LEOMINSTER Freemasons are planning to set up a members-only bar in a former church - but they will also be making their new premises available to other groups.

The town's Masonic Club has leased historic Brook Hall, Broad Street, after selling its South Street lodge because "too many stairs" were not to the liking of older members.

"Brook Hall will suit us very well for the immediate future because it's a good-sized hall with ante-rooms and it's all on one level," said the club's assistant secretary Andrew Last.

"We hope to be able to make the hall available for hire for local clubs and events such as Leominster Festival recitals."

Seventy-five masons and guests have already enjoyed their first function at the hall, a Burns Night party. Now the club is planning to install a members-only bar.

It is seeking a licence to sell alcoholic drinks from Monday to Thursday from 10am to 11.30pm, on Friday and Saturday from 10am until midnight and on Sunday from noon until 10.30pm.

A former plan by the owner to turn Brook Hall into a snooker club and bar met opposition from residents and the town council. Last week, councillors raised no objections to the masons' plan.

The club licence application covers live and recorded music.

Mr Last pledged the club would be well-managed and never rowdy. Visitors were being asked to park their cars in a nearby public car park, he said.

Brook Hall stood empty for much of last year after a children's nursery folded. The brick-fronted hall, which conceals an ancient timber-framed house and rare wall paintings, was used as a church for much of the last century.