The History of Freemasonry in Sri Lanka reaches back to Dutch times. In the last 26 years of their occupation of this country, they founded three lodges – two in Colombo and one in Galle.
Victoria Masonic Temple - Colombo
Information about the two lodges in Colombo is scanty. However the century volume of the Colombo Municipal Council by H. A. J. Hulugalle published in 1965 records the following facts.

“Slave Island contained a mud village, an excellent parade ground and two gentlemen’s villas. One of these had been built by the Dutch as a Freemason’s lodge”

It may be reasonably assumed therefore that from these times; Freemasonry was a pursuit of the elite, whose many mansions dotted the Beira Lake area.

Sir James Emerson Tennent in the Second Volume of his Account of Ceylon published in 1859 makes the following observation.

“So multitudinous are the insects at certain seasons, that in some of the mansions at Slave Island and its vicinity, the flies invade the apartments in such numbers as to extinguish the lights. On the occasion of dinner parties it is the custom to light fires on the lawn to draw the files from the reception rooms, which are kept darkened and with the windows closed till the arrival of the guests.

It was in this context that the Victoria Masonic Temple was opened at the commencement of the twentieth century in September 1901. The building had been envisaged in 1897 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee but preliminaries such as the preparation of plans and the collection of funds delayed construction.

A suitable land was acquired a few hundred yards from the existing Masonic Temple consequent to a petition made through the Governor of Ceylon to the War Office in London (since the site was under military control). The transfer of the land was sanctioned at the end of 1898 and executed by the Governor, Sir West Ridgeway.

Fond memories of institutions back home dear to the traditional English colonizer, accompanying him wherever the interest of trade beckoned him, were made manifest in the form of Clubs, Cricket fields and Golf Links. It is therefore, only to be expected that Freemasonry, also being an association of gentlemen, should architecturally reflects the influence of the typical Englishmen’s club. The Victoria Masonic Hall, which was completed on 5th September 1901, is an excellent example of this.

The foundation stone for this beautiful place was laid at a simple ceremony by Hon. John Norman Campbell, a Freemason and a philanthropist at 7.15 a.m. on 27th November 1900. This building, which has sturdily withstood the vagaries of the weather and other elements, represents the stable, solid, and undemonstrative virtues of Freemasonry. It is an important monument of this period, and a part of Sri Lanka’s colonial history.

The Victoria Masonic Hall is the outcome of the efforts of years to provide a spacious and comfortable hall for the Craft in Colombo. Elaborate external architecture has been exchanged for internal comfort, as a moment’s glance would convince any discerning visitor.

This beautiful building was specially designed to meet the requirements of the various degrees of Freemasonry in Sri Lanka. The Lodge Room is connected to the service rooms on the 1st floor, while the ground floor consists of the Reception Hall for social functions. It is noteworthy that although repairs have been affected periodically in the 1990s, no major structural changes have been done, thus preserving original marks in deference to the architectural value of the building.

In the city of Colombo, the Victoria Masonic Hall stands tall as a tribute to the worthy Freemasons of Sri Lanka, who designed, constructed and maintained this hall. The English, Irish and Scottish Freemasons of Sri Lanka on 5th September 2001 celebrated it’s Century on a grand scale.

The Victoria Masonic Hall constitutes an unbroken link, systematically meeting the treasured ancient traditions of Freemasonry with the objectives and aspirations of Freemasonry in society today.

It is the bounden duty of all Freemasons in Sri Lanka to preserve the VMT Hall in all its glory, for posterity. It must remain for generations as an integral constituent of Colombo’s urban cape.