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Medieval building discovered within Monmouth Masonic Hall

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Surprise find at Monmouth Masonic Rooms

Brethren of Loyal Monmouth Lodge No. 457 were surprised when a medieval guard tower was discovered in monmouth's masonic building during a preparatory survey and inspection for much needed repairs

The three storey guard tower, complete with arrow slits was hidden inside our Tyler’s flat when Lord Llangattock, a Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, commissioned local architect George Vaughan Maddox to convert a theatre into masonic rooms in the 1840’s.

Ongoing research with Monmouth Archaeology and CADW indicates a cluster of four or five medieval buildings joined together and much altered through the centuries. The temple is thought to be a medieval hall with upper floors removed. Its huge chimney breast structure has been identified in the undercroft or basement, once used as a wool merchant’s premises. A second wool store in the front car park was converted into four cottages in 1840’s and demolished 1938.

Underneath the building is a once defended steep access tunnel to a still visible medieval quay on the River Monnow. How many lodges have salmon fishing rights at the bottom of their garden?

Imported limestone blocks in garden walls may have come from Monmouth Priory or more probably an adjacent Roman building.

Reference to deeds identified twelve dwellings, a brew house and timber yard. Also a 500 year covenant attached to 1830’s documents approximate to Edward I murage grant (a tax) of 1297 and another in 1315 for completing or repairing town walls, defences and reconstruction of fortified Monnow Bridge, now one of the only three in Europe. A 600-year covenant links with 1181 Assizes of Arms. Some of the town wall and what is believed to be remnants of Monk’s Gate circular flank tower can be seen in our car park.

Medieval wall finishes have also been found on stone wall of rear staircase high above the tunnel. Initial investigation of undercroft earth floor has revealed two earlier floors underneath and at least one room below which has been infilled.

The Monmouth town ‘open doors’ weekend was a great success with the Masonic Hall attracting over 250 visitors. A considerable number when you consider the building was only open for a total of six hours.

The lodge members are now tasked with the unenviable job of trying to restore the building before its too late. One wall has become porous and the funds needed to repair the roof are daunting.

Special thanks to W Bro Bill Hall who has been responsible for a considerable amount of research into the building's history.

Should a brother wish to offer free specialist advice or be able to help with either labour/materials or funding, the lodge members would be more than pleased to hear from you.

Please contact W Bro Neil Mounter:

c/o Monmouth Masonic Hall
Monk Street
NP25 3NZ