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The Old Rectory Chapter of Royal Arch Masons No.6651

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHAPTER

In September 1950, whilst the country was struggling to recover from the devastating effects of World War Two, 20 local Masons decided to form a Royal Arch Chapter to serve the extreme Southern areas of the Oxfordshire Province.
As a result, on the 20th September 1950 the Old Rectory Chapter No. 6651 was consecrated at The Masonic Hall, Henley-on- Thames, thus becoming the ninth Chapter in the Province.

The Consecration Ceremony was performed by E.Comp Sir Miles Irving OBE the PrGSup for Oxfordshire, assisted by E.Comp. Major Amery as H., E.Comp Lt.Col Stubbs as J, and E.Comp H.E. Lodge as DC.
There were 20 Founding members including E.Comp T Nash as MEZ, E.Comp T Easby as H, E.Comp A Hobbs as J. With E.Comp C Luker as IPZ. After the ceremony 66 companions and guests dined at the Catherine Wheel Hotel, Henley.
The first regular convocation was held on 21st March 1951 at the Masonic Hall Henley when two brothers F and W Prince were exalted. Both progressed to the MEZ's chair in 1955 and 1956 respectively.
By July 1955 the number of members had risen to 38, doubling the membership in less than 5 years. In May 1960 Bro P Reece was exalted. He became MEZ in 1976 and was DC from 1980 to 1990.
In 1961 the Annual subscription was increased from £2.12.6d to £3.3.0d the first increase in 11 years, this did however include supper after the meetings!

The Installation Meeting in March 1967 was held by dispensation in the Masonic Hall, Caversham when E.Comp C Luker was installed as MEZ in the presence of the Grand Superintendent and his team. At the May 1967 meeting it was proposed: That the Chapter be removed from the Masonic Hall, Henley, to the Masonic Hall, Caversham.' This was duly approved and the Chapter has met there ever since. At that September 1967 Installation meeting Comp H. Witts retired as Janitor, a post he had held for 17 years since the formation of the Chapter.
By the time that 1968 came the membership of the Chapter had risen to 50 when, obviously feeling flushed with funds, at the March meeting it was agreed to donate £100 to the Caversham Masonic Building Fund. Likewise, in September 1970 it was agreed that the contents of the Charity Box - £9.13.6d - be donated to the RMBI towards the purchase of a site at Sindlesham for the construction of an Old Peoples Home, the Foundation Stone of which was laid by R.W. Bro. The Rt Hon Lord Harris, MC PJGW. In honour of whom the building was subsequently named 'Lord Harris Court'.
A very unusual but happy event occurred on 17th May 1972 when under the authority of a Dispensation granted by the Grand Superintendent, the Chapter exalted three brothers namely John, Eric, and Colin Davis.

The 100th Meeting was held on 16th July 1975 when three of the Founders were present and the MEZ invited E. Comp K Boddington, E. Comp A Gilbride and E.Com C Luker to occupy the Three Principals Chairs and conduct the exaltation of Bro. M Wightman.
In March 1994 the Chapter Minutes record congratulations to E. Comp K Boddington PrDGSup on having completed 50 years in Royal Arch Masonry. The following month, April 1994, E Comp H Woodage was appointed PAGDC in Grand Chapter. He was MEZ in 1983 and Scribe E for eleven years from 1985 until he died in 1996.
April 1996 saw the appointment of E. Comp R Lewingdon to PAGDC in Supreme Grand Chapter. He was MEZ in 1985 and DC from 1990 to 1997. During the same year the effect of the rising cost of living had resulted in Annual Subscriptions increasing to £29.00.

In April 1999 E. Comp M Geater was appointed GStdB in Supreme Grand Chapter and PrGDC for Oxfordshire in 1998.
20th September 2000 saw the Golden Jubilee Year of the Chapter with 36 members attending under the guidance of E. Comp E Spencer Second Provincial Grand Principal.
E. Comp K Boddington - a Founder Member - gave a brief history of the events leading to the formation of the Chapter and some of the worthy moments in its history.
There was great sorrow at the meeting on 19th September 2001 when the members stood in silence as a mark of respect for all those who had died and suffered in the 9/11 atrocity at the Twin Towers in New York.
In January 2002 M. E. Comp Geoffrey Redman-Brown retired as PGSupt and the Chapter contributed to the Silver Claret Jug presented to him by the Province. M. E. Comp Alan Englefield was appointed as his successor.
Most interestingly, at the March 2003 meeting the Past Zerubbable's Jewel of E. Comp The Rev. Sidney Doran was presented to the Chapter, on behalf of Rev Sidney Doran's widow, by E. Comp The Rev Dr John Railton, and is used and presented each year as a permanent IPZ Chapter Jewel to this day.
It therefore feels appropriate that we take a short break from the history at this time, and mention the presentation of the Sidney Doran IPZ Jewel to E.Comp David, de Haas, the final Old Rectory Chapter MEZ, to mark his year in office. The Jewel was later to be donated to the Caversham Masonic Centre Museum for safe keeping. The M.E. Grand Superintendent and his Provincial Team attended the dissolution and service of Thanks Giving.

In May 2004 it was announced that E.Comp R Lewingdon had passed to the Grand Lodge above. He had joined the Chapter in 1970, was DC from 1990 to 1997, and a Founder member of Caversham Chapter No 3831, daughter Chapter of Old Rectory.
The following month saw the Chapter support the first Masonic Open Day at the Caversham Masonic Centre given to encourage wider public understanding and recruitment to the Craft and other Orders.
A year later, in May 2005, the Chapter adopted fully the considerable changes made by Grand Chapter to the Ritual.
2005 also saw the celebration and recognition of E.Comp P Gibbs's 50 years in Masonry.
In September 2007 the Chapter was honoured with a visit by M.E.Comp Stephen James Dunning, Prov Grand Superintendant, during which he invited views and suggestions on aiding both recruitment and retention of members.
Boosted by this initiative, May 2008 brought some light when Bro Richard Lloyd was exalted into the Chapter, the first new member for many years.
September 2009 saw a further lifting of the spirit with the admission of a joining member, Comp Andrew Watson-Smith and the exaltation of Bro Roger Chablis. Unfortunately this surge was short lived and attendance continued to fall.
Attendance numbers continued to fall to around 14 per meeting, a situation not helped by the high average age of the membership and little response to the member's own efforts to recruit new blood.
Almost 60 yrs to the day, what was ultimately to become the final Old Rectory Chapter Installation, was held on Wednesday 15th March 2010, when Comp David de Haas was installed as MEZ. As an indication of the situation which existed at that time the non attendance of members due to family, work, or illness problems, resulted in several guests being called upon to act as officers during the ceremony.
Subsequently the Chapter Committee met to discuss the continuing lack of new members and the problems of constantly recycling the Chapter's last few stalwart officers.
The decision of the Chapter Committee that day was that with no reasonable expectation of a future for the Chapter, a proposal would reluctantly be placed before the Companions that the moment had been reached beyond which it was impossible to continue. It was therefore proposed and agreed unanimously by the Committee that a Notice of Motion would be given at the July 2010 Convocation, stating that at the September Convocation a ballot would be held to consider the dissolution of the Chapter. That notice of motion was duly given on the 21st July 2010 by the Chapter Scribe Ezra, E.Comp. John Rowe.

reproduced by kind permission of E.Comp. Brian Fairweather.

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