The Lodge of Agriculture was formed under a Warrant dated 1st November 1867, of Thomas Dundas, Earl of Zetland, Baron Dundas of Aske in the County of York, the Most Worshipful the Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of England. The Founding Members of the Lodge with, perhaps, one exception, were all members of Lodges in the Province of Bristol and it therefore seems probable that in the early days of the Lodge, Bristol Working may have been adopted. There is in fact some evidence of this, as the minutes of the meeting held on 12th June 1871, record that Bro. Dr W Benham, PM of the Beaufort Lodge No. 103, Prov. Of Bristol was present and having regard to his proficiency in working, the WM invited him to take the Chair and conduct a 3rd Degree Ceremony. The other offices were filled by the regular officers of the Lodge, who must therefore have known the Bristol ritual. At this period it was, however, not unusual for the DPGM to attend and conduct the ceremony of Installation of the Worshipful Master, so Bristol ritual would not have been used on those occasions. On 15th March 1880 the Lodge resolved that the London Ritual be adopted. When the subsequent change to Emulation working was made is not clear.
The first meeting place of the Lodge was at the “Ship and Castle Inn” at Congresbury and it is interesting and perhaps somewhat surprising to find that the first Masonic Lodge to be formed in the North West corner of the county should be in the small village of Congresbury. The nearest Somerset Lodges to Congresbury were then at Wells and Highbridge.
The first meeting of the Lodge was held on 11th December 1867, when the Chair was taken by the W.M. Elect W.Bro J R Bramble and six candidates were proposed for initiation. The first was the Rev. Wm. Hunt, Vicar of Congresbury, the second James Mountstevens, who later became the proprietor of the “Railway Hotel” Yatton to which the Lodge subsequently moved, and the third Henry Shiner. Three further meetings were held, all by dispensation, before the Consecration Meeting, eight candidates, including two serving brethren, being initiated.
It appears that in the early days of the Lodge it was not the practice for the brethren to partake of refreshments after each Lodge meeting, but by 1886 it had become customary to hold quarterly suppers. At the August meeting of that year it was decided to discontinue the quarterly suppers, but to continue to hold the annual dinner in September as heretofore. This annual dinner was additional to the Installation Banquet. It was also decided that at his Installation Banquet the Master should provide oysters and stout for the brethren and that the remainder of the refreshments be provided at the expense of the Lodge. How long that resolution remained effective, history does not relate.
In 1891 the first steps were taken for the removal of the Lodge from Congresbury to Yatton and at the October meeting that year it was resolved after full discussion “that the Lodge be removed from Congresbury to the Assembly Rooms, Railway Hotel, Yatton” eighteen members voting for the motion, one against with two abstentions. Perish the thought that this decision may have been influenced by the fact that Bro Mountstevens was the proprietor of the Railway Hotel. More likely it was because it had become the sport of several disgruntled gentlemen, whose applications for membership had been rejected, to quietly row their boat along the River Yeo to a point where they could peer in through the Lodge window and disrupt proceedings!
The first Lodge meeting at the Assembly Rooms Yatton, was held on 1st February 1892 and was an Emergency Meeting. It was followed on 15 February by the Regular Meeting at which Bro. C L F Edwards as installed as Worshipful Master of the Lodge for the third time. After his installation he asked the Lodge to accept the gift of a Lodge Banner. This banner, which remained in use until 1929 had fallen intro disrepair, but when the Lodge removed to its present premises in 1936, was restored and framed through the generosity of the late W.Bro. W Hardwell and now adorns the staircase leading to the Lodge Room.
In August 1914 the first World War commenced. Fourteen brethren served in H.M. Forces. Three made the supreme sacrifice: W.Bro. Col. E H Openshaw, Bro. Capt. F P Wheeldon, W.Bro H R Miles.
In 1935 the Lodge took its most momentous decision since its formation in 1867, when at a Special Meeting held on 4th June 1935, the removal to the present premises, then known as Larchmount Hall, was agreed. At the time the building was a shell, the interior having been gutted by fire. The planning of the reconstruction of the interior of the building was placed in the hand of W.Bro. P B Rigg and the handsome and spacious Lodge Room is a proof of his architectural skill.
Above two notable additions to the amenities of the Lodge Room are the organ, for which the brethren subscribed at the conclusion of World War II, and the unique clock designed and presented to the Lodge by W.Bro James Milner at the termination of his year of office as Master in 1947..
The year 1945 after the return to peacetime conditions and during the Mastership of that most eloquent of after -dinner speakers the late W.Bro Charles Porter, saw the institution of what is now called “ Farmers night”. The originators were brethren of the farming fraternity, prominent amongst them were the late Bro G H Collins and Bros C J Cook and W W Keel, who, as they had not taken office in the Lodge, felt they owed some services to the brethren and accordingly offered to entertain the members and their guests to supper at the December Lodge meeting on the condition that following supper a collection be taken the proceeds of which should be devoted to charity. This invitation was most cordially accepted by the brethren and “Farmer’s Night” has since become an annual event. In 74 years to December 2019 Masonic Charities have benefited to thousands of pounds from collections made on these occasions. It has become the tradition now for the Worshipful Master and his officers to vacate their offices on “Farmers’ Night”, the various chairs being filled by the farming brethren.
The Lodge records from its inception show that the Second Grand Principal on which the Order is founded has always occupied a prominent part in the thoughts of the brethren, and the Lodge is now a Patron of the three Masonic Institutions and until recent years the Royal Masonic Hospital.
Space does not permit in a short history for tribute to be paid to all the brethren of the past who did so much for the good of Freemasonry in general and the Lodge of Agriculture in particular. We can today look back with some pride at the record of the Lodge during its long and historic existence, and the best tribute which we, and those who come after us, can offer to the memory of those brethren who laid so solid a foundation, is to ensure that, when the landmark of the next hundred years is reached the reputation of the Lodge of Agriculture stands no less high in the Province than it does today.
One thing that remains a constant, is that if you decide that Freemasonry is for you, The Lodge of Agriculture is a warm and welcoming lodge with members from many walks of life, and you will always be welcome whether you are someone who would just like to find out what Freemasonry is about, or someone looking to join a progressive but traditional lodge which looks to enjoy the company of like minded people, and to support local charities and good causes, as well as national charities.
If you would like to know more about The lodge of Agriculture or Freemasonry in general please contact the Lodge Secretary. firstname.lastname@example.org