English Masonic Charity: Royal Cumberland School for Girls

The Library and Museum’s latest exhibition about Masonic charity includes an outline of the history of what was originally known as the Royal Cumberland School for the Daughters of Indigent Freemasons.

The qualification for admittance to the school stated that:

In admission of children preference be given to orphans whose fathers at the time of their decease were registered freemasons and members of a lodge. After these a preference to be given to such children whose fathers are members of a lodge at the time of presenting their petition but that NONE be admitted but children of registered masons.

As the school was intended for orphans or girls from impoverished families, the education they received was fairly rudimentary, with the long term goal of enabling them to find work as domestic servants when they left the school.

The school had a set of 33 rules for the girls to follow, rule 33 being:

Every well-behaved girl on leaving shall have, Gowns, Petticoats, Aprons, Shoes, Stockings, Shifts, Caps, Tuscan Hats, a Bible, a Book of Common Prayer and the Whole Duty of Man.

The school carried on the tradition of providing school leavers with a Bible, a prayer book and a new outfit right through to the 1960s.

The school opened in Euston with fifteen pupils but proved a success. By 1795 accommodation for 65 girls was needed and the school moved to a new building at St. George’s Fields (now Westminster Bridge Road) as shown in this print.

Freemason's School with adjacent buildings

Freemason's School with adjacent buildings, published May 2nd 1803 by Laurie and Whittle of Fleet Street, London