A Condensed History of the Forming of the Lodge
The Constitutions of English Freemasonry lay down the procedure to be adopted in order to form a new lodge. An application for a warrant must be made by petition to the M.W. Grand Master, signed by not less than seven master masons in good financial standing with their own lodges. The petition must be recommended by the Master and Wardens of a regular lodge, and submitted through the R.W. Provincial Grand Master-to Grand Lodge, with suitable observations.
Observing these formalities, a petition to form St. Keyna Lodge, signed by ten master masons, was submitted to Grand Lodge probably early in 1879. It was recommended by the Master and Wardens of the Vale of Brislington Lodge and supported by the R.W. Provincial Grand Master-who at the time was also Pro. Grand Master of England-the 4th Earl of Carnarvon.
The warrant creating St. Keyna Lodge, number 1833 in the Register of the Grand Lodge of England, was dated 9th June 1879. The founders, in the order as taken from the Grand Lodge Register, were:
W. Bro. W. Thomas; Bros. Nathaniel Crisp, Wm. Roberts, Mark Gibbons, George S. Tricks, R. Evans, E. Morris, A. W. Campbell and W. Paterson (These were petitioners).
The rest of the founders were: Bros. Wm. Munro, J. B. Halford, J. F. Brinn, R. Brice, A. Bartley, A. G. Williams, W. H. Dill, J. Cartnell, J. Bayer and J. H. Clifton.
Nineteen brethren from eleven lodges under the English Constitution, and three lodges under the Scottish Constitution-fourteen lodges in all-formed the new lodge. Eight brethren were members of Bristol lodges; two came from the Vale of Brislington Lodge and two from Bath lodges. Another brother was in the Tyndall Lodge in the Province of Gloucester. The rest were members of lodges elsewhere in Great Britain.
The first Master of St. Keyna Lodge was W. Bro. R. W. Thomas of the Vale of Brislington Lodge. He was initiated into Cambrian Lodge, No. 364 Neath, of which lodge he was Master in 1872. He held the rank of Past Provincial Grand Pursuivant in South Wales Province (Eastern Division). A surgeon by profession, he must have moved from South Wales to Keynsham in the 1870s. He joined the Vale of Brislington Lodge on the 17th August 1877, but seems to have lost interest after St. Keyna Lodge was formed, for he was excluded from the former in 1883!
The second Master was W. Bro. Nathaniel Crisp, another member of the medical profession, living at Keynsham. He was initiated into the Lodge of St. Cybi, No. 597, Holyhead, and joined the Vale of Brislington Lodge on the same day as W. Bro. Thomas. He was Inner Guard in that lodge in 1879 but did not follow to the Chair. This brother was also Master of Carnarvon Mark Lodge in 1885.
Two other founders subsequently became Masters: W. Bro. Wm. Roberts (Moira), in 1882 and W. Bro. A. G. Williams (Colston) in 1883. Bro. Roberts lived at Keynsham and was in business as an outfitter.
The first initiate into the lodge was Bro. G. O’Connor-Parnell. As one would expect with a new lodge, he made rapid advancement for he was installed as Master in 1884
The Consecration of The Lodge
The Ceremony of Consecration took place in the Masonic Hall at the ‘Lamb and Lark’, Keynsham, on Tuesday, 5th August 1879, at 2.30 o’clock.
The Founding Brethren
From whence came the original inspiration to create St. Keyna Lodge? We shall never know this for certain, but the writer’s guess is that W. Bros. Thomas and Crisp loomed large in the discussions.
The second half of the nineteenth century was a time when lodges under the English Constitution were increasing rapidly. A scrutiny of Grand Lodge Year Book shows that up to 1850 there were 569 private lodges under its jurisdiction. By 1860 these had risen to 807; ten years later to 1301, and by 1880 the number had increased to 1853, of which St. Keyna (1833) was one.
The Lodge Name
Having established the lodge at Keynsham, the founders considered it appropriate to choose a name which would link the lodge with the town. They chose well. The derivation of the name “Keynsham” is thought to be either from “Keyne’s Ham” (‘Ham’ being a Roman word for settlement) or alternatively Keyne’s Hamm-‘Hamm’ in this context meaning a low-lying meadow. The latter may be the more likely. Keynsham Ham is the name shown on the ordnance map for the low meadows in front of Frys at Somerdale beside the River Avon.
But what about the ‘Keyne’ part of the name?
Collinson’s ‘Somerset’, published in 1791, contains a charming legend which purports to derive Keyne from St. Keyna, an early Christian Saint of that name. According to the story, Keyna was a virgin who lived in these parts in the 5th century AD. She was the daughter of Braganus, a Prince of Brecknock in Wales.
Comely and attractive, Keyna had many admirers and suitors for her hand in marriage, but having taken a vow of perpetual virginity, she refused them. She became known as ‘Keyn-Wyryf or Keyna the Virgin. She left her native Wales to seek a deserted place where she could indulge in her private religious devotions without hindrance.
Her journeying took her beyond the River Severn to a wooded place in North-East Somerset. Keyna asked the Prince of the Country “to be permitted to serve God in that spot of solitude and retirement.” The Prince was willing to grant her request but said the place “so swarmed with serpents that neither man nor beast could live there.”
Keyna replied that “she firmly trusted she would be able to drive the venomous brood out of the country,” whereupon the Prince granted her request. By her prayers, all the serpents were turned to stone, “and to this day”, says the history book, “the stones of the country resemble the windings of serpents.”
It is a fact that snake-stones are common in this part of Somerset, but a geologist would date their origin a little before the 5th century, AD.!
The Crest of the lodge depicts St. Keyna with one of her “venomous brood”.