English Freemasonry comprises Lodges operated under the auspices of the United Grand Lodge of England.85. Originally there were two Grand Lodges, one formed in 1717 (subsequently known as the Moderns) and an alternative one formed in 1751 (known as the Antients).
They combined to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. Each Lodge has a name and a unique number (the lower the number the older the Lodge).
The oldest Lodge currently meeting at Gosport is The Gosport Lodge No. 903 which was formed in 1861. However Freemasonry existed in the town even before the formation of the United Grand Lodge in the form of The Lodge of Antiquity, which subsequently received the number 26 in 1724.
Freemasonry meetings, followed by meals were held in Gosport within establishments such as The East India Arms and The Crown Inn. With meetings of 40-50 or more Masons, the heating and ventilation of these premises left much to be desired.
In 1918 The Gosport Lodge 903 together with The Prince of Wales Lodge No 1705 agreed to the joint purchase of premises in Clarence Road, then used by the Plymouth Brethren for the sum of £900. It was known in those days as Clarence Hall. In the left picture of the hall, only the portion under the apex roof constituted the hall, and is now currently used as the Dining Room or hall as part of the Clarence Suite.
Whilst a great improvement on previous arrangements, further extension was still required. In 1929 Meeting rooms for Freemasonry were constructed at the rear. During construction local inns or the Thorngate Hall still needed to be used for suppers and other events. The additions were completed with finances raised by the brethren.
Subsequently, as the finances and whole operation had increased in size and complexity, it was decided in 1929 to form a limited company and raise money by the issue of shares to operate the hall and manage its finances. Gosport Masonic Hall Ltd was therefore formed with the shareholders being the above two Lodges plus St. Swithuns Lodge No 4795. The same company still operates it today.
Apart from some damage to the roof, the building survived the second world war. Additional adjacent property was purchased as it became available over the years, but the financial position became burdensome. It was therefore decided in 1986 to increase the Share Capital and shares were sold to the individual lodges, which had now grown over the years to eight in number.
The building nowadays is effectively divided into two. The rooms for the purpose of Gosport Freemasonry are completely separate from what is now called the Clarence Suite, and, apart from Masonic social use, is used for community purposes such as meetings for the disabled, and children's groups.
The building was maintained over the years but was only funded for the basic minimum of expenditure and an accumulation of defects and a gradual deterioration set in. It was decided in 2006 by all the brethren meeting at Gosport Masonic Hall to raise a sum of money over a period of five years to correct the problem. A Building Fund was therefore set up.
The building was renovated and in addition to the Masonic sections, the Clarence Suite was greatly enhanced. A new double sided bar was fitted which also permitted a new Members Room on one side. The building, well known in Gosport, therefore caters for freemasonry with its prime object of charitable causes, and also for the benefit of the local community. Freemasonry in Gosport is part of the Solent Group of Masons which also incorporates those from Fareham and the Isle of Wight.