1862 - 1879

Reading Rooms

Original plans of the Victoria Building Company incorporated a swimming pool, but this was not constructed.

In December 1862 Great Yarmouth Assembly and Reading Rooms Company put their seal to a Conveyance to the Victoria Building Company.

In January 1863 a seal was placed on a mortgage for £1,300, stating that the Assembly and Reading Rooms were available for occupation.

A Schedule of the building described the premise as follows:

  • Assembly Room
  • Ladies’ Room
  • Gentleman’s Room
  • Billiard Room
  • Refreshment Room
  • Manager’s Room
  • Kitchen
  • Manager’s Bedroom
  • Servant’s Room

Premises sold in 1875 to Henry William Ulph, James Sutton and William Butcher for £2,050.

Norfolk Artillery hired the Rooms periodically and in 1883 Lt. Colonel Lord Suffield and Major Edward Southwold Trafford purchased it on behalf of the Prince of Wales Own Norfolk Artillery Militia.

The cost was £2,233, 6s, 8p. (Two thousand two hundred and thirty three pounds, six shillings and eight pence) and included all the fittings.

1879 - 1919

Norfolk Militia

In 1871 the Prince of Wales succeeded Lord Hastings as Honorary Colonel of the Norfolk Artillery Militia.

Every year Norfolk Artillery hired the Assembly Rooms for three weeks and used it for a Mess, concluding with a Ball on the last night.

Premise increasingly used, especially when H. R. H. Prince Albert, Victor of Wales, became a member of the Regiment in 1885.

The Norfolk Artillery used the South Denes for gunnery training.

On joining the Regiment, officers presented their family Coat of Arms. The Association is now the proud custodian of those historic shields.

Lily Langtry resided at the Royal Hotel and made regular appearances on stage at the Royal Aquarium.

Prince Edward resided at the Shadingfield Lodge, where, according to legend, he was regularly entertained.

In 1907 Lord Haldene formed the Territorial Army and the Militia either became Special Reserves or took their discharge. Finally disbanded in 1909.

In 1910 the contents of the Mess were disposed of and the Assembly Rooms were sold to J.W. Nightingale. He died the following year.

Business was significantly affected with the outbreak of the 1914 – 1918 First World War.

In a chancery administration action J.W. Nightingale’s son was appointed Receiver and the Assembly Rooms were sold in 1918 by way of Provisional Consent.

1919 - Present


Messrs. A. W. Yallop and R. F. Ferrier, having entered into a Provisional Contract to acquire the building and its contents for £2,300, (Two thousand three hundred pounds), intended the Assembly Rooms for Masonic use.

Brother A. W. Yallop was Master of the Lodge of Friendship at that time and placed before the Lodge his proposal for a Limited Company to be formed in order to secure acquisition.

In May 1919 the limited company of the Great Yarmouth Masonic Association was incorporated.

The Assembly Rooms had previously been used for hire. The first being in April 1900 when the Royal Plantagenet Preceptory held a meeting there.

On October 10th 1919 they were the first to hold a meeting under the new ownership.

Six days later, on October 16th 1919, the Lodge of Friendship held their meeting in the building.

The Lodge of United Friends quickly followed suit, having previously hired the Assembly Rooms prior to the death of J. W. Nightingale in 1919.

With the exception of a period during the Second World War, when the Royal Navy requisitioned the premises for Petty Officers and Able Seamen, the Assembly Rooms has been used for Freemasonry.

Substantial improvements were undertaken in 1960 and a major extension added in 1972.

Most recently the building has enjoyed a major refurbishment. The fabric of the building has been extensively restored and interior re-decorated. Fixtures and fittings have either been upgraded or replaced. Of particular note is the architecture of the Main Lodge Room, which is now adorned with magnificent Italian Chandeliers.

10 Lodges and 14 Side Degrees now meet within the building, including Morning Glory, the first daytime lodge formed in Norfolk. The building has now been opened up for public and business use On the 4th February 2009 the Club was proud to receive a visit from The Most Worshipful, The Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.