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First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

Rome. Rome’s contribution to architecture was its study and general employment of the arch and its adoption of the Greek orders in modified designs. Rome had no real architecture of its own when it conquered Greece about 146 B.C., but the Romans were quick students, and were not long in becoming great architects and mighty builders. Professor Simpson remarks that the Romans, if they had had the artistic sense of the Greeks, would have been the greatest architects the world has ever seen, for their work is vast and strong, grand and lavishly decorated, but not refined, often incomplete and carelessly finished.

There are only two ways of spanning an opening: one is to put a beam across it, the other to build an arch into it.


Uprights and Lintels

The Greeks did not use the arch in their principal buildings; instead they used columns, but had to place them close together, because the length of the beam or lintel that spanned them was limited by its own weight and the maximum load it would bear.



The Romans in using the arch could space their columns farther apart. They made their buildings many storeys in height, and designed them as a combination of column, arch, and lintel; but it is the arch, and not the lintel, that as a rule gives quality to the design.

The Romans built great show palaces, fine baths, great triumphal arches, enormous amphitheatres. They built them not only in Rome and Italy, but in the colonies which they established in many parts of the known world. The Coliseum at Rome, built in the first century A.D., was 61 acres in extent.

The five orders of architecture familiar to the freemason were completed by the Romans. They took the three Greek orders, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, and very slightly modified them, without adding to their refinement. They thickened the shaft or column of the Doric and made it into the Roman Tuscan order. They mingled the ornaments of the Ionic and Corinthian by replacing with small scrolls a part of tile foliage carved on the Corinthian cap, and in this way formed the Composite.

So now we have the Doric, dignified and simple, with tapered, fluted shafts; the Ionic, with its scrolls on the capital; the Corinthian, with its carved deep foliage; the Tuscan, hardly to be distinguished from the Doric, except by its thicker shaft; and the Composite, combining the scrolls of the Ionic with the foliage of the Corinthian. There are other differences, but these are the outstanding ones.

Early Christian Architecture

The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in the year 313, and founded Constantinople in 330, but not until two hundred years later did there emerge a style of architecture peculiar to the Roman occupied Eastern lands.


St Sophia, Constantinople

In 532 the Emperor Justinian began the building of the many-domed church of St Sophia in Constantinople and dedicated it to Eternal Wisdom. St Sophia marked a new style, to which was given the name Byzantine, from the ancient Byzantium, the site on which Constantinople was built; this combined Roman and Mohammedan traditions with the beauty of Greek architecture, the East providing the domes, the rich colour, and material, and the West the large scale, the bold construction, and the perfect proportion. The Byzantine style spread quickly in the East, and strongly influenced architecture in the West.

 Roman and Saxon Architecture in England

The Romans gave architecture to Britain, but it did not survive. We knew little or nothing about the art before they came. At one time we thought that we knew little of anything British in pre-Roman days, but the archaeologists have taught us that the Romans did not come to an entirely barbarous country. Glyn Daniel, in a B.B.C. broadcast address published in The Listener, says: “We know now that the first inhabitants of Britain lived over half a million years ago, that the first farmers and stockbreeders came to our shores about 2000 B.C. We know, too, that by the time Caesar came to Kent some of the Britons were exporting to the Continent metal, slaves, and fat stock, leather, corn, and hunting dogs, and in return were importing wine, bronzes and Gaulish pottery. They were using a minted coinage as well as currency bars, and maintaining, artists in metal and pottery. You can see some of their splendid and complicated patterns on the Battersea Shield, for example, the Witham Sword, or the Desborough Mirror on view in the British Museum. We can see now that Caesar and the Romans do not begin the drama of British history.”

The Romans built magnificent villas and many public buildings in England, but little more remains of them to-day than a few mosaic floors, some fragments of walls, and the broken systems of piping forming part of their bath installations; their upper storeys were usually of wood. The Roman basilica, or hall, is the original type of the Christian church. The domus, also known as a basilica, was the large room of the house. Any Christian churches in England when the Romans went were soon pulled to pieces by the Saxon hordes.

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 6 of 6



By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The course of events seems to be that the operative Gild custom was to admit the apprentice by a simple oath, but to make the apprentice out of his indentures a freeman and full member of the Gild by a ceremony which included the imparting of the all‑important secret means of recognition, the conferring of the mark and a moral lecture, and concluding with a feast. The Speculatives made these two occasions into one; they would proceed at once on admission to full membership. They also elaborated the actual ceremony considerably, but it is hopeless now to attempt to dissect out what is in fact accretion due to speculative influence and what is genuine survival from the days of the first cathedral builders.

But in the Master’s Part we are confronted with a ceremony of an entirely different character. We have in the first place a narrative, the story of the murder of the builder; in the second the teaching of a great religious truth, not one, however, that was at any time the special property of builders; and we also have an entirely distinct form of greeting, the five points of fellowship.

It seems to be the case that legends of the murder of a builder, which are widespread in folklore, are to be explained as survivals or reminiscences of original completion sacrifices, sacrifices of a human being with the object of giving the newly completed edifice a soul or a protecting demon; and an individual so intimately connected with the building as its architect would be likely to be selected as peculiarly appropriate for such a sacrifice.

It is probable that building communities generally have had such stories, and we find in fact that in France one has at a very early date crystallised into the narrative of the murder of Maître Jacques, the Master who brought the craft itself from Palestine to France. The existence of similar legends in our own country is attested by stories such as that of the Roslyn Pillar. Palestine and King Solomon’s Temple did not form part of our original legend. But they had been adopted at all events by the 15th, and it would appear that during the 16th and 17th centuries the scribes who copied the various versions of our Old Charges had scruples as to writing the name of Hiram the builder, and substituted Anon or Amon or the like for it.

As had been pointed out by W. Bro. Morris Rosenbaum, the double name Hiram Abif was found in the three first English Bibles of 1535 and the following years, but it disappeared from the Great Bible which superseded them in 1539. In 1723 it would, in the ordinary course, have been known only to Hebrew scholars. Yet it is clear that the craft was familiar with it in that year, and this appears to involve that it had come down as a tradition in the Lodges.

Again the explanation we give of MACH is one that cannot be justified philologically; no Hebrew scholar would arrive at such an interpretation independently. But the word actually occurs in the Bible as the name of a captain of the host. Now to the Geneva Bible of 1580 there was appended a concordance in which the Hebrew names were explained, and in that we read that this word means, among other things, “the smiting of the builder”.

The only plausible interpretation of this fact seems to be that the compiler has met with this meaning in some circle to which he belonged, and inserted it on that ground regardless of the philological question. These various considerations make it difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was not merely a murder legend among the Craft in this country from a very early date, but that for two centuries at least it had been definitely a Hiramic Legend. And as such it was the peculiar property of the Masters; and the ceremonies connected with it, whatever they may have been, constituted the Master’s Pan.

Now, the culmination of the five points of fellowship is the whispering of certain words and they refer to the narrative. But they are today explained in a way that is obviously unsatisfactory. We raise the Candidate from a figurative tomb by their means, which is very well; but what we recite as the narrative is a manifest incongruity. Nevertheless it is in Prichard, so that the mistake, as I suppose we may call it, is one of long standing.

Now the Compagnonnage have two elaborate forms of greeting very similar to each other and to our five points of fellowship and in each, words are whispered. One is gone through between the compagnons at funerals. The true state of affairs appears to me to be that just as the Masters had a special ceremony of a distinct type, they also had an elaborate form of greeting and salutation, with which the newly made Master was received.

The Fellow had his simple grip, part of the means of recognition, and we may be fairly certain that the various forms of it that we meet with today as we proceed in the Order, are but variations of late introduction. But the Masters used the five points of fellowship an essential part of which was the communicating of certain words.

But what was the function of this special ceremony in pre‑Grand Lodge days? By the Gild it was no doubt associated with the Master of the Work; and the Masters of the Gild were men of definite standing and authority. But the speculative Craft in the 17th century was in a different position. The language of Ashmole suggests that he was never more than a Fellow and took only one degree. But the phraseology of the Dublin Tripos of 1688 with its reference to being freemasonized the new way is very suggestive of a special speculative ceremony, and this may have been a Master’s Part.

It would appear as though prior to 1721 there was very little occasion for the ceremony and little use made of it. Stukeley writes: “We had great difficulty to find members enough to perform the ceremony”; and this was in London on January 6th, 1721. He can hardly be referring to the ordinary acceptance. Moreover, it is to be noted that from an allusion in a MS. of 1714 we know that certain features of the ceremony were related to what is today our Installation. What appears to have happened is that in 1721, with the introduction of the hitherto undreamt of feature of new Lodges, Masters were necessarily required for them.

The Master’s Part accordingly became of great importance. The Installed Master was given certain portions of the working, but the Part itself was still the pre‑requisite for the holding of the office. There is undoubtedly a contemporary confusion in the terminology which it is not easy to unravel, but when in 1723 Anderson speaks of making Masters and Fellows only in Grand Lodge he is, as we have already seen, referring not to two degrees, but to the Master’s Part alone.

We are now in a position to assess, at all events roughly, the material brought forward to the Grand Lodge which was to form the basis of all that is contained in our ceremonies today.

In the first place: A body of symbolism and teachings based on architecture, working tools, and other material emblems; representing an apprentice admission and the fellow admission of the operative craftsmen greatly elaborated, but fused into one ceremony of admission or Acceptance in the speculative period that preceded Grand Lodge. This was split up in 1725 to form our present First and Second Degrees, and their subsequent history and development has already been described. Parts of the operative material, such as the conferring the mark, were preserved in Scotland but laid aside in England.

Secondly: A murder legend of great antiquity associated at some date undetermined with King Solomon’s Temple and Hiram Abif; and a peculiar form of greeting including the whispering of words referring to the legend. Both these are restricted to Masters and they came forward as the Master’s Part, but one small detail may have been detached from the ceremony in 1721 to meet the requirements of the new office of Installed Master. This Master’s Part is our Third Degree today. But just when it took the actual form in which we now have it is not ascertainable; it underwent a process of modification to which I have already alluded, which continued right up to the time of the Lodge of Reconciliation.

In this analysis of our wonderful system I have, of necessity, proceeded from the known to the unknown, and much must unavoidably be, and remain, matter of hypothesis and opinion. I fully realise that my various hypothetical suggestions invite criticism; if they do not survive it will be because they do not deserve to. But I shall be at one with my critics if I conclude in the words of that worthy old Master, to whose generous provision of more than a century ago, the very delivery of this lecture is due: “He who has studied our teachings in a regular progress from the commencement of the First to the conclusion of the Third degree must have amassed an ample store of knowledge, and will reflect with pleasure on the good effects of his past diligence and attention.” 

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 5 of 6


By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The Gild which from the first inception of Gothic architecture kept the secrets of the construction of that art as its monopoly must have always been distinct from any other Craft Gild in three material points.

In the first place the usual system was that in each large town there was for each Craft a permanent local Gild, a Gild independent of any other Gilds of the same Craft existing elsewhere in the country. But the work of the freemasons lay outside the towns and, moreover, they were never in any given locality more than the few years required to construct the particular work that had brought them together there. Their organisation must therefore at a very early date have assumed the form of a single Fraternity for the whole Kingdom, with local associations in each locality in which Gothic building was in progress, and these bodies met in the workroom which from its very first appearance in the records is always styled the Lodge. And between Lodge and Lodge the brethren travelled, proving themselves by secret means of recognition; they also convened periodical meetings of the whole craft over large areas for the business of the Fraternity. All this organisation is quite unknown in any other trade in the country.

In the second place the Freemasons alone among Craft Gilds had not merely the consciousness of their own antiquity that would necessarily follow from the very fact that the cathedrals and abbeys built by their predecessors centuries earlier were still there for all men to see, but they had given that feeling concrete form and possessed a regular history of the Order. This, when we first come across it, is to the effect that Masonry was founded in Egypt by Euclid the worthy clerk, that it came to England, and that there, after many years, Athelstan reformed it. In exactly the same way the corresponding association of the building crafts in France, the Compagnonnage, had their legend that Solomon founded their Craft at the Temple, that a certain Maitre Jacques brought them to France, and that a personage known as Pere Soubise organised them in that country.

In the third place, since all the artistic life of the community centered round its church, and all the learning was confined to the ecclesiastic and the monk, the art of the builder of Gothic was the one craft of the period which offered to intellectual men something worthy of investigation. We read accordingly, at a very early date, of persons who, having acquired some theoretical knowledge of the subject, came to the masons to study its practical applications, and these people are already in the 15th century called speculatives. When first they were admitted to be members of the craft we cannot say, but they seem to be suggested in the 13th century, and we can appreciate that they would make their appearance very early indeed in the history of the Gild. The very existence of our Freemasonry today depends on the circumstance that the Gild from its earliest days extended its privileges and communicated its secrets to men who were not masons by profession. The history of the Craft is the history of a body into which a continually increasing number of these speculative members gained admission. We have from the 13th to the 17th century, then, a working trade gild with its own legends and ceremonies, but to it is introduced an element which keeps it in touch with every new development in thought, every accession to knowledge in the country as it arises. And we can appreciate how the ceremonial, in the hands of this speculative element, would tend to take on a deeper and deeper symbolic, moral and philosophic character, and tend to lose its original direct connection with the affairs of a purely operative fraternity.

We next have, from the time of James I or so, a profession that is moribund, but a society that keeps alive because of its non‑operative members, whose aims are now frankly philosophical and ethical, and all trace of actual contact with the trade of building is fast disappearing. It is this society which in 1716 forms the Grand Lodge and then tells us that Freemasonry, despite its external appearance and its terminology, is no longer a trade organisation, but purely and simply a system of morality.

Now, the various influences to which this Fraternity was subjected throughout its career, through its speculative members, have only to be stated, and it will at once be obvious that there must have been constantly at work an irresistible impulse towards accretion, the taking in of further symbols, the further elaboration of the ceremonies, the emphasising of what was eventually to become the principal function of the Fraternity, the teaching of moral duties and truths, to the entire disregard of technical knowledge or skill. We can review these influences very rapidly.

We begin with the Crusades, and we know that architects from Western Europe actually worked in Palestine, and the local knowledge they acquired had a marked influence on contemporary Gothic. Next we have the development of the study of Hebrew and Hebrew literature that heralded the Renaissance; we have for a period that terminates in 1453 a constant intercourse with France and French building fraternities; we have during the days of the Hanseatic League a fairly constant intercourse with Flanders and Lower Germany, where the Vehmgerichte were still flourishing as late as the 16th century; we have next the first appearance of the Bible in English, which took place in 1535; we have from about 1614 onwards the individual philosophers who styled themselves Rosicrucians and Hermeticists, who were still to the fore in the next century and some of whom definitely were Freemasons; we have from 1685, the date of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Huguenot refugees from France; and finally we have right into the days of Grand Lodge itself the political and civil dissensions between the Jacobites and the Hanoverians. All through the centuries there are lesser influences also constantly at work, bringing us learning of one sort or another from Spain or Italy or the East; what  wonder  then that in our system today enthusiasts have traced analogies and claimed identities with every philosophy or religion ever known to civilization or before it.

And yet, while the results of the process are now before us in our Lodges, and the true historical explanation of it seems to be fairly clear, we cannot in fact date our first adoption of any single symbol or interpretation. We do not know in detail what was brought forward into Grand Lodge by the Four Old Lodges and the old masons of 1717, and the two exposures that precede Prichard are so obviously fragmentary that nothing can be founded on them. But the general character of the Admission or Acceptance is fairly clear, and it is preserved in our First and Second Degrees today. They are concerned with the things of this world; the secret means of recognition are an essential part of them, as also the obligation taken in open Lodge; they teach secrecy, obedience, loyalty, and the duty of educating oneself. They moralise the ordinary working tools; their symbols are the two pillars, the porch or entrance, the winding stairway, the middle chamber, the stream of water, the rough and perfect ashlars, and the admission to light. Some of this suggests Rosicrucian ideas, but in some of it we seem to see a reminiscence of the very earliest craft lodge workroom. But it is all available, if not in that lodge room itself, at least in one or other of the sources of possible influence I have detailed.

There is, however, one feature of the ceremonies which can hardly have found a place in the original Gild observances, and that is the penalties. They have their counterpart in actual treason and Admiralty Court punishments of the days of the Tudors and earlier; and the Vehmgerichte were a secret tribunal that did in fact hang and stab its victims.


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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 Development of the Trigradal System – Part 3 of 6


By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

 A consideration of the phraseology used by Anderson in Regulation XIII, and by the Grand Lodge two years later, when they repealed the rule there laid down as to the Master’s Part, makes it certain that when Anderson drew up the Regulations of 1723 there were only two degrees.

There was the admission or acceptance, which made the candidate an apprentice, or as the phrase now became, Entered Apprentice. There was a further degree, the Master’s Part, which conferred on the candidate the rank of Fellow and Master. In order to qualify to be a Master of a Lodge the brother had to be “among the Fellow Craft”.

Of the nature of this further degree in 1723 we have no evidence; the disclosure that was printed in the Flying Post in that year merely refers to the further degree, by the title ‘entered Fellow’, and says that the two test questions are: to an Entered Apprentice, “Have you been in the Kitchen?” and to the Entered Fellow,  “Have you been in the Hall?” These are not framed like test questions, since a simple affirmative is a sufficient answer to either, nor can they be said to give us much information.

It is equally certain that by February, 1725, there were three degrees being worked. We have it definitely on record than an Association which called itself Philo‑Musicae et Architecturae Societas was founded on February 1725, by eight persons, masons, four of whom are recorded in the minute‑book as having been regularly passed Masters in the Lodge at the Queen’s Head in Hollis Street. And, the record goes on: “Before we founded this Society a Lodge was held, consisting of Masters sufficient for that purpose, in order to pass Charles Cotton, Esqr., Mr. Papillon Ball, and Mr. Thomas Marshall, Fellow Crafts.” Here are three degrees clearly indicated. What then is the history of the period in which this momentous change took place? The part of it that is material to our enquiry can be reconstructed with some degree of certainty.

In 1721 Grand Master Payne read over in Grand Lodge a new set of Articles to be observed. The text of these has not come down to us; what we have in their place is the Regulations propounded by Anderson in 1723, which are admittedly a revision of them and also contain additional matter. But we can form a fairly clear idea of the problem for which Payne was legislating.

We know that after a period of no particular distinction and no great increase in numbers the Craft suddenly leapt into popularity and the inevitable result was that the Four Lodges which at this time, with an undetermined number of unattached brethren (St. John’s Masons as they were called), alone constituted Grand Lodge, could not absorb the people who now clamoured for admission.

The question then arose whether it was possible to form new Lodges. To us this is no problem at all; we see it done every week. But it was in 1721 an entirely new departure on the part of Grand Lodge; we must recognise that it was quite definitely an arguable matter with much to be said on the side of the Old Lodges. It is, however, quite clear that from the meeting of June, 1721, Grand Lodge recognised the necessity for new Lodges and legislated for them.

We know the dates of most of those that were now constituted. But the power to form new lodges was narrowly restricted. It was the prerogative of Grand Lodge alone, and each had to be constituted by the Grand Master, if not in person then by a formally authorised deputy. The fact of its having been constituted was notified to all the other lodges, its first Master having been approved by the Grand Master and installed by him on the occasion of the constitution.

And it would seem that that was not the only way in which Grand Lodge kept control over the new accessions. The Master had to be among the Fellows. Grand Lodge now directed that the degree of Fellow and Master could be conferred in Grand Lodge alone. This perhaps did not matter as far as the new Lodges were concerned. It meant in practice that Grand Lodge retained in its own hands all the patronage, since it could if it chose prevent any particular brother in a new Lodge becoming qualified for the Chair. But even if the Degree itself was only now invented, the rule operated to infringe the privileges of the old Lodges. And it was the law of the Craft for at all events four years. We have no record of Grand Lodge actually conferring the degree; but that proves nothing.

But we can, I think, appreciate that in any case the old Lodges would be by no means in sympathy with this piece of legislation. Now it is just while the law stands thus that we find a new degree comes into existence, and it comes in between the Acceptance or Admission and the Master’s Part. Moreover it is, as a consideration of it today at once shows us, not in any way connected with the Third Degree of a later date, but is in every way complementary to the First Degree, the original Admission. In the 1723 exposure the candidate is made to say: “An enterd mason I have been, ‑ and ‑ I have seen,” while the Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, of 1724, speaks of the first of two names as the Universal Word. Prichard’s account of these has already been referred to. Tubal Kain repeats it in 1777. So that it would seem that the new degree appropriated one word of two, both of which had originally been given to the candidate in the admission ceremony, and that this usage persisted for half a century and more.

The rule as to the new Lodge being constituted by the Grand Master or his Deputy was soon found unworkable. The Craft expanded in a way that its rulers had not foreseen, and when there were Lodges coming into existence at Bath, Bristol, Norwich, Chichester, Carmarthen, Portsmouth, and Congleton in Cheshire, as was the case in 1724, the directions as to Constitution had necessarily to be modified. The business of constituting new Lodges was now entrusted to deputations and the Brethren selected were usually local members of the Grand Lodge.

But with regard to the rule that restricted the conferring of the Master’s Part, Grand Lodge took an entirely different course. Instead of delegating its powers in this respect also, which is what we would have expected, it repealed the legislation absolutely on 27th November, 1725. By so doing it purported to restore to all Lodges, new and old alike, the privilege that had been the rule before 1721, that namely of selecting their own Masters. But the concession was an empty one, for while the law still was that the Master must be among the Fellow‑Craft, that was now complied with by his having taken the new intermediate degree that went by that name.

The Third Degree, as it can now be styled, was in fact all but superfluous. It conferred some amount of dignity no doubt, but while not now necessary for the mastership of the private Lodge, it was not as yet a pre‑requisite for any post in Grand Lodge, and indeed ran no small risk of passing entirely out of existence. In 1730 we read: “There is not one Mason in an Hundred that will be at the Expence to pass the Master’s Part.” We have here, I suggest, the key to the reason for the introduction of the Fellow Craft Degree.

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 2 of 6

By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

It would be outside the scope of this lecture to enlarge on the changes then made, but I shall very briefly summarise the actual developments that took place in the ceremonies as disclosed by a comparison of the exposures from Prichard in 1730 to Claret in post‑Union times, only referring however to the most conspicuous of these modifications. And while the changes themselves are manifest enough, it is in respect of most of them not possible to suggest with any approach to accuracy the dates at which they were affected.

The brethren originally sat round a table with the Master at one end and both Wardens at the other. The South was occupied by a Senior Entered Apprentice. During the century the Junior Warden moved to the South and Deacons were introduced; after the Union the table disappears and the I.P.M. is recognised and given a share in the opening. The Candidate, who previously passed outside the brethren seated at the table, now passes round in front of them. The Opening in the First Degree is modified as the officers change their positions, but the essentials are there in 1730 except that there is no prayer.

Until towards the end of the century there seems to be no special opening for the other degrees. The First Degree Obligation is all along closely similar to the present one, the penalty being identical; but there is no reference to the more effective penalty originally. The ceremony is, however, far shorter because much that we now introduce by way of charges or addresses was imparted by way of question and answer in lectures. The Antients had a prayer for the Candidate, but it is quite different from what we are today familiar with.

The method of advancing as usually described is much simpler, and this applies to all three degrees; but a passage in the preface to the first edition of Ahiman Rezon suggests that the Moderns had something more resembling what we are today familiar with. The exposures, however, have no indication of this.

Prichard mentions two Names, and refers to both as being communicated in the First Degree, the second alone being used in the F.C. The Moderns reversed them while the Antients retained this order, and at the Union their practice was maintained, with one word only for each degree.

The Candidate was originally restored to light in the midst of a circle of swords. This, which is Irish working today, is still preserved in some Provinces, but was eliminated from the ritual as recommended after the Union. The working tools of the First Degree are the same but only one, the 24 inch gauge, is moralised in the exposures. There is no reference to Working Tools in the other degrees, but they almost certainly were known and were in all probability moralised in extempore addresses.

In the Second Degree there appears originally to have been no distinct obligation and when it does come in it includes some provisions that now form part of that in the Third. But there was an addition to the ceremony in that the newly made F.C. re‑entered the Lodge to receive his wages, which he did from the Senior Warden between the Pillars after having passed a test. The earlier rituals also include a set of verses on the letter G. and other indications that part of the working may have originally been in rhyme. The earliest account of the penalty gives it as we have it.

The changes that took place in the Third Degree both before and at the Union are much more considerable. It does not appear that prior to the Union the Lodge was darkened; indeed there is direct evidence to the contrary in the various plates which show the ceremony in progress with the candles all lit.

The original narrative as we have it described the F.C. discovering the Master decently buried in a handsome grave. It is not till Hiram and, Jachin and Boaz that he is found in a mangled condition, etc. Then the blows given by the first two villains were originally reminiscent of the penalties of the first two degrees, while the whole narrative was different in many particulars. The obligation, as given in Hiram, has the chastity point, but not the Five Points of Fellowship. These are found, however, in another connection in the ceremony from the very first.

A phrase which I may designate by the letters MACH is the first given; then we get the other form with the remark that Mach is the more general. From this time onwards according as the exposure is Antient or Modern it gives one phrase or the other as the more usual, but always mentions both.

In this respect our system today is a manifest compromise. We tell the candidate that one is the Antient and the other the Modern working. It is clear that in this particular point neither Grand Lodge would give way and the only solution of the difficulty was to carry forward into the combined system the workings of both Grand Lodge. But in other respects what appears to have happened was that the Grand Lodge of the Moderns gave in on all points where their ceremonies differed from those of the Antients and the sister Grand Lodges (Wonnacott, A.Q.C., xxiii, 261).

The only distinction in the 18th century as regards the apron was apparently that the edging for Grand Officers was blue. The apron itself was plain, but from about 1760 the custom came in of decorating it with any designs the owner fancied. The Master Mason may have worn it with the flap down, as we do today; the E.A. and F.C. keeping the flap up, buttoned to the waistcoat, the E.A. further turning up one corner. The tassels are not earlier than 1814; the rosettes with us are later still, but may have been adopted in Germany in the 18th century; they seem to represent original buttonholes for the turned‑up corners (Hills, in Som. Master Trans. 1916, Masonic Clothing).

If then we compare the system as disclosed in 1730 with the system as recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation in 1816, we find that the changes that have been introduced are that the form of the Lodge is altered and the way in which it is officered; that the opening formerly only used for the First Degree is now required, with appropriate modifications, in all; that the clothing has become more elaborate and eventually the aprons of the degrees and of the Past Masters are discriminated; and that there has been a certain amount of transference of ritual matter from lectures to the actual degree ceremony. The First Degree is not otherwise materially changed; the Second is deprived of the incident of the receipt of wages by the new Fellow‑Craft, but now has its own obligation; and in the Third the narrative has been considerably re‑written and the signs would also seem to have been added to, as the only ones given in pre‑Union editions of Jachin & Boaz are the grip, penal sign and Grand and Royal sign.

The pass‑words are now introduced between the degrees; they were hitherto part of them. But these are in every case changes of detail only. Substantially the system of 1730 is the system today; that is to say, we still have the trigradal arrangement of that period, the Third Degree of which was concerned with the Hiramic Legend.

We must now take our enquiry back a further stage and endeavour to ascertain how that threefold system itself came into existence and what was the source of the materials of which it was constructed.


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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 1 of 6

The Development of the Trigradal System

The Prestonian Lecture 1925


 by Bro. Lionel Vibert P.A.G.D.C.

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The Three Degrees, as we have them in the Craft today, are a development at the hands of speculative craftsmen of a Gild system which consisted originally, as far as we can ascertain, of a simple oath of admission for the apprentice, a lad in his teens, and a formal ceremony of admission to full membership, with possibly a secret rite associated with the mastership. By the days of Grand Lodge this had come to be a system of two degrees only, the Acceptance and the Master’s Part. In, or just before 1725 the Acceptance was divided up to form the E.A. and F.C. degrees, and by 1730 the trigradal system was definitely established. But the form of working which we practice today cannot be said to have come into existence until after the ritual had been agreed on by the Lodge of Reconciliation. That ritual was rehearsed at the Especial Meeting of Grand Lodge, held on the 20th May, 1816, but it is probably the case that the Lodge of Reconciliation did not arrange a set form of words for the whole of each ceremony and did not intend to do so.

It was not till 1838 that Claret published his first ritual (his name was first appended to the edition of 1840) he having been present at two meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation as a visitor acting as candidate. He was P.M. of Lodges 12 and 228, and the work appeared in successive editions till 1866. The most that can be claimed for it is that it represents the form into which the working had settled down by this time in Claret’s own Lodges.

For all practical purposes it is our present‑day working, as taught in the Lodges of Instruction, and the statement that the system as we have it today is the system as agreed on after the Union of the two Grand Lodges is after all sufficiently accurate for most people, for we are pretty safe in assuming that such modifications as were introduced after the Lodge of Reconciliation had ceased to function were all addressed to matters of detail; but there were subsequent modifications, and the claims put forward today to an absolutely exact knowledge of the ceremonies as they were rehearsed in 1816 were not unfairly described by Bro. Hextall, is A.Q.C. in 1910, as illusory, for the very reason that in 1816 they were not stabilised in their entirety.

And it should be clearly understood that the Ritual as rehearsed in 1816, with or without later modifications, was not by any means universally adopted, and it is not universal under the United Grand Lodge today. It was not enjoined by Grand Lodge, although the contrary is frequently asserted.

At the present time the two leading schools of Instruction, differ in their version of the Obligations, while in the Provinces the phraseology is often still further departed from, and was probably never adopted verbatim, nor was it taken that it was intended to be so adopted. Variations in the opening ceremonies exist in many Provinces which are of considerable interest, as a wording is often preserved which is to be found in mid‑eighteenth century exposures, and has clearly been maintained unaltered from pre‑Union days.

The phrase of the official record of the meeting of Grand Lodge in June, 1816, when the final result of the labours of the Lodge of Reconciliation was dealt with, is that the several ceremonies recommended are with two alterations approved and confirmed; not by any means enjoined. The Lodge of reconciliation were strongly opposed to any part of them being reduced to writing and an attempt to do so by a certain Bro. L. Thompson was visited with severe censure. And the Craft as such was by no means unanimous in approval.

Certain brethren declared that the Lodge of Reconciliation had not done what they were directed to do by the articles of Union, and had altered all the ceremonies and language of Masonry and not left one sentence standing. And while this is no doubt the language of controversy, it is clear, if pre‑Union exposures are at all to be relied on, that the ceremonies were not merely recast but were substantially varied in material particulars; and the phraseology used by the members of the Lodge of Reconciliation themselves certainly suggests that they considered they had been given a free hand with regard to the material at their disposal.

It was in 1730 that Samuel Prichard published his Masonry Dissected, the first occasion when the Third Degree purported to be exposed; and this was the commencement of a whole series of these exposures, many of which were reprinted over and over again in edition after edition. It would be misleading to accept these publications at their face value; but we can avail ourselves of them as affording some indication of what may have been the practice of the Lodges of the period, correcting them by our own experience.

We have then, in Masonry Dissected, first published in 1730, Jachin & Boaz 1762, Hiram 1764, Shibboleth 1765, and Tubal Kain 1777, a series in which, except for certain changes in the Third Degree, the text is preserved, almost verbatim from 1730 right up to just before the Union, and it purports to be the working of the Grand Lodge of the Moderns.

Jachin & Boaz also specifies certain points in which the Antients and Moderns differ, and gives the Antient working as well. Another exposure, Three Distinct Knocks, first published in 1760, expressly claims to give the Antient ritual, but is practically identical with Jachin & Boaz, except with regard to the words of the two first degrees and the prayers used by the Antients. These two also give an Installation Obligation, with a word and grip for the Master; the Wardens take the Obligation but are not given the word and grip. It is generally understood that this ceremony was practised by the Antients but neglected by the Moderns.

Other alleged exposures are translations from the French, such as Solomon in all his Glory, and yet others are manifestly mere catchpenny productions of no validity, such as the Master Key to All Freemasonry of 1760. All these need not detain us.

But with this body of evidence in our possession we can gather a very good idea of the practice in both Grand Lodges before the Union, and we can appreciate that what then took place was more than a mere reconciliation of two systems not in themselves really very dissimilar, as far as the Craft degrees were concerned.



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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 Prestonian Lectures – Part 1


Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence


 “In the year 1818, Bro. William Preston, a very active Freemason at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, bequeathed £300 3 per cent. Consolidated Bank Annuities, the interest of which was to be applied “to some well‑informed Mason to deliver annually a Lecture on the First, Second, or Third Degree of the Order of Masonry according to the system practised in the Lodge of Antiquity” during his Mastership. For a number of years the terms of this bequest were acted upon, but for a long period no such Lecture has been delivered, and the Fund has gradually accumulated, and is now vested in the M.W. the Pro. Grand Master, the Rt. Hon. Lord Ampthill, and W. Bro. Sir Kynaston Studd, P.G.D., as trustees. The Board has had under consideration for some period the desirability of framing a scheme which would enable the Fund to be used to the best advantage; and, in consultation with the Trustees who have given their assent, has now adopted such a scheme, which is given in full in Appendix A [See below], and will be put into operation when the sanction of Grand Lodge has been received.”

The Grand Lodge sanction was duly given and the “scheme for the administration of the Prestonian fund” appeared in the Proceedings as follows:-


1. The Board of General Purposes shall be invited each year to nominate two Brethren of learning and responsibility from whom the Trustees shall appoint the Prestonian Lecturer for the year with power for the Board to subdelegate their power of nomination to the Library, Art, and Publications Committee of the Board, or such other Committee as they think fit.

2. The remuneration of the Lecturer so appointed shall be £5. 5s. 0d. for each Lecture delivered by him together with travelling expenses, if any, not exceeding £1. 5s. 0d., the number of Lectures delivered each year being determined by the income of the fund and the expenses incurred in the way of Lectures and administration.

3. The Lectures shall be delivered in accordance with the terms of the Trust. One at least of the Lectures each year shall be delivered in London under the auspices of one or more London Lodges. The nomination of Lodges under whose auspices the Prestonian Lecture shall be delivered shall rest with the Trustees, but with power for one or more Lodges to prefer requests through the Grand Secretary for the Prestonian Lecture to be delivered at a meeting of such Lodge or combined meeting of such Lodges.

4. Having regard to the fact that Bro. William Preston was a member of the Lodge of Antiquity and the original Lectures were delivered under the aegis of that Lodge, it is suggested that the first nomination of a Lodge to arrange for the delivery of the Lecture shall be in favour of the Lodge of Antiquity should that Lodge so desire.

5. Lodges under whose auspices the Prestonian Lecture may be delivered shall be responsible for all the expenses attending the delivery of such Lecture except the Lecturer’s Fee.

6. Requests for the delivery of the Prestonian Lecture in Provincial Lodges will be considered by the Trustees who may consult the Board as to the granting or refusal of such consent.

7. Requests from Provincial Lodges shall be made through Provincial Grand Secretaries to the Grand Secretary, and such requests, if granted, will be granted subject to the requesting Provinces making themselves responsible for the provision of a suitable hall in which the Lecture can be delivered, and for the Lecturer’s travelling expenses beyond the sum of £1 5s. 0d., and if the Lecturer cannot reasonably get back to his place of abode on the same day, the requesting Province must pay his Hotel expenses or make other proper provision for his accommodation.

8. Provincial Grand Secretaries, in the case of Lectures delivered in the Province, and Secretaries of Lodges under whose auspices the Lecture may be delivered in London, shall report to the Trustees through the Grand Secretary the number in attendance at the Lecture, the manner in which the Lecture was received, and generally as to the proceedings thereat.

9. Master Masons, subscribing members of Lodges, may attend the Lectures, and a fee not exceeding 2s. may be charged for their admission for the purpose of covering expenses.

Thus, after a lapse of some sixty years the Prestonian Lectures were revived, in their new form, and, with the exception of the War period (1940-1946), a Prestonian Lecturer has been appointed by the Grand Lodge regularly each year.

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

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