High up in the sky, hiding at the top of one of Manchester’s most secretive buildings is a stunning roof terrace with expansive views of Manchester.
It sits atop The Freemasons Hall on Bridge Street, which has been the home of the ancient brotherhood since its completion in 1929.
Home to 42 Freemasons Lodges and also, at one time, the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire, for years the art deco monolith has been shrouded in mystery – secret handshakes, rituals and all.
The signs of the Freemasons have not been erased, though – far from it. Look closely and you can still see examples of masonic carvings: squares, compasses, all-seeing eyes and the letter ‘G’ on floors and tabletops.
Today, they mostly stick to the third floor, which remains off-limits to the Manchester public still.
But beyond this, there is still plenty more to be discovered in the historic Grade II-listed building.
Keep going up and on the fourth floor you’ll find the newly-revealed John Rylands terrace – an expansive 500 capacity space that the Manchester Hall team have been working on for the best part of two years.
Up here feels completely different from the rest of the building: open plan, airy, and surprisingly modern. Walls appear to have been knocked through to make it into several large rooms, and external walls replaced with floor to ceiling glass windows that run around the exterior and offer expansive views of the city centre.
A vision in green: from the ceiling hang artificial ferns, ivy and other foliage, whilst faux olive trees are dotted around elsewhere.
A retractable roof has been installed too, allowing the whole terrace to be opened up to the elements for a dinner in the sunshine or dancing under the stars.
Next door is Manchester Sporting Club and their new lounge, home to the club’s members 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.
A glass concertina door will soon connect the two spaces, driving the overall capacity up to 620.
To the front is an open-air terrace with views across Manchester’s beautiful red brick buildings towards Blackfriars Street.
When we arrive, the terrace is all set up for a party.
Large round tables are laid with statement centrepieces and tablecloths in earth tones, a DJ booth with full lighting is set up in the corner.
Currently, however, the terrace is only available for private functions and parties.
Despite the fact it’s only just been revealed to the public it seems to already be proving popular, with the team telling us they’ve taken bookings for a mix of weddings, birthday parties and functions.
Next year, they plan to open up the fifth floor too and are in the process of creating a completely open-air garden roof terrace which will add a further 500 capacity on the space.
If you’re looking for an exceptional location for a special party or all-out wedding, John Rylands Terrace is a must-see.