Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part Two

We commence the second part of this article with a look at the term ‘Lodge’. A word often found in old manuscripts and spelt in a variety of ways for example: logia, logge, loygge, luge, ludge, a word derived from old French Gallic, meaning hut and which appears to have been used both in England and Scotland in three different senses:

A) In both countries, the term lodge was used to designate a mason’s workshop that was generally erected in connection with all building operations. Hence, we read in the Vale Royal Abbey building accounts of 1278, that carpenters were paid to erect lodges. The same goes for masons’ lodges and workshops at Catterick Bridge in 1421, Kirby Muxloe Castle in 1481. Then we have details of repairs to masons’ lodges at Beaumaris Castle in 1330 and Westminster Abbey in 1413.

01

The lodge was in fact a workshop where masons cut, dressed and carved stone and it would be fair to say that they would also have taken their permitted breaks within its walls, as at the lodge attached to York Minster in 1370 and St Giles, Edinburgh in 1491. It is also most likely that within its walls, questions affecting the masons trade were discussed along with difficulties experienced during work, techniques, grievances and without doubt, superstitions, fables and stories passed down from the beginning of English squared stone building. We must bear in mind that the Regius MS c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS c.1450, our earliest MS contain both charges and the legendary history of the craft.

B) In both countries, the term lodge was often used to describe a group of masons working together on the same building operation. Thus we find references to them at York in 1352 which refers to by-laws and ordinances, Canterbury in1429 which refers to its members as the “masons of the Lodge“, Aberdeen in 1481 which refers to conditions of employment and Edinburgh in 1491 which refers to written statements of old established customs. In effect, it is highly probable that the lodges were in fact much older than the respective dates shown which is only the earliest traceable evidence and not necessarily the start or formation dates.

C) In Scotland, the word Lodge was also used to describe an organised body of masons associated with a particular town or district. In the Schaw Statues of 1598 &1599 we read that “Edinburgh shall be the first principle lodge and Kilwinning the second.” From the St. Clair Charters of 1601 & 1628 we learn of other territorial lodges at St. Andrews, Dundee and Glasgow to name but three. These lodges carried out certain official duties of a trade nature including the regulation of Apprentices, keeping records of the reception and entry of Apprentices, the admission of Fellow Crafts and assigning marks to members. Other duties included settling disputes between Masters and their servants, ensuring no cowans were employed, ensuring Masters did not employ Apprentices or Journeymen of other Masters, collecting funds by way of fees and fines, relief of the distressed, feasting at the expense of the candidate and conferring the Mason Word on qualified members.

57

But the organizational set up in both England and Scotland were different. Scotland had “Incorporations”. Very briefly, these existed in certain Scottish burghs for the ruling and governing of particular crafts. Established under what is called the “seals of cause”, they were rules and statutes made by the craftsmen and approved by the municipality. Part of the role of the Incorporations was to protect the public or consumer by seeing that the work was properly carried out by authorised and qualified craftsmen to an good quality level.

In England there were “Craft Gilds”. Surprisingly, the term “Craft Gild” was an invention by 19th century historians who used it to distinguish a particular type of medieval municipal organisation which was concerned, like the Incorporations, with industrial trade regulation and quality, from that other municipal organisation, the “Merchant Gild” which was more concerned with the trading of goods for the whole town.

In medieval documents the organisation which we call a “Craft Gild” is described as a fellowship or mystery, the term has nothing to do with secrets or mysteries of ancient mythology as has long been believed, but the mystery of the craftsman’s trade or his skill, which he long considered his ‘secrets’ and which he would only pass on to an accredited apprentice.

58

However, since the beginning of the belief that there is a transitional link between stone/operative masons and non-operative or accepted masons, Masonic writers have wrongly devoted considerable space and time to the stone workers fraternities and their mysteries by mistakenly overlooking the fact that the secrets and mysteries of an artisan was his professional skill and not ritualized secrets or mysteries from an ancient civilization.

In essence, there is little evidence to prove that a mason’s fraternity of this kind existed at all in London before the13th or 14th centuries. For example, the names of those elected and sworn in, in 1328 from the various Mysteries in London to represent the government of these organisations included no masons whatsoever. But things change and in 1356, the introduction to the “Regulations for the Trade of Masons” state that, “unlike other trades, Masons had not been regulated in due manner by the folks of the trade” actually implying that there were no craft guilds or mysteries up to that date. However, it was another twenty years later in 1376, that we find the first specific reference to a permanent organisation of masons in London, when four masons were elected to the Common Council to represent the Mystery and the probability is that an organization for masons was established sometime between 1356 and 1376.

There is some belief that mason’s organisations existed in towns like Chester and Newcastle, because of the evidence we have that masons participated and performed miracle plays in those towns. The trade regulations in the “York Memorandum Book” of 1376 to 1419, contains details of over forty trades, but no reference to masons, and the same is for Coventry. In Chester there is evidence of the participation in such plays appears in the late 16th century, while at Newcastle a Masons Company was incorporated in 1581 with certain duties which included the presentation of a Corpus Christi play. However, we do find specific mention of wallers, bricklayes, daubers and slaters who were granted Charters under Henry VI 1422-1471.

From the Ordinances of 1481 and 1521 it is clear that we have the London Masons Company, a medieval fraternity or mystery with an oligarchy formed or forming within it, as had happened in many other trades.

Interestingly we note here that “foreigns” or non-freemen were not allowed to be employed, while freemen are available. Restrictions were placed on apprentices, one allotted per member and two for liverymen or those that had twice been wardens. Restrictions on the employment of “foreigns” or non-freemen applied up to 1666, when the rebuilding of London, after the great fire, changed the monopolies once held by the mason’s trade.

59

One of the problems relating to the mason’s trade which one might have considered part of their “ordinances and records” might concern the control or issue of mason’s marks. The Blacksmiths, helmet makers, bladesmiths and braziers of London were all subject to regulation by way of the maker’s marks, but certainly in London no provision regulating the use of marks has been traced in the Masons ordinances, nor has any book survived in the archives, although masons marks can be found on the earlier built Westminster Abbey.

Having said that, documents dated 1452 do in fact refer to marks and we are told: “A fellow who has learned the work may appear before his Master and, on exhibiting proof of his skill, the Master may award him a mark…and…the master shall within 14 days of his becoming a Fellow, deliver to the new craftsman his mark.”

End of part two.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Cathedral Builders, Freemasonry, Mark Masonry, Masonic, Masonic History, Masonic Traditions

2 responses to “Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part Two

  1. steve sillifant

    I’d like to share in our craft lodge
    FGs

    • Hi Steve, I will be happy for you to share the article and hope you will give me the appropriate accreditation. I am glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps you might let me know how it was received. Thank you for asking. Regards Mike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s