Library and Museum of Freemasonry
The Museum contains an extensive collection of objects with Masonic decoration including pottery and porcelain, glassware, silver, furniture and clocks, jewels and regalia.
Items belonging to famous and Royal Freemasons including Winston Churchill and Edward VII are on display together with examples from the Museum’s extensive collection of prints and engravings, photographs and ephemera.
Housed in the intimidatingly expansive Freemasons' Hall erected in the 1930's, the museum is itself pretty cavernous. Case after case displays the United Grand Lodge's extensive collection of masonic glass, china and silverware from lodges around the world.
The collection explores the different ranks, offices and branches of freemasonry. It explains some of the symbolism used, the charities set up, masonic dining habits as well as freemasonry abroad and during wartime.
Insignia and regalia are also much in evidence, and with names like 'the Order of the Secret Monitor' the masons' reputation for clandestine practice seems understandable. Documents include the minutes and account books kept by PoW masons at Stalag 383, Nuremburg and a letter congratulating Queen Victoria on her escape from an assassination attempt.
The permanent exhibition broadly charts the 'history of English Freemasonry and its development from medieval obscurity to world-wide prominence' but, again, without giving too much away.
Portraits and photographs of masons include those of Elias Ashmole, the 17th-century founder of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, Alexander Fleming (see p.113) and Peter Sellers. Among the unusual artefacts on display are an outsized Grand Master's throne and a beautifully hand-embroidered masonic apron from the 18th century.
Temporary exhibitions run for several months, recent ones have explored subjects such as 'Freemasons and entertainment' and 'English Freemasonry and the First World War'. Books, videos and regalia are available from The Grand Charity's souvenir shop on the ground floor; the museum also organises free tours of the Hall's Grand Temple and ceremonial areas.