History - Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex

The Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex

After the Inauguration of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex on Saturday, the 22nd of January 1870, it was very reasonable that thought be given to the formation of a Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex. There is no record of a formal petition, thus, the process must have started from the Supreme Grand Chapter Regulation No.27, when: “The Right Hon. George Frederick Samuel, lst Marquess of Ripon, K.G., Most Excellent First Grand Principal, having been pleased to constitute Middlesex a Masonic Province for Royal Arch Masonry, appointed by Patent dated the 6th of November 1871, E. Companion Colonel Francis Burdett to be Grand Superintendent in and over Middlesex.”

It has already been explained in the previous chapter that in the 18th century, particularly in the second half, many Lodges undertook Royal Arch ceremonies as part of their normal meetings. This was the usual practice amongst the Antients and even in the Moderns’ Lodges, although frowned upon by Grand Lodge, this often continued. Thus, the description of early Middlesex Freemasonry already provided included Royal Arch.

It was also pointed out in chapter two that there was a Grand Superintendent of Middlesex in 1807, E. Companion Colonel John Elliott, who presided until his resignation in 1812 and the appointment lapsed until 1871, when Middlesex was constituted a Masonic Province of Royal Arch Masonry. It was not uncommon for these appointments to be sinecures and holders of the offices were often not expected to perform any duties.

E. Companion Colonel John Elliott was a member of the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.4 and was exalted into Royal Arch Masonry in the St. James Chapter No.60 (now No.2.) He was a ‘Modern,’ a Grand Steward in the Craft in 1805 and President of the Board of Stewards and Senior Warden in 1806. But there appears to have been only one Chapter for Companion Elliott to rule over! He can, therefore, only be blamed for not acting as a recruiting sergeant.

In 1807, although the Grand Chapter associated with the Moderns’ recorded 185 Chapters, there was only one Royal Arch Chapter in Middlesex, the Chapter of Iris No. 146 (now No.255.) This was in the days just before the Union of the Antients and Modems and was during the period of stagnation which was experienced by Grand Chapter between the years 1790 – 1810 and the disagreements which then existed among Royal Arch Chapters. Supreme Grand Chapter came into being with the ‘Union’ and the meeting held at Freemasons Hall, London, on the 18th of March 1817.

At this time it was necessary for a Craft Mason to have passed the Chair before he was eligible for Exaltation into Royal Arch Masonry and when the Chapter was constituted it did not take, as now, the same number as the Lodge. Chapters were in a separate list and in many cases had no connection with a Lodge. Under these conditions the number of the Chapter of Iris was No. 146. At the Union of Grand Lodge in 1813-1816 when the Royal Arch was definitely included with the three degrees as completing Masonry, it was then directed that each Chapter must be attached to and under the sanction of a recognised Lodge and also take the same name and number as the Lodge.

The number of the Chapter of Iris then became that of the Lodge, i.e. No.477. The number has changed four times; in 1807 it Was No. 146, in 1817 it became No. 477, in 1832 No. 317, and in 1863 it became No. 255.

The Chapter of Iris No. 255 is the oldest Chapter in the Province of Middlesex; although it only joined the Province on the 29th of April 1971, it had its inception at the Toye Inn, Hampton Court, Middlesex, in May 1807.

There are, unfortunately, no records of the Consecration and very little is known of its early history; the only minute books in existence are those for the years l866—190l and 1902 to the present date. It may, therefore be assumed that the commencement was made with the first meeting.

A petition was made by certain members of the Lodge of Harmony No. 384 which met at the Toye lnn, Hampton Court, Middlesex, for at Royal Arch Chapter to he attached to the Lodge. This petition was granted and a Charter was given on the 7th of May 1807, for a Royal Arch Chapter to be named The Chapter of iris No.146 (now No.255,) to be held at the Toye lnn, Hampton Court, Middlesex.

An emergency meeting of the Lodge of Harmony No. 384 was held at the Toye lnn, Hampton Court, Middlesex, on the 28th of May 1807 and the minutes state that “The Lodge was Opened in due form in the Third Degree of Masonry previous to the Holding of a Grand Chapter of Arch Masons.” At this first meeting of The Chapter of Iris No. 146 (now No.255) held on the 28th of May 1807, Grand Chapter records show that eight brethren were either admitted or exalted.

The Chapter of Iris met regularly at the Toye inn, Hampton Court, Middlesex, then at the Red Lion Hotel, Hampton, Middlesex, later at the Greyhound Hotel, Hampton Court, Middlesex, they then moved to Richmond in Surrey and finally moved to London. The Chapter’s Bible is a valuable antique, being a ‘Breeches’ Bible of 1594.

Royal Arch Masonry in the Province of Middlesex has progressed from the three Chapters that joined the Province on its Inauguration in 1872, with an approximate total membership of sixty-six, to a total which will soon be 120 Chapters with a membership of nearly 4,000.

When Middlesex was declared a Royal Arch Province in 1871 the three Chapters operating were Royal Union Chapter No. 382, Strawberry Hill Chapter No.946, and the Royal Middlesex Chapter No.1194; these three Chapters joined the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex on its Inauguration in 1872.

The oldest of the three Chapters which joined the Province at its Inauguration in 1872, is the Royal Union Chapter No.382. There is no record of the date of the Consecration of this Chapter; the date of the Charter is the 7th of May 1828. The first meeting at which Work was recorded took place on the 10th of November 1828 and was held at Ye Olde Kings Arms, Uxbridge, Middlesex. In May 1832 the Chapter met at The Bell Inn, Uxbridge, and later at the Chequers Hotel, Uxbridge. It was a disastrous fire at the Chequers Hotel in 1884 in which so many valued possessions of the Royal Union Chapter were lost. The Chapter has no minute book prior to 1874.

The second oldest of the three first Chapters is the Strawberry Hill Chapter No.946. This Chapter was consecrated at the Grotto Hotel, Strawberry Hill, Middlesex, on the 30th of November 1865 by E. Companion William Watson.

E. Companion William Watson, who was a prodigious worker for Masonry, was widely and familiarly known as ‘Old Billie.’ He was a Grand Steward for the Globe Lodge No.23 and a Companion of the Robert Burns Chapter No.25; he was also a member of a considerable number of Lodges and Chapters.

He installed 43 Masters in 23 Lodges and 96 Principals in the Royal Arch, and continued to take an active part in Masonry almost up to the time of his death in 1879. The number of installations, consecrations and other ceremonies which he had performed during his forty years of Masonic life must have been very co1isiderable. E. Companion Watson was part proprietor of the Freemasons Tavern, Great Queen Street, London, the successor to which is the Connaught Rooms which stand on the original site.

The third oldest of the three first Chapters in the Province is the Royal Middlesex Chapter no. 1194, which was consecrated at the Northumberland Arms Hotel, lsleworth, Middlesex, on Saturday, the 25th of April 1871 by E. Companion John Hervey, Grand Scribe E. The author of the centenary history of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex missed a crucial matter regarding this Chapter; its establishment repeated the unique origins of the Lodge named after the First Provincial Grand Master.

The circumstances are clear from my research, enquiries made by and documentation in the possession of E. Comp P.J. Woollard, currently Scribe E of the Royal Middlesex Chapter. It was founded with the main intention of enabling Col. Francis Burdett (later “Sir” Francis upon inheriting the baronetcy,) to become a founder and the first Z of a Chapter situated in what was to become a new Royal Arch Province. Thus, he could then comply with all the requirements and become first Provincial Grand Superintendent.

It was at a meeting of the Royal Middlesex Chapter No. 1194 on Saturday, the 20th of April 1872 that the Inauguration Convocation of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex took place. The minutes of this Chapter meeting show that it was the installation meeting, a year after foundation, at which Comp. William Roebuck, the Second Principal became Z, replacing Col. Burdett. “After the investment of the Officers, the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex was opened and closed,” state the minutes, somewhat tersely. The meeting is now described from the details recorded in the minute book of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex.

The Inauguration of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex

The Inauguration Convocation of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Middlesex was held on Saturday the 20th of April 1872 at the Grotto Hotel, Twickenham, Middlesex, when the following Companions were present-
 

E. Comp. John Hervey, Grand Scribe E. as Consecrating and Installing Principal
E. Comp. John Boyd, P.Z. as H.
E. Comp. Colonel Francis Burdett, P.Z. Provincial Grand Superintendent Designate
E. Comp. W. Roebuck Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. J.M. Stedwell Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. R. Wentworth Little Acting Scribe E Domatic No. 177
E. Comp. J. Stevens Domatic No. 177
E. Comp. A.J. Codner Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. J. Coutts Royal Union No. 382
Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. H. G. Buss Domatic No. 177
Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. W. Smeed Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. T. R. Mclllwham Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. C. Horsley Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. G. Motion Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. W. Platt Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. G. Kenning Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. G. Cattel Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. H. Parker Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. W. Dodd Royal Middlesex No. 1194

 
The Installing Principal, E. Companion John Hervey, nominated Companions Bond and Woodman to fill the Chairs of H. and J. respectively, and declared the Provincial Grand Chapter duly formed.

A deputation of four Past First Principals, E. Companions H. G. Buss, A. J. Codner, R. Wentworlh Little and J. Stevens, after the usual formalities, introduced the Provincial Grand Superintendent Designate, Colonel Francis Burdett, and presented him to the Presiding Officer who directed E. Comp. R. Wentworth Little, Acting Scribe E. to read the Colonel’s Patent of Appointment from the Grand First Principal of the Order.

A Conclave of Principals of the Z. Chair was opened and E. Companion Colonel Francis Burdett was duly obligated and installed as Provincial Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of Middlesex.

The Grand Superintendent then appointed E. Companions W. Roebuck, Z. of the Royal Middlesex Chapter No. 1194, and J.M. Stedwell, P.Z. of the Strawberry Chapter No.946 to the Chairs of Provincial Grand H. and J. respectively and they were accordingly obligated and installed by E. Companion John Hervey.

Upon readmission of the Companions a ballot was taken for a Provincial Grand Treasurer and resulted unanimously in favour of E. Companion H. G. Buss, P.Z. of the Domatic Chapter No. 177 (date of Charter 1793) and a member of the Royal Middlesex Chapter No. 1194.

Provincial Grand Superintendent then appointed and invested the Officers of the Province, as follows:-
 

E. Comp. R. Wentworth Little Scribe E. Domatic No. 177
E. Comp. A. J. Codner Scribe N . Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. J. Coutts Principal Sojourner Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. W. Smeed lst Asst. Sojourner Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. T. R. Mclllwham 2nd Asst. Sojourner Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. C. Horsley Registrar Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. W. Platt Sword Bearer Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. G. Motion Standard Bearer Strawberry Hill No. 946
E. Comp. G. Kenning Dir. of Ceremonies Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. H. Parker Organist Royal Middlesex No. 1194
E. Comp. J. Gilbert was elected and Royal Middlesex No. 1194
invested as Janitor

 
It was moved, seconded and resolved that a Committee consisting of the Provincial Grand Superintendent, H. and J., Treasurer and Registrar be appointed to prepare a code of By-laws for the government of the Order in the Province on the basis of the rules adopted by the Provincial Grand Lodge.

The Provincial Grand Superintendent then moved that the cordial thanks of this Provincial Grand Chapter be tendered to E. Companion John Hervey, Grand Scribe E., for his kindness in having performed the ceremonies of Inauguration and Installation, as also, for the dignity and solemnity which had characterized his efficient performance of those important duties. E. Comp. W. Roebuck, Provincial Grand H seconded the proposition which was carried by acclamation. E. Companion John Hervey briefly but eloquently acknowledged the vote.

The Provincial Grand Chapter was then closed in ancient form and adjourned.

An extract from: Middlesex Matters: A History of 125 Years of Middlesex Freemasonry 1870-1995 by Allan Beaver

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