"The Masonic Empire of Thomas Dunckerley: England to Quebec and the Broad Oceans In-between" - Susan Mitchell Sommers, Professor of History, Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Published on 25 May 2015

The subject of this lecture, Thomas Dunckerley (c.1720-1795), cuts a swath through late 18th-century English Freemasonry. As the very active Provincial Grand Master of eight Masonic Provinces in southern England, he set an important example by building up the provincial organization of the Grand Lodge, establishing a model of local governance that has influenced provincial Freemasonry to the present day. Dunckerley was also a great Masonic innovator, taking a leading part in the integration of the Royal Arch into the activities of the Moderns Grand Lodge, and presiding over Royal Arch Masonry in 11 counties. Dunckerley enthusiastically promoted the English Knights Templar and Royal Ark Masons, serving as the first Grand Master (or its equivalent) of both organizations. In the 1760s Dunckerley pioneered “sea” Masonry, establishing a number of lodges on ships at sea, using his personal warrants. There is evidence he even toyed with the idea of establishing an English Adoptive Rite for women, to be headed by his wife, “Sister” Hannah Dunckerley. What all this activity points to is the creation of a Masonic “empire” of sorts, one that crossed rites and degrees, and reached from the Mediterranean to Quebec. The lecture explores Dunckerley’s innovations, and highlights his ongoing involvement with Freemasonry in Canada, which had as its focal point the bitter rivalry between the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges of England.


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