The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon
Under Charter From The Grand Master's Council
Our Most Worthy Grand Master
Our Most Worthy Grand Master, Sir Philip of Hamilton welcomes you to our website.
Here we hope to keep our members and visitors up to date with our masonic and social activities. We also hope that it will give non-members an opportunity to see what we are doing in the community, and provide them with further information should they wish to join our fraternity.
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About The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon.
St Thomas of Acon constituted in 1973 under charter from The Grand Master’s Council.
The Order of St. Thomas of Acon was established in 1974 as a result of twenty years’ research in the Guildhall Library in London by John E. N. Walker, who for many years was the Secretary General of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. The ancient records of the Order, written in medieval French and Latin, had been deposited in the Guildhall Library and escaped the Great Fire of 1666. The Order now operates under the official title of The Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon.
The Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon is an independent British Christian masonic organisation. Membership is restricted to those who are subscribing members of a Preceptory (Commandery) in amity with the Great Priory of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Order of the Temple of England and Wales and Provinces Overseas (commonly referred to as the Knights Templar). Membership is by invitation only. The basic organisation of the Order is a Chapel.
Our Charities raise monies for the support and upkeep of Canterbury Cathredal
Relationship of The Appendant Orders
That we have a revival of this very English Order of Chivalry is due to the untiring efforts of our first Grand Master, Sir John of Dorking. John spent more than twenty years searching the archives of the Guildhall Library for information about the Order of St Thomas of Acon intending initially to write its history. Happily, he discovered the report of the Installation of the Master in 1510, an account so unusual and so typically English, that he felt compelled to revive the Order, albeit Masonically, rather than attempt to compete with the many histories of these Islands – some, alas, more lurid than accurate which vie for public attention.
In former times, few could read or write so that memories were better developed than ours. Pythagoras forbade all writing, considering it “the destroyer of all memory”; fortunately most people were more tolerant. It was not necessary to record what was to be spoken, nor to give more than headings of the order of events; such clues as have survived require imaginative interpretation. Good stories, on the other hand, (such as those of Becket, father and son), were written down for use as homilies by priests.
The Third Crusade began in 1189 AD, and on the 8th June 1191 King Richard 1 (Richard Coeur de Lion) arrived with his forces, before the seaport of Acre, and captured the city in 5 weeks. Amongst the English force was one, William, the Chaplain to the Dean of St Paul’s, who when he saw the corpses of the Christians about the walls of Acre, had compassion on them. With the aid of a few helpers he buried a large number of the dead, and tended the wounded. Seeing that his actions were being appreciated, William formed an Order for the express purpose of burying Christian Knights who fell in battle in the Holy Land. To this first purpose he added a second, the raising of monies to redeem ransomed captives captured by the Saracens. The Order being formed at Acre its name was incorporated in the title (the Anglicised version ofAcre being Acon). The Order was so successful that William was able to build a church and churchyard that he dedicated to St Thomas ‘a Becket, thus the Order became entitled the Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon, Through disease and death of the other knights fighting in the Holy Land, this Order of English monks was pressed into service as replacements, and became an Order of military monks, (it was also at this time circa 1279 that the Prior lost his pre-eminent position, this being accorded to the Master), fighting alongside the Knights of the Temple, the Knights of the Hospital of St John the Almsgiver, the Knights of the Hospital of Lazarus and the Teutonic Knights of the Hospital of St Mary. King Richard I rewarded their valour by according them the status of an Order of Chivalry. Of all the five noble Orders of knights in the Holy Land at this time, only this Order had a purely English foundation – a fact of which we should be justly proud.
In England the Order acquired the property of the Becket family in Cheapside where they built a Chapel and a headquarters. Following the battle of Acre, the Order of St Thomas of Acon merged temporarily with the Order of the Temple. When the knights were subsequently driven out of Cyprus, the Chapel of the Order ofSt Thomas was the only church on the island permitted to ring its bells. Remains of this church can still be visited.
Old records are sparse, the last admission into the Order being recorded on the 2nd February 1367, but that the order continued is not in doubt as the records of the Installation of a Master in 1510 mentioned above demonstrate and it was listed as one of the Orders dissolved by Henry VIII.
At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, he offered the Chapel of the Order for sale, and, in memory of St Thomas (Thomas ‘a Becket being canonised barely two years after his death during the Lentern period in 1173), and in view of the association of his father, Gilbert, with their trade, the Worshipful Company of Mercers purchased it. The Chapel in Cheapside was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and the present Mercers Hall and Chapel were built on the site. This is a matter of historical record, lengthy articles have been published in the “Historical Review”, which is available in most public libraries and in several books. All that remains today to remind us of that building is the recumbent statue of Christ, which lies at the entrance of the new Mercers’ Chapel. Additionally, the Church of St Thomas, in the City of London, was built in honour of St Thomas ‘a Becket, and the Mayor, on the day of his Installation, always attended Mass in that church, before proceeding to St Paul’s.
Membership of the Order is restricted to members of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta, or its equivalent in other countries. Should a member of this Order cease to be a member of a Masonic Knight Templar Preceptory, or a subscribing member of a Chapel of the Order, his membership of this Order ceases automatically.
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Cheshire & North Wales
Hampshire & The Isle of Wight
Northumberland & Durham
South East Counties
Australia South & New Zealand
Dear Bro Knights, all,
Our annual service for this year, 2023, will be held in Canterbury Cathedral, as usual, commencing at 14:00 pm, on Saturday 16th September 2023.
Members of the Order and guests should assemble outside of the Cathedral’s main gate, as a group. The group will be conducted to the chapel at 13:45 pm.
Members should wear the tie of the Commemorative Order of St Thomas of Acon, to gain free admission for themselves and guests.
With all best wishes,
Yours in H et C
(Rev William Whitfield of Marchwood, Protector of Canterbury)
As with last year we have been unable to secure anywhere that would host a pre-service buffet for us. This should not preclude Knights from making their own arrangements for refreshment within the town centre, with their travelling companions and we will all be easily identifiable wearing our tie of the Order. As a suggestion, we have used the Drapers Arms, 1 – 2, Sun Street, Canterbury CT1 2HX (Drapers Arms Canterbury), and met in The Thomas Ingoldsby (Wetherspoon Pub – 5–9 Burgate Canterbury, CT1 2HG) in the past, although there are many other good hostelries to choose from.