The first masonic lodge in Brompton was the Lodge of Harmony No.403 formed in 1798. This is now part of the Gillingham Lodge of Benevolence No. 184. Two lodges were formed for military personnel only, one in the 5th Battalion Royal Artillery from 1812 to 1823 and Royal Engineers Lodge No.4465 (formed 1922) but all other Brompton lodges admitted civilians. Royal Engineers Lodge has since relaxed its membership restriction.
The earlier lodges met in taverns. The Queen’s Head, Golden Lion , King’s Head and Lord Nelson were all used for meetings. They were not ideal as outsiders could overhear the proceedings and they were too small for larger lodges.
The Assembly Rooms in Middle Street was used as a larger venue until a purpose built masonic hall was built in Wood Street by the Brownrigg Lodge of Unity No. 1424, opening in 1910. This survived in use until 1974 apart from during the First World War when it was used by the Royal Engineers as part of the officer’s mess.
Men from many walks of life became masons. Between 1799 and 1815 Brompton residents in the Lodge of Harmony included a Wheelwright, victualler, gardener, smith, carpenter, shipwright, baker, stonemason, bombardier royal artillery, sawyer, surgeon, royal artillery driver. Men from Chatham, Rochester and the local barracks were also members.
Since the demolition of the Wood Street masonic hall freemasons no longer meet in Brompton but seven of the nine lodges still exist in Gillingham. These meet in the Franklin Rooms and at Balmoral Road. Membership returns for these lodges (up to 1940) are a useful source for research, as are the records of charity given to members and others.
Note: Freemasons lodges for women also exist but as part of separate organisations and none appear to have met in Brompton.