It was with very mixed feelings that the companions of Knott End Chapter No 8674 and their guests attended the final meeting of the chapter at Wyrebank, Garstang. After much soul searching the heartbreaking decision to close the chapter had been made, but there was a determination to celebrate all that had been achieved and to remember the good times.
The principal guest receiving the surrendered warrant of the chapter was Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Christopher (Chris) Charles Butterfield, who was delighted to have the support, on this eventful evening, of fellow Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson. Also accompanying Chris were Lancaster and District Group Chairman Jim Wilson, grand officers Harry Cox, Philip Gardner, Tom Holroyd, Malcolm Worsley, Christopher Band and Duncan Smith, together with acting Provincial grand officers Peter Quirk, Paul Thompson, Steve McClintock and Dennis Laird. The evening’s proceedings were expertly directed by Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies David Thomas. The chapter was also pleased to welcome the group vice chairman and group secretary Neil McGill and Scott Devine respectively.
The chapter was opened in due form by the first principal Arthur Laycock and as this was the final meeting, a number of proposals relating to the closure were approved by the members. Upon completion of the chapter business, David Thomas entered the room to announce the arrival of Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Chris Butterfield and the other distinguished companions. Having been welcomed by the three principals, Chris replied that it was with mixed emotions that he was in attendance today but hoped that it was possible to make the occasion a relatively happy event as there was a lot to celebrate.
In order to allow the present principals to complete their year in office and given that this was the final ceremony, John Chesters, Keith Gresty and Bill Williamson were installed in their appropriate chairs in a rather succinct but tasteful manner, with each of the principals in turn just swapping their robes.
The principals having occupied the chairs of the chapter, Malcolm Worsley took to the floor to deliver a brief history of Knott End Chapter. The chapter, he said, held their first meeting on the 11 September 2000 at Springfield House in Pilling. 24 companions and 16 visitors were recorded in the janitor’s book. The chapter continued to prosper over the next three years with 11 exaltations and 2 joining members. Due to difficulties with their original venue, it was decided in 2008 to relocate to Garstang Masonic Hall, their current home. Over time, numbers attending began to decrease and their last exaltation took place in 2013. Due to further resignations, it was decided in 2017 to close the chapter and hand back its warrant.
Malcolm was moved to say, that although it was a sad evening for all the members, it was particularly poignant for the six founders who were still present today, namely John Chesters, Ernest Gavan, Keith Gresty, Bill Williamson, John Thornton and himself. They had all set out on this journey with high hopes, great expectations, boundless enthusiasm and a commitment to advance the cause of the Royal Arch, however although the final words have now been written on this chapter, we can look back with pride and savour the memories. On behalf of the companions of Knott End Chapter, he thanked all those companions who had supported the chapter over the years.
On completion of Malcolm’s speech, Chris rose to address those present. He stated, that although the chapter had only been in existence a relatively short time, it was important that its short life was celebrated and the chapter’s successes remembered. Chris congratulated the companions on trying to save the chapter and taking the difficult, but probably correct decision to close. Chris completed his address by thanking all the companions that were present for making it a special evening.
At this juncture the chapter was finally closed, following which the PrDGDC asked the companions of Knott End Chapter to form around the centre of the chapter whilst the warrant, with due reverence, was passed around each companion in succession, before being entrusted to Chris for safe keeping, with its eventual transfer to Supreme Grand Chapter in London.
Upon accepting the warrant, Chris replied that it was with great reluctance that he accepted the warrant and it was a great shame the chapter had to close. Chris relayed the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison’s best wishes, with the hope that the companions can continue to enjoy their Royal Arch Masonry in a new home.
Before retiring from the chapter, the PrDGDC asked the companions of Knott End Chapter to form up in a line on one side of the room, whilst the grand and acting Provincial grand officers formed a line on the other side. With everyone in position, the companions retired with affable eloquence, after which the lights were turned out and the chapter doors closed for the last time.
Despite the sombre and regretful tone of the evening, the festive board very rapidly became an event of celebration with a happy and charged atmosphere amongst the 40 plus diners. Chris, in answering the toast to his health, paid a final tribute to the outgoing principals as well as the incoming principals, who had reigned for about only 20 minutes. Special thanks were proffered to the acting scribe Ezra Bernard Snape and to the DC Ernie Gavan for all the work in advance of the meeting and indeed during the ceremony. Knott End Chapter, Chris said, would always have a place in the history of the Lancaster and District Group and amongst its members. In conclusion, Chris wished all the former members of Knott End Chapter every success in whatever Royal Arch future they decided to take.
Shortly before the festive board was complete, it was announced the chapter charity fund, a sum of £395, was being donated to the National Kidney Foundation. One of the chapters members Jim Barr, is one of the volunteers for the charity and is a district organiser.
Despite the sadness of the occasion, the companions left the festive board in a positive frame of mind, looking forward to the future.
Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.