Tag Archives: Masonic

What is this? Another Masonic Curio by Mike Lawrence

The item looks like it could be from French PoW’s during the Napoleonic period! What do you think?

The dimensions are:

H 70 mm
W 100 mm
D 70 mm

Which makes it quite small.

Can anybody help please?

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Did you find where the little fellow was hiding? By Mike Lawrence



You’ll find the little fellow at the bottom of a Creamware tankard!

This particular Creamware tankard is thought to date about 1790 – 1800.

Height 14cm (five and a half inches)
Width 11cm (4”)

There is no factory mark.

As you probably know the frog was put inside the tankard to startle the
person drinking from it, which I would imagine would be the Initiate. Such was the practice in 18th century Freemasonry.

The verse on the front is well known and features on a number of ceramics:

The World is in pain
our Secrets to gain
but still let them wonder & gaze on
they never can divine
neither word nor the sign
of a Free and accepted

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This little chap is only 2 cm long, here’s what it is? By Mike Lawrence

The following reply was received from the Assistant Curator, United Grand Lodge of England, Great Queen Street, London.

Thank you for your enquiry. This is quite a fascinating object, never seen the like before, however what we believe it to be is a watch fob that is also perpetual calendar. The numbers are on a disc that turns via that square nut on the back, most likely via the same key that would wind a pocket watch. The owner turns the disc so that the numbers match up with the days of the week and he has a reminder of the date. It’s clearly designed to be looked at by whoever was wearing it. I don’t think there is a winding mechanism of any sort, just the internal circular plate on a pivot. You can find perpetual calendar fobs nowadays, but they are usually a bit more complicated and not masonic.

Difficult to put a date on it, late 18th century is our best guess and it might be continental, not British. Something in the design of the compasses suggests that to us. A lovely and quite unique object, thank you for contacting us about it.

Yours sincerely

Assistant Curator.


Although the Assistant Curator suggested it may be continetal, I note the days of the week are signified by English spelling capitals.

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“Are you one of us?” By Mike Lawrence Part one of a two part article.

A light-hearted view of how our 18th century brethren coped with identifying each other in the early days of the Craft


“Are you one of us?”

I have always been fascinated by the manner in which Freemasons identify themselves when meeting for the first time.  This fascination started several years ago after reading an article in a Sunday paper where the author suggested that the first question a true Freemason would ask was:

“Can you tie a bow?”  The response, if the person was a Freemason, would be: “As good as you can!”

A BBC 2 television programme once claimed that when dining, a Freemason will refer to his cutlery as “working tools” and await any appropriate response.  While a daily newspaper suggested  that a Freemason will gently caress your knuckle with his thumb before slowly releasing his grip.



“Where are my working tools”

Surprisingly, as early as 1725, the general public were given an insight into this fascinating subject. In two articles that were published, readers were advised that this information was:

“found in the custody of a Freemason who died suddenly.”

and published

“that the public may have something genuine concerning the grand mysteries of the Freemasons


I suppose the former part of the introduction gave the revelations some credence, while the latter part produced intrigue.

Published by A. Moore, near St Paul’s and entitled, “The Grand Mystery of the Free Masons Discovered”, they were priced at one shilling and contained the following:

The Freemasons Signs

Examination upon entrance into the Lodge

The Freemasons Oath

A Freemasons Health.

So just for a few moments, come journey with me to a distant past and partake of instruction into the finer points of how to pass on a discreet signal or identify another Freemason.

You might, for example, indicate your membership by taking off your hat with two fingers and a thumb. Or, you may choose to strike, with the right hand, the inside of your little finger, three times as if hewing.

Of course, you could always stroke two of your fore-fingers over your eye-lids three times or turn a glass upside down after you have taken a drink.

However, those whose transport is of an equine nature may choose to prove their association by leaving the stirrup over the horses neck after alighting.

Other times you may even be inclined to throw down a piece of round slate and say, “Can you change this coin?”


“Sorry mate! I’m a member of the Ancient Order of Woodcutters!”

Now, imagine yourself in non-masonic company and you suspect the man opposite was a Freemason and you wanted to meet him outside. Firstly, you would need to cough three times and leave the room. Now assuming he followed you out and once alone, here is the procedure to follow:

1) You must place you right heel to his right instep.

2) Put your right arm over his left and your left under his right.

3) In that position, you then take your middle finger and starting from his left shoulder you draw a square from his shoulder to the middle of his back and down to his breeches.

If this gains no response, you could try this:

1) You must take the first step with your right foot and the second with your left and the third bringing your right heel into your brothers’ right instep.

2) You then lay your right hand to his left wrist.

3) You then draw the other hand from your right ear to left under your chin.

4) He will then put his right hand to his left side under his heart.


“I’m telling you! It said left Arm over right shoulder!”

Finally, if having gone through these trials you were still unsure and of course, hoping you had not been arrested for accosting strangers, we are advised to use this final testing question?

“What lodge were you made a Freemason at?”


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“Are you a mason?” A three part article Edited and Presented by Mike Lawrence Part Two

We left off at that part of the story ‘Are You A Mason’ by looking at some postcards and the Play of the same name. A prominent feature of both was the inclusion of the goat – but why is this?

Most of us at some time will have heard the good humoured banter with the Candidate referring to the goat in the Ceremonies but I wonder if the person making the reference knows the origin of the goat in the context to which they refer?

Since ancient times and in Greek and Roman mythology the goat has been equated with the devil.

But why was the goat referenced and printed on the ‘Are You A Mason’ postcards?

According to the Asst Librarian, Great Queen Street (2011), ‘the depiction of the goat was reference to the popular and vulgar anti Masonic misconception that an element of devil-worship took place at Masonic Initiation ceremonies’.

He also quoted the Rev. Dr George Oliver (1782 – 1867), the prolific Masonic author, in one of his papers  ‘that there was in England a common belief that Freemasons were accustomed to raise the devil in their Lodges’.

He went on to say that it is these references that led to the depiction of the goat.

And according to the Curator of the Library & Museum (2010) the goat became a standard joke because of the use of a mechanical goat in the games played with the new members outside the ritual.

I had not heard of this before, or since, but perhaps this card is a hypothetical representation of ‘Riding the goat’?



Caption reads; The poor old Mason’s goat is dead. He’s getting a ride on the kid instead’.

Let’s get away from the unfounded references to the goat and look at another humerous example of ‘Riding the goat’, of which there are a number.



Freemasonry was not the only Fraternal Order to be lampooned by the cartoonist  – the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks received similar attention.



The Board of Grand Stewards Festival held at the Savoy, London, 28th April 1999 produced a booklet entitled ‘Humour and Freemasonry’.


The comment in the booklet was that the ability to see the humorous side of our activities is a sign of a healthy and civilised society and because of its ‘mystery’, Freemasonry from its earliest days has attracted public curiosity which has stimulated the wit of the cartoonist. Many have shown topicality combined with a warm humour that has appealed to Freemasons themselves.


The painter and Freemason William Hogarth was a Steward for the 1735 Festival and painted the picture ‘Night’ on the front cover of the booklet.



Within the booklet there is one postcard showing  the goat – and in addition the red hot poker!

Here are four cartoons from the booklet:


   WM – ‘Take special care Bro Salamander that you place one letter on each cheek. I trust this solemn Ceremony will make a lasting impression’.

Bro Salamander – ‘Never fear Mr Right Worshipful – practice has steadied my hand amazingly. Mr Candidate hold your rump a little higher if you please – it is just a mere flea bite’.

DC (?) – You are now one of the Elect and are to have a Seat (when your Bottom is healed) among the Disciples of St John’.


Caption reads;   ‘An inspiring sermon, Vicar – see you later at the Lodge’.

In line with reporting, the cartoons picked up on the signs and grips etc depicting increasingly complex and probably physically impossible ways of Brethren exchanging the grips.


St Jame’s Street – Mark Mason’s Hall?

     Caption reads; “Sometimes on a cold morning, I wish I’d never joined the Freemason’s,”


Caption reads; Couldn’t we make an exception – just this once?’

Visitors to the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street often express surprise when cartoons are displayed. As commentary in the booklet says – ‘Freemasonry should be enjoyable or there is little point to it. Part of that enjoyment is surely an appreciation of the possibility of a humorous interpretation by other of some of our practices if taken out of context’.

The Mark Degree also features in the postcards; here are some examples with different publishers presenting different artwork.



Caption reads; ‘A Candidate getting the Mark Degree. He’s marked all over as you can see’ – note the various Masonic symbols.

As well as the artwork it is also interesting to read the written message.

It reads;

Dear Brother, Just a Post Card to let you know I have not forgot you. Hope you are all about right now. I will soon be able to go to the fishing again. Most of the Peats will be home by this time I hope. This is the way to tell the Mason so if you see Andrew Smith or Bengie as we called him, coming down the Good Road with a goat in full chase you will know he’s a full Mason. Has Uncle Tom been at the small fishing this year or have you been.  How is Hunter and his gramophone getting on? I will perhaps send you some snaps of West Kilbride if I take any. With love I remain your loving brother, Jimmy.

Dated August 1920, Govanhill, Glasgow

And lastly with regards to the Mark Degree – that poker again!


In the concluding look at the ‘Are You A Mason’ postcards we can see how the Initiation, Passing and Raising together with Signs, Grips and Password are depicted.


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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


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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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Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual – Part Three 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


There were only two test questions for a fellowcraft degree, and that was the lot. Two degrees, beautifully described, not only in this document but in two other sister texts, the Chetwode Crawlev MS, dated about 1700 and the Kevan MS, quite recently discovered, dated about 1714. Three marvellous documents, all from the south of Scotland, all telling exactly the same story ‑ wonderful materials, if we dare to trust them.

But, I am sorry to tell you Brethren that we, as scientists in masonry, dare not trust them, because they were written in violation of an oath. To put it at its simplest, the more they tell us the less they are to be trusted, unless, by some fluke or by some miracle, we can prove, as we must do, that these documents were actually used in a lodge; otherwise they are worthless. In this case, by a very happy fluke, we have got the proof and it makes a lovely story. That is what you are going to get now.

Remember, Brethren, our three documents are from 1696 to 1714. Right in the middle of this period, in the year 1702, a little group of Scottish gentlemen decided that they wanted to have a lodge in their own backyard so to speak. These were gentlemen who lived in the south of Scotland around Galashiels, some 30 miles S. E. of Edinburgh. They were all notable landowners in that area ‑ Sir John Pringle of Hoppringle, Sir James Pringle, his brother, Sir James Scott of Gala (Galashiels), their brother‑in‑law, plus another five neighbours came together and decided to form their own Lodge, in the village of Haughfoot near Galashiels. They chose a man who had a marvellous handwriting to be their scribe, and asked him to buy a minute book. He did. A lovely little leather‑bound book (octavo size), and he paid `fourteen shillings’ Scots, for it. I will not go into the difficulties of coinage now but today it would be about the equivalent of twenty‑five cents.

Being a Scotsman, he took very careful note of the amount and entered it in his minute book, to be repaid out of the first money due to the society. Then, in readiness for the first meeting of the lodge, he started off at what would have been page one with some notes, we do not know the details. But he went on and copied out the whole of one of these Scottish rituals, complete from beginning to end.

When he finished, he had filled ten pages, and his last twenty‑nine words of ritual were the first five lines at the top of page eleven. Now, this was a Scotsman, and I told you he had paid `fourteen shillings’ for that book and the idea of leaving three‑quarters of a page empty offended against his native Scottish thrift. So, to save wasting it, underneath the twenty‑nine words, he put in a heading `The Same Day’ and went straight on with the minutes of the first meeting of the Lodge. I hope you can imagine all this, Brethren, because I wrote the history of `The Lodge of Haughfoot’, the first wholly non‑operative Lodge in Scotland, thirty‑four years older than the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The minutes were beautifully kept for sixty‑one years and eventually, in 1763, the Lodge was swallowed up by some of the larger surrounding lodges. The minute book went to the great Lodge of Selkirk and it came down from Selkirk to London for me to write the history.

We do not know when it happened but, sometime during those sixty‑one years, somebody, perhaps one of the later secretaries of the lodge, must have opened that minute book and caught sight of the opening pages and he must have had a fit! Ritual in a minute book! Out! And the first ten pages have disappeared; they are completely lost.

That butcher would have taken page eleven as well but even he did not have the heart to destroy the minutes of the very first meeting of this wonderful lodge. So it was the minutes of the first meeting that saved those twenty‑nine golden words at the top of page eleven, and the twenty‑nine words are virtually identical with the corresponding portions of the Edinburgh Register House MS and its two sister texts. Those precious words are a guarantee that the other documents are to be trusted, and this gives us a marvellous starting point for the study of the ritual. Not only do we have the documents which describe the ceremonies; we also have a kind of yardstick, by which we can judge the quality of each new document as it arrives, and at this point they do begin to arrive.

Now Brethren, let me warn you that up to now we have been speaking of Scottish documents. Heaven bless the Scots! They took care of every scrap of paper, and if it were not for them we would have practically no history. Our earliest and finest material is nearly all Scottish. But, when the English documents begin to appear, they seem to fit. They not only harmonise, they often fill in the gaps in the Scottish texts. From here on, I will name the country of origin of those documents that are not English.

Within the next few years, we find a number of valuable ritual documents, including some of the highest importance. The first of these is the Sloane MS, dated c1700, an English text, in the British Library today. It gives various `gripes’ which had not appeared in any document before. It gives a new form of the Mason’s oath which contains the words `without Equivocation or mentall Resarvation’. That appears for the very first time in the Sloane MS, and Brethren, from this point onwards, every ritual detail I give you, will be a first‑timer. I shall not repeat the individual details as they reappear in the later texts, nor can I say precisely when a particular practice actually began. I shall simply say that this or that item appears for the first time, giving you the name and date of the document by which it can be proved.

If you are with me on this, you will realise ‑ and I beg you to think of it in this way ‑ that you are watching a little plant, a seedling of Freemasonry, and every word I utter will be a new shoot, a new leaf, a new flower, a new branch. You will be watching the ritual grow; and if you see it that way, Brethren, I shall know I am not wasting my time, because that is the only way to see it.

Now, back to the Sloane MS which does not attempt to describe a whole ceremony. It has a fantastic collection of `gripes’ and other strange modes of recognition. It has a catechism of some twenty‑two Questions and Answers, many of them similar to those in the Scottish texts, and there is a note which seems to confirm two pillars for the EA.

A later paragraph speaks of a salutation for the Master, a curious `hug’ posture, with `the masters grip by their right hands and the top of their Left hand fingers thurst close on ye small of each others Backbone . . .’. Here, the word is given as `Maha ‑ Byn’, half in one ear and half in the other, to be used as a test word.

That was its first appearance in any of our documents, and if you were testing somebody, you would say ‘Maha’ and the other would have to say ‘Byn’; and if he did not say ‘Byn’ you would have no business with him.

I shall talk about several other versions as they crop up later on, but I must emphasise that here is an English document filling the gaps in the three Scottish texts, and this sort of thing happens over and over again.

Now we have another Scottish document, the Dumfries No 4 MS, dated c1710. It contains a mass of new material, but I can only mention a few of the items. One of its questions runs: ‘How were you brought in?’ ‘Shamfully, w’ a rope about my neck’. This is the earliest cable‑tow; and a later answer says the rope ‘is to hang me if I should betray my trust‘. Dumfries also mentions that the candidate receives the ‘Royal Secret’ kneeling ‘upon my left knee’.

Among many interesting Questions and Answers, it lists some of the unusual penalties of those days. ‘My heart taken out alive, my head cut off, my body buried within ye sea‑mark.’ ‘Within ye sea‑mark’ is the earliest version of the ‘cable’s length from the shore’. Brethren, there is so much more, even at this early date, but I have to be brief and I shall give you all the important items as we move forward into the next stage.

Meanwhile, this was the situation at the time when the first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717. We only had two degrees in England, one for the entered apprentice and the second was for the ‘master or fellow craft’. Dr Anderson, who compiled the first English Book of Constitutions in 1723, actually described the English second degree as ‘Masters and Fellow‑Craft’. The Scottish term had already invaded England.

The next big stage in the history of the ritual, is the evolution of the third degree. Actually, we know a great deal about the third degree, but there are some dreadful gaps. We do not know when it started or why it started, and we cannot be sure who started it! In the light of a lifetime of study, I am going to tell you what we know, and we will try to fill the gaps.

It would have been easy, of course, if one could stretch out a hand in a very good library and pull out a large minute‑book and say ‘Well, there is the earliest third degree that ever happened;’ but it does not work out that way. The minute‑books come much later.


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The Mason Word – Part Six of Six





P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

 The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

 Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part six we cover:

13) Twofold Origin of masonic Ceremonies

14) The Trinity College, Dublin MS

15) Influence of the Mason Word on Masonic Ceremonies.

 13) Twofold Origin of masonic Ceremonies

Nothing shows more clearly the twofold origin of masonic ceremonies than the oath set out in Sloane MS. 3329, by which the candidate swore to keep secret “the mason word and everything therein contained” and truly to observe “the Charges in the Constitution“. This confirms the Aberdeen practice, to which reference has already been made, that on the occasion when the Mason Word was communicated to an apprentice, a version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry was read to him. At the end of another version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry, known as the Harris No. 1 MS., which dates from the second half of the seventeenth century, there is a note referring to the secrets which must never be committed to writing, and the manner of communicating them. (I The Harris No. 1 MS. is printed in The Freemasons’ Chronicle, 30th December, 1922. The note is printed in Poole’s Old Charges, p. 23, as follows:‑Then let the prson wch is to be made a Mason chuse out of the Lodge any one Mason who is to instruct him in those Secrets wch must never be committed to Writeing which Mason he must alway Call his Tutor then let the Tutor take him into another Room and shew him all the whole Mistery that at his return he may Exercise with the rest of his fellow Masons.)

There is no evidence to show whether in the seventeenth century this MS. was used by operative masons or by “accepted” or “adopted” masons; but I am inclined to think it was the latter. That “accepted” or “adopted” masons in the later part of the seventeenth century did have secret signs and words is borne out by the contemporary statement of John Aubrey, the antiquary, who wrote in the second half of the century that members of the Fraternity of adopted masons were known to one another by certain signs and watchwords, and that the manner of their adoption was very formal and with an oath of secrecy. (John Aubrey (1624‑97), Natural History of Wiltshire, first printed in 1847)

It is confirmed also by a rough memorandum (Transcript and photographic reproduction in Coulthurst and Lawson, A.Q.C., Av., 69, and facing 74.)  referring to the several signs and words of a freemason, written by Randle Holme III. on a scrap of paper, now bound up with B. M. Harleian MS. 2054, close to the version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry copied by him, with which it is thought to be connected, (This opinion, expressed by W. H. Rylands in the Masonic Magazine, January, 1882, is shared by Coulthurst and Lawson, A.Q.C., xlv.) both documents probably being associated with a Lodge of Freemasons held at Chester about the middle of the seventeenth century. That such signs and words were derived from the Mason Word of the operatives is strongly suggested by the fact that when Dr. Desaguliers, the prominent speculative mason, desired to visit the purely operative Lodge of Edinburgh in 1721, he was found “duly qualified in all points of masonry” and received as a brother. (Murray Lyon, 160, 161)

 14) The Trinity College, Dublin MS

On the subject of the connection between operative and speculative masonry, I wish finally to draw attention to the Trinity College, Dublin MS. (T.C.D. MS., 1, 4, 18. It is printed in the Transactions of the Lodge of Research, No. CC, Dublin, for 1924, also in Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd ed., pp. 69, 70. (Ist ed., pp. 63/4).) This bears the date 1711 in an endorsement, (I have seen only a photostat of the MS., but Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly, Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, informs me that the endorsement is in the same hand and ink as the document itself, and that in his opinion there can be no doubt of the accuracy of the date.) and resembles the Edinburgh Register House, Graham, and Sloane MSS. in that it consists of a series of test questions and answers, together with a memorandum about signs and words.

Like the Edinburgh Register House MS., it appears to be a mason’s aide memoire; on the other hand, it is less operative in character, and may very possibly represent a link between the operative masonry of the seventeenth century and the speculative masonry of the eighteenth century. In support of this suggestion, three points may be noted:

(i) The endorsement on the MS. is “Free Masonry Feb: 1711”, though the term “Free Masonry” was rarely applied to the operative art, even in England.

(ii) Whereas operative masonry, so far as the Mason Word was concerned, apparently recognized only two classes of masons, viz., either entered apprentices and fellowcrafts, or fellowcrafts and masters, this MS. distinguishes three classes, viz., entered apprentices, fellow craftsmen, and masters, each with its own secrets. It is the earliest‑known MS. to make such a distinction. The probability is that during the early part of the eighteenth century, before Grand Lodges were formed and firmly established, a trigradal system developed gradually and independently in different parts of the country, by a division of the original entered apprentice ceremony, to form what ultimately became the First and Second Degree ceremonies. Brother Lionel Vibert, in his Prestonian Lecture for 1925 (The Development of the Trigradal System. See also his paper, “The Second Degree: A Theory”, A.Q.C., xxxix.) discussed this development, which he suggested took place in London about 1725. The reference in the Graham MS. of 1726 to being “entered, passed and raised and conformed by 3 severall Lodges” implies that three distinct ceremonies existed by 1726 in that district (probably the North of England) to which the Graham MS. belonged. It may quite well be that three distinct ceremonies existed there at an earlier date. Just as the surviving MSS. show considerable differences in the test questions and answers, and in the signs and words, so they indicate differences in the number of ceremonies. The Edinburgh Register House and Sloane MSS. refer to two ceremonies, the Trinity College, Dublin and Graham MSS. to three. Such differences are not astonishing, as no uniformity should be looked for before Grand Lodges were firmly established and capable of exercising a unifying influence.

(iii) The history of the document suggests the possibility that the MS. had a non‑operative origin. The manuscript is contained in one of the volumes of collected papers of Sir Thomas Molyneux (1661‑1733), a famous Dublin doctor and scientist and, in the opinion of Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly, Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, (Expressed in a letter written to me, 23rd November, 1937, in reply to certain questions.) was quite possibly written by Molyneux. As the earliest reference to a Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland relates to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1688, (Lepper and Crossle, History of the Grand Lodge . . . of Ireland, 36. The late Bro. Chetwode Crawley discovered this reference to Irish masonry in a Trinity College, Dublin manuscript (T.C.D. MS. I, 5, 1), a Tripos [i.e. satirical speech] at the commencements of the University of Dublin, 11th July, 1688. He announced his discovery in his Introduction to Sadler’s Masonic Reprints and Revelations. Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly informs me that it has been published in full by Dr. John Barrett in an Essay on the earlier part of the Life of Swift, and in Jonathan Swift, Works, edited by Sir W. Scott, vol. vi., pp. 226‑60.) it is conceivable that there was a Lodge in Dublin in 1711, although no reference to freemasonry in Ireland in the first two decades of the eighteenth century can be traced. (3 Lepper and Crossle, 41)  If such a Lodge existed, Molyneux may well have belonged to it.

15) Influence of the Mason Word on Masonic Ceremonies

Whether or not the Trinity College, Dublin MS. represents a first link in one line of evolution of operative into speculative masonry, I am satisfied that the nucleus of the present First and Third Degree ceremonies can clearly be traced back to the somewhat crude usages and phrases associated before the end of the seventeenth century with the giving of the Mason Word. It apparently grew under speculative influence during the eighteenth century, until it developed into complete ceremonies. This was probably brought about partly by elaborating the content of the ceremonies, partly by embellishing the wording of the ritual, partly by laying more stress on some matters, such as the fidelity of Hiram in refusing to betray the secrets of a master mason, and less stress on others, such as the attempt to obtain a secret from a dead body, and partly by dropping or modifying operative rules and regulations, and developing instead moral teachings, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

The process of expansion and evolution apparently went on right through the eighteenth century. I have no intention, however, of attempting to trace that development, a subject to which Bro. Vibert devoted considerable attention in his Prestonian Lecture. I shall content myself with observing that a great elaboration must have taken place by the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when William Preston, in successive editions of his Illustrations of Masonry, wrote his commentary on the then existing masonic ritual.

It was probably not until after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 that our ceremonies attained to something approximating to their present form. By that time the influence exercised by the Mason Word had receded so much into the background as to be in danger of being entirely overlooked. My endeavour this evening has been to give it the recognition which, in my opinion, it deserves.


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