A History of Phoenix Hall (Part I)

December 30, 2018


Series courtesy of Colin Meddes, Susan King and Elizabeth Allison

Within the heart of the East End of Sunderland lies Freemasons’ Hall. Dating as it does from 1785, it is one of the oldest surviving yet still used buildings in the City. It is surpassed in age only by Sunderland Parish Church of the Holy Trinity which lies some 200 yards to the south east and opened in 1719. The Hall and the Church are the only Grade listed buildings in Sunderland. This listing puts these buildings within the top 4% of all historic properties in England and Wales in terms of importance to the heritage of the nation; a unique privilege that puts them on par with the great stately homes and cathedrals of the land.

On 5th April 1785, the Phoenix Lodge of Freemasons opened a hall in Queen Street in the East End of Sunderland. Little did they know that well over 200 years later their Lodge would still be meeting there and that theirHall would have the distinction of being the oldest purpose-built Masonic meeting place in the world.

One of the remarkable things about the Hall is that the many deeds and documents associated with it still survive as do the records of PhoenixLodge from its consecration in 1755. Whilst the Lodge records (Minute Books, Cash Books, Membership Registers, etc.) provide the bones of a chronological history of the Hall, it is the title deeds that provide the meat.

This then is a short story of the Hall; from its humble beginnings, its glorious past and continuing through the present to, hopefully a dignified future that is befitting such an important building. It is a story therefore with a beginning, a middle but, as yet, no ending for what the future holds for this very important building can only be a matter of contemplation at the present time. In order to make the future secure, however, the existence of the Hall Needs to be made known to a wider audience as possible. This, therefore, will be the objective of our story. Each month we will publish a chapter to our website and we invite you to return and learn about our remarkable past.

Photo of authorJohn J.

A stalwart of the lodge - John joined Phoenix in 1972 - for nearly thirty years he served as Lodge Secretary (save when he has occupied the chair of Master, most recently in 2004). He is now an honorary member. His most recent promotion within the province was to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Considered a goldmine of masonic information, particularly with respect to our lodge, he recently assisted Historic England in the completion of their report into the historical significance of our beloved building. With what little spare time he has, John enjoys reading, research, and delivering lectures.

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