Society of Knights Bachelor - Essex Street, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.731 W 000° 06.744
30U E 700363 N 5710737
Quick Description: This blue plaque is in Essex Street close to the Temple area of London.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 8/26/2012 11:08:18 AM
Waymark Code: WMF5E8
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member miatabug
Views: 3

Long Description:

The plaque reads:


On this site
The Imperial
Society of
was founded on
27th April 1908
31 Essex Street


The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor website [visit link] tells us:

"Origin of the Society of Knights Bachelor

The founding of the Society was due to a case which was fought with the Walker Trustees in Edinburgh who, as holders of the office (originally by purchase) of Usher of the White Rod under the Walker Trust Act of 1877, were entitled to receive certain dues from those persons receiving honours from the Crown. Many Knights objected to this.

In 1902 a change had been made in the procedure connected with promotions of honour. The Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood (instituted by King Edward VII in that year) was given control of procedure for the ceremonial admission and promotion of all members of the statutory orders. One exception to this concerned the Knights Bachelor.

The Walker case highlighted the fact that Knights Bachelor had no representative body to speak for them in the matter of the Walker Trustees and Sir William Bull MP called a meeting of Knights Bachelor in the House of Commons to discuss the problem. As a result of this, a formal meeting was convened at 31 Essex Street, in the Strand, on 27th April 1908 at which the Society of Knights Bachelor was founded.

The Office of Usher of the White Rod was an ancient one, existing before the Union of England and Scotland on the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England in 1603. The earliest document referring to this office is in 1393.

The case for the payment of dues to the Walker Trustees on behalf of White Rod was heard in March 1909, when judgement was given by the Court in Session in the Outer House of Lords in favour of the Walker Trustees.

However, on 1st December 1911 the Lord Advocate and others appealed to the House of Lords and the judgement was reversed with expenses, so that the right of the Walker Trustees could not be enforced and therefore they were not entitled to claim fees from recipients of honours. The prime motive in the formation of the Society had thereby been achieved.

Had the Society not been founded, as the Central Chancery for the Orders of Knighthood was only empowered to act for the Statutory Orders, it was possible that dues payable by a Knight Bachelor on his creation might still have been levied.

It is interesting to note that for certain honours the sums to be paid on their creation to the Walker Trustees were as follows:

For a Duke £21 13s 4d
Marquis £18 6s 8d
Earl £15
Viscount £10
Baron £6 13s 4d
Baronet £5
Knight Bachelor £3 6s 8d

Constitution of the Society

On 21st June 1908 the constitution, regulations and byelaws of the Society were adopted. The objects were to uphold the status, maintain the Register and rights of precedence and generally to protect and advance the interests of Knights Bachelor. Official recognition of the Society was given in that year by the Home Secretary, when there were 770 Knights Bachelor, of whom 232 became members.

In 1912 HM King George V permitted by Royal Warrant the Society the great privilege of adding to its name the title ‘Imperial'.

Locations of the Society

Following the formation of the Society, subsequent meetings were held at Clements Inn, at Westminster and at Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn. In 1911, following numerous suggestions for a permanent home for the Society where members from across the Empire might meet, a Habitation Committee for this purpose was set up under Sir Henry Pellatt, Sir William Bull and Mr Willoughby Bullock, the Secretary and Clerk to the Council.

After protracted negotiations, a portion of Clifford's Inn was purchased and the first meeting was held there on 15th May 1912. The premises comprised a hall for entering, a library, smoking room, writing room, and porter's lodge.

The hall was large enough to entertain 80 persons, so presumably there were kitchens as well. The cost was £37,000, half being promised by the Knights Bachelor of Canada. Sir Henry Pellatt gave £7,000. The company administering the property was called ‘The Company of Knights', so that no financial responsibility would rest on the Society or its members. The outstanding amount was held in debentures. It was intended that, as further subscriptions from Knights Bachelor were received, the debentures would be redeemed. However, because of the Great War of 1914–18 insufficient contributions came in and no lettings were made of the Hall, so the Company went into liquidation. No trace of the original Clifford's Inn now remains, other than the entrance gateway off Fleet Street.

Meetings thereafter were held at various places, until in 1923 a room was allotted by Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms. It is not clear if this was intended as a temporary home for the Registry or just for the meeting held there on 15th November. Subsequently accommodation was taken at No.1 King's Bench Walk at a rent of £22p.a.

Various ideas were put forward for a permanent home, including the crypt of one of London's churches. This idea was overruled. Finally Sir William Bull reported on 3rd March 1927 at a meeting held at 21 Old Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, that he had taken a lease on those chambers in his own name at £65p.a. The Imperial Society remained there until 2005 when it moved to 1 Throgmorton Avenue, London.

Commemorative Blue Plaque

To mark the Centenary of the foundation of the Society on 27th April 1908 the Society has commissioned a commemorative Blue Plaque.  The plaque has been placed on 28-31 Essex Street, London WC2 (just off the Strand) where the original meeting took place. The plaque was unveiled by Sir Robert Balchin, DL (Knight Principal) at a ceremony exactly 100 years later on Sunday 27th April 2008 in the presence of members of the Council and their guests.

Blue Plaque managing agency: Unknown

Individual Recognized: Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor

Physical Address:
31 Essex Street
London, United Kingdom

Web Address: [Web Link]

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