The Masonic Temples

St. Keyna Lodge held its regular meetings at the ‘Lamb and Lark’ at Keynsham and remained there for sixty years.  Just before the second world war, land was bought on the main Bath Road in Keynsham and the present temple erected there during 1939/40.

The first record of a definite move is contained in the minutes of lodge committee 5th December 1920 which read:

“W. Bro. George Booth brought to the notice of the committee the question of purchasing two cottages and ground attached at High Street, Keynsham, as a suitable site for erecting a temple.  It was decided to postpone the matter until the next meeting.”

There is no further record of what transpired: evidently the project was dropped.

The next reference to a proposed building is in the minutes of a meeting held on the 21st February 1923, at the offices of Bro. A Victor Osmond, in Bridge Street, Bristol. There was a discussion on the purchase of a house at Keynsham for conversion into a masonic hall and club.  After obtaining the advice of Bro. W. B. Wright (an architect), the suggestion was abandoned because of the cost of conversion.

In the minutes of lodge committee held on 12th November 1923, there is a reference to the acquisition of a site at Burnett Lane, Keynsham, but nothing came of it.  Instead, the committee decided to approach the brewery company to see whether the existing temple could be enlarged.

About this time, a site at Priory Road was for sale and the lodge bought it for £200.  This was early in 1924. Nothing more was done.  The land remained in the ownership of the lodge until 1942 when it was sold to J. S. Fry and Sons for £200. New deeds had to be prepared because the originals were lost in one of the Bristol ‘Blitzes’.

The suggestion made in 1923 to enlarge the lodge room seems to have been revived early in 1927, when it was disclosed that the brewery company were willing to enlarge it by increasing the width by 10′ and adding cloakroom facilities. Committee accepted the offer, subject to the new rent not exceeding £80 per annum.  At the same time, they asked the company to consider lengthening the room.

The outcome of this was more favourable than could be expected, for the brewery company thought it financially more sound to build a new place, rather than attempt a piece-meal reconstruction of the old building. On the 4th July 1927 a special meeting of the committee considered the plans for alterations at the ‘Lamb and Lark’.  The estimated cost was £2,000; to be recouped by an annual rent of 5 per cent of capital costs to include district rates but no other outgoings.

These proposals were accepted, and such was the progress made that the new lodge room was opened by the Provincial Grand Master on the 21st November 1927.  Satisfaction with the new arrangements seem to have been short-lived.  Heating facilities during the winter were not efficient: ventilation left much to be desired: various minor niggles cropped up over the cleaning and catering.  The committee minutes during these years mention various differences which arose and were smoothed over in one way or another. Catering facilities became so contentious that it was decided to return to the Wingrove Hotel at Keynsham for meals: a practice which had been followed prior to the enlargement of the lodge.  The Wingrove is situated at the Bristol end of the High Street, and although not a great distance from the lodge room, was inconvenient particularly in inclement weather.

The Installation Festival Dinner was always held at Fortt’s Queens Road, Bristol, and meant a journey of some six miles after lodge had closed.

The desire to have a meeting place away from licensed premises was stimulated by these inconveniences.  In 1933 there was yet another attempt to secure a place when a meeting of past masters was called to consider the purchase of a property known as ‘The Lido’ at Brislington.  The Master (W. Bro. J. H. Hole) submitted plans prepared by Bro. Howell of the Abbey Lodge, showing alterations required to enable the building to be used for masonic purposes.  There must have been some unofficial discussion about this project beforehand for the plans to be prepared. However, the minutes record that following a lengthy discussion the proposal was not acceptable; but Bro. Howell’s fees amounting to £5/5/0 were paid.

Another two years were to elapse before the question of accommodation was again raised. On the 8th July 1935, the committee, no doubt feeling a bit frustrated after so many abortive propositions, decided that a definite decision must be taken by the whole lodge on the question.

At the next regular meeting, the Master (W. Bro. R. H. Pearce) gave the usual notice of motion required by byelaws and this appeared on the summons for the 14th September in these terms:

“That the St. Keyna Lodge be removed to a new masonic temple to be erected in Keynsham and that a special meeting of the lodge be called for considering and finally deciding the question.”

This was put to the meeting and approved.  Gone was the long period of vacillation and uncertainty: action was now the order of the day.

A month later, the special meeting required under the terms of the motion was convened to discuss proposals in detail.  After a long discussion, the proposal to go forward was voted upon by ballot and carried 51:3 indicating overwhelming support for the new venture.  Other lodges affected had been consulted and a Building Committee was appointed to explore ways and means of making progress.

The Building Committee first met on the 15th November 1935 at 36 Cranbrook Road, Redland, Bristol, the home of W. Bro. Moon.  W. Bro. Proctor took the chair and W. Bro. Wiltshire was elected secretary.  (It is relevant to mention here that W. Bro. Wiltshire is still the secretary of the Keynsham Masonic Hall Company which became the managing body of the building).  Decisions reached by the committee included the following:

  1.  To appoint a Board of Governors who would also act initially as the Building Committee, with representation from St. Keyna Lodge (6) Abbey Lodge (2), Carnarvon Lodge (1); St. Keyna Chapter (1) and Irwin RAM. (1).
  2.  To invite W. Bro. Rigg to be architect for the new building and to prepare plans, quantities and specifications.

By the end of January 1936, W. Bro.  Rigg’s plans were sufficiently complete to be considered by the committee.   They provided for the alternatives of a single-storey structure and a two-storey structure. The plans were explained to a meeting of past-masters and wardens of the respective lodges held at the Royal Hotel, Bristol, on 6th February 1936.   The two-storey building was preferred and it was agreed to go on with this.

The first meeting of the Board of Governors, which had now taken over from the Building Committee, was held in Bristol on the 19th May 1936.  It was at this meeting that instructions were issued to the architect to finalise plans and specifications.

Fifteen contractors were invited to tender for the construction of the building.  The lowest tender received amounted to some £8,000; almost double the architect’s estimate.   This was an unexpected set-back and the Governors had to consider how to find the extra capital needed before there could be any thought of placing a contract.

A business meeting of the whole lodge was held in Bristol on the 19th November 1936 when the position was put to members.   All lodges were asked to levy 10/- per member each. year to meet the extra cost; the levy to be used to repay mortgage charges.  Initiates were to pay

£5/5/0 to the building fund.

No progress was made during the ensuing two years, although a good deal of informal discussion and negotiations had taken place behind the scene.   The Chandos Road site was eventually abandoned because legal and other difficulties made progress impossible.

A site at Chandag Road possessed sufficient possibilities to justify another special meeting being called to hear about the proposals. This was on the 7th February 1939.  The scheme did not meet with favour by most of the brethren because the site was not suitable.   What was required, they said, was a site where a building of more modest proportions could be erected.

It became known that a site on the main Bath Road was available.  Events then moved with surprising speed for on the 13th March 1939, the lodge committee authorised a £5 option to be taken on the land with a view to its purchase.   The site was about three-quarters of an acre in size, with convenient frontage and building depth and would cost £400.

An emergency lodge meeting was called for 28th March and it was here that decisions were taken which led to the building of the temple after such a long period of frustration and disappointment.

The lodge decided:

  1. To finance the purchase of the Bath Road site for £400:
  2. To transfer to the building fund the sum of £3,000 from lodge resources.
  3. To transfer land at Chandos Road, valued at £250, to the building fund so that it could be sold and the proceeds used for the new building.
  4. To give the furniture and fittings, including the pipe organ, (owned by the lodge) to the Board of Governors for use in the new temple when erected.  These effects were valued at £1432.

The total value of the gifts was £5082 and this did not include the land at Priory Road sold three years later for £200, which went to the Masonic Hall Company.  Translated to present-day values, this represented gifts worth £355,000.  Abbey Lodge gave £300 (£20,158.82); Carnarvon Mark Lodge £25 (£ 1,680), and St. Keyna Chapter £50 (£ 3,360).

With this authority to go ahead, no further time was lost over preliminaries. The international’ situation was worsening rapidly.  W. Bro. Wiltshire, recalling the events of the time, told me that had any further delays occurred, the temple might never have been built.  New plans were prepared and a contract for the building estimated to cost something over £5000 was given

to Bro. Sperring, of Saltford, a builder.  The contract was signed by W. Bro. Wiltshire, as secretary of the Masonic Hall Company, on the 31st August 1939 and work started the following day.  The new temple was completed one year later.

The final costs worked out much more than the estimate.  They were:

£ s d
Buildings 6391 19 4
Land 400 0 0
Architect 474 7 0
Total 7266 6 4

The building was first used for masonic purposes on the 26th August 1940, when the lodge committee met in the Board Room.  This enabled the room at 10 Orchard Street, Bristol, which had been used for committee meetings since 1929 by arrangement with Eldon Lodge (Portishead), to be given up.

The first ceremony took place on Saturday afternoon, 14th September, 1940.  A dispensation to alter the date and time of regular meetings because of conditions created by the war had been granted by Provincial Grand Lodge.  Bros. B. W. Stacey and Gordon Bennett were the initiates.

The Consecration Ceremony was held over until the war was over.  It took place on the 22nd June 1946 when the R.W. Provincial Grand Master (Brigadier-General C.L. Norman, D.S.O., M.V.O.D.L.) dedicated the building “To Freemasonry, Virtue, and the Cause of Universal Benevolence”. W. Bro. W. H. Patterson was Master of St. Keyna Lodge, and W. Bro. T.C.G. Ewins Master of Abbey Lodge at the time.