If you are considering joining Agricola Lodge No 4501, you will no doubt want to know more about the origins and history of Freemasonry in Kent.
Here in East Kent we are lucky to be the home of the Kent Museum of Freemasonry . Located at the heart of Canterbury’s tourist route, it lies close to the Westgate Towers and is just a five minute stroll from the Cathedral.
Entrance is free of charge, although voluntary donations are welcomed
The Kent Museum of Freemasonry is an Arts Council Accredited Museum. It meets nationally agreed standards on collection care, museum management and the provision of information and services to visitors.
The museum boasts a rare collection of exhibits of national and international importance. Its collection of Masonic material is possibly the finest in the UK outside of London. The vast collection of regalia and books covers all Masonic orders through the ages.
It also has a well-stocked shop selling masonic regalia, clothing, jewellery, gifts and books.
The Museum is situated mid way between Canterbury’s East and West mainline railway stations. There is ample public car parking nearby and Park & Ride is also available around the city. The St Peter’s Place bus stop is directly outside the main entrance
The museum is normally open from 10am to 4pm, each day. However if your journey is more than a local one please phone ahead to check that it is open.
Visits can be arranged for groups and parties including, subject to availability, a tour of the neighbouring Lodge Room with an after-tour meal.
If you wish to visit in order to enquire about family history or the masonic history of certain individuals or Lodges, it is recommended that you phone ahead and arrange an appointment with one of their specialists.
There is Wheelchair access throughout.
The history of the Kent Museum of Freemasonry can be traced to the latter end of the 19th Century.
Speculative masonry has been present in Canterbury since 1730 when the city’s first lodge began meeting at the Red Lion Tavern which adjoined the old Guildhall in the High Street. According to Lanes Masonic record 1717-1894, no fewer than 3 private and 6 military lodges were consecrated in the city. In 1878 the Canterbury lodges, that until then had met in different public houses in the city such as the Kings Head and Brewers Arms, joined together to purchase their own premises near to the Westgate Towers at 38 St Peter’s Street. It was in the garden of this building that the Canterbury masonic temple was subsequently constructed in 1880.
Over the years the separate lodges acquired and inherited many contemporary and historic masonic artefacts and ephemera. Once the temple was established these were all brought together in a room at the rear of the building. However, as the collection began to grow, space became an ongoing problem.
In 1919 the East Kent Masters Lodge No.3931 was consecrated in Canterbury. It’s first Master was Colonel Fiennes Stanley Wykeham Cornwallis, (later the first Lord Cornwallis). It was he who conceived the idea of the Kent Provincial Library & Museum.
1920 saw the Province of Kent form a fundraising committee under the chairmanship of W.H. East of Dover. Over the next 5 years the Provincial minutes acknowledge the receipt of many gifts from lodges and the appeal fund, “doing well”, but without the mention of specific totals. However, in 1925 the accounts of the Province showed the sum of £1,036 4s 11d being paid to Bro Edward Dean of St Augustine’s Lodge No. 972 for the purchase of the garden of 34 St Peters Street, Canterbury.
In 1930 an architect, Bro F.G. Haywood of Market Square, Dover, was appointed to plan and oversee the construction of the building. The main contractors were W.W. Martin of Ramsgate and G.H. Denne & Son of Walmer.
The Provincial Grand Master, The Lord Cornwallis, was by this time also the Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. When the old Grand Library and Museum in Great Queen Street, London was demolished to make room for the new Grand Temple and Connaught Rooms, he acquired the stained glass windows, internal doors and most of the showcases for Canterbury.
The solid oak entrance doors came from St Mary’s College, part of the Jesuit Monastery in Hales Place, Canterbury, which was also being demolished at the time.
June 1932 saw the building completed and £2,900 was paid to the contractors from the Province’s general fund. The total cost including the land is recorded as £3,936 4s 11d.
The Kent Library & Museum of Freemasonry was officially opened by the Provincial Grand Master on April 19th 1933.
The collection has continued to grow and now boasts more than 3,000 items including masonic paintings, literature, regalia, glassware and ceramics.
After an extensive eighteen month redevelopment programme the Kent Museum of Freemasonry was reopened to the public on September 14th 2012
The first change that is evident to previous visitors is the striking new entrance from St Peter’s Place, which catches the eye of the thousands of passers-by who walk, cycle and drive past every week.
As well as a bigger library space and the new audio-visual displays designed to provide visitors with an overview of Freemasonry and its presence and history in Kent, the refurbishment included a timber-framed balcony creating a separate workspace for the curator and his team resulting in an enlarged exhibition display area and a small shop where souvenirs and masonic regalia can be purchased.