A history of the freemasons
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