Tag Archives: Grand Lodge

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

DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A., HON.A.R.I.B.A.

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

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The Starting Point – (or so you think) Part One of Two Articles – By Michael Lawrence

Freemasonry did not just appear in the year 1717. In fact, according to Robert Plot the famed English Naturalist and first keeper of the Asmolean Museum, in 1686, Freemasonry was being practiced throughout the Nation.

 “To these add the Customs relating to the County, whereof they have one, of admitting Men into the Society of Free-masons, that in the moorelands of this County seems to be of greater request, than any where else, though I find the Custom spread more of less all over the Nation;…”1Robert Plot

Robert Plot 1640 – 1696, English Naturalist, first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum

Yet despite this fact, we have inherited the date of our formation from the somewhat unreliable Constitutions of 1738, prepared and written by Dr. James Anderson. The late Lionel Vibert sums it up quite nicely when he explains:

“The Grand Lodge that was brought into existence in 1717 did not find it necessary to possess a Constitution of its own for some years. Exactly what went on between 1717 and 1721 we do not know; almost our only authority being the account given by Anderson in 1738 which is unreliable in many particulars.”2According to Anderson’s Constitutions of 1738, this is his version of how the events that lead to that date took place, written retrospectively, nineteen years after that date:

“King George I enter’d London most magnificently on 20 Sept. 1714 and after the Rebellion was over A.D. 1716. the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Centre of Union and Harmony, viz. the lodges that met,

  1. At the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.
  2. At the Crown Ale-house in Parker-Lane near Drury-Lane.
  3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent-Garden.
  4. At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster

They and some old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of the Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers and Lodges (call’d Grand Lodge) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.

Accordingly

On St. John Baptist’s Day, in the 3d Year of King George 1. A.D. 1717. the ASSEMBLY and Feast of the Free and accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-House.

Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates ; and Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons, Capt. Joseph Elliot, Mr. Jacob Lamball Carpenter, Grand Wardens, who being forthwith invested with Badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master, and install’d, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who pay’d him Homage.”3Goose and gridiron

The Goose and Gridiron

There are however, two specific issues with the setting up of the first Grand Lodge and Anderson’s account that need to be examined closer. Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones take up the story with regard to the first issue which concerns the jurisdiction of the first Grand Lodge;

“The events of 1716 and 1717 which led to the formation of Grand Lodge have been referred to as “a resuscitation of English Masonry” and as “the Revival”.  These descriptions are somewhat misleading; the events of 1716 and 1717 related not to English masonry in general, but masonry in London and Westminster in particular. There is nothing in the surviving accounts to suggest that the members of the Four Old Lodges had anything more in mind than a gathering or organisation of local lodges. Even six years later, in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 (but not, it should be noted, in those of 1738) the Charges were stated to be “for the use of the Lodges in London”, and the General Regulations “for the use of the Lodges in and about London and Westminster”. According to the MS. List of Lodges which was begun 25 November 1723, and entered on the first pages of the original minute book of Grand Lodge, the “regular constituted lodges” further afield were at Edgworth (Edgware), Acton and Richmond. The fact that Grand Lodge in 1723 and 1724 passed various resolutions concerning lodges “in or near London”, “within the Bills of Mortality” and “within ten mile o London”, indicates the restricted jurisdiction of Grand Lodge in those years.”4So it is more than evident that the first Grand Lodge of England was in truth, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster and as late as 19 December 1727, according to Gould, there was still only nineteen lodges that attended the Quarterly Communications.5 This later assertion that the first Grand Lodge was to become the Premier Grand Lodge of England never sat well with Freemasons across England, particularly in a speech delivered by Francis Drake of Yorkshire, in 1726 when he said;

“The Learned Author of the Antiquity of Masonry, annexed to which are our Constitution…that diligent Antiquary has traced out to us those many stupendous works of the Ancients, which were certainly, and without doubt, infinitely superior to the Moderns…the first Grand lodge ever held in England was in York.”6Of course, York were not the only Freemasons upset by the stance of the self-styled Premier Grand Lodge of England and during that century, for during the decade 1779 – 1789, there were no less than four Grand Lodges operating in England.

  1. The premier Grand Lodge of England, 1717 – 1813
  2. The York Grand Lodge of all England, 1725 – 1792
  3. The Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions, 1751 – 1813
  4. The Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent, 1779 – 1789

Part One Bibliography

1) Robert Plot, The Natural History of Staffordshire, 1686, para.85,

2) Lionel Vibert, Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, published by Kessinger Publishing’s, 1924, p.1, ISBN 0-7661-0073-1

3) James Anderson, The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of the Free and Accepted Masons, 1738, p.109-110

4) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.186-187

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

6) Francis Drake, Grand Junior Warden, Grand Lodge of York, in a speech delivered that Grand Lodge at the Merchants Hall, York, 27 December 1726

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The Deacons Lament – Author Unknown

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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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