Origins of the Provincial Grand Chapter of Hertfordshire


It is recorded in the Grand Lodge Year Book (Historical Supplement) that a Patent was issued to Companion Colonel Andrew Dennis O’Kelly as Grand Superintendent of Royal Arch Masons of Hertfordshire on 18 June 1811.  A Patent as Provincial Grand Master had already been issued to Brother William Forsteen on 24 March 1797.  In neither case were there any Lodges or Chapters in the Province.  Three Craft Lodges had previously existed and had been erased, the last erasure being in 1787.  No Royal Arch Chapter had ever existed. Brother George Daniel Harvey succeeded Brother William Forsteen as Provincial Grand Master in 1803 and before he resigned in 1831 two lodges had been consecrated, Hertford and Watford, both in 1829.  These were followed by the consecration of the first Chapter, Watford, in 1830, but there is no trace of the Grand Superintendent, Companion O’Kelly having taken part in its formation or consecration.The formation of the two lodges in 1829 no doubt inspired RW Brother Harvey to form a Provincial Grand Lodge, the first meeting of which was held on 26 November 1830 at which he appointed Provincial Officers, including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master.  This meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was to be RW Brother Harvey’s first and last as he resigned in 1831.

In 1831 the Marquis of Salisbury was appointed Provincial Grand Master by HRH the Duke of Sussex, MWGM.  He had been initiated in Hertford Lodge on 6 October 1829 and made Senior Grand Warden of Grand Lodge in 1830.  He was installed as Provincial Grand Master at Shire Hall Hertford on 7 November 1833.

He was proposed for Royal Arch Masonry in Supreme Grand Chapter by HRH the Duke of Sussex in 1831.  His exaltation took place in Grand Chapter in 1832, along with the Duke of Abercorn and Lord Monson.  He was appointed Grand Superintendent in 1835 and installed at Freemasons Hall, London, on 29 May of that year.  By this time a second Chapter, Mount Lebanon, had been consecrated, attached to the Stortford Lodge which had been consecrated in 1831.  Although he took his duties as Provincial Grand Master seriously and held regular meetings of Provincial Grand Lodge, the Marquis had apparently little or no interest in Royal Arch and as Grand Superintendent he never called any meetings of Provincial Grand Chapter.

Lord Salisbury resigned all his Masonic offices in 1844 and in that year William Stuart was appointed Provincial Grand Master by the Marquis of Zetland MWGM.  He was installed as PGM at Watford on 12 April 1844 but never appears to have been formally installed as Grand Superintendent.  He held both offices until he resigned in 1873.  He made the first effort to create a Provincial Grand Chapter by holding a meeting on 22 September 1845 when a committee was appointed to frame by-laws at a meeting in September 1846 when it was decided that the laws of Grand Chapter would suffice with minor variations.  There is no record of any Provincial Officers having been appointed at either of these meetings.

No further meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter was held by Companion Stuart until September 1864 at which Provincial Officers were appointed.  No record of these officers exists but in the minutes of Watford Chapter Companion George Francis is invariably referred to Prov.G.H.  After 1864 Companion Stuart never again called a meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter before resigning in 1873.RW Brother T F Halsey MP was appointed Provincial Grand Master by the Marquis of Ripon MWGM in 1873 and he was duly installed with great pomp and ceremony at Shire Hall on 22 April 1874.In Royal Arch the Hertford Chapter had been consecrated in 1872 and the Mount Lebanon Chapter, originally attached to Stortford Lodge, then transferred to Hertford Lodge and finally to Salisbury Lodge, had left the Province in 1851.  There were thus two Chapters in the Province in 1874, Hertford and Watford.

After the consecration of a third Chapter, Gladsmuir, in 1875 steps were taken to reestablish Provincial Grand Chapter.  On 14 March 1875 HRH the Prince of Wales, Grand Z, issued a patent appointing Companion Thomas Frederick Halsey MP as Grand Superintendent of Royal Arch Masons in Hertfordshire.  He was installed at Freemasons Hall, Watford, on 28 October 1875 by E Companion John Harvey, Grand Scribe E, who in his address mentioned the lapse of 21 years of Royal Arch Masonry in the Province, referring presumably to Companion Stuart’s meeting in 1864.  Since 1875 the Provincial Grand Chapter of Hertfordshire has met without break.

To summarise, no meetings of Provincial Grand Chapter were held by Colonel O’Kelly or the Marquis of Salisbury.  Three meetings were held by William Stuart and at only one of these in 1864 were Provincial Officers appointed.  In considering the date of the origin of Provincial Grand Chapter it would seem unwise to take any of these dates, 1845, 1846 and 1864 as representing the beginning of a Provincial Grand Chapter with a continued existence.

The date when the Provincial Grand Chapter of Hertfordshire had its beginning as a viable entity was undoubtedly the 28 October 1875 the date of the Installation of E Companion Thomas Frederick Halsey MP as Grand Superintendent, since when it has had a continuous existence.

As already mentioned the first meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge was on 26 November 1830 and it has met continuously ever since.

August 1983

Arnold Lever PAGSoj
Provincial Grand Scribe E