019 – Joined London First Principals Chapter No 2712
Ranks, Awards and Posts
2014 – LGR
2014 – MetGStB
2018 – SLGR
2021 – MetGInsp
2021 – PJGD
2021 – PGStB
2021 – MetGInsp
2021 – SLGCR
2019 – LGCR
2019 – MetGStwd
Memberships (Current Subscribing)
Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge No 7665
Paynters Stainers Lodge No 4256
City of London Lodge of Installed Masters Lodge No 8220
Shakespear Lodge No 99
Hornsey Lodge No 890
Sanitarian Chapter No 3458
St George's Chapter No 5
City Guilds Chapter No 4256
Metropolitan Grand Stewards' Chapter No 9812
London First Principals Chapter No 2712
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 45 July 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 45.