While about 15% of the approximately 950 Masonic Halls under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Loge of England have been purpose-built for Masonic the remainder of them have been converted from other buildings. Nevertheless with buildings dating from the late 1700’s many still retain important architectural features.
About 330,000 Freemasons meet in over 8,500 lodges in in the 47 Masonic provinces of England & Wales. Some Masonic Halls only one lodge room where two or three lodges meeting in the building while in others, in major towns, can have many lodge rooms where 60 or 70 lodges meet.
The interiors of many of these Masonic Halls are quite spectacular. A few Masonic Halls, like the one in Cheltenham, are specifically built to reflect Masonic ritual, but most are converted from schools, court houses, theatres and churches, telephone exchanges etc. The most spectacular is Grand Lodge in London, built in Art Nouveau style which has been used for the backdrop of many films, concerts and even fashion shows.
Interestingly, although the United Grand Lodge of England was formed in June 1717 it did not build a purpose built Masonic Hall until 1865. The present building on the same site was built in 1937.
While very few have been specially constructed, and reflect Masonic ritual, many are the result of buildings, with some architectural interest, which have been rescued from demolition, or taken over from a previous use.
Sympathetic conversion of buildings, for use as Masonic Halls, means that Freemasonry has made a significant contribution to rescuing some of the most ‘threatened’ buildings in many of our towns. Many now have listed status meaning that they are protected buildings and their use for Masonic Purposes has given them a new lease of life where they are well maintained and become an integral part of the town’s heritage.