Royal Arch Freemasonry in NSW originated from Irish, English and Scottish Freemasonry, each of which established separate Orders during the 1800s.

From the 1880s, ten attempts were made to unify the various Royal Arch Orders without success.

It was not until 1980 – and the eleventh attempt – that unification was achieved with the Consecration and Dedication of the United Supreme Grand Chapter (USGC).

This united:

  • Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales (Constituted 1889)
  • District Grand Scottish Royal Arch Chapter of New South Wales (Constituted 1863)
  • Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of New South Wales (Constituted 1889)
  • Grand Council for Royal and Select Masters of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (Constituted 1972)

The Consecrating First Grand Principal was the Rt.Hon. The Earl of ELGIN and KINCARDINE, KT, LL.D, JP, DL, MA the First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. The Installing First Grand Principal was M.Em.Comp. George Alexander SHEA, OBE, the First Grand Principal of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Western Australia.

By RtEx Comp William (Bill) RICHARDS OAM PDGZ

Within this jurisdiction it would appear that most Freemasons are aware of the Royal Arch Degree but many do not know the significance or even in many cases that the Mark Degree existed at the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1813.  In recent times this situation has been addressed.

As a consequence of an education program initiated by United Supreme Grand Chapter and supported strongly by the current Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Derek Robson AM, more and more Freemasons are asking questions about “Pure Ancient Freemasonry” and the Degrees that comprise it.  A frequently asked question is why does The United Grand Lodge of NSW & ACT only recognise the three Craft Degrees administered by Grand Lodge and the Mark Degree and the Holy Royal Arch under the jurisdiction of the United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark and Royal Arch Masons of NSW & ACT in its Constitution and not the any of the other Associated Orders of Freemasonry?

The “special place” within Freemasonry occupied by the Royal Arch came about at the time of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1813 when with the Union of the two opposing Grand Lodges, the Antients and the Moderns was achieved with the signing of the Articles of Union on 27th December, 1813.  On that occasion and after much debate and argument, 21 Articles were drawn up and agreed upon by the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Kent.  Article No 2 provided:-

“Pure Ancient Masonry consists of 3 degrees and no more; viz:- Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. But this article is not intended to prevent any lodge or chapter from holding a meeting in any of the degrees of the Orders of Chivalry according to the Constitutions of the said Orders.”

It was the wording “3 degrees and no more” which proved disastrous for the Mark Degree in England as many Lodges at the time were happily working the Mark Degree on a regular basis under their existing warrants.  The end result was those Freemasons who wanted to retain the Mark Degree were subjected to a sequestration which ultimately led to the formation of a Grand Mark Lodge of England of which Lord Leigh, who was a Grand Lodge Officer at the time of Union , became the first Grand Master of Mark Master Masons.

By the time The Grand Lodge of NSW was formed the Mark Degree had regained its prominence and was accordingly given an equal status with the Holy Royal Arch Degree within our jurisdiction which it has retained until this day.

Up until recent years, the oldest or first Chapter in this jurisdiction was thought to be Chapter Zetland. Recently an old battered Charter was discovered which changed this belief.

The recently discovered Charter established the existence of an early English Chapter in New South Wales, believed to be the first from that Constitution and shows that St. John’s Royal Arch Chapter received a Charter which was granted in England on 4th August, 1842.

The Chapter held its first meeting on 10th September, 1844.

Its meeting place was in the Australian Arms Chapter Room, Parramatta.

The Chapter, in accordance with the tradition at the time, was attached to the Warrant of a Craft Lodge, St. John No. 668 (England).

A dispensation has been found, issued by the Grand Chapter of NSW in 1889 for the Irish Constituted Chapter, Leinster Marine, to meet under the Grand Chapter of NSW.

After a lot of careful research into the Minutes of Leinster Marine Chapter (1889 and1890), it seems that the suggested amalgamation into the NSW Constitution got very close; but that was defeated at the last vote.

As at this date, Leinster Marine still meet and remain under the Irish Constitution.

The first record of the conferral of the Royal Arch Degree begins in 1817 in Sydney where the 46th Regiment of Foot had a Craft Charter, issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, named the “Lodge of Social and Military Virtues” No 227.

This Lodge, on the 1st day of January, 1817, issued a Master Mason Certificate to Jeffrey Hart Bent, who was the first Chief Justice of the Colony, having arrived from England in 1814.

The Regiment also had a Royal Arch Charter, named “Royal Arch Chapter Mount Olive No 227” on the registry of Ireland.

On the 5th February 1817, Jeffrey Hart Bent was Exalted to the Holy Royal Arch Degree.
The names on the two Certificates are identical, the Master of the Lodge being also the First Principal of the Chapter (5).

These rare and valuable Certificates are held in the National Library in Canberra with copies held by USGC.

Which Constitution was first to establish a Chapter in NSW?

Initially, it was England in 1842 (St John at Parramatta) followed by Ireland the following year 1843 (Leinster Marine) and then Scotland, at last, made its appearance 20 years later in 1863 with Chapter Burrangong No 96 at Young.

On 27th. May, 1889, at a meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge English Constitution, held in the York Street Lodge Room in Sydney, the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of New South Wales was Constituted and Proclaimed.

Upon is Proclamation the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England at that meeting ceased to exist in the colony.

The new Grand Lodge brought together the seven (7) existing Mark Lodges of the English Constitution.
These were:

  • SYDNEY No 0, which met in the Masonic Hall at Sydney
  • EMPRESS OF INDIA No 1, meeting at Woollahra
  • HESPERUS No 2, at Bourke
  • COWRA No 3, at Cowra
  • COMBERMERE No 4, at Albury
  • CUMBERLAND COUNTY No 5, at Parramatta
  • BURWOOD No 6, at Burwood.

In 1969, the Scottish District Grand Chapter for NSW sold its Temple situated at 22 College Street, Sydney, and 5 years later, purchased the existing Masonic Temple facing Fisher Street, Petersham.

After meeting for many years in the Petersham Town Hall, Lodge Prince Alfred decided it was time to have a home of its own for the growing number of Lodges in the Petersham area.

The present site was located and purchased by Lodge Prince Alfred and four other Lodges namely, Lodge Beresford No 161 , Lodge Stanmore No 366, Lodge Lewisham No 343 and Lodge Petersham Temperance No 513.

The coping stone was placed in position by the Most Worshipful Grand Master, on Thursday, 13th. September, 1928 by the Grand Master of the day, His Excellency Lord Stonehaven, Governor General of Australia.

On the day of the official opening, 352 brethren were present to see The Grand Master place the coping stone, with the brethren needing to be restricted to the five local Lodges only.

The Egyptian Room was originally housed in the Masonic Temple in College Street, Sydney owned by the Scottish District Grand Chapter for NSW. The building was later sold and the Egyptian Room placed into storage until later re-assembled in its present location at Petersham.

The first known Lodge to meet regularly in the suburb of Petersham was Lodge Prince Alfred N0. 94 under UGL of NSW (as it then was).

Lodge Prince Alred was consecrated at the Congregational Hall at Petersham in 1880.

In 1882 the Petersham Town Hall (still standing today) was built and the Lodge commenced to meet in that building and continued to do so until about 1928 when the current Petersham masonic Centre was opened.

The first recorded Chapter meeting in the Petersham area is Petersham Chapter No 493 SC, who received its Charter in 1921, to meet at Petersham. Just where the Chapter met is not known.

A second Chapter, Petersham Temperance Chapter No 638 SC, is known to have received its Charter in 1927, to meet at Leichhardt.

When was the Concordat signed between The United Grand Lodge of NSW &ACT and the United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark & Royal Arch Masons of NSW & ACT?

On the 8th of June 2005 an historic document was signed by the Grand Master MW Bro Anthony Lauer, the First Grand Principal and Grand Master M Ex Comp Sydney Thomas Weller, on the floor of Grand Lodge in the Sydney Masonic Centre.

The document was the first Concordat to be signed between The UGL of NSW and ACT and an Associated Masonic Order and was a result of a concept devised by the Strategic Planning Committee of Grand Lodge Chaired by the then Deputy Grand Master, Rt Wor Bro Rob Peattie.

Among many features in the Concordat, one in particular was groundbreaking.
It was the ability of a Lodge and a Chapter to join together as a “Masonic Fraternity”.

There was also the ability of a Lodge to sponsor a new Chapter attached to it or for a Chapter to sponsor a new Lodge, to form a Masonic Fraternity. This would then result in all five degrees of ‘pure Ancient Masonry’ being made available under one Masonic organization.
Since the signing of the original Concordat, it has subsequently been amended during the term of Most Ex Comp Edward Keenahan.

On Saturday, 25th of June 2011, the landmark ceremony of the Consecration, Constitution and Installation of The City of Wollongong Lodge N°1049 within “The City of Wollongong Masonic Fraternity”, was undertaken.

This is the first “Masonic Fraternity” established under the 2005 Concordat between the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory, and the United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark and Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales and The Australian Capital Territory.

The new Craft Lodge was sponsored by The City of Wollongong Mark and Royal Arch Chapter N°79.

It is the first time in any Australasian jurisdiction, and possibly the World, that a new Lodge has been sponsored by a Royal Arch Chapter as part of a single Masonic Body known as a ‘Masonic Fraternity’.

The new Lodge will also be the first ‘Dining Lodge’ in the Illawarra area to be based on the European experience.

Do you remember when and how we became The United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark & Royal Arch Masons of NSW &ACT?

The United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark & Royal Arch Masons of NSW &ACT came into existence on 18th. October, 1980, when the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales, the Grand Mark Lodge of New South Wales, the Royal and Select Masters of New South Wales and the Scottish Royal Arch District of New South Wales were amalgamated and constituted as the United Supreme Grand Chapter of Mark and Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales and The Australian Capital Territory.

Up until then Capitular Masonry in this State was very different and is the explanation as to why there is more than one ritual being practised at present.

In the 19th Century, lodges and Chapters were warranted in N.S.W. by Grand Bodies in Ireland , England, and Scotland.
These Charters were grouped for Administration purposes into Provinces or Districts.

Following the formation of the UGL of NSW in 1888, the English Chapters lost association with their English Lodges to which they were compulsorily attached, and so in 1889 the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New South Wales was formed to address this situation and a sovereign body recognized worldwide came into existence.

The English Constitution Mark Lodges decided to remain separate from other Jurisdictions, as is the case in England, Victoria and South Australia and so the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of New South Wales was established in 1889, again recognized worldwide.

The Scottish Chapters remained as part of Scottish Royal Arch masonry as a Province and later as a District for New South Wales.

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