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Terry

Was Sir Christopher Wren a freemason

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I have over the years seen references to Sir Christopher Wren being a freemason, but whenver I have bought it up have always been told that I am wrong, or the sources I am reading are wrong or not reliable, so imagine my surprise when on another list, what I consider to be proof was posted,so now I am asking you my brothers to tell me have I got it wrong again, or is there something to this, like he was a mason after all

On 24/7/09 11:29, "Tom Mc Rae" <thomas.mcrae@bigpond.com> wrote:

> Brethren,
> is there any CONCRETE evidence of Sir Christopher Wren being a
> Freemason ?

Brethren

Records in the Royal Society archives state that Christopher Wren was
adopted into the Fraternity of Accepted Masons on May 18, 1691.

"Records of the Lodge Original, No. 1, now the Lodge of Antiquity No. 2"
mention him as being Master of the lodge.

http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/wren_c/adoption.html

http://www.masonicdictionary.com/wren2.html

By Bros. Bernard Williamson and Michael Baigent

Originally presented Summer 1996.

A search through the archives of the Royal Society has provided us with new
information regarding the claim that Sir Christopher Wren was initiated into
Freemasonry in London on May 18th 1691. This claim was advanced in a
handwritten note added to the manuscript of John Aubrey's Naturall Historie
of Wiltshire, 1685 now in the Bodleian library at Oxford. This manuscript is
in two parts, bound and filed separately as MS AUBREY 1 and MS AUBREY 2. In
the second part a short account of Freemasonry appears:

"Sir William Dugdale told me many years since, that about Henry the third's
time, the Pope gave a bull, or diploma ['patents' added above] to a company
of Italian Architects ['Freemasons' added above] to travel up and down and
over Europe, to build churches. From those derived the Fraternity of Free
Masons [adopted masons added above]. They are known to one and another by
certain signs & ['marks' erased] and watch words: it continues to this day.
They have several Lodges in several Countries for their reception: and when
any of them fall into decay, the brotherhood is to relieve him & c. The
manner of their adoption is very formal, and with an oath of secrecy."

The page to the left of this account was originaly left blank and on this
page, at some later time, were added three additional notes in Aubrey's own
hand. One of these notes concerns Freemasonry. It reads thus:

"MDM, this day ( may 1691 the 18th. Being Monday after Rogation Sunday) is a
great convention at St. Pauls' church of the fraternity of the Accepted[
'free' being struck out] masons where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted
a brother: and Sir Henry Goodric of ye tower, & divers ['several' being
struck out] others - and there have been kings, that have been of this
-Sodalitie."

Of those who have studied the text, Clarke in ARS Quatour Coronatorum ,
1965, concluded that Wren was "almost certainly a freemason. John Hamill, in
1986, in his book "THE CRAFT," is more cautious, concluding that however
possible it might be, "it is not proven". As we will show, the text can now
be accorded a greater degree of veracity. To understand this it is necessary
to look at the history of John Aubrey's manuscript.
John Aubrey's Manuscript

John Aubrey, who lived 1626 to 1697 was one of the founding members of the
Royal Society, being recorded in the list of Fellows May 20th 1663. In 1685
he wrote his Naturall Historie of Wiltshire, It was never published but
remained in manuscript form. However, the Royal Society so admired his work,
and felt that it was of such value to Fellows, that an official copy was
ordered and made for the societies archives in order that Fellows would not
have to travel to Oxford to consult it. Dr. Michael Hunter, in his biography
of John Aubrey wrote:

"Above all, the Royal Society did Aubrey the honour of having a transcript
made of his Naturall Historie of Wiltshire in 1690-1, a unique and
extraordinary gesture showing their esteem for it, which cost them the
considerable sum of seven pounds.(�832.64 in 2001)"

The Clerk of the Royal Society, Mr. B. G. Cramer who, in 1690, began the
task and completed it by mid 1691, made this copy, which is still in the
archives of the Royal Society. It is listed as MISC. Ms 92, and it runs to
373 pages.

When Cramer was ordered to produce this copy Aubrey took the opportunity to
make many additions and emendations and he oversaw their inclusion into the
new text. This is indicated by a short note, in Aubrey's own hand, attached
to folio 124a. of part two of the original manuscript: Aubrey writes,
referring to a printed pamphlet on wool which has been appended:

" Mr Cramer! As to this Treatise of wool, transcribe only the presentment of
the grand jury at Brewton in Somersetshire"

When Aubrey had written the original manuscript he had written only on the
first page of each leaf. In consequence, a blank page appears to the left of
each page of text. On this blank page are written the additions and
emendations relating to the text on the right. It can be supposed that all
these changes were made for the purpose of Cramer's new copy, but we cannot
be absolutely certain of this. We can say however, that Cramer included them
in his new copy. In his copy, Cramer included the following in the main body
of text:

"Memorandum. This day ( may the 18th. Being Munday 1691 after Rogation
Sunday0 is a great convention at St. Paul's church of the fraternity of the
Adopted Masons: where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a Brother: and
Sir Henry Goodric of the tower & divers others. There have been Kings, that
have been of this Sodality."

We can, therefore, accept that Aubrey, Wren and the Royal Society agreed
with this addition citing Wren's initiation into Freemasonry. It seems
reasonable to accept it as a truthful statement.

John Aubrey was a close friend of Sir Christopher Wren. Both were in the
Royal Society, Wren had been a founding member of the Society and served as
its president from 1680-2. He was still alive and active in the society in
1691, the date of Cramer's copy. It has been suggested that perhaps Wren
intended to be initiated but on the day he was unable to attend. However, on
the 18th. May 1691, the date of the initiation and the date of the
additional text relating to Freemasonry, Cramer would have still been
working on earlier pages of his copy. Given that the date is written on the
day in question and that Cramer Copied this page at a later date, after the
fact, there was ample time to amend the text to reflect any variation on the
planned event. That this was not done is good evidence that Wren did not
miss his 'adoption'.

In Conclusion, given that none of these men objected to this statement, nor
altered it after the event but prior to the coping, we can accept that it
records a real occurrence. We can be confident that Sir Christopher Wren was
indeed initiated into Freemasonry in 1691. We should like to thank the
librarian and staff of both the Royal Society and the Bodleian Library for
their help in making these manuscripts available to us.

See also :
http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/christopher_wren_freemasonry.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Wren

http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/wren_c/wren_c.html

__._,_.___
.


__,_._,___



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I have been telling many of the general public via our "Famous Freemasons" poster at public events, that Wren was definitely one of us, so tough!

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Lauderdale (20/08/2009)
Quite right Bro Roy, we should be proud of our famous Brethren.

Very true - in fact we've found that our "Famous Freemasons" display is one of the best attractions that we have used in getting people to talk to us at shows

Wayne

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I found very strange that Wren wasn't acknoledged as a freemason for so long despite of the tangible documentation and the logic behind it: he was an architect, therefore an operative master mason.



Anybody know why?

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Looking back over what records we have available to us, prior to 1717, we have the following associations:

The Company of Masons as mentioned 1620 and 1882.

The Company of Accepted Masons mentioned in 1676.

The Society of Freemasons mentioned in 1686 and 1688.

The Fellowship of Masons in 1688.

There does not seem to be any regularity, however we do know that in Plot's Natural History of Staffordshire, published in 1686, he classifies two types of mason. a) Is a mason bound by the "manners and charges"(an operative mason) and b) Is a mason sworn after their fashion (an accepted mason).

As you rightly say, Sir Christopher Wren was an Accepted Mason, not a Freemason in the sense that we no them today, because in 1717 when the formation of Grand Lodge took place, they quickly changed the ritual and practices that were common prior to that date. Although, much still remains in our ritual today.

So it is fair to say that Sir Christopher Wren was an Accepted Mason, but there is no evidence to suggest that he was a "regular" mason after 1717, and that is the only starting or reference point for our system of Speculative Freemasonry in England that we have. Although as I have stated, many of the cermonial, practices and ritual from those older association were brought along into the new Grand Lodge, before being ignored totally or adopted or modified.

I hope that makes sense.

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Good stuff Mike



Just a personal thought, but Wren was also and first known as an astronomer before he was well known as an architect. He was known to be very interested in spirituality. I sometimes wonder if this spiritual interest, and his work with individuals of similar interest in the Royal Society, led to the formation of discussion groups, which in turn partly fed the speculative Lodges, particularly those with an esoteric inclination. Perhaps Wren did not become a freemason as such because he was simply not interested in the ritual-prone aspects of what was formed in 1717. But his work informed it.



As I said, just some personal musings.



JS

Edited for spelling

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Hi JS,

Thats a fair comment you make, I often feel that the esoteric side of Freemasonry stems from the pre-1717 period and was ignored on purpose, probably because nobody understood it.

We know from that point on, the constitutions and the early exposures take the pragmatic rather than esoteric approach.

The esoteric approach however does seem to have returned in the mid 1800's and I think it came mainly from America, as I think we in this country were still entrenched in religious dogma rather than radicalism or free thinking.

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Mike



We could develop this line of thinking quite a long way, I think.



Esoteric groups tend to be rather informal. A group might come together to meditate, but the idea of taking minutes would rarely occur to them 8-)



If freemasonry developed from a much more esoteric/spiritual platform than we have today, then that might explain why there are so few records of early speculative meetings. If their meetings were about spiritual thought and practice and they had no formal ceremonies, perhaps no ceremony at all, the "business" of the meeting would either informal or completely absent and there would be little or nothing to record.



The group formed in 1717 appear to have leaned much more towards the pragmatic, ceremonial side of things than the esoteric/spiritual thinking of Wren; perhaps the early Gtrand Lodge was a splinter group from a group led by Wren in the Royal Society. Suggestions about original esoteric roots have been made in 1 or 2 quite learned works. There's such a reference in Neville Barker-Cryer's "York Mysteries Revealed".



Seems to me that Scottish operatives were accepting speculative members earlier than they were in England. Early speculative members in England tended to be leaders of society, even royals and more mobile than most. I wonder if, around 1717, English groups looking to develop ceremonies rather than esotericism became aware of Scottish speculatives and cross-fertilised ideas with them. General Monke's soldiers came south around that time, perhaps fuelling the early military spread of freemasonry. Again, this points to a spurt in development because of the mobility of the individuals involved.



These ideas are a bit woolly, I admit, and it's not hard to pick holes in them. But even before NBC's book I was thinking think early Masonic development had elements along that line.



As for the resurgence of esoteric thinking in the mid-1800s, yes, entirely agree. That was happennig more generally, not just inside freemasonry.



S&F, Jules

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Lauderdale (28/09/2009)
Bro Julian, are we speaking of the same person , General George Monk, 1st Duke Of Albemarle (1608-70)? His soldiers are believed by many, myself included, to have brought Freemasonry as we know it to England at the time of the Restoration. However he was well dead by the time of the foundation of the Moderns Grand Lodge in London in 1717


Hi Lauderdale



yes, same person. The move south was a little earlier than I recollected, but it doesn't alter the theory that Monk's soldiers might have brought Scottish masonic practices to England. I wonder if these might have melded with activities of some of the members of the Royal Society and morphed into what eventually became English freemasonry.



I'm mentioning theories which depend on other theories, and I don't much like the creeeping hyopthesis but it's an interesting thought to conjure with.



JS

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stevepenny (02/12/2009)
The principle reason cited by those who would believe that Wren was not a Mason is the complete absence of any reference to Freemasonry in his biography which was penned by Christopher Wren Junior.

I'd give that particular reason more consideration if he had written it himself but then I can't help remembering that Elias Ashmole's diaries consisting of his own first-hand memories mention Freemasonry twice (1646 & 1682) only in a period spanning 50 years. In fact, isn't it the case that Robert Moray's Initiation (1641) is only recorded in someone else's diary and not his own.

It seems possible that 17th Century Freemasons may not have actually put as much store in their membership as we do.

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Just to further muddy the waters and this of course explains why historians have been loath to say for definite. The passage below states that he was already a Master 3 years before he was Initiated according to the paper above.

From: 'St Paul's: The churchyard', Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 262-274. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45041&amp;strquery=St Paul's Churchyard Date accessed: 16 February 2010.

During the building of St. Paul's, Wren was the zealous Master of the St. Paul's Freemason's Lodge, which assembled at the "Goose and Gridiron," one of the most ancient lodges in London. He presided regularly at its meetings for upwards of eighteen years. He presented the lodge with three beautifully carved mahogany candlesticks, and the trowel and mallet which he used in laying the first stone of the great cathedral in 1675. In 1688 Wren was elected Grand Master of the order, and he nominated his old fellow-workers at St. Paul's, Cibber, the sculptor, and Strong, the master mason, Grand Wardens. In Queen Anne's reign there were 129 lodges—eighty-six in London, thirty-six in provincial cities, and seven abroad. Many of the oldest lodges in London are in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's.

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draeco1 (06/01/2016)
Given that St Pauls burnt down in 1666 and the new one was not in existence in 1691, the "great congregation" is surely fallacious.


I don't follow your logic, a "great convention" of Masons on an extant building site (building work commenced in 1675) in 1691 is in no way unlikely! There will have been structures in place or are you saying that they had built nothing in the preceeding 16 years?

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I am not a mason, but have been interested in the Fraternity, especially its history for many years. The question as to why Sir Christopher Wren appears to have been 'written out' of official masonic history is an interesting one and as with all historical investigation, not easy to solve to a clear and definitive conclusion. There appears plenty of evidence to indicate that he was an active Freemason prior to 1717, involved with St. Pauls Lodge/Lodge of Antiquity, which met at the Goose & Gridiron, St. Paul's Churchyard, in London. It's said Wren presided over meetings for some 18yrs. It's also said that the trowel and mallet that was used to lay the first stone of the re-built St. Paul's in 1675, was presented to his lodge - so if that be in UGLE' archive/museum, that will bear witness to that claim I guess. Furthermore, why would said items be stored there if he were NOT  a Freemason? Those with a better knowledge of Freemasonry than I, will likely know why Wren was removed from his office of Grand Master in 1714 - accused of having 'neglected his role', being replaced by a succession of 'Speculative' GM's. Once Wren was removed from office, it seems to have paved the way for the 'Speculatives' to freely change the design of Freemasonry away from its former 'Operative' focus of building and architecture, to more moral and social virtues.    

Edited by Paul W
Improve text

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2 hours ago, Paul W said:

I am not a mason, but have been interested in the Fraternity, especially its history for many years. The question as to why Sir Christopher Wren appears to have been 'written out' of official masonic history is an interesting one and as with all historical investigation, not easy to solve to a clear and definitive conclusion. There appears plenty of evidence to indicate that he was an active Freemason prior to 1717, involved with St. Pauls Lodge/Lodge of Antiquity, which met at the Goose & Gridiron, St. Paul's Churchyard, in London. It's said Wren presided over meetings for some 18yrs. It's also said that the trowel and mallet that was used to lay the first stone of the re-built St. Paul's in 1675, was presented to his lodge - so if that be in UGLE' archive/museum, that will bear witness to that claim I guess. Furthermore, why would said items be stored there if he were NOT  a Freemason? Those with a better knowledge of Freemasonry than I, will likely know why Wren was removed from his office of Grand Master in 1714 - accused of having 'neglected his role', being replaced by a succession of 'Speculative' GM's. Once Wren was removed from office, it seems to have paved the way for the 'Speculatives' to freely change the design of Freemasonry away from its former 'Operative' focus of building and architecture, to more moral and social virtues.    

The answer to your question would appear to be a qualified 'yes' but not quite as we would today expect.  It's complicated!  The matter was exhaustively dealt with by Dr James Campbell in the Prestonian Lecture for 2011.  The lecture is to be found in AQC Vol. 125 for 2012.  I was present when he delivered the paper in Quatuor Coronati Lodge No.2076.  AQC is the annual journal of the transactions of that lodge and back-copies are available from Lewis Masonic.

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