FREEMASONRY IN THE EARLY 1600 AND 1700
by Bro. W.J. Hughan
There is such an abundance of evidence in proof of the continuity of Freemasonry
during the period selected, that it is only necessary to study the special records of the
old Lodges, happily still preserved, the Rolls of the "Old Charges", and especially the
extant minutes of the Masons' Company of London, to be assured that the
Freemasons of the present day are the lineal descendants of the operative builders,
who in the 17th century, and earlier, admitted speculative or non-professional
The 17th century operative Masons were most favourable to the speculative element
in their midst, and encouraged their admission to such an extent, that sometimes the
Lodges consisted almost exclusively of brethren in no way connected with building.
Several examples of this remarkable feature may be cited, such as the Lodge at
Warrington in which Ashmole was initiated in 1646. An extraordinary instance of the
preponderance of gentlemen in an operative Lodge, is met with at Aberdeen in 1670,
for of forty-nine members registered in the "Mark Book" with their marks attached, not
a dozen were operatives; the Master was a Tutor at Airth and Collector of the King's
Customs, while several of his companions were noblemen or of the educated class.
The oldest Masonic minutes known are those of the senior Lodge in the world, viz.,
No 1 Edinburgh. They begin in the year 1599, the Lodge having continued at work,
as the records testify, from then to now, thus overlapping the transition period and the
final predominance of the speculative branch, by the formation of modern Grand
Lodges. The monopoly of the operatives gradually disappeared, and Masonry itself
became as free practically as Freemasonry is at the present time. A silent revolution
was going on in the Craft throughout the 1 7th century, and what with the changes in
Society generally, and the failure of the Companies to enforce regulation, which had
become obsolete and unsuitable to the times, Masonry, as with other trades, had to
alter its laws and customs accordingly.
The Lodge of Edinburgh and others in Scotland were legally governed during the
period in question by the statutes of 1598-9, promulgated by William Schaw "Maister
of wark, Wairden of ye Masons," of Royal appointment. There were three "Head
Lodges" in the kingdom, as recognised in the code of 1599, which were described as
Edinburgh "the first and principall ludge," Kinwinning "the second ludge", and Stirling
"the third ludge". This trio still exists, and the Lodges are now on the roll of the Grand
Lodge of Scotland as Nos. I, 0 and 30 respectively. Naturally several of the clauses in
the above-named statutes relate to matters common to all the crafts, but others are of
a distinctive character and most suggestive. The Lodge of Edinburgh was a kind of
Metropolitan Grand Lodge, having control of the local, but before the 17th century
ended, its rights were often violated or ignored, and Lodges were formed in its vicinity
or jurisdiction, that it was powerless to prevent, although issuing fulminations that
were still-born. The "Canongate Kilwinning" Lodge No. 2, was formed in 1677, as an
offshoot from "Mother Lodge Kilwinning", and in 1688, a secession from the Lodge of
Edinburgh resulted in the establishment of the "Canongate and Leith, Leith and
Canongate" Lodge, now No. 5, and notwithstanding all the means used by the
Mother Lodge, only one of the seceders was induced to return to the fold. Then,
again, early in the 18th century, the journeymen were not satisfied with the masters'
regulation and control; they seceded and started a Lodge on their own account, and
what is more gained a victory over their powerful opponents, though Master Masons,
by persisting in giving the "Mason Word" to neophytes, the prerogative previously of
their superiors. Two of their number were imprisoned for contumacy, but an appeal to
the Court ended in their being allowed, as per the "Decreet Arbitral" of 1 71 5, to
assemble as a separate organisation, and esoterically - i.e., to communicate the
"word" - as well as generally, to conduct their own Lodge, then and since known as
the "Journeymen", now No. 8 on the roll. The Masters were fined a hundred pounds
for their high-handed conduct, which fine has not yet been paid.
The attendance of Apprentices at the Lodge during the making of Fellow-crafts is
confirmed by the minutes of 1 601 , 1 606 and 1 637, while the "Schaw Ordinances"
provided for the presence of six Masters and two Apprentices, in like manner, on the
making of Masters, a privilege subsequently assumed by the Incorporation. Operative
Essays were obligatory in relation to both classes, Essay Masters being appointed,
and also "intenders for instruction;" represented in Modern Lodges by the questions
preparatory to promotion, and the proposers and seconders of candidates
The first minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh containing an entry concerning
speculative membership is dated 8th June, 1600, and is the oldest of the kind known
in Great Britain and Ireland. The Brother was John Boswell, Esq., the laird of
Auchinleck, who attended as a member, and whose name and mark attested the
minutes, along with twelve operatives who likewise agreed to the business
transacted, and acquiesced in the same manner. When he joined we cannot tell.
The head of the Lodge was generally styled "Deacon," while the "Warden" was the
medium of communication with the "Warden General", who was a kind of Grand
Master, the prototype of our modern Grand Lodge Rulers. William Schaw was styled
"Chief Maister of Maissonis" in the 16th century and later.
In the 17th century, it was quite a common occurrence for noblemen and gentlemen
to occupy the Chairs of Lodges, even if only Apprentices, as with the Earl of Cassillis,
who in 1672 was Deacon of "Mother Lodge Kilwinning", being followed by Sir
Alexander Cunninghame and the Earl of Eglintoune, also an Apprentice. Harry
Elphington, Tutor of Airth and Collector of the King';s Customs, was Master of the
Lodge of Aberdeen - now No. 1 tris - in 1670, the members of which were mostly
speculatives, though an operative Lodge. Lord Strathallan was the Master or
President of the Lodge of Dundee, - known as the "Lady Luge of Dundee" in 1536.
Other instances could also be cited.
The old Lodge of Kilwinning exercised jurisdiction even as far as Glasgow, according
to the Code of 1599, and was to all intents and purposes a Provincial Grand Lodge,
thus foreshadowing the present arrangement, whereby its R.W.M. for the time being
occupies the honourable position of Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire.
Then, again, the protectorate of the Craft in Scotland was hereditary in the St. Clair
family, the Lairds of Roslin, being secured by charters of 1600 and 1628 circa, which
led to the claim being made that they were Grand Masters, which the documents in
no way countenance. The Lairds of Roslin were simply Patrons and Protectors of the
"Maissones and Hammermen" with other crafts, but that obsolete and purely
honorary distinction was sufficient to secure the election in 1736, on sentimental
grounds, of one of the family, as the first Grand Master of Scotland. Other local
magnates were appointed to the oversight of the Craftsmen in cerrtain districts, such
as Patrick Coipland of Udaucht as Warden of the "airt and craft of Maisonrie" over
three sheriffdomes in Scotland in 1590. These were clearly the precursors of the
general and local Craft bodies which sprang up during the 18th century in Great
Britain and Ireland. But time will not permit any reference to such just now. This
much, however, may be noted, that excepting the arrangement of separate Masonic
degrees and ceremonies peculiar to the post Grand Lodge period, it is not easy to
discover many important features of the Craft in the eighteenth century, which are not
represented in the regulations and customs of the Scottish Craft in the present
Until the precise character of the Records of the Masons' Company of London was
made known -quite recently - it was believed that the admission of Quarter Master
General Moray, of the Scottish Army, at Newcastle on Tyne in 1641 , by members of
the Lodge of Edinburgh, was the earliest instance of the initiation of a "speculative" in
England. Now, however, that the invaluable transactions of the before-mentioned
Company are accessible, it is found that there was a speculative Lodge at work,
under the wing of that body, the existing accounts of which go as far back as 1 620.
The meetings were termed "the Acception," and the candidates were received as
"Accepted Masons;" the Company being then known as Free masons, though the
prefix was dropped during the latter half of the 1 7th century. The dual character of the
Company is established by reference to the accounts, for the actual minutes are
missing prior to 1670. Beside those who obtained the "freedom of the Company" by
patrimony or servitude, there were others who were admitted by redemption, and it is
quite possible that being "accepted" by the Lodge, though not connected with the
building trade, strengthened their application for the "freedom of the Company." it
appears to have been optional for the "accepted" brethren to join the Company, or for
the members of the latter to enter the "Acception," but both financially and generally
there was a most intimate connection between the two, as the Company received the
balance, if any, after each "Acception" had been held. This Lodge became so
influential and important, that in the Inventory of 1663, and also in later ones, the
names of the "Accepted Masons" are delared to be exhibited "in a faire enclosed
frame with a lock and key." In the same Inventory was also "One book of the
constitutions which Mr. Flood gave," and which was described in a subsequent list of
1 676 as "the constitutions of the Accepted masons," as distinct from "One book of
the Ancient Constitutions and Orders" of the Company. The Inventory of 1722 is still
more explicit, the Constitutions of the Company being entered as of the year 1481 ,
and the other "A Book wrote on parchment and bound or stitched in parchment
containing an account of the Antiquity Rise and Progress of the Art and Mystery of
Masonry." This latter was doubtless a MS. Of the "Old Charges" but unfortunately it
has not been heard of since the year 1 839, when it is said to have contained "1 1 3
annals of the antiquity &c. of Masonry." The "Phillipps MSS" Nos 1 and 2 would
answer to this description, and the first-noted has the name of Mr. Richard Bankes, a
Member of the Masons' company, on the cover; the date of its calligraphy, however,
does not answer, being of about the middle of the 1 7th century, therefore not old
enough. Though not the original, which was doubtless much older, and used in the
reception of the "Accepted Masons," it may be an exact transcript. The "G.W. Bain
MS" has also an equal claim to be considered a representative of the missing book,
having a similar text and qualifications, there are also other MSS with a different text
from the "Phillipps," which may be copies of the original document, having the "New
Articles," such as the "Grand Lodge MS No. 2," and the "Harleian No. 1942." These
later regulations are quite suggestive of the rules in force for the "Accepted Masons,"
the term "Acception" is mentioned, and neophytes are termed "Accepted Free-
Masons," while Certificates were provided just as in later times.
It is quite likely that the Company dropping the prefix "Free," and the speculative
branch becoming independent, led to the union of the two prefixes as Free and
Accepted Masons. This is the Lodge that was visited by Elias Ashmole in 1682, for
which he received a Summons, and which assembled in the Masons' Hall, London,
when six gentlemen were admitted into the Fellowship, four of whom were members
of the Company. Nine of the "Acception" or Lodge attended, besides Ashmole, who
says he was "the Senior Fellow among them." No particulars whatever of the
ceremony are afforded, but subsequently they all dined "at the charge of the new-
accepted Masons." All the nine Fellows were members of the Company, including the
Master and the two Wardens.
It will thus be seen, that not a few customs of later days were anticipated in the 1 7th
century, such as the use of Masonic Certificates to aid in visitation, the issue of
Lodge Summonses, masons' marks used after the signatures, Essays and Intenders,
as well as the promotion of good-fellowship.
The "General Regulations" of the Grand Lodge at London, printed in the year 1723,
were for the use of "the Lodges in and about London and Westminster," being thus
originally a Metropolitan organisation. At the time they were printed, there was a older
authority at work in the City of York, as a "time immemorial" Grand Lodge, whose
preserved records date from 1 705, but the Grand Lodge was a very old one at that
In Ireland, in like manner, there was a Grand Lodge holding its meetings in the
Metropolis of that Country from 1725, and no doubt earlier; also a District or Grand
Lodge, quite distinct, though not essentially different, assembling at Cork, for the
Province of Munster, and having subordinate Lodges, these surely were anticipated
in the 17th century by the Metropolitan Lodge of Scotland, which Masonically in olden
time, governed the City, and "Mother Lodge Kilwinning," which was in charge of quite
a large district, and authorised dependent Lodges, one of which is the "Canongate
Kilwinning" of 1677.
I claim that Edinburgh and Kilwinning were thus, in not a few important respects, the
Masonic prototypes of the London and York organisations, as well as of the Dublin
and Cork Grand Lodges. As the Masonic bodies in Ireland adopted the usage of
Deacons long before those in England, which officers, nominally at least if not
precisely as to duties, had been familiar to Scotland for centuries, it is just possible
that Ireland was more indebted to North Britain for its Masonic laws and customs that
has hitherto been recognised or acknowledged, and thus proportionately less to
Whilst it is true that the Craft records in England are not so numerous and valuable
as those of Scotland, some of the existing minutes and other indications of Masonic
activity are of great importance, as already indicated, and though we do not know
when and by whom these 1 7th century Lodges were originally started or constituted,
they assuredly had much in common. Judging from the fact that Dr. Desaguliers,
Past Grand Master of England, visited the "Lodge of Edinburgh" in 1721 , and having
been found to be "duly qualified in all points of Masonry, was received as a Brother,"
there seems no reason to suppose that Freemasonry of the 17th century in England,
as regards essentials, differed from that of Scotland.
Esoterically there is much to be said as to the Lodges in England and Scotland, but
that must be reserved to another time. I may note, however, in passing, that the
"Mason Word" was acknowledged to be given in Scotland, and dues paid therefore,
as late as 1715, and whilst a gratifying reticence is generally observed, an incomplete
minute of 1702 at Haughfoot requires very careful consideration. It reads "of entrie as
the apprentice did. Leaving out (the common judge - Probably an operative "test")
they then whisper the word as before, and the Master Mason grips his hand in the
It does not appear to me that this entry calls for any remark just now, as it tells its
own tale consistently with other records, in relation to the simplicity of the Masonic
ceremonial at that time.
The Presbytery of Kelso in 1652 sustained the action of the Rev. James Ainslie in
becoming a Freemason, declaring that "there is neither sinne nor scandale in that
word" -- i.e., the "Mason Word".
Along with the "Harleian MS" (No. 2054, British Museum), is a scrap of paper, which
cites, "several words and signs of a free Mason" as a portion of an obligation, this MS
of the "Old Charges" is in the handwriting of Randle Holme (born 1627), the author of
the "Academy of Harmony", printed in 1688, wherein he says, "I Cannot but Honour
the Fellowship of the Masons because of its Antiquity; and the more as being a
Member of that Society, called Free-Masons." The Oath that was taken by the
Brethren during this period, as given in various copies of the "Old Charges" &c., is
not indicative of the separate degrees of the post Grand Lodge era. A remarkable
Register of gentlemen and others, with the MS just referred to - Harleian No. 2054 -
states what each "giue for to be a free Mason." This is also in the handwriting of the
same Randle Holme, and apparently belonged to a speculative Lodge at Chester.
The references to the Craft in Plot's "Natural History of Staffordshire," published in
1686, are of a most important character, and should be carefully studied, as they
concern admissions into the Fraternity, the reading of the "Old Charges", with
prominent portions of their text, and the early history of the Society.
There are many ways of proving the existence of the Craft during the seventeenth
century, but the foregoing must suffice for the present, the evidence being so
plentiful, that is quite embarrassing to make a selection. It cannot, in my opinion, be
questioned, that modern Grand Lodges are the direct representatives of the old
Lodges previously existing, many of which still continue working.
The records of one Scottish family offer eloquent testimony, to the continuous
working of the Craft for centuries, as enshrined in the valuable Perth Charter, and in
the "Lodge of Edinburgh" records. From these documents the following facts are
gleaned. John Mylne came to Perth from the "North Countrie" and became the King's
Master Mason and Master of the "Lodge at Scone" — now No. 3 Scotland. He was
succeeded by his son, whose name is mentioned in the remarkable "Contract" of
1658, who by His Majesty's desire entered "King James the sixt as ffreeman,
measone and fellow craft." His third son John was a member of the "Lodge of
Edinburgh," and Master Mason to Charles I., 1631-6; John Mylne the younger, his
eldest son, succeeding, became in 1633 a Fellow Craft in No. 1 , and was Deacon
eleven times within thirty years. Alexander Mylne was entered an apprentice to his
uncle in 1653, and was made a fellow-craft in 1660, becoming Warden in 1663-4,
and Deacon several times later on. then William Mylne was entered an apprentice in
1721 , and was Master in 1735, representing the Lodge at the formation of the Grand
Lodge of Scotland the following year, and holding the office of Grand Treasurer from
1737 to 1755. Another William was elected and initiated in the same Lodge in 1750,
and a Robert Mylne became a member in 1754, receiving the three degrees in that
year. He died in 1811 and "was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, having been surveyor
to that edifice for fifty years." With his decease, terminated the family's connection
with the "Lodge of Edinburgh", which had extended through five successive
generations, and for a still longer period as craftsmen.
There are two Lodges of the pre Grand Lodge era, which also overlap that important
period, which really require whole Papers to themselves, to do their proceedings
anything like justice. A few words about each of these will fitly conclude my Address.
The records of the old Alnwick Lodge were brought to the notice of the Craft by me in
1 871 , and are of special value, not only because of their antiquity, but also in relation
to their text. As with so many of these venerable Lodges, its origin is unknown, but it
may be accepted as of the 17th century. A copy of the "Old Charges" precedes the
"Orders to be observed by the company and Fellowship of Free Masons, att A Lodge
held att Alnwick Septr 29 1701 being the General head meeting day." Apprentices
had to be entered and be given their "Charge" within "one whole Year after"
admission, and on the expiry of their term of seven years were "Admitted or Accepted
butt upon the feast of St. Michaell the Archangell." The Master and Wardens were
elected by the members, and the frequent entries "made free", "made free Masons"
or "made free brothers" are very suggestive and important. On 20th January, 1708, it
was ordered that no member "should appear at the Lodge to be kept on St. John's
Day in Christmas without his appron & Common Square fixt in the Belt," and to be
similarly attired on attending Church on that day, when a special sermon was to be
preached. Although the Lodge was active far on in the 18th century, it never, so far
as is known, joined the Grand Lodge of England, although a Warrant issued by that
Body in 1 779 for Alnwick may have been applied for by some of its Brethren. It is of
special interest to remember that on Christmas Day in 1755, Mr. "George Henderson
of Alnwick, visiting Bro from Canongate Kilwinning Lodge" is duly noted in the
minutes; he was initiated in the northern Lodge in 1751 , receiving the two higher
degrees on Nov 20th 1754. There is no mention of separate Masonic ceremonies in
the minutes, 1703 to 1756, and the Lodge was operative from first to last, the
proceedings of the modern Grand Lodge and its subordinate Lodges being entirely
The old operative Lodge at Swalwell, in its early records, had much in common with
its senior of Alnwick, its "Orders of Antiquity" and its "Apprentice and General Orders"
being virtually reproductions of still earlier "Old Charges." the three "ffraternal signs"
are mentioned, and the minutes generally from the third decade of the 18th century
are of considerable value and interest, the members accepted a Charter from the
Grand Lodge of England in 1735, being now, and for a long time past, known as the
:Lodge of Industry," No. 48 Gateshead. It was thus another link in the union between
the Grand Lodge and its operative ancestors.
It is the fashion of some to raise objections to our claim as being "ancient", as well as
"free and accepted" Masons, but I trust that the facts herein submitted, will "at once
and for ever" prove, that our beloved Society is fully entitled to the antiquity so long
assumed by the Fraternity.
Wm. James Hughan, "Dunscore", Torquay, Jan 19th, 1904
A List of Works that should be consulted in confirmation of the Address.
• "Alnwick MS." -- Reproduction and Transcript; 1895
• "Ars Quatuor Coronatorum"; 1886-1903. With the "Masonic Reprints," Vols I to VI.
• Crawley's "Caementaria Hibernica. 1725-1807; 1895-1900.
• Conder's "The Hole Craft and Fellowship of Masonry" 1894.
• Gould's "History of Freemasonry"; 1882-87.
• Gould's "Concise History of Freemasonry;" 1903
• Hughan's "Old Charges"; 1872 and 1895.
• Hughan's "Masonic Sketches and Reprints"; 1871 .
• Hughan's "Masonic Register"; 1878.
• Lyon's "History of the Lodge of Edinburgh, No. 1"; 1873 and 1900.
• Mackenzie's "History of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge, No. 2"; 1888.
• Rylands'"Freemasonry in the Seventeenth Century"; 1881 .
• Smith's "History of the Ancient Masonic Lodge of Scoon and Perth"; 1898 (Crawford
• Smith's "History of the Old Lodge of Dumfries"; 1892.
• Spencer's "Old Masonic Constitutions"; 1871 .
• Todd and Whytehead's "Ancient York Masonic rolls"; 1894.
• Transactions "Lodge of Research," No 2049 Leicester; 1892-1903.
• Transactions "Humber Installed Masters" Lodge No. 2494 Hull; 1882-1903.
• Transactions "Sussex Association for Masonic Research"; 1899-1902.
• Vernon's "History of Freemasonry in Roxburghshire, Peebles and Selkirkshire";
• Watson's Reproductions of the "Old Charges" and "Library Reprints".
• Wylie's "History of Mother Lodge Kilwinning"; 1878.
Brother Hughan having intimated his willingness to answer any questions suggested
by the Paper, several Brethren took advantage of the opportunity. A list of these
questions and Bro. Hughan's replies thereto are appended.
What brought about the decline of the operative Lodges?
Their inability to preserve or continue the monopoly so long exercised by them.
"Cowans" increased in spite of all regulations and efforts to the contrary; the Masters
gradually lost their exclusive powers, and towards the end of the 17th century it
became evident, that the Building monopolies and close Corporations of the
Freemasons' Lodges had seen their day. It was not the speculatives that caused the
decline of the operative Lodges, but the causes came from within.
For what reasons and with what motives did the speculatives originally join the
old operative Lodges?
I really cannot tell for certain but can only conjecture. Probably mainly from friendly
feelings towards the operatives, and to exhibit or manifest an interest in their welfare.
The funds were increased by gentlemen joining, and the Lodges were made all the
more popular, by the admission of the local squires and others of means in the
neighbourhood of a Lodge. It was a secret Society that was thus joined, and this may
have led some to seek admission, from the mystery surrounding the Initiation
ceremony. The esoteric character of the Craft has been a source of wonder and
curiosity to outsiders for many centuries, and especially for the reputation it has long
enjoyed of preserving valuable secrets connected with the Rosicrucian's, etc.
Does not the fact that all the copies of the "Old Charges" are of English origin,
go to prove that Lodges of Masons existed in England earlier than in Scotland?
I do not think so, but only that the traditional history emanated from South Britain. My
opinion is, that the Freemasonry of which our Society is a lineal descendant, was
formed, but not known when or where, by the Cathedral Builders and their
ecclesiastical employers, hence the religious character of the introductory portion of
the Manuscript Constitutions, of which we have specimens from the 15th century.
What is known of the early history of the Lodges which formed the London
Grand Lodge in 1717?
No records of any of the "Four Old Lodges" have been made known, of a date prior
to the London Grand Lodge era it is probable that the "Lodge of Antiquity," the senior
of the "time immemorial" quartet, was a continuation of the Lodge which met under
the wing of the Masons' Company, and know as the "Acception" visited by Ashmole
in 1682, and subsequently dropped by the Company, if the valuable "Antiquity MS" of
the "Old Charges" of 1 686, was in the possession of the ancient Lodge at that time, it
dates back the "Antiquity" beyond that ascribed to it in the "Engraved List" of 1729,
which was 1 691 . the second of the quartette on the Register was dated 1 71 2, while
the others had no dates affixed. "Multi Paucis" (1764 circa) states that the Master and
Wardens of six Lodges assembled at the Apple-Tree in 1716, when it was agreed to
revive "their Quarterly Communications". Certainly the earlies "Engraved List" (1723-
4) partly confirms this view of the matter, as the junior of the historic quartette is
placed in the fifth space, the fourth being occupied by a Lodge at "The Cheshire
Cheese in Arundell Street," of which we know absolutely nothing more.
Are there not traditions of pre-1717 Lodges in various parts of the South of
There are, but to my mind they have not been traced; save the probability of
petitioners for the early Lodges have been Masons prior to the formation of the
London Grand Lodge.
What's known of the Lodge which appears in the 1734 List as "No. 65 St. Rooks
Hill near Chicester. constituted in the reign of Julius Caesar"?
The Lodge at St. Rook's Hill, a few miles from Chicester is dated 1730 on the
Register. It met once a year only. Nothing is known of its history prior to 1730, and
but little since. It was erased from the list in 1754. It is interesting to note, that at the
Grand Lodge held March 2nd 1732, "the petition of Brother Edward hall, a Member of
the Lodge at the Swan, in Chicester, being there made a Mason by the late Duke of
Richmond, six and thirty years ago, and now recommended by the present Duke of
Richmond, as a proper object of the Charity of Free and Accepted masons, was
read." This Lodge was constituted in the year 1724 as No. 31 , but doubtless was at
work many years before, as with several other Lodges in England, which
subsequently joined the Grand Lodge.
Transactions of the Lodge of Research No. 2429 Leicester, England for the year
1903-04. Read by the Secretary at the fifty-eighth meeting Freemasons' Hall,
Leicester Monday January 25th, 1904