ISSUE 15, October 2005
Editorial
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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    As regular readers of MQ will be aware, Freemasons’ Hall is increasingly being hired for corporate events, concerts and as a location for film and television programmes. The use of Freemasons’ Hall has a long history, as a recently completed project undertaken by the Library and Museum has shown.
     With the aid of a grant of £46,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and working in partnership with the National Archives “Access to Archives” scheme, the Library and Museum has recently completed cataloguing over 1,400 documents about the history of the first Freemasons’ Hall, completed in 1776 and the additions and redevelopment undertaken in the nineteenth century.
     What has come to light is that Freemasons’ Hall was also an important location in the history of a number of other societies and organisations which held meetings and fundraising events there.
     The first Freemasons’ Hall, designed by Thomas Sandby, cost rather more than anticipated and proved to be expensive to maintain, so hiring it out became a necessity to raise income. Negotiations for hiring the hall were initially handled by Redmond Simpson, a musician and member of Somerset House Lodge (now Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No 4).
     The standard charge was 10 guineas a night (£10.50) with extra charges for setting up for an orchestra or use of the organ. Reductions were often agreed in cases of hardship. The Hall was not one of the most fashionable venues in London (being some distance from the West End), but it could hold 800-900 people and so was larger than many other halls, and particularly suitable for musical performances which needed a choir.
     The Academy of Ancient Music had been set up as a private club in the 1720s to perform music of earlier centuries including motets and madrigals (which was unusual at that time). In 1784 the Academy, which had usually met in inns and taverns, began a series of public concerts which were held in the new Freemasons’ Hall.
     The musical directors during this period were both Freemasons – Benjamin Cooke and Samuel Arnold. In 1786, in response to a request from the Academy, Grand Lodge commissioned an organ for the Hall from Samuel Green at a cost of 200 guineas (£210).


Photographs by Library & Museum of Freemasonry

Above:
A Humane Society dinner at Freemasons’ Hall in 1830


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