Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
14 June 2017
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 8 March, 2017 and of the Annual Investiture of 26 April, 2017 were confirmed.
Rule 153 – Cheque Signatories
Rule 153 was amended in June 2013 to require that every cheque drawn on a Lodge’s bank account be signed by two duly authorised members of the Lodge, of whom the Treasurer must, unless it is impracticable, be one. The Rule had previously permitted a Lodge to resolve that a single signatory should suffice.
The object of the amendment was to reduce the risk of misappropriation of funds, by requiring a second signatory in every case. The Board still considers that to have been an appropriate objective, but has noted that Lodges have experienced difficulty in relation to bank mandates in respect of a second signatory. The Board recommended that Rule 153(b) be amended to enable cheques to be authorised on the sole signature of the Treasurer. Notice of motion to amend the Book of Constitutions accordingly appeared on the paper of business.
Annual Dues 2018
The Board recommended, in accordance with Rule 269, Book of Constitutions, that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2018 shall be:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
The Board recommended, in accordance with Rule 270, Book of Constitutions, that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Contribution to the Masonic Charitable Foundation
Under Rule 271, Book of Constitutions, Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution payable to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The Trustees of the Masonic Charitable Foundation have requested that for 2018 the annual contribution remain at £17 in respect of each member of a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
2016: Foundations: new light on the formation and early years of the Grand Lodge of England
The Lecturer, W Bro Dr R.A. Berman, has informed the Board that in addition to the three official deliveries to Zetland and Hong Kong Lodge, No. 7665 (London), Bristol Installed Masters Lodge, No. 8168 (Bristol) and Temple of Athene Lodge, No. 9541 (Middlesex), the Lecture was also delivered on twenty-three other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Berman for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.
2017 The Grand Design
The Prestonian Lecturer for 2017 is RW Bro Dr J.W. Daniel, PSGW. Four official Prestonian Lectures for 2017 have been or will be given under the auspices of Lodge of the Grand Design, No. 6077 (Surrey); Worcestershire Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 6889 (Worcestershire); Old Elizabethans’ Lodge, No. 8235 (East Lancashire) and The London Grand Rank Association.
The Board had received reports that the following Lodges had resolved to surrender their Warrants:
(a) Lodge of Dedication, No. 7428, in order to amalgamate with Excelsior Lodge, No. 1155 (London); and
(b) Lodge of Concord, No. 7233, in order to amalgamate with Holloway Lodge, No. 2601 (London).
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board had received a report that twenty Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:
Addington Lodge, No. 1937 (KwaZulu-Natal); Lord Charles Beresford Lodge, No. 2404 (East Kent); Gwalia Lodge, No. 4213 (South Wales); Rosarium Lodge, No. 5147 (London); Horselydown Lodge, No. 5384 (London); Danson Park Lodge, No. 5700 (West Kent); Lodge of Assembly, No. 5747 (Warwickshire); Curfew Lodge, No. 5891 (London); Diligence Lodge, No. 5954 (Middlesex); Wilcumestou Lodge, No. 6090 (Essex); Lodge of United Friendship, No. 6284 (East Kent); Trident Lodge, No. 6407 (Nottinghamshire); Cowley Lodge, No. 7571 (Middlesex); Latton Priory Lodge, No. 8402 (Essex); Gayton Lodge, No. 8640 (Cheshire); Lodge of Good Report, No. 8646 (Middlesex); Oakfield Park Lodge, No. 8671 (West Kent); Manor Abbey Lodge, No. 8873 (Worcestershire); Lewes Priory Lodge, No. 9201 (Sussex) and Sure and Stedfast Lodge, No. 9365 (Worcestershire).
Over recent years, the Lodges have found themselves no longer viable. The Board was satisfied that further efforts to save them would be to no avail and therefore had no alternative but to recommend that they be erased. A Resolution to this effect was approved.
As required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions, eight Brethren had recently been expelled from the Craft.
Grand Lodge Accounts 2016
The Audited Accounts of the Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2016 were adopted.
Election of Grand Lodge Auditors
Crowe Clarke Whitehill LLP were re-elected as Auditors of the Grand Lodge.
Talk: 1717 – Foundation and Formation
A talk was given by VW Bro J.M. Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor.
List of new Lodges for which Warrants have been granted by the MW The Grand Master showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective:
8 March 2017
9944 Lodge of XV (Braintree, Essex)
9945 Buckinghamshire Classic Car Lodge (Beaconsfield Buckinghamshire)
27 April 2017
9946 Berkshire Lodge of Enlightenment (Berkshire)
9947 Constructors’ Lodge (Berkshire)
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 September 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 13 December 2017; 14 March, 2018; 13 June, 2018 and 12 September, 2018.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 25 April 2018), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 8 November, 2017; 26 April, 2018 and 14 November 2018.
Striking the right chord
Freemasonry Today caught up with renowned musician Thomas Trotter as he practised on the Grand Temple’s newly refurbished pipe organ for its inaugural concert
The pipes of the Grand Temple organ positively gleam as Thomas Trotter runs through the programme for a special concert to be held in the Temple the next day. The organ’s restoration has used enough gold leaf to cover the surface of a tennis court and introduced a new organ chamber in the centre of the Temple’s east wall. As he practises, Trotter’s hands dance over the three manuals while his feet expertly work the pedals beneath to create an epic sound from Bach’s Toccata in F.
The concert will not only be the culmination of the organ’s refurbishment but also the first of many celebratory events linked to the 2017 Tercentenary. One of Britain’s most widely admired musicians, Trotter is looking forward to playing to a full house: ‘The Grand Temple is a unique space, it’s incredibly plush and sumptuous. The carpets dampen the sound quite a lot so I’m going to have to work hard.’
A grand history
The organ was built by Freemason Henry Willis III for the inauguration of the Grand Temple in 1933.
It included numerous state-of-the-art developments that Willis had adopted following visits to the US, many of which were designed to help the instrument cope with its setting: a modern, efficiently heated building. Some 80 years of accumulated wear, however, threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes.
Thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, organ builders Harrison & Harrison of Durham have been able to restore the instrument to its former glory, retaining its console, mechanism and pipework. The projection and presence of the sound has been markedly improved by giving a greater degree of opening to the expressive swell enclosures, within which much of the pipework is situated, and also by removing heavy fabric hangings from the east wall.
‘The curtaining would have soaked up the sound like a sponge. Now with the marble walls exposed, the sound is reflected off into the hall. It’s like having your windows cleaned – before it would have been a bit musty and unfocused,’ says Trotter. ‘I’m thrilled that people are still spending money on their instruments and buying new ones. There are far fewer organ builders than there were 50 years ago, but the standard is as high as it’s ever been.’
‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’ Charles Grace
Past in tune with present
The refurbishment has seen the addition of a new case on the east wall, clad to match the original design. It contains a chorus of five stops, balanced to augment rather than dominate the Willis sound, and a solo stop for special occasions – the Grand Tuba. ‘In the recital I’m going to use some of the old pipes and compare it with the new stops, which have made a big difference and are quite striking.’
The Grand Temple is in good company, with the organs at Westminster Cathedral and Liverpool Cathedral also built by Henry Willis III. ‘Every organ is different, but there are certain characteristics that follow through all the Henry Willis III organs and I can hear them here,’ says Trotter. ‘There’s a certain brightness about some of the stops that are representative of what Willis was doing in the 1930s.’
As the audience take their seats in the Grand Temple the next day, there is an almost palpable sense of expectation about how the organ will sound. With Trotter hidden behind the organ, a camera positioned behind his shoulder will stream his performance onto the wall of the Temple for the audience to see. He does not disappoint.
‘I was very pleased with the way the concert was received,’ says Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration. ‘All the comments I have received show that the audience really liked being able to see Thomas’s remarkable dexterity, as well as hear the beauty of his playing.’
In addition to performing pieces by Bach and masonic composers Mozart and Liszt, Trotter plays Reginald Goss-Custard’s Chelsea Fayre. It’s a fitting nod to the instrument’s proud history, with Goss-Custard’s brother Harry the recitalist at the opening of the Temple organ in 1933.
Thomas Trotter has performed as a soloist with conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, among many others. He regularly gives recitals in venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna; and London’s Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls. In 2012 he was named International Performer of the Year by the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Letters to the Editor - No. 33 Spring 2016
Among your readers there may be many who enjoyed the inaugural organ concert given by Thomas Trotter last September.
This year, again as part of the UGLE Tercentenary celebrations, there will be two further hour-long concerts.
The first will take place at 5pm on Wednesday, 8 June, featuring Ian Tracey, organist at Liverpool Cathedral, in a wide-ranging programme.
As before, you will be able to see what the organist is doing, with a filmed display on the walls of the Grand Temple. Tickets (for which there is no charge) can be booked at https://goo.gl/zHW67w, and I do hope that many will take advantage of what should be another great occasion.
Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple Organ, Freemasons’ Hall, London
Chapter support for surgical research
Established with £587,629 in 1967, the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund is a registered charity supporting the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS). By the end of 2013, the fund’s capital was £3.7 million, despite providing more than £4.3 million in grants during the previous 45 years.
However, with lower returns and the increased cost of financing Fellows to undertake surgical research, fulfilling the fund’s aspirations was becoming difficult. Supreme Grand Chapter therefore decided to launch an appeal to support the RCS in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Arch, and £2.5 million was raised. From this year, two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships will be supported.
To reflect these changes, the fund was renamed The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research (FFSR) on 1 January 2015.
Change of name for surgical research fund
Since being established with the capital sum of £587,629 in 1967 the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund did not receive any additional capital donations - until 2014. The fund was created as a registered charity with the aim of supporting the work of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Prudent investment and making grants of an amount in keeping with available income meant that by the end of 2013 the fund’s capital was £3.7m despite having given over £4.3m in grants to the college during the previous 45 years. However with lower returns and the ever rising cost of funding fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons to undertake surgical research, the ability to fulfil the aspirations of the fund was becoming very difficult.
In these circumstances the trustees were delighted when the Supreme Grand Chapter resolved to launch an appeal to support the work of the college in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Arch.
The generosity of the Royal Arch masons and Freemasons generally, resulted in the sum of £2.5m being raised, greatly exceeding expectations. It was decided that the funds raised by the appeal should be invested and administered together with the Grand Lodge 250th Fund. It is intended that from 2015, four, or possibly 5 fellows will be supported.
It has been agreed that the fellowships will be allocated to the Craft and the Royal Arch in proportion to the contribution of funds, so that there will be two Royal Arch Fellows in every five fellowships supported. The fellows who are to be supported are selected by the fund’s trustees in discussion with the President and other senior members of the college. These fellows are some of the brightest and best surgeons in the land and the funding enables them to spend a year working on innovative treatments for medical conditions which affect us all.
In order to reflect these important changes, it has been decided that the name of the fund be changed to 'the Freemasons Fund for Surgical Research' with effect from the 1st January 2015.
Working as one
With December marking the bicentenary of the union of the Grand Lodges, John Hamill explores the people and planning behind the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England.
The formation of the Antients Grand Lodge in 1751 – instigated mainly by Irish brethren in London who had been unable to gain entry to lodges under the premier Grand Lodge – marked the start of a period in which two Grand Lodges existed side by side. Initially there was great enmity between the two, and both sides threatened dire consequences against any members who became involved with their rival. But as time went on, except at the centre, relations relaxed, particularly in the Provinces where the beady eyes of the respective Grand Secretaries did not extend. Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps.
Indeed, it was because of two such brethren that the first serious attempt, in 1801, to start negotiations towards a union foundered. When it was announced that talks might begin, there were groups within both Grand Lodges who did not wish to see it happen and sought to wreck it. Charges were brought in the Antients Grand Lodge against Francis Columbine Daniel for being active in both Grand Lodges, resulting in his expulsion. Daniel was a doctor and apothecary, best remembered today as having invented the inflatable life vest and for receiving an ‘accidental knighthood’. Daniel believed that the new Deputy Grand Master of the Antients, Thomas Harper, had engineered his expulsion and sought his revenge.
Rooted in rivalry
Harper had been very active in both Grand Lodges, being a Grand Steward in the premier Grand Lodge in 1796 when he was also Deputy Grand Secretary of the Antients. He was a jeweller and printer, making masonic jewels that are now highly prized and collected. Quite how someone so prominent had got away with being so publicly active in both Grand Lodges is the subject of another article, but Daniel forced the premier Grand lodge to recognise the fact and they expelled Harper in 1803, bringing any talk of a union to a halt.
In 1806, the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge since 1791, was elected Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. As he had done in England, he appointed the Earl of Moira as his Acting Grand Master. Moira seems to have seen the Prince’s election as an opportunity to bring the premier Grand Lodge and Scotland closer together. However, the Scots saw the election as simply allowing for a closer relationship between the two Grand Lodges, rather than an actual joining together.
‘Even in London, a number of prominent brethren had a foot in both camps.’
Nevertheless, talk of union seems to have turned the minds of the Prince and Moira to the situation in England. In 1809 they approached the Antients with the idea of setting up a joint committee to explore a possible ‘equable union’. A stumbling block was the fact that Harper was still Deputy Grand Master of the Antients and was very much in charge in the extended absences of the Grand Master John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl. The negotiators were appointed and in 1810 Harper was welcomed back into the premier Grand Lodge.
Apart from the formal Grand Lodge Minutes and odd bits of correspondence, little evidence survives about the negotiations, which dragged on for nearly four years. Part of the problem was that while the premier Grand Lodge team had been given authority to make decisions, those representing the Antients had to have any decisions agreed within a quarterly meeting of their Grand Lodge.
A grand achievement
Matters were not helped by the fact that the Antients’ Grand Secretary, Robert Leslie, was firmly against the project. A somewhat prickly character, he had been Grand Secretary since 1790 and, unlike his counterparts in the premier Grand Lodge, was a salaried official, earning £100 a year. Indeed, so much was he against the union that even when it was accomplished he refused to hand over the records of the Antients Grand Lodge.
Proceedings might have ground to a halt in 1813 had it not been for major changes at the head of both Grand Lodges. The Prince of Wales resigned as Grand Master and was succeeded by his younger brother the Duke of Sussex. In November 1813 the Duke of Atholl resigned as Grand Master of the Antients, who elected another royal brother, the Duke of Kent, as their Grand Master.
It says a great deal about the authority of princes in those days that within six weeks they had knocked heads together, and agreed and drawn up Articles of Union. They also planned the great ceremony, which took place at Freemasons’ Hall on 27 December 1813, when the union was declared and the Duke of Sussex was installed as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
HRH The Duke of Kent reflects on the bicentenary of the Royal Arch as it raises more than £2 million for the Royal College of Surgeons
This October we marked a major milestone in the distinguished history of the Holy Royal Arch. While celebrating this landmark I particularly wish to mention the success of the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons. I am impressed to hear of the tremendous support the companions have given to the appeal.
In my speech at the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April this year I mentioned that the appeal would remain open until the end of the year. However, I am pleased to announce that the amount donated and pledged so far is £2 million. This exceeds expectations and I congratulate you.
I also know that the College president, Professor Norman Williams, is extremely grateful to companions for helping to fund the College’s successful Research Fellowship scheme at the same time as maintaining their clinical leadership.
To mark this special celebration I intend to make additional first appointments to past Grand Rank on the scale of one for every Province or District. It is my hope that Grand Superintendents, upon whom I shall rely for advice in the selection of suitable companions, will ensure that so far as is possible the companions so honoured will be those who have carried out significant work for the Royal Arch Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons or have made a significant contribution in some other way to this year’s celebrations. I know we all wish the Order continued success for the next two hundred years!
The First Grand Principal, HRH The Duke of Kent presided over the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter on 16 October 2013 in the Grand Temple to mark the bicentenary of the formal recognition of the Holy Royal Arch as part of pure ancient masonry. With lunch held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, the day included a Convocation of Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, No. 9812, in which a demonstration of the Ceremony of Exaltation using the changes authorised in 2004 was given.
ME Comp HRH The Duke of Kent, First Grand Principal, presided over the Celebratory Bicentenary Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter and the dinner later that evening at the Savoy.
The Bicentenary Celebrations for Supreme Grand Chapter started with a demonstration of the new ceremony of exaltation by the Metropolitan Grand Stewards Chapter, which was followed by a celebratory luncheon in the Grand Connaught Rooms, presided over by the Pro First Grand Principal, ME Comp Peter Lowndes
Bicentenary Celebration Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
16 October 2013
An address by E Comp the Rev Dr John Railton, PGSwdB
Most Excellent First Grand Principal and Companions, a couple of months ago, a much-loved and highly respected member of our Order asked me what would be the theme of my Oration this afternoon. At that stage, to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I muttered something about the inexorable march of time. I won’t tell you exactly what he said, but he clearly wasn’t over-impressed! I’m most grateful to him, though, because it was his question which prompted me to recognise that, in reflecting on the significance of this occasion, my task is to navigate a careful course between the rocks of controversy on the one hand and the sandbanks of platitude on the other. So my aim this afternoon is to be just mildly provocative – in the best sense, that of being gently thought-provoking! No doubt he’ll tell me later whether I succeed!
If I were to suggest that many, possibly most, Freemasons are ‘traditionalist’ by nature, I suspect that there are many here who would have no difficulty in agreeing with me. But there are those, I’m sure, who would take issue with me – for very good reasons. So let me try to put some flesh on the bare bones of that statement. By ‘traditionalist’ I don’t mean in any sense old-fashioned, stick-in-the-mud, living in the past, reactionary – although most of us could probably name a few of our brethren to whom those terms may well apply! No, by ‘traditionalist’ I mean having the ability to appreciate and value the traditions of our masonic Orders; to understand the worth of the experience of our predecessors and the actions they took to keep alive the fundamental principles of Pure Antient Freemasonry while maintaining their relevance for daily life in each and every age.
If life for us is in equilibrium, constant, reliable, predictable and comfortable – then change is a challenge, often an unwelcome challenge. And I’m very much one of those who subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought. But I believe we need to bear in mind that Freemasonry is a living organism. I was trying to remember from grammar school biology classes the characteristics of living things: I can remember some of them – nutrition, respiration, growth, movement, response to stimuli. Well, all of those apply to the Royal Arch – and, indeed, to Freemasonry generally. Our belief in and our commitment to all we do as masons needs nourishment and nurture; it needs to breathe and be refreshed; it needs to reproduce itself through recruitment; and it needs continually to assess just HOW it relates to everyday life – for us as masons, and for our families and communities; and how it responds to external stimuli, most obviously in the way masonry is seen by the wider world and the impact of the image Freemasonry has on the recruitment which is our life-blood.
Well, all of that has been going on from the very earliest beginnings of Freemasonry. Just as Royal Arch Masonry has breathed the oxygen of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so it must breathe the oxygen of the twenty-first. The context of today’s celebration is the passage of two hundred years of growth and evolution. If we could be transported back across those two hundred years, I wonder how much we would recognise in the practice of Royal Arch Masonry? But the Royal Arch as we know it today is the result of something like three hundred years of evolution. An understanding and appreciation of the story of the Royal Arch over those years informs and illuminates our understanding and appreciation of the Order as it is today.
After all, when you think about it, for each one of us as an individual, what we are today is the result of our personal history, our life story, our journey, our experience, our relationships, our joys and sorrows. We find our individual identity in that story, and our understanding of ourselves now is informed by a deeper understanding of that story. So it is with the Royal Arch – the better we understand how it has evolved the greater is our appreciation of what it is today.
If any one of us were to reflect on major events in our lives, it may be that we could identify two significant milestones: first, reaching a conclusion and making a decision; and second, acting on that decision. That might apply to deciding to buy a house or a car – and later completing the purchase. It might apply to deciding to seek a change of job or career – and later implementing that change. It might apply to proposing marriage and being accepted – and later entering into that marriage. In the final analysis, I wonder what YOU feel was the most significant, the most life-changing of those stages? In my case I’m quite clear – without in any way diminishing the celebration or the completion, in terms of my own growth and development it was the moment of decision which was of greatest significance.
If we translate that perception into our Masonic lives, we can acknowledge that the key to change is not the implementation of structural change, but rather the inner conviction and the decision that change is needed.
Well, we all know that the bicentenary of Supreme Grand Chapter, the celebration of structural change, is still a few years away. What we are celebrating today is the fulfillment of discussion and debate which led ultimately to the change of heart which opened the way for the later merger of the two Grand Chapters and the formation of this Supreme Grand Chapter – the final acceptance by both Grand Lodges that the Royal Arch is indeed an integral part of ‘Pure Antient Masonry’.
So let me invite you to reflect on the notion that outward change is the visible and tangible consequence of inner change; but that it is the inner change which represents true growth and progress, and it is inner change which has lasting impact.
Our predecessors in this Order did what they believed to be right in enabling the Order to flourish and take its rightful place in the structure of Freemasonry. One perspective of our celebration today is to look back with gratitude to all they achieved. We don’t live in the past, but it is the past which has given us the present. A second perspective is to value what our Order is today, and to continue to nurture what we have inherited. And the third perspective concerns our task and our duty to make sure that what we do today honours the heritage of our predecessors, because what we do will impact future generations of Royal Arch masons. May we prove equal to that challenge. In another two hundred years, I wonder what Royal Arch masons will be saying about us and about our contribution to the on-going growth of the Order we love.
I can do no better than to end with the prayer with which every Royal Arch meeting begins, the prayer which is known to many church congregations as the Collect for Purity and is used at the beginning of every Communion service. ‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy Holy Name. So Mote It Be.’
An address by E Comp J. M. Hamill, PGSwdB at the Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter held on 16th October 2013 to celebrate the Bi-centenary of “pure Ancient Masonry”
Your Royal Highness, Most Excellent First Grand Principal, and companions, the 27th December this year will see the bicentenary of one of the most important events in the history of the Craft: the union of the premier and Antients Grand Lodges of England to form the United Grand Lodge. It is because of events which took place in the negotiations leading to that event that we are able to hold this celebration today. Because of those events, which forged an indissoluble link between the Craft and Royal Arch, we now have that uniquely English relationship between the two which we characterise as “pure ancient Masonry”.
Today is not the occasion to go into the origins of the Royal Arch, suffice it to say that evidence clearly shows that it was being worked in England, Scotland and Ireland by the 1740s and from the mid – 1750s there is increasing evidence for the degree being worked in Lodges in England under both the premier and Antients Grand Lodges. The premier Grand Lodge became uneasy with their lodges working the Royal Arch as they did not recognise it as an integral part of their system. That attitude had hardened by 1767 when the then Grand Secretary, Samuel Spencer, wrote to a brother in an English Lodge in Frankfurt that “the Royal Arch is a Society we do not acknowledge and we hold to be an invention to introduce innovation and to seduce the brethren”. Quite how he squared that view with the fact that he himself had been exalted the previous year history does not record!
It was because of this attitude that in July 1766 senior members of the premier Grand Lodge who had been meeting as an independent Royal Arch Chapter at the Turks Head Tavern in Greek Street in Soho drew up and signed the Charter of Compact by which they turned their Chapter into the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter of the Holy Royal of Jerusalem, the first Grand Chapter in the world. It was to be completely separate from the Craft with its own regulations, Grand Officers and Chapters. The only link with the premier Grand Lodge was that the Chapters would draw their membership from lodges under that body. Uniquely, the new Grand Chapter was to have a dual existence for in addition to being the regulatory body for the Royal Arch, it continued to meet regularly as a private Chapter exalting new companions.
The Antients Grand Lodge readily embraced the Royal Arch. It had been formed in London by mainly Irish brethren who had been unable to gain admittance into Lodges under the premier Grand Lodge. In addition to the Craft some of them had taken the Royal Arch in Ireland before they came over to London. Their indefatigable Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott, had taken the Royal Arch in his Dublin Lodge in 1746 and did a great deal to promote the degree within his Grand Lodge. When compiling the Book of Constitutions for his Grand Lodge Dermott described the Royal Arch as “the root, heart and marrow of Masonry” and “the copestone of the whole Masonic system”. The Antients believed that their lodge warrants empowered them to work any of the known degrees of Freemasonry. To do so they would simply call a meeting of the Lodge, often on a Sunday, open it in the third degree and then in whatever degree was to be worked. From extant Lodge Minute Books of Antients Lodges it is clear that by the 1790s they had developed a sequence of degrees to be worked in their lodges beginning with the three Craft degrees followed by the Mark, Excellent Master and Passing the Chair which qualified their members for Exaltation into the Royal Arch.
Clearly two such opposing views on the Royal Arch must have caused discussion during the negotiations leading to the Craft union but few records of those negotiations have survived, if, indeed, they ever existed. That some discussion took place is clear from the second of the Articles of Union agreed between the two parties, which gives the definition of “pure ancient Masonry”. That the discussions continued almost up to the point at which the document was signed is also clear for in the surviving copy of the Articles which was signed and sealed by TRHs the Dukes of Sussex and Kent and three representatives from each of the two groups of negotiators there are three material alterations in Article II.
In defining “pure ancient Masonry” Article II stated “It is declared and pronounced, that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz. those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.” In that form the definition has been the preamble to the Rules in the Book of Constitutions since the edition published in 1853.
In the original manuscript version it is clear that where the word three appears there had been an alteration. Whatever had been there had been scraped of and the word three had been written over it in a rather more cramped style than the rest of the writing. Similarly, the word “including” between Master Mason and Supreme Order has been fitted over some other word or words which had been scraped off and Supreme Order was originally Supreme Degree as the scraping there was not so expert and part of the word degree is still visible.
It seems clear to me that to enable the Craft Union to go ahead both sides had to reach a compromise in relation to the Royal Arch. From the definition we can deduce that the premier Grand Lodge agreed to accept the Royal Arch as an integral part of the system but were not willing to agree to its being seen as a fourth degree but were happy to it being acknowledged as an Order. The Antients were satisfied in that the Royal Arch would continue to be the completion of pure Ancient Masonry but, as events proved when the future administration of the Royal Arch was organised, had to accept that the Royal Arch would be worked separately from the Craft. Whether or not my deductions are correct one thing is certain: by both sides accepting the definition of “pure Ancient Masonry” that “indissoluble link” between the Craft and the Royal Arch was firmly established and the Royal Arch was recognised as the culmination of pure Ancient Masonry.
The definition stating that there were only three degrees and referring to the Royal Arch as an Order has subsequently led to endless discussion as to whether or not the Royal Arch is a degree and why in the ritual it is constantly referred to as a degree if in the definition it is called an Order. It may be that I am of too simple a mind but I have never understood what the argument is about. To me the Royal Arch is an Order comprised of four ceremonies: the degree of Royal Arch Mason and the three ceremonies by which the Principals are installed. Those three installations are not simply to fit companions to rule over a Chapter but, as we inform new companions, a perfect understanding of the Royal Arch can only be gained by passing through those several Chairs.
Having agreed the definition nothing further appears to have been done in regard to the Royal Arch until the union in 1817 of the original Grand Chapter and the remnants of the Antients Royal Arch. It has usually been argued that having secured the place of the Royal Arch within pure ancient Masonry the Duke of Sussex then put all his efforts into ensuring that the Craft Union was a success and only turned to the Royal Arch when the basic form and administration of the United Grand Lodge had been established. I am not sure that that was the case.
Because of the speed in which the Union had been finally settled the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland were unable to send representatives to London to witness the events on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master of Ireland and the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, however, met with the Duke of Sussex in London on 27th June 1814 and together with their aids put together the International Compact, which has governed relations between the Home Grand Lodges ever since. Curiously the final document appears not to have survived and its contents are known only from a draft in the hand of William White, Grand Secretary of UGLE, and a copy in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Ireland when its agreement was announced to that body.
That the Royal Arch was discussed at that meeting is clearly shown by its first clause which repeated the definition of pure ancient Masonry, excepting that “Supreme Order of the Royal Arch” was changed to “Supreme Chapter of Royal Arch”. It appears from the document that Ireland and Scotland agreed to the definition and were to put it to their respective Grand Lodges and report back to the Duke of Sussex. In 1814 neither Ireland nor Scotland had a Grand Chapter or any other central body controlling the Royal Arch, their Grand Chapters did not come into being until 1818 in Scotland and 1826 in Ireland. As far as can be traced no record exists of either of the Grand Masters having come back to the Duke of Sussex and it may well be that having waited to see if Ireland and Scotland would act in concert with England, and no answer having come, the Duke had to go his own way and make the arrangements which brought Supreme Grand Chapter and our present administration of the Royal Arch into existence.
There were possibly also legal constraints on settling the actual working of the Royal Arch. Under the terms of the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act Freemasonry was exempt from the terms of the Act under certain conditions but it was believed that (a) only Lodges in existence before 1799 were protected by the Act and (b) the Act only protected Lodges. It was for that reason that brethren between 1814 and 1817 who petitioned for new lodges were granted annually renewable dispensations to meet pending settlement of the terms of warrants to be issued by the Grand Master and former Antients Lodges were permitted to continue working the Royal Arch in their lodges. In 1816 a further Act began its progress through Parliament and was passed in 1817. From its terms Grand Lodge deduced that it was permissible to warrant new lodges but was still concerned about the legal situation of Chapters. It is for this reason, I believe, that on its formation in 1817 Supreme Grand Chapter ruled that for the future Chapters would be attached to the warrants of Lodges and bear the same number and name, and new Chapters would be proposed by the Lodges to which they would be attached, not by existing Chapters – thus giving them protection under the 1799 Act.
Unless long lost papers and records come to light, if they ever existed, I doubt that we will ever know the full story of what happened in 1813. What we do know happened, and we are rightly celebrating today, is the recognition by the Craft in 1813 that the Royal Arch is an integral part of pure Ancient Masonry and the forging of that indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch which we all hope will never be broken.