great places to visit off the beaten path.
Located in central London, Freemasons’ Hall is arguably one of the best examples or Art Deco architecture in England. The Freemasons’ Hall is Grade II listed – both for its internal and external features and visiting it is certainly worthwhile for those who enjoy architectural gems. With prior members who included Winston Churchill and Edward VII, the museum and collections include items with even broader appeal.
History: In 1775 the Freemasons built their first Grand Lodge at this location. Since then has been the centre of English Freemasonry. As headquarters of the English United Grand Lodge it is the oldest Grand Lodge in the world. The current building is the third at this location. Today it is also the primary meeting place for over 1,000 Masonic Lodge groups.
‘The current building was built in 1927–1932 and was built in honour of Freemasons who died in World War I.
Temples: Designed by architects Ashley & Newman, this art deco building contains a ‘Grand Temple’ room (seats 1700), and over 20 other Temples (meeting rooms), as well as a library and a museum. All Temples are ornately decorated, but the Grand Temple is the highlight -with huge bronze doors, a mosaic ceiling, a pipe organ and masonic symbols – include figures representing the four ‘cardinal virtues’.
The Library: Located on the 1st floor, the library is a public resource on all aspects of Freemasonry – including its influence on music, literature and poetry. Its collection include books from the 1700s onwards.
The Museum: With a collection focused on items that include masonic references, the museum contains photographs, prints, pottery, porcelain, jewellery, glassware, silver, furniture and clocks. The collection includes items previously owned by notable Freemasons including the aforementioned Winston Churchill and King Edward VII.
Exhibitions: Ending this Friday (15-2-13) is the current exhibition which focuses on the sporting achievements of Freemasons in sport. New exhibits are opened throughout the year.
Shop: There is a small shop that sells relevant gifts, books and masonic regalia.
The Hall in Television and Films: Given its architectural uniqueness, the Hall has been used in many film and TV productions. One of my favourite TV shows – ‘Spooks’ (MI-5 in other parts of the world) – uses the exterior as a stand-in for their Thames House headquarters. Other TV filmed here includes ‘Poirot’, ‘Jeeves and Wooster’, ‘Churchill: The Gathering Storm’, and ‘Shakleton’ among many others.
Films shot here include ‘Wings of a Dove’, ‘Cody Banks 2′, ‘Johnny English’, ‘The Saint’, ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers’, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, ‘Basic Instinct II: Risk Addiction’ and ‘Penelope’.
Tours: While the facility is open to the public throughout the day, free tours are generally available on Mon-Fri on the hour, from 11am – 4pm which gives you access to more of the building beyond the library and museum, including the main hall.
Located: 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ
Closest Tube: Holborn or Covent Garden