St. Barnabas Chapter No. 948 is the first recorded Royal Arch Chapter in Buckinghamshire and took its name from the local Parish Church at Leighton Buzzard, named after Barnabas the Apostle who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys and is famed for curing a lame man in Lystra.
The Chapter Charter is dated 2nd August 1865. There is no record of a Consecration; however, the Charter states “the first Chapter to be held on 9th November 1865. at Elephant & Castle Hotel, Linslade, Buckinghamshire.” As there was no Provincial organization, or Grand Superintendent appointed at this time, petitions to form Chapters would have been made direct to Grand Lodge or Supreme Grand Chapter having been sponsored by a neighbouring Lodge or Chapter. Also, in some cases there was no formal Consecration ceremony, merely an authorisation to hold a first meeting on a specified date, as almost certainly happened on this occasion, with St Barnabas Lodge No. 948 having sanctioned the petition..
Unfortunately, the records of the Chapter prior to 1933 are lost. However, from the Chapter Byelaws dated 1868, containing a list of the names of Companions exalted and admitted joining members, we find those of many who amongst the founders and first officers of other Chapters in the Province. In particular, the Rev’d Oliver James Grace who was the founding MEZ of Buckingham Chapter No. 591, the next Chapter to be formed in Buckinghamshire, in 1870.
With the absence of Chapter records we find from other sources that in 1893 the St Barnabas Chapter membership was very small with many offices not occupied. Apparently other local degrees in Masonry were experiencing membership problems at the same period, as St Barnabas Mark Lodge No. 97 had similar difficulties and moved from Linslade to Aylesbury.
The Bowen Lodge No. 2816 was consecrated on 7th July 1900 at Chesham by W.Bro John E. Bowen, PAGDC, DepProvGM who had consented to his name being used as the name of the new Lodge. In June 1902 E.Comp J L Goldstein, one of the Bowen Lodge founders, was installed as MEZ of the Chapter and in September 1902 the Chapter petitioned Supreme Grand Chapter to change its name, but retain the number, to become Bowen Chapter No. 948. This request was granted by a resolution of Supreme Grand Chapter on 6th May 1903.
The Chapter moved to the Crown Hotel, Chesham, taking their equipment and regalia with them. Membership increased steadily and in 1920 numbered thirty-nine and in 1930 fifty-six. In 1924 the Chapter moved to the Town Hall Chesham, Installation convocations being held at Freemasons’ Hall, London ‘for the convenience of London members’. During WWII, due to local difficulties, other convocations were also held in London. In 1944 the Chapter moved to the British Schools, Amersham, thence to the Kings Arms Hotel. Other venues included the Co-op Hall, Chesham, Misbourne Rooms, Gerrards Cross and eventually to its present home The Beaconsfield Masonic Centre, Windsor End, Beaconsfield.
The Chapter current membership is 26 and meets on the first Thursday in March, the fourth Thursday in June and the first Thursday in November. Aldersgate workings.