It is generally recognised that the Royal Arch was practised as part of the Third Degree for many years, and it was regarded by the Antients as a fourth degree, which they conferred in their own Lodges. The Moderns held a different view, as the degree was performed unofficially, without the sanction of the Premier Grand Lodge, which led to the formation of separate Royal Arch Chapters. In 1766, the Charter of Compact was signed, and with that, the Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem was formed. This was the direct parent to the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of today. The Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch was declared to be a part of pure Antient Masonry by the solemn Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges in 1813. It is organised however as a separate Order, distinct from the Craft degrees to which it belongs and the teaching that it completes.
Worcestershire is a thriving and buoyant Royal Arch Province where some 1,100 Companions conduct their activities in 48 Chapters meeting at 14 different venues in the Province. The term Province is merely the masonic term for a County that in most cases correspond in area to the traditional historic Counties. Thus in Worcestershire, our venues range from Dudley in the north to Evesham in the south, Tenbury Wells in the west and Redditch in the east. In each of its 14 venues, Royal Arch masonry provides fulfilment to the teachings provided by its sister order, the Craft, to whom it is indissolubly linked and for whom it provides an inspiring fulfilment.
The website of the Craft Province of Worcestershire (www.worcspgl.org.uk) introduces the early history of freemasonry in this Province. It records how freemasonry came into its current Provincial form in 1851 with the appointment of Henry Vernon as Provincial Grand Master. Two years later he was appointed to lead the Royal Arch in Worcestershire and was installed to the Royal Arch’s equivalent office of Grand Superintendent.
For many years there were only seven Craft Lodges in Worcestershire – Clive (subsequently renamed Vernon), Harmonic, Hope & Charity, Royal Standard, Stability, Worcester, and Semper Fidelis. They were supported by two Royal Arch Chapters – Dudley Chapter attached to Harmonic Lodge and St. Wulstan’s Chapter attached to Worcester Lodge. For the next 100 years, growth was slow, but gradual. The most active decade was the 1920s which saw five new chapters consecrated, perhaps as demobilised servicemen sought new social activities.
At the end of the Second World War, there were half the number of Chapters that we have today. The strong growth period came in the 1950s to 1970s. This can be attributed to two social factors. Firstly during the time of National Service, as earlier in the 1920s, freemasonry proved an attractive vehicle through which servicemen could continue or re-start a worthwhile interest and social life. Secondly, this was a time perhaps when there were far fewer social outlets that could compete for an individual’s attention. It was the time when for many, Freemasons and Non-freemasons, the Lodge or Chapter Ladies’ night was the annual highlight of the social calendar.
The intimate connection between the Craft and Royal Arch is illustrated by the fact that the Grand Master in the Craft traditionally holds the equivalent Royal Arch office of First Grand Principal. This has frequently been mirrored at the Provincial level in Worcestershire with nine Provincial Grand Masters also being appointed to the equivalent Royal Arch office of Grand Superintendent. When E.Comp. F.H. Griffiths, Grand Superintendent from 1963-82 was appointed Provincial Grand Master in 1973, the holding of the two offices by one individual remained the Provincial tradition until 2004.
In the 1990s the Craft’s annual meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge and the Royal Arch’s annual convocation of Provincial Grand Chapter were held on the same day as a trial. It was however deemed too tiring a day!
By 2004, the Craft and Royal Arch had grown to the extent that it was considered worthwhile for the Orders to have distinct but closely co-operating leadership.
E.Comp. Richard Price was appointed as Grand Superintendent in 2004 and in 2010 E.Comp. Colin Brown succeeded him as Grand Superintendent.
The drive to strengthen Royal Arch Chapters has increased still further. Building on the success of The Grand Superintendent’s representatives to lodges, a letter from the Grand Superintendent and Provincial Grand Master is now given to Master Masons when receiving their Grand Lodge certificate that encourages them to complete their masonic journey into Chapter. The Grand Superintendent has launched a presentation team that delivers explanations about the Royal Arch to non-Exalted Master Masons in both lodges and chapters. Enthusing and educating the Exalted Companion has become a priority. Each is given a copy of the Peterborough booklet about the Royal Arch, as well as a specially written guide that introduces the nuances and characteristics of Worcestershire. A demonstration team regularly visits the Province’s Masonic centres delivering an inspiring explanation of the teachings behind the Exaltation ceremony. The Worcestershire Installed First Principals’ Chapter is successfully increasing attendance by masonically younger Companions to its talks at its November meetings. The most popular annual event continues to be the coach trip to the appointments Annual Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter in April, which is always followed by a most convivial dinner back in the Midlands.
Article by E.Comp. J.A. St. M. Mallin, P.G.St.B.
Past Provincial Principal Officers
Listed below are the Provincial Rulers Present and Past together with Provincial Grand Scribe Es and Royal Arch Chapters in Worcestershire awarded Centenary Warrants.