The Coventry Masonic Heritage Centre
A Brief History of the Building
The Coventry Masonic Heritage Center did not start out as a meeting place for Freemasons. It was originaly an imposing Victorian property built in 1878 as a private residence for the Twist family (a prominent Coventry family firm of Solicitors) and is situated at the junction of Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth Roads. The house at this time was named ‘Dalecote’. It was later aquired in the mid 1920’s by a wealthy local builder, William Henry Jones and his wife Laura (known to friends and family as ‘Lol’) and was purchased together with a paddock and cottage in the grounds. The cottage being situated at the corner of what is now Asthill Grove and Humphrey Burtons Road.
The cottage was home to the Housekeeper, Nel Keeping, her husband Harry the Chauffeur/Gardener and their daughter Annwith. It had an outdoor toilet was lit only by oil lamps, it did however have a wind-up phone connecting it with the Main house. An air raid shelter built in the grounds proved a life saving asset when bombs dropped into the gardens during the second world war. Sadly the impact of the bombs blew out most of the Stained Glass windows in the main house.
Libby Atkins the Jones’s granddaughter who was born in the house and later married local Solicitor David Mander of Asthill Grove. Libby grew up with the ‘Keepings’ daughter Ann and they became best friends. The immaculate gardens included kennels, the paddock and stables was a wonderful place for a child to grow up in.
William Henry Jones died in 1947 and Laura his wife, invited the ‘Keepings’ to move from the cottage to ‘Dalecote.’ In 1959 Laura (Lol) died and on the 3rd November 1959 and the house and it’s contents were auctioned off. Selected pages from the auction catalogue are can be seen below.
The House was purchased by the Coventry Fellowship of Drapers Guild following the closure and sale of The Drapers Hall in the 1960’s.
Due to the general decline of the Guilds in the late 70’s it was agreed to turn it into a Dining Club, hence The Drapers Club. Lunch was served daily and it was a popular watering hole in the evenings and a venue for special functions throughout the year.
Freemasonry during this period was going through a difficult time as between 1972 – 75 numbers were declining and it became necessary to close the Masonic rooms in Allesley.
The Drapers Club was also struggling for similar reasons and it was a young David Peachey, a member of the Drapers Guild, who brokered an agreement between the two organisations to share the premises. Of the 17 Lodges then based in Coventry some moved their membership to Warwick, Leamington and Guys Cliffe, but 9 Coventry Lodges and side Orders agreed to meet at the Drapers Club. Stivichall Lodge moved to the Penthouse suite at the DeMontfort Hotel in Kenilworth for a year before finaly moving to The Drapers Club in 1975.
The Masons paid £3000 per annum to the Drapers Club for use of the rooms at ‘Dalecote’ for their Masonic Meetings. Directed by David Peachey and John Glover, a 3 year option was agreed and a new company (South Siden Acres) was formed by raising £500 per head from each Member. As a result of this an extension at the rear of the existing building was added (the current Masonic Temple). The first Masonic meeting was held in October 1975 and with shared usage of the premises until a formal completion of ownership by the Coventry Freemasons in 1998.
It was in 1995 that the Drapers Club agreed they would sell ‘Dalecote’ to the Coventry Freemasons for £175k with a 3 year option. £135k was raised and with a loan back for the difference (on preferable terms from the Drapers Club) ownership was transferred to the Coventry Masons and the loan fully repaid within 3 years.
Many thanks to W Bro Gerry Logue for the research in this article.