England has many Masonic Halls, and the ones I’ve chosen to present here are examples of Halls that were opened as a result of the growth of Freemasonry and a need of a purpose built building. These buildings also celebrated architecture; Weymouth Masonic Hall has a Neo-Classical façade that celebrates the fashionable architecture of the Regency period, and Warrington and Manchester have an Art-Deco design which conveys the fashionable architectural styles of the period they were built. All five of the Halls mentioned here represent our Masonic heritage, and are all worth a visit.
Weymouth Masonic Hall
Weymouth Masonic Hall was built in 1815, and has a Regency feel to its overall design; with a Neo-Classical façade, two large fluted pillars at the entrance supporting a frieze and triangular pediment, and to add to the overall feel, the Hall is painted in a Regency soft pink. Indeed, when the foundation stone was laid in the same week as the Battle of Waterloo, the celebrations became so disorderly and rowdy that many of the Freemasons involved became scandalised, and some almost gave up Freemasonry completely. The debris after the party was so much that the Tyler was paid a Guinee to clear up the mess. The Hall houses some fine Masonic treasures, pottery, punchbowls and a large urinal pot that was passed underneath the table during the festive board. As a purpose built Masonic Hall, it is one of the oldest in England and had its bi-centenary last year. The Hall is definitely worth a visit.
Warrington Masonic Hall
Arthur Warburton was the architect of the Warrington Masonic Hall, its foundation stone being laid by the Provincial Grand Master in 1932. It was designed in an Art-Deco style, and dominates the Cultural Quarter of Warrington. It is a large Hall, with two main Temple Rooms, practice rooms, committee rooms, dining rooms, and a museum, that displays many items from the oldest lodge that meets there – the Lodge of Lights. There is the ‘Ashmole’ Bible on display, Masonic glassware, Masonic pottery, and all kinds of Masonic artefacts. Well worth a visit and has twelve lodges that still meet at the Hall.
Liverpool Masonic Hall, Hope Street
The history of Liverpool Masonic Hall is one of expansion and change; a committee was formed for the specific duty to purchase a property for Liverpool lodges to meet, a house in Hope Street being bought in 1857. The Hall was opened the following year after some alterations, but by 1872 the property was demolished and the corner stone of a new specially built Masonic Hall was laid on the 2nd of November with a full Masonic ceremony, with local Masonic dignitary Lord Skelmersdale doing the honours. The Hall was ready two years later, but had to be extended again by the 1920s, an indication of the growth of Freemasonry in the area. A strip of land next to the building was purchased and by 1932, the extension was completed. The building is certainly worth a visit, a particular highlight of mine being the Egyptian Chapter Room.
Manchester Masonic Hall, Bridge Street
This is another Art-Deco Masonic Hall, completed in 1929. In recent years, a number of lodges that met at the Hall have sadly closed, but the Hall is still being used for lodge meetings and events such as weddings and conferences, so the Hall still feels vibrant and is still doing business. There are many different lodge rooms, ante-rooms, and dining rooms, including an amazing dining room that was designed acoustically to convey the voice, probably to assist Masons giving speeches during the festive board, but also, according to legend, was designed so everyone’s voice could be heard – including gossiping Masons! The Hall has many historical items on display and is well worth a visit.
Masonic Hall at Duncombe Place, York
The Masonic Hall at Duncombe Place was built for the York ‘Union’ Lodge during a time when the lodge was growing and needed larger premises. In 1859, a special committee reported that they had agreed with the proprietors of the building in which the Provincial Masonic Lodge was housed ‘for the purchase of the premises together with the front house in Little Blake Street for the sum of £550’. The building was then bought and adapted for the lodge. However, in 1861, the York Corporation Street Improvement Committee decided that the narrowness of the street was causing major problems and leading to congestion, and the newly purchase building was demolished. The lodge received compensation along with 293 square yards of land, giving the lodge an opportunity to construct a purpose built hall on the site. The plans for the construction were commissioned and the foundation stone was laid at the north-east corner of what would become the lodge room on the 8th of September, 1862, along with a jar filed with relics, and on the 2nd of June the following year, an ‘extraordinary lodge’ was called for the purpose of opening and consecrating the new hall. However, the lodge membership had grown quickly and in 1866, yet another committee was formed to assess expansion of the building. The building today houses the archives of the York Grand Lodge and the York ‘Union’ Lodge still meets there.