Late last year a member of the public brought in to
the Library and Museum a large 1765 Bible seeking further
information about it. It was just possible to discern the
inscription on the leather binding, which read
This belongs to
E.G. and R.C.
Held in the Turks Head
The binding was also decorated with a triple tau and
an arch. Library and Museum staff concluded that the Bible
was that used by the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter,
the governing body for the Royal Arch Degree formed by
members of the Premier Grand Lodge on 12 June 1765 and
which was known to have met at the Turk’s Head Tavern.
The following year, when Lord Blayney was elected
First Principal of the Excellent Grand and Royal Chapter,
he caused the Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch
of Jerusalem to be established by signing the Charter of
Compact. It is from that body that the Supreme Grand
Chapter of today has descended.
Although, at the 12 June 1765 meeting, the Excellent
Grand and Royal Chapter had enacted bye laws for its
conduct which had included descriptions of regalia, there
was no specific reference to a Bible, and its existence had
not been known. It may be the oldest surviving artefact
associated with the Royal Arch.
After some much needed restoration work, which
included the cleaning of many years of black boot polish
from the binding, the Bible now forms part of the Library
and Museum’s new display case on the Royal Arch Degree.
The Library and Museum collects material from all
kinds of fraternal and friendly societies to set Masonry in
its wider historical context, particularly the relationship
between Freemasonry and non-Masonic fraternities and
The Library and Museum recently purchased a pocket
watch, auctioned as ‘Masonic’, although it is actually from
the friendly society, the Oddfellows, and dates from the
1830s. The Oddfellows are the largest of the Friendly
Societies, with their origins in the late 1700s.
Up to the creation of the Welfare State in 1948 they
provided sociability, moral leadership and above all financial
support for their members. They still exist and provide
The Oddfellows, like Masons, made many objects for use
in their homes with symbolism on them and some are of fine
quality like this watch. The three masks featured on the watch
were part of the original Oddfellow ritual. This extremely
dramatic ritual ceased to be performed after the early 1800s
and a more sedate nine-level system replaced it.
There are many different groups or ‘Unities’ of Oddfellows
with different regalia, but the common symbol of them all
is the heart in an open hand, symbolising that deeds and gifts
are meaningless unless motivated by the heart.
A watch from the 1830s of the
Oddfellows fraternal society
Web site created by Mark Griffin