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«by Susan Mitchell Sommers PICKERING & CHATTO 2012 Published by Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited 21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH 2252 Ridge ...»

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Susan Mitchell Sommers



Published by Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited

21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

2252 Ridge Road, Brookfield, Vermont 05036-9704, USA

www.pickeringchatto.com All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior permission of the publisher.

© Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Ltd 2012 © Susan Mitchell Sommers 2012 To the best of the Publisher’s knowledge every effort has been made to contact relevant copyright holders and to clear any relevant copyright issues.  Any omissions that come to their attention will be remedied in future editions.

british library cataloguing in publication data Sommers, Susan Mitchell, 1961– Thomas Dunckerley and English freemasonry.

1. Dunckerley, Thomas, 1724–1795. 2. Freemasons – Great Britain – Biography.

3. Freemasonry – Great Britain – History – 18th century.

I. Title 366.1’092-dc23 ISBN-13: 9781848933583 e: 9781781440056 ∞ This publication is printed on acid-free paper that conforms to the American National Standard for the Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials.

Typeset by Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by the MPG Books Group


Acknowledgements vii Biographical Prolegomenon xi Prologue: In the Aftermath of War 1 1 The Making of a Myth 5 2 Those he Left Behind 21 3 Dunckerley all at Sea 37 4 Dunckerley Ashore 49 5 The Trappings of Royalty 63 6 Making a Mason 75 7 Provincial Grand Master of England 89 8 Appendant Orders and Higher Degrees 107 9 Apotheosis 135 Epilogue 153 Addendum 157 Appendix 1 159 Appendix 2 163 Notes 165 Bibliography 191 Index 207 For Sophia


This study brings together the arts of biography, monograph and Masonic history to fix an eighteenth-century naval veteran and Masonic luminary in a position he has never before occupied – his proper historical context. In the process of research and writing I have incurred so many debts across disciplines and continents that acknowledging them adequately is daunting. I must begin, however, with my colleagues at Saint Vincent College, who have been unstinting in their support and encouragement. Foremost amongst them is Fr. Rene Kollar, OSB, the Dean of the School of Humanities and Fine Arts. Rene is himself a distinguished scholar, and he diligently fosters the scholarly endeavours of his faculty. Over the years he has consistently found resources for my forays into fraternal history, and without his stalwart support this project would not have been possible. Likewise I deeply appreciate the support of the committee entrusted with awarding Faculty Research Grants, which partially funded the research for this study. Other colleagues at Saint Vincent and elsewhere who read drafts and offered invaluable suggestions include Eric Duff y, Br. Bruno Heisey, OSB, Phyllis Riddle, Jim W. Daniel and James Smith Allen. John Bedell and Bill Speck read the manuscript and asked sometimes painfully pointed questions which I took to heart, and for which I am grateful. Dede Lingle Ittner’s enthusiastic reading of the entire draft convinced me that non-historians could have as much fun with Dunckerley’s story as I did. William D. Moore and Jan A. M.

Snoek generously shared their work in manuscript, and are duly noted in the text. My most profound thanks are due to John M. Hamill, Aubrey Newman and Andrew Prescott, all outstanding scholars and masters of Masonic history.

They poured over my manuscript removing ‘Americanisms’, explained the more arcane aspects of eighteenth-century Freemasonry and pointed me in the right direction when I needed additional sources to get the story right. The finished text is much richer and more accurate for their tremendous skill and generosity.

Any mistakes that crept in despite their attention are my own.

All contemporary historical studies depend on a network of archives and libraries, as much for their professional staff as for the collections they contain.

My first thanks must go to the staff of the Latimer Family Library at Saint Vin vii – viii Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry cent College, especially Marlo Verilla, who was brilliant in fulfilling my nearly endless interlibrary loan requests for obscure materials. Similarly high praise is due to my friends – for such they have become – at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at the United Grand Lodge in London. Director of the Library and Museum Diane Clements heads a team of dedicated professionals with a thorough knowledge of their collections. I owe more than I can express to Susan Snell, Archivist and Records Manager, and Martin Cherry, Librarian. Fabulous in person, both have been endlessly patient in answering my persistent follow-up emails. Assistant Archivist Louise Pichel and Assistant Librarian Peter Aitkenhead have also gone out of their way to be helpful, informative and welcoming.

Robert L. D. Cooper, Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library, deserves similar recognition. He is a friend and colleague, and has been generous in providing access to rare publications.

Other libraries and archives have played an important part in my research as well, especially in locating and reproducing heretofore misplaced primary sources. Both the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan and Surrey History Centre have generously granted permission to publish the three documents contained in the Appendices, all now in print for the first time.

I have also relied on the resources of Mark Tabbert at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, and Aimee Newell and Jeff Croteau at the Museum of National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts. Richard Gan, Past Deputy Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons kindly allowed Andrew Prescott and me to consult the archives in Mark Mason Hall, and completed our visit with a memorable lunch.

I must warmly acknowledge the international treasures that are the National Library of Scotland, the British Library and the National Archives at Kew, whose collections form the cornerstone of my research. I also owe a debt of several decades’ profitable shelf-searching to the Institute of Historical Research.

However, as technology changes, so too do our methods. As a relatively isolated scholar working in the wilds of Pennsylvania, I found various online resources a welcome addition to bricks-and-mortar institutions. Online catalogues, as well as projects like the Internet Archive, London Lives 1690 to 1800, Old Bailey Online, FamilySearch and electronic resources available to me as an affiliate of King’s College London made my research more effective and sometimes almost magically instantaneous. Thanks to all.

Several individuals deserve acknowledgement for their patient and informative correspondence, including John M. Hamill and Harriet Sandvall of the United Grand Lodge of England, Harry Dickinson of King’s College London, Stewart Brand, Archivist at the Devonshire Collection, Hannah Ishmael, Archives and Records Assistant of the Museums and Archives of the Royal College of Surgeons, Katie Ormerod, Deputy Archivist of the Archives & Museum

Acknowledgements ix

of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and Eva-Marie Felschow of the University of Geissen. I am deeply grateful for the invaluable research and correspondence of Pamela Clark, Registrar at the Royal Archives. My sincere thanks go to the Master and members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 for their encouragement, and the opportunity to present my findings at their 125th anniversary meeting in June 2011.

It is customary to conclude acknowledgements with recognition of one’s family. I must expand the family circle a bit to include my colleague, mentor and boon companion Andrew Prescott. Without Andrew’s prodding, encouragement and critical eye, I would neither have undertaken nor completed this study. I am deeply appreciative of the love, support and patience of all members of my family in residence and scattered afar, especially Dallas and Alexander, but Sophia claims this book’s dedication as the price for leaving her ‘alone with the boys again’ every time I vanished into the archives.


Thomas Dunckerley (1720–95) cut a swathe through late eighteenth-century English Freemasonry. Over the last quarter of that century, Dunckerley set an important example by building up the provincial organization of the Grand Lodge in southern England, serving as Provincial Grand Master for eight Masonic provinces by the early 1790s, and establishing a model of local governance which has deeply influenced provincial Freemasonry in England to the present day. Dunckerley also took a leading part in the integration of the Royal Arch into the activities of the Modern Grand Lodge, presiding over Royal Arch Masonry in eleven counties. Dunckerley enthusiastically and effectively promoted other degrees, commanding both the English Knights Templar and the recently formalized Royal Ark Masons. There is even some evidence that he had in mind the creation of a women’s order or English Adoptive Rite.1 His life and accomplishments were celebrated by his Masonic colleagues, especially in the provinces, and during his lifetime biographical sketches appeared in the contemporary Masonic press.2 In the nineteenth century, Dunckerley’s biography was made to serve new purposes, as it was emphasized by Masonic admirers who portrayed him as an example of just the sort of gentleman, Christian and Freemason the British Empire had need of in the Victorian era. They were particularly impressed by his twenty-year naval career, the centrepiece of which was his participation in the Siege of Quebec in 1759, cited as evidence of his manifest heroism and loyal sacrifice.3 Still other Masonic writers, these with the goal of an explicit re-Christianization of the Order, held up Dunckerley as a Masonic sage, and credited him with an intellectual as well as administrative reformation of Craft Masonry.4 Despite his importance in the eighteenth century, and his celebrity in the nineteenth, today Thomas Dunckerley is virtually unknown outside a select circle of Masonic historians. This is a pity for several reasons. First, his significance in the creation of the structure of modern English and, through that, American Freemasonry in itself deserves recognition. Second, his life story is engaging, and makes entertaining reading. Lastly, and most important, Dunckerley’s personal story is set against the broad transformations affecting Western societies – xi – xii Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry between 1750 and 1850. Historians frequently argue this was a time of uncommonly rapid and pervasive change or, as Dror Wahrman has termed it, ‘of radical discontinuity’.5 It was an age when social and political remnants of the medieval world were definitively left behind by the dust of revolutions, and the foundations of modernity rose everywhere on the horizons. Technological advances transformed the business of life across society, while innovations in travel, scientific equipment, medicine and the military meant that Westerners could travel further, trade and conquer with greater impunity than ever before, and still stand a reasonable chance of making it home to tell their version of the tale.

Against this backdrop, some daring individuals seized the chance to transform themselves as well, taking advantage of poor communications, shoddy record-keeping, shifting social definitions and previously unheard-of opportunities to leave their homes, families, even social status behind, and define themselves anew, somewhere far away. Many literally ‘made a name for themselves’ by abandoning their former identity, vanishing into one of the great wars of the eighteenth century, or the empire-building projects of the nineteenth.

Others, like Thomas Dunckerley, chose a more modest pathway to personal aggrandizement by abandoning only the inconvenient parts of their family history, and indulging in eighteenth-century style résumé enhancement. For Dunckerley, personal rebranding was a conscious effort, with results he could not have foreseen.


The Treaty of Paris was signed in February 1763, officially ending the hostilities between France and Great Britain that lay at the heart of the global conflict we call the Seven Years’ War. Hundreds of thousands of men were consequently demobilized in Britain, France and across the Continent. Britain alone had around 200,000 men in its army, militia and navy by the end of the war.1 Even though Great Britain kept a strong contingent of regular troops stationed in the American colonies, many more went home to the uncertainties of civilian life. Among them, Thomas Dunckerley, master gunner and sometime teacher of mathematics, had ample reason to be concerned. On 31 May 1763 he was paid off, having served most recently as gunner on HMS Prince, a second-rate ship of the line. This had been his most prestigious naval posting, and was the culmination of a career that dated back to at least 1744. That spring he was forty-two years old, with a family to support, and no real prospects.

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