The designation of Archbishop of Canterbury is an ancient
office tracing its origins to St Augustine in 597ad. He is
the head of the Church of England and of the worldwide
In the long and distinguished list of these archbishops only
one has been a Freemason: His Grace, The Right Honourable
and Most Reverend Dr Geoffrey Francis Fisher (1887-1972).
He took to Freemasonry, as he did to all aspects of his life,
with gusto, joined Orders beyond the Craft and participated
in its affairs to his dying day.
Four other Archbishops of Canterbury (Michael Ramsey
1961; Donald Coggan, 1975; Robert Runcie, 1980 and
George Carey 1991) bridged the gap between Fisher and the
current Archbishop the Reverend Rowan Williams.
None appear to have made as much impact on the Church
and society in general as Geoffrey Fisher did. His high rank
and profile as a Churchman and simultaneous activities as
a Freemason did not escape the notice of those who wished
to decry Freemasonry. His dignity and pride in the Craft
overcame all criticism.
Geoffrey was the last of 10 children, born near Nuneaton
in Warwickshire on 5 May 1887. The Fishers have a longstanding
pedigree tracing their priestly origins as far back as
the last decade of the 10th century and a monk named John
Fisher, in the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Abbey of Burton.
His father Henry, a gentle and scholarly hyperactive priest
and his good-natured loving mother, encouraged Geoffrey
to pursue his inclination toward an academic life. He was
well prepared when he took the post of assistant master at
his old school, Marlborough, in 1911. Deviating from family
tradition, he went up to Oxford in 1906, instead of
Cambridge, which his immediate ancestors had all preferred.
He enjoyed the antiquity and ambiance of Exeter College,
founded in 1314. Qualified now in Theology, he was ordained
a priest in 1913 at Wells Theological College in Salisbury
and a year later, at the astonishingly young age of 27, he was
appointed Headmaster of Repton, the prestigious and respected
public school in Derbyshire, founded in the 16th century.
It is during his headmastership that Geoffrey Fisher was
initiated into the Old Reptonian Lodge No. 3725 at
Freemasonsí Hall, London on 11 January 1916. He was passed
in October and made a Master Mason on 9 January 1917. This
was the start to a long and continued successful Masonic career.
Records of his undoubtedly successful 18-year stint as
headmaster at Repton are scattered with incidents, which
show him to have been both strict and at times ruthless in
pursuing what he saw as justified discipline. Bro the Rev
Neville Barker Cryer, my colleague and well-known
Masonic historian, told me that he was ordained a priest by
Geoffrey Fisher in 1959 at Adiscombe. At the time, and
on various occasions that followed, Geoffrey Fisher never
deviated from a scholastic, master-to-pupil approach in
his communication with fellow priests and parishioners.
Archbishop Fisher, Freemason and
The Archbishop at the moment he
crowns Elizabeth II at her coronation
in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953
Web site created by Mark Griffin