Visitors to the Masonic Hall at Bristol could
be forgiven for thinking that it has been
unchanged for generations, but its turbulent
history shows how Masonry can overcome
seemingly insurmountable difficulties.
Bristol is unique as a Province in that it
is also a city. It preserves rituals and customs
from before the creation of the United
Grand Lodge of England, including the
passing of the veils.
Indeed, local legend has the Grand
Lodge representative arriving to instruct
the Province to change, only to be dined
so well that he reeled back to London the
next day with his message still undelivered!
The Masonic Hall in Park Street was
originally the home of the Philosophical
Society of Bristol and was bought by the
Province in 1871. It is classical and has a frieze
showing Apollo and Minerva introducing
art, science and literature to Bristol.
The frieze is by Edward Hodges Bailey, a
Mason and former pupil of Bristol Grammar
School. He is most famous for the statue of
Nelson in Trafalgar Square, but also sculpted
the massive statue of the Duke of Sussex that
stood in the Grand Temple in London until
its rebuilding in the 1930s, and which is still
on display at Freemasons’ Hall.
The Bristol Hall presents an elegant but
bland face to the world. In 1940 the building
was refurbished with stonework, cleaned
and re-roofed, but within months of it being
completed it was almost totally destroyed by
German bombs, along with much of the
historic city in November that year.
Wooden case from India, jug
recovered from wartime rubble,
horn depicting a tracing board,
three jewels recovered from the
rubble, World War I German air
gunner’s badge and various