Bishopgate Masonic Temple
September in London is busy. It feels as though everyone is scuttling around remembering all those forgotten Summer jobs, trying to get them finished before Winter’s dirty hands throttle the urgency out of the things. Everyone of my weekends this month seems to have been wall-to wall with activity and this Saturday was no exception. It has been the annual ‘Open House‘ weekend – a huge showcase of London’s architecture that opens up public access to usually closed doors. I went along to see a Masonic Temple which is hidden away in the Andaz hotel above Liverpool Street Station.
The building that the temple is housed in used to be the Great Eastern Hotel – A classic Victorian railway hotel that was designed by the Barry family (house of parliament) in 1874 and served the growing influx of railway passengers travelling on the Great Eastern Railway from Liverpool Street Station. The Temple was an quiet addition in 1912 and cost around £50,000 at the time (about £4,000,000 in today’s money). Before the hotel was refurbished and reopened in 2006, the temple had been hidden behind a fake wall. The Previous owners had never even known about its existence. Imagine that… What must the builder’s have thought when they broke through to find hidden dusty world of marble, mahogany and Masonic iconography?
It wasn’t clear from my visit whether the temple was still used by the Masons. But the Hotel brochure offering obscure events like fashion shows and wedding receptions in the room perhaps indicates to me that it isn’t.
There’s no denying that the twelve types of Italian marble, the strange seating arrangement, the overwhelming masonic roof decoration, the dim lighting, the beautiful chequered floor and the general austere eeriness of the place set my imagination racing. But there lies a blanket of fusty sadness on the temple’s surfaces – A fuggy cloud of misuse and stunted re-purposing hovers in the air. It left me wondering where the Mason’s hang out now and what they might think of their hallowed temple being used in Fashion shows. Maybe they don’t care, maybe they have a new place made in fourteen types of marble instead of twelve. I don’t know, but I suspect we won’t find out until thirty years time when someone breaks down a wall in the back of some pub or something. Such is their way.