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©  Helmut Schulenburg

IoE Number: 475537
Location: MASONIC HALL, 2 PORTLAND STREET (west side)
Photographer: Helmut Schulenburg
Date Photographed: 11 June 2006
Date listed: 12 March 1955
Date of last amendment: 12 March 1955
Grade II*

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CHELTENHAM SO9522NW PORTLAND STREET 630-1/10/683 (West side) 12/03/55 No.2 Masonic Hall GV II* Masonic Hall and attached railings. 1818-23, at a cost of »4,000 raised by subscription. Architect: GA Underwood for Foundation Lodge with decorations to dining room (or Banquet Hall) added c1833 for the Masonic Knights Templar. Ashlar over brick with concealed roof. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys on basement, 3 bays: ground floor with tall piano nobile, and wider bay to centre. The heavy super-structure is battered. Horizontal rustication to ground floor, with outer round-arched openings with recessed round-arched 2-panelled doors (that to right part-glazed). To upper stage are outer deeply recessed round-arched niches in tooled architraves and with panels above carrying masonic imagery; the centre is deeply recessed and has 2 modified Corinthian/Egyptian columns 'in antis' (the capitals are carved with lilies and pomegranates) and central further recessed round-arched niche with splayed and panelled reveals and tooled architrave. Continuous crowning dentil entablature, blocking course raised to centre as crowning plinth. Basement has 4/8 basement sash, otherwise concealed. Left 2-bay return to Albion Street has recessed centre bay; horizontal rustication to ground floor. 3-light ground-floor window with 6/6 sashes. Upper stage has similar niches to outer bays and blind 3-light mullion window in tooled architrave. INTERIOR: retains a wealth of original features. Hallway to right has narrow-open-well staircase with wrought-iron latticework balusters with lead enrichments, oval skylight to hall has cornice and peaked glazing. Original joinery includes inner 6-panel door with overlight with Gothic glazing bars; 10-panel doors, some with tooled surrounds. Plasterwork includes Greek key motif to hall cornice, first floor has egg-and-dart cornices and ceiling friezes with fleurons. Dining room (or Banquet Hall) to ground floor at left has painted decoration of Regency Gothic arcade ('the canopied stalls of the Knights Templar') with 2 painted recumbent effigies of knights in niches to either side of window; over doors the Paschal Lamb and Bible on cushion, also motto "Quis Domine Habitabat"; carved mantelpiece has emblems of degrees of Malta and the Rose Croix. Temple to first floor has 2 fluted Ionic columns surmounted by celestial and terrestrial globes and then wrought-iron balustrade with enriched stick balusters with anthemions and panels of lyre motif and central panel with scrolled heart and anthemion motif; steps up to organ loft have stick balusters and carved tread ends; deep cornice with dentils; ceiling has central sunbursts; fireplace with masonic symbols. First floor has marble Regency-style fireplace. Service staircase to attic has rod and central bobbin balusters. Attic has slate fireplace. Organ by William Ayton of 1832. HISTORICAL NOTE: one of the earliest, and certainly the finest of the early, purpose built Masonic Halls to survive in England. Weymouth pre-dates it, built in 1816, though refronted in 1834, with Southampton built in 1823 and Sunderland built in 1832 (possibly with earlier origins). The Hall was designed to be free-standing but now has buildings to 2 sides. A splendid example of a decorative interior, both in terms of its masonic features and as a well-preserved example of Regency style in Cheltenham; the dining room ceiling was originally painted to resemble a tented canopy. The interior ironwork is probably by Wheeler. Rowe noted in 1845 that 'the interior consists .. of 2 rooms for transacting the business of the order; the upper one has an organ and is fitted up with masonic emblems'. The Librarian and Curator to the Grand Lodge of England, John Hamill, describes this as a 'quite magnificent building'. A highly competent and intelligently articulated composition. Underwood, who spent a period in the office of John Soane (1807-15), was elected to the Lodge in 1818 and was concurrently working on the Church of the Holy Trinity, Portland Street; he was also the architect of Montpellier Spa (Lloyds Bank), Montpellier Walk (qv) and the demolished Sherborne Pump Room, Promenade (1818). Little described this as 'a brilliant, unconventional essay in Romano-Egyptian with Greek detail here and there, supposedly modelled on a Roman mausoleum'. Forms a group with and abuts railings and gates (qv). (The Buildings of England: Verey D: Gloucestershire: The Vale and The Forest of Dean: London: 1970-: 134; Sampson A and Blake S: A Cheltenham Companion: Cheltenham: 1993-: 76; Chatwin A: Cheltenham's Ornamental Ironwork: Cheltenham: 1975-1984: 61-62; Little B: Cheltenham: London: 1952-: 56-59; Colvin H: A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840: London: 1978-: 846; Barnard LW: Cheltenham Masonic Hall its building and history: 1932-; Dyke PM: The History of Foundation Lodge 1753-1985: Cheltenham: 1986-: 177-180, 186-205).

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