It was the first, socially distanced, Metropolitan Royal Arch meeting after the Coronavirus lockdown, in an unusually hushed Freemasons’ Hall. And this was not any ordinary meeting. It was the rescue meeting of Aldersgate Chapter No 1657; the sponsoring Chapter of the Aldersgate Chapter of Improvement – originator and overseer of Aldersgate ritual.


Aldersgate Chapter was founded in 1883 and named after the Aldersgate, one of the northern gates in the great London Wall once encircling the City, first erected by the Romans around the year 200AD. The name Ealdredesgate, late Saxon, comes about later, around 1000: it means Ealdrd’s gate, maybe for the Archbishop of York of that name who crowned William I in 1066. These episcopal ties lingered. After 1660, Aldersgate Street contained the Bishop of London’s chapel and chambers at London House, nearer to St Paul’s Cathedral than his official residence in Fulham. In 1650, James Howell, Historiographer Royal, said the wide Aldersgate with its impressive houses ‘resembleth an Italian street more than any other in London.’ And Royal Arch being a kingly order, it was a bit earlier through Aldersgate that James VI of Scotland, on his way to unite the English and Scottish crowns, entered the City shortly before in 1603.


The consecration meeting took place, fittingly, on Aldersgate Street, at the Castle and Falcon Inn, now vanished, but we know the hostelry stood there since 1673. Founders included George Kenning and John Derby Allcroft, later MP for Worcester. The Grand Scribe Ezra, E Comp Colonel Shadwell Henry Clerke (a former army officer during the Crimean War) invested Allcroft (who also was the Grand Treasurer at the time) as Aldersgate Chapter’s primus First Principal. For a long time, the Chapter met at the Hotel Splendide on Piccadilly. Its sponsoring Lodge, founded seven years beforehand and which went on to become Arts and Aldersgate Lodge No. 1657 after an amalgamation, has gone on to great  things as the Charities’ Lodge.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 42 October 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 42.