History of Masonry in Frome

The Royal Clarence Lodge No. 560 was the first Lodge of Freemasons to function in Frome, with a warrant dating back to 2nd June 1790. It derived its title from H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence, brother of the then Grand Master, who last later to become King William IV. This lodge carried on until 1833 when the Warrant was surrendered.

The following image is an extract from United Grand Lodge Masonic records. the full record can be seen by clicking here

Royal Clarence

J O Lewis, renown historian from Frome was WM of the Royal Somerset Lodge No 973 in 1920. In the Royal Somerset Lodge Museum are the original manuscript written by J.O. Lewis along with what is beleived to be the final printing " proof " of his book History of the Royal Clarence Lodge Frome 1790 - 1838 The script is dedicated to All the freemasons of Frome Past, present and Future.

The following has been taken from these documents.


Chapter I.

THE first Lodge of Freemasons in Frome was the one we know as "The Royal Clarence." It is certain that there were individual Freemasons Living in Frome and neighbourhood, and it is due, no doubt, to this, that proceedings were started in 1790 to form a Lodge. In that year George Frederick, Prince of Wales, had become Grand Master, and this gave great impetus to Freemasonry in England. In the museum of No. 973 there is a gold medal, inscribed, to commemorate the Installation of the Prince of Wales as G.M.

Our first Grand Lodge had been formed it 1717 by four London Lodges, although there were various other London and Provincial Lodges in existence at that time. The first recorded list gave the names of twenty Lodges, nn 1725 there were seventy. By that year three degrees were being worked. The Grand Lodge of Ireland was in existence in 1725, and that of Scotland was formed in 1736.

The influence of these three Grand. Lodges spread Masonry rapidly in the three kingdoms. The efforts of Grand Lodge in England to bring Lodges into enrolment, and their endeavours to enforce other regulations, caused a great deal of dissension, and led to the formation of a rival Grand Lodge in 1751. They called themselves the Antients, and the original Grand Lodge of 1717 the Moderns.

The Royal Clarence Lodge No. 560 was warranted under the Moderns, 2nd of June, 1790. Unfortunately, all trace of minutes or any other local record of this lodge have disappeared, and the only means of obtaining any knowledge of it, is what is to be found in Grand Lodge records. In the library there, is a book, dated. 1768-1812, bound with all Masonic signs and symbols, gold tracery, etc., and' labelled " Old Country Registers."

From this book J.O.Lewis was able to deduce that the first Lodge was held in Frome on June 10th, 1790. There were apparently seven members present : Dennis Edson, William Palmer, Rev. Wm. Watkins, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Jones, William Chislett and William Hayward.

They made, or as we say, initiated, the same day two more : William Middleton, aged 32 years, Gentleman, of Frome, and Thomas Balne, aged' 27 years, Gentleman, of Frome.

As to these brethren: William Palmer was a painter, and several of his pictures, portraits, etc., are still in existence in Bath. His father was Nicholas Palmer, born in 1686 and buried in 1749 in the old churchyard at Marston Bigot near the old yew tree. This is now the lawn in front of Marston House.

Bro. William Palmer died in 1798, on March 7th. In Mr. Edmond Crocker's diary he says : “Died Mr. Palmer, painter, a man valuable as a friend to individuals, as well as to the public in general."

He was buried with masonic honours in the now church yard of Marston Bigot. The vestry has since been built over his grave. His great-great-grandson, Edward Wilton-Palmer, was initiated in the present Lodge, Royal Somerset No. 973.

In the museum of Lodge No. 973 there is a programme of the service held in Frome Parish Church, July 30th, 1822, when Prov. Grand Lodge met here and attended the service held especially for them on that occasion. Special hymns and an anthem were sung. Bro. Ed. Wilton Palmer presented this framed programme to 973 some years ago.
A window in St. John's chancel on the south side was placed there by Edward Palmer, grandson of the above mentioned Bro. William Palmer, in memory of his own father, Charles, son of William, and of his own daughter Ann, who died, aged. 21 years. Their monograms are shown in the glass.

If you wish to read more on the subject as presented by J.O.Lewis, please click here to read the transcript from his documents taken from the Royal Somerset Lodge No 973 museum.

The following is a direct link to the section dealing with Royal Clarence Bruton and the original Bye Laws of the Royal Clarence Lodge Frome.