The story of how local Freemasons moved into Guys Cliffe in Warwick in the 1970s is told in Terry Roberts’ latest book, Further Recollections of a Country Mansion.
Terry also refers to the disastrous fire which destroyed the interior of the historic house in the 1990s.
In 1974, following the closure of the Masonic meeting rooms at the Allesley Hotel, businessman and freemason Aldwyn Porter offered St George’s Lodge alternative accommodation at Guy’s Cliffe.
The lodge was offered the chapel and outbuildings on a short term lease at a peppercorn rent of two bottles of beer per year. With help from other lodges, a restoration project was started and the freemasons signed a 16-year lease in 1975. Two members who were master builders , John Smith and Bob Hall, led the project.
After Aldwyn Porter died in 1980 the consortium of lodges bought the property they had on lease for £30,000.
While the freemasons were restoring the chapel area of Guys Cliffe, the main historic house remained a ruin. And it suffered major damage after a fire in May 1992 .
Granada Television were using the ruin as a backdrop for filming an episode of Sherlock Holmes, using gas flames to stimulate a fire. Despite the precautions and fire tenders on site, there was a sudden change in wind direction and sparks set the rotting beams and internal woodwork alight.
The fire rapidly became an inferno and it took 10 hours to bring it under control. The fire completely destroyed the inside structures of the old house.
English Heritage and Warwick District Council deemed the Masonic owners responsible and the proceeds of the insurance claim were used to help stabilise the ruined building, costing £264,000.
Further Recollections of a Country Mansion is available at Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books (£12.50).