Who Are We? – Historical Notes on the the OSM

RH Dec 08
Robin Habbitts

Historical Notes on the OSM 


You may be reading this information with a view to learning more about the Order of the Secret Monitor because you have an interest in Masonic history.

Alternatively, you may be considering membership. If so, the probability is that the Brother who gave you this link is likely to have sufficient respect for you to be contemplating inviting you to become a member of the Order.

Although this section concentrates on the history of the Order, if you would like to avoid going through the detail of the history and read a brief version, you will find a general description of the Order, its tenets and fundamentals in the next few paragraphs and a description of the regalia and the details of the Norfolk Province can be found by elsewhere in the Website.

I hope you enjoy your reading and find some of your questions answered. I also hope that if you decide that the principles and tenets are those, which suit your approach to life, I may look forward at some point in the future, to welcoming you into the Order and the Conclave of your choice.

With all good wishes

Robin Habbitts,   PGSR, Norfolk

General Description of the Order

The Order of the Secret Monitor, which developed from a still more ancient degree, is the Brotherhood of David and Jonathan and is in its way older than Freemasonry itself. Its principles and its watchwords being founded upon those grand examples set by two worthy Hebrew Princes around 1000 years BC and as recorded in the Jewish history of the Bible.

This is a society framed upon the principles of mutual trust, watchful brotherly care, of warning in time of danger; solace in time of sorrow; together with skillful and effective friendly advice in every circumstance of life: A Society which meets a great and crying need in human affairs and is calculated to benefit those who act upon its tenets.

If a Brother should be in sorrow the Conclave will afford him sympathy; if in danger his Brethren will give him assistance; if in distress the Visiting Deacons will bring him consolation; if in poverty he will find aid.

Within Craft Freemasonry we are taught, at an early stage, that it has for its principles, ‘Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’. In no Order in Freemasonry, other than that of the Order of the Secret Monitor, can there be found a greater emphasis on those fundamental Masonic Virtues, for the teaching of those principles are a dominant part of our Ceremonial and Ritual, and enables us to put them into practice.

The Order consists of three degrees; Secret Monitor is first and comes from the first Book of Samuel. The theme is friendship and fidelity.

The second is the Princes degree. It tells the story of how a Brother was given refuge after escaping death and again lays stress on friendship and fidelity.

The third degree is that of the Installation of the Conclave Supreme Ruler. What is unique is that in addition to the Installation there is a further ceremony called Commissioning which gives rank and status throughout the entire Order.

Regalia is quite simple. A Jewel suspended from a different coloured ribbon for each of the first two degrees. Officers wear a sash, again of differing colour according to which ceremony is being worked. The Supreme Ruler wears a robe, a collarette, jewel and sash.

The Order of the Secret Monitor in Norfolk is an extremely happy and friendly Order. Its Conclaves are found in Dereham, Harleston, King’s Lynn, Norwich, Wroxham and Yarmouth.

Qualification for membership is solely that of being a Master Mason in good standing. Attaining the Office of Supreme Ruler is purely on merit and can be reached without having been through the chair of a Craft Lodge.



1887 – 1910                   1911 – 1967                    1968 – 1987

Introductory Note

Some years ago, V. Wy Bro. Harry Boscow, PGV, a former Provincial Grand Recorder for the Province of West Lancashire produced a brief history of the Order based on a publication, now out of print, by RJ Wilkinson entitled “The Order of the Secret Monitor”. This summary is based on a booklet entitled “CENTURY – A History of One Hundred Years of the Order of the Secret Monitor” by R. Wy. Bro. EG Gregory White, the former Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler for Essex and Suffolk.

The Order emerged in 1887 when Queen Victoria and her loyal subjects celebrated the golden jubilee of her reign, the new suspension bridge over the River Thames at Hammersmith was opened, Stainer’s “The Crucifixion” had its first performance in St. Marylebone Parish Church and the Marylebone Cricket Club celebrated its centenary at Lord’s.

The Order has a scriptural base, following closely the writings of the Book of Samuel, Chapter Twenty, which tells of the enduring friendship between David and Jonathan. The devotion of these two friends for one another forms the basis of the Secret Monitor ritual and precepts; indeed, Friendship for one’s Brother is the predominant teaching of the Order.

“The Order of David and Jonathan”, was brought to the New World about 1658 by Dutch settlers of Jewish decent. It therefore follows that we must return to the Netherlands for its origin. An unfortunate dynastic marriage at this period gave rise to strong Austrian then Spanish influence, which resulted in conflict between the Dutch Lutherans and Roman Catholicism, which had become more dominant as a result of the marriage.

In the late 16th Century a brotherhood was established using modes of recognition by signs and symbols chosen from the story of David and Jonathan in the Bible. A similar occurrence appeared one hundred years later when Louis XIV instigated a catholic crusade against the Huguenots and the same modes of recognition were used to create confusion amongst the invaders.

The ritual of our present Order appears to go back to the Dutch working of the “Order of Jonathan and David and Jesus Christ”. This Order had seven degrees, of which the first three seem to be closely connected to the First Degree of our Order. The last four were reserved for “Freemasons of Eminence”.

There is evidence that a quasi-masonic degree, closely following the O.S.M. First Degree existed in America in the mid 19th Century. It was practiced under various titles and was well established in the latter part of the nineteenth century. An attempt was made in 1890 to bring the order under the jurisdiction of the Allied Degrees when the basic requirement at that time was that a candidate must be an Ark Mariner.


The order was introduced from America by Dr. Issacar Zacharie. He was born in Chatham, Kent, of Jewish parents who had converted to Christianity. He is known to have celebrated his golden wedding in 1894 yet he claims to have been born in 1827 so must have been married by the age of seventeen. He and his family emigrated to America when he was still a boy and his initiation into Freemasonry took place in 1848.

On his return to England in 1875 he built up a thriving orthopedic practice at 80 Brook Street, London. He became a member of a Mark Lodge in London where he met other Brethren who were Secret Monitors and all were also present in Alfred Meadows Lodge.

Together with a few other Brethren they were invited to meet at Zacharie’s house on 5th May 1887 when they resolved to form the “Alfred Meadows Conclave” with Dr. Zacharie as the first Supreme Ruler.

Dr Issachar Zacharie, and his Highgate Cemetery grave
Dr Issachar Zacharie, and his Highgate Cemetery grave

In a very short space of time on 17th June 1887, Grand Council (now known as Grand Conclave) was formed, Dr. Zacharie being nominated as the first Grand Supreme Ruler. He presided over the first meeting of the Grand Council, which met in his home at 80 Brook Street, on 2nd July 1887. A special meeting of the Grand Council was called for 11th July at which draft constitutions and other documents were submitted and approved. The proceedings of the Grand Council were reported in a Masonic periodical, “The Freemason”, which was in circulation at that time.

Particular emphasis was given to the appointment of Visiting Deacons in every Conclave under the jurisdiction of Grand Council and every Supreme Ruler was required to impress upon the Brother appointed to that office, the importance of his duties.

1887 – 1910

On July 15th 1887 the first Festival of the Order was held, which was also the inaugural meeting of Alfred Meadows Conclave, No 1. This Conclave had been working without a Warrant since the previous November and was regularised by the issue of a Warrant that day.

Thirty new members were admitted at the meeting, including Lord Halsbury, the Lord Chancellor of England who, it is recorded, “left the woolsack to attend the meeting”. Four additional Conclaves were founded that year.

On 29th October 1887, the ritual of the First Degree was adopted and the Brothers who had produced it, Bros. Shadwell H Clarke and C F Matier were each presented with a Jewel of the Order surmounted by a crown.

Bro. Clarke also submitted a design for a seal, which included the motto “Semper Fidelis”. This was approved and was adopted for use on Grand Officers’ jewels.

The Friendship Conclave, No 4 was reported dormant 1893; but was later reconstituted as “Claro True Friendship” Conclave, No 4 at Harrogate in 1895 and is still working today.

Judge Philbrick drafted the first constitutions of the Order, which were adopted at the first meeting of Grand Council in 1887.

The foresight of the Brethren who established the Order was considerable for as far back as July 20th 1887 it had been resolved that the Supreme Ruler of the Order be empowered to appoint Brethren to past or honorary rank in Grand Council, to issue Warrants for new Conclaves and to appoint Provincial and District Rulers. The jewel of the Order was originally attached to “a red ribbon shot with gold one inch wide” and worn round the neck. Later it became impossible to obtain that type of ribbon and yellow ribbon with crimson border was substituted.

The rituals of the Second and Third Degrees were approved during this period but the Third Degree was only conferred on members of Grand Council.

In 1888 seven new Conclaves were warranted and on October 17th of that year Bro. Col. George Lambert presented Consecrating Vessels to Grand Council, sashes were authorised, to be worn by Grand Officers, and the Executive Committee of Grand Council was appointed. Robes were authorised for use by the Grand Supreme Ruler, G Chancellor and G. Chamberlain and also a robe for a SR within the Order. White surpluses were worn by Grand Visitors when Grand Council was opened in due form.

In 1889 the first District GSR was appointed. He was Bro. Felix Gotlieb as District GSR for Eastern Archipelago. Rules and Constitutions for Provinces and Districts were approved and issued at the 3rd Grand Festival. A revised second edition of the Constitutions and Regulations of the Order, proposed by the Earl of Halsbury, was approved and issued.

During this year of 1889 three more Conclaves were warranted and it is recorded that His Highness the Maharajah of Cooch Behar joined the Empress of India Conclave No 16 and from other sources we are informed that the same Maharajah invented a game called “smash”, better known today as snooker. The game was largely played by young subalterns in the mess.

Another particularly important phase during the year was the consideration and finally the adoption of the Third degree ritual when it was also set out that any Grand Officer could act as Commissioning Officer to extend the authority of a Supreme Ruler of a Conclave to that of a Supreme Ruler within the Order. It must here be stressed that a Supreme Ruler who has not been commissioned can only take the chair of the Conclave in which he was installed.

Two new Conclaves were warranted in 1890.

In 1891 The Alfred Meadows Conclave No 1 changed its name to Premier Conclave No1, the District Grand Conclave of Eastern Archipelago was constituted, Penrose Dunbar Conclave No 20 was consecrated and the design of the Third Degree certificate was approved. Music composed by W Stephens of Perth, Western Australia was performed at the fifth Grand Festival and adopted for use in Conclaves.

The 6th Grand Festival of the Order took place in 1893 as did the first visit of Dr. Carmichael, Grand Master of the Allied Degrees of Virginia, USA. He was given access to copies of rituals of the three degrees of the Order for study. During the year two conclaves were made to surrender their warrants for being in arrears with their dues.

1894 started well with conclaves being warranted in Transvaal and Bombay, a further visit by Bro. Dr. Carmichael following up a previously forwarded and newly published ritual of the American working of the Allied Degrees. A presentation was made on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary, to M. Wy. Bro. Dr. Zacharie and his wife. Late that year the District Grand Conclave of South Africa was constituted and the M. Wy G.S.R. informed the Order that his health was such that he could no longer continue in office as Grand Supreme Ruler.

During his term of office twenty-four conclaves had been formed and the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Warwick who had been Deputy Ruler of the Order succeeded him.

Early in 1895 an application was received from a number of Brethren in Rocklands, Maine, USA requesting permission to form a conclave in order to confer the Second and Third degrees of the Order. A warrant was granted to them but it was set out in such a manner as to safeguard the interests of the Brethren of Richmond, Virginia (then allied to Dr. Carmichael) and restricting them from changing their allegiance at any time without the consent of Grand Council. Pioneer Conclave No 24, Rocklands, USA was thus formed.

Cockcroft Conclave, No 25, was consecrated near Todmorden and Champion Conclave No 26 at Manchester by Judge Philbrick on 15th April 1895

I make no excuse for including here part of the homily delivered at the consecration of Champion Conclave by the Judge:

“… a Society framed upon the principles of self-sacrifice, of mutual trust, watchful brotherly care, of compulsory warning in time of danger, official solace in time of sorrow and skillful and effective though unostentatious advice in every circumstance in life, is a Society that meets a great and crying need in human affairs, and is calculated to benefit those who act upon its tenets. Such a Society is that of the Secret Monitor. If a Brother be in sorrow the Conclave will afford him sympathy; if in danger his Brethren will give him assistance; if in distress the Visiting Deacons will bring him consolation; if in poverty he will find aid. Moreover, at every turn of life, at every crisis of fate, he may look and he will not look in vain, to the experienced among its Brethren who have pledged themselves to give him caution, to prompt him in good actions, to warn him of doubtful ones, and generally to watch over him, support him and cherish him so long as he may need their care and he prove worthy of the confidence reposed in him. Such, my Brethren are the principles of our Order. Tried they have been in many times of peril, and true they have been found in times of difficulty …”

May 13th 1895 saw the start of a period of considerable unrest within the Order. A letter (apparently never produced for substantiation) from the Brethren in Virginia, USA who worked under the jurisdiction of the Allied Degrees based in Mark Masons’ Hall was said to have protested the formation of a Secret Monitor Conclave at Rocklands, Maine, USA where the Brethren worked under the jurisdiction of the Sovereign College of Allied and Christian Degrees in America. The Earl od Euston, Grand Master and CF Matier, Grand Secretary of the Mark Degrees, who supported the Brethren in Virginia could not find any grounds for agreement with the Grand Council and eventually resigned from the Order.

The dispute was submitted to Lord Latham, Pro Grand Master of the Craft, in March 1986 for arbitration in an attempt to end the friction.

By the end of the year four more Conclaves had been added to the role of Conclaves under the jurisdiction of the Grand Council.

The office of Grand Director of Ceremonies was introduced in 1897 together with the conferring of Past Ranks on several worthy Brethren in honour of the jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In 1898 an application for the founding of a Conclave at Albany, New York was declined “until the present difficulties in America were settled”.

The dispute went on for three years and was eventually settled by Bro. John Strachan, QC, Grand Registrar of the Craft, to whom the Earl of Latham had referred the matter.

The Earl of Warwick for the OSM and the Earl of Euston for the Mark Degree signed the award in September 1898 and agreed that: –

  1. All minutes, degrees and circulars concerning the dispute on both sides should be null and void.
  2. All members of the Secret Monitor shall be recognized by both Grand Councils
  3. Both Councils shall have the right to grant warrants and work the degree in England, Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies, but not in the USA.

The American Allied Council also agreed to this.

This meant that there where two workings of the Degree; the American working of the Allied or the revised three degree system of the English OSM.

1911 – 1968

Things seemed stable until 1921 when Col. Napier Clavering became Grand Master of the Allied and expressed a wish that the two sides came together, even if it meant the Allied giving up some of its rights to the other side. His committee would not agree.

Col. Napier Clavering joined the OSM through Summus Conclave in 1922 and eventually became Grand Supreme Ruler of the Order, still being Grand Master of the Allied.

Opposition to his earlier proposition was reduced to one by the deaths of other members of the Allied committee, and in July 1931 he was able to reach an agreement between both bodies. The Allied recognized the Grand Council of the Order of the Secret Monitor as the sole authority over the Degree and agreed that Councils of the Allied should no longer work the Secret Monitor Degree.

Grand Council agreed to recognize Brethren who had been inducted under the Allied ritual, subject to taking an obligation of allegiance to the Grand Council. Registration under the Grand Council would be free of charge.

Thus after thirty-one years the Order reached maturity by becoming the only Authoritative Body working the Degree. Col. Napier Clavering had achieved much in his short tenure as M. Wy. Grand Supreme Ruler.

Later in the year 1931, M. Wy. Bro. Napier Clavering died and the Earl of Harewood, Provincial Grand Master for West Yorkshire was persuaded to accept the office of Grand Supreme Ruler although he was not even a member of the Order. He was, however, inducted, admitted, installed and commissioned (all in one day) in Claro True Friendship Conclave No 4 at Harrogate on 12th December 1931, and installed as Grand Supreme Ruler the following February at Mark Masons’ Hall. It was the first time the Order had met there since 1895.

The Earl of Harewood ruled for five years until he was appointed Pro Grand Master for the Craft and he warranted fifteen Conclaves.

Two of these, Concord Conclave No 64 and Liverpool Conclave No67 had previously worked under the Allied Degrees and applied for a Grand Council Warrant in 1932 under the terms of the Agreement, which had finally settled the dispute.

Following the resignation from office of the Earl of Harewood, the Earl of Courtown became Grand Supreme Ruler in 1936 and held office for twenty-one years, during which time the number of Conclaves rose from 75 to 145.

During this period there were some notable events such as … the consecration of Century Conclave No 100 at Cheltenham whose first SR was Sir Archibald Campbell, KCIE, CSI, CBE, VD, past district GSR, South India … and the consecration of Supreme Rulers Conclave No 123 with Sir George Townsend Boag, KCIE, CSI, MA, Dep. GSR as first SR.

The Order struggled throughout the years of the World War II, as did Freemasonry in general, and in December 1942 it was decided to suspend meetings of the Executive Committee except for matters of urgency. At the end of the war in 1945 normal workings gradually took shape, records were brought up to date, dues collected and the administration restored to normal. At the 55th Grand Festival in April 1946, accounts for the previous five years were presented and adopted.

As a result of post-war inflation fees were increased in 1956 and although the Brethren in this country accepted the increase it did not go down too well with Conclaves in Australia. They demanded special treatment — and got it! They were allowed to pay the dues in either sterling or Australian currency.

Lord Courtown died in tragic circumstances in 1957 and his Deputy, Sir George Townsend Boag, Past District GSR of Southern India was elected as his successor.

Several amendments to the constitutions were made during the next few years and the financial state of the Order improved and stabilised.

The Order was so much improved that it was reported in 1963 that the role of Conclaves numbered 180, some had been resuscitated and all was looking well.

In 1959 R. Wy. Bro. RFB Cross, PGC, Grand Recorder for thirty years, died and his office was taken up, temporality, by R. Wy. Bro. AA Murphy who managed to get the affairs in order. R. Wy. Bro. Cross had been using his own offices to run the Order and the Council decided that better arrangements were needed. The Board at Mark Masons’ Hall agreed to provide accommodation for the Order and the Mark Grand Secretary, Lt Col. JW Chitty, MBE, also became Grand Recorder for the Order.

M Wy Bro Lt Col. John Walter Chitty
M Wy Bro Lt Col. John Walter Chitty

Lt. Col. JW Chitty … “a man of shy and retiring disposition, high intelligence, proven administrative ability, greatly respected, a man who loved the Order and had that inherent gift of friendship parallel to that of David and Jonathan, a man of wisdom, strength and understanding, a man who had endeared himself to the Brethren during the ten years as Grand Recorder, a good Freemason, and one who would prove himself a worthy successor of his illustrious predecessors …” was elected Grand supreme Ruler of the Order on the death of Sir George Boag 1968.

1968 – 1987

The number of Conclaves in England, particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire, had shown a marked increase and the Grand Supreme Ruler thought that the time had come to form Provinces of the Order.

On 5th May 1969 the M. Wy. Grand Supreme Ruler and his team of officers came to Manchester and there in the Masonic Hall he constituted the first Province in England, the Province of Lancashire and Cheshire. R. Wy. Bro. Arnold Moreton, PGG, was installed as Supreme Ruler and he appointed R. Wy. Bro. WH Cartwright, JP, PGV as his Deputy. The Province started with nineteen Conclaves.

Later that year the Provinces of South West Counties and Yorkshire were also constituted. Also during the year the Order had extended into the Principality of Wales with the first Conclave, Cymru No 207 to meet at Bridgend.

In 1971 the Order donated approximately £3,550 from its Benevolent Fund to various Masonic Charities, sixteen new Conclaves were created and Provincial Grand Conclaves had proved to be a success.

The Annual Festival for 1974 was held at Harrogate where the Grand Supreme Ruler promoted R. Wy. Bro. Arnold Moreton to be a Deputy Grand Supreme Ruler and announced that the Province of Lancashire and Cheshire was to be split into three Provinces.

On 30th October the M. Wy. Grand Supreme Ruler went to Warrington, constituted the Province of West Lancashire and installed R. Wy. Bro. Cartwright, JP, as Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler with R. Wy. Bro. MH Sharpe as Deputy Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler and then in the evening went over to Runcorn and constituted the Province of Cheshire and North Wales with R. Wy. Bro FA White as Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler and V. Wy. Bro. ER Ellam his Deputy.

The London party spent the night in Manchester and on the following day constituted the Province of East Lancashire with R. Wy. Bro. JV West as Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler and Lt. Cdr. R Wood the Deputy.

The Province of South Wales and Monmouth was also constituted that year R. Wy. Bro. Lloyd-Owen as Provincial Grand Supreme Ruler

In 1977 the most recently numbered Conclave on the records, when Grand Council met, was 280: thus 77 Conclaves had been warranted since Lt. Col. JW Chitty had been installed as Grand Supreme Ruler. This was a greater proportional increase than in any other Order in Freemasonry.

The Constitutions and Regulations of the Order were incorporated with the Year Book for the first time in 1979 and this continues to the present time.

Col. GSH Dicker was appointed as second Grand Supreme Ruler in 1982 following the death of R. Wy. Bro. AA Murphy, Dep. GSR in 1981.

The Sovereign Grand Council of New Zealand was constituted in August 1982 and this reduced the roll of Conclaves by 38 since they now formed the Grand Conclave of New Zealand.

Membership of the Order in 1983 stood at 8,980 and by the end of 1984 it had risen to 9,034; the first Conclave in Scotland (Scotia Prima No 323, Glasgow) was warranted and Edinburgh Greyfriers No 330 soon followed in February 1985.

In 1987 it was agreed that Grand Council and Grand Conclave be replaced by a single body designated Grand Conclave and this was confirmed by the meetings of Grand Council and Grand Conclave on 17th September 1987.

The Centenary

The staff at Mark Masons’ Hall, guided by the Grand Recorder, R. Wy. Bro, Peter Glyn Williams, arranged the Celebration of the Centenary. It took place at the Masonic Hall, Edgbaston, Birmingham on 17th September 1987.

To mark the occasion of one hundred years of the Order of the Secret Monitor, the M. Wy Grand Supreme Ruler decided to make a donation from the Order’s funds to the Mark Benevolent Fund of £25,000, and to all United Kingdom Conclaves the sum of £200 to be donated to Hospices of their choice.

1988 – To Date

The events and progress of the Order since the Centenary year are perhaps best left to another article. However, the

M Wy Bro. Col. Seymour Hamilton Dicker, as Craft PGM for Norfolk
M Wy Bro. Col. Seymour Hamilton Dicker, as Craft PGM for Norfolk

following Grand Supreme Rulers and comments on the leadership are probably worth mentioning.

Wy Bro. Col. GSH Dicker was appointed Grand Supreme Ruler in 1992. Norfolk Craft Freemasons will be interested to note that Geoffrey Seymour Hamilton Dicker (more on his life) was at this time also the Provincial Grand Master for the Craft Province of Norfolk. A post to which he had been appointed in 1980 and which he held until 1995, when he was succeeded in his Craft post, by his then Deputy, Major Ian Donald Bruce.

R. Wy. Bro. Peter Glyn Williams CStJ followed him and was appointed in 1997,

Michael Guest 2
M Wy Bro Michael W Guest

and he was succeeded in 2009 by R. Wy. Bro. Michael W Guest, who in turn announced at the Grand Conclave meeting in 2013 that he would be retiring at the Annual meeting of Grand Conclave in 2014.

Paul Clement 3
M Wy Bro Paul R Clement, our present Grand Supreme Ruler

As from 2014 the Grand Supreme Ruler is R. Wy. Bro. Paul Raymond Clement, G Chan. and Grand DC He appointed his successor as Grand DC in just enough time to have him in place for his installation. He was installed in November 2014, and we wish him a very happy and successful tenure of office.