A History Of Freemasonry
The precise history of Freemasonry is uncertain, but it is widely accepted that it originates from the stonemasons’ guilds of the Middle Ages. This, at least, is where much of the imagery, symbolism, and rituals are taken from. As such, the Regius Poem, published in 1390 and a reworking of a previous publication, is believed to be one of the earliest documented works that make reference to masons.
In 1717, four London based Lodges formed the first Grand Lodge, and minutes were taken and maintained from this point, making it much easier to accurately track and trace the history of the society. By this point, the guilds had started to accept speculative masons into their ranks, meaning that members were not necessarily skilled or practicing masons, and this is widely considered to be the beginning of the modern era of Freemasonry.
Masons donate £30m a year to charitable funds. The United Grand Lodge of England alone has over 250,000 members with a further 150,000 members belonging to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland. Estimates place current membership levels at around 6 million people, with a third of this number located in the United States. King Edward VIII, Winston Churchill, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are among some of the fraternity’s notable former members.
Many professionals and craftspeople were members of guilds during medieval times. These guilds not only sought to improve the skills of its members, but shared secrets that were meant only for members. These members decreed to live by certain standards, and to uphold a level of professionalism in their work, and the masonic guild was no different.
The Regius Poem, which was published in 1390, claimed that the craft began with Euclid in Ancient Egypt and progressed from there.
However, it was during the 17th Century that the Guilds began to try and swell their numbers by accepting non-operative members, referred to as speculative members. It is believed that this was done to try and compensate for the fact that modern building materials like brick and wood were being used in place of stone, therefore reducing available work, and subsequently reducing the number of professional masons that existed.
One of the most commonly held theories regarding the growth of speculative masonic Lodges is that travel was dangerous during the Middle ages. However, members of the lodge would be given papers that meant that they were to be provided with rest and sustenance at hostels along the road, and speculative members joined so that they could enjoy access to a bed and food while travelling potentially treacherous roads.
First Grand Lodge
In 1717, four London based Guilds met at a public house called the Goose and Gridiron and merged in order to create the first Grand Lodge, which had jurisdiction over all Lodges in London and Westminster. However, discord followed and the Grand Lodge of Antients was formed in 1752; a group that had become disheartened by the rituals and ceremonies that were being used. They believed that “the Moderns” had become apathetic, and so broke away.
In 1813, the Grand Lodge of Antients and the Grand Lodge of England resolved their differences and formed what became the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). UGLE still claims jurisdiction over all lodges in England today.
The end of the First World War saw a considerable increase in the number of Grand Lodges that existed, but Hitler viewed the existence of societies like the Freemasons as being counter to his plans for world domination, and an estimated 200,000 masons were killed, forcing many remaining members to go underground and become more secretive.
While some secrecy remained following the end of the war, this has been replaced by openness and acceptance to a large degree.
And the story continues …
What to do now?
At King Edward The 7th Lodge, we see ourselves as being a progressive and friendly body of men who enjoy talking to people about Freemasonry and explaining why we enjoy it so much.
There is a common misconception that you have to be invited to join Freemasonry by another Freemason, but this is just not the case. We welcome enquires and membership requests from men who have previously had no direct contact with Freemasonry and have a general interest in the work that we do along with wanting to be a part of a wonderful and global society.
If you have an interest in Freemasonry in Manchester and would like to speak to one of our members we would be more that happy to make arrangements and accommodate you. The first thing to do is send us a confidential email with your contact details and a short message so that we can organise a meeting and talk things through with you. All of us at King Edward The 7th Lodge found that talking through Freemasonry with a member was a great help in making the decision to join. There is no pressure to join us and we would hope that you took the time to meet other members of the Lodge, join us at a dinner and see for yourself what Freemasonry is all about.
Getting in contact with us could not be simpler, send us a confidential email by clicking here and we will do our best to get back to you within one working day.