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Lodge of Good Intention No:6927


A History of our Lodge


There have, in fact, been two Lodges of Good Intention in the Westcountry. The first which met from 1783 to the early 1790’s, was a military lodge in the 2nd North Devon Militia, a force which has no modern day equivalent, and which therefore merits some explanation.


Towards the end of the Eighteenth Century, the Regular Forces were severely stretched coping with the revolt of the American colonies and the constant threat from the French, and local landowners were encouraged to raise Regiments of Militia. These were something more than  a Dad’s Army, but rather less than the professional fighting force which was the Army’s cutting edge. Their duties included protecting the coastline, preserving order, and guarding Prisoners of War. They were moved frequently around the South and Westcountry, but were unlikely to travel much further afield.

The North, or Second Regiment of Devon Militia was largely raised in this way, the landowners concerned being:

Colonel Sir Bouchier Wrey at Tawstock.

  Lt. Colonel Buck at Bideford.
  Major Stafford at South Molton
  Major Wellington at Torrington
  Captain Hedges at South Molton
  Captain Partridge at Barnstaple.

In 1778 the Regiment was stationed at Exeter, and between that time and 1883 it is known to have served at Penzance, Portsmouth, Bishops Waltham, Porchester, Poole, Tunbridge, Falmouth and Taunton. During that period of frequent movement they must have encountered many other Regiments, some of which would have contained Lodges with “Travelling” Warrants which were very common in the Army at that time. It is highly probable that some members of the Regiment were initiated in these Lodges, and in due time they would naturally want to have a Lodge of their own.


1783 saw the 2nd Regiment back in Exeter, and application was made in that year to the “Provincial Grand Lodge for the City of Exeter and County of Devon”, which had been formed only eight years previously, whose energetic Secretary, Beavis Wood, wrote to Grand Lodge:

“…since the report I sent you in January last the lodges undermentioned have been constituted in the Province of Devon….

….Lodge of Good Intention in the North or Second regiment of Devon Militia – to be held in the Town of Biddeford or wherever the Regiment shall be –a previous Dispensation was granted 3 April 1783 – and the Warrant of Constitution 2 May 1783. Lodge nights first and 3 Thursdays.  First Master and Wardens Thos. Arter, John Handford, John Rennels – This constitution is paid for.”


The first Lodge of Good Intention was numbered No. 452, and was granted a “Travelling” Warrant, “Biddeford” was named on the Warrant because it was the home of Thos. Arter,  a sergeant-major of the Regiment, the first Master of the Lodge and therefore the custodian of the Warrant. In the early days, with the Regiment stationed at Exeter, it met in the Globe Inn, St Mary’s Church Yard, but by November 1783 it had returned to Barnstaple, and the Regiment was stood down with the approach of peace.


It is interesting to note that Loyal Lodge (now No. 251) was warranted only three months after Lodge of Good Intention No. 452, was given the very next number, and similarly met at a tavern called the Globe Inn.


No records exist locally today of the meetings of Lodge of Good Intention No. 452, but some information can be gleaned from the minutes of Loyal Lodge of that time. Over a period these record the following visitors from Lodge of Good Intention:
Thomas Arter  Master; John Handford  S.W;  John Renolds  J.W; William Cornish; George Ley;  Jno. Ward;  John Mulles;  James Braby;      Hartnold Lee  Cridge   Coleman    Barrett   Hewett


There was clearly a close relationship between the two Lodges from the start, for the Loyal Lodge minutes for 9th July 1785 show a joint meeting of the two Lodges for the purpose of working the Royal Arch, and candidates were drawn from both. This meeting is a rare example in Masonic history of Lodges under the Grand Lodge of the “Moderns” working the Royal Arch – it was a practice much frowned upon.


With the demobilisation of the militia, the activities of the Lodge of Good Intention No. 452 appear to have centred increasingly on Bideford. We can only admire the enthusiasm of those visitors to Loyal Lodge, returning from Barnstaple to Bideford late at night on horseback or by pony and trap. They were exposed to the elements, travelling over unmetalled roads and with few dwellings by the roadside. A hardy breed, no doubt fortified by the comforts of the Festive Board.


Subsequent evidence of the Lodge is sparse. In 1786, the Lodge is shown as “contributing one guinea to Grand Lodge for the Charity Fund”and later, in Watkins “History of Bideford” the list of subscribers includes “Good Intention Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the 2nd Regiment of North Devon Militia.”


Sadly, from that point the trail grows cold. Bruce Oliver conjectures that a number of Bideford civilians joined the Lodge, and this may have brought pressure for a new Lodge without military connections, more representative of the town. Lodge Faithful No. 499 was warranted on 23rd April 1792 to meet in Bideford, and we know only that the Warrant of the Lodge of Good Intention became dormant.


Happily, the link with Bideford is commemorated today in the close and valued friendship between Lodge of Good Intention No. 6927 and Lodge Benevolence No. 489. 



On 27th Feb 1783, shortly before the formation of the original Lodge of Good Intention, the journal “Exeter Flying Post” contained the following advertisement:

     “Witness, Beavis G.Wood, Pro.G.Secty.
      To be sold by Private Contract, the good Brigantine Good Intention, 180 tons,
       Plantation built last year at Newcastle, now lying at Starcross in the Port of

In addition, one of the founders, John Godden, was a seaman. Was this sheer coincidence, or was this vessel the inspiration for the name of our Lodge?


During the Nineteen-forties, it became clear that Barnstaple could support, and in fact needed, a second Masonic Lodge. Loyal Lodge agreed to act as sponsoring Lodge, and some of its members, together with Masons from other North Devon Lodges, became the Founders. On 2nd November 1949, Grand Lodge granted a warrant for the new Lodge, numbered 6927, to be held in the town of Barnstaple.


Several names of former Lodges with local connections had been considered for the new Lodge :

Lodge Faithful had local associations, but it had met only at Bideford, and it was thought better to leave the name available in case Bideford Masons should ever seek to use it.


Lodge of the Eight Brothers, a Lodge attached to the North Devon Regiment of Militia, had met in Barnstaple from 1812 to 1816, and as the successor to the defunct Good Intention No. 452, it seemed a likely choice. However, it had been warranted by the Atholl or Ancients Grand Lodge, and, possibly for this reason, it was discarded.


Lodge of Good Intention it was to be.

The consecration of the new Lodge took place on Wednesday 24th May 1950, at the Foresters Hall, High Street, Barnstaple – premises expansive enough for the elaborate ceremony involved, and to contain the large attendance. The Festive Board was taken at the Masonic Hall,  at that time the building surmounted by Queen Anne’s statue at the end of the Strand. The menu of six courses must have seemed a veritable feast in those years of post-war austerity, and undoubtedly helped to make a truly memorable occasion.


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

“Trafalgar Place”
“Newport, in the Parish of Bishops Tawton”

“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.

Whenever we enter No. 4, let us remember the achievement of this local boy who made good.


Our banner was presented to the Lodge by W.Bro. T.R. Sandford, one of the Founders, and a member of Benevolence Lodge No. 489 at Bideford.

It was dedicated at the consecration of the Lodge on 24th May 1950, by the Bishop of Crediton, R.W.Bro.William Surtees, Past Grand Chaplain and Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire from 1938 until his death in 1955.

The design was drawn up by W.Bro. Bruce Oliver, PAGDC, a distinguished member of Loyal Lodge and the Prestonian Lecturer for 1954 (see “Pen Portraits”). It contains references to the original Lodge of Good Intention, allusions to the history of Barnstaple, and some purely Masonic items.

Against a background of blue silk, the central figure is a Militiaman of the North Devon Militia. He is shown dressed in a red coat, white breeches and gaiters and a blue and white hat, and carries a musket. On one side is a fort, embroidered in brown, the coat of arms of the Borough of Barnstaple, dating from the 17th Century. On the other side is a ship, also in brown but with white sails; this is the “good ship Dudley” one of a number which sailed from Barnstaple Quay in 1588 to join Drake in harassing and defeating the Armada (the number is variously put between four and six).

The Militiaman stands upon a black and white squared pavement, on which are placed the square, level and plumb-rule. Above, the sun and compasses are embroidered in gold, as are the moon and seven stars, and the scroll-work along the top. Framing the whole is a pair of pillars. Interestingly, they are surmounted by the traditional globes rather than the bowls which are such an unusual feature of the brass pillars which form part of the Bath furniture.

Altogether, our banner is a clever combination of the different elements which go to make up our Lodge.