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A Jubilee Celebration in Tow Law Royal Arch Chapter


June 2018

To mark a very special celebratory evening in the Tow Law Royal Arch Chapter, the Third Provincial Grand Principal Michael Stuart Shaw, made his way up to Tow Law, in the Durham Dales, on an a mid-June evening to join in celebrating, Thomas Alan James’s golden anniversary, in Tow Law Chapter.


The Chapter was opened, in due form by the three Principals of the Chapter, Geoffrey Waterson, “Z”, John Michael Gordon, “H” and Keith Thompson, “J” after the opening correspondence had been dealt with. The Chapter then admitted the Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies, Dave Green.


Michael was warmly welcomed inside the Chapter room, the next business of the evening was the presentation of Thomas Alan James’s 50th year certificate. Michael stepped forward and invited Thomas to come and take a seat at the front of the Chapter Room.


Thomas was exalted into the Tow Law Chapter on 9th April 1968. Castleside born and bred, with a father who was a Tow Law Mason, it naturally followed that he would become one himself. Thomas remembers his early days in the Chapter well, with full to capacity meetings in both the Craft and Chapter.


Thomas had a career in road and transport before setting up his own driving school. A change in career then followed into Road Safety Education.


Thomas is a keen walker with an interest in long distance walking including the Coast to Coast Walk and more recently walking the Roman Wall.


Thomas once tried a cruise holiday but it wasn’t for him as he found it boring, so driving holidays have been a great joy to him and his wife.


Michael then thanked Thomas for his continued support to the Royal Arch and congratulated him for his wonderful 50 years’ service. With that he read the certificate citation out before handing it over. Thomas thanked Michael and the Tow Law Companions present.


Andrew Dixon, the Chapter Scribe E then gave a talk entitled “The History of Scribe Nehemiah” which was a fitting tribute to Thomas, as that is his Provincial Rank in the Royal Arch.


At the festive board in the reply to his toast, Michael congratulated his Provincial Director of Ceremonies for the evening Dave Green, who was on his first working evening in his new position.


Geoffrey Waterson then had the great pleasure in presenting Thomas with a Bottle of Malt Whisky on behalf of the Chapter Companions, to celebrate his 50 years in Tow Law Chapter.


This brought an evening to a close that will be long remembered of honouring Thomas Alan James’s 50 years in Royal Arch Masonry.


The name “Tow Law” is taken from the Old English tot hlaw meaning “lookout mound,” the name of a house which stood there before the iron works and the village were built. In 1841, only one building stood in the locality, called Tow Law House but by 1851 the population of the town stood at almost 2,000. Despite its unpromising location – the town being at more than 1,000 feet above sea level on an exposed site – its growth during the 19th century was rapid. By the early 1870s the population had reached 4,968 before reaching a peak in 1881 of 5,005 inhabitants.


The founding architect of this growth was one Charles Attwood who, in 1845, established an iron works near to this solitary house, to take advantage of the iron ore to be found in upper Weardale and, of the coal reserves, in and around Tow Law. The iron works was short lived lasting only until 1882 and the last deep coal mine in the town ‘Inkerman’ closed in 1969. While the iron foundry closed, Mr. Joseph Bond still carries on iron-making in the town today. It is interesting to recall that during the Crimean War of 1853, cannon balls used in that conflict, were made from Tow Law iron, and, the small hamlet to the east of the town called Inkerman, takes its name from the battle of Inkerman. The railway, under the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, was one of the first developments in Tow Law. The line leads from Crook and Bishop Auckland in one direction and Consett in the other, carrying passengers until the early 1960s. It closed in 1965.    







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