Great Queen Street

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File:Great Queen Street.jpg
Great Queen Street, looking east. Freemasons' Hall is visible on the right.

Great Queen Street is a street in the West End of central London in England. It is a continuation of Long Acre from Drury Lane to Kingsway. It runs from 1 to 44 along the north side, east to west, and 45 to about 80 along the south side, west to east. The street straddles and connects the Covent Garden and Holborn districts and is in the London Borough of Camden.

Early history

The street was called "Queen Street" from around 1605-9, and "Great Queen Street" from around 1670.

In 1646 William Newton was given permission to build fourteen large houses, each with a forty foot frontage, on the south side of the street. Although he did not build all the houses himself, selling on some the plots, they were constructed to a uniform design, in a classical style, with Ionic pilasters rising through two storeys from the first floor to the eaves. <ref name=pelican>Template:Cite book</ref> The regular design of the houses proved influential. According to John Summerson they "laid down the canon which put an end to gabled individualism, and provided a discipline for London's streets which was to endure for two hundred years"<ref name=georgian>Template:Cite book</ref>

Masonic connections

Roughly half of the south side is occupied by Freemasons' Hall, the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England. The first English Grand Lodge was founded in 1717, which explains the dates on the top of the current building. Their first buildings on this site were replaced in 1860 by the architect Frederick Pepys Cockerell. However, this is the third Freemasons' Hall, which was built by international subscriptions in 1927–33 as a Masonic Peace Memorial after the Great War. It is a grade II listed building, and the only Art Deco building in London that is unaltered and still used for its original purpose. There are 29 meeting rooms and the 1,000 seat Grand Temple, which with the Library and Museum are open to the public with hourly guided tours.

The four Masonic Charities are also located in Freemasons' Hall. They are The Freemasons' Grand Charity, a grant-making charity; the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution(RMBI), which operates 17 care homes for Freemasons and their dependants; the Royal Masonic Trust for Boys and Girls, provides education for the children of Freemasons; and the Masonic Samaritan Fund, providing medical care and support.

In 1775 the Freemasons' Tavern stood at 61–65, now the hotel and "New Connaught Rooms". Like the original Tavern, the hotel is used by the public as well as by the freemasons for their receptions and dinners: the "New Connaught Rooms" are frequently used for exhibitions, business meetings and award ceremonies. There are conflicting stories about the founding in 1863 of the Football Association to set down the rules of the game. The existing pub "The Freemasons Arms" on Long Acre is sometimes said to be the site of this event, but other sources say it was the "Freemason’s Tavern" where the New Connaught Rooms now stand.

There is a pub called "The Prince of Wales" at 45 Great Queen Street, presumably named after the future George IV who was the Grand Master of the Freemasons in 1809.

The North side of the road is also partly occupied by Masonic regalia shops, Masonic charities and administrative offices. At numbers 19-21 is the premises of the regalia manufacturer Toye, Kenning & Spencer who have been located at this address since acquiring the rival manufacturer George Kenning in 1956. At 23 is another shop where Masonic regalia is sold. At 30-31 is the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, a charity to provide an education for the orphaned children of Masons.

Residents and businesses

At 72 is the Kingsway Hall Hotel.

At 31, Great Queen Street lived James Basire, member of the Society of Antiquaries who took on William Blake as an apprentice in 1772. During 1837 to 1840 the painter Richard Dadd lived in Great Queen Street, while studying at the Royal Academy. Shanks and Co ran their well known coachbuilding business at 70/71 Great Queen Street from the 1850s, becoming F & R Shanks in 1860. The business moved out of Great Queen Street around 1905. The Shanks coachworks was located in 'New Yard', this land was sold to the Freemasons around 1920 to build the Freemasons' Hall.

The George, Public House, was at 9, Great Queen Street during the 1890s onwards to at least 1911, as it is given as the home and business address in Census returns.

From 1882 to 1959 the Novelty Theatre was also to be found on the street.

At 56–58, lived James Boswell, lawyer, diarist and author, and from time to time, was joined by his good friend Samuel Johnson critic and author of 'A Dictionary of the English Language'.


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