Loyal Lodge No:251
Meeting at 4 Trafalgar Lawn, Barnstaple
First Monday in each month, except June, July & August
Installation meeting first Monday in March
Date of warrant 23rd August, 1783
Warranted as No 453 on 23 August 1783 by Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde, and constituted 23 September 1783 the lodge has a Centenary Warrant dated 24 July 1883. The Bampfylde Warrant is on parchment and was hand written by the Provincial Grand Secretary and carries a red seal on green ribbon. The late Bro Bruce Oliver the North Devon historian, always contended there was evidence that the lodge which met at the Fleece in Barnstaple 1762 to 1766 continued to work after it was erased and the members applied for a new Warrant which led to the formation of Loyal Lodge. James Kimpland’s house, ‘The Fleece’, stood at the head of the Great Quay and was the largest hostelry in the town, being rated at eighteen pounds. The town was of not inconsiderable size for those days, but in 1783 its inhabitants numbered barely 4000, excluding Pilton and Newport, which were then considered separate towns. Barnstaple had then barely spread beyond the confines of its medieval walls. Two of the great gates still stood; the markets were held in the streets, both pannier and cattle. Within a radius of twelve miles were the towns of South Molton, Ilfracombe, Bideford and Torrington; beyond that it was forty miles to Exeter sixty to Taunton and seventy to Plymouth, and the condition of the roads did not encourage travel.
Most public events happened on the Great Quay. Proclamations of War, of Peace, of the Fair etc., were made outside The Fleece. The white glove of friendship was displayed from a window of the Chapel opposite; here for all celebrations came the Mayor and Corporation to quaff Madeira in the Merchants Walk, eat Barnstaple Crisp Cake, propose innumerable toasts, each of which was followed by the firing of the Borough Chamberlins, so the early brethren had a good conception of the importance of ‘firing’; their accounts show ‘Masonic glasses’ as an early item of expenditure. Just opposite The Fleece was the prison, with the windows so low that kindly friends could hold up a pot of ale from which the liquor was sucked through a pewter tube. Near here, in a corner of the Fish Market, stood the ‘cage’ in which drunkards were placed as a public exhibition. Punishments were brutal in those days.
Floggings were frequent and usually stand from opposite Kimpland’s. House: in 1771 the Magistrates ordered that ‘Elizabeth, wife of Humphrey Britton, be severely whipped from the prison to Northgate next Market day from the hour of 10 to 12 till her back is bloody, and from thence back to prison.’ Such were the days when, in 1783, the brethren gathered at The Fleece to discuss forming Loyal Lodge. The American Colonies were lost, but Rodney’s great victory off St. Lucia over de Grasse had again freed the seas and once more trade prospered. There was evidently great interest in Freemasonry: Calcot’s Candid Disquisition was well subscribed to, and a copy together with that of Trewman’s Principles of Free Masonry Delineated, published at Exeter in 1777, is still in the possession of the lodge. Two other publications of the time and advertised in Devon newspapers are amusing as both being sold at the same shop, that of a Mr. Goadby in Sherborne, the title of the one being ‘Masonry The Turnpike Road to Happiness in this life, and eternal Happiness hereafter’ and the other, ‘Masonry the way to hell. A Sermon wherein is• clearly proved both from reason and Scripture that all who profess these mysteries are in a state of damnation.’
Having received its Warrant, Lodge No. 453, proceeded to hold the first meeting at the Globe Inn, Cross Street in Barnstaple. The first Master, James Kimpland, had for some thirty years been the proprietor of ‘The Fleece’. He was a mason before the year 1769, when he was a subscriber to Calcot’s ‘Candid Disquisition’, and there can be little doubt that he and the other founders had been members of the lodge at The Fleece, warranted by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1762. The six brethren remade on this occasion may have been Ancients’, but it is far more probable that the earlier lodge had, although erased in 1778, continued to function and that they were made masons at The Fleece sometime after l778. James Kimpland was at this time an old man of 74, hut ruled his lodge well. For two years, being absent from very few meetings until on 1 September, 1785 it is recorded that: ‘Right. Worsh Master B. Kimpland declined the Chair through infirmity and old age.’ On the 15th September it is recorded that lie was brought to the Lodge in a chair and : ‘Lodge opened by Bro Kimpland who duly placed Bro Barrett in the Chair as Master’. From this entry it would appear that some ceremonial of Installation may be inferred.
Since, after the first few years the Secretary usually neglected to record the lodges of the visiting brethren, their influence on the working of the lodge is difficult to appraise. Only one or two Irish brethren are so described, hut intercourse between the Southern Irish ports and Barnstaple cannot be excluded. Again a number of Military men were from time to time quartered in the town. Archibald Ewing, it may be surmised, introduced something of the ‘Bath Working’ during his long Mastership (1786 - 1796). Benjamin Plummer evidently gave an exposition of London practice on the night of his visit, whilst Exeter where many peculiarities typical of West Country procedure are still retained, strongly influenced the North Devon Lodge, first by the brethren of Good Intention, and later by official visits of Provincial Officers. The influences working to build up the ritual and traditions in Loyal Lodge were many and varied and one is led to the conclusion that the differences between Ancient’ and ‘Modern’ methods could not have been great in this North-West corner of Devon, since two ‘Ancient’ Masons were received into, and actually worked with the lodge for some time before being remade ‘Moderns’.
The Lodge meets at the Masonic Hall, 4 Trafalgar Lawn, Barnstaple on the first Monday of each month except May, June, July and August and the second Monday in May