Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies, and is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values whose members are taught its precepts (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides. Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, to practice concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need. The Square and Compasses have long been regarded as the universal symbol of Freemasonry.
Whitley Bay Masonic Hall, situated on the corner of Norham Road and Park View, was opened for the first time on 13th March 1913 and was used by Freemasons for many years as a place to hold their respective Lodge Meetings.
On the evening of 8th December 1941 an air raid over Whitley Bay, in which a number of enemy planes were engaged in an attack on the town, resulted in a bomb being dropped into the centre of Norham Road, completely destroying the Masonic Hall and causing serious damage to neighbouring properties. As a result, temporary premises situated at No. 220 Whitley Road were hired, where all subsequent Masonic Meetings were held for a number of years.
In 1954, building work commenced to replace the Masonic Hall with a new single storey building, designed by William Stockdale of North Shields. The building was opened in October 1955 by the Provincial Grand Master for Northumberland; RW.Bro. J.M.S. Coates O.B.E., and all Masonic meetings at the coast have been held there up to the present day.
The two World Wars both had a great effect on English Freemasonry. Nationally, in the three years after the First World War, over 350 new Lodges were set up, and in the three years after the Second World War nearly 600 new Lodges came into being. In many cases the founders were servicemen who wanted to continue the camaraderie they had built up during their war service, and were looking for a calm centre in a greatly changed and changing world. Freemasonry in Whitley Bay was no exception, and over the years up to 13 different Lodges and a number of other Masonic side degrees have met in this hall. Many of these Lodges derived their names from localised areas, such as Whitley Lodge, Monkseaton Lodge, St.Mary’s Lodge, BrierDene Lodge, Belvedere Lodge, Rockcliff and Links Lodge.
Although Freemasonry remains strong and vibrant, it is a sad fact that, in common with many other organisations, recent years have seen a fall in the number of Lodges meeting at Whitley Bay, leaving a handful using the building. As a result, this has freed up the Masonic Hall for the majority of the time and it is now offered for function hire to outside organisations or individuals, particularly during the day.
Internally, the hall has been decorated to a high standard and can accommodate up to 100 people where it may be used as a local venue for social or corporate events and meetings, discussion groups, mother and toddler groups, dance classes, birthday parties etc. If required, there are also catering and bar facilities, and an adjoining car park.
If you wish to find out more about becoming a Freemason, or if you simply want information about costs and hiring of the hall, please contact the Secretary on 077 62 09 62 62.
by Charlie Steel © 2012
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, local historian Charlie Steel has lived almost all of his life in Monkseaton. His books “Monkseaton and Hillheads” and “Inns and Taverns of North Shields” are published by Tempus and are available in all good book shops.
All Charlie’s articles which are featured in Roundabout Monkseaton can also be found on his website www.monkseaton.info. Charlie also writes articles for Roundabout Tynemouth.
If you have any old pictures or photographs of Monkseaton that you would like to share then please e-mail Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org.