Cheltenham masonic freemasonry lodge, freemasons in Cheltenham, foundation lodge 82, oldest lodge in Cheltenham
Cheltenham Freemasonry Lodge, Foundation 82, Cheltenham Masonic Lodge

Cheltenham Masonic Hall Grade - 2 Star

Foundation lodge is one of the world's oldest continuous lodges. It was founded in 1753 and moved to Cheltenham in 1817 and its brethren were responsible for building the magnificent Masonic Hall that is now shared by many other lodges. 

Built in 1823 by Foundation Lodge, Cheltenham Masonic Hall was one of the world's first purpose built Masonic Hall, outside London. The hall was used soley by Foundation lodge for 34 Years, before it was agreed that other lodges could use the building for their meetings. 

Left is the original artists impression showing how Cheltenham Masonic Hall should have looked on its green-field site at the corner of Albion & Portland Street in 1823.  The present building, shown below, has a basement. Notice the trees where there are now buildings abutting it.

The Masonic Hall is the only building in Cheltenham, other than ecclesiastical, still used for the purpose for which it was originally designed. Foundation Lodge had been meeting in other premises in the town and held its first meeting here in November 1823. Over 400 Freemasons now meet here, attending 9 lodges and side orders, on a regular basis.

The Building

While Cheltenham Masonic Hall has been an integral part of the development and growth of the town since 1823, its early members played an important part in the society which has given the town many of its important institutions and contributed to the town as we know it today. Completed in November 1823 the upper storeys are unusual in that they are built like an Egyptian tomb, with a cant – the sides sloping slightly inwards.

Foundation Lodge built Cheltenham Masonic Hall, one of the first purpose-built Masonic Halls outside London, was constructed around 1820 for use by Foundation Lodge, by George Allan Underwood, who was initiated into the Foundation Lodge in 1818. He designed many famous buildings in Cheltenham, The Imperial Spa, the buildings now used as the Municipal Offices, the Long Room at Montpellier Spa, Holy Trinity Church and the Lower Assembly Rooms in Bath.

Constituted in London in 1753 Foundation lodge, one of the world's oldest continuous lodges, moved to Cheltenham in 1817 and within 6 years the brethren had financed the construction of the world’s 3rd purpose built masonic hall on a green field site, now the corner of Albion Street and Portland Street, Cheltenham.   


At a meeting in Sheldon’s Hotel, exactly one year after moving to Cheltenham Bro. Thomas Josephus Baines proposed “that the propriety of erecting a Lodge Room should be discussed at the next meeting”. This was seconded by Bro. Coley. But it seemed that the brethren were so determined to move forward that they called an emergency meeting , at which the W.M, Bro. Harris, together with Bros. Hughes, Cossens, Jones, Newmarch and Griffiths, were appointed as a committee to make enquiries as to the most eligible spot to erect a Lodge.


The proposition to build a lodge room was discussed at the next regular meeting on September 9th. 1817 when the brethren agreed the lodge should procure plans and an estimate of cost as speedily as possible. It was also agreed that it should be financed by subscriptions from the brethren. It was decided to offer shares at £20.00 (£1,726) each. Initially Bro. Newmarch bought 5 shares, (£8,630) Bro. Hughes 3 shares, (£5,178) Bro. Griffiths 2 shares,

(£3,452) and Bros. Waterhouse, Moore, Burgoyne, Rawlinson, Straford, Jones, Huntingdon, Cossens,

Cox, Baines, Cave, Senior, and Coley, one share each. (Total £460.00). (£39,709) At the same meeting Mr. George Allen Underwood, Architect, who was to build the Masonic Hall, was proposed as a candidate for Masonry.

The freehold site was bought for £670 (£49,000), equal to 33.5 shares, by Sir James Agg-Gardiner MP for Cheltenham, and was gifted to the Lodge. The lodge was built at a cost of £4,000.00 (£290.000.00).  The building has a beautiful Regency Lodge room, practice room, kitchen and museum.

For the first 34 years Foundation was the only lodge meeting at the hall which it built until it was joined in 1854 by Royal Union lodge. This was followed in 1923 by Perseverance lodge, in 1945 by Regency lodge, in 1952 by Seven Springs lodge, in  1956 by Mercurius lodge, in 1962 by Manor of Ashley lodge, in 1968 by Lodge of St Paul, in 1972 by Cherleton lodge and in 1983 by  Old Patesian lodge.

Over the years the building deteriorated mainly due to the dirt and smoke which had accumulated from the fires, candles, smoking and over 180 years of use. A scheme of work was drawn up in 1981 to repair, clean and decorate. Finished in 1984/85 it restored the interior and exterior to its original Regency splendour and included the complete remodelling of the kitchen. Great care is taken to maintain the building in its original state. In 2000 the Lodge Room floor was strengthened and there is a programme of ongoing work to protect the building for many more years.


Cheltenham Freemasonry Lodge, Foundation 82, Cheltenham Masonic Lodge

The Dining Room

Once through the original heavy arched timber door, it is best to turn left through the double doors into the dining room.

The painted walls, hung with shields, resemble a Knights Templar encampment and were produced when the lodge was built.

Originally the ceiling resembled a canopy and the room was lit by gas light and candles. This, with up to 60 people smoking cigars and pipes meant that it was not long before it was all obliterated. There is evidence that the walls had been papered over, possibly when it was hired out as a Dancing Academy in the early 1900’s. Until heating was installed in 1925 the room was heated by the single fireplace. While the mahogany tables are original new chairs have recently been purchased. The ‘dents’ on the tables were principally caused by the practice of banging special ‘firing’, or ‘toast’, glasses on the table.

The Interior

The steward and caretaker originally lived in attic rooms but, in 1902, an adjoining house was purchased for the Lodge Steward. Originally lit by candles, then gas lamps, electric light was installed in the dining room in 1894 at a cost of 5 guineas and in the hall and other rooms one year later. Central heating was installed in 1925.


Cheltenham Masonic Hall consists principally of a Lodge Room, Dining Room, Robing Rooms, Bar, Kitchen, Library and Museum and a very distinctive spiral staircase. A fully equipped basement kitchen is used by a professional chef  to provide food for up to 60 brethren and guests on lodge nights.

The Stairs

Turn left out of the dining room and go up the short flight of stairs. To the left is the bar and to the right a robing room. Immediately in front is a spiral staircase with very intricate and beautiful wrought ironwork. On the left at the top of the stairs is a further robing room, to the right - an ante room leading to the library and museum. The door immediately in front leads into the Lodge Room.

Cheltenham Freemasonry Lodge, Foundation 82, Cheltenham Masonic Lodge

On entering the high ceilinged Lodge Room one can immediately appreciate the atmosphere, sense of majesty and quiet dignity which is an important element in our Masonic ceremonies. Designed to accommodate about 65 people the room is lofty but not over large which helps to preserve the family composition of our membership and maintain the close personal relationships between the members. It has none of that impersonality that so often characterises many vast installations in modern times and has been in constant use since 1823.

The decoration is in the high Regency style and, like the rest of the building, no expense was spared when carrying out the original construction. Note the high ceiling covered with a myriad of golden stars on a deep blue background, whilst a golden sunburst conceals the ventilator opening in the centre. Immediately below the ceiling runs a decorative frieze of Graeco-Roman floral design known as the Anthemion. This is a representation of honeysuckle, symbolising fidelity, which was a motif much favoured by the Adam brothers in their decoration of some of the great houses in the latter part of the 18th century. The same pattern is in the exquisitely executed wrought-iron work, backed by crimson velvet, which forms the front of the gallery at the west end of the room. There, too, is represented the Lyre, the emblem of music.

The Lodge Room

Organ & Gallery

The ceiling was raised to accommodate the beautiful ‘gentleman’s’ pipe organ presented to Foundation Lodge in 1832. Believed to date from the late 1700’s, it has been recently completely overhauled and, despite its great age, still sounds out boldly to accompany the singing parts of our ceremonies. On the north wall is a beautifully tiled fireplace emblazoned with Masonic emblems in gold. This was the only means of heating the room until central heating was installed. The picture also shows the beautiful ironwork round the organ gallery.

Access to the organ gallery is by a narrow winding staircase in the north-west corner of the room. It is supported by two Ionic pillars seen in the picture; one surmounted by the Celestial and the other the Terrestrial Globe, pointing out Masonry Universal

Cheltenham Freemasonry Lodge, Foundation 82, Cheltenham Masonic Lodge

Gilded Chairs

At the East end of the Lodge room is a dais on which sits the Master’s chair, surmounted by a crimson canopy, draped and tasselled, which was erected in 1834. Foundation’s original Master and Senior and Junior Warden’s fine mahogany chairs were presented by various members around 1825. These are placed either side of the present Master’s chair, for distinguished visitors. These chairs were superseded by the magnificent gilded, throne-like, chairs brought by Royal Union Lodge in 1830 when they came to meet in the Hall, the first Lodge to do so after the opening by Foundation Lodge. The magnificent chair in the picture is the Senior Wardens chair. The Worshipful Masters chair is under the canopy in the picture above.

The present seating, which was obtained from a redundant church in Somerset, replaced the original benches as they became very unstable at the time of the restoration of the building. Nevertheless they are almost contemporaneous with the building, having been made in 1840. The centre carpet is traditional Masonic black and white squares surrounded by a pale blue, plain, carpet. This colour is carried up onto the walls above the lower wall portion of deep red which forms a backing to the lighter colour of the seats. A Victorian version of the honeysuckle frieze separates the two colours. Note that almost the entire wall space is covered with Honours Boards upon which are inscribed, annually, the name of the Master or Head of the specific order.

Honours Board

The honours boards of Foundation Lodge, date back to 1817. and contain the names of many distinguished gentlemen who have been the Worshipful Master of Foundation Lodge, many of them the patrons of the many activities and buildings of Cheltenham.

Finally our motto

Brotherly Love - Relief - Truth