thomas dunckerleyMary Dunckerley gave birth to Thomas on 23 October 1724. Mary’s husband was absent from the marital home on a mission for the Duke of Devonshire from November, 1723 to the following May, during this period she met on five occasions with The Prince of Wales (later King George II). On Mary’s death bed she confessed to a neighbour that King was the father of her son, unfortunately Thomas did not learn of this, until after the Kings death. Papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle show that Dunckerley received a pension from King George III of £200 per year until 1782, which was paid from a private account in quarterly instalments of £50. In 1782 the Civil List was introduced and curtailed the King’s expenditure and Dunckerley’s pension was halved to £100, which was paid bythe Prince of Wales (later King George IV). At the tender age of 10 he ran way from school and joined the Royal Navy where he served as a Gunner and Teacher until his retirement in May 1767. While on leave in Plymouth in January, 1754 Dunckerley visited Portsmouth and was Initiated, Passed and Raised into The Three Tuns Lodge. On returning to Plymouth he joined the Pope’s Head Tavern Lodge No 203, in Looe Street and the Masons Arms Tavern Lodge No 129 which met at Pembroke Street, Plymouth Dock (now Devonport).

In 1755 the First Plymouth Division of the Royal Marines was being formed. Many of the Officers and N.C.O.s were known to Dunckerley as Freemasons and he induced them to apply for a Warrant to form a new Lodge which would be called “The Marine Lodge” it was opened in January 1759. It has successively held the numbers 195, 159, 160,140,170 and 122 before receiving its present number of 105 in 1863 and the name changed in 1780 to Fortitude.

In 1769 Dunckerley was again in Portsmouth and the minutes of the first meeting of the Royal Arch Chapter of Friendship record that Dunckerly was present and “having lately received his Mark, he made the brethren Mark Masons and Mark Masters. It is not known how or where Thomas Dunckerley "received the Mark". He became Grand Masterof, Hampshire 1767, Isle of Wight 1772, Essex 1776, Dorset, 1777, Wiltshire 1777, Gloucestershire 1784, Somerset 1784, City and County of Bristol 1786, Herefordshire 1790 and in 1794 he was made the Grand Commander of the Royal Ark Mariners. It is not surprising that the Mark ceremony became more popular in the South West. The concepts of the Mason's Mark, the entitlement to a Mason's wages, the method of approving and disapproving a Mason's work, and the importance of the keystone within the arch developed from this time. The question is did Dunckerly introduce the Mark degree to Plymouth? The most likely answer is that he was made a Mark Mason in Plymouth. It has been claimed that Duunckerly was responsible for writing one of the Mark rituals used in Devonshire long before the creation of the Mark Grand Lodge.

Why was Devonshire chosen as one of the first eight Mark Provinces?

The obvious, and probably the correct answer is that Mark Degree had been operated for many years locally, first under the aegis of Craft Lodges and Royal Arch Chapters, and then as groups after the union of the two rival Craft factions, the Antients (or Athols)‘and the Moderns, into the present United Grand Lodge.

Friendship Lodge of Mark Masters No. 16 (Time Immemorial) which meet at St Budeaux, Plymouth has minute books which record their meetings as an Independent Mark body from the 31 March, 1817. They were, therefore, operating at least 40 years before the creation of Mark Grand Lodge. From March 1817 and their Warrant of Conformation October, 1862. The minute books record no less than 209 brethren were advanced to the Degree of Mark Master Mason. Certificates were issued by the Lodge to the members from 11 July, 1822 and signed by the Lodge Overseers. The proceedings of the Lodge were recorded and its affairs administered efficiency and the brethren certainly kept the torch of Mark Masonry alight in the uncertain period between the union of the two Craft Grand Lodges and the setting up of Mark Grand Lodge.
The candidates they advanced, or as they termed it “promoted” not confined to Friendship Craft Lodge. They came from, among others, the Craft Lodges of Bedford (Tavistock), Brunswick, Fortitude and Sincerity.

The discovery of “The Sidmouth Stone” proves that the Craft Lodge of Perseverance No. 164, now at Sidmouth but then at Plymouth, had worked a form of Mark Degree from 1813 or before. The letters A and L on the stone most likely stood for Antients Lodges

A minute book dating from September, 1862, belonging to St. John Mark Lodge No. 50 gives a list of members preceded by the dates of their advancements. These include: 1825, John Brewer, 1836, Jenkin Thomas; 1833, Francis Peter Holmes, 1854, Batten Gayer and 1856 John Du Pre.

John Brewer was Worshipful Master of Fidelity Craft Lodge in 1822, joined St. John Craft Lodge No 83 (now No. 70) when it moved from Exeter to Plymouth in 1828, and was its secretary for 40 years. Both these Craft Lodges were Warranted by the Antients or Athols Grand Lodge which suggests that’ the Mark was extensively practiced under their banners. Brewer was a very keen Mark Mason; he was probably the first secretary of St. John Mark Lodge.