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It's no secret hall's up for sale; DWINDLING MEMBERSHIP FORCES FREEMASONS TO SELL BASE.

Byline: TOM MULLEN

IT has been a meeting place for the Freemasons for more than a century.

But now the Masonic Hall and Temple in Gosforth, Newcastle, is up for sale.

For decades mysterious rituals and ancient codes of conduct all played their part within the walls of the grand old building.

The secret society saw men of all ages gather - as they continue to do in other Masonic Halls across the North East.

But with membership numbers steadily dwindling, the Freemasons have moved on and put one of their oldest buildings up for sale - with a pounds 750,000 pricetag.

Yesterday David Powell and Malcolm Spence, both from Gosforth, offered us a glimpse into the obscure world of the reclusive club, which can be joined only after a rigorous recommendation and voting procedure.

"There's not much I can tell you because it's secret and if it wasn't secret there wouldn't be much point in having it," David, 61, said.

"We come along and wear suits and special aprons and there are rituals.

"It's not religious but sort of quasi-religious I suppose.

"We don't go freely disclosing what we do because you're not allowed.

"But it's not all a mystery. Basically it's about companionship and camaraderie. "We have the ceremonies and then we come down to the bar, socialise and have a few drinks."

Inside the two-storey building, next door to Gosforth Magistrate's Court on West Avenue, lies a bar and a large snooker room that would be at home in any workingmen's club. Upstairs, there are cloakrooms built to store the Freemason's apron uniforms and there are the remnants of a chapel-like room where ceremonies took place.

Malcolm, 78, has been a Freemason since he was in his forties.

He said: "It used to be a thriving club at one time, but as is the case with many organisations these days, numbers fell away.

"We still meet at other lodges in the area. It's all still alive and well.

"There is a special handshake, it's true. There are certain things people can do on the outside to indicate to others if they are Freemasons.

"What are they? That would be telling."

The building is being sold via agents Sanderson and Young, who say it could remain as a private members' club.

The estate agents' description says: "The Masonic Hall is a private members' club and has its own licence facility, which will remain with the sale of the property. "The grandeur of the rooms internally is very impressive, with beautiful tall ceilings and a superb entrance hall at ground floor level leading through to an inner hall and stairwell.

"The members' lounge and bar is at the front of the property, while at the rear there is a substantial billiard room accommodating three full-sized Riley billiard tables."

For more details, telephone 0843 315 8074.

CAPTION(S):

SOCIETY: The Masonic Hall, in Gosforth, which is up for sale. Right, the billiard room RITUAL: David Powell, left, and Malcolm Spence drink a toast to the hall
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 14, 2010
Words:505
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