14 June 2017
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor
MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, at a dinner party last year the conversation turned to the idea of time travel and, were it to become possible, which period we would like to go back to. I said that, for something I was involved in professionally, I would like to go back to a specific day and location in London to meet and ask questions of a particular group of people and that I would like to bring some of them to our time to see what they had given birth to on that day.
It will not surprise you to learn that the date I selected was St John’s Day in summer, the 24th June, in the year 1717 and the location was the Goose and Gridiron tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard. As we know, on that day representatives of four London lodges came together, elected a Grand Master and Grand Wardens and resolved to “revive” the Annual Feast and Quarterly Communications which it was claimed had fallen into desuetude due to the neglect of Sir Christopher Wren when Grand Master. As we also know today, that resolution was based on a pious fiction as there is no evidence for there having been any Grand Lodge or Grand Master before 1717.
To us, with the benefit of hindsight, the meeting on 24 June 1717 was a momentous and historical event – but put into the context of the time a different picture emerges. One of the problems of dealing with 1717 and the first few years of the Grand Lodge is the lack of hard facts to work with. It was not until 1723 and the appointment of William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, as Secretary to the Grand Lodge that minutes began to be kept. Of the four lodges which came together to elect a Grand Master in 1717 three are still working today – the Lodge of Antiquity, the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge and the Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland – but their early minutes have long been lost so that, with the exception of those elected to the offices of Grand Master and Grand Wardens we have no records of whom their members were in the years 1717–1725, when the Grand Lodge first called for lodges to submit lists of their members, or who attended the meeting on 24 June 1717. What we can deduce from secondary evidence is that the meeting was not a huge assembly. The Goose and Gridiron survived until the 1890s and just before it was demolished an enterprising masonic historian drew sketches of its exterior and measured the room in which the Grand Lodge was formed. The room would have held less than a hundred people who would have had to stand very close to each other to fit into the room!
Our primary source for what happened in those early years is the history of the Craft with which Rev Dr James Anderson prefaced the Rules governing Freemasonry in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions he published on behalf of Grand Lodge in 1738. Because Anderson’s history of the Craft pre-1717 is more than somewhat suspect, some historians have cast doubts on his description of the events in Grand Lodge from 1717–1738. What they forget is that he compiled it on behalf of the Grand Lodge and that it was vetted by a Committee of the Grand Lodge before it went into print. Although writing 20 years after the events of 1717 there would still have been brethren around who were involved in those early years, not least Rev Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722, 1723 and 1725, who would have been very quick to point out any errors of fact in Anderson’s comments on the Grand Lodge.
From Anderson’s account in its first years the Grand Lodge met only for the Annual Assembly and Grand Feast to elect the Grand Master and Grand Wardens. From two other sources we can deduce that the Grand Lodge began to act as a regulatory body in 1720. Both the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions include a postscript describing the ancient manner of constituting a new lodge as practised by the Grand Master George Payne in 1720. A very rare masonic book entitled “The Book M or Masonry Triumphant” published by a brother Leonard Umphreville in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1736 includes a report of a meeting of Grand Lodge in 1720 in which a Code of Rules for the government of the Craft compiled by the then Grand Master, George Payne, was adopted. The report was followed by the list of 39 Rules, which formed the basis of the Rules printed in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions published in 1723.
Some have questioned why there were no press reports of the event in 1717, but they have been looking at the past with the eyes of the present. In 1717 Freemasonry was largely unknown. The late 17th and 18th centuries were a great age of societies and clubs many of them meeting in taverns and the growing network of fashionable coffee houses in the Cities of London and Westminster. If noticed at all, the formation of Grand Lodge would have been seen as just another society. It was not until the early 1720s when Past Grand Masters George Payne and Dr Desaguliers began to attract members of the nobility and the Royal Society into Freemasonry that the press of the day began to notice Freemasonry, reporting on the initiations of prominent men of the day and the annual Grand Feasts of the Grand Lodge.
It was not until 1723 that the Grand Lodge became fully established as the regulatory body we know today. By that year, in addition to the keeping of minutes of Quarterly Communications and the publication of the first Book of Constitutions, the Grand Lodge had extended its authority outside the Cities of London and Westminster, issuing deputations to constitute lodges in the Provinces and bringing into the fold some independent lodges that had been meeting quietly in the northern provinces. The Rules compiled by Payne in 1720 and published in the Book of Constitutions in 1723 introduced the concept of regularity, stating that no new lodge would be countenanced as regular unless it had been personally constituted by the Grand Master or a brother deputed by the Grand Master to act for him.
At a conference sponsored by our premier lodge of research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, at the Queen’s College, Cambridge, last September two academics gave a paper suggesting that we were celebrating four years too early and casting doubts on the meeting in 1717. Having carefully studied their paper my response is that old fashioned polite English expletive: balderdash! Their thesis seems to boil down to an academic semantic argument as to what constitutes a Grand Lodge. They appear to think that we were not a Grand Lodge until 1721 because there is no evidence for any attempt at regulation before that date. It is beyond doubt that at the meeting on 24 June 1717 Anthony Sayer, Capt John Elliot and Jacob Lamball were, respectively, elected Grand Master and Senior and Junior Grand Wardens – officers of a Grand Lodge. The academics appear to believe that, like Athene springing fully armed from the head of Zeus, for the meeting in 1717 to be accepted as the formation of a Grand Lodge it should have immediately acted as a regulatory body. Life rarely works that way!
In talking of time travel I said I would like to bring back from 1717 some of those involved in the meeting on 24 June. In their wildest imaginings they could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to: a worldwide fraternity of regular Freemasonry spread over the whole world. They would find some things that they would recognise from their practice of Freemasonry but would also find much that was very different. Over the last 300 years Freemasonry has developed and expanded in ways they could not have imagined. What English Freemasonry has demonstrated over the last 300 years is that it is a living organisation capable of changing its outward forms and adapting itself to the society in which it currently exists. It has had a wonderful knack of making those changes without in any way changing those fundamental and inalienable principles and tenets on which Freemasonry was founded and which would certainly be recognised by those who met in 1717. The more I study our ancient Craft the more I am convinced that whatever problems we may face from time to time, provided that we maintain that delicate balance between managed change and not altering our basic principles and tenets, Freemasonry will ride over those problems and future generations will be able to enjoy its fellowship and privileges as we and the many generations that have gone before us have done since that happy day in 1717 on which Grand Lodge was born.
Masonic history at Queens’ College
June 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster – the world’s first Grand Lodge. To celebrate this event, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, is hosting a conference at Queens’ College, Cambridge from 9 to 11 September 2016. It is open to all Freemasons and non-masons interested in masonic history.
Delegates can attend on a residential or non-residential basis, and papers are invited on any aspect of the history and development of Freemasonry, and of Grand Lodge in particular.
For anyone interested in contributing, the timetable is:
1 July 2015 Synopsis and outline (500 words maximum)
1 August 2015 Authors advised if their outline has been accepted for delivery
1 April 2016 Abstract (1,200 words maximum)
1 November 2016 Paper for publication – 2,500 words, 10-minute presentation;
5,000 words, 20-minute presentation; and 10,000 words, 40-minute presentation.
Tercentenary International Conference Celebrating 300 Years of Freemasonry
To be held at Queens’ College, Cambridge, England, 9 September–11 September 2016, and organised by the members of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
June 2017 is an important landmark in the history of Freemasonry as it marks the three hundredth anniversary of the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster; the first Grand lodge in the world.
To celebrate this momentous occasion the members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 are hosting a conference at Queens’ College, Cambridge from Friday, 9 September 2016 to Sunday 11 September 2016.
The lodge was founded by brethren who were intent on using an evidence-based approach to the study of masonic history and research into Freemasonry. This innovative approach was intended to replace the imaginative writings of earlier authors on the history of Freemasonry. This new style and approach was later to be referred to as the 'authentic school' of masonic research.
The founders planned to develop an interest in research among brethren everywhere, to have papers read and discussed in lodge and published in its transactions Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC). The lodge thus hoped to attract the attention and enlist the cooperation of masonic scholars and lecturers in all parts of the world.
The members of QC, as Quatuor Coronati Lodge, is fondly known, is the premier lodge of masonic research and continue today to work to the standards laid down all those years ago in striving to maintain the high quality of research papers, lectures and discussion established at the foundation.
The conference is open to all Freemasons and non-Freemasons interested in masonic history.
Delegates to the conference have the option of attending either on a fully residential basis at the college or on a non-residential basis.
Queens' College is one of the oldest and largest colleges of the university, founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou. The college, situated in the centre of Cambridge, spans both sides of the river Cam and has some of the most recognisable buildings in the city.
The conference will have three eminent keynote speakers making a 40-minute presentation. A combination of short and medium presentations, lasting 10 and 20 minutes respectively, will be delivered at each of the five conference Sessions, which will be followed by a period for questions and discussion.
Papers are invited on any aspect of the history and development of Freemasonry, in general, and Grand Lodge, in particular, over the three centuries since its foundation.
It is hoped that the flexibility in the remit for the presentations will encourage a range of papers to be submitted. Copies of the abstracts will be circulated to all delegates in advance of the conference, and all papers delivered at the conference will be published, providing the full-text is received by the deadline date. It is estimated that 10 minute presentation will on publication be some 2,500 words; whilst a 20 minute and 40 minute presentation are likely to be 5,000 and 10,000 words respectively.
Possible themes include: 18th century Freemasonry; 19th century Freemasonry; 20th century Freemasonry; English Freemasonry overseas; Sources and Historiography. The list is not exhaustive and the themes for the various sessions will be finalised when the editorial committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Aubrey Newman, have selected the papers for presentation.
The timetable for receipt of papers may be summarised as follows:
|1 July 2015||Synopsis and outline||500 words maximum|
|1 August 2015||Authors advised if their outline has been accepted for delivery|
|1 April 2016||Abstract||1,200 words maximum|
|1 November 2016||Paper for publication||~ 2,500 words - 10 minute presentation|
|~ 5,000 words - 20 minute presentation|
|~ 10,000 words - 40 minute presentation|
Regrettably no financial assistance can be offered to delegates or speakers, but they may be eligible for a grant from their respective academic institution. Professor Newman will be pleased to provide the necessary accreditation, discuss possible subjects for papers and deal with all academic enquiries in respect of the conference.
The conference is being held in September 2016 so as to enable the collection of delivered papers to be published in June 2017 by QC lodge as an integral part of the tercentenary celebrations.
Full details for delegates wishing to register and attend the conference will be made available early in 2016.
All enquiries may be addressed to:
Telephone: +44 (0)1522 789491
Faces to names
The extensive photographic collection at the Library and Museum adds another perspective on the history of the Craft and its members
Whether in the form of paintings, engravings, prints or photographs, the Library and Museum has a wealth of images of people. Over recent years, these have been catalogued online, with captivating biographies of many individuals, including details of their masonic careers.
The online catalogue now has details for over 2,700 images – including those in albums of photographs. Enquirers can request digital copies of images they are interested in and many are available for inclusion in lodge or chapter histories and presentations. The three images here all relate to the period of World War I.
Sir Francis Lloyd, shown above, in his army uniform, was a career soldier. In World War I he commanded the Territorial Forces in the London District. He was also active in Freemasonry, serving as the Master of the City of London National Guard Lodge, No. 3757, in 1916.
Ladislas Aurele de Malczovich was a Hungarian civil servant who became a member of the English research lodge, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, and published articles in its Transactions.
As one of many ‘alien enemy brethren’, he was excluded from membership of his English lodges during World War I. The back of his photograph is inscribed to his friend, Frederick Crowe – a noted masonic collector.
In June 1919, an Especial Grand Lodge was held at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the end of the war. Among the audience of over 8,000 were many overseas representatives. The formal meeting was one of many hosted by London lodges, including a visit to the Houses of Parliament where the photograph, top right, was taken.
Unsurpassed collection of Freemasonry memorabilia to go under the hammer in London
Update: 6th March
The catalogue is now online for viewing! Click here to find out more.
Roseberys' quarterly fine art auction in March will feature an extraordinary single-owner collection. It belonged to the late Albert Nice and is widely regarded as the pre-eminent private collection of masonic items in the world. This will go under the hammer on Tuesday 18 March.
Albert Nice (1898-1969) was a chemist and dental surgeon as well as a passionate Freemason and supporter of masonic charities. He joined Globe Lodge Number 23 in 1925, became Grand Steward in 1935, rising to the position of Past Grand Deacon in 1964.
He was a member of other lodges including Quatuour Coronati Lodge No. 2076, dedicated to masonic research. This seems fitting as he was a devoted collector of masonic items from jewels to books, engravings to ceramics and glass.
His research interests extended to documenting the history of earlier lodges and his notes on this comprise a tome of several hundred pages which is included in the auction with an estimate of £100-£200.
He was an active member for a number of the higher orders in masonry including the Knights Templar Priests, The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and The Order of the Secret Monitor.
Mr Nice’s collection includes a first edition of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons by James Anderson, published in 1723 and with contemporary full calf binding. With an engraved frontispiece, this was the first official publication of freemasonry, laying out all the rules and regulations. Estimate: £500-£800.
It was customary in many lodges to pass around a snuffbox after the toast to the Queen and the Craft. This 19th century mahogany inlaid snuffbox, decorated with masonic symbols is one of more than 100 in the auction with estimates up to £3,000. This one is estimated at £150-£250.
The auction will also feature the largest collection of 18th and 19th century masonic jewels ever to come onto the market including the examples pictured above.
A fine range of masonic ceramics will also go under the hammer on 18 March. For example the above 18th century pearlware masonic jug, c. 1792, decorated with masonic symbols and inscribed 'A heart that conceals and the tongue that never reveals', Royal Grove Lodge No. 240, presented by Brother Nathaniel Jenkinson, 1792. Estimate: £200-£300.
Amongst the wide variety of memorabilia in the auction is this early 19th century album of original watercolours of French masonic memorabilia of the 33 degrees of Scottish Rite of Free Masonry. A sample page, pictured above, shows the regalia is a lot more elaborate than English examples of the period. Estimate: £400-£600.
Roseberys is welcoming additional consignments of Freemasonry memorabilia for this auction until 21 February.
The auction will take place on Tuesday 18 March at Roseberys, 74-76 Knights Hill, London SE27 0JD.
Viewing is as follows:
Friday 14 March, 1pm-5pm
Sunday 16 March, 9.30am-5.30pm
Monday 17 March, 9.30am-5.30pm
Tuesday 18 March, 9am-9.45am
The catalogue will be online on 7 March.
Rev Neville Barker Cryer
A regular contributor to Freemasonry Today, the Rev Neville Barker Cryer’s recent death has robbed the Craft of one of its modern ‘characters’. A big man in every way, he had an international reputation as a researcher, writer and speaker on Freemasonry.
A Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, Neville was for a number of years its secretary and editor of Transactions. His work was acknowledged by his being appointed Prestonian Lecturer for 1974.
After a few years as a parish priest, Neville was secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society and authored several books on religious matters.
He will be much missed, not least on the masonic lecturing circuit and in the many Orders in which he held high office.
Letters to the editor - No. 24 Winter 2013
It was with great sadness I read of the passing of Reverend Neville Barker Cryer. His passing is a great loss to the Craft.
I only once had the good fortune to meet him and listen to his thoughts. When an entered apprentice, I attended the ‘Let’s talk Freemasonry’ conference at Hemsley House in Salford. It was here that I was able to hear the Reverend speak; impart wisdom, knowledge and his own brand of acerbic wit. Indeed, when I read in the last issue the description of him as one of the last great modern ‘characters’, it raised more than a wry smile to my lips. Personally, I found him enlightening, amusing and uncommonly direct.
Despite him being in great demand for attention whilst at the conference, he took the time out to speak directly to me for a few moments. The encouragement and bolstering belief he kindly gave me in those moments will live with me always. Worlds, as they say, are turned on the smallest of thoughts and deeds. He had a clear opinion, and had the courage of his convictions and stuck with them.
Richard Bardsley, Kitchener Lodge, No. 3788, Bolton, East Lancashire
Bucks mason David Peck has been honoured for his essay exploration of the Nazi threat to British Freemasons in World War II, receiving the Norman B Spencer Prize from the world’s pre-eminent masonic research group, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076
David won £100, which he donated to the Freemasons’ Hall Library and Museum, and has been invited to join the research group. ‘Possibly the biggest threat Freemasonry has seen in the last century was that of the Nazis. There is every reason to believe that we would have suffered persecution in England if Operation Sealion – Hitler’s plan to invade England – had gone ahead.’
Chairman of the Bucks Association for Masonic Research, David’s previous projects include investigating the Order’s origins and development in Malta.
14 March 2012
Order of Service to Masonry citation for RW Bro Dr Roeinton Burjor Framji Khambatta
Bro Roeinton Khambatta, who was born in September 1924, was made a mason in Lodge Zoroaster, under the Scottish Constitution, and in 1965 joined our Lodge Faith, No. 2438. That lodge (then meeting in Karachi in the District of Punjab) was also his father's and his grandfather's lodge. In the Royal Arch he was exalted in Chapter Faith and Charity, under the Scottish Constitution, and joined our Faith Chapter, No. 2438, in 1966.
He had a swift rise in the District of Punjab, which was renamed Pakistan in 1967, and in 1970 was installed as District Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. He held those offices until his resignation in 1976, after Freemasonry had been made illegal by the government of Pakistan. Having taken up residence in London, he continued to practise as a Consultant Cardiologist for many years until his retirement, and pursued an active masonic career not only in London, but also in the Provinces of Suffolk, Hertfordshire, and Worcestershire, in all of which he holds the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden.
Brother Khambatta's record of masonic activity is as impressive as any. At differing times he has been a member of 16 Lodges and 8 Chapters under our Constitution. He has served in the Chair of very many of them and is the senior subscribing Past Master of Jubilee Masters Lodge, No. 2712. In 1988–89 he served as a Grand Steward on the nomination of Lodge of Felicity No. 58, and was the President of his Board. He is a long-standing member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, the Premier Lodge of Masonic Research, becoming its Master in 2000. As a further distinction he was the Prestonian Lecturer for 2007, taking as his subject "The Grand Secretaries 1813–1980".
He is also active in many other Orders, most notably as a former Provincial Grand Master for London in the Mark degree. As an elder masonic statesman, he holds a special place in the affections of the many brethren with whom he has come in contact.
David Harrison looks at the foundation of the lodge and its illustrious members and friends
Authors’ Lodge No. 3456, upon its foundation in November 1910, received letters of goodwill from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Rider Haggard and Jerome K Jerome.
Conan Doyle and Kipling were both Freemasons. The latter had been initiated into Freemasonry in the Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782, based in Lahore, India, in 1886, and went on to become an honorary member of the Authors’ Lodge. Conan Doyle was initiated into the Phoenix Lodge No. 257, at Southsea, Hampshire, on 26 January 1887.
There is no proof that Rider Haggard or Jerome were Freemasons, but we can certainly say that they were sympathetic; the letters of goodwill they wrote prove that.
Leagues of gentlemen
The Authors’ Lodge had a direct connection to the London-based Authors’ Club, which had been established in 1891. The latter’s membership included other literary Freemasons such as Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill; the new lodge was founded by a number of the club’s masonic members. Jerome was a member of the Authors’ Club; for many years Conan Doyle was its chairman and he often read his manuscripts to members prior to publication. One of the founders of the Authors’ Club – though not of the lodge – was the prolific novelist and Freemason Sir Walter Besant, who went on to be a founder, in 1894, of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 – the London lodge dedicated to masonic research.
The consecration of the Authors’ Lodge reveals the intricate relationships between certain gentlemen’s clubs and the world of Freemasonry. Victorian gentlemen’s clubs had links to Freemasonry during the period. Indeed, many Victorian writers, artists and politicians were members of both, the thriving social scene offering opportunities for networking and social advancement.
The founding of the lodge was seen at the time not only as a way of promoting the Authors’ Club among Freemasons but also as providing a means of promoting Freemasonry within the club, since attracting literary men into the Craft, according to one of the founding members of the lodge, journalist Max Montesole, ‘could not fail to add lustre to the Order’.
Kipling and Rider Haggard were very close friends, and they both famously conveyed Freemasonry in their work. Indeed, masonic themes can be seen in Rider Haggard’s late Victorian works King Solomon’s Mines and the wonderfully exotic novel She, a story that deals with death and rebirth. Both of these works present the idea of the heroic explorer searching for hidden knowledge in lost civilisations. These, along with Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, testify not only to the popularity of Freemasonry at the time but also to the acceptance of the Craft in Victorian society which, within these literary contexts at least, also conveyed an element of mystery and the occult.
Conan Doyle occasionally referred to Freemasonry in his Sherlock Holmes stories, such as in The Red-Headed League, when Holmes – who was obviously very familiar with masonic symbolism – recognised that a certain gentleman was a Freemason, the particular gentleman being surprised that Holmes knew of his membership: ‘I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc and compass breastpin.’
He also referred to Freemasonry in other Sherlock Holmes stories such as The Adventure of the Norwood Builder and The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.
In addition, adding to the nuance of mystery and the occult, Conan Doyle, along with other Victorian Freemasons such as Arthur Edward Waite, had embraced psychic research and spiritualism, an interest that developed after the death of his wife and several other close family members. Until his death in 1930, he consistently sought proof of life after death.
Conan Doyle’s 1926 work, The History of Spiritualism, also lent his support to seances conducted by various psychics at the time, and their supposed spiritual materialisations. One of the spiritualists that Conan Doyle supported, Daniel Douglas Home, was also supported by fellow Freemason, Lord Lindsay, who had – he said – witnessed the spiritualist apparently mysteriously levitate out of a third story window and return through the window of an adjoining room.
Jerome K Jerome’s masonic membership is hotly debated; although he certainly mixed in masonic circles – Jerome having been good friends with fellow writers and Freemasons Conan Doyle and Kipling – proof of membership is lacking.
Jerome also contributed to a masonic publication: a souvenir of the Grand Masonic Bazaar in aid of the Annuity Fund of Scottish Masonic Benevolence in 1890 and produced by the Lodge of Dramatic and Arts, No. 757 (SC), for a fundraising bazaar held in Edinburgh in December 1890. The publication, given the rather humorous title of Pot Pourri of Gifts Literal and Artistic, included the Jerome story ‘The Prince’s Quest’, a rare and much sought after piece of Jerome literature. We need to be cautious: the preface written by the artist William Grant Stevenson, then Master of Lodge, states that many of its contributors were not members of the Craft.
Being friends with Conan Doyle and Kipling, Jerome would have been familiar with Freemasonry. Perhaps future findings may reveal some masonic membership. But the letters of goodwill these authors wrote testify to their respect for the founding of the Authors’ Lodge, a lodge that celebrated its centenary late last year.
With thanks to Ron Selby, Secretary of Authors’ Lodge
The following letter was subsequently published in Freemasonry Today Winter 2011:
In his article Authors’ Lodge: A History in the Summer/Autumn edition of Freemasonry Today, David Harrison was uncertain whether Sir Henry Rider Haggard had been a Freemason. I can confirm that he was initiated in the Lodge of Good Report, No. 136, in 1877. His membership ended in 1890, when he resigned. During that thirteen-year period he published eighteen books, including his best-known novels King Solomon’s Mines (1885), Allan Quartermain and She (both in 1887). I have often wondered whether any of his characters were inspired by lodge members.
Richard Sharp, Lodge of Good Report, No. 136, London
They key role played by John Knight in the Royal Arch in Cornwall is outlined by John Mandleberg
For speculative Freemasons, times have always been a-changin’, and the erection of the Premier Grand Lodge by ‘Four Old Lodges’ in 1717 was itself a novelty. When, in 1722 the Grand Master, the Duke of Wharton, laid down the procedure for constituting a new Lodge, this was almost revolutionary.
Not only had it not occurred to anyone before this that a special ceremony was needed to do such a thing, but it was the first time since 1717 that the detailed ritual for any ceremony had been written down. When, during the next 30 years the Royal Arch emerged from the shadows, many brethren in the Premier Grand lodge considered this not only a novelty, but an outrage – it was not ‘Pure Ancient Masonry’.
Those who founded the Grand Lodge of the Antients in 1751 took the opposite view – they regarded the Royal Arch as “the heart and marrow of Masonry.” However, by the end of the century the Premier Grand Lodge – the Moderns – had not only recognised the Degree, but had set up a Grand and Royal Arch Chapter, something which the Antients never effectively did.
Often too little thought is given to how Masonic developments taking place in London affected Brethren and Companions in the rest of the country. The “collective wisdom of the tribe” to use Galbraith’s phrase, is that communications in England were so poor at the end of the 18th century that it is a wonder that changes made in London ever filtered down to distant communities. And where was more remote than the north coast of Cornwall, 300 miles from London, the other side of Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.
Here, Freemasonry flourished in many towns, including Redruth, where for some 40 years before his death in 1828 John Knight was the leading Masonic figure.
In fact, Knight was to correspond at considerable length with leading London masons – Thomas Dunckerley, Robert Gill and Edward Harper for example – with little more difficulty than he would have experienced today.
Weekly at 2pm each Friday the mail coach left neighbouring Truro for London, where it arrived on Monday morning, and weekly it left London at mid-day on Tuesday and returned to Truro on Thursday. In 1791 Dunckerley, “the Grand Master of Royal Arch Masons”, could reply from Hampton Court on 15 July to a letter written in Cornwall three days earlier.
Parcel post took no longer, for packages of regalia, Books of Constitutions and Lodge and Chapter furnishings travelled on the same mail coach. Cornish Freemasons could be made aware of developments in London as they occurred, little more slowly than would be the case today.
The letter which Dunckerley wrote on 15 July 1791 provided a Dispensation to open the Druids Chapter of Love and Reality in Redruth – at the time there was a tradition in Cornwall that the Ancient Druids had brought Freemasonry to the country.
It was a Dispensation and not a Warrant or Charter “as the Grand Chapter will not meet til the last Thursday in Oct.” Dunckerley wrote it out in due form in his own hand on the back of the letter. John Knight was named as the First Principal Z., an office which he was to occupy for the rest of his life.
Consecrations differed somewhat from what we are used to today. A senior Companion would be delegated to install the three principals, who appointed their officers at the following meeting.
For example, in 1810 John Foulstone, the Grand Recorder, was delegated to travel to Falmouth to install the principals of the newly Warranted Valubian Chapter. He took the Chair of ZX, with John Knight acting as H. Foulstone “opened [a Chapter] in Ample form the several Comps who had not passed the Chair of Zerubi being duly passed with the proper Signs & Words.”
In other words, all those present were made Passed Zs so that they could witness the installations. [To have been Exalted, a Brother would already either have presided over a Lodge as it Master, or have been through a ‘Passing the Chair’ ceremony.]
When the Druids Chapter of Love and Liberality had been founded in 1791, Knight had evidently wanted the Companions to be properly clothed. He wrote to Dunckerley in August 1792 wishing to obtain “proper Royal Arch Masons Aprons”, but received the reply that “Royal Arch aprons were directed to be worn by the old Chapters, but to have been discarded for several years, & Sashes being deem’d sufficient.”
Dunckerley omitted to point out that the reason why sashes had been “deem’d sufficient” was because Grand lodge had refused to allow Companions to wear their red-bordered aprons in Craft Lodges, with the result that in a fit of pique Grand Chapter ordered them to be discarded.
In the early 19th century new regalia was designed for Royal Arch Companions, so that John Knight could write to London in 1803: “You mentd. in your last letter that patterns of Jewells & aprons to be worn by officers and companions of the order were to be fixed on & when ready shall be glad to know what they are.” The new aprons had the indented red and blue border with which we are familiar today.
But these were minor changes compared with those imposed by Supreme Grand Chapter when it was formed in 1817, four years after the Union of the Grand lodges.
For example, while each Antient Chapter worked under the Warrant of the lodge from which it had sprung, a Modern Chapter such as Love and Liberality had been granted its own separately numbered Warrant.
Now, every Royal Arch Chapter had to be sponsored by a regularly Warranted lodge, the number of which it assumed.
Supreme Grand Chapter then issued Charters of Confirmation” to each Chapter which complied with this instruction, those formerly Modern and Antient alike. For some reason this gave John Knight particular concern. He involved himself in considerable correspondence to ensure that the new Charter would fit exactly into the frame which surrounded the former Warrant.
John Knight then summoned the Companions of his Chapter to an especial meeting “for the purpose of framing Bye- Laws, entering into Annual Subscription, Electing members for the Better Regulating & Support of the Royal Arch Chapter.”
Up to this time there had been no well defined ‘Membership’ of a Chapter. Now, in accordance with the new Regulations of the order, all those who had previously been Exalted in the Chapter had to make the decision whether they should formally become members of it.
This would involve them in paying an annual subscription and adhering to its bye-laws – which had yet to be written – or being excluded from it except as visitors.
Several Companions who had formerly considered themselves part of the Chapter declined to become subscribing members.
However, John Knight was elected to continue as First Principal.
The records of how John Knight and his Companions reacted to the further changes which were made in his lifetime have not survived, and Love and Liberality Chapter itself did not long survive his death in 1828. His 35-year reign may have made it impossible to find anyone to follow him.
Redruth was then without Royal Arch Masonry for nearly 40 years.
John Mandleberg is Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Masonic research
Royal Arch Masons and Knights Templar at Redruth, Cornwall, 1791–1828, C J Mandleberg and L.W. Davies, QCCC Ltd.