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Castle Lodge No. 3219 make the trip to visit Brunei Lodge No. 7356 in Bristol.

On Thursday 18 January 2024, a delegation of Castle Lodge masons, accompanied by members of the Byron club from other Nottinghamshire Lodges, had the great pleasure of visiting Brunel Lodge in Bristol to experience a demonstration of an initiation ceremony under the Bristol Workings.


The Bristol Province consists of 36 lodges meeting in the Bristol Masonic Hall. Their ritual is very different from other English provinces. Here are a sample of the differences:


  • First, we were tested and asked for the 1st degree word by the Inner Guard upon entering the lodge.

  • We then saw a very different lodge set-up, with the chequered floor only covering a smaller area in the centre of the lodge, the 3 columns placed in the centre around the chequered area, and 2 great pillars placed in the centre of the lodge room.

  • There is also an additional VSL placed in the West.


The ceremony is also very different, with a very spectacular use of swords at one point of the ceremony. A large gong is also used which creates a particularly impressive atmosphere. When presented the Working Tools, the new initiate is asked to actually use them on the rough ashlar!


The signs are also different, which could be confusing if tested in Bristol!


Their festive board is called the ‘after meeting’, and their ritual there is also very different from ours.



When we asked about the origins of the Bristol Workings specificities, our hosts explained that Bristol were able to resist the changes in ritual that came with the Union of the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813 to create the United Grand Lodge of England: one of the key difficulties of the Union was that each Grand Lodge had its own ritual.


At the Union, a Lodge of Reconciliation was formed, with the objective to design a common ritual, to be used by all lodges in England. This is where our ritual was designed.


Representatives from London travelled all over the country to educate all English masons and teach them this new ritual.


Bristol masons had no intention to follow the new ritual imposed from London. When the London representatives arrived in Bristol, they were entertained, wined, and dined to such an extent, that there was no time left for masonic education. The London representatives left Bristol in such a state that they were unable to remember if they had actually given the new ritual to the Bristol brethren.

 

Our host then added, with a spark in his eye: we don’t know for sure if the story is true, but we can claim we were never told of the new ritual, so we still use the old one.

We experienced a very warm masonic welcome by our Bristol brethren, one that we hope we can reciprocate as they have indicated their intention to return the visit.

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