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Plains of Mamre No. 89

(Warrant 1806)

Masonic Hall, Mill Hey, Haworth, BD22 8NA

Meetings held at 1.00 pm on the first Saturday in March (Installation) & October and the third Saturday in May.

History of the Preceptory




The beginnings of the Plains of Mamre Preceptory, now numbered 89 were, to say the least, somewhat unusual and particularly so, because the whole of the story of these beginnings is either contained within or inextricably connected with the village of Haworth. Such a situation, when coupled with the great difficulty of making a comparison of Freemasonry as practised at the present day, with that as practised by those Lodges of ancient times, makes the task of compiling a reasonably simple explanation of those beginnings well nigh impossible. Perhaps the best approach to this, is to set out those known and relevant facts and trust that the reader, appreciating these, at times, somewhat unusual facts, will nevertheless glean from them some understanding of the history of the beginnings of Knight Templary in Haworth and more importantly the emergence there from of the Plains of Mamre Preceptory now numbered 89.

Freemasonry started in Haworth in the year of 1796, with the Lodge of Prince George being constituted and meeting at the White Lion Inn. Those founders were almost without exception all from Royal Yorkshire Lodge, which met at Keighley. There was a definite thread, which has continued over the many years between Come in Lancashire, Keighley and Haworth. This was the lineage of Prince George Lodge, a daughter of Royal Yorkshire, who in turn was the daughter of Royal Lancashire meeting at Come.

Royal Lancashire Lodge was constituted in the year 1760 at Colne, and of course is still meeting in that town. The reason for this information to be included is that the ‘Holy Royal Arch Chapters’ followed a similar course, Cana Royal Arch Chapter No 116 was dated 1769 (but is indisputably much older) and is still meeting at Colne and was the ‘mother’ of Chapter of Judea now number 265 at Keighley, which was formed in 1791. However to support that thread of movement, Colne, Keighley, Haworth, in 1802, a ‘Holy Royal Arch Chapter’ was constituted at Haworth at the White Lion Inn with the founders again almost without exception coming from Chapter of Judea, with visitors at the first meeting from Colne.  The number of that Chapter called Brunswick was 119. The necessity of attachment to a Craft Lodge not being mandatory until after the union of the two Grand Chapters, The Antients and the Moderns in 1817, four years after the union of the two Grand Lodges. It was at this stage that both the Grand Chapters formed the now known Supreme Grand Chapter. So it was in 1805 that within Haworth there was a well attended and healthy Craft Lodge and a well attended healthy Royal Arch Chapter. At Keighley the Plains of Rama Encampment, which had been constituted in 1793 (the warrant being dated the year previous) was meeting regularly. It was natural that the members of that Encampment who lived in Haworth, or Oxenhope, should feel the need of meeting nearer to their home. Up to this time, as already mentioned, the route taken by the Craft and the Royal Arch was from Colne to Keighley, to Haworth, however in this instance, Plains of Rama were the instigators.

In 1805 several members of Prince George Lodge, also members of Brunswick Royal Arch Chapter, also members of Plains of Rama Encampment at Keighley, made an application for a warrant to form an Encampment at Haworth. It was, therefore, a natural wish to follow the manner of title of the sponsoring or ‘Mother Encampment’ by using the name ‘Plains of’, and so it was agreed to call the new entity ‘Plains of Brunswick’. The application was made by Sir Kt John Barraclough, Sir Kt John Sutcliffe, Sir Kt Timothy Bancroft, and several noble Knights residing at Haworth during the first half of 1805 (constituted 8″ April 1805). Towards the end of that year notification was duly received that the prayer had been successful, and that the number of the new Plains of Brunswick would be No. 14.

Arrangements certainly continued to launch this new Encampment of Knights Templary. However, time passed and with the warrant not yet having arrived at Haworth, although the dispatch had been confirmed, there was considerable concern as to it’s whereabouts. Enquiries were made both locally and to London, when it was ascertained that Sir Knight Stephen Paslaw had received the warrant, but had substituted his own name as first Excellent Commander.

Stephen Paslaw had been initiated into Royal Yorkshire Lodge. He was the first Worshipful Master of the Prince George Lodge No. 550 on its Constitution in 1796; the first Principal of Brunswick Royal Arch Chapter No. 119 on it’s constitution in 1802 and no doubt wished to continue in that vein. He was the Parish Clerk at Haworth at this time and would, no doubt, have had easy access to the mail arriving in the village, although little is known today of the terms of reference of that particular office. As a result of that blatant interference with the mail, his Lodge, Prince George called a Lodge of Emergency on September 15th 1805. The Lodge was officered entirely by the officers from the ‘Lodge of Harmony’ from Halifax, then No.461 and which has now unfortunately disappeared.

It happened that Brother Knights Templar at Colne, some months earlier, during the year of 1805, had applied for and were granted a warrant in the name of the Plains of Tabor (which had been made under the auspices of the Plains of Rama Keighley). At the time of being notified of the misdeeds at Haworth, an application in the name of the Plains of Mamre from Knights Templar at Burnley was already being processed, and so the name ‘Plains of’ was very much in vogue. Without more ado, the Plains of Brunswick prayer was changed to Plains of Mamre and a new warrant issued, which was then number 15. So this Preceptory was named Plains of Mamre by London and the petition from Burnley continuing. The Warrant of this Preceptory being dated February 17th and the warrant at Burnley being dated March 10th 1806. All bearing the year as Anno Lucius 5810, Anno Domini 1806, Anno Ordinus 678 and Anno Caedis 492.

It is interesting to note that the name ‘Plains of’ was very popular at that time, over a period of fourteen years, and only in this area. To this day there is only the Plains of Rama, Plains of Tabor and the two Plains of Mamre in existence within the Constitution of England and Wales.

There is evidence emerging that the invalid warrant in the name of Plains of Brunswick Encampment was not returned to London, as one might suppose, but was used illegally in an Inn outside the village of Haworth for a period believed to be some twenty years.

It is always difficult when considering historical events to isolate oneself from the modern idiom. For a moment reflect on the different environment of those days, without insurance, without dole, without any social benefits, depending entirely on friends and relatives in times of distress. The Poor Law was in existence, and varied greatly from one parish to another, depending entirely on the Squire or some other person to use their discretion. So Freemasonry was a vehicle to make some compensation in times of distress. To be a worthy member of a Lodge was a form of Insurance to guard against those troubled times, and history all too often relates how hard those times really were.

A Lodge was a place where quite considerable amounts of monies changed hands, either through subscriptions, or through the charity box, so that the needs of its own members could be met and that of the incoming petitions of the surrounding Lodge members. To give an instance of the amount of monies involved, there is evidence of misappropriation of funds of the Prince George Lodge to the tune of £32 plus. That is a considerable amount of money considering the weekly wage was then less than Ten Shillings per week for a manual worker. From these figures one can appreciate that to run a Lodge for one’s own benefit could be quite rewarding. Therefore, some credence must be given to the suggestion that the Plains of Brunswick Warrant was illegally used.

The Encampment or Preceptory suffered poor attendance, and perhaps some mismanagement at the same time as the Lodge of Three Graces and the Brunswick Royal Arch Chapter; the Lodge of Prince George having moved to Bottoms in 1812, where they are to this day. Following the union of the ‘Grand Chapters’ and the formation of the Supreme Grand Chapter, it was necessary for all the Royal Arch Chapters to be attached to a Craft Lodge. However, here at Haworth that was just not possible as the Lodge of Three Graces had been struck from the Register in 1821, and although the Preceptory made a valiant attempt, the support flagged but continued throughout the demise and resurrection of the Craft Lodge, and Plains of Mamre moved into the Private Rooms at Lodge Street in 1833, but evidence shows the last meeting of this period was held on July 3rd 1836.

On October 29th 1867, some thirty one years later, a meeting of the Encampment was held in those Private Rooms when “Sir Knight John Craven Taylor gave to the Preceptory the history of the Encampment for several years previous, stating that all the Knights of the Preceptory were dead, but himself, William Hartley and William Brown.” William Hartley was the Great, Great Grandfather of Em. Knight Arthur Hartley, a present member of this Preceptory.  It was stated at that meeting in 1867 how anxious they were to get the Warrant revived. It was explained at that meeting how Sir Knight Reverend Joseph Senior, the Provincial Grand Chancellor for Yorkshire, had travelled to London to show the 1806 Warrant, together with the Minute Book, to the Grand Chancellor, in order that a ‘Warrant of Revival’ be issued, which indeed it was, and dated that first day of March 1867, which was some seven months previous to that meeting at Haworth. That was the only meeting around this period (of which Minutes are available) to be held until the fifth day of September 1892, some twenty five years later. Meanwhile the Revival Warrant had been returned to the Province for safekeeping.

Now is the appropriate time to introduce one of the great heroes of the Plains of Mamre Preceptory, indeed, not only of the Preceptory, not only of Knights’ Templary, but of this Province in general, and that is John Craven Taylor. It was this man who instigated the meeting held in 1867, which has been referred to above. John Craven Taylor was initiated into Freemasonry, into the Lodge of Three Graces at Haworth on the 18th August 1834, at the age of twenty three years. He was the Promoter, a Founder and Installed into the Chair as the first Master of Scientific Lodge on the 21st November 1836. He had been exalted into Judea Royal Arch Chapter at Keighley on the 13th 1835 and installed as a Knight Templar in this Preceptory on the 4th December of the same year.

From his initiation, through the Royal Arch, into Knights’ Templary, a Founding member and into the Chair of his new Lodge in twenty seven months, quite an achievement to say the least. He was made Eminent Preceptor of this Preceptory at that 1867 meeting, but it is particularly of his foresight that mention must be made here. Firstly, the ingenuity of applying for the confirmatory Warrant whilst he and two other Brother Knights, who were members of the original Encampment, were still alive. Secondly, upon realising that the reestablishment of the Preceptory was not assured, he preserved the Warrants by returning them to the Province for safe keeping in 1870. Thirdly, he took the Minute Book which had been carefully preserved from the date of the original Warrant in 1806, and passed this on to the Master of the Lodge of the Three Graces for safekeeping, writing in the fly-leaf “This book is for the W.M. of the Lodge of Three Graces, Haworth, until someone of higher authority claims it. Signed J C Taylor.”

The preservation of this Preceptory was undoubtedly his main concern and that he was successful in his efforts is well proved by the fact that the Preceptory continues to function and flourish, but nevertheless due in no small measure to the efforts and foresightedness of this thoughtful and caring man.  From the 5th day of September 1892, there is nothing to suggest that Meetings of the Preceptory were other than regularly held. Indeed, there is evidence that regular Meetings were held up to and including the 23rd day of September 1893.  There is a copy of the Minutes of this particular Meeting which was attended by the Provincial Sub Prior and whereat Brother George Whitaker of Brunswick Chapter was installed as a Brother Knight.

Since the Meeting of the 23rd day of September 1893, Preceptory Records are silent because the Minute Book(s) covering the period from the 23rd day of September 1893 until the 7th day of December 1960 is/are missing, and despite numerous searches and enquiries cannot be found. However, there is in the archives of the Preceptory, a book entitled “List of Members, Plains of Mamre Preceptory Number 89 Haworth”, containing entries of the Installation of Brother Knights into the Plains of Mamre Preceptory from 1908 (with several entries prior to this date) until the present day. Whilst this “List” is no real substitute for the actual recorded Minutes of Meetings, it nevertheless provides evidence of the recording of dates on which Brother Knights were installed, and in many cases, details of appointments, promotions within the Order, and honorifics awarded. Furthermore, the List provides, and must be considered as providing valuable evidence that the Preceptory was holding regular Meetings throughout the dates which the missing Minute Book(s) should have covered.

(Extract from the History of Knight Templary in Haworth and the emergence of the Plains of Mamre Preceptory Number 89 therefrom. Researched, written and compiled by Em. Kt. William Birch Prov.Alm., with assistance of Em. Kt. Christopher E Hainsworth Gt.Chamb., Em. Kt. Terry H Mattison P.P.Std.B.(V.B.), Em. Kt. James H Harris P.P.Swd.B., and Em. Kt. J Geoffrey Goulding P.Gt.A.-de-C., P.P.1st.Cons. Dated  1st January 2003)

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