A brief history of the Chapter of Wisdom No.283
....... researched, compiled and read by E.Comp. George Cattanach PPGSN, third Principle of the Chapter at its closure on 9th April 2013.
Your Excellences, Excellent Comps., and Companions,
The year is 1791, the Industrial Revolution is well underway, England is having it's usual sabre rattling and the occasional canon ball throwing arguments with France. Who was still in the midst of the effects of its revolution, with Napoleon beginning to stir everything up among the ruling houses of Europe. And those Colonies over in the New World are causing troubles; here in England, Wilberforce had his bill for the abolishment of slavery defeated in parliament.
Freemasons were all at six's and sevens over who is in the right, the two main groups the Moderns and the Antients are locked in arguments that seem to just go on and on. It was also the period when Freemasonry was under severe threat from the Government who were passing the Unlawful Societies Act, which was to have outlawed our Freemasonry, this was of course due to the French Revolution scare. But the influence of the Earl Moira the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge and the Duke of Athol the Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge, through the Prime Minster William Pitt the younger, Freemasonry was excluded from this act provided that each and every Secretary of a Lodge or Chapter sent a list of members to the local Clerk of Court, when requested. Fortunately this seems to have fallen by the wayside, but it should be remembered it still stands on the statute book.
However Companions, a few very brave Royal Arch Freemasons in the town of Rochdale decide that, even if they are part of the "Modern" camp, who basically do not want to recognise that the Degree of The Holy Royal Arch is part of true Freemasonry. They have decided they, would like to have their own Holy Royal Arch Chapter, regardless of their Superiors ideas. Fortunately for them a chap called Dunckerley held sway in their "Modern" camp down in the capital and he manages get them a Charter to form, hold and keep their dream of a Holy Royal Arch Chapter; and so Wisdom Chapter is born and was consecrated on the 18th of February 1792 in the town of Rochdale with the number 84 on the register of the "Modern Grand Lodge of England" this is our primary Charter which we are returning tonight.
So we now have the beginning - some 221 years ago, Who those Brethren were, and what became of them, we have no way of knowing, but, being duly granted their Charter they on the 18th of February 1792, met in Rochdale, and consecrated their Chapter under the title of "Wisdom Chapter No: 84" - this is the Charter which we have proudly display at our every meeting; so, for some 28 years this Chapter met under this Number.
However, in 1817, the dispute between the two factions was finally resolved United Grand Lodge, and Supreme Grand Chapter came into being, rules were altered, so then on the 3rd of March 1820, the new Supreme Grand Chapter issued another Charter attaching Wisdom Chapter to the Lodge of Amity No: 530; thus our Chapter now became Wisdom Chapter No: 530, but just three years later in 1823, the Chapter ceased to meet on a regular basis, eventually reappearing in 1836 and continued again for 8 years until 1844, when records show that from the 23rd of June of that year, until the 21st of June 1860, a further 16 years, the Chapter again only met intermittently.
This was probably due to the cotton famine, caused by troubles over in the "Colonies". During this period of intermittent convocations, the Chapter met in various places, moving from Rochdale to Todmorden for a period, then it came over into the Valley to Rawtenstall, and finally it moved into Haslingden, in or around that 1860 date. Where it has met continuously till, of course in 2007 when the Hall at Haslingden was sold and the Chapter moved yet again, this time to here... Mill House, Masonic Hall, in Clayton le Moors, where we find ourselves today.
Also during that period of infrequent convocations, there was yet again a re-arrangement of Lodge and Chapter Numbers, so we find that from 1860, the Chapter became "Wisdom Chapter No:283"; along with the number change to the Lodge of Amity; this is as we now know it. Thus it has remained from that date to this day, standing on the Register of Supreme Grand Chapter under that number and meeting now in the Masonic Hall, Mill House, Clayton-le Moors, and we have now met uninterrupted throughout all this time, some 153 years. In lieu of this, the Chapter has been granted a 100 year Confirmation Warrant, which again is proudly displayed and of course entitles any of the subscribing Companions the privilege of wearing a "Centenary Jewel" if they so wish.
Unfortunately, because there are no remaining Minute Books or other records, most of these seem to have disappeared during the last war, and of course, the Chapter did have a broken period of meetings it cannot therefore claim the bi-centenary of which our original Charter date shows.
Today, our Membership now stands at too few to allow us to continue, those of us remaining still enjoy a fairly active time, though like most Chapters, new members are hard to find.
We have over the years adopted the newer forms of working; where all three Principals and the three Sojourners now share the work load during the Exaltation Ceremony. To achieve this we have updated our working ritual and that has taken us well over five to seven years to satisfy everyone, or so they say! And of course we have also updated our Installation ritual to incorporate the new form of the readings of Holy writ. Also the latest variation which allows a Companion who has not served in the chair of a Craft Lodge to take the chairs in the Chapter, by having served his time as the Soj's or S.N.
During the lifetime of Wisdom Chapter, many Chapters were formed by and with support from its members, as they moved around the Province, likewise much of the old original ritual was passed on, which we, unfortunately have allowed to become redundant, the loss is a shame really, and to quote to you just one small bit will show what we have lost from our ritual:-
One of the off springs of Wisdom Chapter was Fellowship Chapter 3650, which met in Manchester, founded back in 1938, and is now long since deceased, but there they held onto the old original opening and closing ceremonial that came to down to them with some of their founding members who came from 283 and it went as follows:-
After the usual opening to the point where S.N. had proved the Chapter close Tyled.... of course we cannot go into this ritual here, but it was explained in the Chapter....
The whole point of this latter part of the ceremonial is that as all Companions are Sojourners and have descended into the vault, and aided in the great discovery so that the construction (The work of the Chapter.) can now proceed. So we; for the sake of simplification and standardisation allowed yet again another bit of our old Masonic ritual to disappear; which I, as an old Sojourner, must admit seems a bit of shame.
As a member of this the Chapter of Wisdom 283 and of Fellowship Chapter 3650, it has been my pleasure to look into our past, as far as I could, and I can say and hope we, the now dispersing members of Wisdom Chapter, will all have a long and happy future meeting here at Mill House, Clayton le Moors, or wherever we may settle. So that wherever we are, you my Companions will always be made very welcome by us at any of our Convocations.
Your Excellences, and Companions, thank you for your attention, this is but a very brief summary of the life and times our old and revered Chapter of some 221 years.
To view more information on Royal Arch Chapter meetings please click [ here ].
Chapter of Wisdom No.283
was associated with the Lodge of Amity No.283.
Founded in 1792, the year after the Lodge of Amity. Convocations of the Chapter were held in the same Towns as the Lodge of Amity 283 and from 2007 until 2013 meetings were held at The Masonic Hall, Mill House, Clayton-le-Moors, Accrington, BB5 5HD.
Sadly the Chapter closed on the 9th April 2013 after 221 years of service to Freemasonry.