History of the Province of Wiltshire 1800 - 1900

There seems to have been no one in charge of the Province during the period 1792 to 1825. This ended with the appointment of Brother John Rock Grossett M.P. for Chippenham and resident at Lacock Abbey, as the new Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire. There were now six lodges in Wiltshire and these had increased to nine by 1825. On December 12th 1825 Brother Grossett took the chair of his first meeting as Provincial Grand Master at the Bear Hotel, Devizes. The rule of Brother Grossett was not very beneficial to the Province, as in 1847, the number of Lodges had diminished to four, and in 1853 to three. It seems that Brother Grossett would not call meetings of Provincial Grand Lodge. Again there was a period of unrest, in early 1853 a formal petition to the Grand Master from the Royal Sussex lodge in Swindon and Rectitude, the only two Lodges still working, managed to get something done and on the 6th of September 1853 the second Lord Methuen was appointed as Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire.


Quoting from the history of Freemasonry in Wiltshire, by Frederick Hastings Goldney, Past Grand Steward of England, it seems that from the time of the appointment of Lord Methuen as Provincial Grand Master, Masonry took deep root in the County, and continued to flourish and increase, as by the end of the same year the Lansdowne Lodge of Unity was revived at Chippenham, the following year the Trowbridge Lodge was revived and at the beginning of 1856 the Lodge at Devizes was reconsecrated. The Freemasons were involved in other matters as on May 24th 1854, after the Consecration of Methuen Lodge, the Foundation stone of the Mechanics Institute at Swindon was laid, with Masonic honours.


On 22nd November 1876, when Lord Methuen had been Provincial Grand Master for twenty three years, a meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was held at Swindon to make a presentation to him, as a token of the high esteem and regard entertained for him by the brethren of the Province, and as an expression of their gratitude for the efficient and zealous manner in which his Lordship had presided over Masonic affairs in Wiltshire for so many years. The presentation consisted of a standard bearing his Arms, Supporters, and Motto. Attending the meeting there were many masons from outside the Province including; the R.W. Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire, His Royal Highness Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria.


At that meeting Sir Daniel Gooch Bt. M.P. was also present, he had been Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Wiltshire, until 1868 but was now PrGM of Berks. & Bucks. The Deputy PrGM. for Wilts. was Sir Gabriel Goldney M.P. Provincial Officers were appointed and invested.


At the after proceedings, the Provincial Grand Master referred to help that had been given the Province, in particular the good work done by Sir Daniel Gooch, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Wiltshire from 1853 to 1868 and said, to much applause, that the success of Masonry in the Province was due to his hard work more than anyone else. Sir Daniel had been very much involved in the running of the Methuen Lodge (no 914) Swindon, and when he moved to Berkshire, and took over as Provincial Grand Master of Berks. & Bucks., it was arranged, by general agreement of members of both Provinces, that the then Methuen Lodge of Wiltshire should be transferred to the Province of Berks. and Bucks.


In 1869 a Lodge was warranted at Swindon under the name of the Gooch Lodge. In 1864, and following years, reports were made that the Calne Lodge was in trouble and discussions were taking place to see what could be done. It was suggested that a move to Marlborough might help. The Lodge then met at Calne and Chippenham alternatively and finally moved full time, as Lansdown Lodge of Unity, to Chippenham. After the second Lord Methuen had been PrGM of Wiltshire for twenty five years, a presentation was made to him at a Provincial Grand Lodge, held at the Town Hall, Swindon, on 8th November 1878 of a "magnificent" pair of silver candelabra and an Illuminated Address. At the presentation reference was made to the growth of the Craft in Wiltshire under his Lordships guidance and that the number of masons had increased from 399 to 450 and the number of Lodges now being ten.


In 1872 there were 8 lodges and 314 members.


In 1873 same number of lodges and 345 members.


In 1874 there were 9 lodges and 348 members.


In 1875 same number of lodges and 374 members.


In 1876 there were 10 lodges and 374 members.


Thereafter to 1879 no more lodges but membership up to 465.


At that meeting Brother Frederick Hastings Goldney, the Provincial Grand Treasurer, presented to the PrGM the manuscript of a history of Freemasonry in the Province which he had prepared. He apologised in that it was not yet complete and far from perfect. The work was in fact printed in 1880 and is the finest record of work in the Province up to that date.


On 20th November 1872 a meeting arranged for the setting up of a Provincial Charity Organisation Committee, mainly to "oversee and regulate the support given to various candidates for the several charities of the Order and to prevent the waste of strength which has for many years occurred." In other words to co-ordinate charitable work in the Province.


In 1891 William Pleydell -Bouverie, 5th Earl of Radnor became Provincial Grand Master. He was installed by the Grand Master, H R H the Prince of Wales. He was in charge until 1900.