Summer meeting of St John of Jerusalem Chapter No. 203

Thursday, 05 June 2014

On a lovely early summer evening all roads led to the magnificent Liverpool Masonic Hall situated on Hope Street and nestling between the two cathedrals

The architectural splendour within the area is worth a visit in itself, but to have the opportunity to also enter the hall was an invitation not lightly spurned.

Inside the hall St John of Jerusalem Chapter No. 203 was holding its regular meeting in the majestic Egyptian Suite, the last of the current season, but with exceptional purpose.

The three principals opened the very well attended meeting and warmly welcomed all their visitors, including John Hutton, who is a Past Second Provincial Grand Principal, Sam Robinson the Liverpool Group Chairman and their fellow officers from Supreme Grand Chapter, Steve Walls, Dave Potts and Graham Bradshaw and thanked them for their attendance and support.

The first item for the evening was the exaltation of another candidate into the chapter, Andy Ward of Childwall Lodge No. 5235, following in the footsteps of his brother Jason who was exalted at the previous meeting. The ceremony was carried out in transcendent manner by first principal Graham Hamilton Taylor who was ably assisted by his fellow principals Geoffrey Cuthill and Ian McFall, under the watchful eye of the DC, Bill Bell, and as expected an absolutely consummate rendition of the complete mystical lecture by John Leisk. In years to come Andrew will look back and reflect on how fortunate he was to have undergone a ceremony of such high standards and fully appreciate the underlying work that had gone into it.

Following on from the ceremony John Hutton was invited to take the floor to make a rather special presentation to the chapter. To fully understand and appreciate the full extent of the presentation made by John the history of St John of Jerusalem Chapter No. 203 needs to be understood.

This chapter, the oldest now meeting at Liverpool Masonic Hall, formerly operated under sanction of an Athol (Antient Lodge) Warrant issued in 1792 numbered 276. The first recorded minutes for an exclusively Royal Arch meeting within this lodge date from 25 March 1796, when a Lodge of Emergency was called at Lewis’s, Richmond Street, Liverpool by the worshipful master for the purpose of the Royal Arch Masons members of this lodge to form themselves into a chapter.

After the union of the two Grand Lodges on 27 December 1813 and the subsequent re-numbering exercise in 1814 Lodge No. 276 became No. 348 and was known as Mariners Lodge No. 348 until the meeting of 19 September 1816 when it was unanimously agreed that the name of the Mariners Lodge thus be expunged and the Union Lodge was adopted in its stead.

Holy Royal Arch Masonry is regularly carried out by the lodge as it sees no need to change, after all it still holds its original warrant issued in 1792 entitling it to perform all masonic degrees. During the early 1820’s the lodge, at this time known as Ancient Union becomes embroiled in the ‘Liverpool Rebellion’, resulting in the expulsion of a number of brethren. Those lodge members remaining probably thought it expedient that if they wanted to carry on with their Royal Arch masonry and to help maintain concord with United Grand Lodge, reached the decision that a Royal Arch Charter should be applied for. Contact was made by the lodge with Supreme Grand Chapter resulting in the granting of a Charter to Ancient Union Lodge for the formation of a Holy Royal Arch Chapter to be known as St John’s of Jerusalem, which was subsequently issued on 11 November 1824. (The lodge and chapter both renumbered 245 in 1832 and again as 203 in 1863)

Sometime during the period when it operated Royal Arch masonry under the Athol warrant a set of sojourners jewels were in use. Those three original jewels being in the form of a crow, a pick and a shovel and bear the identification Lodge 276, therefore dating their first use between 1792 to 1814, but probably later than 1796.

With the fairly recent loss of one of the original jewels, the pick, John Hutton on hearing of this offered to make a replica to replace it, and thanks to his tremendous good will, he also made another complete replica set so that the two remaining original jewels can now be kept securely without the risk of damage or further loss.

Now, over 200 years after their first use John Hutton presented the chapter with a new set of Sojourners jewels replicating those originals. John accompanied the presentation with a lecture entitled ‘The Working Tools of a Royal Arch Mason’ which he had previously written and presented a number of years ago when he was first principal of the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter of West Lancashire No. 8516. This was greeted with great applause.

On retiring to the adjoining banqueting suite the companions enjoyed an excellent festive board, the main meal being pan fried duck. The festive board was as interesting as the meeting and much enjoyed by all. The evening closed with the chapter presenting John with a bottle of vintage port, and a book about life in Egypt at the time of the Pharaoh's, a very apt gift considering the surroundings of the Egyptian dining room.

The three Principal’s thanked everyone for their attendance and looked forward to seeing them all again at the installation ceremony this coming October.

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