The Cloisters (Letchworth)

The Cloisters (Letchworth)
The Cloisters Letchworth
The Cloisters in 1908

The Cloisters in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire in the UK, was built by Quaker Miss Annie Jane Lawrence (1863-1953), the daughter of Alfred Lawrence (1826 - 1875), who, with his brother Frederick, owned 'Lawrence Brothers, Smiths and Founders', and his wife Mary Elizabeth.[1] Originally built as an open-air school dedicated to Psychology, with accommodation for 20 students, students were encouraged to study "how thought affects action and what causes and produces thought." Through healthy outdoor living it was intended that the students would develop healthy minds. The building was also designed to hold lectures, conferences, drama and musical performances as well as organ recitals. Students were also taught skills from the Arts and Crafts movement.[2]

Designed by architect William Harrison Cowlishaw, building commenced on the 3-acre (12,000 m2) site in 1905, and the building opened on January 17, 1907, having cost the then huge sum of £20,000. Miss Lawrence built a house for herself, 'Cloisters Lodge', alongside.[3]



A hand-cast lead drainpipe with design of bees and bats from The Cloisters

The design reputedly came to Miss Lawrence in a dream. The building originally consisted of a large half-oval 'open-air room' called the `Cloisters Garth' with an open colonnade to the south and large glazed bays to the north; this was flanked by two wings, one housing the kitchen and store rooms and the other the cubicles and dressing rooms for an oval open-air swimming pool. It was designed according to the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, and was built using marbles and other materials from all over Europe.


A small community developed at The Cloisters dedicated to Theosophy. It became the base for the Alpha Union set up by J.Bruce Wallace of the Brotherhood Church, who organised summer schools and residential courses there. Miss Lawrence, although somewhat deaf, was a great music lover. On one occasion she brought The London Concert Orchestra, made up of 40 unemployed musicians, to play at the Cloisters Garth. This was part of an ongoing series of concerts that she organised attended by audiences of 1,000, making organ recitals, band and choral concerts a regular part of the new town's cultural life. The last concert was given by the Brotherhood Orchestra in 1939 on the day the Second World War broke out.

History since 1939

The Masonic Temple at The Cloisters

The Cloisters was commandeered by the Army during the War and suffered damage. By 1948 Miss Lawrence found it increasingly difficult to maintain the building and to repair the damage caused by the Army. She initially offered it to the local Council, who turned it down. Eventually, she offered it to the local Freemasons who accepted it, turning it into the North Hertfordshire Masonic Centre. About sixty Masonic lodges and 'side degrees' meet at The Cloisters, and the centre is run and maintained by an elected Board of Trustees, The Lawrence Cloisters Trust. A Craft Lodge, the 'Cloisters Lodge No 7100' was formed there in 1951 to commemorate Miss Lawrence's generous gift of the building to Hertfordshire Freemasons.[4]

Miss Lawrence moved to St Catherine's Nursing Home where she died aged 90 in August 1953

The Cloisters has been designated by Letchworth Garden City Corporation as one of the 'great historic buildings' of North Hertfordshire. It is a Grade II* listed building.[5]

Notable Freemasons at The Cloisters


  1. ^ 'The Cloisters, Letchworth, 1907-1967' by V W Miles Published by The Lawrence Cloisters Trust (1967) pg 7
  2. ^ 'The Cloisters, Letchworth, 1907-1967' by V W Miles Published by The Lawrence Cloisters Trust (1967)
  3. ^ [1] Utopia Britannica - British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945
  4. ^ 'The Cloisters, Letchworth' by Jack Gifford 'Freemasonry Today' Issue 11 (Winter 1999/2000)
  5. ^ [2] 'The Cloisters' on English Heritage's Listed Buildings Online website

External links

Coordinates: 51°58′06″N 0°13′31″W / 51.96833°N 0.22528°W / 51.96833; -0.22528

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Cloisters (disambiguation) — The Cloisters is the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of the European Middle Ages.The Cloisters may also refer to:* The Cloisters, Perth, a two storey dark coloured brick building * The Cloisters… …   Wikipedia

  • Letchworth — For the U.S. businessman, see William Pryor Letchworth. : For the New York State Park, see Letchworth State Park .infobox UK place country = England latitude= 51.978 longitude= 0.230 official name= Letchworth Garden City population= 33,600 shire… …   Wikipedia

  • List of historic buildings and architects of the United Kingdom — The Historic buildings of the United Kingdom date from the stone age to the twenty first century AD, and tell the story of the architecture of the United Kingdom.See also: List of British architects Pre Historic buildings structures Roman… …   Wikipedia

  • William Harrison Cowlishaw — Infobox Architect caption = The Cloisters in Letchworth name = W H Cowlishaw nationality = British birth date = 1869 birth place = death date = 1957 significant buildings= The Cloisters (Letchworth) significant projects = Commonwealth War Graves… …   Wikipedia

  • Temple maconnique — Temple maçonnique Représentation virtuelle d un temple maçonnique au rite égyptien, au centre du pavé mosaïque, on distingue la chambre du milieu Un temple maçonnique est un lieu où se réunissent les Franc Maçons pour célébrer leurs rituels dans… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Temple maçonnique — Représentation virtuelle d un temple maçonnique au rite égyptien, on distingue au centre le pavé mosaïque Un temple maçonnique est un lieu où se réunissent les francs maçons pour célébrer leurs rituels dans le cadre de ce qu ils nomment des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • List of Masonic buildings — identifies the notable buildings around the world that were constructed by Masonic bodies, were converted to Masonic purposes by the fraternity, or that have some other strong association with Freemasonry. Masonic buildings in the United States… …   Wikipedia

  • Freimaurerei (Architektur) — Mit der Freimaurerei verknüpfte Architektur umfasst weltweit tausende Gebäude, sie ist allerdings aus historischen Gründen auf Nordamerika und hier speziell auf die USA konzentriert, wo vor allem in den Jahrzehnten zwischen 1870 und 1930 eine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gotische Buchmalerei — Jean de Bondol: Jean de Vaudetar präsentiert sein Werk, die Bible historiale als Geschenk König Karl V. (Frankreich, 1371/72).[1] Die Buchmalerei der Gotik ging von Frankreich und England aus, wo sie um 1160/70 einsetzte, während in Deutschland… …   Deutsch Wikipedia