Researching the history of lodges

The word lodge came to Britain with the Normans, being derived from a Frankish word for shelter. It conjures up a temporary building or one that people stayed in only for a time, but the word has clung to certain types of building.

Hunting lodges

The Normans brought with them the concept of forest law. Large stretches of countryside in England and Wales were declared royal forests, with hunting reserved to the Crown. Scottish kings followed suit. Some barons and great churchmen also had forests or chases; many more created their own huge deer parks under royal licence.

The Triangular Lodge, Rushton Hall, built 1594-7A lodge on the edge of a forest or within a park could shelter a hunting party at need and house a custodian at other times. The earliest royal lodges had a timber-built hall and a cluster of ancillary buildings protected by a moat. Later came a yen for height to give a overview of the movement of game. The results range from a simple stone tower or a timber-framed grandstand to a substantial mansion, such as Newark Park. They could be called a stand or standing. Those built for a warrener, who was in charge of small game, were known as warrener's lodges.

In keeping with their role as an escape from humdrum routine, lodges could provide an outlet for Elizabethan and Jacobean architectural fancy. The Triangular Lodge built by Sir Thomas Tresham for his warrener was an Elizabethan 'device' loaded with symbolism. In the 1630s John Dutton modelled his grandstand at Sherborne on Inigo Jones's new Banqueting House.

As hunting game for the table was gradually replaced by fox-hunting as an upper-class pastime, some hunting lodges fell into disuse, while others became country houses set in Georgian landscaped parks.

Primary sources

County maps by Saxton and Speed show the medieval parks still in existence c.1600. Any surviving accounts for building/repair will be in the relevant archive. The royal archives are in the National Archives, but these have been thoroughly researched by Colvin et al (above.) Forests in County Durham were administered by the Bishop of Durham: the archives of The Palatinate of Durham are held by the University of Durham. For private estate records see the National Register of Archives, now part of the National Archives.

Gatehouses and porter's lodges

In the days when barons sought refuge in castles and monks in cloisters, they needed someone to man their gates and therefore some form of shelter for the gatekeeper or porter [port = gate]. A castle gatehouse was often a massive structure defending the entrance with a portcullis and drawbridge. Monastic gatehouses were less formidable, but still impressive, enveloping the gate. The Abbey Gatehouse at Bristol is an impressive survival. Both castle and monastic gatehouses could include a prison or a chapel. Some monastic gatehouses even housed a school or almonry.

Design for the gatehouse at Plas Brondanw, Llanfrothen, Gwynedd 1913-4 by Clough Williams-Ellis (British Architectural Library)Since manor houses were often surrounded by a moat and wall, they too could have gatehouses. At first they might be simple timber-built structures, but the desire to impress visitors led to ever greater architectural display, a tendency we also see on monastic gatehouses. A Tudor gatehouse could court respect with its height and/or its array of statuary and coats of arms. The towering Layer Marney gatehouse is an extreme example.

Few manorial gatehouses remain. Many were sacrificed to the Georgian fashion for landscaped parks. Formal, walled gardens around many a great house were swept away, or the house itself resited within a park. At the main park entrance would be a lodge, or often a matching pair, which appealed to the Georgian love of symmetry. These little buildings gave scope for architectural experimentation. They were built in a great range of styles and shapes from the austere to the whimsical. Though they have lost their original purpose, many survive.

By contrast college porter's lodges have much the same function today as they ever did. Early colleges had gatehouses, such as the one at Queen's College, Cambridge. A present-day porter's lodge may not be in a medieval gatehouse, but remains a guardian of the gate.

For primary sources see castles, country houses, or monasteries as appropriate.

Urban park lodges

Western or Hanover Gate designed by John Nash for Regent's Park. Engraving after T.H. Shepherd. While Georgian pleasure gardens were private ventures, the Victorian period saw an upsurge of municipal parks. Regent's Park (1811) set the pattern, though it was designed initially as an amenity for its residents and was not opened to the public until about 1840. Influenced by the parks of country houses, it had lodges by the entrance gates, similar to a Georgian lodge at Stoke Edith, Herefordshire.The many urban parks that followed had a lodge by the main entrance housing the park superintendent.

Municipal parks were created by a corporation, so any surviving plans should be found in the archives of the relevant city or borough.

Conway, H., People's Parks: The design and development of Victorian parks in Britain (1991).

Masons' lodges to Masonic lodges

The big building projects of the medieval period drew masons from far and wide. They needed an on-site workshop. A masons' lodge would be built as soon as work started and then dismantled when it finished. So a timber-built, thatched structure met the need. Masons' lodges could be seen as the temporary centres of a fluid fraternity.

This concept of a lodge as the local branch or meeting place of a wider brotherhood was adopted by the Freemasons and other societies. At first Masonic meetings were held in taverns or coffeehouses, but the 19th century and 20th century saw much lodge-building. The Masonic fascination with the origins of the mason's craft led to Masonic lodges influenced by ancient Egyptian architecture, for example one in Boston, Lincolnshire, though lodges can be in other styles. Freemasons' Hall in London is a sumptuous Art Deco building.