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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 05:10 GMT 06:10 UK
Parade for 'secret society' hall
Beamish museum
Hundreds of freemasons march to mark hall opening
More than 2,000 freemasons held a march to mark the opening of a Masonic temple at a North East museum.

The front of the hall was rescued from Sunderland and rebuilt brick by brick at the Beamish Open Air Museum.

On Wednesday, a parade of Freemasons were joined by the Duke of Kent, who is the UK head of the organisation, to mark the opening of the 1m project.

Kate Reed, curator of social history at the museum said the hall would shed some light on the secret society.

The new attraction, which originally stood in Park Terrace, now part of Toward Road, was built in 1869 for the St John's Lodge and was Sunderland's main Freemasonry centre for years.

Certified dead

By 1933, it was home to 17 lodges and becoming overcrowded. A new base was built at Burdon Road, leaving Park Terrace empty.

The temple has been rebuilt to its former glory thanks to the legacy of a missing hairdresser.

Malcolm Berry, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, was last seen in 1991 when he said he was going on holiday.

He was certified dead in 2002 and it was discovered he had left his entire 280,000 legacy to the museum.

The open air museum attracts 300,000 visitors a year. It is set in 300 acres of countryside and recreates life in the north of England in the early 1800s and 1900s.




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Watch the freemasons' parade



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