History :- The Royal Arch Province of Somerset as we now know it was founded in 1876 although Royal Arch Masonry has been practised continually in Somerset since 1765. The founding of the Province was the initiative of 9 Chapters, Royal Cumberland Chapter No. 41, Royal Sussex Chapter No. 53, Tynte Chapter No. 528, Sincerity Chapter No. 261, Royal Cyrus Chapter No. 285, Vale of Jehoshaphat Chapter No. 291, Chapter of Brotherly Love No 329, Avalon Chapter No. 446, and Inkerman Chapter No. 1222. Of these, all but Tynte Chapter are still operating. There are now 28 Chapters in the Province with a total membership of over 1200 companions.
Provincial Team Visits 2016/2017
Provincial Team Visit to Royal Sussex
The Provincial Team visited Royal Sussex Chapter in Bath on Monday 20th March to perform a Demonstration Exaltation Ceremony. There were 19 members of the Team plus a replacement Principal Sojourner, E Comp John Giblin, who stood in at the last moment.
MEZ Richard Ellis opened the Chapter with nine members and one guest from Monmouthshire, the minutes of the previous meeting were confirmed and E Comp Chris Moore, PrGDC, requested admission. The Provincial Team then escorted E Comp D John Bennett, ME Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of Somerset, into the Chapter where he was greeted by MEZ and proffered the Sceptre, which on this occasion he accepted. The Provincial Team took up their respective offices and the ceremony was commenced. Comp Bernie Couzens acted as the Candidate and the ceremony progressed. As this was a demonstration the candidate was not hoodwinked and lights were left on.
The Provincial Grand Principles, J and H, took their respective parts and Deputy Grand Superintendent, E Comp Barry Woodside read the prayers and information given to the candidate when he was outside the door of the Chapter.
The Symbolical and Mystical Lectures were given, the former in the Catechistical format and the later in three parts by E Comps Alan Holton, Chris Moore and Bob Moore.
At the completion of demonstration MEGS thanked Comp Barrie for acting as the candidate and, as is customary by MEGS, presented Barrie with a lapel badge and cuff-links. MEGS then asked for the Officers of the Chapter to be returned to their respective chairs and thanked E Comp Richard Ellis for allowing the Team to conduct the ceremony.
The Provincial Team then retired from the Chapter leaving the members of Royal Sussex to complete the Risings and Closing the Chapter.
Everyone then retired upstairs for a very enjoyable Mini Fish and Chips Starter, followed by Chicken Curry and finishing off with a very tasty Cheese Board.
Banner Dedication in Taunton in January 2017
In 2016 the three chapters meeting at Taunton Masonic hall came to the conclusion that the banners that were in use by all three chapters were beginning to show their age and should be replaced. The chapters agreed that the cost would be shared and the new banners were purchased.
January 11th 2017 saw the MEGS Ex. Companion John Bennett together with the Provincial Team visiting the Chapter of Sincerity No 261, meeting at Taunton. The MEGS and Team were visiting the Chapter primarily to dedicate the new chapter banners that were a joint purchase between the Taunton Chapters: Sincerity, No 261; St. George, No 3158 and Taunton Deane, No 5221.
The Three Principals, or their representative, from each chapter were present at the meeting together with a goodly number of Companions (86 in total).
After taking the chair the MEGS explained that the Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra had stood down and that it was his pleasure to announce that Ex. Companion Tony Beaumont was to be appointed and invested as the new Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra.
After the investiture the MEGS moved the business onto the Dedication of the new Chapter Banners.
The Standard Bearers were: Companion Town (261); Companion Prior-Sankey (5221) and Companions Green & Clarke (3158).
During the Dedication Ceremony the Oration was given by the Provincial Second Grand Principal Ex. Companion Maldwyn Davies during which he explained that:-
‘The reason for the acquisition of the new Banners is that the original Banners have, with age and usage, become almost illegible. The banners which have been replaced once before but have been in use for many years and it is almost certain that they were originally obtained by the Chapter of Sincerity as they obviously pre-date the formation of the Chapter of St George in 1954 and the formation of the Taunton Deane Chapter in 1986.
There is no record in the Archives of the Chapter of Sincerity to indicate when or even if they were purchased. There is a note in the minutes of the Chapter of Sincerity that on 9th November 1983 the then M.E.Z. E. Companion David Hartley “drew the attention of the Companions to the Chapter Banners and Ensigns which had been renovated during the summer recess by Companion. Malcolm Plastowe and Mrs. G. Fish, wife of Ex. Companion. F. A. Fish, H of the Chapter. The M.E.Z. requested that the Scribe E, E. Companion Sidney Honniball thank those involved for undertaking this task.
The Accounts of the Chapter for that year shows an expenditure of £23.00 for repairs to Banners. As a point of interest the Chapter Subscription at that time was £7.00 P.A. and cost of Dining was £2.75!’
A copy of the full oration can be found here.
The Dedication Ceremony completed the MEGs continued by explaining that during a recent meeting in London he had been speaking with Ex. Companion David Hughes a Grand Inspector in the Metropolitan Grand Chapter. Ex. Companion David is the son of the late Ex. Companion Thomas Albert Hughes, Past Grand Superintendent in and over the Province of Somerset. Ex. Companion David had explained that he had his father’s original Patent and kindly offered to return it to the Province. As Taunton had been the Masonic home of Ex. Companion Tom it had been decided that the patent would be presented to the Taunton Masonic hall for display there.
The MEGS then called upon Ex. Companion Ray Baines Chairman elect of the Taunton Masonic hall Company and presented him with the patent for display at Taunton.
The chapter being closed 74 companions enjoyed a splendid festive board.
Ceremony of the Veils
The basis of the current Royal Arch ceremonies worked in England was established and agreed by Supreme Grand Chapter in 1834. There is some evidence that before those changes the ceremony of Passing the Veils was practised as a preliminary to the Exaltation ceremony. This was particularly true in Lodges under the former Antients Grand Lodge which worked the Royal Arch ceremony within the Craft Lodge, but there is little evidence of it being worked in Chapters under the original Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter.
Today in England the ceremony is solely authorised for use in Chapters in Bristol but it is still very much part of the Royal Arch system in Ireland, the United States of America and in Scotland – where it is known as the Excellent Master Degree. For those wishing to see the Bristol ceremony, the Province and its Chapters are always delighted to receive visitors.
This demonstration script undertaken in Somerset is not the ceremony as practised in Bristol, Ireland, USA , or Scotland, but necessarily includes material which appears in the ceremonies worked in those countries. It has been devised from manuscripts in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry and published sources such as Carlile and Claret. As many of the sources are simple descriptions of the ceremony it has been necessary to guess the questions put to the candidate as he enters and approaches each Veil. Originally there appear to have been only three veils – Blue, Purple and Scarlet – but most of the surviving evidence calls for the addition of a fourth veil – White – hiding from the candidate’s sight the Principals, the pedestal and the other furniture of the Chapter. The early descriptions state that the ceremony took place in a room adjacent to the Chapter Room and on its completion the candidate would then be led to the Chapter Room to seek admission. As in many places only one room would be available, it would appear probable that the fourth veil was adopted to shield the candidate from the Chapter as before he entered that part of the room he would be hoodwinked as candidates are today.
The Chapter would have been set up as is normal in our chapters today except that the pedestal and all that surrounds it, including the banners, would have been close to the Principals to enable them to be hidden from the candidates sight by the white veil. The rest of the room would be divided into three by the Scarlet, Purple, and Blue Veils, leaving a space between the latter and the door to the Chapter Room. The Veils would be full height but ours are adapted to allow you to see what is happening.
At the time that the Veils ceremony was being worked in England (c. 1770 – 1834) the opening of the Chapter was restricted to Principals and Past Principals. They would enter the Chapter and open it in the same way as we do today. The remaining Companions would then enter the Chapter in two columns led by the Scribes Ezra and Nehemiah, and as many as possible would form into threes to prove themselves RA Masons.
There is evidence that in some Chapters once this was done the MEZ would then ask each of the Officers of the Chapter, in ascending order, for their stations and duties within the Chapter. The minutes of the last meeting would then be read and confirmed and, if necessary, a ballot would take place for the candidate(s) for exaltation at that meeting. Once the ballot had taken place the veils would be drawn across the room and the Janitor informed that all was ready.
At the time that the Passing the Veils ceremony was in use in England the qualification for admission to the Royal Arch was that of being an Installed Master in the Craft and the pass into the Chapter was the sign and salutation of a Master of Arts & Sciences and the word of an Installed Master.
In Somerset the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent is authorised by Supreme Grand Chapter to undertake the Ceremony of the Veils once a year. The demonstration ceremony is started by “Calling Off” the Chapter and the Provincial Team then take their posts. On completion the Team resume their seats and the Chapter is “Called On”.
For those who have not seen the Ceremony undertaken it is hoped that they will be able to see it undertaken in the not too distant future.
- Provincial Convocation, 18th May 2017
- PROVINCIAL TEAM VISIT TO ABBEY CHAPTER – 13TH APRIL 2017
- Provincial Officer’s Visits and Changes of Procedure from September 2017
- New Provincial Grand Principles Named and Grand Chapter Collar Appointments
- Eldon Chapter 1755 – Convocation: Thursday, 2nd March, 2017.
- Banner Dedication in Taunton in January 2017
- BIDEFORD PROVINCIAL WEEKEND
- Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra Invested
- CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE GRAND SUPERINTENDENT
- Provincial Carol Service – 2016