The History of Beaufort Lodge - No.443

Warranted : 24 April 1769
Met at the Star Tavern, Cross Street, Swansea, (1796)
Erased : 10 February 1809

The first Lodge to be established in Swansea was Beaufort Lodge No.443, with a Warrant of Constitution dated 24 April 1769, though it appears to have been operating unlawfully since 1768. It was named Beaufort Lodge in 1770, in honour of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, who had become Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge two years earlier.
The Petition for a Warrant at Swansea appears not to have been properly vetted by Thomas French, the then Grand Secretary. Later in 1769, his successor, James Heseltine, described the late Grand Secretary’s conduct as ‘highly Nameable’ in this respect, since two out of the four persons named in the Petition (and subsequently therefore on the Warrant) ‘were not Masons, having only been made in a pretend Lodge, held at Bridge End near Swansea’. This was an Antients’ Lodge and its Members would not therefore be recognised as Regular Masons by the Premier Grand Lodge. So, to regularise the Beaufort Lodge, the DepProvGM, John Evans, went over to Swansea, and having first made the Irregular Brethren into ‘Moderns’, then Reconstituted the Lodge itself.*
In the correspondence about this affair between the Grand Secretary and Richard Lloyd, WM, the latter seems to be somewhat evasive in his replies, and it subsequently transpires why. He was one of the Irregular Masons who had to be ‘remade’ and what is more, he soon disappeared to Ireland, along with the Lodge Funds. The Lodge, not surprisingly, expelled him and for good reason - and in the words of the Secretary (Gabriel Jeffreys), declared him to be a ‘Common Cowan’.
Of the Regular Masons, one of the most senior was John Bevan, Esquire, who had been Initiated at the age of 21 in March 1742 at a Lodge meeting at the Crown & Anchor, Strand, London. Lanes Masonic Records shows that three Lodges were meeting at the Crown & Anchor, King Street, Seven Dials (which is near The Strand) in 1742. They were Lodge No.50, Warranted 1728 and Erased 28 April 1775; Lodge No. 148, Warranted 21 September 1737, ceased working in 1801 and Lodge No. 166, Warranted 27 January 1739, now Royal Naval Lodge No.50.
Bevan, who by 1794, had become a JP, is shown on a Lodge Return as having been admitted into Beaufort Lodge on 2 October 1768, the year before the Warrant was issued! Two other Brethren are likewise shown as being admitted on that same day, thus casting further doubt on the legality of the opening of this Lodge in Swansea, They were William Jones, WM, Beaufort Lodge in 1786, Merchant, Initiated at the age of 24 in 1763; and Benjamin Jones, age 21, Merchant, residing at Swansea, ‘made a Mason at Cowbridge in 1767’. This must have been the first Cowbridge Lodge, meeting at the Bear, Cowbridge, between 1754 and 1775. Bevan is shown as ‘gentleman’ on the Return of 27 October 1786 and living at White Rock, near Swansea.
The most significant Member of the Lodge was Gabriel Jeffreys. Initiated at the age of 24011 18 September 1768, he too appears on the Lodge Return as being admitted into the Lodge on 2 October 1768.
The first official Master of the Lodge in 1769-1770 was the aforementioned John Bevan, who replaced the disgraced Richard Lloyd. However, the outstanding dues to the General Fund of Charity remained unpaid, and likewise the fee for the Warrant. John Evans, DepProvGM, writing form Carmarthen to James Heseltine, Grand Secretary, on 23 November 1769, begins .. expected the Swansea Lodge to have (according to repeated promises) sent their money here to remit you, for their Constitution, which they have not yet done, so you must write them a sharp letter.’ Bevan was succeeded as Master by Gabriel Jeffreys in 1771. In 1770, as Senior Warden, Jeffreys effectively took full control of the Lodge. Gabriel Jeffreys belonged to a family of Bankers, Lawyers and Businessmen and he is described as ‘Notary Public’ on the Lodge return of 1780. He was an Alderman and Portreeve (Mayor) of Swansea in the 1780s and County Treasurer (discharged in 1785) and in 1770 he was appointed the Deputy Steward of the Manor of Pennard. He was active in the development of the Docks and Canals, and one of the promoters of the construction of the Mumbles Railway, which in 1804 became the first passenger carrying railway in the world.
Early in 1770, when the Grand Secretary, James Heseltine reminded the Lodge that he was still awaiting the monies owed, Jeffreys immediately attempted to ingratiate himself with Heseltine by sending him three barrels of oysters. The Grand Secretary, in acknowledging them said they were ‘very good and Jam much obliged to you’ - but added that he still hadn’t received the fees for the Warrant.*
During 1770, Jeffreys wrote several letters to the Grand Secretary, in the first of which, dated 11 January, he describes the state of the Lodge and requests that it be registered as ‘Beaufort Lodge’. Then, on 28 April, he requests a supply of Jewels and Grand Lodge Certificates for four of the Members. On 12 May, he writes about his concern over an unrecorded payment made by the Lodge and explains that the first Master, Richard Lloyd has removed all the Lodge papers to his house and will not release them. Exactly one week later, he writes again, this time about ‘some masons very desirous of coming into our Lodge who were made at Bridgend near Cowbridge. I should be glad to know if they have distributed anything lately towards the General Fund of Charity. If not they shall not be admitted without It is by your orders/ I am not able to advise and leave it to your better Judgement in regards the Brethren having Certificates, being required in whatever lodge they shall go to If this is the case.’ The Bridgend Brethren, as mentioned previously, were Members of the Antient Grand Lodge, and were not strictly eligible for Membership of the Premier Grand Lodge, though there are several well known examples of Brethren belonging to both Grand Lodges. His letter goes on to mention the Cowbridge Lodge, which on 30 March 1770 had been able to clear its debts to the General Fund of Charity as a result of a donation of 5 guineas from Robert Jones III, DepProvGM. His letter continues ‘I think there is a reasonable case for refusing to admit them, but should take it a particular favour if you would hint to the Cowbridge Lodge, because of being at a certainty, and doing all I can for the good of the Craft and I am glad to find that W Jones Subscribed so handsomely for the Cowbridge Lodge, making no manner of Doubt hut that we shall be able to do the same soon.’ It would, therefore, appear that Beaufort Lodge was still in arrears regarding payment to the General Fund of Charity. Then Jeffreys organised a Masonic Extravaganza, with feasting and entertainment over three full days, from 27 - 30 June, to which Brethren from the Cowbridge Lodge were invited. There was ringing of church bells, firing of guns, an organist and singers providing musical entertainment and Brethren were accommodated in ‘9 houses for 3 nights’. The accounts run to several pages and are to be found in Grand Lodge Archives (Reference HC 6/J/10). Opulent Lodge Furniture was purchased, including such exotic items as gilt pomegranates and a sword so huge that no box could be found to transport it. Part of the accounts is given below. The total cost for the three days came to £26 -17s -3d. Compared with the retail price index, this amount equates to over £3000 today. In terms of average annual earnings it equates to an income of about £38,000 pa. However viewed, these figures illustrate that the three days of festivities had cost a considerable amount of money.
During 1770, Gabriel Jeffreys communicated further with the Grand Secretary, sending him plans on 13 October for a Masonic Hall in Swansea, ‘which will compare to any in England’, and intimating that Provincial Grand Lodge should be based at Swansea and not at Carmarthen. Also, in 1770, the Lodge number was changed to 378 on the Register. Reference to Jeffreys, PM and SW of Beaufort Lodge, is next to be found in the Grand Lodge Archives on a copy of the Certificate of Constitution of Knoll Lodge No .506 at Neath, which records that ‘Gabriel Jeffreys, Master ‘pro tempore’ of the Beaufort Lodge Swansea did constitute and form them into a just and regular Lodge on the 14th October 1777.’
In 1780, the Beaufort Lodge Number was once again changed, this time to 291, then to 292 the following year and finally to 244 in 1792. The meeting places of the Lodge are not fully documented. Lanes Masonic Records gives the ‘Star Tavern’, Cross Street, Swansea for 1796, the ‘Mackworth Arms’, Wind Street for 1797 and the ‘Lamb Inn’, High Street for 1801. There is evidence that Beaufort Lodge was meeting in the Mackworth Arms in 1787.
On 18 December 1792, Thomas Wyndham Esquire, MP, age 30, of Dunraven Castle was ‘Made a Mason’ in Beaufort Lodge. He was appointed Provincial Grand Master of South Wales on 5 July 1794 and remained as such until his death in 1814.

June 28 To 11 gentlemen at Breakfast, Tea & Coffee
0 -   7 -   4
  After church & before Dinner, Swansea & Cowbridge Gent.
  To 3 Bottles of Punch, white wine, Brandy
0 - 12 -   4
  To 35 Gentlemen at Dinner in the Hall @ 2/6
4 -   7 -   6
  To 35 at Supper
1 -   3 -   4
  Liquor delivered to the Stewards in the Hall
  20 Quarts of Porter
8 -   4
  22 Quarts of Ale
7 -   4
  2 Doz Wines
3 -   4 -   0
  4 Bottles of Lisbon at 2/-
8 -   0
  7 Bottles of Brandy at 4/-
1 -   8 -   0
  4 .. of Rum at4/-
16 -   0
14 - 16 - 11
  Brought Forward 14-16-11
  2 Bottles
8 -   0
  6 Pounds Lump Sugar @ lOd
0 -   5 -   0
  2 Music Men - Dinner
0 -   4 -   0
  Quart Porter   Quart Ale
0 -   2 -   0
  ½ Doz. Ale
0 -   0 -   6

John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington, one of the most notable of English eighteenth-century diarists, described his travels on horseback in England and Wales during the summers of 1781 to 1794. In 1787, he undertook a tour of South Wales and his diary for Tuesday, 7 August, records: ‘We pass’d over new bridge, and by many smoking works; and then over much bad pavement to our inn, in the High Street - Swansea, seems to be a place of trade and there is some idle bathing company. Swansea is a nasty town, and our inn, the Mackworth Arms, very dirty, and very dear. There was a Lodge of Free-masons at our inn to night; and we went up to see the Tyler, at their door, with his drawn sword; at our coming, he was (shame to say) asleep, and disarm’d; but on his awakening, I tipp’d him many signs, and he reeceiv’d others of acknowledgement; so, now, I feel myself as true a Mason, as was ever Don Quixote a knight!!!’
Beaufort Lodge then went rapidly into decline and Jeffreys appears to lose all interest in its affairs. By 1800, the Lodge had practically ceased working, however, when George Bowen wanted to establish a new Lodge in Swansea, which was to become Indefatigable Lodge, the Grand Secretary suggested that he approach Jeffreys for the Beaufort Lodge Warrant. Jeffreys refused and in the early 1800s attempted to have this new Lodge banned by Grand Lodge, as is described in the histories of the Knoll and Indefatigable Lodges (to be found in the publication 'The Reason Why : A History of the Masonic Province of South Wales' ISBN 978-0-9571282-0-0).
Beaufort Lodge was eventually Erased from the Register of Lodges on 10 February 1809.

*Early Freemasonry in South Wales, WBro Terence Osborne Haunch, MA, PAGSuptWks, Grand Lodge Librarian and Curator, Paper presented to Narberth Lodge No. 2002 in 1977

Compiled by WBro Peter Davies, ProvJGW.

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