Freemasons Hall, Soane Street, Ipswich, IP4 2BG
Freemasonry reached Suffolk in the 1730s, following the formation of the first Grand Lodge in 1715. As the number of Lodges spread outwards from London, the Grand Lodge decided that it needed to regulate, and retain control of, the activities of the lodges under its jurisdiction, and it introduced a second tier of management: the Province.
Provinces were generally based on existing county boundaries, and, in 1772, the Province of Suffolk was instituted. As the population of Suffolk grew in the 19th century, so the number of Lodges grew, from 14 in 1813 to 22 in 1900, and continued to grow thereafter to the present 68 Lodges.
Ipswich Freemasons Hall has been the regular home for Ipswich masonic lodges since it was built in 1879. The hall is a Grade II Listed building adjacent to Christchurch Park with its fine Tudor Mansion and St. Margaret’s medieval Church, forming part of the local conservation area.
Originally, Ipswich Freemasons used to meet in local taverns as would any group of people with a common interest. In the early 18th century these meeting places included well-known names such as The Golden Lion, The Great White Horse and The Crown and Anchor (now WH Smith).
In 1867 a masonic centre was established in St Stephens Church Lane, now the home of Ipswich Conservative Club. However, the venue in Church Lane didn’t last long and in 1879 a new dedicated Masonic Centre was opened in Soane St. The Soane Street centre has been in continuous use ever since. A memorial tablet from the original building can be seen on the wall of the bar.
An extension was added in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, although Ipswich Freemasons have over the years raised enormous sums of money for a multitude of charitable causes, they failed to see the need for continuous maintenance and the updating of facilities to the hall. In the early 1970’s the Trustees decided to carry out some very necessary improvements to the building which included integrating number 8 Soane St to provide additional accommodation.
The necessary work has been tackled by a new company, Masonic Hall Ipswich Ltd which now responsible for the preservation, maintenance and administration of the present building which has become a jewel in Suffolk’s masonic crown with a beautiful 'temple’ and panelled dining hall, a modern bar and a high-quality catering reputation.
The building is also home to a number of very interesting historical masonic artefacts which have been retained and are in continuous use. With a history stretching over centuries, Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest charitable organisations.
[Source: Suffolk Freemasons]