Following several months of building work, the new refurbished Berkshire Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been opened by their Provincial Grand Master Anthony Howlett-Bolton, in the presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton
Also in attendance for the opening was Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of the Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London, the Mayor of Wokingham and a number of invited guests.
The Library and Museum was started in 1896 at the Masonic Hall in Reading. It was created by the members of Grey Friars Lodge No. 1101 with assistance from members of other lodges in Reading. It was moved to the Berkshire Masonic Centre in Sindlesham in 1969, but space was not available, so all the contents were put into storage.
By 2002, a small, somewhat pokey, room was found and part of the contents were put on display, however, space was still at a premium, so the majority of the contents were kept in storage. This has all now been consolidated into two rooms in Sindlesham with state of the art display and racking with additional modern storage space developed elsewhere in the building.
When the Library and Museum moved to Sindlesham, it was funded by the sale of regalia donated to the Province and donations from individual masons and lodges. The then Librarian and Curator, Roger White, was still purchasing artefacts as when they became available so add to the collection.
The museum collections contain items of ceramics, glassware, regalia, jewels and a lot of other items such as horse brass, gavels, watches, paperweights, cufflinks and similar memorabilia. There is even have an American casket handle. There are about 3,500 items altogether some of which are more than 200 years old.
The library itself houses over 20,000 books on Freemasonry, including many rare editions – making the collection one of the largest in England. In addition to books, there are over 3,000 certificates, prints, postcards, photographs and other archival items, as well as a reference database in excess of 90,000 records. These collections continue to increase in size and provide a very valuable resource for reference and research by masons and non-masons alike.
Although the library was primarily established for the interest, education and information of its own members, it is also used by members of the general public wanting information on Freemasonry, or those researching the masonic membership of their ancestors. Equally, over the years, they have had a number of students using their resources to research materials for their academic degrees.
Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Berkshire’s Provincial Grand Master, said: ‘Whilst it has been something of a rollercoaster challenge to bring this project to fruition over several years, I am delighted that we have now succeeded in establishing this new facility and indeed as a consequence the provision of disabled access throughout the whole building.
‘All of this is a direct result of a very generous bequest from a former stalwart librarian Robin White whose unbounded enthusiasm resulted in the increase of the number of books from a few hundred to the sizeable number we hold today.’
Sir David Wootton, UGLE’s Assistant Grand Master, said: ‘In London, we are also of the firm view that it is important that we ensure that the history of Freemasonry and its rationale is more widely understood both by Freemasons and the wider community alike. To this end, we are taking significant steps to ensure that we play our part in raising the positive profile of Freemasonry with the full understanding that we have, have always had and will continue to have an important role to play in civil society as a whole.
‘With this in mind, it is pleasing to see that you have taken the opportunity to rationalise and fresh these facilities so as to make them more accessible to all. I understand that you have firm plans in mind to ensure that the inter-connected Library and Museum are open on a regular basis for much wider use and that whilst your library catalogue is already online, you intend to explore further the use of modern technology to enhance the users experience.’
Freemasons’ Hall – the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) – has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence for the fifth year running
Now in its ninth year, the achievement celebrates businesses that are consistently excellent, having earned great traveller reviews on the TripAdvisor website over the past year. As a result of earning a Certificate of Excellence every year for the past five years, Freemasons’ Hall has also qualified for the Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame.
Freemasons’ Hall is a stunning Grade II listed Art Deco building in the heart of London’s West End and welcomes over 200,000 visitors from across the world every year. The building was originally built as a peace memorial between 1927 and 1933 to honour the 3,000 English Freemasons who fought and died during the First World War.
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, said: ‘This is a wonderful accolade to receive five Certificates of Excellence in a row for Freemasons’ Hall. The architecture and history of the building have made us an iconic landmark and we’re delighted with the many positive comments we’ve received.
‘We’re now busy working hard on a number of projects to enhance the experience for visitors – including taking part in the world’s largest architecture festival Open House this September – and continue to make us a popular tourist destination in London.’
The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and timeliness of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.
Freemasons’ Hall is open to the public Monday to Saturday and includes free guided tours of the building, which incorporates the Museum of Freemasonry and the magnificent Grand Temple.
Read all the reviews of Freemasons’ Hall on TripAdvisor here.