The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta.
The official name of the order is as above but it is commonly referred to as "The Knights Templar". The Province first came into existence in 1840 with the formation of Watford Encampment under the guidance of William Stuart Sen., who subsequently ruled the Province as Provincial Grand Commander. In 1861, William Stuart became Grand Master of the Order and appointed George Francis as his successor in Hertfordshire, at the same time sanctioning that Watford Encampment should be known as Stuart Encampment. Francis remained as Provincial Grand Commander until his death in 1879 and it would seem that the Province died with him, there being no recorded minutes of the Province’s existence after this time. However, Stuart Encampment, which had been renamed Stuart Preceptory, struggled on.
In the meantime, a ruling had been established that a Province must have a minimum of three Preceptories, and consequently a concerted effort was made in 1930 by Stuart Preceptory to form two new Preceptories – one at St. Albans and another in the Hertford region. As a result, the Preceptory of St. Alban, No. 266 was Consecrated later that year, followed by Temple Chelsin Preceptory, No. 269 a year later in 1931. With three Preceptories now in existence, overtures were made by Stuart Preceptory to the Grand Master’s Council for a new Provincial Priory of Hertfordshire to be formed.
They replied that they thought the interests of the Order would best be served by the union of the two Provinces of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. This decision was met with considerable opposition from the three Preceptories, and after a considerable amount of manoeuvring, official confirmation came on 20th May 1933 that the Grand Master had sanctioned the formation of the Province of Hertfordshire and that V.E.Kt. John F. Cleeves, KCT, PGtHer was to be the new Provincial Prior. The new Province was subsequently Constituted at the Chancery of the Orders, Great Queen Street, on November 8th 1933 by the M.E.& Supreme Pro Grand Master, The Rt.Hon. The Earl of Harewood, KG, DSO, GCT and the Provincial Prior appointed the Rev.Bernard W. Harvey as his Sub-Prior.
Two more Preceptories quickly followed, St. John the Evangelist, No. 281 at Barnet in 1936 and Temple Dinsley, No. 283 at Hitchin the following year. With the advent of War, the Province met from 1940 to 1945 at Duke Street and dined occasionally at the Café Royal. In 1946/7 the Provincial Prior, due to old age and showing signs of ill-health, decided that he would retire from office in 1948, and his last duty immediately prior to the Installation of his successor, his Sub-Prior, the Rev Bernard William Harvey, was to Consecrate the John F. Cleeves Preceptory, No. 315, a fitting tribute to the memory of his name. The Consecration took place at the Café Royal on 31st January 1948 and was followed later in the day by the Installation of the Rev. Harvey as Provincial Prior, by the Grand Master, the Most Eminent and Supreme Knight, the Hon. Lord Harris, M.C., D.L. The Sub-Prior appointed was E.Kt. Henry Clive Huxley.
Regrettably, the new Provincial Prior was unable to carry out his duties due to ill-health and died about a year later resulting in the Hon. Lord Harris returning fourteen months after his last visit to Install E.Kt. Henry Clive Huxley as the third Provincial Prior. This time the ceremony was performed at Duke Street in a rather sombre atmosphere. The Sub-Prior this time was E.Kt. Jaggard.
The early 1950’s saw the passing of many old stalwarts of the Province including the ‘founding’ Provincial Prior of the re-Constituted Province, V.E.Kt. John F. Cleeves, who died suddenly at the age of 84 years.With their passing, other names were moving into prominence, such as Tom Norman and Richard (Dickie) Hammond, both of whom were to play a major role later on, and of course, there was also the constant presence of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Moffett, Great Prelate. Indeed, it was to the Rev. Dr. Joseph Moffett that Great Priory turned when in 1954 we saw the resignation from office of the Provincial Prior, V.E.Kt. Henry Clive Huxley, KCT, and the death of his Sub-Prior, P.W.Jaggard. The situation demanded a quick decision, and Great Priory at short notice appointed the Rev. Dr. Joseph Moffett as the new Provincial Prior. Because the Grand Master was unable to attend the date of Provincial Priory, his Installation took place at the Café Royal, London on 17th September 1954 by special Dispensation. Once again the Hon. Lord Harris was the Presiding and Installing Officer. The new Provincial Prior appointed the Vice-Chancellor, E.Kt. G.H.Horner, as his Sub Prior and his place was given significantly to E.Kt. Tom Norman.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Moffett reigned as Provincial Prior until his death in 1962 and one wonders if his commitment to his pastoral duties as well as those of a Masonic nature had not taken its toll. At his death he was, in addition to being Provincial Prior, Provincial Grand Master in the Craft, Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch, Provincial Grand Master in the Mark and Provincial Grand Master Designate in the Royal Order of Scotland - surely too much responsibility for one man to bear. His Sub-Prior in Charge, V.E.Kt. G.H.Horner, having apparently expressed a wish to the Grand Master that because of his poor health, he should not be considered for any future role in the Province, it was announced by the Vice-Chancellor, E.Kt. Thomas William Norman, PGtStB(B) that he had been invited to become the new Provincial Prior. He was Installed on 13th September 1962 by yet again, the Rt.Hon. Lord Harris, who was still the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master, at St. Albans School, Romeland, St. Albans. After the meeting the Knights processed across the way to the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, where they attended Evensong dressed in full regalia. With E.Kt. Horner not wishing to continue as Provincial Sub-Prior because of ill health, the new Provincial Prior had appointed E.Kt. J.D.Perritt to that office and the role of Vice-Chancellor fell to E.Kt. Dickie Hammond. Thus began a period of expansion in a most active manner, which was to shape the future of the Knights Templar Order in Hertfordshire and was to become the legacy of Tom Norman’s thirteen year’s rule over the Province.
Consecrations of new Preceptories came on a fairly regular basis, the first only a year after his installation on 30th October, when Joseph Moffett Preceptory, No. 383 was consecrated at Watford. It was originally intended that the Preceptory should be centred at Berkhampstead so that it didn’t interfere with any recruiting of members for Stuart Preceptory, but in the end it found itself at Watford, meeting in tandem with Stuart and the two have successfully co-existed side by side ever since.
The next Preceptory followed five years later in 1968 with the Consecration of Charles Herbert Perram Preceptory, No. 409. Interestingly, by consent of the V.E. Provincial Prior of Northampton, Huntingdon and Bedford, the Preceptory was consecrated at Luton under the umbrella of the Province of Hertfordshire on 13th February. Tom Norman had earlier been instrumental in the formation of Ampthill Preceptory, the only one in Bedfordshire, and the permission given by our neighbouring Province to encroach upon their territory was a reciprocal gesture. The Preceptory initially met at Luton but moved to Radlett in 1975, where it has been ever since.
Following a call to arms by the Provincial Prior in which he expressed a wish to see Preceptories meeting at Royston, Welwyn, Sawbridgeworth and Hatfield, there was an immediate response, such that on 26th June 1969 Royston Preceptory, No. 416 was consecrated at Cheshunt in conjunction with the meeting of Provinical Priory, and a year later on June 4th 1970 Hatfield Preceptory was consecrated at The Cloisters, Letchworth and which was to meet at the Cranbourne Rooms, Hatfield before it’s move to Radlett in 1976. The Consecration of MacLeod Preceptory. No. 463, the Past Preceptor’s Preceptory, took place at the Cranbourne Rooms, Hatfield on 23rd September 1975 and this proved to be the swan-song of the R.E. Provincial Prior, for Tom Norman was to die later that year. His had been an amazing career in Knights Templary in Hertfordshire, his reign having seen the number of Preceptories increase from six to eleven and the number of swords from about 180 when he took up office to somewhere in the region of 300 multiple membership at his demise – a truly outstanding achievement. His thirteen years had also seen other significant changes.
Gone were the ‘old brigade’, when it was decided in 1972 that an eye to future progression should see a reappraisal of those holding office in the executive. One of those who had offered his resignation as a result of the new policy was the Sub-Prior, V.E.Kt. Perritt, who had served ten years in that office. In his place E.Kt. Sid Perry had been appointed and installed at the Provincial Priory meeting. Following on from the Evensong at St. Albans Cathedral at his Installation, way back in 1962, Church Services in some form or other became a regular feature. These were arranged sometimes in conjunction with the KT Province of Essex, and held at various places in the Province, such as Bray, St. Peter’s Church in St. Albans, Baldock Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin and even further a field such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Holborn Viaduct. Attempts had even been made to organise another Service at the Cathedral, but despite gaining the permission of the Dean, it did not materialise.
With the death of Tom Norman, E.Kt. Sidney Charles Perry was appointed Provincial Prior and was installed as such on March 26th 1976 by the Very High and Eminent Great Seneschal-in-Charge, Harold Devereux Still, the Grand Master also having passed the previous year. The new Provincial Sub-Prior was E.Kt. Dr. Alan John Owen. Sid Perry’s approach was one of consolidation following his predecessor’s expansion policy and thus it proved to be, such that at his death in 1981, his ‘family’ of Preceptories, as he called them, were all well established and with the possible exception of MacLeod, which was causing the Provincial Prior some concern, all were reasonably successful. Two significant events were to loom during his last year, although he was not to see the fruition of either of them. Firstly, plans were well in hand for the Church Service to be held in the Lady Chapel of St.Albans Cathedral, with the Service conducted by the Dean himself, Kt. Dr. Moore. Secondly, moves were afoot to further increase the number of Preceptories in the Province by extending the hand of welcome to Mediterranean Preceptory, No. 37, which was in Malta and experiencing difficulties. As a result of these and the political situation on the island, it was looking to transfer to England. The other interesting thing of note to occur during Sid Perry’s last year was that new regulations had been issued by Great Priory, and that for the first time Provincial Priors were to be designated ‘Right Eminent’ instead of ‘Very Eminent’. The transfer of Mediterranean Preceptory, No. 37 took place on New Year’s Day, 1982, and its inauguration occurred a week later on 9th January. One of the first actions taken by the members was to apply to Great Priory for permission to revert back to its original name of ‘Melita’, and this was finally granted. Thus Melita Preceptory, No. 37 became the twelfth in the Province and although numerically taking its place after Stuart, No. 28, the oldest Preceptory of the Province, it can justifiably claim to be the oldest in the Province, having been founded about 1815 and having in its possession a Warrant of Confirmation from the Grand Conclave of England dated 10th May 1850.
E.Kt. Dr. Alan Owen, Provincial Sub-Prior in Charge was appointed the new Provincial Prior and his installation took place on 16th April 1982 at Cheshunt by the Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master, Harold Devereux Still. He appointed as his Sub-Prior E.Kt. Frank Blackman, the long serving Vice-Chancellor, whilst his place was given to E.Kt. Ken Elder. A month later, the Order returned to the Cathedral at St Albans after a gap of twenty years for a Service conducted by the Dean, Kt. The Very Rev. Dr. Peter Moore. It was to be some time before it returned again.
The following year saw the 50th anniversary meeting of the Province being held on Wednesday 22nd June at the Cloisters, Letchworth.
The Very High and Right Eminent Great Seneschal, Rt.Hon. The Lord Swansea, was in attendance and commented that Lord Harris, the Past Grand Master, who had played a not too insignificant part in the history of the Province, and who had been Great Seneschal at the time of the Reconstitution of the Province some fifty years ago, was still alive and still a member of our Illustrious Order. The celebrations of the Jubilee Year of the Province could do no better than to couple them with a recognition of his years of magnificent service.
With thanks to the web-site of the Provincial Priory of Hertfordshire, for the information about The United Religious, Military And Masonic Orders Of The Temple And Of St John Of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes And Malta; that being the official full name of the order.