Freemasons Hall in Lewes was built in 1747, up against the historic walls of Lewes Castle, and has been an all-male stalwart for 260 years. The female lodge in Sussex met for many years in Hove Town hall, but recent rent increases forced them to flee, homeless.
Christine Chapman, preceptor of the newly reformed women's lodge, said: 'It all came about because one of our members went out for a bacon butty* and bumped into someone she knew from the Lewes Freemason's lodge.
'He asked her how it was going and she said not particularly well don't suppose there's any chance of using your building is there?
'They put it to the members and management committee, and they invited us to give a talk about what we do and to our surprise told us we could use the hall.
'We're absolutely delighted and can't wait to start a new chapter in the lodge's history.'
The two lodges will meet separately - there is no discussion of mixed gender meetings.
Robert Lewis, provincial grand secretary for Sussex, said: 'The rule is if the ladies meet the men don't.
'There is no objections to the ladies using the facilities and we have given our approval.
'The women's group is going from strength-to-strength which is why this has happened and I say good for them.'
Christine Chapman said there were many misconceptions about the Freemasons attitude to the women's groups but also sounded a note of defiance.
She said: 'It's wrong to say the Freemasons don't get on with women or recognise the groups.
'There is an awful lot of acceptance of what we do and we have been around for nearly a 100 years.
'We take it every bit as seriously as the men and we are not going away!'
It bears reprinting the United Grand lodge of England's policy statement on female Freemasonry, made March 10, 1999:
Statement issued by UGLE - 10th March 1999
There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men(even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary.
The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.
Photo above is Most Worshipful Sheila Norden, Grand Master of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons.
*And in case you weren't wondering – a "bacon butty" is a bacon and butter sandwich.
Only the English could create such a heart clogging concoction.