Maple Terrace Masonic Hall is this year celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary with a series events, the first of which was a recent re-enactment of a Second Degree Ceremony, performed by the nationally acclaimed Northumberland Demonstration Team, at Delaval Lodge No.2568
Newcastle upon Tyne was, and still is, the focal point of Freemasonry in the Province of Northumberland. At the time Freemasonry, in the still rapidly developing town, had come a long way from the days when individual Lodges met in local inns or taverns, often in rooms which were sparsely decorated and had minimal furniture; such items as ornate chairs and pedestals were the exception rather than the rule. Maple Terrace was, however, not the first purpose-built Masonic Hall in Newcastle. That honour went to the old St. John’s Lodge No.184, which built a Masonic Hall in Low Friar Street in 1776.
With the growth of Freemasonry within the town, individual Lodges felt the need to have premises of their own, and thus be independent from holding meetings in taverns or other public buildings when it was becoming apparent that the holding of such meetings was becoming inconvenient, both in terms of expense and the need for privacy.
Two Masonic Lodges decided to take matters into their own hands: St. Peter’s Lodge No. 481, and Northern Counties Lodge No. 406 formed a Limited Liability Company; the objective of which was to secure financial securities towards the building of a new purpose-built Masonic Hall in which the two Lodges proposed to hold their meeting. The Liability Company whose Chairman was George Thompson, a Past Master of St. Peter’s Lodge achieved its aim of raising enough funds, and the foundation stone was laid on 11 October 1870, by Thompson in the presence of a large number of members of the Craft.
The whole structure took a little under two years to complete, and it was said that the design of the building followed that of the Gothic Style of Architecture of the Middle Ages. At the east end of the hall a very beautiful carved wood screen is erected over the dais, extending from north to south, formed in canopied compartments. In masonic architecture it is a new and most attractive feature, and vividly brings to mind the fine effect of some of the carved stalls in our old cathedrals. The screen is erected for the purpose of supporting a handsome stained glass window, consisting of masonic figures and emblems, expressly designed, not only as a means of decoration, but as displaying a series of subjects of a highly moral and instructive character, visible in the interior of the hall at night time as an elaborate transparency, illuminated by means of gas light reflected from behind the screen.
The architectural arrangement of the windows in the east gable having been strictly carried out in the screen also renders the windows attractive during daylight as an excellent and interesting specimen of the stained glass art, consisting of four principal lancet headed compartments, arranged as a twin-lancet, on each side of the beautiful crocketed canopy, forming the central portion of the screen, above what is intended for the Master’s chair, which is pierced with suitable taceried forms, and filled with stained glass illustrations in the following order, viz.:
In the quarter-foil, at the apex, is represented the All-seeing Eye, within a halo of light, and surrounded by a circle significant of eternity. In the medallion below this is a star of brilliant cut glass on an azure ground, and the aperture under the star displays the masonic arms, motto, and supporters, appropriately executed on the glass.
The four lights consist of large figures within elliptical forms or niches, with richly-coloured medallion emblems above, and below interlaced with suitable foliage ornamentations on a delicately-tinted ground. The first figure depicts Hiram Abiff, architect of the Temple, taking dimensions from a plan; the second figure is a representation of King Solomon supporting a model of the Temple of Jerusalem; the third illustrates a majestic figure of Hiram, King of Tyre, bearing in his right hand the sceptre of power; and the fourth depicts a venerable figure of Moses, holding in one hand the tables of the Ten Commandments, towards which he points.
The medallion emblems in the apex of the four lights are the terrestrial and celestial globes, and the sun and the moon; below these are the emblems of truth, justice, peace, and industry; and in the base below the figures are symbolic illustrations of faith, hope, charity, brotherly love, and unity. Devices of a similar nature occupy positions in pierced trefoils comprising the tracery surrounding the lights.
At the hour appointed for the commencement of the dedication ceremony, nearly two hundred of the brethren were assembled in the building, the spacious lodge-room being well filled. It had been expected that the Earl Percy, Provincial Grand Master of Northumberland, would have been present to preside, but early in the afternoon a letter was read from his Lordship expressing his deep regret from being unable, from indisposition, to take part in the proceedings. In his absence, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Mavin Longsdale Cockcroft occupied the chair, and he was supported on the dais by Lord James Murray, representative of the Grand Lodge of Scotland at the Grand Lodge of England. At the close of the ceremony the brethren dined together in the banqueting hall of the building.
At the latest round of celebrations the packed room and festive board, comprising of members of the Lodge, visitors and the Lady Freemasons raised a fantastic £405, which the team donated back to the building to help with maintaining this fantastic asset of Northumberland Masonry. Here’s to another 150 years.