A History of our Building
In the early days, most Lodges were held in Taverns and Inns. Numbers were small, and these were often the only premises with a suitable room available. They also afforded ready means of refreshment. The earliest purpose-built Masonic Temple may be that constructed at Cheltenham in 1823, which has been in continuous use ever since.
The earliest Barnstaple Lodge, No. 281, met at The Fleece on the Quay, from 1762 until 1776, when it was erased. In 1783 Loyal Lodge No. 453 was founded and met at The Globe Inn, probably in Cross Street. Fourteen years later it transferred to The King’s Arms, in High Street, moving in 1828 to private rooms in Cross Street.
By 1843, it was felt that the increasing membership and the purchase of the Bath furniture made the Cross Street rooms inadequate, and so the Lodge accepted an offer from one of its members, Bro. Britton, and moved to the Public Assembly Rooms in Boutport Street, at an annual rent of £15 including cleaning and fires.
With the passage of time, the desire to have a more suitable home grew stronger, and in 1868 Queen Anne Buildings on the Strand, formerly the home of Baths and Wash-houses Company, fell vacant. Loyal Lodge obtained a lease, and it was converted at some considerable cost, to a design of Bro. Gould, the Borough Surveyor, who also designed the Pannier Market. In 1907, the Lodge obtained a lease for 75 years at £10 p.a. It was in this building that the Lodge of Good Intention was to meet for the first time after it’s Consecration in 1950
As the lease drew towards its end, it was realised that any renewal would mean a greatly increased rent, and Senior Brethren began to consider that it might be preferable to buy a permanent home for Freemasonry in Barnstaple. The search for suitable premises began.
The choice finally fell on No. 4, Trafalgar Lawn, which was at that time arranged as flats. W.Bro. Bruce Oliver, a highly experienced architect, was able to visualise the potential for a truly impressive home for Freemasonry in Barnstaple, and the deal was concluded in 1965. The conversion was far from straightforward, and for structural reasons the Temple had to be sited downstairs, and the Refectory on the first floor, a most unusual configuration. The Dedication Ceremony took place on 16th May 1966.
The purchase price, including the Lawn itself, was £4,500, and the considerable conversion work cost a further £10,317. A Limited Company had been formed in 1964 to oversee and manage the project, with Directors drawn from the two Craft Lodges, and members were invited to take out shares. A little over £5,000 was raised by this method and by inviting private loans, and a mortgage of £8,000 was taken out with a Building Society.
The story of the man who created Trafalgar Lawn is well worth re-telling. It is a story, first, of service to his country, followed by a fine piece of entrepreneurial adventure. His legacy today is one of the finest architectural features in North Devon.
Lewis Hole was born in 1779, four years before the creation of the original Lodge of Good Intention No. 452. His father, the Rev. William Hole, was the Surrogate of Barnstaple. At the tender age of 14 he joined the Royal Navy, not an easy entry into adult life in those days. A year later he saw action as a Midshipman aboard HMS Belliqueex at the capture of Port-au-Prince. By 1801 he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant, and served under Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen.
In the ensuing years, he attained the rank of Captain, and began to amass prize money through the capture of enemy ships. One such was the Danish vessel Aalborg, which earned him a large sum, and there were several similar prizes.
At Trafalgar he was First Lieutenant of the Revenge, a line-of-battle ship sailing under the lee line of Admiral Lord Collingwood. During the battle, both the Captain and Commander were injured, and Lewis Hole took command. For his bravery on that day he was promoted Commander. Trafalgar also brought him substantial further prize money.
When hostilities ceased, he retired to Barnstaple, settling in Ebberley Lawn. He invested part of his prize money in buying a large meadow in Newport, known as Cowie or Coney Meadow. Situated between Limers Lane (now Park Lane) and the London Road (now Newport Road), it stretched from the Coney Gut, a stream which now runs under Rock Park, to the land which now borders Rock Avenue, a considerable expanse. It included not only the site of the current Lawn, but also what is now the Nelson Terrace area (another significant name) and part of today’s Rock Park. His dream was to commemorate Nelson’s great victory by creating the finest development in the town.
On August 16th 1824, this advertisement appeared in the North Devon Journal
“Building Land to be sold or leased, for a certain period of years, which is worthy of the attention of the Public, as the situation is at once healthy, agreeable and convenient; and the houses (as accurately tried by level a few days since) will stand fully as high as those of Ebberley Place. The ground below the terrace is to be laid out in a Lawn, Gravel Walks and Shrubberies, which will be kept in order by the Proprietor, solely at his own expense; of whom plans may be seen of what is to be done.
He intends to build a Lodge at the bottom of the Lawn, and to have a railing adjoining the London Road (the railings remained in place until 1940, when they were removed and melted down for the War Effort); in short, everything will be done to make this one of the most delightful spots in Devonshire.
Apply to Captain Hole, the Proprietor, Ebberley Place, Barnstaple.”
Captain Hole built and retained No. 4, the largest and most imposing house of the terrace, for his own residence. We know little of his retirement, but with several other retired Naval Officers living nearby, he did not want for congenial company. He was raised to Flag Rank in 1846, and died in 1870 at the age of 91, a full Admiral, and senior in his list.