Welcome to the Home of Bath Freemasons
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. Its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Bath Freemasons come from all walks of life and meet as equals, whatever their religion, race or position in society.
Although the Fraternity has existed for millennia, modern Freemasonry began in this country on 24th June 1717 with the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England in the upper room of a pub behind St Paul’s Cathedral in central London, through the efforts of the members of four existing Masonic Lodges in the capital city. For all but the first seven of those three hundred years, there has been at least one Lodge of Bath Freemasons meeting in the City.
Over the ensuing three hundred years, almost ten thousand more Lodges have been created across the country. Some of those have fallen by the wayside over the years, but today around three-quarters still meet regularly, accommodating more than a quarter of a million members in this country alone.
The first Lodge in Bath, formed in 1724, met at the Queen’s Head Tavern which was on the corner of Cock Lane (now named Union Passage) and Cheap Street. Eight years later, a second Lodge formed across the passageway at the Bear Inn, then the largest coaching inn in the City. That second Lodge, now named Royal Cumberland Lodge, still meets here some 285 years later and maintains an unbroken history right back to that first meeting on 27th December 1732.
The current Lodge room is at the Bath Masonic Hall in Old Orchard Street. This beautiful listed building has been the home of Bath Freemasons for more than 150 years, and was originally built in 1750 as the first purpose-built theatre in the city. It remained the home of the Theatre Royal until 1805, when their company moved to their current site in Beauford Square. It was used as a Catholic Chapel from 1809 until 1863, before it was acquired in 1865 as a permanent home for the three Lodges of Bath Freemasons that met here at that time.
Those three Lodges, Royal Cumberland Lodge (formed in 1732), Royal Sussex Lodge (1812) and the Lodge of Honour (1825), still meet here today. They have been joined over those 150 years by four more Lodges: Royal Albert Edward Lodge (1862), St Alphege Lodge (1920), St Luke’s Lodge (1947) and Elizabethan Lodge (1953). Bath Masonic Hall is also the headquarters of the Somerset Masters’ Lodge, which was formed in 1915 and meets at various Masonic Halls around the county, as well as occasionally at its ‘home’. There are fourteen additional Masonic Orders that also meet at Bath Masonic Hall, including Royal Arch Chapters, Mark Masons’ Lodges, Rose Croix Chapters, Knights Templar Preceptories, Knights Hospitaller, Royal and Select Masters and the Commemorative Order of the Knight of Acon.
Altogether, these bodies accommodate over four hundred members from Bath and surrounding towns and villages. They come from all walks of life, as has been the case for the entire history of the Fraternity. In 1732, attendees at the first meeting of The Bear Inn Lodge included an innkeeper, a carpenter and a viscount. In our Lodges here today, engineer sits alongside checkout operator, teacher next to tradesman, systems analyst by professional sportsman. They cover a wide age range from full-time students to pensioners – the youngest is just 23 years old, and joined very recently, the oldest is 95 and has been a Freemason for more than 70 years. Their interests and hobbies cover every possible subject, so there is always something to talk about – although never political or religious subjects.
Today, as throughout those near-three hundred years, Bath Freemasons offer a friendly welcome, an enjoyable evening and continued companionship.