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History

Succinct History of the Order

The military order of Knights Templar was founded in 1118, at the time of the Crusades. Their vocation was to defend Pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land from attacks of the Saracens. Knights took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and were quartered in Jerusalem, believed to be on the site of King Solomon's Temple, from which their name was derived. Over a period of time the Order became wealthy and its riches excited the greed of King Phillip of France who instructed Pope Clement V to summon the Grand Master of the Order before him.

Accordingly the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, travelled from Cyprus and together with 140 fellow Templars, was imprisoned. They were all subsequently executed with the Grand Master being burnt at the stake. The Order was falsely charged with the vilest of crimes, its property confiscated and distributed to the Hospitallers who had been bitter enemies of the Templars in Palestine.

When and how the Order reached the UK is not known but early in the second half of the 18th Century the Templar Order began to appear in ANCIENT Lodge working, being placed in sequence after the Royal Arch. Rose Croix came over from France sometime after and by the 1770s the Orders were widespread, worked by the ANCIENTS under their craft warrants as a matter of course and more or less sub rosa by many of the MODERN Lodges.

In 1790, eight Templar bodies approached Thomas Dunkerley with a request that he form a Grand Encampment of Knights Templar to act as the central authority for England and Wales, and such other areas as were under the jurisdiction of the two Grand Lodges.

The Development of the present United Orders

Thomas Dunkerley was appointed Grand Superintendent of Royal Arch Masons in Bristol in 1782 and nine years later, he was invited by the Knights Templar in the City to be their Grand Master. Dunkerley's first step as Grand Master was to compile a register of Encampments with personal details of all members. He also issued Statutes for regulating the Order, including etails of the uniforms to be worn. Within three years, the number of encampments on the roll had increased to 28; a further 17 being added in the course of the next 17 years; in 1996 those listed in the Liber Ordinis Templi exceeded 400; that list is now nearing 700 (690 in 2013).

It must be acknowledged, however, that matters of discord have arisen from time to time. Amongst the most notable of these was the action taken by Baldwyn Encampment to break away from the Grand Conclave and revert to its independent status. This action, which was supported by the Antiquity Encampment of Bath, arose during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Sussex, and the matter was only resolved in 1862 by the signing of the Charter of Compact which was an agreement between the Grand Conclave of England and the Camp of Baldwyn whereby the latter united themselves and became amalgamated with the Grand Conclave. The Charter listed six encampments said to have been Warranted by Baldwyn during its independence and it was agreed that they would henceforth take precedence over those already on the roll of Grand Conclave according to the dates of their warrants.

One of the encampments listed was Vale of Jehosephat at Highbridge, and the warrant granted in 1857 may still be seen at the Masonic Hall at Burnham-on-Sea. In fact however, this Encampment was already extinct at the date of the signing of the Charter of Compact.

Another of those mentioned was Antiquity at Bath, but considerable doubt exists in this case. It is accepted that between 1855 and 1862 the Encampment acknowledged the M.E.Grand Superintendent of Baldwyn as Grand Master but no trace can be found of any warrant issued by Baldwyn, and it is beyond doubt that the warrant which now hangs in the Masonic Temple at Bath is that issued by Grand Conclave in 1791.

The Provincial Priory of Somerset

The Province of Somerset(shire) was constituted in 1846 and is, to a degree, substantiated by the fact that at the meeting of Grand Conclave held on the 27th February 1846, Sir Kt. Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte, described as the Provincial Grand Commander for Somersetshire,was duly elected as the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master of the Order of Masonic Knights Templar in England and Wales, and he was subsequently installed in that high office on 3rd April 1846.

It has been suggested that if Sir Kt. Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte was already in Office as Provincial Grand Commander in February 1846, then his appointment might well have dated from a previous year. Early records are often scanty, however, and, as the Constitution in force at that time appear to have imposed no requirement to hold regular Provincial meetings, it seems only reasonable that we should be guided by the records of Great Priory and accept that the Province as we know it, was formally constituted in 1846. If this is indeed the case, then it would seem to establish it as the second oldest Provincial Grand Conclave with only the neighbouring Province of Dorset (subsequently extended to include Wiltshire as well) having been constituted at an earlier time.

In any event, it was after all, an auspicious year which saw, amongst other things, the repeal of the Corn Laws, the discovery of the planet Neptune, and the popularisation of those nonsense verses known as limericks.

It must be admitted that at that date, Knight Templar activity in the Province must have been virtually non-existent. The Warrant of the Camp of Antiquity at Bath, granted under the authority of Thomas Dunkerley, became dormant in about 1822 and it was only revived in 1855, with considerable assistance of the members of Baldwyn Encampment.

Another Encampment, namely, Royal Edward, had been Warranted in Bridgewater in 1792, but it existed for only a limited period and it had ceased to operate some years prior to 1846.

The Bladud Preceptory in Bath was not Warranted until 1852, and the next matter of note was the meeting of Provincial Grand Conclave in 1855 to which reference has been made already.

The meeting held in Bath on 16th November 1855 witnessed the appointment of V.E. Sir Kt. James Randolph as Provincial Grand Commander for Somerset. The Ceremony was performed by the the Provincial Grand Commander of Dorset. Following his Installation the Provincial Grand Commander appointed V.E. Sir Kt. R.W.Falconer as hs Deputy and declared that the Sir Knights holding office in the Encampment of Bladud should hold the same office in Provincial Grand Conclave.

It may be noted that the initial practice was for Provincial Grand Conclave to visit a “host” Encampment which had already been opened. The early meeting were held in Bath or Taunton under the aegis of either Bladud or Tynte Encampment, which latter appears to have enjoyed only a relatively short life having been warranted in 1857 and erased in 1870. This pattern was broken in 1872 when Provincial Grand Conclave met in Weston-super-Mare. Subsequent meetings have been held in a number of other centres as well, namely, Cardiff, Frome, Keynsham, Nailsea and Newport. From 1987 - 1998 it had been the practice to hold all the meetings at Keynsham, where the dining accommodation made it possible to invite the ladies to join the Knights at lunch preceding the meeting. In 1999 the venue was changed to Nailsea being a far more convenient centre for both Somerset Knights and Guests from other Provinces, some of whom travel long distances to attend.

Meetings of Provincial Grand Conclave were not always well attended. For example the names of only nine Knights were recorded at meetings in 1861 and 1862, and the number fell to six in 1863. Matters improved greatly in 1864, when no less than 20 were present.

Over the years the province has been subjected to a number of changes, both in name and in area. In 1889 it was extended to include Monmouth, whilst in 1914 it was expanded still further to include South Wales. In 1953 it lost its responsibility for any part of the Principality and reverted to being the Province of Somerset with a boundary which coincided with that of the geographical county.

The standard of work throughout the Province has been much improved following the establishment of the Somerset Preceptory of Improvement which originally met at Burnham-on-Sea. The work of this Preceptory owed much to the dedication of R.E.Kt. M.V.Walsingham, whose efforts were recognised when he became the first person to receive the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master's certificate of competence. In 2010 a second Preceptory of Improvement was established in Frome for those Knights residing in the east of the Province, and this has proved a success also.

It will be appreciated that many Provincial Meetings have dealt only with items of a routine nature, but other matters arose from time to time, some of which are recorded in the Chronology.

Chronology Past Provincial Priors Past Prov. Sub-Priors

Acknowledgement

The majority of historical content contained herein must be attributed to E.Kt.Raymond Marshfield Morison PGHer, a member of Antiquity Encampment No.1, the author of “A Short History of the Masonic Knights Templar Province of Somerset 1846- 1996”, who was summoned to join our Great Captain on the 12th December 2013.