|The Bristol Masonic Society
was founded in 1917. For some years before 1917, groups of Bristol masons had
expressed an interest in furthering their pursuit of masonic knowledge by study
and research, and so it was that at the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting of 9th
February 1917, the Provincial Grand Master - Col. George Abraham Gibbs,
accepted a resolution to consider the formation of such a Society or lodge for
cultivating masonic knowledge.
The decisions of the steering committee were presented and accepted, namely
that the new body was to be a Society rather than a lodge, and that as such,
masonic regalia was not to be worn. Seventy brethren expressed interest and at
the general meeting on 5th July 1917 (NB. a summer meeting in war time), the
Deputy Provincial Grand Master - Dr Ernest Cook presided, commending the
committee for not being too ambitious! He stated that he: "trusted that
the Society would prosper and fructify after its authors have passed
The inaugural Meeting took place on 5th October 1917 and was well supported by
119 brethren. In his address the President stated the objects of the Society in
a manner and detail that would be just as valid today as then, namely:
"The objects of the Society should be to increase the interest of brethren
in Freemasonry by means of lectures, papers and discussions on its history,
antiquities, ritualism and symbolism, and to provide a centre and bond of union
for masonic students in the Province of Bristol."
The early of the Society meetings lasted for more than two hours at a time,
during which there was no limit to the numbers of papers presented. In addition
time was allowed for questions and answers, and usually an object of masonic
interest was presented, such as an item of regalia, a picture, or other
artefact. There was always an intermission between papers for coffee and
biscuits. This format lasted for the next fifty years after which limits were
introduced, namely two papers only per meeting and just five minutes for each
speech in discussion afterwards.
At the same time it was thought important to form a library, which should be
well stocked, and this was achieved by forming a sub-committee to advise and
recommend items for inclusion, a principle that exists to this day.
Again a further principle was adopted, namely to advertise the existence of the
Bristol Masonic Society to all newly raised Master Masons. After five years a
rather fine presidential jewel was created and an honours board for the names
of Past Presidents.
Freemasons' Hall in Park Street, where all lodge meetings were held, was almost
completely destroyed by enemy bombing in November 1940. The Minutes at that
time simply recorded that: "The Treasurer, WBro Pearce Tapp reported that
the library and museum had been destroyed by fire on the night of 24/25th
November. A few burnt relics were being recovered."
From then on, as with all the other lodges in the Province of Bristol, until
the restoration of Freemasons' Hall was completed in 1957, the Bristol Masonic
Society met in various and diverse venues including The Royal Empire Society
Rooms, the Constitution Club, to St. Michael's Church Hall, in fact a total of
eleven different addresses.
During the first fifty years or so, in addition to formal meetings, there were
more active presentations such as one particular occasion when WBro Hubert
Hunt, Grand Organist, gave a concert of Mozart's masonic music together with
choir and orchestra, attended by no less than sixty members of the Quatuor
Coronati Lodge and its Correspondence Circle. On another occasion, you may be
interested to hear that the brethren of the Royal Cumberland Lodge, No 41, of
Bath gave a demonstration of an Initiation as performed in the 18th Century.
Summer Outings were very popular from the outset of the Bristol Masonic
Society, usually by charabanc though one to Hereford in 1921 was deemed likely
to be too uncomfortable for such transport, so the members went by train
In order to maintain interest and enthusiasm, from an early stage another
important precedent was established, namely the creation and appointment of
Bristol Masonic Society Lodge Representatives, so that every lodge in the
Province of Bristol could be informed of the Society's meetings, their virtues
extolled and more particularly to collect questions from the lodges to be
answered by the Bristol Masonic Society. Eventually the Lodge Representatives
were to become members of the General Committee itself and this is still the
This page has been extracted from a paper entitled:
'The Bristol Masonic Society - Past, Present and Future' by AB Lavelle (2008).
The full paper may be found in Corona Gladiorum (2007-8), Vol 5, pp.