The Dolphin Society was founded on 13th November 1749 by 18 members of the Colston Society who attended a dinner to commemorate the birthday on that day of Edward Colston, a generous Bristol philanthropist. To mark the occasion they made a collection and decided that the money raised should be used for charitable work within Bristol in order to continue the charitable work he had started.
Ever since that first meeting, the charity has launched an annual appeal which culminates in a joint annual service with the other two Colston Societies: the Grateful Society (founded in 1758) and the Anchor Society (founded in 1769), held at St Stephen's Church on Colston Day (13th November or nearest weekday).
The name of the Society comes from the dolphin in Edward Colston's coat of arms. The story goes that on one of his voyages a dolphin became stuck in a hole in his ship which saved the vessel from sinking.