Last meeting in Wells

THE END OF AN ERA – THE FUTURE’S MUCH CLEARER

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The Three Principals – l to r – E.Comp Adrian Moore, MEZ Charles Grisdale, E.Comp Ben Batley

The rosy-fingered dawn peeped through a gap in the curtains and as I awoke I realised that that the big day had finally arrived. It was Tuesday 17th November, 2015, and it was a big day because it was the last time my Chapter – Avalon, No. 446 – would be meeting in the precincts of the beautiful cathedral at Wells. We had been given plenty of notice and asked to leave because our Chapter rooms were required for cathedral storage.

The occasion was both sad and important. Sad because we would be leaving such an iconic environment, and important because not only was it our Installation meeting but we were to be honoured with a visit from the Most Excellent Grand Superintendent (E Comp John Bennett) together with a large contingent of Provincial Officers including the Deputy Grand Superintendent (E Comp Bob Moore) and the Third Provincial Grand Principal (E Comp Chris Moore).

Although we were all sad to be leaving, it’s true to say that a number of members were glad to be saying goodbye to the hazards of ascending the very worn stone steps leading to the Chapter Room, and we were very fortunate not to have had any serious accidents involving elderly brethren descending the staircase somewhat more rapidly than they climbed up.

The evening’s agenda was busy, and after the inward procession, the Chapter was delighted to invite the MEGS to become an Honorary Member, and the invitation was gratefully and graciously accepted.

Item 6 on the agenda was to install the new Principals, and E Comp Charles Grisdale, E Comp Adrian Moore and E Comp Ben Batley were duly installed and invested as Z, H and J respectively. The MEGS later remarked that one of the many unique features of the Installation (and one he had not seen before) was that the Scribe E (E Comp Brian Crome) gave two of the three Robe Addresses!

By now you have probably noticed that we had three Moores at the meeting – Bob, Chris and Adrian, none of whom were related. I’m pleased to say they all enjoyed both the meeting and the after proceedings, and it was definitely a case of ‘the Moore the merrier’.

After appointing and investing the rest of the officers, during which the MEGS gave the address to the Principals, two Supreme Grand Chapter Certificates were presented in fine style by the Third Provincial Grand Principal. Following that, two brethren were balloted for as Candidates for Exaltation, thus showing that the Chapter has a healthy future and the new Principals are in for an active year.

Item 10 on the agenda was of specific interest as the MEGS gave a short talk on the Commemorative banner which he had presented to the Chapter at the Especial Provincial Convocation which had been held on 9th October. The banner acknowledges the role played by Avalon Chapter in the founding of Provincial Grand Chapter (along with a small number of other Chapters) and is to be displayed at all our meetings.

Last, but by no means least, we were treated to a short history of the Chapter, starting with its Consecration on 30th November 1875, with initial meetings being held in Wells Town Hall. It moved to Wells Cathedral in 1892 and met there for 123 years until this, our final meeting. The exact location of the Convocations in the cathedral varied slightly meeting originally in the Vicar’s Hall and eventually moving to the West Cloisters. Dining places also varied, moving from local hostelries to the Vicar’s Hall, back to local hostelries and finally the aptly-named ‘Chapter Two’ restaurant near the entrance to the Cathedral. However, on this final occasion, and because of the numbers, we were allowed to dine one last time in the splendid surroundings of the Vicar’s Hall. Interesting extracts from the minutes showed that, in 1896 it was noted that after 20 years of use the surplices should be washed. Likewise, in 1929 it was suggested that a ‘Chapter of Improvement’ be formed, and a mere 82 years later, in 2011, it came to fruition. The history was brilliantly researched and presented by E Comp Michael Vearncombe who received well-deserved acclamation.

Following the meeting we retired to the historic surroundings of the Vicar’s Hall, where we had to negotiate even more dangerous stone steps, but somehow we all managed to climb them, and, as far as I know, we all managed to descend safely despite a glass or two of wine. The response to the toast to the visitors was given in humorous but nevertheless reverend style by E Comp John Griffin, who had taken a number of photographs of the day’s proceedings, and promised to produce a collage to the backing track of the Rolling Stones’ ‘(This will be) the last time’.

A sad occasion? Yes, of course, but our new home will be Wedmore and we are all looking forward to our first meeting there in February. Some time ago the MEGS expressed a wish to attend our last meeting in Wells and our first meeting in Wedmore – we are happy to oblige.

And so as we turn the page in the history book of Avalon in Wells, we start a fresh chapter in Wedmore.

Clive Hennessy