FREEMASONRY FROM AD 1600 TO THE GRAND LODGE ERA
A SKETCH OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD
by Bro. W.J. Hughan, P.G.D., Hon. Mem. No. 2049
There is such an abundance of evidence in proof of the continuity of Freemasonry during the period selected, that it is onlynecessary to study the special records of the old Lodges, happily still preserved, the Rolls of the "Old Charges", and especiallythe extant minutes of the Masons' Company of London, to be assured that the Freemasons of the present day are the linealdescendants of the operative builders, who in the 17th century, and earlier, admitted speculative or non-professional members.
The 17th century operative Masons were most favourable to the speculative element in their midst, and encouraged theiradmission to such an extent, that sometimes the Lodges consisted almost exclusively of brethren in no way connected withbuilding. Several examples of this remarkable feature may be cited, such as the Lodge at Warrington in which Ashmole wasinitiated in 1646. An extraordinary instance of the preponderance of gentlemen in an operative Lodge, is met with at Aberdeenin 1670, for of forty-nine members registered in the "Mark Book" with their marks attached, not a dozen were operatives; theMaster was a Tutor at Airth and Collector of the King's Customs, while several of his companions were noblemen or of the educated class.
The oldest Masonic minutes known are those of the senior Lodge in the world, viz., No 1 Edinburgh. They begin in the year1599, the Lodge having continued at work, as the records testify, from then to now, thus overlapping the transition period andthe final predominance of the speculative branch, by the formation of modern Grand Lodges. The monopoly of the operativesgradually disappeared, and Masonry itself became as free practically as Freemasonry is at the present time. A silent revolutionwas going on in the Craft throughout the 17th century, and what with the changes in Society generally, and the failure of theCompanies to enforce regulation, which had become obsolete and unsuitable to the times, Masonry, as with other trades, hadto alter its laws and customs accordingly.
The Lodge of Edinburgh and others in Scotland were legally governed during the period in question by the statutes of 1598-9,promulgated by William Schaw "Maister of wark, Wairden of ye Masons," of Royal appointment. There were three "HeadLodges" in the kingdom, as recognised in the code of 1599, which were described as Edinburgh "the first and principall ludge,"Kinwinning "the second ludge", and Stirling "the third ludge". This trio still exists, and the Lodges are now on the roll of theGrand Lodge of Scotland as Nos. 1, 0 and 30 respectively.
Naturally several of the clauses in the above-named statutes relate to matters common to all the crafts, but others are of adistinctive character and most suggestive. The Lodge of Edinburgh was a kind of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, having control ofthe local, but before the 17th century ended, its rights were often violated or ignored, and Lodges were formed in its vicinity orjurisdiction, that it was powerless to prevent, although issuing fulminations that were still-born. The "Canongate Kilwinning"Lodge No. 2, was formed in 1677, as an offshoot from "Mother Lodge Kilwinning", and in 1688, a secession from the Lodgeof Edinburgh resulted in the establishment of the "Canongate and Leith, Leith and Canongate" Lodge, now No. 5, andnotwithstanding all the means used by the Mother Lodge, only one of the seceders was induced to return to the fold. Then,again, early in the 18th century, the journeymen were not satisfied with the masters' regulation and control; they seceded andstarted a Lodge on their own account, and what is more gained a victory over their powerful opponents, though MasterMasons, by persisting in giving the "Mason Word" to neophytes, the prerogative previously of their superiors. Two of theirnumber were imprisoned for contumacy, but an appeal to the Court ended in their being allowed, as per the "Decreet Arbitral"of 1715, to assemble as a separate organisation, and esoterically -- i.e., to communicate the "word" -- as well as generally, toconduct their own Lodge, then and since known as the "Journeymen", now No. 8 on the roll. The Masters were fined ahundred pounds for their high-handed conduct, which fine has not yet been paid.
The attendance of Apprentices at the Lodge during the making of Fellow- crafts is confirmed by the minutes of 1601, 1606 and1637, while the "Schaw Ordinances" provided for the presence of six Masters and two Apprentices, in like manner, on themaking of Masters, a privilege subsequently assumed by the Incorporation. Operative Essays were obligatory in relation toboth classes, Essay Masters being appointed, and also "intenders for instruction;" represented in Modern Lodges by thequestions preparatory to promotion, and the proposers and seconders of candidates respectively.
The first minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh containing an entry concerning speculative membership is dated 8th June, 1600, andis the oldest of the kind known in Great Britain and Ireland. The Brother was John Boswell, Esq., the laird of Auchinleck, whoattended as a member, and whose name and mark attested the minutes, along with twelve operatives who likewise agreed tothe business transacted, and acquiesced in the same manner. When he joined we cannot tell.
The head of the Lodge was generally styled "Deacon," while the "Warden" was the medium of communication with the "Warden General", who was a kind of Grand Master, the prototype of our modern Grand Lodge Rulers. William Schaw was styled "Chief Maister of Maissonis" in the 16th century and later.
In the 17th century, it was quite a common occurrence for noblemen and gentlemen to occupy the Chairs of Lodges, even ifonly Apprentices, as with the Earl of Cassillis, who in 1672 was Deacon of "Mother Lodge Kilwinning", being followed by SirAlexander Cunninghame and the Earl of Eglintoune, also an Apprentice. Harry Elphington, Tutor of Airth and Collector of theKing';s Customs, was Master of the Lodge of Aberdeen - now No. 1 tris - in 1670, the members of which were mostlyspeculatives, though an operative Lodge. Lord Strathallan was the Master or President of the Lodge of Dundee, -- known asthe "Lady Luge of Dundee" in 1536. Other instances could also be cited.
The old Lodge of Kilwinning ewxercised jurisdiction even as far as Glasgow, according to the Code of 1599, and was to all intents and purposes a Provincial Grand Lodge, thus foreshadowing the present arrangement, whereby its R.W.M. for the time being occupies the honourable position of Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire.
Then, again, the protectorate of the Craft in Scotland was hereditary in the St. Clair family, the Lairds of Roslin, being securedby charters of 1600 and 1628 circa, which led to the claim being made that they were Grand Masters, which the documents inno way countenance. The Lairds of Roslin were simply Patrons and Protectors of the "Maissones and Hammermen" with othercrafts, but that obsolete and purely honorary distinction was sufficient to secure trhe election in 1736, on sentimental grounds,of one of the family, as the first Grand Master of Scotland.
Other local magnates were appointed to the oversight of the Craftsmen in cerrtain districts, such as Patrick Coipland ofUdaucht as Warden of the "airt and craft of Maisonrie" over three sheriffdomes in Scotland in 1590. These were clearly theprecursors of the general and local Craft bodies which sprang up during the 18th century in Great Britain and Ireland. But timewill not permit any reference to such just now. This much, however, may be noted, that excepting the arrangement of separateMasonic degrees and ceremonies peculiar to the post Grand Lodge period, it is not easy to discover many important featuresof the Craft in the eighteenth century, which are not represented in the regulations and customs of the Scottish Craft in thepresent century.
Until the precise character of the Records of the Masons' Company of London was made known -- quite recently -- it wasbelieved that the admission of Quarter Master General Moray, of the Scottish Army, at Newcastle on Tyne in 1641, bymembres of the Lodge of Edinburgh, was the earliest instance of the initiation of a "speculative" in England. Now, however, thatthe invaluable transactions of the before-mentioned Company are accessible, it is found that there was a speculative Lodge atwork, under the wing of that body, the existing accounts of which go as far back as 1620. The meetings were termed "theAcception," and the candidates were received as "Accepted Masons;" the Company being then known as Free masons, thoughthe prefix was dropped during the latter half of the 17th century. The dual character of the Company is established by referenceto the accounts, for the actual minutes are missing prior to 1670. Beside those who obtained the "freedom of the Company" bypatrimony or servitude, there were others who were admitted by redemption, and it is quite possible that being "accepted" bythe Lodge, though not connected with the building trade, strengthened their application for the "freedom of the Company." itappears to have been optional for the "accepted" brethren to join the Company, or for the members of the latter to enter the"Acception," but both financially and generally there was a most intimate connection between the two, as the Companyreceived the balance, if any, after each "Acception" had been held.
This Lodge became so influential and important, that in the Inventory of 1663, and also in later ones, the names of the"Accepted Masons" are delared to be exhibited "in a faire enclosed frame with a lock and key." In the same Inventory was also"One book of the constitutions which Mr. Flood gave," and which was described in a subsequent list of 1676 as "theconstitutions of the Accepted masons," as distinct from "One book of the Ancient Constitutions and Orders" of the Company.The Inventory of 1722 is still more explicit, the Constitutions of the Company being entered as of the year 1481, and the other"A Book wrote on parchment and bound or stitched in parchment containing an account of the Antiquity Rise and Progress ofthe Art and Mistery of Masonry." This latter was doubtless a MS. of the "Old Charges" but unfortunately it has not been heardof since the year 1839, when it is said to have contained "113 annals of the antiquity &c. of Masonry." The "Phillipps MSS"Nos 1 and 2 would answer to this description, and the first-noted has the name of Mr. Richard Bankes, a Member of theMasons' company, on the cover; the date of its caligraphy, however, does not answer, being of about the middle of the 17thcentury, therefore not old enough. Though not the original, which was doubtless much older, and used in the reception of the"Accepted Masons," it may be an exact transcript. The "G.W. Bain MS" has also an equal claim to be considered arepresentative of the missing book, having a similar text and qualifications. there are also other MSS with a different text fromthe "Phillipps," which may be copies of the original document, having the "New Articles," such as the "Grand Lodge MS No.2," and the "Harleian No. 1942." These later regulations are quite suggestive of the rules in force for the "Accepted Masons,"the term "Acception" is mentioned, and neophytes are termed "Accepted Free-Masons," while Certificates were provided justas in later times.
It is quite likely that the Company dropping the prefix "Free," and the speculative branch becoming independent, led to the union of the two prefixes as Free and Accepted Masons.
This is the Lodge that was visited by Elias Ashmole in 1682, for which he received a Summons, and which assembled in theMaosns' Hall, London, when six gentlemen were admitted into the Fellowship, four of whom were members of the Company.Nine of the "Acception" or Lodge attended, besides Ashmole, who says he was "the Senior Fellow among them." Noparticulars whatever of the ceremony are afforded, but subsequently they all dined "at the charge of the new-acceptedMasons." All the nine Fellows were members of the Company, including the Master and the two Wardens.
It will thus be seen, that not a few customs of later days were anticipated in the 17th century, such as the use of Masonic Certificates to aid in visitation, the issue of Lodge Summonses, masons' marks used after the signatures, Essays and Intenders, as well as the promotion of good-fellowship.
The "General Regulations" of the premier Grand Lodge of England, printed in the year 1723, were for the use of "the Lodges inand about London and Westminster," being thus originally a Metropolitan organisation. At the time they were printed, there wasa Provincial authority at work in the City of York, as a "time immemorial" Lodge, whose preserved records date from 1712, but the Lodge was a very old one at that time.
In Ireland, in like manner, there was a Grand Lodge holding its meetings in the Metropolis of that Country from 1725, and nodoubt earlier; also a District or Grand Lodge, quite distinct, though not essentially different, assembling at Cork, for theProvince of Munster, and having subordinate Lodges. these surely were anticipated in the 17th century by the MetropolitanLodge of Scotland, which Masonically in olden time, governed the City, and "Mother Lodge Kilwinning," which was in chargeof quite a large district, and authorised dependent Lodges, one of which is the "Canongate Kilwinning" of 1677.
I claim that Edinburgh and Kilwinning were thus, in not a few important respects, the Masonic prototypes of the London and York organisations, as well as of the Dublin and Cork Grand Lodges.
As the Masonic bodies in ireland adopted the usage of Deacons long before those in England, which officers, nominally at leastif not precisely as to duties, had been familiar to Scotland for centuries, it is just possible that Ireland was more indebted toNorth Britain for its Masonic laws and customs that has hitherto been recognised or acknowledged, and thus proportionatelyless to England accordingly.
Whilst it is true that the Craft records in England are not so numerous and valuable as those of Scotland, some of the existingminutes and other indications of Masonic activity are of great importance, as already indicated, and though we do not knowwhen and by whom these 17th century Lodges were originally started or constituted, they assuredly had much in common.Judging from the fact that Dr. Desaguliers, Past Grand Master of England, visited the "Lodge of Edinburgh" in 1721, and havingbeen found to be "duly qualified in all points of Masonry, was received as a Brother," there seems no reason to suppose thatFreemasonry of the 17th century in England, as regards essentials, differed from that of Scotland.
Esoterically there is much to be said as to the Lodges in England and Scotland, but that must be reserved to another time. I maynote, however, in passing, that the "Mason Word" was acknowledged to be given in Scotland, and dues paid therefor, as lateas 1715, and whilst a gratifying reticence is generally observed, an incomplete minute of 1702 at Haughfoot requires verycareful consideration. It reads "of entrie as the apprentice did. Leaving out (the common juudge - Probably an operative "test"-)-- they then whisper the word as before, and the Master Mason grips his hand in the ordinary way."
It does not appear to me that this entry calls for any remark just now, as it tells its own tale consistently with other records, in relation to the simplicity of the Masonic ceremonial at that time.
The Presbytery of Kelso in 1652 sustained the action of the Rev. James Ainslie in becoming a Freemason, declaring that "there is neither sinne nor scandale in that word" -- i.e., the "Mason Word".
Along with the "Harleian MS" (No. 2054, British Museum), is a scrap of paper, which cites, "sevrall words and signes of a freeMason" as a portion of an obligation. this MS of the "Old Charges" is in the handwriting of Randle Holme (born 1627), theauthor of the "Academy of Armory", printed in 1688, wherein he says, "I Cannot but Honor the Felloship of the Masonsbecause of its Antiquity; and the more as being a Member of that Society, called Free-Masons."
The Oath that was taken by the Brethren during this period, as given in various copies of the "Old Charges" &c., is not indicative of the separate degrees of the post Grand Lodge era.
A remarkable Register of gentlemen and others, with the MS just referred to -- Harleian No. 2054 -- states what each "giue for to be a free Mason." This is also in the handwriting of the same Randle Holme, and apparently belonged to a speculative Lodge at Chester.
The references to the Craft in Plot's "Natural History of Staffordshire," published in 1686, are of a most important character, and should be carefully studied, as they concern admissions into the Fraternity, the reading of the "Old Charges", with prominent portions of their text, and the early history of the Society.
There are many ways of proving the existence of the Craft during the seventeenth century, but the foregoing must suffice for thepresent, the evidence being so plentiful, that is is quite embarrassing to make a selection. It cannot, in my opinion, bequestioned, that modern Grand Lodges are the direct representatives of the old Lodges previously existing, many of which stillcontinue working.
The records of one Scottish family offer eloquent testimony, to the continuous working of the Craft for centuries, as enshrined inthe valuable Perth Charter, and in the "Lodge of Edinburgh" records. From these documents the following facts are gleaned.John Mylne came to Perth from the "North Countrie" and became the King's Master Mason and Master of the "Lodge atScone" -- now No. 3 Scotland. He was succeeded by his son, whose name is mentioned in the remarkable "Contract" of1658, who by His Majesty's desire entered "King James the sixt as ffreeman, measone and fellow craft." His third son Johnwas a member of the "Lodge of Edinburgh," and Master Mason to Charles I., 1631-6; John Mylne the younger, his eldest son,succeeding, became in 1633 a Fellow Craft in No. 1, and was Deacon eleven times within thirty years. Alexander Mylne wasentered an apprentice to his uncle in 1653, and was made a fellow-craft in 1660, becoming Warden in 1663-4, and Deaconseveral times later on. then William Mylne was entered an apprentice in 1721, and was Master in 1735, representing the Lodgeat the formation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland the following year, and holding the office of Grand Treasurer from 1737 to1755. Another William was elected and initiated in the same Lodge in 1750, and a Robert Mylne became a member in 1754,receiving the three degrees in that year. He died in 1811 and "was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, having been surveyor to thatedifice for fifty years." With his decease, terminated the family's connection with the "Lodge of Edinburgh", which had extendedthrough five successive generations, and for a still longer period as craftsmen.
There are two Lodges of the pre Grand Lodge era, which also overlap that
important period, which really require whole Papers to themselves, to do their proceedings anything like justice. A few words about each of these will fitly conclude my Address.
The records of the old Alnwick Lodge were brought to the notice of the Craft by me in 1871, and are of special value, not onlybecause of their antiquity, but also in relation to their text. As with so many of these venerable Lodges, its origin is unknown,but it may be accepted as of the 17th century. A copy of the "Old Charges" precedes the "Orders to be observed by thecompany and Fellowship of Free Masons, att A Lodge held att Alnwick Septr 29 1701 being the Genrl head meeting day."Apprentices had to be entered and be given their "Charge" within "one whole Year after" admission, and on the expiry of theirterm of seven years were "Admitted or Accepted butt uon the ffeast of St. Michaell the Archangell." The Master and Wardenswere elected by the members, and the frequent entries "made free", "made free Masons" or "made free brothers" are verysuggestive and important. On 20th January, 1708, it was ordered that no member "should appear at the Lodge to be kept onSt. John's Day in Christmas without his appron & Common Square fixt in the Belt," and to be similarly attired on attendingChurch on that day, when a special sermon was to be preached. Although the Lodge was active far on in the 18th century, itnever, so far as is known, joined the Grand Lodge of England, although a Warrant issued by that Body in 1779 for Alnwickmay have been applied for by some of its Brethren. It is of special interest to remember that on Christmas Day in 1755, Mr."George Henderson of Alnwick. visiting Bro from Canongate Kilwinning Lodge" is duly noted in the minutes; he was initiated inthe northern Lodge in 1751, receiving the two higher degrees on Nov 20th 1754. There is no mention of separate Masonicceremonies in the minutes, -- 1703 to 1756, -- and the Lodge was operative from first to last, the proceedings of the modernGrand Lodge and its subordinate Lodges being entirely ignored.
The old operative Lodge at Swalwell, in its early records, had much in common with its senior of Alnwick, its "Orders ofAntiquity" and its "Apprentice and General Orders" being virtually reproductions of still earlier "Old Charges." the three"ffraternal signs" are mentioned, and the minutes generally from the third decade of the 18th century are of considerable valueand interest. the members accepted a Charter from the Grand Lodge of England in 1735, being now, and for a long time past,known as the :Lodge of Industry," No. 48 Gateshead. It was thus another link in the union between the Grand Lodge and itsoperative ancestors.
It is the fashion of some to raise objections to our claim as being "ancient", as well as "free and accepted" Masons, but I trust that the facts herein submitted, will "at once and for ever" prove, that our beloved Society is fully entitled to the antiquity so long assumed by the Fraternity.
Wm. James Hughan
Jan 19th, 1904
A List of Works that should be consulted in confirmation of the Address.
"Alnwick MS." -- Reproduction and Transcript; 1895
"Ars Quatuor Coronatorum"; 1886-1903. With the "Masonic Reprints," Vols I to VI.
Crawley's "Caementaria Hibernica. 1725-1807; 1895-1900.
Conder's "The Hole Craft and Fellowship of Masonry" 1894.
Gould's "History of Freemasonry"; 1882-87.
" "Concise History of Freemasonry;" 1903
Hughan's "Old Charges"; 1872 and 1895.
" "Masonic Sketches and Reprints"; 1871.
" "Masonic Register"; 1878.
Lyon's "History of the Lodge of Edinburgh, No. 1"; 1873 and 1900.
Mackenzie's "History of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge, No. 2"; 1888.
Rylands' "Freemasonry in the Seventeenth Century"; 1881.
Smith's "History of the Ancient Masonic Lodge of Scoon and Perth"; 1898
Smith's "History of the Old Lodge of Dumfries"; 1892.
Spencer's "Old Masonic Constitutions"; 1871.
Todd and Whytehead's "Ancient York Masonic rolls"; 1894.
Transactions "Lodge of Research," No 2049 Leicester; 1892-1903.
Transactions "Humber Installed Masters" Lodge No. 2494 Hull; 1882-
Transactions "Sussex Association for Masonic Research"; 1899-1902.
Vernon's "History of Freemasonry in Roxburghshire, Peebles and
Watson's Reproductions of the "Old Charges" and "Library Reprints".
Wylie's "History of Mother Lodge Kilwinning"; 1878.
Brother Hughan having intimated his willingness to answer any questions suggested by the Paper, several Brethren took advantage of the opprtunity. A list of these questions and Bro. Hughan's replies thereto are appended.
What brought about the decline of the operative Lodges?
Their inability to preserve or continue the monopoly so long exercised by them. "Cowans" increased in spite of all regulationsand efforts to the contrary; the Masters gradually lost their exclusive powers, and towards the end of the 17th century itbecame evident, that the Building monopolies and close Corporations of the Freemasons' Lodges had seen their day. It was notthe speculatives that caused the decline of the operative Lodges, but the causes came from within.
For what reasons and with what motives did the speculatives orignally join
the old operative Lodges?
I really cannot tell for certain but can only conjecture. Probably mainly from friendly feelings towards the operatives, and toexhibit or manifest an interest in their welfare. The funds were increased by gentlemen joining, and the Lodges were made allthe more popular, by the admission of the local squires and others of means in the neighbourhood of a Lodge. It was a secretSociety that was thus joined, and this may have led some to seek admission, from the mystery surrounding the Initiationceremony. The esoteric character of the Craft has been a source of wonder and curiousity to outsiders for many centuries, andespecially for the reputation it has long enjoyed of preserving valuable secrets connected with the Rosicrucians, etc.
Does not the fact that all the copies of the "Old Charges" are of English origin, go to prove that Lodges of Masons existed in England earlier than in Scotland?
I do not think so, but only that the traditional history emanated from South Britain. My opinion is, that the Freemasonry of which our Society is a lineal descendant, was formed, but not known when or where, by the Cathedral Builders and their ecclesiastical employers, hece the religious character of the introductory portion of the Manuscript Constitutions, of which we have specimens from the 15th century.
What is known of the early history of the Lodges which formed the Grand Lodge of England in 1717?
No records of any of the "Four Old Lodges" have been made known, of a date prior to the Grand Lodge era. it is probablethat the "Lodge of Antiquity," the senior of the "time immemorial" quartette, was a continuation of the Lodge which met underthe wing of the Masons' Company, and know as the "Acception" visited by Ashmole in 1682, and susequently dropped by theCompany. if the valuable "Antiquity MS" of the "Old Charges" of 1686, was in the possession of the ancient Lodge at that time,it dates back the "Antiquity" beyond that ascribed to it in the "Engraved List" of 1729, which was 1691. the second of thequartette on the Register was dated 1712, while the others had no dates affixed. "Multi Paucis" (1764 circa) states that theMaster and Wardens of six Lodges assembled at the Apple-Tree in 1716, when it was agreed to revive "their QuarterlyCommunications". Certainly the earlies "Engraved List" (1723- 4) partly confirms this view of the matter, as the junior of thehistoric quartette is placed in the fifth space, the fourth being occupied by a Lodge at "The Cheshire Cheese in Arundell Street,"of which we know absolutely nothing more.
Are there not traditions of pre-1717 Lodges in various parts of the South of
There are, but to my mind they have not been traced; save the probablility of petitioners for the early Lodges have been Masons prior to the formation of the premier Grand Lodge.
What's known of the Lodge which appears in the 1734 List as "No. 65 St. Rooks Hill near Chicester. constituted in the reign of Julius Caesar"?
The Lodge at St. Rook's Hill, a few miles from Chicester is dated 1730 on the Register. It met once a year only. Nothing isknown of its history prior to 1730, and but little since. It was erased from the list in 1754. It is interesting to note, that at theGrand Lodge held March 2nd 1732, "the petition of Brother Edward hall, a Member of the Lodge at the Swan, in Chicester,being there made a Mason by the late Duke of Richmond, six and thirty years ago, and now recommended by the presentDuke of Richmond, as a proper object of the Charity of Free and Accepted masons, was read." This Lodge was constituted inthe year 1724 as No. 31, but doubtless was at work many years before, as with several other Lodges in England, whichsubsequently joined the Grand Lodge.
UP to Page about Freemasonry main page.