A Brief History of The Lodge of Honour No 379

In order to appreciate the earliest history of the Lodge of Honour it is necessary to sketch a picture of early Masonic activity in Bath prior to 1825.

At the beginning of the 18th Century the City of Bath was entering upon its period of greatest fame – Beau Nash, John Wood and many others were transforming and enlarging the City. In such circumstances it was natural that the new fashion of speculative Freemasonry in Bath should find expression by the formation of two lodges.

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Freemasons in Bath | The Formation of the Lodge of Honour | The Journey Through Good and Bad | The Journey Continues

Freemasonry In Bath Begins.

The first, which met at the Queen’s Head on the south east corner of Union Passage , was formed in 1723-24; but this had a very short life. The second, (No. 113), met at the Bear Inn on the opposite corner of Union Passage on the 28th December, 1732. This Lodge has continued until the present time as the Royal Cumberland Lodge No 41.

The Bear Inn continued to be used until 1767; thereafter the Lodge met at various local hostelries until the move to the new Masonic Hall, (now the Friends Meeting House), in York Street in 1819.

On 20th September 1765 the Lodge of Perfect Friendship, (No. 348), was formed and met at the Shakespeare Head in the Sawclose. Among the founder members was one Stephen Martin, a printer, whose name is first recorded as being a Warden of the Royal Cumberland Lodge on its foundation in 1732. Prominent members of this Lodge were a Charles Milsom – after whom Milsom Street is named – and Eleazer Pickwick – an innkeeper of the White Hart, immortalised by Charles Dickens. This Lodge had a very chequered career and was often in difficulties with Grand Lodge. In 1802 it moved to the White Lion Inn, and changed its name to the Royal York Lodge of Perfect Friendship in 1817.

By 1820 the Lodge was in serious difficulties owing to a deficiency in the Treasurer’s Account of £118. An effort was made to secure a warrant for his arrest but he escaped. In 1823 W. Bro. Maddison resigned as a Lodge Member, being followed by the Senior and Junior Wardens. The following year two Brethren refused the Chair in consequence of discord and confusion existing within the Lodge. Late that year, (1824), the Lodge was struck off by Grand Lodge.

Much of the property of this Lodge is now in the possession of the Loyal Lodge in Barnstable, (No. 251),marked with the letters R. Y. L. In 1769 a warrant was issued to the Lodge of Virtue, (No. 445), which met at Saddlers Arms in Stall Street. For some years it continued to be active although it moved to several other inns. However, by 1805 it became clear that things were not well with the Lodge.

During the period 1809 – 1814 Freemasonry in Bath, as elsewhere, was at a very low ebb owing to the critical war years. The move to the new premises in York Street boosted the membership for a short time, but trouble still inflicted the Lodge, mainly from inside. On the erasure of the Royal York Lodge some of the more disruptive members joined the Lodge of Virtue and by 1829 the Lodge had died through lack of interest and the resignation of its few remaining members.

In 1812 another Lodge was formed in Bath which met at various inns in the City. This was the Royal Sussex Lodge which continued to act independently and did not participate in the building of the new Masonic Hall in York Street. This Lodge, like the Royal Cumberland, still flourishes to this day. Such was the position early in 1824. There were four Lodges in existence in Bath, the Royal Cumberland, the Royal Sussex, the Royal York Lodge of Perfect Friendship, and the Lodge of Virtue.

Following the erasure of the Royal York Lodge and the declining numbers and influence of the Lodge of Virtue, several members of the Royal York Lodge decided to form a Lodge of a somewhat more exclusive character. A meeting was held at York House on 24th January 1825 and among those present were Captain Maddison, (ex R.Y.L.), and Colonel Kemrys Tynte, (who had been appointed P.G.M. for Somerset in May 1820).

The Earliest Days Of The Lodge Of Honour.

A petition was sent to the R.W.P.G.M. for onward transmission to the M.W.G.M. requesting that a new Lodge be formed in Bath entitled “The Tynte Lodge of Honour and Independence”. Of the 17 names on the petition no less than 11 were from the R.Y.L. The petition was granted by the Grand Master, but with some modifications regarding the name. The word “Tynte” was removed for the present because of the unmasonic proceedings at Bath “which had unfortunately occasioned so much trouble and wasted so much time” and it was thought that it would be unwise for the P.G.M’s name to be associated with these. Also deleted were the words “and Independence”, Grand Lodge having ruled against any Lodge assuming such a title.

The Warrant of the Lodge was issued on 23rd February 1825 under the designation The Lodge of Honour and assigned the number 798. Three Tracing Boards were painted by Arthur Thistleton, a theatre scene painter at Drury Lane, London. These were inscribed on the reverse with “Tynte Lodge of Honour and Independence”, so it would appear that they were ordered before Grand Lodge had confirmed the name. Two of these boards still remain in use today and, for those who are interested, an article on the Boards appeared in a past copy of theSomerset Masters’ Transactions. A replacement for the third Board was painted by Bro. A. Mayland and consecrated in 1999. The first regular meeting took place on Monday 7th March 1825.

There was no formal consecration of the Lodge which was simply opened in the First Degree. A letter from the Grand Secretary was read concerning the title. A minor, (aged 20 years), was balloted for, approved and initiated with the consent of his father and by Dispensation from the P.G.M. The Royal Sussex Lodge lent their regalia for this occasion. In these early years relations between the Royal Cumberland and Royal Sussex Lodges were most cordial, and visits exchanged. To further promote masonic feeling among members of Bath Lodges an annual dinner took place on St. John’s Day, (27th December).

The Lodge was greatly indebted to Col. Tynte and Capt. Maddison for its formation and successful launching. Col. Tynte presented a handsome chair for the Master, (now occupied by the I.P.M.), and Capt. Maddison donated the jewels of the Lodge. By the end of 1825, membership had risen to 40; half of whom had belonged to the R.Y.L. Admissions continued during 1827 and 1828 and in the following year the Lodge moved from York House to the White Lion, no reason being given.

In 1832 Capt. Maddison was appointed Deputy Grand Master for Somerset and in reply to a congratulatory letter drew attention to the fact that attendance at Lodge was falling off and he hoped that interest would be revived. No doubt Capt. Maddison had in mind the failure of the Royal York Lodge and thought it prudent that brethren should be warned in time. This was the first of a whole series of warnings and appeals which were to be made during the next 100 years, in fact the last was given as recently as 1955 !

The Lodge was allocated a new number in 1833 and became No. 528. There were then 36 members and 38 transient ones. Captain Maddison became the Master and was re-elected again for the next year. Yet another move was made, this time to the Corridor Rooms which were leased by the three Lodges at a rental of £40 per annum of which the Lodge of Honour paid £20, the Royal Cumberland £ 12 and the Royal Sussex £8. Furniture was provided at a cost of £ 101 of which the Lodge of Honour paid more than half. At that time it was customary for the Lodge dinner to be provided at York House on the day following the monthly meeting. Conditions at the Corridor Rooms were not very satisfactory; all Lodges experiencing continual interruptions from the room below. These trying conditions remained until December 1849 when a move was made to 3, Westgate Buildings.

Captain Maddison was elected W.M. in 1839 and during that year a William Long was initiated. It was his son, Col. William Long who was ultimately to become P.G.M. for Somerset. It is interesting to note how, during these formative years, the bye-laws of the Lodge gradually developed:- 1. The Appearance Book (now Attendance Book) was introduced. 2. The W.M. and Treasurer to be elected by ballot papers at the November meeting. (Note the office of Treasurer and Secretary was not separated until 1850) 3. Lodge to meet on the second Monday in the month with the Installation in December from 1850.

Troubled Times For The Lodge.

In 1840 it was necessary for the W.M. – still W. Bro. Maddison – to write a letter to several members of the Lodge, particularly the Officers, drawing their attention to the necessity of a more regular attendance at Lodge Meetings. This did not produce the desired effect and only 5 brethren, out of 32 subscribing members, attended the next meeting. A Lodge of Emergency was called for December 21st. to ballot for W.M. and Treasurer. Nine members attended for that meeting and Captain Maddison was again elected W.M. Only 5 brethren were present in January 1842 when it was decided to have only three meetings per year and the banquet held on the same day as the meeting.

In 1843 the Lodge suffered a most grievous loss in the death of Captain Maddison who, for eighteen years, had been a tower of strength and W.M. for no less than six of these. Lodge records show that there were only eleven subscribing members in 1845 but nine of these were present at the Installation Meeting. Because of the small attendance at meetings, offices in the Lodge were often filled by brethren from the R.C. and R.S. Lodges, the Installation of the W.M. being performed by the W.M. of the Royal Cumberland Lodge.

For several years the L.O.H. had been following the custom of Bristol and other lodges of opening a Lodge of Installed Masters in a separate room and returning to the Lodge after Installation when the Officers were appointed and business concluded. For some further time this method was followed, and sometimes the old method when the brethren who had not passed the Chair left the Lodge Room.

Lodge Fortunes Take A Turn For The Better.

In 1846 W.Bro. William Tucker of Bridgwater became a joining member. He was P.G.M. for Dorset from 1846 until 1853 when he was removed from office by the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, for appearing at the P.G.L. in the costume and wearing jewels of what were termed high degrees not sanctioned by G.L. 1849 saw the move to Westgate Buildings and the following year brought a decided increase in numbers and interest, there being no less than 13 meetings during the year. Dr. William Falconer became a joining member and Bro. Charles Vigne was initiated. The following December Bro. Vigne was appointed a Warden and in December 1851 became W.M. Both of these brethren were responsible for ensuring a higher standard of work in the Lodge.

A Lodge of Instruction was proposed, this to meet on Friday preceding the Lodge Meeting, and became the forerunner of the present day rehearsal. In 1850 a major re-organisation of the working of the Lodge took place.The month of Installation of the W.M. was changed from January to December as it is today – thus there were two ceremonies that year. At the same time, the office of Secretary/Treasurer was divided. Up to then also the office of D.C was not filled on a regular basis, and even when it was the person filling it seldom appeared on the list of brethren attending the meeting.

Two very interesting items appear in the Minutes for 1851 which are worth recalling. “In connection with the banquet following Installation, the Committee refer to irregularities which have arisen from the late hours kept at refreshment by which they greatly fear the good reputation of the Lodge has suffered. They suggest departing at an earlier hour in the future, and with that object in view they suggest that the Lodge goes from Labour to Refreshment and returning from R. to L. to close the Lodge at a fixed hour“. This course seems to have been followed for a time.

A Period Of Uncertainty.

Minutes of 9th November 1851. “No other business being before the Lodge it was adjourned till 17th November, the Lodge remaining open”.

The Tynte Royal Arch Chapter, (No. 528), attached to the Lodge was formed in 1852. On many occasions the Chapter met and adjourned because there were not sufficient members present to open it. From 1865 to 1874, the Chapter was in abeyance. The last meeting was held in 1894. Eleven years later, in November 1905, the P.G.M. of Somerset requested that the Warrant should be returned to the Grand Scribe E. The Funds, (£47 5s 0d), were to be transferred to the Masonic Benevolent Fund, which was duly done on 12th March 1913 !! (A complete history of the Chapter was given in 1963 and was subsequently reported in the Transactions of the Somerset Masters’ Lodge).

In 1853 the Lodge moved back to the Corridor Rooms owing to the inability of the landlord of 3, Westgate Buildings to reserve the room solely for Masonic purposes and other Masonic bodies; the R.C. Lodge and Chapter, Bladud Preceptory and Tynte Chapter followed. After considering various proposals it was agreed to obtain possession of a Roman Catholic Church and two dwelling houses in Old Orchard Street. The Ground Rent was bought outright for £ 150 and £ 636 was paid for the Church and two adjoining houses. The undertaking was vested in the hands of the Royal Sussex, the other Lodges becoming tenants. The Lodge of Honour paid an annual rent of £ 6. Pews were removed from the Church and used to provide screens on each side to lessen the width of the room, and a partition was erected under the gallery at the west end to form an ante-room.

The new Lodge Room was consecrated on 3rd December 1866 by the W.M. of the R.S. Lodge and the Lodge of Honour held its first meeting here one week later. (It might be of interest to note that almost 100 years previously there had been a meeting of Masons at the Theatre Royal in May 1771 – thus this building has hadMasonic connections for over 200 years !). So interesting is this building that several histories have been written which are worth researching. From 1866 onwards for some 30 years the Lodge passed through a chequered existence, sometimes reviving, sometimes falling off and constantly dependent on sister Lodges for assistance in the working, although very little of this appears to have been done. At least during that time the Lodge was free from worries of accommodation.

1875 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the constitution of the Lodge and finishes the most interesting period of its history. W. Bro. Bartrum was W.M. for this anniversary year; this becoming his third time in the Chair of K.S. 1878 and 1879 was a particularly difficult period. The question of disbandment was uppermost in the mind of the Lodge. Three meetings could not be held because of lack of a quorum. “Was it lawful to have no meetings and no election to office for one year, but pay regular dues to Grand and Provincial Lodge ?” To this question the P.G.M. gave a very definite “No”. Regular meetings must be held and officers elected. W. Bro. Bartrum resigned and recommended disbandment of the Lodge. However, a special meeting was called and the brethren pledged themselves to use their best endeavours to improve the working of the Lodge and increase its membership.

Stability Finally Follows.

The Lodge finally settle into a period of growth and stability, with membership rising to over 70 at times. Lodge of Honour has met regularly in Old Ochard Street to this day, with only a brief time away from the Masonic Hall, due to bomb damage in World War ll.

As would be expected, Charity Appeals have received great support over the years, e.g. Restoration of Wells Cathedral, (twice), Restoration of Bath Abbey, (three times), and more recently the Holiday Home for the Disabled in Combe Down, the R.U.H. Appeal, Dorothy House Foundation as well as the Redevelopment Fund for the R.M. Hospital, the Samaritan Fund and the setting up there of a four bedded ward to be designated “The Somerset Ward”.

Over the years several articles have appeared in the Transactions of the Somerset Masters’ Lodge, (copies are in the Library), concerning the history, etc., of the Lodge of Honour and the Bath Masonic Hall, which are worth reading; the last one being given in 1986 by W. Bro. A.E. Gayner on “The Furniture in use Today”, much of which belongs to the Lodge of Honour.

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