Freemason’s Tavern

Freemasonry has existed in Brighton for over two hundred years and the individual lodges are well known for meticulously recording the details of their meetings. The Freemason’s Tavern on Western Road has been in operation since at least the 1850s but, despite the abundance of Masonic records, it’s not clear what the actual connection is between the pub and the fraternal society.

The Freemason’s is spread across Nos. 38 and 39 Western Road in Hove. No. 38 is the most distinctive of the two as its façade consists of an intricate two storey entrance portico with a huge, principally gold and blue, mosaic surround. ‘FREEMASONS RESTAURANT’ and ‘KEMP TOWN BREWERY’ are inscribed across the top of the mosaic frame; the latter demonstrating that the distinctive Art Deco refurbishment took place after 1933 (the year that the Kemp Town Brewery was founded).

The level of detail is quite staggering. The windows are a work of art in themselves and the glass has been etched to include the Masonic square and compasses. Other Masonic symbols feature prominently. The principal ceilings within No. 38 are divided into sections by what appear to be large concealed beams suggesting that a steel frame was added during the 1930s refurbishment. Each compartment features cornicing in a style very much of the period. In fact, the building shares a number of similarities with the Sussex Masonic Centre, where most local lodges today meet.

The General Manager, Chris, was kind enough to allow me access to several of the building’s hidden areas which include a labyrinthian cellar complete with large windows at the front and rear which once let in light from the street and a yard respectively. A flat spans the two buildings and features steel-framed windows above the distinctive façade but wooden sash windows everywhere else. It has access to a wonderful roof terrace overlooking the oasis-like secret garden of 33a Brunswick Square.

The Freemason’s Tavern is today owned by Steve Simpson who bought the business from the pub group Punch Taverns several months back. Steve also owns OHSO Social on the Brighton seafront.

For more on this local institution and many other great buildings nearby, be sure to book a place on Brunswick – A Town Within a City, a tour which is to be given by Mike Robins of M & M Tours during the Fringe Festival. Mike is on 01273 773052 and 07900 844951.