Celebrating 300 years

Richard Tydeman obituary - a life less ordinary

Friday, 16 September 2011

With a quiet dignity and impish sense of humour, Reverend Canon Richard Tydeman, MA, OSM, PSGW, came into Freemasonry in 1937. John Hamill celebrates his considerable achievements

Richard Tydeman, who died aged 94, had a great love of the English language and its proper usage. A highly regarded preacher and after-dinner speaker, he also compiled crosswords for the Church Times, produced verse and plays, and wrote a column for Freemasonry Today under the heading Reflection.

A Suffolk man through-and-through, Tydeman was born in Stowmarket and educated at Woodbridge School, before attending St John’s College Oxford (BA in 1939, MA in 1943). He trained for the priesthood at Ripon Hall, Oxford, and was ordained in 1943. After a brief curacy in Staffordshire he returned to Suffolk first as a curate and then as a priest in charge of Ipswich and Woodbridge. He was an Honorary Canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral from 1959 to 1963.

In 1963, Tydeman moved to London as Rector of St Sepulchre-Without-Newgate and a Deputy Minor Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. He was preacher of Lincoln’s Inn from 1973 until his London retirement in 1981. He then returned to Suffolk before moving to Cornwallis Court in Bury St Edmunds.

Tydeman’s long life was supported by three pillars: family, faith and Freemasonry. He was proud that his daughters – Reverend Rose Williams and Deaconess Sue Pierson – followed this path. He also protested as elements of the Church attacked the Craft. When the General Synod in 1986 announced it was to investigate the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity, he wrote to the Church Times asking what right the Synod had to speak for Christianity.

He came into Freemasonry in 1937 in the Phoenix Lodge No. 516, at Stowmarket. He was Provincial Grand Chaplain for Suffolk in 1957 and Grand Chaplain in 1966 and 1967. He was later promoted to Past Junior Grand Warden in 1989 and Past Senior Grand Warden in 2004 of the Grand Lodge. In 1988, he was appointed a member of the Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry. 

In 1941, Tydeman came into the Royal Arch in the Lewisham Chapter No. 2582, at Warley in Staffordshire. He later joined two chapters in Suffolk, was Grand Scribe N in 1971 and from 1980 to 1987 was Grand Superintendent in and over the area. In a debate in Grand Chapter on changes to the Royal Arch ritual in the late 1980s, he announced that he was privileged to be Grand Superintendent in a small province of 17 chapters that worked 18 rituals.

Tydeman’s three addresses – ‘A New Approach to Mystical Hebrew’ (the ‘bumble bee’ lecture) of November 1979; ‘The Words on the Triangle – An Alternative View’ of November 1985; and ‘History, Mystery and Geometry’ of November 1987 – added to the revision of the Royal Arch in the 1980s.

His contribution to Masonic thought was acknowledged in 1971 when he was appointed Prestonian Lecturer, his subject being ‘Masters and Master Masons’, while his explanation of how the Grand Stewards gained their red apron – given as the response to the Visitor’s Toast at the 1978 Installation Banquet of the Grand Stewards Lodge – has become part of Grand Stewards folklore.

He also held high office in many of the additional degrees, including the highest in two of them: from 1980 to 1996 he was Grand Sovereign of the Red Cross of Constantine, and from 1994 to 2002 he was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry. In both of those capacities, he travelled extensively, impressing many of the members with his dignity and impish humour.

Even in these days of increasing longevity, 94 years of life, 74 years of Freemasonry and 70 years as a priest are achievements worthy of celebration. Those of us who were privileged to know him will mourn his loss but raise a glass to many happy memories.

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