Back to the beginning
In any research into the origins of Freemasonry, you will not need to delve too deeply before you learn that the origins of the Order are shrouded in mystery and that although there are various hypotheses, the one thing that everyone does agree on is that the fraternity is very, very old. Freemasonry as we know it today in the UK, is the product of a union between two rival Masonic bodies – The Premier Grand Lodge (aka The Moderns) and the Grand Lodge of the Ancients. The earliest evidence as to the practice of Freemasonry dates back to well before the 18th century, when the fraternity was unregulated. As with anything that is unregulated changes, divergences and nuances develop and evolve until there are very different practices based along an original theme.
Freemasonry was no exception so in 1717 the first ‘Premier Grand Lodge’ was established to try to regulate the practices of the fraternity. Naturally those that opposed having their practices curbed or censored denounced the Premier Grand Lodge, claiming that their ceremonies were older (ancient) and therefore more accurate than that of the Premier Grand Lodge, so they created the Grand Lodge of the Ancients in 1751. Their differences, while following the same tenets, were many and varied but one of the most notable differences was their approach to the areas of the fraternity that we now know to be the Holy Royal Arch. The Ancients conducted the Royal Arch ceremonies in the Lodges whereas the Moderns held the ceremonies separately in Chapters.
These two Grand Lodges remained rival bodies until two royal brothers – The Duke of Sussex (Grand Master of the Moderns) and the Duke of Kent (Grand Master of the Ancients) brought the two Grand Lodges together in 1813. The union obviously had huge difference in opinion to transcend. To the Ancients, the Holy Royal Arch was ‘the root, heart and marrow’ of the order and had to remain, while the Moderns could not reconcile it being practised in the Lodge. The compromise therefore, was to continue the practice of the Holy Royal Arch in Chapters. It was to remain independent from the Lodge but as important as the Lodge.
What is the Holy Royal Arch?
Four weeks after the successful attainment of the third degree, every Master Mason is entitled to join the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem. In this Order, the story based around King Soloman’s Temple and its Chief Architect, Hiram Abif is continued as we discover what happened after his untimely death.It is a truly beautiful Order which addresses the importance of a journey towards a better spiritual understanding. It is considered the final portion of the journey in ‘Pure and Ancient Masonry’ and it is important that every Freemason is encouraged to make that journey. The culmination of which is to be installed into the three successive offices as Principals of the Chapter.
It is often wrongly assumed that one must be a Past Master in the Craft before they can join Holy Royal Arch. This is not the case, and although certain offices within Royal Arch were restricted only to Past Masters, this is no longer the case either.
The West Ham Abbey Chapter of Holy Royal Arch was consecrated in 1924 and has a long and fruitful history spanning 90 years, where brethren from various Lodges have come to complete their journey in pure and ancient masonry. We meet at The Square at Upminster, RM14 1DF, on the following dates:
- 2nd Friday in March
- 4th Wednesday in June
- 1st Monday in September
If you are a Master Mason who has not yet capitalised on your right to be a member of the Holy Royal Arch, please feel free to contact our Scribe E., firstname.lastname@example.org for details on joining the West Ham Abbey Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 2291.