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Hi all, now I know that not everyone is able to get to Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge but I would highly recommend that you take the time to get a copy of the "Report of Proceedings" that are sent out to all Lodge Secretaries as you can read what actually happened during the meeting itself and you will then be as well informed as any Grand Officer. I have reproduced below (with permission from John Hamill) an item from the June 2017 meeting which I think you will find interesting:

1717 – FOUNDATION AND FORMATION

MW PRO GRAND MASTER: Brethren, we are now to recieve a presentation on the Formation of Grand Lodge, and I call on the Deputy Grand Chancellor, VW Bro J.M. Hamill, PGSwdB.

 

DEPUTY GRAND CHANCELLOR (VW Bro J.M. HAMILL, PGSwdB): MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren. At a dinner party last year the conversation turned to the idea of time travel and, were it to become possible, which period we would like to go back to. I said that, for something I was involved in professionally, I would like to go back to a specifi c day and location in London to meet and ask questions of a particular group of people and that I would like to bring some of them to our time today to see what they had given birth to on that day.

 

It will not surprise you to learn that the date I selected was St. John’s Day in Summer, the 24th June, in the year 1717 and the location was the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St. Paul’s Churchyard. As we know, on that day representatives of four London Lodges came together elected a Grand Master and Grand Wardens and resolved to “revive” the Annual Feast and Quarterly Communications which it was claimed had fallen into desuetude due to the neglect of Sir Christopher Wren when Grand Master. As we also know today, that resolution was based on a pious fiction as there is no evidence for there having been any Grand Lodge or any Grand Master before 1717.

 

To us, with the benefit of hindsight, the meeting on 24 June 1717 was a momentous and historical event, but put into the context of the time a different picture emerges. One of the problems of dealing with 1717 and the fi rst few years of the Grand Lodge is the lack of hard facts to work with. It was not until 1723 and the appointment of William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, as Secretary to the Grand Lodge that Minutes began to be kept. Of the four Lodges which came together to elect a Grand Master in 1717, there are still three working today – the Lodge of Antiquity, the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge and the Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland – but their early Minutes have been long lost so that, with the exception of those elected to the Offices of Grand Master and Grand Wardens we have no records of whom their members were in the years 1717 – 1725, when the Grand Lodge first called for Lodges to submit lists of their members, or who attended the meeting on 24 June 1717. What we can deduce from secondary evidence is that the meeting was not a huge assembly. The Goose and Gridiron Tavern survived until the late 1890s and just before it was demolished an enterprising Masonic historian drew sketches of its exterior and measured the room in which the Grand Lodge was formed. The room would have held less than a hundred people who would have had to stand very close to each other to fit into the room!

 

Our primary source for what happened in those early years is the history of the Craft with which Rev’d Dr James Anderson prefaced the Rules governing Freemasonry in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions he published on behalf of Grand Lodge in 1738. Because Anderson’s history of the Craft before 1717 is more than somewhat suspect some historians have cast doubts on his description of the events in Grand Lodge from 1717 – 1738. What they forget is that he compiled it on behalf of the Grand Lodge and that it was vetted by a Committee of the Grand Lodge before it went into print. Although writing 20 years after the events of 1717 there would still have been brethren around who were involved in those early years, not least Rev’d Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers, Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722, 1723 and 1725, who would have been very quick to point out any errors of fact in Anderson’s comments on the Grand Lodge.

 

From Anderson’s account in its first years the Grand Lodge met only for the Annual Assembly and Grand Feast to elect the Grand Master and Grand Wardens. From two other sources we can deduce that the Grand Lodge began to act as a regulatory body in 1720. Both the 1723 and 1738 editions of the Book of Constitutions include a postscript describing the ancient manner of constituting a new Lodge as practised by the Grand Master, George Payne in 1720. A very rare Masonic book entitled “The Book M or Masonry Triumphant” published by a Brother Leonard Umphreville in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1736 includes a report of a meeting of Grand Lodge in 1720 in which a Code of Rules for the government of the Craft compiled by the then Grand Master, George Payne, was adopted. The report was followed by the list of 39 Rules, which formed the basis of the Rules printed in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions published in 1723.

 

Some have questioned why there were no press reports of the event in 1717, but they have been looking at the past with the eyes of the present. In 1717 Freemasonry was largely unknown. The late 17th and 18th centuries were a great age of Societies and Clubs many of them meeting in taverns and the growing network of fashionable coffee houses in the Cities of London and Westminster. If noticed at all, the formation of Grand Lodge would have been seen as just another such society. It was not until the early 1720s when Past Grand Masters, George Payne and Dr Desaguliers began to attract members of the nobility and the Royal Society into Freemasonry that the press of the day began to notice it, reporting on the initiations of prominent men of the day and the annual Grand Feasts of Grand Lodge.

 

It was not until 1723 that the Grand Lodge became fully established as a regulatory body as we know today. By that year in addition to the keeping of Minutes and the publication of the fi rst Book of Constitutions the Grand Lodge had extended its authority outside the Cities of London and Westminster issuing deputations to constitute Lodges in the Provinces and bringing into the fold some independent Lodges that had been meeting quietly in the northern provinces. The Rules compiled by Grand Master Payne in 1720 and published in the Book of Constitutions in 1723 introduced the concept of regularity, stating that no new Lodge would be countenanced unless it had been personally constituted by the Grand Master or a Brother deputed by the Grand Master to act for him.

 

At a conference sponsored by our premier Lodge of Research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, at The Queen’s College, Cambridge, last September two academics gave a paper suggesting that we were celebrating four years too early and casting doubts on the meeting in 1717. Having carefully studied their paper my response is that old fashioned polite English expletive: balderdash! (Laughter) Their thesis seems to boil down to an academic semantic argument as to what constituted a Grand Lodge. They appear to think that we were not a Grand Lodge until 1721because there is no evidence for any attempt at regulation before that date. It is beyond doubt to my mind that at the meeting on 24 June 1717, Anthony Sayer, Capt. John Elliot and Jacob Lamball were, respectively, elected Grand Master and Senior and Junior Grand Wardens – offi cers of a Grand Lodge. The academics appear to believe that, like Athene springing fully armed from the head of Zeus, for the meeting in 1717 to be accepted as the formation of a Grand Lodge it should have immediately acted as a regulatory body. Brethren, life rarely works that way!

 

In talking of time travel I said I would like to bring back from 1717 some of those involved in the meeting on 24 June. In their wildest imaginings they could not have envisaged what their simple and small meeting would give birth to: a world wide fraternity of regular Freemasonry spread over the whole world. They would have found some things that they would recognise from their practice of Freemasonry but would also have found much that was very different. Over the last 300 years Freemasonry has developed and expanded in ways they could not have imagined. What English Freemasonry has demonstrated over the last 300 years is that it is a living organisation capable of changing its outward forms and adapting itself to the society in which it currently exists. It has had a wonderful knack of making those changes without in any way changing those fundamental and inalienable principles and tenets on which Freemasonry was founded and which would certainly be recognised by those who met in 1717. The more I study our ancient Craft the more I am convinced that whatever problems we may face from time to time, provided that we maintain that delicate balance between managed change and not altering our basic principles and tenets, Freemasonry will ride over those problems and future generations will be able to enjoy its fellowship and privileges, as we and the many generations that have gone before us have done since that happy day in 1717 on which Grand Lodge was born.

 

MW PRO GRAND MASTER: Brethren, we all know what an expert Brother Hamill is on our Freemasonry, a lot of you won’t know that the rest of the world considers him an expert on their Freemasonry as well. So we really are lucky to have John in our midst and be able to give us talks such as that. So, thank you very, very much, John.

(Applause)

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Please be advised that the room we will be using at the February meeting may be different from our normal one that is currently shown on the web site.  Best to check at reception on arrival.  Also the time of the meeting will almost certainly be earlier than currently shown.  We plan to hold the lodge business meeting early in the day separately, so as to give more time to the symposium, questions and socialising afterwards.  We are in the planning stages and, as we expect a larger than normal turnout, we may be asking for pre-booking.  I'll put any changes here and ensure they are on the web site.

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Prescott's argument seems based round an apparent lack of direct evidence. There's a maxim used in Archaeology that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!

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1 hour ago, Lew Finnis said:

Prescott's argument seems based round an apparent lack of direct evidence. There's a maxim used in Archaeology that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!

 

Only partly, as I see it, Lew.  He reveals positive evidence in the 1721 minute, apparently confirmed by William Stukeley's account of that meeting,  Also the external evidence of the Apple Tree tavern being something else until several years later when it became a tavern throws even further doubt on Anderson's credibility regarding a meeting at which he was not present.

Nonetheless, the battle between, on the one hand, the two non-masonic professional historians, Andrew and Susan, and on the other, a highly respected UGLE employee and a Prestonian lecturer, John and Ric, will be interesting to say the least.  Even if not entirely conclusive, the symposium/debate will I'm sure sow serious doubt on what has to date been received knowledge, deserving of further and deeper researches.

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From what I have read the 4 lodges at the 1717 combined meeting ranged in age from 5 years to 50 years.  In the official history they are regarded as time immemorial.  This must have been the source of much mirth in the 50 or so other London lodges.

 

And yet that time immemorial fiction is necessary to prevent the question:  which GL issued charters to those rather young lodges.

Edited by Jaybee

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5 hours ago, Trouillogan said:

And don't forget that a Grand Lodge, with subordinate lodges, existed at York at least in 1705 and possibly earlier.

And yet they felt the need to announce themselves as a Grand Lodge in 1725 :):) 

Even the late Revd Neville Barker Cryer downgraded his earlier claims of a "Grand Lodge" to "Old Lodge" in York Mysteries Revealed. 

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6 hours ago, Mike Martin said:

And yet they felt the need to announce themselves as a Grand Lodge in 1725 :):) 

Even the late Revd Neville Barker Cryer downgraded his earlier claims of a "Grand Lodge" to "Old Lodge" in York Mysteries Revealed. 

Actually Neville kept up his belief in the York Grand Lodge to the end but he did acknowledge that it operated on different lines.  The subordinate lodges he reckoned were simply 'outreaches' of the Grand Lodge itself and not separate entities as the ones in the City of London and Westminster.  Supporting that view was that some of them spawned other subordinate lodges - granddaughter lodges if you like.  Evidently that structure couldn't support itself for long.  I guess they saw the London upstart as a competitor and decided to call themselves Grand as well when they saw the London successes under Montagu and Richmond.

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