A his­tory of the freema­sons

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Mod­ern freema­sonry be­gan in the late 17th cen­tury. The ori­gins of the so­ci­ety were prob­a­bly in the craft guilds of me­dieval times and it is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that there was some con­nec­tion with stone­ma­sons, but no ab­so­lute proof. The first recorded ‘mak­ing’ of a freema­son ap­pears in the di­ary of Elias Ashmole, which marks him be­com­ing a ma­son on 16 Oc­to­ber 1646.

Or­gan­ised freema­sonry was for­malised on 24 June 1717 when four Lon­don lodges met at the Goose and Grid­iron Ale House, in St Paul’s Church­yard, and formed the first Grand Lodge, later known as the ‘Mod­erns’. The United Grand Lodge of Eng­land ( UGLE) was es­tab­lished in 1813 with the union of two ri­val Grand Lodges, the ‘An­tients’, founded in 1751, and the Mod­erns. The United Grand Lodge of Eng­land ( ugle.org.uk) con­tin­ues to be the gov­ern­ing body of freema­sonry in Eng­land, Wales and the Chan­nel Is­lands and some for­mer colo­nial coun­tries. Mem­ber­ship was, in the­ory at least, open to any man re­gard­less of creed, class or race.

By the 20th cen­tury, a num­ber of mixed-sex lodges had been es­tab­lished. Al­though women mem­bers had been ac­cepted in ear­lier times, the form­ing of the Grand Lodge in 1717 put a stop to this. Mixed, or Co- Ma­sonic, or­ders be­gan in the early-20th cen­tury, and the Or­der of Women Freema­sons was founded in 1935. The Grand Lodge of Scot­land ( grand­lodgescot­land.com) was founded in 1725 and both over­sees and ad­min­is­ters Scot­tish freema­sonry, in­clud­ing pro­vin­cial and district grand lodges and lo­cal lodges.

In Ire­land, the Grand Lodge of Ire­land ( freema­son.ie), founded in 1736, acts as the gov­ern­ing body for lodges cov­er­ing the whole of Ire­land, both north and south. In the United States, there are now sep­a­rate Grand Lodges for each state.

Elias Ashmole recorded the first ‘mak­ing’ of a freema­son in 1646

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