The Origins of Freemasonry and

The stanhope lodge

by W Bro Stanley Tuckman PAGDC

Updated for the 150th celbrations on the 28th October 2019

by Tudor J D Morgan SLGR PPGReg (Surrey and West Kent)

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.

Ancients and Moderns

In 1723 the first Book of Constitutions was issued, but there were many problems facing the premier Grand Lodge during the 1720ís and 1730ís, not the least being that it had no authority to control or direct the many lodges previously in existence. It could not compel those lodges to recognise its jurisdiction, for lodges were not formed as they are today with a petition to Grand Lodge from a given number of brethren, supported by a sponsoring lodge to whom the new lodge would become a daughter. In the early days new lodges were formed spontaneously, all one needed was a meeting place, normally an alehouse or tavern with a suitable room, and many lodges were formed, survived for a while and some disappeared with little trace of their existence. In August 1730 an exposure entitled the Mystery of Freemasonry was published in the Daily Journal, whilst in October 1730 a pamphlet entitled Masonry Dissected was published and widely circulated. This greatly worried the premier Grand Lodge who decided to make a number of changes to the ritual, but some of these changes caused serious discontent amongst many brethren who felt there had been a significant departure from the original landmarks. So deeply was this felt that on 17th July 1751, six lodges who had withdrawn from the premier Grand Lodge formed a rival Grand Lodge in London, subsequently known as the Ancient, as it had as its avowed intention the restoration and retention of the ancient landmarks of the Order, whilst the premier Grand Lodge was dubbed the Modern, on account of the modern innovations it had permitted.

The Flask Lodge

It was during this period of conflict that the Flask Lodge, meeting at the Flask Tavern, Ebury Square, came into existence under a Warrant of Constitution issued by the Modern (or Premier) Grand Lodge. The consecration of this lodge took place on 24th July 1765. In 1786 the Flask Lodge moved from the Flask Tavern to a coffee house in Cheney Walk, Chelsea, close to St. Lukeís Church and later the same year the Lodge was renamed St. Lukeís Lodge, it presumably being thought that it was more decorous to be named after a Church than a Tavern. Through the period of its early existence the Lodge had several numbers, but in 1863 it was re-numbered 144, which number it still bears today. Many great Lodges owe their own existence to the sponsorship of descendants of St. Lukeís Lodge, which being formed in 1765, and was operating long before the creation of the United Grand Lodge. It is to this early Lodge that the Stanhope is directly related as a Great Granddaughter. In 1809 a Lodge of Promulgation was warranted by the Modern Grand Lodge with the view to reconciling the differences which had arisen in 1730 and subsequently, between the two Grand Lodges, and by 1811 when this Lodge was closed, the Grand Lodges of the Moderns and the Ancients were ready for the Union. This took place on 27th December 1813, under the Grand Mastership of HRH the Duke of Sussex and the title of the United Grand Lodge of England was assumed. In 1844 the St. Lukeís Lodge gave birth to the first of eight daughter lodges. This was called the Zetland Lodge No.511, so named after the Earl of Zetland the Grand Master. The Zetland Lodge had seven daughter lodges, the first being named the Beadon Lodge No.619, which was consecrated in 1853, being a Granddaughter of St. Lukeís. Five years later, in 1858 the first of Beadonís seven daughter lodges was consecrated under the name William Preston Lodge No.766, so called after that famous Masonic educator and lecturer. Eleven years later, for us the most important event of all occurred, with the birth of Beadonís second daughter lodge in 1869.

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