A blue plaque was unveiled by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Hagger at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester, on Saturday 29th April 2017 to mark the 300th Anniversary of the formation the first Grand Lodge of England
The commemorative blue plaque marks the first activity of Freemasonry in Leicester where the earliest known lodge in Leicester was established in 1739 and met at the Wheat Sheaf Inn on Humberstone Gate.
Other lodges followed including a lodge which met at ‘The Pelican’ in Gallowtree Gate, which was formed in 1754. In 1761, two lodges were formed - Lodge No 87, which was associated with the Leicestershire Militia, and Lodge No 91. Lodge No 91 continued to meet at several Inns and Taverns including ‘The Crown and Thistle’ in Loseby Lane, which is now O’Neills pub, and ‘The Leather Bottle’ in Church Gate.
Members of Lodge No 91 subsequently formed St John’s Lodge in 1790 which is the oldest surviving lodge in Leicester still in existence and first met at the Lion and Dolphin in Market Place. The lodge met at the Three Cranes Inn, Gallowtree Gate from 1801 to 1810 when it moved to the White Swan, Market Place and in 1817 at the George Inn.
In 1859, the two lodges meeting in Leicester, St John’s Lodge, then meeting at the Bell Hotel, and John of Gaunt Lodge, meeting at the Three Crowns, and its 80 members, raised funds to build a permanent home in Halford Street lead by William Kelly. The Masonic Hall in Halford Street continued to be the principal place of meeting for 50 years until it was deemed no longer adequate.
A freehold Georgian house and its grounds on London Road were purchased in 1909 and the new headquarters were in use a year later in 1910. Freemasons’ Hall has been extended on a number of occasions, particularly in the 1930s and 1960s, and continues as the headquarters for the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland and has 43 lodges meeting there. The building has some of the finest Masonic Lodge Rooms in the country and has a large Masonic Museum with artefacts dating back to the 17th Century.
David Hagger commented: 'Freemasonry has been a long established fraternity in the local communities and we wish to celebrate our history by installing these commemorative plaques to mark the historic occasion of our 300th anniversary.
'We'll also be holding several public events throughout 2017 including opening the doors to our Masonic Halls during the Heritage Open Days for everyone to see inside and an exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester on Freemasonry highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'