William de la More Preceptory No 49 History

According to the summons, the Preceptory warrant was granted on 26 of November 1856, yet the first preceptor (James Turner Hall) arrived 14 years later in 1870. The reason for this was that, after only four years of regular working in Manchester, the original preceptory became dormant – around the year 1860. 10 years later, however, on 25 November 1870, a group of knights from the Jacques de Molay encampment in Liverpool restarted the preceptory in Prescot. During that “emergency” meeting, Sir Knight William Henry Wright, Eminent Deputy Provincial Grand Commander, stated that the suspension in 1860 had been due to “circumstances over which we have no control (some members having died and others left the district)”.

So who were, and what became of, the founders of Preceptory No 49? According to the history of the Priory of Lancashire “no evidence can be found showing of which Encampments these Knights were members”. Similarly, when the Preceptory history was rewritten for its 1970 centenary, it was noted that “no further evidence of the petitioners has been found or of the encampments to which they belonged”. However, it appears that the previous researchers did not look very far!

Why was the Preceptory founded?

1856 was certainly a time when we might expect to see an increase in Masonic activity. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 March that year, and this effectively brought to an end the Crimean War. As Masonry flourishes in times of peace, there would have been a ready supply of candidates from the officers and men returning from the front.

Simultaneously, quite a lot was happening within the Masonic organisations. For example, the 1850s saw the development of KT Provincial Commanderies. As these followed the boundaries already in use by the Craft and Royal Arch, some of the new Provinces contained no actual preceptories! Perhaps, therefore, under the leadership of the Grand Master, Colonel Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte, an expansion in the number of preceptories had been given some priority?

Again, 1856 was the year when the Grand Mark Lodge was formed, and according to that well-known authority, G E W  Bridge the 1850s saw a revival of the Knight Templar Priests, especially in and around Manchester, that lasted for about 20 years. Bridge claims that it “was somewhat of a disastrous period for the prime movers of the revival were distinguished more for their enthusiasm than for their proficiency.” He does not mention him by name, but Bridge is referring to John Yarker, the so-called “doyen of Fringe Masonry”, whose Masonic activities were based in Manchester at that time. We will return to Yarker shortly, but first, there is a key factor to take into account. As well as the time being right, the place was also right, and that place was Manchester, the “Cottonopolis” of England, buzzing with its raw capitalism (and “dark satanic mills”). From 1856 to 1860, the meetings of the William de la More encampment took place at the Queen’s Hotel in Manchester, and four founding members were from Manchester`s Jerusalem Preceptory.

So who were the Founders?

The first Eminent Commander of the William de la More Encampment, was Captain Henry Anthony Bennett, JP, in 1856. According to the records of the Jerusalem Preceptory, in which he was installed as a Knight Templar in 1851, he was a timber merchant by profession. He became Eminent Commander of that preceptory in 1859, and remained a member until his death in Manchester on Friday, 21 December 1883, aged 64. So it seems he certainly was not one of those who died or left the district back in 1860!

When he was Commander of William de la More, he appointed Ralph Fawsett Ainsworth and George Balfour his two “Constables” – or rather “Captains of the Columns” as they were called in those days. They probably belonged to another Manchester preceptory.

In 1851, along with Bennett, two more future Founders of William de la More Preceptory were installed as Knights Templar in the Jerusalem Preceptory – namely, Stephen Smith and Charles Clay.

Smith is listed as a “Tailor, Draper” and became Eminent Commander of Jerusalem Preceptory in 1857. For some reason, however, he resigned in the same year.

Charles Clay had occupied the Jerusalem Chair in 1854 and resigned in 1863. According to the records, he was Charles Clay, M.D. Now, maybe this is a coincidence, but the first ever “abdominal hysterectomy” was performed in Manchester, in 1843, by a Dr Charles Clay. Unfortunately, the patient died from a massive haemorrhage within a few hours!

One might likewise speculate about another of the founders, namely: Richard Burton. Could this have been Richard Francis Burton, later to become Sir Richard Burton, the famous explorer? Burton was certainly in the UK during 1856 when he returned from the Crimea. It was in the latter months of that year when he proposed to his future wife during what was, in her words, “one brief fortnight of uninterrupted happiness”, before he set off once again, this time to discover the Source of the Nile. It is certain that Burton was familiar with the North of England, as one of his books is entitled “Wanderings in West Africa, From Liverpool to Fernando Po”. It would be nice to think that one of the founders was indeed that soldier, scholar and adventurer, but unfortunately Burton research is very difficult because his widow, who was ashamed of his translations of the Kama Sutra, etc., made a large bonfire out of most of his papers and diaries after his death!

The first thing to note about William Courtenay Cruttenden is that his name was Cruttenden, and not Crattenden, as shown in the two histories of the Preceptory. In 1862 he was the Most Wise Sovereign of the Palatine Chapter of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. That was the Chapter that was adjacent to the Jerusalem Preceptory in Manchester, but his name is not in the Jerusalem records, so perhaps he belonged to the same preceptory as Ainsworth and Balfour (and possibly Burton!). One of his candidates for “Sovereign Prince Rose Croix”, however, was none other than John Yarker.

Indeed, Cruttendon went on to become Provincial Grand Chancellor, and appointed Yarker as his Provincial Grand Vice Chancellor. In 1875 probate was granted against the will of a William Courtenay Cruttenden, at Heaton Norris, Lancashire. So perhaps here is another Founder who outlived the 1856-60 version of the Preceptory. A Courtenay Cruttenden is also listed as Past President of The Liverpool Cotton Brokers Association Limited for 1880.

In 1856, John Yarker was installed a Knight Templar in the Jerusalem Preceptory, but a more distinguished individual was also installed during that year. He was Deputy Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire in the craft, and his name was William Romaine Callender Junior. He was born in 1825. His father, William Romaine Callender Senior, had started life as a draper’s assistant, coming to Manchester from Birmingham in 1815. Promotion followed promotion, and eventually he started a large spinning business of his own called Callender and Sons, in which William Romaine Callender Junior and his brother Pope were partners. As a Whig or Moderate Liberal, Callender Senior became a member of the City Council, and was involved in the struggle for the incorporation of Manchester (which up until 1838 had been managed like a village by a manorial court). He was also a subscriber to the principal charities and public institutions of the town, and a trustee of the Royal Infirmary and the Manchester Grammar School.

William Romaine Callender Junior was his eldest son and from his youth he was connected with his father’s business. He helped to extend the company by the purchase of other mills such as Barrow Bridge and Dean Mills, and the W. R. Callender Warehouse of 54-72 Spring Gardens is now a Grade II Listed Building. His activities included: Hon Sec of the Athenaeum (for 20 years); Deputy Treasurer of the Royal Infirmary; President of the Southern Hospital for the Diseases of Women and Children; Treasurer of the Northern Counties Hospital for Incurables; Treasurer of the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes; One of the first officers of the 1st Manchester Volunteers; A member of the Manchester School Board; A Vice President of the United Kingdom Alliance; A Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant of Lancashire.

Significantly, he was also Chairman of the South-East Lancashire Conservative Association, and when Benjamin Disraeli and his wife visited Manchester on 1 April 1872 they were his guests and stayed at his “Ashbourne House” residence in Victoria Park (in Stockport). Callender’s political achievements peaked in the 1874 general election when Disraeli became Prime Minister for the second time. He was elected as one of two Conservative Members of Parliament for Manchester.

In his Masonic career, he seems to have been equally busy. As well as his Deputy Provincial Grand Master role in the Craft, on 29 October 1870 the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland founded the first Mark Province of Lancashire, with Callender as the first Provincial Grand Master. Apparently, he had to be reinstalled in 1872, when the English and Scottish authorities reached some agreement about who should control the Mark Degree. Additionally, he was involved in a number of side degrees.

In 1859, William Romaine Callender Junior was installed Eminent Commander of the William de la More Encampment. In 1860, he was installed Eminent Commander of the Jerusalem Encampment. From 1860, William de la More appears to have been suspended and in 1861 Callender resigned from the Jerusalem Encampment. Did the William de Ia More Preceptory revolve around Callender, one might ask? There might be a surprising answer to that question:

In 1853, the William de la More the Martyr encampment was founded in Quebec. So, why start another William de la More encampment just three years later in the UK? It is just possible that the answer might be in some Canadian records (found on the Internet), namely a Brant County marriage declaration of 1878 in which the groom was a William Romaine Callender, aged 23, who was a musician from England! (More research is needed here!)

Perhaps, given his involvement in the Cotton Industry, there is a very important reason why Callender – and others such as Stephen Smith – would have been forced to resign from many of their Masonic orders. During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, a blockade by the Southern States stopped cotton reaching the Lancashire mills, and this led to the Cotton Famine with its mass unemployment, poverty and starvation. How it affected those of the founders involved in cotton, one can only imagine.

Callender died in 1876 (4 years after his father), aged 51. For some time he had been suffering from “rheumatic neuralgia and prostration of the nervous system”. In accordance with medical advice, he was on his way to the south of France, when the illness forced him to break his journey at St Leonard`s-on-the-Sea where he died on 22 January. He was buried at St Johns Church, Heaton Mersey, on 29 January.

In October 1874, he had attended a meeting to decide on a memorial to Sir William Fairbairn, the famous engineer. Callender had vigorously opposed the commissioning of a marble statue as “what Manchester people would call a bad investment of capital. It would return no interest”. Ironically, after he died, the sculptor Warrington Wood was commissioned to reproduce his likeness in marble, and hence, William Romaine Callender Junior, founder of Preceptory No 49. remains on view today in Manchester Town Hall!

1870 – 1970

The Most Excellent and Supreme Grand Master has been pleased to approve the grant of a Centenary Patent to the Preceptory with effect from 22 November, 1970, to commemorate 100 years of continuous working.

The warrant of the preceptory was granted by the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master, Colonel Charles Kemeys Kemeys Tynte, on 26 November, 1856. on the petition of Sir Knights Henry Anthony Bennett, Ralph Fawsett Ainsworth, George Balfour, William Romane Callender, Richard Burton, Stephen Smith, Charles Clay and William Courtenay Crattenden.

No further evidence of the petitioners has been found or of the encampments to which they belonged.

The warrant authorised an encampment of Knights Templar to be holden at the Oueens Hotel in Manchester and to be entitled “William de la More”. The first meeting was at the Queens Hotel but from that time little is known about the encampment until 1870. Indeed, the only transaction of which we have knowledge is that it is said that Knight Walter Robinson was installed in the encampment on 21 December 1866.

Our first book of records contains a full account of a “Meeting of Emergency of the William de la More Encampment of the Royal Exalted Religeous and Military Order of Knights Templar, holden at the New Court House, Prescot, 25 November 1870”. The encampment was opened in form by Sir Knight William Wright, Eminent Deputy Provincial Grand Commander, assisted by six Officers of the Provincial Grand Conclave of Lancashire and two members of Jacques de Molay Encampment in Liverpool. The purpose of the meeting is fully explained in the following extract from records:

“The Eminent Deputy Provincial Grand Commander stated that this Encampment formerly held its meetings at the Queen’s Hotel, Manchester, from circumstances over which we had no control (some of the members having died and others having left the neighbourhood) the meetings of the encampment for some time had been suspended and as it was intended to remove the encampment to Prescot, it was thought desirable to hold this meeting here”.

At this meeting Sir Knights James Turner Hall, James William Joseph Fowler and Samuel Morris of the Jacques de Molay Encampment, Liverpool were balloted for and unanimously elected as joining members. Sir Knight James Turner Hall was also elected Eminent Commander for the ensuing year. These three Eminent Knights by a permutation of proposals then put forward the names of nine candidates for installation, and one member of Jacques de Molay encampment Emt. Kt. William Crankshaw for honorary membership.

A second emergency meeting was held at Prescot on 9 December 1870, when five of the aforementioned were installed and proclaimed Knights of our lllustrious Order, and Emt Kt Crankshaw was duly elected an honorary member. Then followed the installation of Sir Knight James Hall as Eminent Commander, and in turn the appointment of officers for the ensuing year. Finally, a very important decision was made which in the event was to mark the beginning of 100 years of continuous working, namely, “that until otherwise resolved, the meetings of this, the William de la More encampment, be holden at the New Court House, Prescot, and the encampment shall meet on the second Friday in February, August, October and December”. The record of this meeting bears a unique postscript which reads “The foregoing minutes of proceedings appears to be in accordance with the Statutes of the Order and are hereby allowed and confirmed. Witness my name and the seal of my office this fifth day of April, A.L.5875, A.D.1871, A.0.753. A. H. Royds, Provincial Grand Commander, GP Brockbank, Provincial Grand Chancellor”. Both these emergency meetings had been called by Provincial Priory.

The first regular meeting of the reconstituted encampment was held on 10 February 1871. The Eminent Deputy Provincial Grand Commander who was present said he had a very pleasant duty to perform, the excerpt from the records reads:

“Our Very Eminent Provincial Grand Commander, in consequence of his health not allowing him to spend much of his time in Lancashire, cannot visit the encampments in his province as he would wish, nevertheless he has the interest of the Order at heart and is made acquainted by me with all that transpires in connection with it. When the furniture of this Encampment was purchased by Sir Knights Hall, Fowler and Morris, I made our Very Eminent Provincial Grand Commander acquainted with the fact, and informed him that the Encampment was furnished with every requisite except books; he said, ‘Then order a set and present them in my name’. I obeyed his order and now present you in his name with a very handsome set of books consisting of a Minute, Declaration, Subscribing Members, Cash, Alms Receipt and Register of Members Book, for the use of the Encampment and I hope that the Encampment may long exist to use them and may become one of the most harmonious and flourishing in the Province”.

With the exception of the Alms Receipt Book, all the books so generously given are still in the possession of the Preceptory and considering their age, are in excellent condition and a valuable asset.

The original Record Book contains in its opening pages a copy of the Preceptory Warrant, followed by a complete record of the first three meetings, all hand written and splendid examples of copper plate writing beautifully engrossed in Old English lettering.

From the Treasurer`s Accounts, it would seem that some furniture was purchased from the Manchester Knights, but beyond this, little is known and no other evidence can be found which relates to those earlier years. The encampment had, as it were, been born again and was seen as a strong masonic company intent on succeeding where others had failed.

Inevitably, at this time, promotion was rapid and competition keen. Sir Knight Turner was elected, installed Knight and appointed Registrar at the same meeting in 1870. Two years later he was installed Eminent Commander after winning a ballot by seven votes to two against Knight Morris. Recruitment to the Order flourished and four installations at a single meeting was a regular feature. Despite this however, attendances were rather poor, perhaps this was due to difficulties of travelling; many candidates living in the surrounding districts of Liverpool, Widnes and Wigan. This, in turn, must have adversely affected the quality of the ceremonies.

In 1871 it was proposed ‘that a Priory of Malta be added to the encampment’ but a further 73 years were to elapse before this was realised, when on 6 April 1944, a Priory of Malta was opened by our esteemed Very Eminent Prior, Captain J C Maples GCT.

By 1875 the Encampment had moved to the ‘New Masonic Hall’ Prescot, and two years later, on 21 June 1877, it was decided to move again, this time to Molyneux`s Assembly Rooms, Bootle cum Linacre. The 18th December 1879, saw the Encampment meeting at the Skelmersdale Memorial Hall, Westminster Road, Kirkdale in the County of Lancaster. At this time interest was at a low ebb. At a meeting in 1881 only three Knights attended and owing to the fact that neither the Preceptor nor a Past Preceptor was present it could not be opened in due form. On 23 June of the same year a “discussion took place as to the desirability of amalgamating with the Jacques de Molay, and sundry letters having been read by the Registrar, Sir Reginald Young, it was unanimously agreed that we should continue to hold our own warrant and also retain the handsome books so kindly presented to us by Sir Kt. Albert Hudson Royds in 1871’. The idea thus fell through but at least the Preceptory was united. Three months later, again only three Knights attended – they each lived in St Helens, so it is hardly surprising that a proposition to hold all future meetings in St Helens was carried.

The Masonic Rooms in St. Helens, were at this time situated at the corner of Hall Street and Church Street and it was here that the Preceptory met for the first time in St Helens, on 11 December 1881. At last it was able to make a start on the long haul towards permanency and prosperity.

The 20th April, 1882, was a red letter day. The Preceptory held a special meeting by dispensation, at the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. It was opened at 12.30 pm and half an hour later “The Very Eminent Grand Commander and his Officers” were announced. “Grand Priory was opened by the Very Eminent Grand Commander, Sir Knight Clement RN Beswick-Royds, and its business transacted”. The record seems to err in description and obviously does not refer to “Grand Priory” but to Provincial Grand Priory. In 1954 we again had the honour of being host to Provincial Priory. The meeting was held at the Town Hall, St Helens. These are the only occasions that Provincial Priory has met under the Banner of William de la More.

In 1886 the installation of the Emt. Commander Elect had to be postponed because “Sir Benjamin Thompson had been appointed to the command of the steamship Lake Champlain then at Belfast, where he had been obliged to take charge”. He was lnstalled in the following June, but on the 19th December, 1889, his resignation was accepted with regret as he was then in China. (A slow boat indeed !).

Another entry in early records is not only obscure but somewhat tantalising. It is dated June, 1884, and reads, “The motion by the Eminent Commander, notice of which appeared on the circular convening the meeting, was, after an animated discussion, withdrawn”. There is unhappily no trace of the circular, so the matter at issue must for ever remain a mystery. Could it have been that the future of the Preceptory was again in doubt ? for this seems to have been a frequent topic. In 1893 and 1894 the question of “keeping the Warrant” was again considered and it was decided to keep it for another year, and that every Knight in the meantime do his best to strengthen the position.

The Preceptory moved to lmperial Buildings, Ormskirk Street, St Helens, on 16 December 1897, where it remained until December 1926, when it transferred to the Masonic Hall, Hall Street, St Helens – its present home.

In earlier times we were called an encampment, more recently a preceptory. Both words in their meaning are singularly appropriate. For over half a century we were distinctly itinerate, whereas to-day we are comfortably settled and for over forty years have enjoyed the privilege of conducting our business in a Temple of striking beauty which is so appropriate to our Order.

From 1906 to 1920, the Preceptory only met twice a year and during the whole of this period only one Knight was installed and three joining members elected. All four became Eminent Preceptors, each within two years of joining. Also of significance is that during the whole of this time each Preceptor was installed by the Very Eminent Prior of Lancashire, Col J D Murray, KCT, a striking example of leadership, support and encouragement from Provincial Priory. Attendances were getting poorer and only averaged about seven per meeting. It led to an invitation to remove to Widnes. Proposals and counter proposals were made and declined, but goodness emanated. Pax Preceptory came into being and a close bond now exists between the two and we are very happy to acknowledge the valuable assistance which our Brother Knights from Widnes have rendered in connection with our centenary.

It is just 50 years since there was a major turning point in our fortunes. Three candidates were installed and one was Emt Kt Thomas Abbott. He was a real tower of strength to the Preceptory and as the years went by the number of candidates increased. Although during this time records are surprisingly devoid of incident it was without doubt a period of steady progress and prosperity, much credit being due to the leadership of Emt Kt Abbott.

In putting together events covering a century of time, it will be conceded that there must have been many members who gave of their time and talents for the betterment of our Preceptory and the good of our illlustrious Order.

Way back in 1875, a presentation of “a very chaste and elegant silver cigar case” to Sir Knight Captain G Turner, in acknowledgement of his valuable and efficient service, is one of the few recorded instances. There were others of his generation whose efforts apparently escaped notice. Emt Kt W J Thompson, installed in 1874, was Provincial Treasurer for over 20 years and was active almost up to the time of his death in 1915. Another “original” was Emt Kt R Young, installed in 1870, he was our registrar for several years and later became Sub Prior of the Province. Perhaps they were non-smokers.

One of our most illustrious members was the late Dr. Robert Jackson, MD. His membership dates from 1898 and in December 1948 celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a Knight Templar and was elected to honorary membership. Emt Kt Jackson was not only our longest serving member but was Eminent Preceptor on no less than four occasions, being installed in 1900, 1910. 1920 and 1921. In 1926 he presented us with a magnificent old Bible which is still in use. It is in Caxton type and was printed in London by Robert Barker in 1634. It was valued years ago at £500. A vellum scroll commemorating the gift is inserted in the cover.

The years following World War I were marked by a general expansion in masonic activity. A new Masonic Hall was being planned in St Helens and prominent in the Preceptory at this time were Eminent Knights H B Houghton (Registrar), and George A Forman, that indefatigable Freemason. He was Provincial Registrar in the 1930`s and also attained high rank in Great Priory. There is little doubt that this was one of the happiest and most eventful periods in our history.

There are many who would base an assessment of a Preceptory largely upon the standard and performance of its ceremonies. The quality of a ceremony and standard of performance however so often is dependent upon the skill and knowledge of one Officer–the Marshal. To relate this to William de la More Preceptory is to recall to mind and pay tribute to the late Emt Kt Clement Wood who, for many years and well into old age served the Preceptory as Marshal with a zeal and assiduity which would be hard to surpass. He left behind to carry on this important work, two capable assistants–Emt Kts Ernest Tunstall, P G Chamb and Hilary Slade-Jones, PPrAdeC both currently holding office and giving freely of their services and expertise for our general benefit. We owe a great deal to our Marshals not only for their conduct of ceremonies, but for the manifold illustrations and explanations which contribute to a better understanding of the meaning and purpose of ritual.

The systematic account of events and personalities which together form this history of the Preceptory would be incomplete without proper reference to those of our members, past and present, whose influence has extended beyond the confines of William de la More Preceptory into the wider spheres of freemasonry. Their contribution enhances our reputation and prestige and the Preceptory acclaims its pleasure and gratitude. Generally this can only be done in a practical way by the grant of honorary membership and on the very rare occasions of centenary celebrations. We are accordingly pleased to have this opportunity of again paying tribute to our honorary members extant:

Emt Kt S P Griffiths, PGtRegistrar, our senior member but unfortunately because of age and health unable to attend meetings.
Emt Kt Dr J S Lyle, PGMBB, now resident in Northern Ireland.
Emt Kt Stanley Marsh, PPrCons, Chairman of the St Helens and Prescot Group in the Craft.
Emt Kt A Laithwaite, PPrRegistrar, now in retirement in Grasmere.

In the same category, although not honorary members, but still actively engaged in the affairs of the Preceptory, there is Emt Kt F H Broadley PGMBB,  who has wide interests as a Masonic Historian, and lastly a “banker” and a certain “draw” at any Masonic meeting; for many years organist in Provincial Priory, Emt Kt Arthur Foxton, PPrCons, an outstanding example to everyone who would strive for the welfare of others. His appointment a few years ago to the rank of Assistant Provincial Grand Master in the Craft has given particular pleasure to the members of our Preceptory.

Our next reference is to the late Emt Kt Arthur Finch, a Freemason of many parts who was as popular as he was zealous in our Preceptory. In his lifetime he filled many offices and was closely associated with the publication of a book on Knights Templar in Lancashire. It is a pleasing coincidence that on the day he was installed Eminent Preceptor in December 1957, he in turn, installed our worthy Centenary Preceptor, Emt Kt W N Ashall a Knight of Malta and three months later installed Emt Kt H W Bithell a Knight of the Temple, and he will have the honour of presiding at our centenary celebration.

The mention of individual names is intended to be representative only. There are many others who have worked hard, often in frustrating circumstances, in their endeavours to prosper the Preceptory. They too are part of our history, but their praises go unsung, so we now salute them collectively.

It is said that fortune changes rapidly and it is a sad reflection that the Eminent Preceptor in 1889 was struck off the register just twenty-one months later for being two years in arrear with his subscription. The record was endorsed “Gone – no address”. Another was more conscientious for in a letter to the Registrar just over twenty years ago he wrote `I am very sorry for not answering your letter before now. My excuse is that my wife and I are upset and grieved over the illness of Tibby the Cat. One of the local tomcats got him last Sunday morning … I got a chap named Stanley to him last night. He gave him a good rubbing with embrocation. He nearly went mad … Well Brother, there is only the candles, two at 2/9 and two at 1/3, making 4/-. That is all the expenses I know of`. Liabilities were duly discharged.

We conclude this short historical account with a note on William de la More, written by Emt Kt G C Williams (1947), who spent considerable time and much trouble researching the subject.

“We learn that William de la More was appointed Master of the Temple in London and Grand Preceptor of the English Province… after his predecessor fell in battle in 1298… The suppression of the Templars commenced about 10 years after his appointment. In 1308 the Templars in England were thrown into Prison where they languished until 1311… some were pardoned and released after forced confessions but William de la More died of a broken heart in his solitary dungeon in the Tower of London on 20 December 1312”.

Thus we have reached one hundred years of continuous working. We thank God for all the past and march together into the future with the precepts of our Order ever in mind, “for praise be to God, all is well, and may God grant that it may so continue”.

1971 – 1996

The centenary meeting of the William de la More Preceptory No 49 took place at the Masonic Temple, Hall Street, St Helens, at 4.00 p.m. on 1 of April, 1971. The event was well-attended and honoured by the presence of the Provincial Prior, V E Kt Arnold Moreton, the Provincial Sub Prior, V E Kt Lt Col H C W Venning, KCT and the Provincial officers of the year.

During the Meeting, Kt J Ball read a History of the preceptory which he had compiled. This document has its own history: it was taken largely (and sometimes verbatim) from an earlier work by Kt Sam Skelland who was appointed Registrar of the preceptory in 1946. It found its way into the “History of the Priory of Lancashire” and was discussed by J C Maples and G E W Bridge (Grand Librarian at Mark Masons’ Hall) in 1954 when the preceptory attempted unsuccessfully to schedule the centenary for 1956. In our Records for April 1950, the Eminent Preceptor “expressed the appreciation of the Preceptory to Kt S Skelland for his efforts in compiling a history of the William de la More Preceptory”. At the next Meeting on 5 October, the acting registrar, John Evans, wrote that “the Eminent Preceptor referred in moving terms to the death of Kt. S. Skelland, the very efficient registrar of the Preceptory, who passed away during the vacation.”

The 1971 celebration proved a success, but the preparations had not gone quite so smoothly: at the meeting on Thursday 2 April 1970 the Registrar, Kt H Skelland (no relation), called the muster roll, read the minutes, announced that the centenary meeting would probably be held in February 1971 then promptly resigned his membership of the Preceptory and left the building. We can now only speculate that the reference to the centenary had triggered this surprising behaviour. The work of registrar was taken over temporarily by Kt Ball (who was responsible for most of the centenary preparations) until the Eminent Preceptor appointed Kt E J Barton to that position. (E Kt Barton is our longest serving member and an officer of Great Priory.)

Another minor hiccup occurred on 3 of December 1970, when the preceptory was honoured – rather unexpectedly – by the presence of the Provincial Prior, V E Kt Arnold Moreton. He explained that the special reason for this visit was to apologise that he would not be able to attend the February Meeting. Thus, the centenary celebration had to be postponed until April.

The alms collection at the centenary meeting raised £10-20p. This is worth noting because, at the previous meeting, a value of £2. 14s. 6d was recorded. “Decimalisation” had taken place on 15 of February 1971.

On 4 of May, 1974, a meeting of Provincial Priory was held at the Town Hall, St Helens, under the Banner of William de la More. 96 Knights, including 15 Provincial Priors, attended on this occasion and the V E Provincial Prior “conveyed his sincere thanks to the Preceptory for an excellent meeting”. Of the Town Hall, the Provincial Prior said: “The conditions here are excellent, the room is of the right size for the meeting, and of course the balcony, for the unfurling of the banners, is marvellous.” Following the meeting, the Knights gathered for dinner at the St Helens Masonic Hall.

E Kt Ball, who had overseen both the centenary meeting and the hosting of Provincial Priory, was appointed Commander of the Provincial Prior’s Bodyguard in May 1975.

At the installation meeting on 4 December 1975, it was announced that V E Kt H D Still, GCT had been nominated for election as Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master. At the previous Meeting on 2 October 1975, E K . Desmond Ryan, Provincial Sub Prior attended the installation of a certain Companion L J Parr as a Knight Templar. E Kt Parr became Eminent Preceptor in 1983 and was appointed Provincial Chancellor in 1993.

During his year as Eminent Preceptor, E Kt Parr installed companion Dr J S E Holker as a Knight of the Temple. E Kt  Holker was appointed Grand Treasurer in the Craft in 1990 (the year when H D Still, who had been Grand Treasurer in 1949, was awarded the OSM) and Assistant Provincial Grand Master in 1993. He is to be appointed Provincial 1st Constable at the Meeting of Provincial Priory in May 1997.

The history of the preceptory was brought to life on 7 December 1989, when E Kt K P Broughton, Provincial Warden of Regalia, paid a visit and presented a copy of a summons to the “William de la More encampment holden at the New Court House, Prescot on Friday 8 December 1871” which had reached him from Philadelphia, USA. (Actually the word “summons” is crossed out and “invite” is substituted above). The summons includes a heraldic shield as part of its design.

The Crest of the Preceptory came under consideration yet again when it was decided to create a Preceptory Banner. The Eminent Preceptor for 1992/3, E Kt A Roughsedge, designed the new Crest and Mrs Mary Hopkins, wife of the then Marshal, E Kt K Hopkins, executed its manufacture. On Thursday 1 of April 1993, it was dedicated at a ceremony attended by the Provincial Prior, R E K  J G Forsyth and his team.

On Saturday 8 May 1993 William de la More hosted, once again, the meeting of Provincial Priory, this time at Leyland Masonic Hall where it had been held under different banners since 1991. At this time, even if Leyland had not become the established venue, the St Helens Town Hall would not have been regarded as a viable alternative. In the mid 1980s, following the publication of an anti-Masonic book, an undesirable element that had infiltrated the St Helens Town Council instituted a “witch-hunt” against Masonic employees to conceal their own unscrupulous behaviour. Needless to say, they soon fell from power but their actions, coupled with the mistaken attitudes of some local clergy, had temporarily strained our relationship with the local hierarchy.

The Meeting at Leyland, however, proved very successful and it was on this occasion that our own E Kt  Len Parr was appointed Provincial Chancellor. With both the banner dedication and our hosting of Provincial Priory in the same year, 1993 must be recognised as one of the most eventful in the History of the preceptory. It ended magnificently on Thursday 2 December when E Kt  Stan Holker, Asst PrGM in the Craft, was installed in the chair.

William de la More has always attracted serious and dedicated Masons and, on a recent muster roll, the craft membership included the Asst PrGM, no less than four Deputy Provincial Grand Directors of Ceremonies (Knights Latham, Bellis, Brown and Holden) and a full set of officials from the St Helens and Prescot Group.

During the centenary meeting in 1971, the Provincial Prior stated that he was sure that the “next century would be just as fruitful and successful” as our first. So far, his prediction has proved totally accurate.