History of the Royal Arch in Warwickshire

The earliest reference to a meeting of a Lodge in English Freemasonry is contained in the diary of a man called Elias Ashmole. He was born in Lichfield in 1617, Lichfield being no more than twenty miles from Birmingham itself. In his diary he records his Initiation at Warrington on the 16 October 1646. The first Grand Lodge was however not formed until 1717 at the Goose & Grid Iron Tavern in London.

John Theophilus DesaguliersNo records were kept at the meetings of Premier Grand Lodge until 1723 and at the Annual Festival on the 24 June that year the Reverend Dr J T Desaguliers, a former pupil of Bishop Vesey Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire was elected Deputy Grand Master.

A manuscript dated the 27 November 1723 gives the names of 77 Lodges and the 56th states that there is a Lodge Meeting at The Woolpack in the town of Warwick. The entry shows the names of the Master Wardens and Brethren and the name James Prescott Esq Provincial Grand Master. So Warwickshire was in at the very beginning.

But what of the Royal Arch. It seems pretty certain that the Chapter that we know today as the Chapter of Fortitude No. 43 was founded on the 6 April 1783. But their first return to Grand Chapter gives a list of the members at the 9 May 1783 the following month and from this list it is possible to deduce who were the founders and their occupations, toy makers, button makers, bucket makers, platers and brass founders. It shows how important Birmingham was even then as an industrial centre.

Thomas DunckerleyAlso in the Grand Chapter Minute Book there is an entry dated the 11 April 1783 which read “Most excellent Companion Dunckerley by letter informed the Chapter i.e.. Grand Chapter that he had granted a Dispensation for a Chapter to be held in Birmingham by the name of the Chapter of Fortitude and had appointed Richard Jescott, John Lloyd and John Hallan to act as Principals bearing the date of the 6th instant and requesting that a warrant be made out from that date which was accordingly ordered”.

It is said that Thomas Dunckerley was the illegitimate son of George II and his biographers say that he was Provincial Grand Master of 6 Provinces and Grand Superintendent of a host more including Warwickshire from 1793 to 1795. He was the first Grand Superintendent although because he was issuing warrants as early as the 11 April 1783 he was clearly in charge for a period considerably longer than 1793 to 1795.

From these early beginnings the Royal Arch Province of Warwickshire has grown to one of the largest in the English constitution. It now has 63 Chapters meeting at 19 separate locations. Philip Laurence Hall is the current Grand Superintendent, the 15th since Thomas Dunckerley and there are approximately 1500 Royal Arch Companions in the Province.

Grand Superintendents of Warwickshire

Dates Name Extra Details
1793 - 1795 Thomas Dunkley No further appointments untill 1812
1812 - 1842 Washinton Shirley 8th Earl Ferrers
1843 - 1864 Richard Willian Penn 1st Earl Howe, G.C.H.
1864 - 1905 William Hener 2nd Lord Leigh (Third Grand Principal)
1906 - 1916 George Beech No further appointments untill 1818
1918 - 1928 Rev. Canon Charles William Barnard
1929 - 1937 Charles Rainsford
1937 - 1952 Thomas Burman
1953 - 1961 Very Rev. Harold George Michael Clarke M.A. (Third Grand Principal 1968 - 1976)
1961 - 1974 John Reynolds Napier
1975 - 1984 William Robert Heatley
1984 - 1993 Stanley Alan Lates
1993 - 2006 Richard Victor Wallis J.P.
2006 - 2016 John Leonard Saint
2016 - Philip Laurence Hall

Holders of the M.E. Grand Superintendents Certificate of Merit

Dates Name
1993 J.A. Herd
1993 D.H. Woolley
2001 W.S. Nelmes
2002 I.E. Wallis
2002 G.E. Brown
2003 I. Jones
2004 D.H. Phillips
2005 R.N.F. Marshall
2005 J.C. Nixon
2005 C.N. Porter
2009 H.D. Butterworth
2009 M J O'Callaghan
2013 R.G. Griffiths
2014 P.R. Cox
2015 B.H. Holdsworth
2015 B.F. Owen
2015 I.C. Woodhouse
2016 R.M.E. Irving