The History of 17-31 Parkstreet Key Dates
The original building was constructed for the Bristol Philosophical & Literary Institution
1820 The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor William Fripp Junior 29 February 1820
1823 The building was opened and used by the Philosophical Institute until 1871.
1871 Freemasons make an offer of £5500 for the building which was turned down. They finally paid £5960 at a public auction the same year. Alterations and equipment cost a further £1845.
1889 The first dinners were served at Freemasons Hall until that date lodges had held their banquet in local hotels.
1893 Electric lights installed
1915 Organ refurbished and a Modern mechanism fitted.
1921 Freemasons of Bristol bought the adjoining premises.
1922 Small lodge room and committee room constructed.
1924 The lodge room thoroughly renovated and steel girders placed under its floor.
1927 Freemasons of Bristol bought the adjoining no: 31 Park Street thus significantly enlarging Freemasons Hall.
1940 The Building was nearly destroyed by enemy bombing.
During the early years of the Second World War, Bristol as a major port was targeted by the German Air Force. On Sunday 24th November 1940 the City was attacked by a 50 bomber raid. The City Centre was hit by high explosives and many incendiary bombs.
Sadly, Freemasons Hall in Park Street was one of the buildings destroyed by fire in the first blitz on Bristol. The whole of the inner structure including the floors, rooms and stairway was reduced to rubble.
Fortunately, the outer walls remained standing including the façade and Portico including the Baily Frieze.
T. P. Langford wrote in 1973:-
“Soon after Enemy action in November 1940, I was appointed Salvage Officer by the Provincial Grand Master.
I started work in the ruins of the basement. I worked with shovel and sieve; a very large number of articles were recovered, including articles of regalia and personal jewels.
It is interesting to note that stone pillars on the outside to the entrance would have been pulled down as being unsafe, had not the Provincial Grand Secretary been passing at the time. The engineers were preparing pull the Portico down when he protested saying “Over my dead body”
1940-1941 Bristol lodges cease to meet on a regular basis.
1942-1943 Bristol Freemasons hold meetings outside of Bristol
1943-1955 During this period of time Bristol Freemasons were unable to meet at their home at Freemasons Hall in Park Street.
At this difficult time, Bristol Masons received sterling support from the Provinces of Gloucestershire and Somerset. Bristol Lodges used several Masonic premises outside of The Province of Bristol most notably the Masonic Hall at Downend in The Province of Gloucestershire.
During this time, one major concern of the Board of Freemasons of Bristol had been to find a satisfactory meeting place in central Bristol. Several suggestions were investigated and found impractical, but a last we were able to rent a room at the Constitutional Club before ultimately moving to and renovating Brunswick Chapel, Brunswick Square, Bristol.
1955 After extensive rebuilding and renovation Freemasons of Bristol were able to move back into their property in Park Street.
With the exception of the war years and the following years of restoring the building, Freemasons’ Hall has been the permanent home of Bristol Masons since 1871 and now houses 38 Craft Lodges, 14 Royal Arch Chapters, and 10 Mark Lodges.