The Origins of Freemasonry and

The stanhope lodge

by W Bro Stanley Tuckman PAGDC

The Origins of Freemasonry

It is widely accepted that the origins of English Freemasonry can be traced back to the craft of the medieval stonemason. The absence of documentary evidence has made it difficult to be precise about the foundation of the earliest operative lodges. What is certain is that in 1356 what later became known as the London Masons Company was founded as a result of a trade dispute. This was a trade guild concerning itself with trade regulations and organisation for working masons, it was not a lodge, but it is believed that this and similar guilds of the period provided the model for lodges which were subsequently formed in places where masons worked and where there was no other form of trade organisation to which they could belong. The first in a series of documents to provide information about lodges, known as the Regius Manuscript appeared c.1390. Numerous subsequent manuscripts running through to the beginning of the eighteenth century provide researchers with ample material upon which to speculate as to how the development of freemasonry evolved; but the earliest minutes of meetings so far discovered were dated 1598, and relate to two Scottish Lodges which were practicing degree work at that time. The Freemasonsí Hall Exhibition Room at Great Queen Street has many interesting exhibits of early lodges including a record of the initiation of Elias Ashmole at Warrington in 1646 and the development of lodges in Chester and Scarborough, whilst the coming together of four London Lodges on 24th June 1717 to form the first Grand Lodge in the world, with Anthony Sayer as its first Grand Master is well documented.

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