The (Premier) Grand Lodge of England

Premier Grand Lodge of England LogoIn 1716, four lodges assembled at the Apple Tree Tavern in London and established a Grand Lodge pro-term. They laid the groundwork for a Grand Lodge and established St. John the Baptist’s day, June 24 1717, as the date for their first meeting. On the appointed date the four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in London and elected Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, as Grand Master. The other officers consisted of both Speculative and Operative members. However, the Grand Lodge was essentially a speculative organization. The annual communication of the Grand Lodge was established to occur on St. John’s Day each year, with additional quartely communications. Initially, this Grand Lodge controlled only a few of the lodges in London and Westminster. Within a few years, additional lodges throughout England affiliated with it. It was many years, however, before all English lodges affiliated with a Grand Lodge.

Immediately after the organisation of this Grand Lodge, a search was conducted through England for all existing Masonic documents. Old lodge minutes, various list s of charges to the workmen (Old Charges), historical papers of any type, and correspondence were collected and analyzed.

Dr. James Anderson, a Presbyterian minister, sifted through the collected data and constructed a Constitution for the government of the Grand Lodge. This was adopted in 1723. Anderson’s Constitution of 1723 included a “history” of Masonry that preceded recorded history and was actually a condensation of numerous legends and allegories that had previously existed within the craft. This information was communicated to candidates in lecture form and undoubtedly was accepted by many of them as fact. The Constitution also included “Charges” for the Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts.

After several years, additional background material was accumulated and Dr. Anderson revised his Constitution in light of the new discoveries. This edition was adopted by the Grand Lodge and is known as Anderson’s Constitution of 1738. Adjustments had been made in the legendary history of the craft, and a number of the charges that had previously been applied to Fellowcrafts were now assigned to the new degree of Master Mason.

The early (Gothic) Constitutions of Freemasonry were decidedly Christian in nature. The operative Masons were predominantely Roman Catholic in England until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Anderson’s Constitution of 1723 and 1738 omitted all pre-existing references to Christianity and modern symbolic Freemasonry embraces all religions.

The arms of the “Moderns” Grand Lodge, consisting of three castles with a chevron and compasses, was derived from those of the Freemason’s Company of London. Many speculative Masons at that time were of the opinion that this opportunity for promoting emblems with strong symbolic values had been overlooked and future Grand Lodges corrected this oversight. (Note the significant characteristics in the arms of The “Ancient” Grand Lodge)

Excerpted from: A History and Handbook, The York Rite of Freemasonry, by Frederic G. Speidel
Posted in Excerpts.

Leave a Reply