Garston Masonic Hall was the venue for the companions of Royal George Chapter No 4119 to celebrate the 75th year of the chapter. First Principal Barry Elman opened the chapter in due form supported by his second and third principals.
Following the completion of the domestic business of the chapter, the three principals were delighted to welcome into the chapter Past Deputy Grand Superintendent Steven Reid, the representative of the Grand Superintendent Mark Matthews.
Royal George Chapter was founded in 1948 for the following reasons; an increasing interest in Royal Arch Freemasonry in the Provence of Lancashire Western Division and in the Garston District, the number of brethren exalted into Chapter of Harmony No 220 during recent years (35 in the five years 1942-1947) compared with only 18 in the 10 years to 1942.
Chapter of Harmony was the only chapter meeting in the district, the nearest other chapter being Hope Street. In 1947 it was not possible to offer the progress to office so desirable and necessary to maintain the enthusiasm of its members. Chapter of Harmony had 70 members, including an installed master qualified for election into the third principal’s chair.
After many discursions with the Royal Arch members of Royal George Lodge No 4119, a notice of motion at the regular meeting of the lodge held on 4 March 1947 was put forward. ‘That application be made to form a regular Royal Arch chapter to be attached to Royal George Lodge’. At a regular meeting of Royal George Lodge on 1 April 1947, the motion was passed and 20 members of the lodge promised to become members.
The founders and visiting companions met on Thursday 15 April 1948 for the consecration by the Grand Superintendent Arthur Foster, accompanied by W S S Hannay, Second Provincial Grand Principal, who was to perform the installation of the principals of the chapter and the Third Provincial Grand Principal Rev Canon A L J Shields.
In the minutes of 1955, it states that ‘one blot on the landscape was a letter in September from the caterer suggesting that as the chapter was so small, 43 members, that alternative arrangements would have to be made’. The arrangement continued for many years with Mrs Irene Gowen, the main cook, as she was well known for her famous soup and salad followed by tinned mixed fruit and cream which was served at every meeting.
In September 1998 the chapter celebrated its golden jubilee. Alex McKie was second principal, John Davies was immediate past first principal and companion Murrey was recorded as the 200th member and the membership stood at 32.
Over the following 25 years, the chapter like Masonry in general declined in numbers through deaths and resignations and although they did have exaltees, it never regained the previous membership number. The chapter was now on the brink of closure and COVID was the final straw with abandoned meetings, partly due to the chapter not having enough companions to form a quorum.
The group advised the Lodge of Israel No 1502 that Royal George Chapter were having difficulties. The chapter was approached by various companions, principally from the Lodge of Israel, who were looking to join a chapter and it was agreed that if the chapter could form a quorum, then the chapter could open, admit the joining members and hold their installation meeting which they had been unable to hold during the COVID period as the meetings were abandoned.
It was agreed to write a letter to the chapter members and outline the future of the chapter, stating that with 11 joining members and at least two brethren willing to join from Lodge of Israel, it encouraged them to attend the March meeting to enable the chapter to hold the ballot for the joining members and hold the installation meeting. The result of the appeal was successful and with 10 original members and 12 joining members attending, the chapter opened and the joining members were admitted enabling the installation to take place.
An emergency meeting was held in April 2022, when Raymond Sephton, master of Lodge of Israel was exalted into the chapter. In December that year the chapter celebrated Barry Elman’s 50th anniversary and John Davies celebrated his 100th birthday.
A further exaltation took place in March 2023, when Alan Sephton, Raymond Sephton’s blood brother, was exalted. The membership now stands at 25. With a 50th in December 2023 and a further 50th in March 2024 the chapter looks secure for the next few years.
Steven Reid gave an interesting talk on regeneration to complete the chapter meeting and Barry informed the meeting as part of the celebrations they would be donating two cheques; £100 to the Garston Masonic Hall and £100 to West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity.