The Masonic Hall, Cork – A Short History

Welcome to the Masonic Hall, Tuckey Street, Cork

Since 1844 the headquarters of Freemasonry in the presence of Muster


Historical Background:

The street on which this premises  is located was  formerly  called Tuckey's Lane,  just 20ft wide, and  terminating in the city wall; the present street was created by this fane being widened on the north (park) side, a development commemorated on the limestone wall tablet halfway down the street on the opposite side, which reads 'Tuckey's Street, 1761'. Our Masonic Hall was built c.1770 and is shown as 'The New Assembly Rooms' on a Cork map of 1771. By 1790, it was known as 'The King's Theatre' and was used for musical and amateur dramatic events by the Apollo Society; plays were preformed  and, in addition,  the  army garrison  stationed  at  Cork  held  musical evenings known as 'Drums', with dancing, card playing and light refreshments served, the attendance being confined to the officers and their ladies. Many groups and societies used the building, notably the fledgling Scots Presbyterian congregation of the city, which rented the Assembly Room between 1833 and 1840.

The First Lodge of Ireland purchased the Tuckey Street premises in 1844; prior to this, it met in the taverns of the city and notably the Oyster Tavern (which is still in existence today), in common with the other city lodges. The first meeting as owners of the building took place on 20 December 1844; there was no official opening on that date, it having been previously agreed 'that £10.00 be taken from funds for to defray the expenses of the rent for the new Lodge Room'. Since this time, Tuckey Street has also been the venue for quarterly meetings of Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster, the governing body for this province. The Lodge Room was finally consecrated on 24 June 1880 and, since 1925, the building is co-owned by all constituent Masonic groups meeting here.

Our building is stone built and was not originally end-o f-terrace; the gable end was revealed in the early 1970s, following the demolition of the adjacent Jenning's Furniture Store which had  been  destroyed  by  fire  in September 1970, a fire that severely damaged our top floor, destroying its contents. Following extensive smoke and water damage on that occasion, all meetings were transferred to temporary premises at nearby Cove Street until renovations were completed in 1971.

The foundation of this outer gable wall is built upon the medieval city wall of Cork, which was demolished early in the eighteenth century, having last seen defensive use in the 1690 siege of the city during the Williamite campaign. The line of the wall is partially revealed in Bishop Lucey Park and may be visually traced across the end of Tuckey Street through what is now the Christian Bookshop. The large building next to this - directly opposite our entrance - was the Main Guard Room of the city, where some men were questioned and tried during the 1798 Rising. This premises later became an R.I.C. Barracks until converted in the 1920s to the City Library; today it houses the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The internal design of this building has changed little since it was constructed. At the ground floor level were 3 shops - 2 on the left of the present entrance door (now comprising the Supper Room area), and 1 on the right, now the Kitchen. This was the fashion of the time and the shop front facia on the exterior of the building still displays the consoles that divided these commercial premises. The original entrance frontage was designed in 1845 by Edward Martin & Son, architects, whose plans arc on display in the Supper Room.

The Supper Room doubles as a museum, with all walls given over to the display of a large collection of jewels, aprons and Masonica, most notably the portion relating to The Lady Freemason, comprising her apron, autograph signature, and photographs of her homes at Doncraile Court and Newmarket House. An eighteenth century miniature portrait, painted in during her lifetime and an oil painting dated 1877 complete the collection.

Also  in  the supper  room  is a  painting  of  the  Master's Throne,  a  commission  of  R.W.  Bro.  Charles J. Lane P.G.M, painted in 1919 by W. Bro. Dermod O'Brien, P.R.H.A. Further items of interest include the original ceremonial level used by the Lord Lieutenant, the earl of Carlisle, at the laying of the foundation stone of the modern St Patrick's Bridge on 12 November 1859 (depicted in a large framed print on the staircase) and subsequently on 12 January 1865 (at the foundation ceremony of the present St Fin Barre\ Cathedra, a Napoleonic Sword and French Masonic Certificate (which was found on the body of a dead French Officer in the battlefield at Waterloo) and the Chatterton sword, which was presented by R.W.Bro. General Sir James C. Chatterton, Baronet

As you enter the Staircase Hall, you will  note  on  the  walls  more  unique  historical  memorabilia  of  past  and present lodges, chapters and councils. The lower staircase hall  display  includes  a  large  commemorative  print  of Queen Victoria's tour of the fleet moored in the harbour  of  Cork, 3  August  1849,  which  is  of  special  interest, being commissioned for the benefit of the Cork Masonic Female  Asylum.  Perhaps  the  oldest  item  -  an  old Irish Level found 7 feet beneath the surface in Co. Antrim in 1864, was presented in 1892 by R.W. Bro. Robert Day F.S.A.,  M.R.I.A.,  a  founding  member  of  the Cork  Historical  and , Archaeological Society.  The upper staircase displays photos of many Past Provincial Grand Masters of Munster.  The staircase itself is the original and a very fine example of eighteenth-century manufacture.

The first floor comprises the Ante Room Library and the Lodge Room (the old assembly room), while the present Robing Room was the gallery, now walled in. The Lodge Room is rectangular in shape, and measures 38 feet in length by 26 feet in width. The wall panelling and stalls of the Lodge Room are hung with armorial family stall plates and banners emblazoned with the coats of arms of Prince Masons past and present, whose membership is limited to 33 at any given time. Those banners positioned high up on the walls are of deceased brethren; those directly over the stall arc of the present incumbent, whose stall plate is centrally positioned behind. The stalls were installed in 1866 and formerly comprised the choir stalls of Old St Fin Barre's Cathedral. They are over 300 years old, and were purchased by the Prince Masons for the sum of £30.00. The canopy over the master's throne was that which  had  been  over  the  bishop's  throne  in  the  old  cathedral building, while the Master's throne was itself commissioned in 1872 by the First Lodge from Mr Casey of Cook Street, with the addition of a level, to keep in harmony with the Ash canopy and stalls.

The present Senior Warden's chair previously functioned as the Master's throne; the Junior Warden's chair was reputedly used during the early eighteenth century initiation in Doneraile Court of The Lady Freemason, The Hon. Elizabeth St Leger. It was presented to the Third Lodge of Ireland in 1864, and came into these premises with them, in 1926. The fireplace was situated behind the Junior Warden's Chair; in 1905, it was covered over in appropriate panelling designed by Bro. H. Hill, an architect in the city.

The richly carved secretary's desk was presented to the First Lodge of Ireland in 1898 by R.W. Bro. Anderson Cooper 33°, a Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Munster.

The chairs on either side of the Senior Warden’s Chair - used by the Organist and Junior Deacon, and those in the North East comer, used by visiting dignitaries - are of Edwardian Masonic design, c.1900.

The three triangular tables also date to c.1900, with the engraving on the lower level indicating to which office they belong; they are covered with a canopy and are a nineteenth-century deviation of the eighteenth century Porter Chair. The two brass pillars were donated to the province by the brethren of Harmony Lodge No. 67 for general use; however, lodges may continue to use their own, if desired.

High up on the wall of the former gallery, behind  the  Senior Warden, is mounted  a  massive  mosaic  depicting the first degree tracing board, surrounded by plaster cast figures of the  four Evangelists  which surround  the west window in St Fin Barre's Cathedral. In 1871, it is recorded that the Dean of Cork requested these casts be removed from the cathedral yard and erected in the Lodge room.

The tripod, commissioned in 1862 by the First Lodge of Ireland from a Mr Laurence Casey, was designed by Anthony Perrier Esq. It is carved out of a lime tree and its purpose is to hold the Lodge warrants. At the top of the tripod stands the Square and Compass, supported by a Corinthian Pillar. The three legs represent the three pillars of King Solomon's temple and the figures represent Faith, Hope, and Charity. Each leg terminates in the head of a Lion, to denote strength, a woman to denote beauty, and a serpent head for wisdom. The painting and colouring was carried out by Messrs Clarke of Princes Street, the cost being £7 8s. 3d.

The pair of Lodge Room pillars, a gift from Hibernian Lodge No. 95, were used by that Lodge in their former premises in Parnell [Warren] Place.

The two-manual and pedal 'Apollo' reed organ, model No. 1322, was built in 1936 by the firm of Rushworth and Dreaper of Liverpool. It contains 548 reeds, across ten ranks, cased in solid English oak. The organ, which was built to Royal College of Organist specifications, is considered the zenith of reed-organ construction, and is one of 336 built between 1910 and 1939. Our Royal Arch Chapter room contains an identical - albeit older - model, No. 1177, built in 1924.

The bespoke carpet was specially woven and commissioned from Yougha1 Carpets in 1971; the tessellated pavement and stall cushion covers (which depict various symbols of Freemasonry) were made by R.W. Bro. Alec Day, P.G.M. and his wife, assisted by his deputy, R.W. Bro. J.  MacLeod Pratt.

There are three oil portraits in the Lodge Room. On the  former  gallery  wall  hang  portraits  of  two  past Deputy Provincial  Grand  Masters  of  Munster, R.W. Bro. Anderson Cooper 33°,  painted  by Sir  Walter Osborne R.H.A.  in 1895 and R.W. Bro. William H. Beamish 33°, painted in 1918; over the Junior Warden's chair hangs the third, being that of R.W. Bro. Charles J. Lane, Esq., P.G.M. This last portrait, painted in 1949, is by James Sleator P.H.R.A

The original staircase continues upwards to the former Assembly Room gallery (now the Robing Room) and, from there, a lesser staircase leads to the Royal Arch Chapter Room, added in 1924-25 when, in preparation for the amalgamation of the city lodges at Tuckey Street, another floor was added to the building for use as the Royal Arch Chapter Room by the building firm, Mahony of Cork. This upper room was used along with the Robing Room for many dinners and socials prior to provision of the present supper room.-The governing body of Royal Arch Chapters for the province of Munster, constituted in 1914, holds its quarterly meetings here, as do the city chapters. This room, being badly damaged in September 1970, contains much replacement furnishing sourced from former ecclesiastical buildings, while the chair of the first principal officer originally came from the lodge premises in Tralee.