In 18th century England, the role and purpose of Royal Arch Masonry was the subject of a long debate between the two rival umbrella organisations of Freemasonry. In 1717, four Craft lodges had formed the original Premier Grand Lodge of England to govern Freemasonry as practiced in England. From 1751, this claim was contested by another group of Craft lodges which formed the Antient Grand Lodge of England. In the ensuing debate, the newer grand lodge became known for short as the “Antients”, while the older grand lodge was referred to as the “Moderns”.
In 1746, Laurence Dermott, who would later become Grand Secretary of the “Antients”, had been accepted into a Royal Arch Chapter in Dublin, which at that time was open only to those who had previously served as master of a Craft lodge. He regarded the Royal Arch as the fourth degree of Craft Masonry. Under his influence, the “Antients” championed the Royal Arch degree in England, while it was met with hostility in the Premier Grand Lodge of England.
In 1764, a lodge of Scottish masons attached to the “Antients” switched sides and became the Caledonian Lodge attached to the “Moderns”. The next year, they assisted in setting up a Royal Arch Chapter admitting masons from other Craft lodges which were attached to the “Moderns”. In 1766, with the exaltation of Lord Blayney, the Grand Master of the “Moderns”, this organisation became known as the “Excellent Grand and Royal Arch Chapter“, taking on administrative responsibilities and thus becoming the first Grand Chapter in England. At the same time, James Heseltine, the Grand Secretary of the “Moderns”, stated about Royal Arch Masonry that “It is part of Masonry but has no connection with Grand Lodge” in a letter to a senior German mason. He was also one of the signatories on the charter establishing the first Grand Chapter. The minutes of the first meeting of Grand Chapter show that it met in the Turks Head, in the London district of Soho, the same tavern that had shortly before hosted the birth of the Antient Grand Lodge of England. On this occasion, Thomas Dunckerley was elected to hold the office of Z (head officer of the Chapter) in the absence of the Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master. He was later appointed Grand Superintendent and promoted Royal Arch Masonry in the provincial lodges of the “Moderns” with considerable energy and success.
In 1774, the “Antients” formed their own Royal Arch Grand Chapter upon Laurence Dermott‘s instigation. Its members were Grand Lodge officers who happened to hold the Royal Arch degree, its meetings were ordained by Grand Lodge, and its proceedings approved by that same body.
By the end of the 18th century, both Craft grand lodges thus had developed a different organisational approach to the Royal Arch. While the Grand Chapter of the “Moderns” was independent from their Craft Grand Lodge out of necessity, the Grand Chapter of the “Antients” was closely tied to the corresponding Craft Grand Lodge. For the masons organised in the “Antients”, the Royal Arch became recognised as the fourth degree, open to those who had served as a master of a Craft Lodge. For the “Antients”, Grand Chapter was little more than a cipher, registering names and processing admission fees. Effective governance of the Royal Arch degree rested with the Grand Lodge and the individual Craft lodges that also worked this fourth degree.
(the source/read more: Wikipedia)
read more: UNITING TWO GRAND LODGES