ISSUE 15, October 2005
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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The Hall was the venue for series of readings and music which were fashionable events in the 1780s and 1790s. A Mr Lacy frequently hired the Hall for this purpose, and one of the documents in the archives is a ballad song called William, set to the music of Haydn, performed at one of his readings.
     Other musical events had strong Masonic links. A number of concerts were held for the benefit of the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School for the daughters of deceased and indigent Freemasons, beginning in 1788, the year of its foundation.
     The girls were paraded round the hall to sing during the concert intervals. One of the most well-known of all depictions of the Hall is on one such occasion.
     The size of the Hall also made it attractive for meetings of other organisations and events in support of fashionable causes.
     The Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund was formed in 1803 to provide financial assistance to the wounded and bereaved during the Napoleonic wars. It held fundraising meetings at the Hall. The Royal Humane Society, founded in 1774 to advocate saving people from death by the art of resuscitation (then an unproven and somewhat controversial technique), had a long association with the Hall.
     At its fundraising dinners the winners of its medals were paraded around to applause from the audience. One of the Society’s earliest supporters had been William Dodd, the Grand Chaplain, who had given the oration at the opening of the Hall, but was later hanged for forgery. The secretary to the Society from 1813 to 1820 was Thomas Pettigrew, a Freemason and later Surgeon and Librarian to the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex.
     The Hall also provided a meeting place for local organisations, including a local parish (St Giles) and the Covent Garden Fund and Drury Lane Fund, which both supported retired stage performers.
     A note in the archives listing all the organisations which hired the Hall in 1830 (contributing a total of £63 to Grand Lodge funds) includes a number of organisations linked to churches or religions. These include the Reformation Society (probably the Protestant Reformation Society), the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society.
     A series of drawings by the artist Thomas Stothard in the Library and Museum collection depicts a meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society around 1815 attended by the Persian ambassador in national costume. The Continental Association, formed in 1819 to give Protestant teaching in Roman Catholic countries, was another society which met at the Hall, twice in 1830.
     This list also shows the Hall being used by a number of “national” societies such as the Society of Ancient Britons (for the Welsh) and the Highland Society of London. The Benevolent Society of St Patrick held meetings in the Hall and dinners in the Freemasons’ Tavern, which stood in Great Queen Street in front of the Hall.
     Inevitably large-scale events occasionally got out of hand, and concern about this was a constant problem for Grand Lodge as the owners of the Hall. One of the most fascinating pieces of archive material to come to light during the project was a note signed by Charles Kent, Honorary Secretary of the Charles Dickens Dinner. He was guaranteeing that the Hall would be returned to its previous state immediately after the dinner for Charles Dickens, held in 1867, prior to the author’s departure for his second American public-reading tour. Kent, a fellow journalist and writer, was a lifelong friend of Dickens (and was the recipient of the last letter that Dickens ever wrote, produced an hour before Dickens’s death).
     There is currently an exhibition in the Library and Museum called Elegance and Splendour about the history of the first Hall using documents, objects and images from the collections and exploring the building of the Hall, how it was paid for, its growth and development, its impact on the local community and its contribution to London life. The exhibition runs until December 2005.
     The documents which have been catalogued are now available on the Library and Museum’s own online catalogue at or at A leaflet giving details about the archive material on Freemasons’ Hall is available from the Library and Museum on 020 7395 9257 (also in large print format) or can be downloaded from the Library and Museum website on

Diane Clements is Director, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

The ballad William set to Haydn’s music

List of 1830 hirings

The Benevolent Society of St Patrick, one of several national bodies to use the Hall

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