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 Lodgesome 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).
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