E Comp Peter Hern LGCR Scribe E reports.
London Rifle Brigade was a volunteer unit of the British army formed in 1859. They enjoyed each other’s company, as twenty-three years later, on 11 May 1882, London Rifle Brigade Lodge was consecrated.
Then in 1908 an attempt was made to found a Royal Arch Chapter but it failed, apparently due to lack of support. Soon after the end of the First World War discussions recommenced and in March 1919, the Lodge agreed to sponsor a Royal Arch Chapter. Twelve members of the Lodge, who were also members of the Holy Royal Arch, got together and formed a committee. The officers designate were agreed and they planned to meet at Mark Masons’ Hall, which at that time was in Great Queen Street.
Initially, the Chapter was to be for the members of London Rifle Brigade Lodge, but, as with the Lodge, in the late 1970s, the rules were relaxed, allowing any suitable candidate to join. The Chapter was consecrated on 31st October 1919 with the founders and sixty-one visitors present.
E Comp P Colville Smith, Grand Scribe E, addressing the Companions congratulated them on forming the Chapter and also congratulated them on the proud record of the Lodge and the Regiment.
E Comp H Passmore Edwards PAGSoj acted as Second Principal at the consecration. Much to the surprise of the Companions, Comp Passmore Edwards was the Great Uncle of one of their visitors - E Comp Jamie Ingham Clark PGSoj! E Comp Rev W P Besley PGSN acted as Third Principal, and E Comp JS Granville Grenfell PGSN served as Director of Ceremonies. The Chapter thrived and held regular meetings three times a year at Mark Masons’ Hall until 1935, when, at a special convocation held at Freemasons’ Hall, the members of the Chapter agreed to move. The following year it began meeting at Freemasons’ Hall, where it has met ever since. Readers will recall that the current building opened two years earlier, in 1933, when it was known as the Masonic Peace Memorial, changing its name to Freemasons’ Hall at the outbreak of World War Two.
While there are many Companions worthy of note, one in particular, E Comp Ernest Charles Hawkey, was exalted into the Chapter on Saturday 10 February 1945 and Installed as the 33rd First Principal on Tuesday 9 October 1951. It is through his generosity that the EC Hawkey Trust Fund has enabled the Lodge and Chapter to make charitable and other donations and assist any member in need.
The One-Hundredth Convocation was held on Tuesday 13 October 1953, when E Comp RB Fry was installed as the First Principal. On 31 October 1969, by dispensation, the Chapter held a special meeting to celebrate its 50th anniversary of consecration. Eighty-five companions attended, including fifty-one visitors. The Two Hundredth Convocation was held on Tuesday 10th February 1987, when current member E Comp Pat Gallagher was Exalted, though there was no other special celebration.
The Chapter may never have reached their Centenary as unfortunately, between 2005 and 2011, the Chapter struggled. Following an abandoned meeting in October 2010, some senior members rallied round, and theChapterquicklyrecovered. Itisnow rare not to have an exaltation ceremony at other than its Installation meeting, and long may this continue. In accord with the wishes of the Founders, nearly all eligible members of the Lodge are members of the Chapter, but those from other Lodges and Chapters, with or without a military background are also made very welcome.
Despite the members coming from diverse upbringings, backgrounds, occupations and having different hobbies and pastimes, we all have each other and our Chapter in our hearts. We are a friendly and welcoming bunch, enjoying the company of other companions, as can be witnessed at our Festive Boards.
On Tuesday 11 February 2020, the members were very proud that E Comp Christopher Clark PGSN, Deputy Metropolitan Grand Superintendent, together with many other distinguished guests were able to grace the Centenary Meeting. The Chapter assembled in a packed Temple number five at Freemasons’ Hall which, other than the Grand Temple is one of the largest Royal Arch temples available.
The Acting Metropolitan Grand Scribe E, E Comp Archie Walls read the Centenary Warrant to the Companions after which he handed it to the Escorting Officer, E Comp Ian Burgess. The Deputy Metropolitan Superintendent then received the Centenary Charter from the Escorting Officer. After confirming it was correct, he gave a most interesting and informative talk outlining many events that have taken place since the Chapter’ s consecration including the many changes that have taken place.
He concluded by saying “what has remained very much the same is the spiritual element that the Royal Arch brings to the Craft and the timeless Masonic qualities of tolerance and respect, charitable support, and high moral standards, expressed as our core principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. Long may these tenets prevail in a world that will undoubtedly continue to change as we move into the next 100 years of the London Rifle Brigade Chapter No 1962”.
The First Principal, E Comp Paul Braham, then received the Centenary Charter and the Centenary Jewel appended to his collar from Comp Chris, who then informed the Companions they could now wear their Centenary Jewels. The members put on their jewels with immense delight.
Before the Chapter was closed, the Scribe E gave notice of motion that two new members would be proposed at the next meeting in May, when, subject to ballot a double Exaltation Ceremony would be held. He also advised that after almost thirteen years their well respected and beloved Visiting Officer Roger Brown PAGDC was retiring. He gave notice that at the next meeting he would be proposing that Comp Roger be appointed an Honorary Member of the Chapter. Comp Chris congratulated Roger who thanked the members.
Companions then dined at the Connaught Rooms where many stories were told. What may not be known is that the Duke of Connaught was Colonel in Chief of the Rifle Brigade for the 62 years between 1880 and 1942. It was he who unveiled the Rifle Brigade Memorial situated at the northeast corner of Grosvenor Gardens here in London, on the 25th July 1925. We are very proud of our Chapter, and long may it continue to be ‘primus in urbe’ (first in the City).
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 40 April 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 40 here.