Freemasons' Hall, London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, London

Freemasons' Hall in London is the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and a meeting place for the Masonic Lodges in the London area. It is in Great Queen Street between Holborn and Covent Garden and has been a Masonic meeting place since 1775. There have been three Masonic buildings on the site, with the current incarnation being opened in 1933. Parts of the building are open to the public daily, and its preserved classic art deco style, together with its regular use as a film and television location, have made it a tourist destination.

Original concept[edit]

In 1775 the premier[1] Grand Lodge purchased a house fronting the street, behind which was a garden and a second house. A competition was held for the design of a Grand Hall to link the two houses. The front house was the Freemasons' Tavern, the back house was to become offices and meeting rooms. The winning design was by Thomas Sandby.

Current building[edit]

The current building, the third on this site, was built between 1927 and 1933 in the art deco style to the designs of architects Henry Victor Ashley and F. Winton Newman as a memorial to the 3,225 Freemasons who died on active service in World War I.

It is an imposing art deco building, covering two and one quarter acres. Initially known as the Masonic Peace Memorial, the name was changed to Freemasons' Hall at the outbreak of the World War II in 1939. The financing for building the hall was raised by the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. This fund raised over £1 million.

It is a Grade II* listed building.[2]

Points of interest[edit]

Grand Temple[edit]

Central to the present building is the Grand Temple, meeting place for Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter and the annual meetings of a number of the Home Counties Provincial Grand Lodges, and occasionally for other Masonic degrees and orders and indeed non-Masonic organisations. Bronze doors, each weighing one and a quarter tonnes, open on to a Chamber 123 feet (37 m) long, 90 feet (27 m) wide and 62 feet (19 m) high capable of seating 1,700. The ceiling cove is of Mosaic work and in addition to figures and symbols from Masonic ritual includes, in the corner, figures representing the four cardinal virtuesPrudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice – and the Arms of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (youngest son of Queen Victoria) Grand Master 1901–1939, at whose suggestion the Masonic Peace memorial was built. A large pipe organ is installed, built by the leading British organ builders Henry Willis & Sons.

Other Temples[edit]

In addition to the Grand Temple, there are a further 23 masonic temples, or meeting rooms, within the building. All are highly ornate in their various art deco styles, and no two are identical. Amongst the temples which are of particular note: Temple No 1 is very large (seating up to 600) and contains a series of portraits of former Grand Masters of England and Wales; Temple No 10 (where the designers had additional height and space due to its location beneath the large clock tower) is built in a style which combines classic art deco with Egyptian design, and includes an impressive domed ceiling; Temple No 17 enjoys a more than usually ornate decorative style and far more ante-room (storage and changing) space than most temples of its size, and is used in particular by the most ancient lodges in London, including the three remaining lodges (of four originals) which pre-date 1717 and the formation of the Grand Lodge itself; Temple No 23 is the smallest (seating approximately 25 people) and contains a series of portraits of former Grand Secretaries of England and Wales. In addition to these 23 Temples, and the Grand Temple, there are several very simple and plain temples reserved for 'Lodges of Instruction' and 'Lodges of Rehearsal'. Unlike the Grand Temple (of which public tours are available daily) the other 23 temples are not normally open to the public, as they are in constant demand by private London Lodges and Chapters for their regular meetings.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry[edit]

  • Director: Mrs Diane Clements
  • Librarian: Mr Martin Cherry
  • Museum Curator: Mr Mark Dennis
  • Archivist: Mrs Susan Snell

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is a library, archive and registered museum in central London, England, covering Freemasonry. It is located in the United Grand Lodge of England. The Library and Museum is a Charitable Trust and is registered with the Charity Commission (Registered Charity number 1058497).

In 2007 the collection of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry was recognised through the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s Designation Scheme as being of outstanding quality and significance and of national and international importance.[3]

The Library and Museum is open to the general public from Monday to Friday 10am–5pm and entry is free of charge. The Museum has a collection of objects with Masonic decoration, including clocks, furniture, glassware, jewellery, porcelain, pottery, regalia and silver. Displayed items include belongings of famous Freemasons such as King Edward VII and Winston Churchill. The Library and Museum also has one of the most comprehensive collections of Friendly Societies material in the UK, including books and museum artifacts relating to all the major friendly and fraternal societies, items are on display in the Museum gallery, which can be viewed by contacting the curator or one of his staff [4]

Hourly tours of the building are given starting from the Library and Museum, including a tour of the Grand Temple. There are 5 tours a day at 11am, 12noon, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Saturday tours must be pre-booked, and there is only one extended tour at 10.30am. There is a booking fee of £1 per person for Saturday tours. To book a tour telephone 020 7395 9251.[5]

The Library is open to the public for reference use and users are required to register. The Library contains a comprehensive collection of printed books and manuscripts on every facet of Freemasonry in England, as well as material on Freemasonry elsewhere in the world, and on subjects associated with Freemasonry or with mystical and esoteric traditions. The Library catalogue is available online.[6]

In addition to its core Masonic collections, The Library and Museum of Freemasonry holds a wide selection of items relating to Friendly Societies such as the Oddfellows, Foresters and many other societies both current and past. A large collection of Friendly Societies books, especially relating to the Oddfellows and the Foresters, are also held by the Library.

The Library and Museum provides a genealogical enquiry service. However there is no complete alphabetical index of Freemasons' available.[7] They also hold regular study days and a large summer exhibition each year, as well as several smaller exhibitions during the course of the year.

Recent seasonal exhibitions have included one on the subject of Masonic Dining (July to September 2008), and another celebrating the Centenary of the Order of Women Freemasons (June to December 2008). Admission to seasonal exhibitions is free.[8]

Other facilities[edit]

In addition to the Grand Temple, the other temples, and the Library and Museum, the building contains extensive administrative offices, storage space for the property of the many hundreds of lodges meeting in the building, a masonic shop (open to the public during normal trading hours), board rooms, workshops, a tailoring and embroidery suite, archives, a members' drawing room, and an entire floor of charities administration, where the four major national masonic charities house their headquarters and administration (these being the Freemasons' Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, and the Masonic Samaritan Fund).

Recent uses[edit]

Like Sandby's Grand Hall, the Grand Temple is also used for concerts and musical events – having excellent acoustics and clear sight-lines.

The building is used both internally and externally as a stand-in for Thames House (the home of MI5) in the TV series Spooks and in the TV series Spy and has also featured extensively in the long-running series of TV films Agatha Christie's Poirot; the building makes frequent one-off appearances in episodes of other television series, such as its extensive use in Hustle, series 5, episode 2. Both its exterior and interior were used in an episode of New Tricks, and the interior has been used for the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) where Freemasons' Hall becomes the temple in which the "Jatravartid" people pray for "the coming of the Great White Handkerchief". It has also been used in many other feature films, including Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004), The Line of Beauty (TV), The Wings of the Dove (1997) and Johnny English (2003). The building has also featured as a backdrop in music videos, including extensive use (internally and externally) in the music video for the Westlife single Mandy.

Recently it was featured as a filming location in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2013 crypto-thriller The Sword of Moses by Dominic Selwood has numerous scenes set in Freemasons' Hall.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ There were several early masonic grand lodges. The term "premier" refers to the grand lodge created in London in 1717.
  2. ^ English Heritage. "Grade II* (477667)". Images of England. 
  3. ^ Museums, Libraries and Archives Council http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/raising_standards/~/media/Files/pdf/2008/Designated_Collections_Updated
  4. ^ "Search the Collections | The Library and Museum of Freemasonry". Freemasonry.london.museum. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  5. ^ Museum Tours http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/tours.php
  6. ^ Catalogue Service http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/catalogue.php
  7. ^ Museum Website http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/family-history.php
  8. ^ Current Exhibitions http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/exhibits/women-freemasonry.php
  9. ^ "Sherlock Villain Kicks Ass". IGN. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  10. ^ Farleigh, Andrew. "The Sword of Moses". The Square Magazine. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′54″N 0°07′16″W / 51.5151°N 0.1210°W / 51.5151; -0.1210