Tag Archives: Freemason

The Starting Point – (or so you think) Final Part – By Michael Lawrence

The second issue we need to address is Anderson’s account in the 1738 Constitution. This account is purely secondary knowledge as it would appear that he took no part in the formation of Grand Lodge or its early activities. Again I refer to Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones;

“We think it possible that the statement near the end of the ‘historical’ section of the Constitutions of 1723, to the effect that several noblemen and gentlemen of the best rank with clergymen and learned scholars of most professions and denominations joined the Society during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu (1721-2) may refer to Anderson himself, among others.  This possibly is not incompatible with Anderson’s own account, according to which Grand Lodge in September 1721 (three months after Montagu’s installation), “finding fault with all the copies of the old Gothic Constitutions, order’d Brother James Anderson A.M. to digest the same in a new and better method”.1Douglas knoop


Professor of Economics in the University of Sheffield

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, London

So the points to be made from Part One, were 1) The first Grand Lodge did not have jurisdiction over all of England and Part Two, was 2) That Anderson’s account of its formation was second hand.

There are, as you may imagine, other issues concerning Anderson which relate to his past, Herbert Inman claims that;

Dr. James Anderson is said to have been appointed Chaplain of St. Paul’s Operative Lodge in London in 1710 (It has been suggested that this was the Lodge that met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale house in St. Paul’s Church Yard), and it has been alleged that he was expelled from the Society in 1715 (for some unknown misdemeanour)…and that he never became a Master Mason…”2However, Anderson was the Master of Lodge No. 17, which according to Knoop & Jones3 has never been identified, but according to Gould4 however, of the nineteen lodges that attended the Quarterly Communications in 1727, No. 17 was the “Mag: Pye, against Bishopsgate Church”, although there appears to be no uniformity regarding lodge numbers, so this may not be the case.

Anderson’s character and credibility with regard to the enthusiasm shown in editing the 1723 and 1738 Constitutions can also be questioned further as Knoop & Jones explain:

“Although Anderson was only editor of the Book of Constitutions, and although it was issued with the approval of Grand Lodge, it was nevertheless his “sole property”, out of the sale of which he doubtless hoped to make a profit. In other words, Anderson owned the copyright. In February 1735, when the first edition of the Constitutions was exhausted, he sought the approval of Grand Lodge for the preparation of a new revised edition.

In February 1935, when seeking approval for a second edition, Anderson represented to Grand Lodge that a certain William Smith (in A Pocket Companion for Freemasons) had pirated a considerable part of his Constitutions, (to the prejudice of the said Dr. Anderson, it being his sole property”; Grand Lodge resolved that the master and Wardens of the Lodges should discourage their members from buying Smith’s books.”5Therefore, before we even begin to discuss 1717 as the starting date, the confusion starts and all I have done is to demonstrate how even that year, which is acknowledged by the United Grand Lodge of England as our stating point, is not only dubious, but open to debate, along with the contents of the Books of Constitution, whose sale solely benefited one man of possibly doubtful character.

However, as we all need a starting point for our research, I am happy that the point has been set at 1717. Having said that, records suggest that Accepted Masonry was practised in England just prior to about 1600 and Non-Operative Masonry in Scotland just after.

Part Two Bibliography

1) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.160

2) Herbert F. Inman, Masonic Problems and Queries, published by A. Lewis, 1947, p.19

3) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.161

4) Robert Freke Gould, The History of Freemasonry, published by Thomas C. Jack, 1885 edition, p.383

5) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.164


Filed under Freemasonry, Masonic, Masonic History, Masonic Traditions


First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The Saxons, on becoming Christians, built some churches, usually if not always of wood, but the Venerable Bede tells of the building of stone churches in the county of Durham about 680, this being regarded as the starting-point of the history of architecture in England. There were stone churches at York, Ripon, and Hexham late in the seventh century.

Saxon church builders went back to the Temple of King Solomon for some of their ideas, the buildings being preserved and ornamented by the use of plates of precious metals, and in particular of bronze. (Centuries later Glastonbury had its church of wood covered inside with plates of gold and silver, and outside with plates of lead.)

Until late in the seventh century there were few English buildings that were not of wood and thatch, and not until about the year 1000 did English architecture evolve into anything very definite – a sturdy form of Romanesque, having over – thick walls and columns and semi-circular arches-but something better was to develop before the Conquest.       King-Cnut                                                               Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great, late in the ninth century, and Canute, a few generations later, visited Rome, and it is more than likely that they were influential in bringing to England foreign craftsmen; masons may have come from Germany, Burgundy, and France, and carvers from Italy. Says one writer with great truth, “The world was surprisingly small in those days, notwithstanding the difficulty of travelling.”



The work of the builder suffered a setback in the tenth century owing to a general belief among Christians of the day that the world was to come to an end in the year 1000. Before the Conquest there was in England a style which we may call the Anglo-Saxon or pre-Conquest-Romanesque, and even after the Conquest, for some years, churches were being built in that style.

Norman masons occasionally worked on English churches during the pre-Conquest period, and it should be remembered that it was probably easier to travel from Normandy to England than to make any long journey by road in England itself.

Following the year 1000 an enormous number of churches and monasteries began to be built in Italy, France, and England. Canute, coming to the throne in 1017, restored the monasteries and built churches, his work being carried on by Edward the Confessor, who started the building of Westminster Abbey, not completed until after the Conquest.

The Norman masons were more skilled than the Saxons, but had no thorough grasp of constructional principles. The thickness of the masonry joint tells the story of one age or style succeeding another. In England and Northern France the joint is wide and badly made in eleventh century work, but there is a great improvement in the following century. The early Norman masons apparently knew very little of the use of the sculptor’s chisel, and did their decorative cutting with an axe; as the cutting grew deeper the chisel was used.

William-I-of-England                                                        William the Conqueror

The coming of William the Conqueror, and with him of great numbers of Norman churchmen and skilled operatives, led to a most astonishing increase in the building of churches, unparalleled in number in any similar period in any other country. The existing Saxon churches were rebuilt under the auspices of Norman ecclesiastics. For example, Canterbury Cathedral, started by a Saxon king, had much of the work razed to the ground and rebuilt in the period 1096-1110.

The use of the freestone of Caen, Normandy, was one of the causes of Normandy’s leading the revival of building in the eleventh century, it being easier to send stone from France to riverside towns in England than to send it by road through France, and often easier to get sea-borne Caen stone at English cathedral sites than horse-drawn stone from English quarries. When we call ourselves freemasons we may be harking back over all the centuries to the importation and use of French freestone.


Filed under Freemasonry, Masonic History, Masonic Traditions

A Short Outline of Architectural Masonry (Part 1 of 4)

First Published in 1950

 By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The allegories that veil freemasonry, as also the symbols that illustrate it, are, as readers of this book well know, drawn from the lore of architecture and building. Freemasonry has two histories – the one, legendary and traditional, going back almost to the dawn of architecture; the other, authentic, covering a period of a few hundred years and deriving in some part from the ancient craft guilds and fraternities whose fortunes rose and fell in England with the Gothic period; in that particular period are believed to lie the main roots of world freemasonry.

The freemason can well afford to spare a few minutes in which to acquaint himself with a mere outline of architectural development and see for himself how ‘English Gothic’ came into being. (Many authorities have been consulted for the detailed information presented in this articler, and mention must particularly be made of the 1909 edition of Professor F. M. Simpson’s three-volume History of Architectural Development (Longmans Green), a brilliant and valuable treatise.)

When the draughty hovels of prehistoric man, roughly built of stones or thrown together with boughs and mud, began in the course of ages to assume some vestige of form and proportion, then was architecture born, and civilization started on its long journey. “The perception of beauty and deformity is the first thing which influences man to attempt to escape from a grovelling, brutish character.”

Old-fashioned writers used to say that the Egyptians learnt architecture from the cavern, the Chinese from a bamboo-framed tent, the Greeks from a flat-roofed hut, and the Gothics from a grove of trees. This is no more than plausible, even if it be that, but it can be shown that architecture soon outdistanced any mere copying of natural and other simple forms, and grew, through six thousand years or so, to become the world’s supreme art, comprising in its ultimate development a whole group of subsidiary arts. Masonry, which is associated chiefly with building in stone, is one of the chief of those arts.

An extremely brief glance at prehistoric masonry suffices to show that from the very dawn of the mechanical arts thousands of years ago the mason was active. Remains of a few of the more massive examples of his work have come down to us.


Carnac, Brittany

The monoliths are upright stones, one of which in Brittany is 63 feet high and weighs about 250 tons; sometimes they support table stones, or cromlechs, weighing up to 10 tons. Ti

      Ancient City of Tiryns

In the ancient cities of Tiryns and Mycenæ stone walls 25 feet thick and 60 feet high, built with blocks 9 feet long and surfaced in such a way as to make very tight, thin joints, even without the help of mortar. We call the unknown builders of these great walls giants, or Cyclops.


The great temple at Palenque

There was much mighty building in Mexico and Peru thousands of years ago. The great temple at Palenque was 230 feet long and do feet wide; some retaining walls discovered in Peru are said to be no less than 225 feet thick and 108 feet high, and in walls elsewhere are found built-in stones as long as 27 feet, 14 feet deep, and 12 feet high, weighing about 28 tons, cut, shaped, and placed in position with extreme accuracy.

Eastern Architecture

So far as we know, Babylonia and Assyria were among the first of all the Eastern builders, but, unfortunately, in their very early days they built in brick of poor quality which returned in the course of centuries to the clay from which it had been made. When at a later stage they used more permanent materials we know from the remains brought to light by excavation that, as builders, these early people were of considerable worth. The proportions of their narrow, rectangular buildings, their handsome columns and lintels-all these are regarded as the real inspiration of Greek architecture.

In Babylon there was a great temple with alabaster floor-slabs measuring nearly 20 feet by 12 feet. The ancient Persians built in timber, but when their descendants built in stone they produced some massive work; the palace Chehil Minare, for example, had retaining walls over 1400 feet long, built of immense stones and supporting a raised platform, approached by what is regarded as the finest double staircase in the world.

Egypt. Building in Egypt must have been among the earliest in the world, and is the first of which we have written record. As builders, the Egyptians had both material and labour in their favour. Unlimited material – if not in their own country, then in bordering countries, such as Arabia, from which came, or so we are told, the great blocks of stone with which the Pyramids were built. Unlimited labour – slaves and serfs compelled by brute force to do work at considerable risk to life and limb. Overseers and artificers were well trained and highly skilled; the rest was simply the organized and ruthless direction of slave labour. In honour of the dead whom they worshipped the Egyptians built great tombs, the Pyramids, the largest of which has a base 768 feet square and a height originally of 490 feet, some of the stones of which it is built being 30 feet long and of enormous weight. For this one pyramid, it is said, it took twenty years to bring the stones from Arabia.

Long before written history the Egyptians were building temples in each of which a forest of columns supported a flat stone roof, the arch not then being used in great buildings, although the Egyptians did have arches, elliptical ones of brick, probably restricted to use in minor buildings. All architecture may be divided into the styles of the entablature (the joist and flat roof) and that of the arch, and we shall see later that it was the clever development and use of the arch that led to the Gothic construction with which the medieval working freemason was familiar.

Greece. The Greeks were a nation of merchants and mariners doing business with all the known world over a long period of time, and they must at an early date have learnt from Assyria, Egypt, and other countries of the East all that could then be taught them of architecture, an art in which they themselves soon became adept, and in which they are acknowledged to-day as the greatest masters. Their judgment with regard to proportion and symmetry has never been questioned. Of the early Greek temples and other buildings nothing much is known, as they were of timber and have long since disappeared. It is supposed, but sometimes questioned, that the horizontal timber lintel, or beam supported by posts (constituting for the Greeks a rude emblem of fraternal unity), was the inspiration of the outstanding feature of later Greek architecture – the pillars of exquisite design and beautiful workmanship supporting the entablature (the horizontal architrave, the frieze, and the cornice). It will be understood that the two parts of the sloping timber roof, meeting at the ridge, produced a triangular space back and front, and this had to be filled by what is known as the pediment, another Greek characteristic.

Although the arch was not used by the Greeks in the grand manner, they were well aware of its purpose, but were content to use it in a minor way; for example, over a lintel, itself supported by columns, they would place what we now know as a discharging arch, its purpose being to prevent the weight of the masonry above bearing direct upon the lintel.

It is the Greeks who originated or developed the orders of architecture to which the attention of the freemason is often directed. By “orders” are known certain arrangements of construction and ornament as applied to columns and the lintels over them; the three greatest of them – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – are illustrated. The idea of the Doric came from Egypt, and that of the Ionic from Assyria but the Greeks so largely redesigned these two orders as to be regarded as their originators.


The Doric Column

The order which the Greeks most loved was the Doric, the most massive of the three, but more delicate, more refined, and more dignified; generally it had a fluted shaft standing on a series of steps and having no base of its own, and the tapering of that shaft, together with the slight convexing of the horizontal lines of the lintel above, was intended to correct an optical illusion. Its capital, where the shaft supports the lintel, is moulded. The Ionic shaft, on the other hand, had a base, and on the capital were carved scrolls or volutes; this shaft was lighter than the Doric. In the Corinthian order the shaft was lighter still, and a bell-shaped capital was deeply carved with foliage; very occasionally a scroll or volute was added.





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Harry Carr


Extracts from the modern Lecture on the First Tracing Board: Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn, but as we have no noble orders in architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are, the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.


The problems relating to the furnishings of the lodge do not end with Solomon’s two pillars. As early as 1710 an entirely different set of three pillars makes its appearance in the catechisms and exposures. They appear for the first time in the Dumfries No 4 MS, which is dated about 1710:

  1. How many pillars is in your lodge?
  2. Three.
  3. What are these?
  4. Ye square the compass & ye Bible.

The three pillars do not appear again in the eleven versions of the catechisms between 1710 and 1730, but the question arises, with a new answer, in Prichard’s Masonry Dissected:

  1. What supports a Lodge?
  2. Three great Pillars.
  3. What are they called?
  4. Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
  5. Why so?
  6. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn.

Almost identical questions appeared in the Wilkinson MS c1727, and in a whole series of English and European exposures throughout the eighteenth century, invariably with the same answer, “Three. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn”. But the descriptions of actual lodge furnishings in the early 1700s do not mention any sets of three, and it seems evident that these questions belong to a period long before there was any idea of turning them into actual pieces of furniture in the lodge room.

Early lodge inventories are too scarce to enable us to draw definite conclusions from the absence of references to any particular items of lodge furnishings or equipment. While it is fairly certain, therefore, that the early operative lodges were only sparsely furnished, it is evident, from surviving eighteenth‑century records that in the 1750s there were already a number of lodges reasonably well equipped.

A set of three pillars was mentioned in the records of the Nelson Lodge in 1757, and the Lodge of Relief, Bury, purchased a set of three pillars, for WM, SW and JW, in 1761. To this day, the ancient Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No l, now nearly 400 years old, uses a set of three pillars, each about three feet tall. The Master’s pillar stands on the Altar, almost in the centre of the Lodge; the other two stand on the floor at the right of the SW and JW respectively. (The three principal officers, there, do not have pedestals.)

Masonry Dissected remained the principal stabilising influence on English ritual until 1760, when a whole new series of English exposures began to appear, all displaying substantial expansion in the floor‑work of the ceremonies, and in their speculative interpretation. Three Distinct Knocks appeared in 1760, and J. & B. in 1762, claiming to expose respectively the rituals of the rival Grand Lodges, “Antients” and “Moderns”. Both of them now included several new questions and answers on the “Three great Pillars” agreeing that “they represent…The Master in the East…The Senior Warden in the West…[and] The Junior Warden in the South”, with identical full explanations of their individual duties in those positions.

It seems likely that these questions were originally intended only to mark the geographical positions of the pillars, but in that period of speculative development the explanations were almost inevitable.


Apart from Prichard’s note in the 1730s on “large Candles placed on high Candlesticks”, the first evidence of a combination of these two sets of equipment (that I have been able to trace) is in the records of the Lodge of Felicity, No 58, founded in 1737, when the Lodge ordered “Three Candlesticks to be made according to the following orders Viz. 1 Dorrick, 1 Ionick, 1 Corrinthian and of Mahogany…”. In the Lodge inventory for Insurance in 1812 they had multiplied and were listed as “Six Large Candlesticks. Mahogany with brass mountings and nossils, carv’d of the three orders”. In 1739, the Old Dundee Lodge ordered a similar set, still in use today.


The connection is perhaps not immediately obvious, but these were the architectural styles associated with the attributes of the three pillars belonging to the Master and Wardens, “Wisdom, Strength and Beauty”. The Masonic symbolism of the three pillars had been explained by Prichard in 1730, and it is almost certain that these two Lodges were putting his words into practical shape when they had their candlesticks made up in those three styles.

These two early examples may serve as a pointer to what was happening, but it was not yet general practice, and early evidence of their combined use is scarce. But we can trace the sets of three pillars from their first appearance in the ritual as a purely symbolical question, in which they support the Lodge, and are called “Wisdom, Strength and Beauty”. Later, they represent the three principal Officers, in the East, South, and West. From the time when they were being explained in this fashion, c1730 to 1760, it is fairly safe to assume that they were beginning to appear in the Drawings, Floor‑Cloths or Tracing Boards. We know, of course, that they appeared regularly in the later versions, but the general pattern of their evolution seems to indicate that they were almost certainly included in many of the early designs that have not survived.

In the 1750s, and the 1760s, we have definite evidence (meagre indeed), that sets of three pillars were already in use as furniture in several lodges, and this adds strong support to the view that they had formerly appeared in the Tracing Boards. When, towards the end of the eighteenth century, the lodge rooms and Masonic Halls were being furnished for frequent or continuous use, the three pillars became a regular part of the furnishings, occasionally in their own right, but more often as the ornamental bases for the three “lesser lights”, thus combining the two separate features into the one so frequently seen today.


The growth in the number of symbols, as illustrated in the French exposures of the 1740s, and in the English versions of the 1760s, deserves some comment. In the Grand Lodge Museum there is a collection of painted metal templates, belonging apparently to several different sets. There are pillars with globes, a set of two small pillars without globes, and a separate set of three pillars. There is also a set of templates of “Chapiters and Globes”, i.e., headpieces only, clearly designed for adding the globes on to normal flat‑topped pillars.

All these, with many other symbols, were used in drawing the “designs” on the floor of the lodge. As early as 1737, when the “floor‑drawing” showed only “steps” and two pillars, it was a part of the Master’s duty to explain the “designs” to the candidate, immediately after he had taken the obligation. There appears to have been no set ritual for this purpose, and the explanations were doubtless given impromptu.

From 1742 onwards there is substantial evidence that the number of symbols had vastly increased, and this would seem to indicate a real expansion in the “explanations”, The Hernult Letter, 1737. See translation in Leics. L. of Research Reprints. No xiv.  Le Carechisme des Francs‑rnatons, 1742. and L’Ordre des Francs‑masons Trahi, 1745, and in the Frontispiece of a whole stream of English exposures that began to make their appearance from 1762 onwards. All three texts are reproduced in English translation in The Early French Exposures, Published by the Quatuor Coronati Lodge. No 2076. implying some sort of dissertation akin to the later “Lectures on the Tracing Boards”.

Many of these old symbols, which appear frequently on the later eighteenth‑century Tracing Boards and in contemporary engravings, etc, have now disappeared from our modern workings, among them the Trowel, Beehive, the Hour‑glass, etc, and it is interesting to notice that in the USA, where much of our late eighteenth‑century ritual has been preserved, these symbols, with many others, appear regularly on the Tracing Boards.


In this brief essay, I have confined myself only to a few symbolised items’ of our present‑day furnishings whose origins are liable to be clouded because of standardisation, but there is a whole world of interest to be found in the remaining symbology of the Craft.

Extracts from the modern Lecture on the First Tracing Board: Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn, but as we have no noble orders in architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are, the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.

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Harry Carr


The tradition that the globes on Solomon’s Pillars were covered with celestial and terrestrial maps is certainly post‑biblical, and appears to be a piece of eighteenth‑century embroidery to the ritual. We may wonder how this interest in earthly and heavenly maps arose, and there seems to be no sure answer. The early catechisms, 1700 to 1730, all indicate a growing interest in the subject, e.g.

  1. How high is your lodge?
  2. …it reaches to heaven…the material heavens and the starry firmament.
  3. How deep?
  4. …to the Centre of the Earth.

There are also the more frequent questions relating to the Sun, Moon and Master Mason, with subsequent variations and expansions. (See Knoop. Jones and Hamer. The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd edition, 1963, Sloane MS, 1700, p 48. Dumfries No 4 MS, 1710, p 62. And Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, 1730, p 162.) These questions may well be the first pointers towards the subsequent interest in maps, and the armillary sphere of 1745, noted above, carries the subject a stage further.

The Lodge Summons of the Old Dundee Lodge, dated c1750, showed three pillars, two of them surmounted by globes depicting maps of the world and the firmament. A certificate issued by the Lodge of Antiquity in 1777 displayed, inter alia, a similar pair of maps. The 1768 edition of J. and B. has an engraved frontispiece showing the furniture and symbols of the lodge, including two pillars surmounted by globes ‑ one with rather vague map markings, and the other clearly marked with stars. The various sets of geographical globes in pairs, described above (not “pillar‑globes”), all indicate a deep Masonic interest in the celestial and terrestrial globes during the eighteenth century.


Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, 1775 edition, in the section dealing with the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, dwelt at some length on the globes and on the importance of astronomy and, of course, on the spiritual and moral lessons to be learned from them. All this seems to imply that the maps were beginning to appear at this time, in the verbal portions of the ritual.

The introduction of maps, “celestial and terrestrial”, led to a further development which eventually gave the Craft a phrase that has become a kind of hall‑mark of Freemasonry everywhere. The first hint of that expression appeared in l’Orde des Francs‑Magons Trahi, 1745, which added a new question to those passages in the catechism:

  1. And its depth?
  2. From the Surface of the Earth to the Centre.
  3. Why do you answer thus?
  4. To indicate, that Free‑Masons are spread all over the Earth, and all together they form nevertheless only one Lodge.

In 1760, Three Distinct Knocks (Antient’s ritual) altered the final answer very effectively:

  1. Why is your Lodge said to be from the Surface to the Centre of the Earth?
  2. Because that Masonry is Universal.

In 1762, J. & B. (Moderns’ ritual) gave the same answer, word for word. That is how we acquired the catchphrase “Masonry Universal”.


The biblical accounts of the casting of the pillars make no mention of their being cast hollow, although this may be inferred from the fact that, if they had been solid, their removal from Zeradatha and their final erection at Jerusalem would have been a quite exceptional feat of engineering. Jeremiah 3 v. 21, states that they were formed hollow, the metal being cast to a thickness of ‘four‑fingers’, but there is no suggestion that this was done so that the pillars might serve as “armoires”, or containers of any kind, or that Solomon used them for, storing the constitutional Rolls.

Here again is a curious piece of eighteenth‑century “Masonic embroidery”, and it seems possible that this was an attempt to link the pillars of Solomon with the two earlier pillars upon which “all the sciences” had been preserved. The earliest Masonic note I have been able to find on the subject is extremely vague. In 1769, Wellins Calcott wrote in his Candid Disquisition, p 66: “…neither are the reasons why they were made hollow known to any but those who are acquainted with the arcana of the society…” 

This was undoubtedly intended to suggest that the hollow pillars were designed to serve some peculiarly Masonic purpose, but Calcott says nothing more on the subject, and I have been unable to trace any such reason for hollow pillars in eighteenth‑century Masonic ritual.


Seventeen Masonic documents have survived, dated from 1696 to 1730, and they provide the foundation for our study of the evolution of the ritual. The earliest of them is the Edinburgh Register House MS (ERH), dated 1696, with a valuable description of the two‑degree system of those days. The last of that series is Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected (MD), which contains the oldest ritual of the three degrees, and the earliest version of the Hiramic legend. In all these early texts the ritual was mainly in the form of catechism, and we get some idea of its development during those thirty‑five years when we compare these two documents. The first contains fifteen questions and answers for the EA, and two for the “master or fellow‑craft”. Masonry Dissected has 155 Q and A in all, i.e. ninety‑two for the EA; thirty‑three for the FC; thirty for the MM.


Twelve of the oldest rituals contain a question on the “lights of the lodge”: “…Are there any lights in your lodge, yes three…”[ERH, 1696] The lights soon acquire a symbolic character, but originally they were probably candles or windows, with particular positions allocated to them, e.g. “NE, SW, and eastern passage”, or “SE, S, and SW”, etc., until we reach MD in 1730, which says the lights are three windows in the E, S and W and their purpose is “To light the Men to, at, and from their work”. MD distinguishes between symbolical lights and “fix’d lights”, explaining that the latter are “large Candles placed on high Candlesticks”.

Symbolically, several texts say that the lights represent, “the Master, Warden and fellow‑craft.” Four versions say “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Three others say twelve lights, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Sun, Moon, Master‑Mason, Square, Rule, Plum, Line, Mell, and Chisel”.  All these are of the period c1724‑26.

MD says “Sun, Moon and Master‑Mason” and after the question “Why so?” he answers “Sun to rule the Day, Moon the Night, and Master‑Mason his Lodge”. So we trace the lights from their first appearance in our ritual up to the point where they acquire their modern symbolism.

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Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual – Part Two of Five

Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual



Bro. Harry Carr

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence


The Harleian MS is a perfectly normal version of the Old Charges, but bound up with it is a note in the same handwriting containing a new version of the mason’s oath, of particular importance because it shows a major change from all earlier forms of the oath. Here it is:

“There is seurall words & signes of a free Mason to be revailed to yu wch as yu will answ: before God at the Great & terrible day of Iudgmt yu keep Secret & not to revaile the same in the heares of any pson  w but to the Mrs & fellows of the said Society of free Masons so helpe me God xt.”

Brethren, I know that I recited it too fast, but now I am going to read the first line again: “There is several words and signs of a free mason to be revealed to you . . .” ‘Several words and signs . . .’ plural, more than one degree. And here in a document that should have been dated 1550, we have the first hint of the expansion of the ceremonies into more than one degree. A few years later we have actual minutes that prove two degrees in practice. But notice, Brethren that the ceremonies must also have been taking something of their modern shape.

They probably began with a prayer, a recital of part of the `history’, the hand‑on‑book posture for the reading of the Charges, followed by an obligation and then the entrusting with secret words and signs, whatever they were. We do not know what they were, but we know that in both degrees the ceremonies were beginning to take the shape of our modern ceremonies. We have to wait quite a long while before we find the contents, the actual details, of those ceremonies, but we do find them at the end of the 1600s and that is my next theme.

Remember, Brethren, we are still with only two degrees and I am going to deal now with the documents which actually describe those two ceremonies, as they first appeared on paper.


The earliest evidence we have, is a document dated 1696, beautifully handwritten, and known as the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript, because it was found in the Public Record Office of Edinburgh.

I deal first with that part of the text which describes the actual ceremonies. It is headed `THE FORME OF GIVING THE MASON WORD’ which is one way of saying it is the manner of initiating a mason. It begins with the ceremony which made an apprentice into an ‘entered‑ apprentice (usually about three years after the beginning of his indentures), followed by the ceremony for the admission of the, master mason or fellow craft’, the title of the second degree.

The details are fascinating but I can only describe them very briefly, and wherever I can, I will use the original words, so that you can get the feel of the thing. We are told that the candidate `was put to his knees’ and `after a great many ceremonies to frighten him’ (rough stuff, horse‑play it you like; apparently they tried to scare the wits out of him) `after a great many ceremonies to frighten him’, he was made to take up the book and in that position he took the oath, and here is the earliest version of the mason’s oath described as part of a whole ceremony.

“By god himself and you shall answer to god when you shall stand nakd before him, at the great day, you shall not reveal any pairt of what you shall hear or see at this time whither by word nor write nor put it in wryte at any time nor draw it with the point of a sword, or any other instrument upon the snow or sand, nor shall you speak of it but with an entered mason, so help you god.”

Brethren, if you were listening very carefully, you have just heard the earliest version of the words ‘Indite, carve, mark, engrave or otherwise them delineate’. The very first version is the one I have just read, `not write nor put it in wryte, nor draw it with a point of a sword or any other instrument upon the snow or sand.’ Notice, Brethren, there was no penalty in the obligation, just a plain obligation of secrecy.

After he had finished the obligation the youngster was taken out of the lodge by the last previous candidate, the last person who had been initiated before him. Outside the door of the lodge he was taught the sign, postures and words of entry (we do not know what they are until he comes back). He came back, took off his hat and made `a ridiculous bow’ and then he gave the words of entry, which included a greeting to the master and the brethren. It finished up with the words `under no less pain than cutting of my throat’ and there is a sort of footnote which says `for you must make that sign when you say that’. This is the earliest appearance in any document of an entered apprentice’s sign.

Now Brethren, forget all about your beautifully furnished lodges; I am speaking of operative masonry, when the lodge was either a little room at the back of a pub, or above a pub, or else a shed attached to a big building job; and if there were a dozen masons there, that would have been a good attendance.

So, after the boy had given the sign, he was brought up to the Master for the `entrusting’. Here is the Master; here, nearby, is the candidate; here is the `instructor’, and he, the instructor, whispers the word into the ear of his neighbour, who whispers the word to the next man and so on, all round the lodge, until it comes to the Master, and the Master gives the word to the candidate.

In this case, there is a kind of biblical footnote, which shows, beyond all doubt, that the word was not one word but two.  B and J., two pillar names, for the entered apprentice. This is very important later, when we begin to study the evolution of three degrees. In the two‑degree system there were two pillars for the entered apprentice.

That was really the whole of the floor work, but it was followed by a set of simple questions and answers headed – ‘SOME OUESTIONEs THAT MASONS USE TO PUT TO THOSE WHO HAVE YE WORD BEFORE THEY WILL ACKNOWLEDGE THEM’.

It included a few questions for testing a stranger outside the lodge, and this text gives us the first and oldest version of the Masonic catechism. Here are some of the fifteen questions. ‘Are you a mason? How shall I know it? Where were you entered? What makes a true and perfect lodge? Where was the first lodge? Are there any lights in your lodge? Are there any jewels in your lodge?’ the first faint beginnings of Masonic symbolism. It is amazing how little there was at the beginning. There, Brethren, 15 questions and answers, which must have been answered for the candidate; he had not had time to learn the answers. And that was the whole of the entered apprentice ceremony. Now remember, Brethren, we are speaking about operative masonry, in the days, when masons earned their living with hammer and chisel. Under those conditions the second degree was taken about seven years after the date of initiation when the candidate came back to be made ‘master or fellow craft’.

Inside the lodge those two grades were equal, both fully trained masons. Outside the lodge, one was an employer, the other an employee. If he was the son of a Freeman Burgess of the city, he could take his Freedom and set up as a master immediately. Otherwise, he had to pay for the privilege, and until then, the fellow craft remained an employee. But inside the lodge they both had the same second degree.

So, after the end of his indentures of apprenticeship, and serving another year or two for ‘meat and fee’, (ie board plus a wage) he came along then for the second degree. He was ‘put to his knees and took the oath anew’. It was the same oath that he had taken as an apprentice, omitting only three words. Then he was taken out of the lodge by the youngest master, and there he was taught the signs, posture and words of entry (we still do not know what they were). He came back and he gave what is called the ‘master sign’, but it is not described, so I cannot tell you about it. Then he was brought up for the entrusting. And now, the youngest master, the chap who had taken him outside, whispered the word to his neighbour, each in turn passing it all round the lodge, until it came to the Master, and the Master, on the five points of fellowship ‑ second degree, Brethren ‑ gave the word to the candidate. The five points in those days ‑ foot to foot, knee to knee, heart to heart, hand to hand, ear to ear, that is how it was at its first appearance. No Hiramic legend and no frills; only the FPOF and a word. But in this document the word is not mentioned. It appears very soon afterwards and I will deal with that later.




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The Mason Word – Part Two of Six





P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

 The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part two we cover:

3)Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696

4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets

3) Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696

Reverting to our MS., it may be noted that at the conclusion of what may be described as the ceremony, the word was circulated amongst those present and was finally given to the candidate by the Master. These signs and words were those of an entered apprentice, and, as the MS. points out, there were others belonging to a master mason or fellowcraft, which were imparted as follows:

First, all apprentices were ordered out of the company and none suffered to stay but masters. Then “he who is to be admitted a member of fellowship” knelt and took an oath of secrecy, after which he went out with the youngest master to learn “the posture and signes of fellowship”. On returning, he made the master’s sign and said the former words of entry, but leaving out the “common judge”; the masons then whispered the word among themselves, and finally the master gave him the word and the grip.

There is nothing in the MS. as to the nature of the master’s sign, word or grip, though some indications are given regarding the apprentice’s secrets.

The fact that in 1696 there were two distinct ceremonies, if they may be so described, one applying to entered apprentices and one to fellowcrafts or masters, raises two questions: first, who were the entered apprentices, and secondly, whether or not both ceremonies were equally old?

 4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets

The object of obtaining the Mason Word was presumably to acquire a method of recognition, and thereby secure certain advantages in the matter of employment, and possibly of relief. (Murray Lyon, 28, and Miller, 30. It may be noted that masons were not the only craftsmen to possess a “word”. The squaremen, i.e. wrights, and possibly members of other building crafts, received the “squaremen word” (Murray Lyon, 23). O.E.D. defines squareman as “A carpenter, stone cutter or other workman who regularly uses a square for adjusting or testing his work”, and notes its earliest occurrence as 1790. Actually, one of the signatories of the so‑called St. Clair charter of 1628 describes himself as “deakin of squaemen”. (Murray Lyon, 68).

Ordinary apprentices were not free to seek work independently of the masters to whom they were bound, (In London in the seventeenth century apprentices sometimes worked apart from their masters, but probably only on jobs to which they had been sent by them (Knoop and Jones, The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 64, 65). and would therefore have no need of secret methods of recognition. Nor would they require relief, since their masters maintained them. The apprentice who was given the Mason Word could not, therefore, have been an ordinary apprentice. The explanation probably lies in the fact that in Scotland in the seventeenth century, and possibly earlier, apprentices and entered apprentices apparently formed two distinct classes or grades, (A Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 27th December, 1655 (A.Q.C., xxiv., 41), records that apprentices were not to be made entered apprentices under the sum of twelve pounds Scots.) the entered apprentices hardly being apprentices at all in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather journeymen ex‑apprentices.

In Scotland, the Schaw Statutes of 1598 (Printed in Murray Lyon, 9, and Knoop and Jones, The Medieval Mason, 258.)  provided that an apprentice must be bound for at least seven years, and that, except by special permission, a further period of seven years must elapse before he could be made a fellowcraft. During this second term of seven years, (Cases of masons serving double apprenticeships occurred in England in the seventeenth century. Thus Richard Varney of Islip, stonemason, examined in the Chancellor’s Court at Oxford, 26th April, 1681, stated that “he served his father (though he was his eldest son) more than a double apprenticeship”; John Saunders of Denton, stonemason, stated, on the same occasion, that he had served his father a double apprenticeship. (Abstract (very kindly lent to G. P. Jones and myself by the Rev. H. E. Salter) of papers labelled “1681 M” in the Oxford University Archives.] These double apprenticeships, however, were hardly analogous to the Scottish practice of apprenticeship and entered apprenticeship.) or less, as the case might be, the ex‑apprentice was apparently an entered apprentice, and normally worked as a journeyman for a master, though the Schaw Statutes did permit an entered apprentice to undertake a limited amount of work on his own account.

That this general ordinance applied locally is shown by the Mutual Agreement of 1658, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge of Perth. (Crawford Smith, chap. v.)  This provided that no entered apprentice should leave his master or masters to take any work or task work above 40s. Scots. Further, it was expressly provided that he was not to take an apprentice.

At Kilwinning in 1659, two fellowcrafts and one entered apprentice out of each quarter, together with the Deacon and Warden, were appointed to meet each year at Ayr to deal with transgressors. (Minute of the Lodge, dated 20th December, 1659, quoted in R. Wylie, History of the Mother Lodge, Kilwinning, 2nd ed., 60.)

At Melrose, the entered apprentices were parties to the Mutual Agreement of 1675, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge. (Printed in W. F. Vernon, History of Freemasonry in Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, 13.)

At Aberdeen in 1670 the Laws and Statutes of the Lodge show that entered apprentices received the benefit of the Mason Word at their entry, (There is nothing in the Edinburgh Register House MS. to indicate when the entered apprentice received the benefit of the Mason Word. It merely refers to “the person to take the word”) and that they became eligible for the fellowship three years later; further, the Mark Book of the Lodge shows that each entered apprentice had his mark (See page from Mark Book reproduced in Miller, facing p. 28) and the same was the case at Dumfries in 1687. Regulation of the Lodge of Dumfries, approved 2nd June, 1687, printed in J. Smith, History of the Old Lodge of Dumfries, (The use of marks on work to enable the craftsman to be identified was not peculiar to masons. In London the Helmet‑makers, Blacksmiths, Bladesmiths and Brasiers used them (Riley, Memorials of London, 238, 361, 569, 626).)

The Schaw Statutes of 1598 provided that no master or fellowcraft should be received, except in the presence of six masters and two entered apprentices, and the early Minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh prove that this requirement was observed. (Murray Lyon, 79.)

This evidence shows clearly that entered apprentices in Scotland had a real, if subordinate share in the government of the craft, and in its privileges. Their position can be compared with that occupied by the Yeomanry in the London Masons’ Company. It is inconceivable that either in London or in Scotland the ordinary apprentice had any say in the management of the craft, or that he enjoyed any privileges; his was purely a position of servitude until the period for which he was bound had expired.

Thereupon, in London he might be made a freeman and become part of the Yeomanry of the Masons’ Company; (Actually rather fewer than 50 per cent. of the apprentices bound in London took up their freedom (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 63).)  in Scotland he became an entered apprentice and received the benefit of the Mason Word. In due course, a yeoman in London might be accepted into the Livery, and an entered apprentice in Scotland might be received as a master or fellowcraft (In London there was no prescribed minimum period, and very occasionally an apprentice was made a freeman, and accepted into the Livery, on the same day, e.g. Edward Strong, jun., in 1698 (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 45 n). In Scotland, although the Schaw Statutes contemplated an entered apprenticeship of seven years, except by special permission, the period at Aberdeen in 1670 was three years. At Glasgow, in the early seventeenth century, the usual period appears to have been two years, to judge by the following: It would appear from the Minutes [of the Incorporation of Masons], 9th February, 1613, and 5th February, 1617, that nine years was the customary endurance of an Apprenticeship, viz., seven years to learn the trade and two for meat and fee (Cruikshank, Sketch of the Incorporation of Masons and the Lodge of Glasgow St. John, 63).)

There was however, an important difference: the former promotion was the exception rather than the rule; (The Quarterage Book of the Masons’ Company shows that in 1663 there were 45 members of the Livery, including assistants, as compared with 143 members of the Yeomanry; in 1677 the corresponding figures were 71 and 162 (ibid., 8, 9).) the latter promotion, so far as one can tell, was the rule rather than the exception. (That there were exceptions is shown by the fact that, in Edinburgh in the seventeenth century, it was not unusual for entered apprentices on the expiry of their entered apprenticeship to seek employment as journeymen, without having been admitted as fellowcraft (Murray Lyon, 28).)

A rather better analogy is provided by the London carpenters who, under an Ordinance of 1607, (Jupp and Pocock, Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, 423) were forbidden to have an apprentice until they had been “free” three years and had served at least one year with a freeman of the Company.

So far as I am aware, the term entered apprentice occurs in operative masonry only in Scotland. It is commonly held that the entered apprentice was so called “because entered in the Lodge books” (Kenning’s Cyclopedia of Freemasonry, 201)  but this cannot be regarded as a complete explanation. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 distinguished between (i) “receiving” an apprentice and (ii) “entering” an apprentice; “receiving” apparently took place at the outset of his career, and “entering” at some later, but unspecified, date, presumably at the expiration of seven years’ servitude.

The Statutes further provided that the name of the apprentice and the date of his “receiving” should be booked, and that, in due course, the date of his “entering” should be booked. Thus “entering” could hardly have meant simply that his name was entered in a book, as that had also been done when he was “received”. It related, more probably, to his admission or entry into the ranks of the time‑expired or fully qualified apprentices. The term “entered apprentice” occurs in the forms “enterprentice” (Trinity College, Dublin MS). and “interprintice”. ( Sloane MS., 3329)  Enter and inter are both Scottish forms of entire, so that the term may have denoted entire apprentice, i.e. complete or fully qualified apprentice.

Three pieces of evidence may be cited in support of this opinion. First, a Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 2nd January, 1600, records that Andrew Patten was “enterit prenteis to John Crafurd his maister”; (A.Q.C., xxiv., 36)  as a Minute of 7th June, 1599, records that Andrew Patten had served six years of his apprenticeship at that date, (ibid., 35) it follows that he had served about seven years when he was entered. Secondly, a Minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh, dated 3rd February, 1601, records that Andrew Hamilton, apprentice to John Watt, was “enterit … as past prenteis to the said Johnne War his m aiste]r”. (Murray Lyon, 79)  This clearly shows that Andrew Hamilton had served his time before being “entered”. Thirdly, Article XIV. of the Regius MS. requires “. . . if that the master a prentice have, Entirely then that he him teach.” If originally an apprentice was entered as an entire apprentice, confusion between entered and entire might easily have led to entire apprentice being changed to entered apprentice.

The secrets communicated to entered apprentices were probably not the essential ones, but means of recognition, safeguarded with less caution than the principal secrets and regarded partly as a joke. The possession of such secrets doubtless carried with it fewer privileges.

The first two conclusions are suggested by a study of the Edinburgh Register House MS.

(i) This shows that a good deal of horseplay was associated with the imparting of the entered apprentice secrets. Thus the oath was to be administered only “after a great many ceremonies to frighten” the candidate; when outside with the youngest mason, the candidate was to be frightened “with 1,000 ridicolous postures and grimmaces” before being given the sign, postures and words of entry; after rejoining the company he was to “make a ridiculous bow” and “put off his hat after a very foolish manner”. This horseplay may be compared with the practices common at the admission of freshmen to universities in medieval and later times, (R. S. Rait, Life in the Medieval University, chap. vi.) or with the tests imposed upon newcomers to the Hanseatic factory at Bergen. (Helen Zinunern, The Hansa Towns, 144‑47) That something of this horseplay was liable to be introduced into the early speculative Lodges is clearly implied by one of the by‑laws of the Lodge constituted at the Maid’s Head, Norwich, in May, 1724, which reads: “6. That no ridiculous trick be played with any person when he is admitted”. (G. W. Daynes, A.Q.C., xxxvii., 38) These by‑laws are stated to have been “recommended by our Worthy Bro Dr Desaguliers” [Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722‑23 and 1725], and may be regarded as reflecting the desire of the recently formed Grand Lodge to suppress such horseplay. On the other hand, no corresponding fooling is mentioned in the Edinburgh Register House MS. in connection with being “admitted a member of fellowship”.

(ii) It is very noticeable, as previously mentioned, that whereas the MS. gives various indications as to the nature of the entered apprentice’s secrets, it preserves a complete silence regarding those of the fellowcraft or master.

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 4 of 6


By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

At a later date we meet with a constructive degree, introduced to give brethren the qualification then required for the Royal Arch in exactly the same way, I submit, the genesis of the Fellow Craft degree was that it was a constructive degree, introduced to enable the Private Lodges to give their own members the necessary qualification for their Master’s Chair; without involving a recourse to Grand Lodge.

The qualification was that he was to be among the Fellow‑Craft; this is the phrase of Anderson in 1723, at a date when no such degree was in existence. The law of the day was that the Master’s Part was only to be conferred in Grand Lodge. The solution of the difficulty is readily arrived at. We shall in our Lodges confer a chair degree, and we shall call it Fellow‑Craft, and in order to avoid any suggestion of trespassing on Grand Lodge’s province we shall construct it exclusively from material available to us in the existing Acceptance, or associated with it.

The degree itself complies absolutely with this description of what it was necessary it should consist of if it was to serve its purpose. It does not appear that originally it had so much as a separate obligation of its own. It was simply a chair degree arrived at by repeating the Entered Apprentice degree and emphasising one of the two words already associated with it, so that inevitably in a very short time each degree took exclusive possession of one of the two words.

Other differences were introduced as time went on, but with regard to the names we still talk of their conjoint signification; we still re‑assemble the emblems which were in 1725 disrupted to suit the purposes of the Private Lodges of the period. And we can, I think, assume that there was not at this stage either in the Fellow Craft or in the Master’s Part, now become the Third Degree, any introduction of entirely new material.

Had there been any such innovation we may be quite certain not only that the old masons would have been up in arms, but that Grand Lodge would have made it a pretext for condemning the new departure. There was apparently some discontent and we can see the reasons for it, but there was as yet no suggestion of any disunion, nor do we get any accusation of departing from old customs until Grand Lodge itself changes the order of the words in the first two degrees after 1730.

In course of time the Second Degree gained in character and in incident. But it was long before the Third Degree arrived at the position that it now holds in the system.

So late as 1752 it was not required as a step to any rank or promotion, for we find in that year that the first Prov. G.M. of Cornwall was installed, and the Brother who presided on the occasion was only a Fellow‑Craft. At the present day there is nowhere in the Book of Constitutions any direction that the Master of a Lodge or any holder of Grand Rank, except the Tyler and two other officers, shall be a Master Mason. For years, therefore, it was merely a luxury, but fortunately one that gradually became increasingly popular. What happened was that the degree was only conferred for special reasons at special Lodges of Masters summoned by the W.M.

An ordinary Lodge had every right to confer the degree but it would only do so very occasionally. Not all the members took the degree. And as a necessary consequence in a number of Lodges they were unable to work the ceremony, and we find as early as 1738 eleven Lodges in London specifically described as Master’s Lodges.

This does not mean that they alone might work the degree; but it does imply that they specialised in it and apparently conferred it for the benefit of other Lodges who were not familiar with the working of it (Hughan, Origin of the English Rite, page 53). It is not till 1738 that we find the distinction made of speaking of the admission to the Master’s Part as raising. But in course of time the Lodges generally took over the degree and by a natural process it became the rule to select the Master from the brethren with the higher qualification. Preston says: “From this class of the Order the Rulers of the Craft are selected,” and exposures of the years just before the Union say in terms that the first qualification for the office of Master is that he be regularly and lawfully raised. This still suggests that he was only raised when it became a question of having the qualification, because Preston also remarks “The Third Class (i.e., M.M.) is restricted to a selected few,” but we may, I think, take it that by the Union it was the usual practice to take the degree.

The course of development then, apart from any reasons for it, is that in 1721 Grand Lodge recognised two degrees, an Acceptance and a Master’s Part, and that from 1725 there were three, a new degree being dovetailed in. The Master’s Part is the true predecessor of the Third Degree today. The 1723 exposure has the phrase: “I know the Master’s Part full well, as honest Maughbin will you tell.” The allusion is one we can still appreciate, and it involves the inference that the Master’s Part was concerned with the Hiramic Legend. We are often told that both legend and degree were constructed in the early years of Grand Lodge presumably therefore in or before 1721.

But it is to me, at all events, difficult of acceptance that so drastic an innovation‑for such it would assuredly have been‑was not only permitted but was endorsed by the Antients when, in 1751, they came to restore the old systems and remove the alterations introduced by the Premier Grand Lodge. Not only do the minutes of Haughfoot and Kelso, of 1702, unmistakably indicate two degrees, but we have the records of the London Acception which show in 1635 members paying for admission, and making a second payment to become masters. I think we can assert unhesitatingly that the Master’s Part, and therefore the Hiramic Legend, antedates the Grand Lodge era.

Let us therefore move the enquiry yet one more stage further back and endeavour to ascertain what can be said as to the Craft when the Lodge was still the workroom of a gild of working masons, engaged on some great cathedral or abbey of medieval England, and by what process it gathered together that wonderful accumulation of legend, symbolic morality and philosophy that was surely already part of the system when the first Grand Lodge assembled at the Apple Tree in Charles Street, Covent Garden.



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The Prestonian Lectures – Part 2

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

It is interesting to see that neither of those two extracts (mentioned in part 1) announcing the revival of the Prestonian Lectures made any mention of the principal change that had been effected under the revival, a change which is here referred to as their new form. The importance of the new form is that the Lecturer is now permitted to choose his own subject and, apart from certain limitations inherent in the work, he really has a free choice.


Nowadays the official announcement of the appointment of the Prestonian Lecturer usually carries an additional paragraph which lends great weight to the appointment: The Board desires to emphasize the importance of these the only Lectures held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It is, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures will be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.

The Prestonian Lecturer has to deliver three “Official” Lectures to Lodges applying for that honour. The “Official” deliveries are usually allocated to one selected Lodge in London and two in the provinces. In addition to these three, the Lecturer generally delivers the same lecture, unofficially, to other Lodges all over the country, and it is customary for printed copies of the Lecture to be sold, in vast numbers, for the benefit of one of the Masonic charities selected by the author.

The Prestonian Lectures have the unique distinction, as noted above, that they are the only Lectures given “with the authority of the Grand Lodge”. There are also two unusual financial aspects attaching to them. Firstly, that the Lecturer is paid for his services, though the modest fee is not nearly so important as the honour of the appointment.


Secondly, the Lodges which are honoured with the Official deliveries of the Lectures are expected to take special measures for assembling a large audience and, for that reason, they are permitted‑on that occasion only to make a small nominal charge for admission.

Of necessity the Lectures are given orally to different kinds of Masonic audience (ranging from ordinary Lodges to Study Circles and prominent Research Lodges). The subjects are usually popular and simple themes, or at least capable of being expressed in clear and uncomplicated language. In three cases within the period covered by this volume (1924‑1960) the Lectures dealt mainly with esoteric matters‑always of the highest interest to the listeners‑but the nature of their contents prevented them from being printed and they are necessarily omitted from this collection. They are:-

1924 W.Bro. Capt. C. W. Firebrace, P.G.D. – The First Degree.

1932 W.Bro. J. Heron Lepper, P.G.D. – The Evolution of Masonic Ritual in England in the Eighteenth Century

1951 W.Bro. H. W. Chetwin, P.A.G.D.C. – Variations in Masonic Ceremonial.

Extract from The Collected Prestonian Lectures 1925 – 1960 – edited by Harry Carr


My reasons for publishing these lectures, through Freemasons Are Us, is to ensure that they are not overlooked and that new Freemasons, Masonic students and Freemasons in general can easily access this well researched, well written and sanctioned material, after all, the education of our people is paramount to their retention.

Also, as all of the lectures are now out of print, the only chance one has of obtaining copies are through sites like “ebay” where copies have fallen into the hands of non-Freemasons who expect a higher than normal price, purely because they are Masonic. The other reason is that these days many of them can only be accessed through larger Masonic libraries which not every brother has time to visit or search.

Therefore, I hope that by publishing the lectures though this site, the legacy of many faithful brethren will not be lost and that they will prove a valuable aid in Masonic study as well as a motivational tool for further research and study.

The first lecture in this series will be:

1925: The Development of the Trigradal System by Lionel Vibert

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The Deacons Lament – Author Unknown


I first heard this some fourteen years ago, and I just could not resist sharing it. I have no idea who wrote it and I apologise if I have infringed any copyright.

I would be pleased to hear any similar poems.

I wished I’d looked after my ritual

I wish I had studied that book

I just might have got through a whole meeting

Without having to take a sly look

At the words printed so neatly and tidy

With capital letters and dots

Inverted commas and rows of small hammers

To remind me about them there knocks


If I had been to a Lodge of Instruction

And followed the Preceptors plan

My signs might be more like a Mason

And less like a tic-tac man

A Past-Master once said with sarcasm

As his doffed his apron of dark blue

You lay “five-to-one” when the Lodge is begun

And “evens” the field when it’s through


Time was, when I was a Deacon

I was proud of my wand and my dove

Initiation was due; I was in a real stew

So I wrote the words out on my glove

Now some Candidates are cool and collected

Mine was all nervous and hot

I must not boast, but his hands were like toast

Leaving my glove as an illegible blot


As I thumped the Wardens shoulder

The ink stained his coat a bright blue

He said “who have you there?” I just stood in despair

He could see I did not have a clue.

I looked at my glove for the answer

At those five fickle fingers of fate

The blots faded away, left the words plain as day

St Michael – All Cotton – Size Eight


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