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Templary in East Anglia Prior to 1882

Given the different guises of early Templary in this country, the struggle to assimilate and regularise the various and varying units, its virtual dormancy from the second into the fourth decade of the 19th century, and - perhaps above all - the loss of all central records in 1820 (due to the fire which destroyed the home of Robert Gill and all the records he kept there), it is hardly surprising that the task of bringing to light its early days in East Anglia should be difficult. Such traces as there are are fragmentary, serving to confirm its existence but not to reveal its extent and organisation. Taking the four counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire that comprise, or have comprised, the Province of East Anglia, we have:

According to Le Strange's history, the first known trace of Templary in Norfolk is a letter (in the Library of Grand Lodge) dated 11 January 1788 from James Bullivant Jnr., Provincial Grand Secretary, to the Grand Secretary reading in part: "Several gentlemen wishing to form a Grand Chapter of Knights Templar have desir'd me to make enquiry if a grant can be given from the Grand Lodge for that purpose, and at the same time to note what expense it will be attended with". The Grand Secretary's reply is not extant".

On 24 December 1795 the Antients' Grand Lodge issued a warrant to a lodge meeting at the Turkey Cock Inn, Elm Hill. Norwich (now Perseverance No.213) which made Knights Templar from an early date. This lodge was in possession of a Templar seal.

Stevenson and Matchett's "Norwich Pocket Book" for 1806 shows Joseph Taylor, a leading citizen of Lynn Regis (Kings Lynn), as "Superintendent of R.A. Masons and Knights Templar for the County of Norfolk and City of Norwich".

Berry's "Norwich Directory for 1811" lists after Masonic lodges "Royal Arch Masons, Knight, Templars, and Grand Chapter of Harodim, Gate House, Tombland" - Le Strange says presumably working under the warrant of Union lodge No.192. The minutes of this lodge for 23 January 1820 (then No.68) record a motion, carried on the proposition of Jeremiah Ives, Deputy Provincial Grand Plaster, that: "All the expenses necessary for the providing proper dresses and other preparations for the various degrees of masonry, such as Royal Arch, Knight Templar, Ark and Mark, be borne by Lodge 68, that Lodge taking the fees for conferring any of the above.", while at the next meeting on 29 February 1820 the minutes state that Ives held a "K.T. Conclave" in the adjoining room during lodge hours.

In August 1821 the "Norfolk and Norwich Remembrancer" recorded that: "Mr. Belzoni, the celebrated traveller and discoverer of Egyptian antiquities, visited Norwich; he stayed with Jeremiah Ives, Esq' , of St. Catherine's Hill; previous to his departure he received the high Masonic degree of Knight Templar.".

A list of the members of the Lodge of Eleusinian Mysteries No.103 (no longer extant) printed in 1823 shows the letters "K.T." after ten out of 23 names, but Le Strange says that the working of this degree must already have fallen into desuetude in Norwich, as no further mention of it is made in lodge minutes and when a new preceptory, Cabbell, was consecrated in 1863 the degree was said to have been in abeyance for "upwards of forty years" . However, the first statement may have been an error and the second an exaggeration, as the minutes of Union Lodge dated 4 May 1824 record that "The W.M. held a Chapter this evening at 6 o'clock and the lodge was opened at 8.30". The work in the chapter is not stated but it could have been both Royal Arch and Templar, as at the close of the minutes of the December 1825 meeting, notice was given that "a Royal Arch Chapter and a Knight Templar's Chapter would be held on the 9th. January 1826" . Evidently, this lodge still had a sufficient number of keen knights!

We come now to the matter of a Norfolk Templar Province and it is a fact that notwithstanding the absence by then of any Templar body in the county, Grand Conclave appointed the 4th. Baron Suffield to be Provincial Grand Commander in 1846 and he remained as such until his death on 22 August 1853. It is not given to us, at a distance of nearly a century and a half, to read the collective mind of Grand Conclave, but at a conjecture the appointment was made either in anticipation of the imminent foundation of a Templar commandary, or to encourage such an event. However, nothing happened and after his death Lord Suffield was not replaced and the county lost Provincial status.

The Cabbell Encampment No.69 was warranted on 3 March 1862 and held its first meeting ten days later. On 10 April the Hon. Frederick Walpole was proclaimed Eminent Commander and a resolution was passed thanking the knight Henry John Mason for his efforts "in the restitution of the first Encampment of Knights Templar in Norfolk after held in abeyance for upwards of forty years". At the same meeting a letter dated 8 April from the Grand Vice Chancellor announced the appointment of Benjamin Bond Cabbell as Provincial Grand Commander for Norfolk: he is shown as such in Grand Conclave's minutes of 9 May 1862. He was then 81 and by 1869 had resigned, though he lived to 93, dying in the year 1874. Grand Conclave minutes of 14 May 1869 show the Province of Norfolk as "vacant".
Cabbell Encampment declined and no meeting was held after 1870 except an abortive one on 31 May 1872. Grand Conclave minutes of 13 Play 1870 show the Hon. Frederick Walpole, M.P., as Provincial Grand Commander for Norfolk. Cabbell Encampment was in abeyance until early in 1882, when only four members remained. Their arrears and dues were paid up, however, and on 9 March 1882 an emergency meeting was held at which several joining members were elected or proposed and a petition was drawn up praying that the County of Norfolk be joined to the existing Province of Suffolk and Cambridge under the title of the Province of East Anglia.

It is difficult to trace Templary in Suffolk prior to the year 1780 and though some lodge or chapter now lost to sight might have been making knights, it seems unlikely in the known circumstances. Be this as it may, the Grand Royal Arch Chapter considered on 12 May 1780 a report by Thomas Dunckerley, then Grand Superintendent of Wiltshire, that he had granted a dispensation to some Companions in the 1st. Regiment of Dragoon Guards, then stationed at Salisbury, who had been exalting brethren on a Scottish authority, probably from the lodge Scoon and Perth No.3. The same Companions may also have been holding Templar meetings then or soon after, as when the Regiment had moved to Ipswich In or earlier than 1784, the Grand Chapter granted on 12 November 1784 to several members of the British Union Lodge, Ipswich, permission to hold a Royal Arch chapter, to be named Prudence, whose Scribe was to be a Bro. Dixon, Trumpet Major of the 1st. Dragoon Guards. The application was made through Dunckerley, who two years later was appointed Grand Superintendent for Suffolk.

Soon after the warranting of Prudence Chapter, its members, influenced by the Fortitude Encampment already working in the Regiment, began to install knights as a regular thing under the authority of their Royal Arch warrant. In 1810 the knights sought regularity and the knight Curtis Plumb wrote to Robert Gill asking for a warrant. He replied requesting further particulars and Plumb's rejoinder mentioned that Comp. John Gooding, then MEZ of the Prudence Royal Arch Chapter No.41, had installed Waller Rodwell Wright as a Knight Templar therein.

The petition was approved on 21 February 1811 and the first recorded meeting of the Prudence Encampment No.35 was held on 12 April 1811.

It would seem that knights were also being made in the Royal York Royal Arch Chapter at Woodbridge in Suffolk, for in the year 1825, the Prudence Encampment having presumably declined, the Woodbridge knights purchased its warrant and furniture, and thus founded a "new" encampment. However, they made the error of rechristening it the "Royal York", without reference to the Grand Conclave and this brought a reprimand and an order to revert to the name "Prudence" , so that what had really occurred was a change of personnel and venue, but not a hiatus in the existence of the Prudence Encampment, which stayed at Woodbridge for 14 years, making 30 new knights in that time; apparently under a single commander, one George Thompson, though the prime mover seems to have been Benjamin Gall, First Captain, Registrar and Treasurer, who had been installed in Prudence Encampment and at one time crossed swords with Burckhardt.

In 1840 the Master of the British Union Lodge was James Ruddock, who had been installed a Knight Templar at Woodbridge two years previously, and he persuaded his lodge to buy back the furniture, regalia, etc. and repatriate the Prudence Encampment to Ipswich. Burckhardt was present at the revival meetings as Grand Sub Prior and from then on commanders were installed annually.

From that time the Encampment (later Preceptory) had its ups and downs, but has survived to the present time. However, in the year 1864 differences arose over the rejection of candidates, some knights resigned and towards the end of that year the Plantagenet (later Royal Plantagenet) Encampment was founded and first met in Ipswich on 14 November, though it was not consecrated until 25 May 1825. (Later, in 1889, it removed to Yarmouth in Norfolk, where it still meets.
Captain Nathaniel George Philips, who had been advanced to Past Grand Hospitaller in 1864 for his services to Templary in the Colonies and to Grand Sub Prior in 1865, and was elected a member of the Grand Conclave Committee the following year, was appointed Provincial Grand Commander for Suffolk in 1867. The circumstances of the establishment of a Provincial Grand Encampment for Suffolk are turbid and the only clue lies in Capt. Philips' address at his installation as Provincial Grand Commander, when the minutes of the Provincial Grand Encampment of 24 July 1867 record that he said that the Province had "for some time been governed in a most excellent manner by the Grand Chancellor". It would seem, then, that Suffolk was established as a Province in the same notional, anticipatory way as Norfolk may have been.

The existence of early Templary in the County of Cambridgeshire is similarly shrouded in the mists of time, though it probably did exist under the same conditions as elsewhere in contemporary England. There is no firm evidence prior to the warranting of the Tancred Encampment in the University of Cambridge, though it may be that some at least of the founders were already members of the Order who had been installed in a lodge or chapter in the county. Sadly, its records prior to 1951 have been lost, and all efforts to trace this preceptory's history up to that year have in the main proved futile.

The earliest reference found to a Province of Cambridgeshire is in the minutes of the Provincial Grand Conclave of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire dated 14 July 1869, which read: "The Province of Cambridgeshire has been united to the Province of Suffolk by a patent bearing the date the 1st. day of June 1869 and the Province will henceforth until further orders be known as the Province of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire". No Provincial Grand Commander for Cambridgeshire has been traced, either, and of course the united Province continued under Capt. Philips as such, so it must be assumed that Cambridgeshire prior to the amalgamation was indeed a notional body dating approximately from the warranting of Tancred Encampment in December 1868. The minutes of Grand Conclave for 13 May 1870 state that, a warrant having been issued to the Tancred Encampment in Cambridge, its members had by resolution requested that their Province M should be amalgamated with that of Suffolk, which request was granted and Capt. Philips appointed Provincial Grand Commander of the joint Province.

Important as this county was in the annals of the original Orders, it does not seem to have been so in relation to early Masonic Templary. It is possible that, as in the other counties, knights were made in lodges and chapters, but if so the writer has been unable to trace them or any early encampments. A brief reference to Templary in William Dixon's history of Freemasonry in Lincolnshire, written soon after the turn of this century, states that early returns (unfortunately, no dates are given) to the Provincial Grand Registrar contained the names of several Knights Templar (presumably indicated by "K.T." after their names). He went on: "In the year 1848 some idea existed of forming a Preceptory or Encampment for the county, and a letter was forwarded to the Master of the Witham Lodge No.297 by Bro. Ed. Farr Broadbent, P.M., stating that he and other brethren K. Templars contemplated forming an encampment in the City and were desirous of knowing on what conditions the Lodge would grant the use of their room, etc. So far as the Witham lodge records show, no further steps appear to have been taken in the matter".

It is noteworthy, however, that when the first known encampment, Temple Bruer No.143, was warranted in 1879, all seven founders had been installed in the Time Immemorial "Ancient York Conclave of Redemption", "which Grand Conclave says was originally at York and later moved to Hull, and came under the banner of the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master" in 1863.
It would seem, therefore, that if there had been earlier knights in Lincolnshire they or their enthusiasm had died out. It was not until 1889 that the Temple Bruer Preceptory petitioned to be received under the wing of the Provincial Priory of East Anglia, where it remained Until 1910, when a second preceptory was founded and a Province of Lincolnshire established.

The Early Provinces
The Liber Ordinis cites the year 1857 as that from which the seniority of the Province of East Anglia dates. We have seen that Norfolk had Provincial status between 1846 and 1853, but lost it and a Province of Norfolk proper dated only from 1862. That of Suffolk began in reality in 1867 , to be joined in 1869 by that of Cambridgeshire resulting from the foundation of Tancred Encampment. The date 1857 would appear to be anomalous. Certainly a table of precedence in the Bridge Collection' cites the same year, but Bridge himself disputes this and in a note dated 26 March 1957 (possibly in relation to a claim for, or at least an exploratory inquiry regarding, a Centenary warrant, though nothing to this effect appears in the file) says that the date 1857 in the Liber "may be an error". In a letter to the Provincial Vice Chancellor dated 10 April 1957 he sets out the sequence of events leading to the formation of the Province of East Anglia and states categorically that the dates of the four Provinces concerned were "without doubt" Norfolk 1862, Suffolk 1867, Cambridgeshire 1868 and Lincolnshire 1869, going on to say that "The Province as amalgamated at present takes the Norfolk date, 1862". On the back of the copy, however, a note dated 16 May 1957 says in part: "Without the risk of raising controversy, I don't think it is possible to give any precedence to Provincial Priories other than that of the Priors already adopted".

It seems, therefore, that whilst the date 1857 may have been anticipatory of an appointment that was never made and therefore had no validity, the Province of East Anglia might have had a claim to precedence from 1862, but no such claim has been made and it is the centenary of the Province by its current title that we have just celebrated.

Meanwhile, we are fortunate in having available the minutes of the separate and conjoint Provinces from July 1867, which are of great interest and worthy of quotation in this chapter up to 1882: 24 July 1867. Members of the Prudence and Royal Plantagenet Encampments met at the Masonic Hall, Ipswich. Grand Officers were received, and Sir Patrick McC. de Colquhoun, Grand Chancellor, assisted by the Provincial Grand Commanders of Kent, Lancashire and Dorsetshire, with other distinguished knights, installed Capt. Nathaniel George Philips, Past Grand. Sub-Prior, as Provincial Grand Master for Suffolk. The first part of the Grand Chancellor's speech is quoted hereafter in full, as it is as true today as it was over a century ago: "Sir Knights, It is my constant practice when called upon to induct into. high and important offices of trust gentlemen distinguished by their career in social life, be it civil or military, as well as in that which brings us here together this day among those who can fully appreciate the intrinsic value of their fellowmen, to give the Province such information as to enable it to appreciate justly the Grand Master's choice. That choice emanates from his own unbiased judgment, and it is well that the supreme head always relied on that judgment. We are far more monarchical in our institutions than the Craft: such has ever been from the first institution of Templary of the essence, and ever should be so in a religious and military Order in which the soldier's greatest virtue is obedience".

The Grand Chancellor then expressed the Grand Master's regret at being unable, through age and infirmity, to preside in person; outlined Capt. Philip's personal and Masonic career, congratulated him, gave him his warrant, invested and enthroned him. The new Provincial Grand Commander returned thanks and later appointed the following Officers:
Deputy Provincial Grand Commander: R.N.Sanderson
Prelate: John Head
First Captain: John Pitcher
Second Captain: Edw. Dorling
Registrar: F.B.Jennings
Director of Ceremonies: W.T.Westgate
Almoner: J.A.Pettit Snr.
First Captain of Lines: ?? Whitbread
Second Captain of Lines: H.Thomas
First Herald: J.H.Townsend
Second Herald: J.T.Helms
First Standard Bearer: W.Cuckow
Second Standard Bearer: ?? Wilmshurst
Sword Bearer: ?? Chinnock
Banner Bearer: ?? Rands
Organist: ?? Barber
Chancellor: C.T.Townsend

Why the Chancellor should have listed himself last is not clear. John Alloway was elected Treasurer and Kt. Henderson (interim) Equerry. A committee was appointed to draft By-Laws. The alms amounted to 18/4d.

A meeting of the Province of Suffolk was held at the same venue, under the banner of Royal Plantegenet Encampment, on 26 August 1868, when the draft By Laws were passed seriatim and ordered to be printed.

The next meeting was similarly held on 14 July 1869. The Province then had 48 knights on roll. Frater George Spalding was elected Equerry. The Provincial Chancellor announced that the Province of Cambridgeshire had been united to that of Suffolk by patent dated 1 June 1869: this was read out . A Committee of Management was appointed.

The Provincial Grand Conclave of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire met at the same venue, under the banner of Prudence Encampment, on 25 May 1870. As this was the first time it had met under Prudence's banner, the Provincial Grand Commander conferred the rank of Past Provincial Grand Captain on the Eminent Commander, Charles Davy, and on the Provincial Grand Chancellor, C.T. Townsend.

The meeting on 25 May 1871 was held at 291 Green Street, Cambridge, under the banner of Tancred Encampment. The Province then counted 59 knights. After the Templar meeting a Provincial Grand Priory of Malta was held and several knights were installed.

The next meeting, on 14 May 1872, was held at the Masonic Hall, Ipswich, under the banner of Royal Plantagenet Encampment, when it was decided to print the report of the Committee of Management and send a copy to every knight on roll. It is to be noted that the minutes of the Priory of Malta held in 1971 were read out at this meeting after those of the Conclave.

At the meeting of the Provincial Priory (so called for the first time) on 25 April 1873, held at Ipswich (under the banner of Prudence Preceptory also so called for the first time), necessary changes in the By Laws were passed and the installation fee raised from 5/ d. to 7/6d. A book to record the Muster Roll was to be provided (and is still extant, though fully used; it was called the "Presence Book" and the pages are all headed "Royal Religious and Military Order of Knights Templar, Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta)". A habit was to be provided for the Equerry. The Provincial Prior (likewise so called for the first time) said that as Tancred Preceptory had sent no returns in, he could not appoint any Officers from that part of his Province. The Chancellor (Em. Kt. C.T. Towns end) nominated four members to the Committee of Management, the influential John Emra Holmes a different four, but as these were not seconded, the Chancellor's nominees were elected. It was agreed to appoint a committee to draw up a suitable Address to the Prince of Wales.

The next meeting of the Provincial Priory was held at Ipswich under the banner of Royal Plantagenet Preceptory on 23 September 1874. A brown habit for the Equerry was again agreed to, but a cope for the Prelate was deemed too expensive at four guineas, The Provincial Sub Prior read an Address relative to the death of the "late Grand Master, Sir Kt. Stewart" to be forwarded to his widow.

The following meeting was again held at Ipswich under Royal Plantagenets banner on 23 August 1875, when no representative of Tancred Preceptory was present. Apparently some Officers were tardy with their fees of honour and the Chancellor was directed to apply for them, warning that if not paid within a month the appointments would be cancelled. The Provincial Prior said that as the question of "past ranks" was under consideration, he would make no new appointments and asked the present Officers to carry on.

No minutes are recorded for the years 1876 to 1878, but at a meeting held at Ipswich on 15 December 1879 under the banner of Prudence Preceptory, a committee was appointed to draft new By Laws, each member of the Province to have a rough proof before the next meeting. Tancred was again not represented, and no reference was made in the minutes to the missing years. No minutes are recorded, either, for the years 1880 and 1881, though a good deal of activity must have been going on behind the scenes, as the next chapter will show.

Meanwhile, In Norfolk, Benjamin Bond Cabbell had resigned on account of age in or before 1869. Though Grand Conclave minutes of May in that year show the Province as "vacant", those of 13 May 1870 show the Hon. Frederick Walpole, M.P., as Provincial Grand Commander, but as Cabbell Preceptory was virtually dormant from that year, the post must have been nominal thereafter and in any case have lapsed at his death on 1 April 1876. The Province, too, must have lapsed then or earlier, and Cabbell's petition in 1882 to Grand Conclave seeking the creation of a Provincial Priory of East Anglia makes no mention of a Provincial Priory of Norfolk, only of itself as a Preceptory.