Home History Preceptories Calendar Provincial & General Information Links Contacts

The Medieval Orders

In 1118 King Baldwin II of Jerusalem granted to a group of Knights led by Hugh de Payns accommodation in what is now the Al Aqsa mosque, on the southern part of Temple Mount near to the reputed site of King Solomon's Temple. From the location of their quarters is derived their popular name - the Knights of the Temple or 'Knights Templar'. Their original mission was to ensure safe passage for pilgrims proceeding to and from worship at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre, and to maintain a Christian presence and influence in the Holy Land. The work of the Order was funded and supported by Commanderies throughout Europe, where the Order became powerful, wealthy and largely independent of local Church and secular authorities. After the fall of Acre in 1291 the Order established a temporary base in Cyprus. In France, the Order was suppressed and its assets seized in 1306 on the orders of Philipe le Bel, King of France, with the support of Pope Clement V. The Order was finally abolished by Papal decree in 1312 and its property assigned to the Hospitallers (see below). Many of the Knights in France were tortured, and Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, was burned at the stake in 1314. Some of the Knights are believed to have escaped, allegedly taking with them much of their reputed wealth which was never traced.

In 1113, Pope Paschal II had granted a Charter to the guardians of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. In 1123, inspired by the example of the Templars, they also adopted a military role and became known as the 'Knights Hospitaller'. When they were driven from the Holy Land, nearly two hundred years later, they took refuge on various Mediterranean islands, establishing hospitals and maintaining a fleet of galleys, eventually coming to rest on the island of Malta. Thereafter they were known as the 'Knights of Malta'. The Order ceased to exist as a military force in 1798 when Malta was overrun by Napoleon, but its successor organisations thrive today.

Early History of the Masonic Orders

Many and varied are the theories about the origins of Templar Masonry, not least since the flurry of books published in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first and the speculation they contain about the dispersal of the medieval Templars following their persecution and banishment. Appealing though these theories may be to the romantic mind, there are plenty of counter­arguments too - and there seems to be no substance to the suggestions that those Templars went into hiding for several centuries and re-emerged as a Masonic Order. Indeed, Frederick Smyth, author of 'Brethren in Chivalry', the bi-centenary history of the Great Priory of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple, and of St John of Jerusalem. Palestine, Rhodes and Malta of England and Wales and its Provinces Overseas, says that "Our United Masonic orders of today can claim to have inherited little more than the names of the two Knightly fraternities which were formed and developed in the Holy Land during the first and second crusades. " We can be confident that there is no direct link between those early fraternities and ours, although it's certainly true that our regalia is, to some extent, based on theirs.

According to V.E.Kt GEW Bridge in the introduction to his 1947 paper 'The Order of Masonic Knights Templar in the County of Dorset 1791-1895', there may well have been two key contributory factors in the gradual emergence of specifically Christian Orders in Freemasonry around the middle of the eighteenth century. The first is the suggestion that Pope Clement XII's Papal Bull of April 1738, 'In Eminenti Apostolatus Specula', which attempted to 'outlaw' increasingly deist Freemasonry by threatening Roman Catholic Freemasons and their sympathisers with excommunication, actually stimulated interest in Freemasonry and acted as a catalyst in the development of explicitly Christian Orders. The second factor may well have been the growing reluctance throughout Europe and especially in Protestant countries to accept and submit to the direction of the Vatican, and a growing

recognition that religious opinion and doctrine outside that of the Roman Catholic church was entirely valid and 'respectable'. This growing tolerance eventually led to the removal of explicitly Christian elements from Craft Rituals and the opening of the doors to adherents of all monotheistic faiths systems. Bridge suggests that, "in those circumstances, the Chivalric Orders would have afforded a sufficient 'difference' from de-Christianised Freemasonry, whilst maintaining a Masonic character, to enable Roman Catholics to by-pass the Papal Bull, and the die-hard Protestants, who resented the innovations, to be placated by the retention of the Christian basis. "

There's no certainty about how and when Christian Orders began to appear in English Freemasonry, but from about 1740 a Templar Rite was being worked in some Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Antients. By the 1770s, the Christian Orders were widespread. It was accepted as the norm for Lodges of the Antients to work the Rite under their Craft Warrants, and Lodges of the Moderns also worked the Templar Rite. It appears that it was in Bristol that the Templar Rites were first organised in a methodical and structured way as part of the working of the 'Baldwyn Encampment', and that the 1780 initiative for their organisation and administration on a national scale came from there - but met with no success. It was another ten years before eight Templar units, led by Baldwyn but including Durnovarian Encampment in Dorchester, approached Thomas Dunckerley with a request that he form a Grand Encampment as a central authority for all Templar Masonry within the jurisdiction of the two Grand Lodges. In a letter dated from Hampton Court Palace on 27th January 1792, Dunckerley says: "I was selected Grand Master to revive the Order in England in February 1791 and have had the pleasure to constitute the following Conclaves .... " He then listed ten Conclaves, including six of the seven which had petitioned him to form a Grand Encampment, and a further four, including Harmony Encampment in Salisbury. At that time, therefore, the Grand Encampment appears to have had jurisdiction over eleven Templar units. The original eight were: Baldwyn (Bristol), Observance (London), Royal Cumberland (Bath), Fortitude (York),

Colchester (Colchester). Redemption (York), Durnovarian (Dorchester) and Trine (Bideford). Of those eight, only Baldwyn was already working independently of the Craft and was therefore designated 'Time Immemorial'. The other seven which were attached to and working within Craft Lodges were invited to detach themselves from their Craft Lodges and take up new Warrants from the fledgling Grand Encampment. Of those seven, only the Encampment at Colchester appears not to have accepted the invitation and there is no further record of its working. The additional four Constituted and Warranted by Dunckerley were Naval (Portsmouth), Harmony (Salisbury). Royal Edward (Hereford), and St John of Jerusalem (Redruth). Antiquity Encampment meeting at Bath, had been Warranted by Baldwyn. Although it appears in the current Great Priory listing as No 1, its Warrant is dated 11th August 1791, some five months after that of Royal Naval No 2 whose Warrant is dated 11th March 1791.

Dunckerley also prescribed the regalia to be worn by Knights of the Order - 'a coat of fourteen buttons ...a white Kersymer waistcoat and black breeches ... Cock'd Hats and Cockades, with swords and black velvet stocks.' Dunckerley's dress code, which was abandoned in 1872 w;hen the Convent General was created, is reminiscent of the clothing worn to this day by Knights Templar in the United States of America.

The Beginnings of Templar Masonry in Dorset & Wiltshire

The two Encampments established in the geographical area which now constitutes the Province of Dorset & Wiltshire provide the root and foundation of the United Orders in the Province today. Sadly, neither of them appears to have survived for very long! It seems, however, that one Sir Thomas Dixon may have played a key role in the emergence and development of both these Encampments. Sir Thomas served with the 1st Regt Dragoon Guards which, in 1790. was stationed at Dorchester. Sir Thomas was an enthusiastic Templar belonging to Fortitude Encampment in York, and it seems probable that it was his visits to Durnovarian Lodge which sowed there the seeds of Templar Masonry. V.E.Kt John Leeming in his 1986 history of the Province, speculated that Dixon 'probably installed some of the Durnovarian brethren as Knights Templar' and that it would then have been logical for the Durnovarian Knights to seek a Warrant. We also know that Dixon's Regiment then moved on to Salisbury. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suppose that this enthusiastic Knight Templar repeated the process, leading to the Warranting of Harmony of Seven Degrees Encampment in 1792, and of Science of Seven Degrees Encampment in 1794. Much later, in 1857, the Vale Royal Encampment was Warranted by Baldwyn to meet in Salisbury. Nothing further seems to be known about any of these Encampments and they do not appear in the records of Great Priory, despite the fact that Harmony was among those listed by Dunckerley as having been constituted by him in 1791. Both Harmony of Seven Degrees and Science of Seven Degrees appear to have been disbanded due to lack of support by 1810. According to Powell and Littleton's 1910 'History of Freemasonry in Bristol', the last recorded meeting of Vale Royal Encampment took place in 1862 ending a brief life of only five years. Likewise, Durnovarian Encampment seems to have made little or no progress and, by 1810. had been 'discontinued from not being able to assemble'. It seems likely that Dunckerley's death in 1795 not only deprived the Order of its leader and prime mover, but also of motivation and energy. His successor as Grand Master of the Grand Conclave of Knights Templar was the Duke of Sussex.

There seems to be no evidence of active Templar Masonry in the Province for another twenty-five years; indeed, the Order seems to have experienced no further expansion across the entire country, and even the Grand Conclave itself did not meet between 1800 and 1804. Following the appointment of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, as Grand Master of the Antients in 1804 there seems to have been a period of renewed activity and, by 1812. there were forty-two Encampments on the Register. Freemasonry in the early nineteenth century was undergoing major reorganisation. The year 1813 saw the Union of the 'Premier' Grand Lodge of the Moderns with the Grand Lodge of the Antients to form the United Grand Lodge of England under the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master - who, of course, was also Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Perhaps because of the attention and energy required to deal with the affairs of the new United Grand Lodge, and perhaps also partly because of a strong focus on the Craft and Royal Arch and even a degree of opposition to any other orders, the Templar Order seems to have entered a period in the doldrums. There was certainly little leadership from the Grand Conclave, and the Order in general owes a great deal to Sir Kt Johann C Burckhardt, the Grand Sub-Prior, who issued dispensations to enable several new Encampments to work "pending the issue of a Warrant or Charter'.

In the early part of the eighteenth century and before the Supreme Council 33° received its Patent, most Encampments of Knights Templar also conferred the degree of the 'Rosae Crucis' which was later regarded as equivalent to the Eighteenth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and some also worked the degree of 'Knight Kadosh'. When, following acceptance by the Grand Conclave that the degree of 'Rosae Crucis' should properly be regulated by the new Supreme Council 33°, Knights Templar no longer had a means to qualify for the Kadosh degree which then took its rightful place as the Thirtieth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.

The Early Years of the Province of Dorset


Provincial Grand Commander 1836 -1839

The fortunes of the Order and the Province changed almost overnight in 1836 when the Duke of Sussex appears to have made a clear decision about the future of Templar Masonry. On his own authority and without consulting the Grand Conclave, on 25th April 1836 he issued a Warrant to the Royal Durnovarian Encampment in Dorchester, and also raised Dorset to the status of a Province. William Williams was the first Provincial Grand Commander and was probably one of the Founders of the Encampment, but little is known about him except that he was born in 1774 and died, aged 65: in 1839. Sadly the Royal Durnovarian Encampment, like its predecessors, had a very short life of less than four years and there are no details of its life in the records of Great Priory. But some records did survive locally and they have provided some information about its meetings and membership. In particular, the Register of the Encampment survives. This is a book of vellum, bound in brown suede leather. Each entry consists not only of the exquisite copper-plate inscription of the name, date and place of birth, date and Chapter of Exaltation into the Royal Arch, and date of Installation into Knights Templar, but also the hand-painted arms of each member.

It was the death of William Williams in late 1839, combined with the apparent diversion of the attention of another key member, Charles Curme, who had been the Primus Commander, which resulted in the demise of the Encampment. But the Province of Dorset remained in existence, even though the members of the Order in the Province were unable to meet.


Provincial Grand Commander 1846 -1855

The Duke of Sussex died in April 1843 and his deputy, Sir Kt Johann Burckhardt, who had been made an Honorary member of Royal Durnovarian Encampment at its foundation in 1836, ruled the Order as Acting Grand Master for a period of three years until the appointment of Col Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte as Grand Master in April 1846. Immediately upon his own appointment as Grand Master, Tynte appointed a successor to William Williams as Provincial Grand Commander for Dorset. The appointee was William Tucker of Axminster. a keen and dedicated Mason but one who had been Installed as a Knight Templar in the Cross of Christ Encampment in London (now St George's Preceptory No 6) only three years earlier. The following year, together with other Axminster Masons, he successfully petitioned for a Warrant for Holy Cross Encampment to meet at his own home, Coryton Park. The Warrant was dated 13th May 1844. Tucker became something of a controversial figure! Among the other senior offices Tucker held, he was Provincial Grand Master for Dorset in the Craft. At the annual meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge in Wareham in 1853, Tucker appeared in 'clothing that was not Craft'. It is not clear whether that clothing was Templar regalia or, more probably, that of the 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. When news of this came to the attention of Grand Lodge, Tucker's Patent as Provincial Grand Master was revoked and he was summarily dismissed from that office. However, the letter from the Grand Secretary conveying this decision to Tucker affords some evidence that this episode was the culmination of growing friction between Tucker and Grand Lodge because of some of his outspoken opinions which conflicted with those of Grand Lodge, so it seems likely that his wearing of non-Craft clothing was the catalyst for his downfall rather than the direct cause.

Having been given charge of a Province with no Encampments, Tucker's first priority was to establish an Encampment so that the Knights of the Order in the Province would be able to meet and practise Templar Masonry.

This proved to be something of challenge because there were only two surviving former members of Royal Durnovarian Encampment, William Hill and John Jacob. There were six Founders of All Souls' Encampment, including Tucker himself as Eminent Commander with Hill and Jacob as First and Second Captains. The other three Founders were almost certainly members of Tucker's Encampment, Holy Cross Encampment at Axminster. The Warrant for All Souls' Encampment is dated 26th March 1847, and is probably the first to be issued by the new

Grand Master. Col Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte, himself appointed only a year earlier, and the Consecration ceremony, according to Bridge, was probably on 16l July 1847 which is also the date of the Installation of the Encampment's first candidate. There appear to have been two meetings in the following February at which a further six candidates were Installed and immediately invested as officers of the Encampment. The first Minute Book of All Souls' Encampment is missing, so there can be no certainty about the frequency or dates of meetings. The list of candidates and their dates of Installation provide a useful indication of at least some of the occasions on which meetings took place, but there may well have been additional meetings at which no candidates were Installed because the purpose of those meetings was to host a meeting of the Provincial Grand Conclave. That this was the practice is evidenced some years later in 1871 when Hyde Encampment hosted such a meeting. This would account for a number of apparent gaps between the regular meetings of All Souls' Encampment, and also for the absence of Provincial Priory Minutes prior to 1933. Tucker appears to have held the office of Eminent Commander for a period of six years.

As two of the Founders as well as several later Joining members had been members of Royal Durnovarian Encampment, it is not surprising perhaps that the former practice of recording the armorial bearings of members should have been continued in All Souls' Encampment. They were not recorded in a book, however, but instead on twenty-eight 4l/2 inch wooden shields incorporated into the arcading of the Gothic wooden screens at the east end of the Temple of All Souls' Lodge and Encampment, many carrying the name and Installation date of their owner inscribed on the reverse side. The larger shields which now adorn the walls of the Temple and the dining room are replicas of the smaller originals.

The Statutes of the Order enacted in 1853 provided that all Provinces should meet annually, and that specified Provincial Officers should be appointed. At that time, however, there were only two Provincial Officers - the Provincial Grand Commander, William Tucker, and his deputy, Nathaniel Highmore. The first meeting of the Provincial Grand Conclave took place on 201 April 1854 within a meeting of All Souls' Encampment at Weymouth. The Eminent Commander opened the Encampment, and the Provincial Grand Commander then took the Chair. He set out the terms of the Statutes and their effect on the Province, and then announced the appointment of Provincial Officers. This was the only occasion at which Tucker was to preside: he died the following year before the next meeting of the Provincial Grand Conclave of Dorset after nine years as Provincial Grand Commander.


Provincial Grand Commander 1855 -1877

At the meeting of the Provincial Grand Conclave on 26th September 1855, E.Kt Charles Vigne was Installed as Very Eminent Provincial Grand Commander and ruled the Province for the next twenty-two years. Only some eighteen months after his Installation, V.E.Kt Charles Vigne Consecrated the Richard de Vernon Encampment in Worcester.

In the latter part of the 1850s. therefore, the Province of Dorset had but a single Encampment, many of the members of which actually lived further west in the Bridport and Axminster areas, and there must have been a good deal of visiting between All Soul's and Holy Cross Encampments. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that consideration should have been given to founding an Encampment somewhere in between for the convenience and mutual support of the members of the Order. The 'prime movers' appear to have been the Gundry family who were prominent locally, and four members of which had been Installed into the Order at All Souls' Encampment in Wemouth. The name of their home in Bridport was The Hyde'. Hyde Encampment was Consecrated on 22nd November 1867 at the Bull Hotel in Bridport by the Provincial Grand Commander, V.E.Kt Charles Vigne. The nine Founders included the four Gundrys, with three more members of All Souls' Encampment and two from Holy Cross Encampment in Axminster. The Primus Eminent Commander was Joseph Gundry, and his first officers included the other three members of his family. V.E.Kt John Leeming's History recounts an amusing incident which took place at the meeting of the Encampment on 10th March 1868. the first meeting following the Consecration. The Minutes of that meeting state that 'It was proposed by Sir Kt J M P Montagu and seconded by Sir Kt J S Webb that, as Sir Kt J P Gundry had by mistake put into the Almoner's bag £1 instead of 1/-, 19/- be returned to him - Carried unanimously'.

But life was far from easy for Hyde Encampment, partly because there was no Royal Arch Chapter in Bridport to provide candidates. One of the Founders never attended another meeting, and two more soon dropped out, leaving the four Gundrys and two other members from All Souls'. Many meetings had to be abandoned and, despite an appeal from the Provincial Grand Commander for support, there appear to have been no candidates for Installation and very few Joining members. Following the death of two of the Gundrys in 1869 and 1878, and the resignation of one member in 1874 because he had moved away from the area, the viability of the Hyde Preceptory (the title had changed from 'Encampment' to 'Preceptory' in 1872) was very much in doubt. Its apparent decline continued, and by 1886 there were only two members. However, due solely to the dedication of V.E.Kt J M P Montagu who was later to become Provincial Prior, the Preceptory was kept alive. Three Joining members, all from All Souls' Preceptory, were elected on 22nd March 1886 and, at the same meeting, a resolution was passed to apply to Great Priory for the transfer of the Preceptory from Bridport to Wimborne where it remained and flourished for the next 81 years. Given the close affinity between All Souls' and Hyde Preceptories, Hyde passed a resolution that allowed Joining members from All Souls' to join Hyde without a ballot. An attempt was also made to establish a reciprocal arrangement that both Preceptories would accept Joining members from the other without payment of a Joining fee, but that proposal appears not to have been brought to a formal resolution. In the mid-1960s, Hyde Preceptory was experiencing some unspecified difficulty at Wimborne. At the same time, the then Provincial Prior, V.E.Kt Jesse Gomme, was under some pressure to establish a Preceptory at Poole. The transfer of Hyde from Wimborne to Poole was clearly seen as the answer to both problems and, accordingly, the Preceptory met for the first time at Poole on 30 November 1967. At the time of writing, Hyde Preceptory has just moved its meeting venue for the fourth time, and now meets at Wareham.

Until around 1870, all Encampments in the Province worked the Templar ceremony but not the Malta ceremony. Although a standard Templar ritual had been issued in 1851, there appears to have been no agreement on the form and content of the Malta ceremony or which of the several versions being practised was the most suitable to be adopted as the norm. Having no precedent to follow, All Souls' Encampment opened a Priory of Knights of Malta for the first time on 19th May 1870 and , thereafter, conferred the Malta degrees on both its own members and those of Hyde Encampment which began working the Malta ceremonies only in 1906.

The Province of Dorset played a significant role in the development of the Order when it came into direct conflict with Great Priory following some major changes which were imposed in December 1872, The background to the story was that, during the 1860s, 'Treaties of Recognition' had been signed between the Templar bodies administering the Order in England, Scotland and Ireland, and measures were in hand to establish a 'Convent General' with jurisdiction in all three countries, each country to have its own National Great Priory under the authority of the Convent General. Scotland withdrew at an early stage and clearly difficulties arose with Ireland, but the English Grand Conclave went ahead with re-writing the Statutes and approved them for England and Wales without any reference to the Order generally or to the Provinces. Some of the changes were highly controversial: the word 'Masonic' was to be omitted from the title of the Order; all Past Ranks were to be discontinued; titles of Templar bodies and officers were to be changed; the Royal Arch qualification for membership of the Order was to be abandoned; and there was to be an entirely new Ritual. All this in addition to the loss of sovereign status was too much for many members of the Order!

Reaction within the Province was swift and decisive. At the meeting of Hyde Encampment on 14th January 1873, the effects of the changes were drawn to the attention of members who took grave exception both to the changes and to the cavalier manner in which they had been introduced by Great Priory. It was proposed 'That a Memorial from The Hyde Encampment be forwarded to HRH The Prince of Wales, Grand Master of the Order, praying that, as in the opinion of this Encampment the changes to be effected by the Statutes of the Convent General would be highly detrimental to the interests and future well-being of the Order, an opportunity should be given to the long-standing members of the Order to consider them fully and to meet and prepare a report to HRH on the effect these changes would probably have, before they were promulgated and made binding on all members of the Order'. Strong stuff! The motion was carried unanimously but, in the event, was treated as a Notice of Motion for further discussion at the next meeting of the Encampment. At the meeting of Hyde Encampment on 10 November 1874 discussion was deferred again, but a deputation from the Encampment to the Provincial Priory held at Weymouth on 19 November secured a decision that 'A respectful Memorial to the National Great Prior from the Knights Templar of Dorset be adopted and ordered to be forwarded'. The Memorial was signed by the Provincial Prior, Charles Vigne, and the Provincial Sub-Prior, Thomas Coombs, The die was cast!

The Memorial from the Knights of Dorset was duly received by the National Great Priory together with similar documents from Devon and Lancashire. But they were brushed aside on the technical grounds that formal notice had not been given to enable the matter to be put on the agenda for discussion at Great Priory. Far from taking the heat out of the situation, this treatment clearly inflamed matters still further. The Provincial Prior of Dorset, Charles Vigne. had the Dorset Memorial printed and distributed to every Preceptory throughout the country directly and without any reference either to the National Great Priory or to the Provincial Priors. This action was wholly irregular and unconstitutional and may well have been ill-advised - but it was very effective. While he might well have been wiser to have sought the support of his Brother Provincial Priors, Vigne was reprimanded by the Great Prior, Lord Limerick, for 'the invasion of sister jurisdictions' by going over their heads. In 1876, after the first objections were raised, the Council of the Great Priory issued a questionnaire to Preceptories to establish the views of the Order as a whole on the changes made by the December 1872 Statutes. The replies, however, were suppressed by the Grand Chancellor, Sir Patrick Colquhoun, without even being referred to the Council. However, the ultimate outcome seems to have been satisfactory and acceptable to the Order generally in that the National Great Priory agreed to some 'concessions' which were finally ratified by the Convent General in 1890. Some of the changes remained in place - for example, the change of name from 'Encampments' to 'Preceptories'; others were revoked - the qualification for membership became one year as a Master Mason and membership of the Royal Arch, Past Ranks were restored. Redrafted Statutes were circulated for comment in 1896. In the meantime, the Convent General, in the words of V.E.Kt Bridge, 'sank gently into a coma and passed peacefully away on 19th July 1885 quite unlamented'. Each of the National Great Priories resumed sovereign control of its own affairs. England, while retaining the unobjectionable features of the National Great Priory, reverted to the 1791 Constitution. The last section of Bridge's paper provides a fascinating perspective on events.

'Throughout this troubled period, although all England and Wales and the Dominions and Dependencies of the British Crown and other overseas Preceptories were up in arms, it is very striking how the small and numerically weak Province of Dorset became the undisputed leader of the opposition. It was Dorset that circularized every Preceptory and, of all the memorials sent in it was the Dorset Memorial which was actually debated in the National Great Priory. Why this should have been so is not clear, for some powerful Provinces in the North were fully engaged. Perhaps it was that a very large proportion of Templars in the Province were members of the legal profession and, as the Grand Chancellor was a QC, they had a glorious busman's holiday going for each other.'

Among the lasting changes introduced with the advent of the Convent General was the change in the title of formal groups of Knights from 'Encampments' to 'Preceptories'. All Knights were known as 'Sir Knight' or 'Eminent Sir Knight' until 1872; thereafter this practice was retained only in Bristol. And the titles of some of the Officers were changed as follows:

Old Title   New Title

Commander                Preceptor

First Captain                First Constable

Second Captain           Marshal

Expert                         Deputy Marshal

Captain of Lines           Captain of Guards

Equerry                 Guard  



Provincial Grand Commander 1877 -1891

Apart from his membership of Hyde Encampment and his role in enabling it to survive the latter part of its life at Bridport and become re­established at Wimborne, nothing further is recorded about the service of John Montagu as Provincial Grand Commander.


Provincial Prior 1891 -1903

A local solicitor, Nicholas Howard was an Initiate of All Souls' Lodge and quickly acquired a reputation as 'a gentleman of indomitable will, great force of character and open-handed Masonic liberality’. He was seven times Mayor of Weymouth and received his Knighthood for that service. Installed as a Knight Templar in All Souls' Encampment in March 1862, Howard occupied the Chair as Eminent Commander only three years later. Having attained senior rank in Craft, Royal Arch and Mark, he was Installed as Provincial Prior on 31st July 1891 and held that office for twelve years until his resignation in 1903.


Provincial Prior 1903 -1909

Installed as a Knight Templar in St Michael and St George Preceptory, Brymer joined All Soul's Preceptory on 15th February 1900 and became Eminent Preceptor in 1906. He was Installed as Provincial Prior in 1903 and died in 1909. Nothing further is known of his period of office.


Provincial Prior 1909 -1949

The Rt Hon Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, was Installed as a Knight Templar in Preceptory No XXI in Dublin under the Irish Constitution. He became Provincial Prior on 16th November 1909 but wasn't a member in the Province until he joined Hyde Preceptory on 4th January the following year. He is the longest-serving Provincial Prior in the history of the Province having held that office for 40 years. In the later years and before his resignation due to advancing age it appears that his Sub-Prior, Col M J Raymond, did much of the work of administering the Province.

The Expansion of the Province

While Templar Masonry in Wiltshire dates from the same era as that in Dorset, the demise of Durnovarian and Royal Durnovarian Encampments in Dorset were echoed by the similar demise in the first half of the nineteenth century of Harmony of Seven Degrees. Science of Seven Degrees, and Vale Royal Encampments, all in Salisbury. It was a cause of great celebration, therefore, when Templar Masonry returned to Wiltshire in 1948 with the Consecration on 29 November of the William Longespee Preceptory No 322 by the Earl of Shaftesbury, towards the end of his long tenure of the office of Provincial Prior of Dorset, having been Installed in that office in 1909. The Consecrating team included Col Montagu Raymond who. two years later, was to succeed the Earl of Shaftesbury as Provincial Prior; VEKt GEW Bridge, the author of the paper on the history of the Province presented in 1947, acting as Marshal; and Arthur Butler, acting as Deputy Marshal, who was to be appointed Provincial Prior in 1959.

Following the Consecration of William Longespee Preceptory, it was logical that Wiltshire be incorporated into the same Province and, accordingly, on 10th January 1949, the name of the Province was changed to reflect the expansion of its borders. John Leeming's History suggests that the name chosen for the new Preceptory associates it with William Longsword or Longespee, the Elder. A natural son of Henry II and Rosamund de Clifford, and therefore half brother to both Richard Coeur de Lion and King John, he was the third Earl of Salisbury and was one of those who laid a foundation stone of Salisbury Cathedral on 25th April 1220. Subsequent research, however, implies that the connection was more likely to have been with William Longespee the Younger


Provincial Prior 1950 -1951

A Wimborne solicitor, having been Installed as a Knight Templar in Hyde Preceptory in April 1911, passed through the Chair in 1928, and having served for some fifteen years with distinction as Sub-Prior, Raymond succeeded the Earl of Shaftesbury as Provincial Prior in January 1950. His tenure of that office was brief, however, and he died on 18th November 1951. but his influence had been considerable during his long service as Sub-Prior.


Provincial Prior 1952 -1959

A Weymouth bank manager, Brown was Installed as a Knight Templar in All Souls' Preceptory on 16th May 1935 and passed through the Chair in 1941. Over a period of ten years from 1942 he held the offices of either Registrar or Vice-Chancellor, acquiring considerable experience in the administration of the Province, and was Installed as Provincial Prior on 26th May 1952 by the Grand Master, Lord Harris. It is interesting to note that, during his address at the meeting of the Provincial Priory in 1957, he made reference to his desire to see Preceptories established at both Poole and Marlborough. He was promoted Knight Commander of the United Orders in 1956, and died on 29th March 1959 following surgery.


Provincial Prior 1959 -1977

Installed as a Knight Templar in Hyde Preceptory in April 1923 and having attained the Chair in 1932, Butler was Installed as Provincial Prior in 1959 and held that office for eighteen years. He resigned in 1977 due to failing health and was unable thereafter to attend any Masonic meetings, but he lived for a further eight years, dying on 1st June 1985.

The Consecration at Marlborough of St. Peter and St. Paul Preceptory No 379 by V.E.Kt Arthur Butler on 24th May 1963 not only evened up the number of Preceptories in each of the two Counties comprising the Province, but also brought Templar Masonry to the north of the county of Wiltshire. The Consecrating team included one Harold Walker, Provincial 2nd Constable, who was to become Provincial Prior some eighteen years later; and John Leeming, Provincial Banner Bearer who, as Provincial Vice-Chancellor, was to write the Sesqui-Centenary History of the Province twenty-three years later.


Provincial Prior 1978 -1981

Installed as a Knight Templar in All Souls' Preceptory on 17th June 1948 and passing through the Chair in 1954, Gomm served as Sub-Prior for five years before his Installation as Provincial Prior in 1978. Gomm was a very active Mason and held high office in many Masonic Orders. He died on 28th March 1981, and the high esteem in which he was held was witnessed by the presence of some 600 mourners at his funeral.

Malmesbury, in the far north-west corner of Wiltshire, has long been a stronghold of Masonry. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the name of St Aldhelm should also have been chosen for the Preceptory Consecrated in Malmesbury on 30th June 1979 by V.E.Kt Jesse Gomm, Provincial Prior.


Provincial Prior 1981 -1991

Appointed and Installed in 1981, Harold Walker presided at the Sesqui-Centenary meeting in 1986 and was honoured by his appointment as a Knight Commander of the Temple to mark that great event. It was during Harold Walker's time that the rank of Provincial Priors changed from 'Very Eminent' to 'Right Eminent".


Provincial Prior 1991 - 2005

R.E.Kt Palfrey was Installed as a Knight Templar in St Peter & St Paul Preceptory in Malborough on 26th September 1975 and as Eminent Preceptor in 1984. As an accomplished musician, he served as Provincial Organist for thirteen years. His first appointment to Great Rank was as Past Great Warden-of-Regalia in 1991, and in the same year he was Installed as Provincial Prior at Chippenham on 23rd November 1991 by the Grand Master, Harold Devereux Still.

During his fourteen-year tenure of the office, R.E.Kt Palfrey re-organised and streamlined the administration of the Province and established sound principles for its governance. He was appointed to the 'Honour and Dignity of a Knight Commander of the United Orders' in May 1997.

In the early 1990s, a number of Knights from Preceptories in the Provinces of both Dorset & Wiltshire and Hampshire & Isle-of-Wight began exploring the possibility of establishing a day-time Preceptory to meet the needs of those who would welcome the opportunity to continue their Templar Masonry without the need to venture out at night. Accordingly, the Vale of Dorset Preceptory No 595 was Consecrated at Kinson on 13th December 1994 by R.E.Kt Maurice Palfrey, Provincial Prior.

While some Provinces have an Installed Preceptors' Preceptory, in Dorset & Wiltshire the need was identified for a Bodyguard Preceptory to enable members of the Provincial Prior's Bodyguard to strengthen their relationships, to practice ritual to a high standard, and to increase their knowledge and understanding of the Order through lectures and other presentations rather than by Installing candidates. The Royal Durnovarian Preceptory, named in memory of the very first Encampment in the new-born Province in 1836. was Consecrated at Salisbury on 6th February 1999 by R.E.Kt Maurice Palfrey, Provincial Prior. At the Installation of the Eminent Preceptor in 2009. the Preceptory was given a challenge by R.E.Kt Revd Dr John R H Railton, Provincial Prior, to form a demonstration team which would be available to visit the other Preceptories in the Province and assist them in mastering and improving the standard of their Ritual.


Provincial Prior 2006 - 2012

Revd Dr John Robert Henry Railton was Installed as a Knight Templar in Royal Naval Preceptory No.2 in the Province of Hampshire & Isle-of-Wight on 12th March 1982. His duties as an Anglican Parish Priest brought him to Wiltshire in 1996. In February 1997 he joined St Aldhelm Preceptory No.492 in Malmesbury, and was most fortunate to be given the opportunity to go into the Chair the following year. He served as Provincial Prelate for four years and as Sub-Prior for three years before his Installation as Provincial Prior on 4th May 2006.

Members of the Provincial Executive in 2006 identified a need to establish a Preceptory in west Wiltshire and Warminster was selected as an ideal location. Within twelve months and with enthusiasm and energy, members of the Order from Preceptories in both the Provinces of Dorset & Wiltshire and Somerset petitioned Great Priory for a Warrant. The St Lawrence Preceptory No 669 was duly Consecrated at Warminster on 15th November 2007 by R.E.Kt Revd Dr John R H Railton, Provincial Prior.

John Walter Cave

Provincial Prior 2013 -

Our Present Provincial Prior was Installed as a Kt Templar in William Longespee Preceptory, in Salisbury, on 24th February 1994 and as Eminent Preceptor in 2001. He served the Province successively as Bodyguard Commander for six years, Vice-Chancellor for seven years and finally as Chancellor for one year before his Installation as Provincial Prior in June 2013.

The Province of Dorset & Wiltshire Today

At the time of the celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Province. therefore, it consists of eight active and healthy Preceptories, seven of which regularly Install new Knights in both the Order of the Temple and the Order of Malta. The Orders and their senior officers enjoy excellent relationships with all the other principal Masonic Orders and their Provincial Rulers throughout the separate Craft and Royal Arch Provinces of Dorset and of Wiltshire, Long may that continue, and may this wonderful Order continue to flourish and provide opportunities for committed Masons to develop their Masonic careers.

^ Back To Top