The Full Story
Freemasonry in Yeovil was first mentioned in the press in the Ipswich Journal of 20 March 1736 in which was published 'An Extract of a Letter from Yeovill in the County of Somerset'. "We here inform the Publick, of the most melancholy Accident that ever happened: On the 6th Day of this instant March, a sudden Stupor seized the Brains of several hundred Persons, both Males and Females, in the said Town, which in a few Moments, turn'd to a most deplorable Frenzy, occasioned, as it is thought, by puzzling their Heads about the meaning of the FREE-MASON-SOCIETY; several Masons being made on that Day, in order to constitute a lodge."
Part of the following is adapted from the writings of the late Tony Robins and is reproduced here by kind permission of Audrey Robins.
The Lodge of Brotherly Love was founded in 1810 at the George Inn, Martock, but moved to the White Hart in 1814.
The Lodge moved to Yeovil in 1819 and the first four meetings were held at the house of Thomas Cave in Princes Street. Cave was Worshipful Master of the Lodge on four separate occasions (1821/22, 1834/35, 1843/44 and 1851/52). A few meetings then took place at the Mermaid Hotel but in 1820 it moved again to a house in Vicarage Street. By 1827 meetings were being held in the Three Choughs Hotel and the Lodge remained at the Choughs until the purpose-built hall was constructed in Hendford and opened in 1894. During this period a unique meeting of the Lodge took place; in June 1844, while structural alterations to the Three Choughs were taking place the regular room used for meetings was closed. As a consequence, an open-air meeting was held on Windmill Hill (today's Wyndham Hill).
A builder, Frederick Cox had his builder's yard in Frederick Place - named for himself. Cox was Worshipful Master in 1868/69 and died in 1887. This photograph dates to the early 1880s. The photograph at lower left is of hotelier Charles Pitcher of the Mermaid Hotel. He was Worshipful Master in 1908 and is seen here in his masonic regalia in 1910.
As mentioned above, the masonic hall opened in 1894. It was built on land that had previously been owned by Frederick Greenham and was sold off following the death of Frederick's widow Mary in 1889. The sale description in the Western Gazette edition of 10 May 1889 read "Lot 3, the offices facing the main street in Hendford, adjoining Lot 2, now and for many years past in the occupation of the Town Surveyor, Mr Richard Vining, was bought by Mr Vining for £400 (about £38,000 at today's value). This is the site now occupied by the masonic hall and the southern half of Dolphin House.
The Lodge of Progressive Science was formed in 1928 and Corinthian Pillar in 1957. The Royal Naval Lodge, founded in Malta in 1899, moved to Yeovil in 1987. There is also a ladies' masonic lodge, Yeo Valley, formed in Sherborne in 1976 which now meets at the Yeovil Masonic Hall. Ladies' lodges were first formed in 1908 and there are now nearly 90 Ladies Lodges operating in the UK these days.
Prominent Yeovilians of the past who were Freemasons include brewer Joseph Brutton, solicitor and banker William Lambert White, solicitor John Slade, dentist William Hunt, drapers and brothers Robert Damon and Edmund Damon (three-times Mayor of Yeovil), draper and four-times Mayor of Yeovil Norman Buchanan, draper Lindsay Denner, 'Professor' of Music Walter Nosworthy, glove manufacturer Brett McTier, glove manufacturer Louis Bide, glove manufacturer John Ryall, hairdresser Frank Gaylard, carriage-maker and Mayor of Yeovil John Boll, dowlas manufacturer Robert Cayme and grocer Charles Hook.
On Wednesday afternoon the ceremony was performed of laying the cornerstone of a new Masonic Hall, which is about to be erected in Hendford, at a cost of about £1,000 (about £1 million at today's value using the 'economic cost' calculation) by Lodge 329. The ceremony was performed by Bro. B Whitby, in the presence of a large number of members of the lodge, as well as of the general public. The ceremony was not of a full Masonic function; but Bro. Cox, on behalf of the lodge, presented Bro. Whitby with a silver trowel, with which the Worshipful Master laid the stone. He congratulated the members of the lodge on having at length overcome the difficulties which had impeded the carrying out of the scheme for the past 30 years. The cornerstone bears the following inscription "This stone was laid by Bro. Benjamin Whitby, Worshipful Master of the Lodge 'Brotherly Love', No. 359, on the 16th of May, AL 5394; AD 1894." After the laying of the stone a banquet was held at the Three Choughs Hotel.