Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Rite of Baldwyn

Outside of the Blue Lodge, the family of concordant and appendant bodies is a complex system of degrees, orders, grades, and rites. This is especially true with the American York Rite and the organizations that stem or are affiliated with it which seems to be a never-ending rabbit hole to explore. It is even more complex when you start exploring the difference between American Masonry and those corresponding degrees and orders in England. Whether the Scottish Rite, the Royal Arch, or the Knights Templar, there are noticeable differences between the two nations. In studying these differences and researching early Templary in England, I came across an unusual rite located in Bristol called the Rite of Baldwyn (also known as the Baldwyn Encampment or Camp of Baldwyn) which claims to exist from “time immemorial.” This expression is important to its future relationship with governing bodies of Templary, the Royal Arch, and the Scottish Rite (known as the Ancient & Accepted Rite in England).

 The Rite, or Camp, of Baldwyn, takes its name from the early Crusader kings of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was established, and Godfrey de Bouillon became the first king (though he used the title of “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre” rather than that of "king"). After his death the following year, the crown was passed to his brother, Baldwyn. After his death in 1118, the mantle of the king was placed on a cousin, also named Baldwyn, and it was Baldwyn II who played an important role in the formation of the Knights Templar and their residence in the Stables of Solomon.

The Baldwyn Rite is an amalgamation of usually separate Masonic bodies and degrees including the Rose Croix, Knights Templar, and Holy Royal Arch. It is described as being 7 degrees, but really, these degrees could also be described as a body of its own as you will see. The I° is Craft Masonry, composed of the degrees of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The II° is the Holy Royal Arch. The III° to the VII° is referred to as the Camp of Baldwyn. The III° is the Knights of the Nine Elected Master. The IV° is the Ancient Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect which is composed of the Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect and the Order of Scots Knights of Kilwinning. The V° is the Knights of the East, the Sword, and Eagle. The VI° is the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta which is composed of the two orders of Knights of St John of Jerusalem and Knights Templar. The VII° and final is the Knights of the Rose Croix of Mount Carmel. They operate out of Freemason’s Hall in Bristol and it is by invitation only. It is curious to note that Bristol is the only city that is itself a Province within Freemasonry.

Like much of early Freemasonry, it is difficult to study the Baldwyn Rite as there is little documentation that properly traces their lineage. The earliest reference to the Baldwyn Encampment is in January 1772 when a reference to a meeting of Knights Templar at the Rose and Crown Inn in Bristol is recorded in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal. From such a casual mention of the Knights Templar, it seems that this wasn’t anything new or that the readers of this publication were already familiar with the meetings of that group. One theory is that the records were burned during the Stuart Rebellion (1745-1746).

The most well-known document associated with the Baldwyn Encampment is the 1780 Charter of Compact that was established when this Templar group constituted themselves as the “Supreme Grand and Royal Encampment of Knights Templar of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitallers, and Knights of Malta etc.” From my research, many believe there was an earlier document that established this Camp and others like Camp of Antiquity in Bath (as well as in London, York, and Salisbury), but none has ever been found or brought to public knowledge. Some legends state this Templar rite stems from the medieval Templars who had a large presence in Bristol:

“A tradition exists that the Baldwyn Encampment is the lineal successor of an institution founded in Bristol by the warrior monks whose Order there dwells in name, though its glory has passed away.”

The 1780 Charter contains 20 articles that provide for the officers, dress and regalia, petitioning and balloting procedures, fees and dues, and other administrative details. In this Charter, it names the following officers:

Most Eminent Grand Master

Grand Master of the Order

Grand Master Assistant General

Standard Bearers

Until 1791 there was no governing body over Templary in England. In January of that year, a Grand Conclave, now called Great Priory, was formed that took the official name of "Grand Conclave of the Royal, Exalted, Religious and Military Order of H.R.D.M., Grand Elected Masonic Knights Templar K.D.S.H. of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, etc." This formal name would be amended down the road when the Ancient & Accepted Rite was established. The presiding officer on this body was called “Grand Master” and the Sir Knights selected Thomas Dunckerley to be their first. Some sources state that Bristol was on board with the formation of a national governing body, although later actions seem to contradict this, but some state that when Dunckerley presided, he did not interfere with the ritual and operations of an individual Encampment and it wasn’t until later Grand Masters that the relationship between the Baldwyn Encampment and the Grand Conclave degraded. Within a short period of time, Dunckerley constituted 10 new Conclaves. Thomas Dunckerley is a topic of discussion of its own as he accomplished a great deal for and in Freemasonry.

After the death of Dunckerley in 1795, relations between the Grand Conclave and the Camp of Baldwyn were kept. In 1809 the Charter of Constitution was established, but the Camp of Baldwyn asserted that the Grand Conclave must acknowledge the rights and privileges of Baldwyn, and should any derivation from the customs and usages occur, the Camp of Baldwyn would break away and resume their independence. In the 1820s, during the reign of Prince Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex, the Grand Conclave slipped into a state of dormancy while the Baldwyn Encampment was said to have prospered during the same period of time.

Attempts were made in 1819 to form a Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite in England, but it wouldn’t be until the 1840s that this would be accomplished. By 1847, Robert Crucefix, Master of Ceremonies for the Grand Conclave of Knights Templar, was instrumental in establishing a Scottish Rite Supreme Council in England, and by this time an effort was being made to sever the Rose Crucis and Kadosh degrees from the Templar Encampments. With the exception of the Encampments of Bath and Baldwyn, the effort was accomplished. In fact, Baldwyn criticized the Grand Conclave for giving up their “birthright for a mess of pottage.”

In 1856, reconciliation between the Grand Conclave and the Camp of Baldwyn was tried, but failed due to the “unmasonic and presumptuous conduct of some members of the Grand Conclave.” The Encampments of Baldwyn and Antiquity (Bath) both declared their independence and that they would live in accordance with the 1780 Charter of Compact. Baldwyn Encampment would go on to issue warrants and establish encampments in Birmingham, Warwick, Salisbury, Highbridge, and Adelaide (South Australia). The South Australian Preceptory is still the only other Preceptory outside of the Baldwyn Encampment that is authorized to work the Baldwyn rituals.

In 1862, a reconciliation was finally reached between the Grand Conclave and Baldwyn Encampment where the former agreed to recognize and give precedence to Baldwyn, making it its own Provincial body and allowing them to practice the degrees they have had since time immemorial. In 1881, an agreement was reached between the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Rite of England and the Baldwyn Encampment concerning the Rose Croix degree where the latter was recognized preceding the Supreme Council and was allowed to continue its own conferrals.

As mentioned above, the Baldwyn Rite is composed as follows:

Iº - Craft Freemasonry:

Entered Apprentice


Master Mason

IIº − Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch

Camp of Baldwyn (or Five Royal Order of Knighthood)

IIIº - Knights of the Nine Elected Masters

IVº - The Ancient Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect

Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect

Order of Scots Knights of Kilwinning

Vº - Knights of the East, the Sword, and Eagle

VIº - Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes, and Malta

Knights of St John of Jerusalem (or Knights of Malta)

Knights Templar

VIIº - Knights of the Rose Croix of Mount Carmel

The three degrees of Craft Masonry compose the first degree or body of the Baldwyn Rite and are worked by the United Grand Lodge of England. The Royal Arch degree, the IIº, worked in the Baldwyn Encampment is unique in England and has rituals closer to those found in the US or in Continental Europe. The IIIº, IVº, and Vº are said to be unique to the Baldwyn Rite, but their names remind me of degrees worked in the Scottish Rite and Allied Masonic Degrees. The VIº is composed of the Knights of Malta and the Knights Templar is conferred by the Baldwyn Encampment which falls under the authority of the Great Priory of England and Wales. The final degree of the Baldwyn Rite is the Knight of the Rose Croix of Mount Carmel which is worked in the Bristol Chapter of Rose Croix under the authority of the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Rite of England and Wales. It is curious to note that if a candidate of the Baldwyn Rite already has gone through the Templar, Malta, and Rose Croix degrees elsewhere, he is considered a full member of the Rite. The rituals of the Baldwyn Rite, particularly the orders of knighthood, are not copied and are jealously guarded.

The 1780 Charter of Compact set out the original hierarchy of the Baldwyn Rite, as mentioned earlier. Today, this Rite is overseen by a Grand Superintendent who is also, by virtue of his office, the Provincial Prior of Knights Templar in Bristol, Inspector General for the District of Bristol of the Ancient & Accepted Rite in Bristol

The regalia worn in the Iº, IIº, and VIº is generally the same as worn by their contemporaries in Craft Masonry, Capitular Masonry, and Knights Templar in England. The regalia worn in the IIIº, IVº, Vº, and VIIº is a breast jewel and apron (only for the VIIº) unique to the Baldwyn Rite. The jewel is a silver Maltese cross hanging from a black ribbon and the apron is adorned with a Pelican which used to be used in the Ancient & Accepted Rite of England and Wales, but is no longer used.


1. Baldwyn II. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Ashlar Company - Masonic Shop:

2. Bennett, J. R. (1907). The Origin of Freemasonry and Knights Templar. Cincinnati: Johnson & Hardin.

3. De Hoyos, A. (2014). Masonic Rites and Systems. In H. Bogdan, & J. A. Snoek, Handbook of Freemasonry (pp. 355-377).

4. History of the Order. (n.d.). Retrieved from Province of Somerset: 

5. Lindez, D. S. (2009, August 22). The Baldwyn Rite of Bristol, England: A Cohesive Remnant of Pre-1813 Freemasonry. Retrieved from Knights Templar: 

6. Mackey, A. (n.d.). Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. 

7. Price, B. W. (2021). In The Steps Of The Templars. Lewis Masonic. 

8. Rite of Baldwyn. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

9. Shetty, T. (2018, January 6). Rite of Baldwyn. Retrieved from Alchetron: 

10. The Baldwyn Schism. (1862, June 7). Retrieved from Freemasons Magazine and Masonic Mirror: 

11. Vrooman, J. B. (1968, September). More About Baldwyn Encampment. Retrieved from Knights Templar magazine:

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