In 2010 the Library and Museum at Freemasons' Hall welcomed more than 30,000 visitors. For many visitors the highlight is the tour of the ceremonial rooms which is provided by Library and Museum staff. Freemasonry Today spent time with the team of tour guides to find out more
One of the longest serving guides is Mike Coleman. ‘The tour starts in the Museum with a brief history of the two eighteenth century Grand Lodges and the story of the Union. The route then goes through the Grand Officers’ Robing Room with its portraits of Royal Grand Masters, continues down the processional corridor, visits the Shrine and finishes in the Grand Temple. There we take the opportunity to answer visitors’ questions about the building and more generally about Freemasonry. We usually finish by reminding visitors to visit the shop.’
The tour takes about forty-five minutes. Guide Stephen Hoole likes to take time to point out items of interest in the Museum to his group at the end of the tour.
Trevor Lowman has recently joined the team of guides. One of the challenges he faced was learning all the information as there is a tradition that the guides do not use notes. ‘I hadn’t realised,’ he says, ‘just how much there was to know.’
Another new recruit, John Green, has enjoyed meeting visitors from all over the world. ‘I have met people from Israel, Canada, Brazil and Belgium – and that was just in my first week!’
Both of them have learnt a lot from the other guides, as Trevor admits, ‘I have also borrowed some of guide John Weightman’s jokes!’
DO THE TOUR
Colin Gurnett, another guide, would like to see even more visitors from London lodges. ‘Many members come to the building for their meetings and just see where they are meeting. It would be great if they could take time to do the tour and learn more about one of London’s great buildings.’
The weekday tours are free of charge and take place at 11 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm. There is no need to book for individuals or small groups but, as events can be arranged at short notice which can mean that tours are curtailed, anyone making a special journey is advised to telephone to check the availability of tours.
On Saturdays there is just one tour, starting at 10.30 am which has to be pre-booked. According to Melrose Eccleston, who looks after bookings, ‘the Saturday tours are very popular and get booked up quickly – please don’t leave your arrangements to the last minute as we can only handle limited numbers on Saturdays.’
Freemasons’ Hall is increasingly being used for events and filming. Sometimes tour groups get to experience what goes on behind the scenes on a film set. Guide Michael Rhodes remembers one tour he led which had among its number ex-James Bond Pierce Brosnan taking a break from a photography assignment in the building. ‘He was a charming man and was wearing one of the most stylish suits I have ever seen!’
The Library and Museum can’t promise James Bond on every tour but you will be assured of a friendly welcome and a fascinating experience.