When I was in my early teens I used to wander aimlessly around Middlesbrough town centre. It was an exciting time, the tired, dirty town centre was undergoing a massive transformation. The soot-blackened Victorian buildings were being emptied and demolished to make way for bright new shopping centres and roads. The town was prosperous, industry was booming, the future looked bright.
I spent a lot of time wandering around the Marton Road area and I particularly loved the old masonic hall. All I knew about freemasons was that my Dad didn’t like them, he told me that freemasons were a corrupt bunch who didn’t like catholics, the symbols on the facade of the hall only served to reinforce this. At the time I was reading a lot of Dennis Wheatley novels and in my adolescent mind imagined the freemasons to be a mysterious sect who undertook bacchanalian rituals whilst plotting the downfall of the church of Rome.
A year or two later I was working as a waiter in a local hotel when one of the local masonic lodges held a function in the ballroom. The masons were all dressed up in dinner jackets, their wives in frocks and furs. The assembled group stood and applauded the entrance of the worshipful master and his wife. My illusions were shattered, it turned out that leader of this mysterious cult was the bloke who owned my local fish and chip shop.
Sadly the hall, along with many other beautiful Victorian buildings, was demolished to make way for the A66, an elevated dual carriageway which bisected and dominated the town centre, a moment of town planning madness, a collective madness that was being played out in towns and cities throughout 1970’s Britain.
I later learned that the statue on the top of the old hall represented Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, the statue was saved and is now housed in the modern masonic hall on Roman Road. A photograph, by local historian Ian Stubbs, of the statue in its current home can be seen here
The photograph below shows the hall just prior to demolition, the freemasons had moved out and the building was being used as a nightclub.