The Web of Hiram

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Preston Illustrations of Masonry- Book 4 The History of Masonry in England

Section 1 - Masonry Introduced into England

Section 2 - Masonry in England under St. Austin, King Alfred, Athelstane and the Knights Templars

Section 3 -History of Masonry in England, during the Reigns of Edward I to Henry VI.

Section 4 - History of Masonry in the South of England from 1471 to 1567

Section 5 - Progress of Masonry in the South of England from the Reign of Elizabeth to the Fire of London in 1666.

Section 6 - The History of Masonry in England from the Fire of London, to the Accession of George I.

Section 7 - History of the Revival of Masonry in the South of England

Section 8 - History of Masonry from its Revival in the South of England till the Death of King George I

Section 9 - History of Masonry in England during the Reign of King George II

Section 10 - History of Masonry in the South of England from the Accession of George III, to the end of the year 1779.

Section 11 - History of the most remarkable Events in the Society from 1779 to 1791 inclusive

Section 12 - History of Masonry from the Installation of the Prince of Wales as Grand Master, to the Grand Feast in 1795 inclusive.

Section. 4 - History of Masonry in the South of England from 1471 to 1567

Masonry continued to flourish in England till the peace of the kingdom was interrupted by the civil wars between the two royal houses of York and Lancaster; during which it fell into an almost total neglect, that continued till 1471, when it again revived under the auspices of Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Sarum; who had been appointed Grand Master by Edward IV. and had been honoured with the title of chancellor of the garter, for repairing the castle and chapel of Windsor.

During the short reigns of Edward V. and Richard III. masonry was on the decline; but on the accession of Henry VII. A. D. 1485, it rose again into esteem, under the patronage of the Master and fellows of the order of St. John at Rhodes, (now Malta,) who assembled their grand lodge in 1500, and chose Henry their protector. Under the royal auspices the fraternity once more revived their assemblies, and masonry resumed its pristine splendor.

On the 24th of June 1502, a lodge of masters was formed in the palace, at which the king presided in person as Grand Master; and having appointed John Islip, abbot of Westminster, and Sir Reginald Bray, knight of the garter, his wardens for the occasion, proceeded in ample form to the east end of Westminster Abbey, where he laid the foundation stone of that rich masterpiece of Gothic architecture, known by the name of Henry the seventh's chapel. This chapel is supported by fourteen Gothic buttresses, all beautifully ornamented, and projecting from the building in different angles; it is enlightened by a double range of windows, which throw the light into such a happy disposition, as at once to please the eye, and afford a kind of solemn gloom. These buttresses extend to the roof, and are made to strengthen it, by being crowned with Gothic arches. The entrance is from the east end of the abbey, by a flight of black marble steps, under a noble arch, leading to the body of the chapel. The gates are of brass. The stalls on each side are of oak, as are also the seats, and the pavement is black and white marble. The capestone of this building was celebrated in 1507.

Under the direction of Sir Reginald Bray, the palace of Richmond was afterwards built, and many other stately works. Brazen-nose college, Oxford, and Jesus and St. Jon's colleges, Cambridge, were all finished in this reign.

Henry VIII. succeeded his father in 1509, and appointed cardinal Wolsey, Grand Master. This prelate built Hampton court, Whitehall, Christ church college, Oxford, and several other noble edifices; all of which, upon his disgrace, were forfeited to the crown, A. D. 1530. Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, succeeded the cardinal in the office of Grand Master; and employed the fraternity in building St. James's palace, Christ's hospital, and Greenwich castle. In 1534, the king and parliament threw off allegiance to the pope of Rome, and the King being declared supreme head of the church, no less than 926 pious houses were suppressed; many of which were afterwards converted into stately mansions for the nobility and gentry. Under the direction of John Touchet lord Audley, who, on Cromwell's being beheaded in 1540, had succeeded to the office of Grand Master, the fraternity were employed in building Magdalene college, Cambridge, and several other structures.

Edward VI. a minor, succeeded to the throne in 1547, and his guardian and regent, Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, undertook the management of the masons, and built Somerset house in the Strand; which, on his being beheaded, was forfeited to the crown in 1552. John Poynet, bishop of Winchester, then became the patron of the fraternity, and presided over the lodges till the death of the king in 1553.

The masons remained without any nominal patron till the reign of Elizabeth, when Sir Thomas Sackville accepted the office of Grand Master. Lodges were held, during this period, in different parts of England; but the General or Grand Lodge assembled in York, where the fraternity were numerous and respectable.
The following circumstance is recorded of Elizabeth: Hearing that the masons were in possession of secrets which they would not reveal, and being jealous of all secret assemblies, she sent an armed force to York, with intent to break up their annual grand lodge.

[This confirms the observations in a former Note on the existence of the Grand Lodge at York, [Book 4 | Section 2] and seq.]

This design, however, was happily frustrated by the interposition of Sir Thomas Sackville; who took care to initiate some of the chief officers which she had sent on this duty. They joined in communication with the masons, and made so favourable a report to the queen on their return, that she countermanded her orders, and never afterwards attempted to disturb the meetings of the fraternity.

Sir Thomas Sackville held the office of Grand Master till 1567, when he resigned in favour of Francis Russel, earl of Bedford, and Sir Thomas Gresham an eminent merchant, distinguished by his abilities, and great success in trade.

[Sir Thomas Gresham proposed to erect a building, at his own expence, in the city of London, for the service of commerce, if the citizens would purchase a proper spot for that purpose. His proposal being accepted, and some houses between Cornhill and Threadneedle-street, which had been purchased on that account, having been pulled down, on the 7th of June 1566, the foundation stone of the intended building was laid. The work was carried on with such expedition, that the whole was finished in November 1567. The plan of this edifice was formed upon that of the Exchange at Antwerp, being, like it, an oblong square, with a portico, supported by pillars of marble, ten on the north and south sides, and seven on the east and west; under which stood the shops, each seven feet and a half long, and five feet broad; in all 120; twenty-five on each side east and west, thirty-four and a half north, and thirty-five and a half fourth, each of which paid Sir Thomas 41. 10s. a year on an average. There were likewise other shops fitted up at first in the vaults below, but the dampness and darkness rendered them so inconvenient, that the vaults were soon let out to other uses. Upon the roof stood, at each corner, upon a pedestal, a grass-hopper, which was the crest of Sir Thomas's Arms. This edifice, on its being first erected, was called simply, the Bourse; but on the 23rd of January 1570, the queen, attended by a great number of her nobles, came from her palace of Somerset-house in the Strand, and passing through Threadneedle-street, dined with Sir Thomas at his house in Bishopsgage street; and after dinner her majesty returned through Cornhill, entered the Bourse on the south side, and having viewed every part of the building, particularly the gallery which extended round the whole structure, and which was furnished with shops filled with all sorts of the finest wares in the city, she caused the edifice to be proclaimed, in her presence, by a herald and trumpet, "The Royal Exchange;" and on this occasion, it is said, Sir Thomas appeared publicly in the character of Grand Master. The original building stood till the fire of London in 1666, when it perished amidst the general havoc, and was restored to its present magnificence.]

To the former, the care of the brethren in the northern part of the kingdom was assigned, while the latter was appointed to superintended the meetings in the south, where the society had considerably increased, in consequence of the honourable report which had been made to the queen. Notwithstanding this new appointment of a Grand Master for the fourth, the General Assembly continued to meet in the city of York as heretofore, where all the records were kept; and to this assembly, appeals were made on every important occasion.

Home Lectures of the Craft Lectures of the Holy Royal Arch Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite The Royal Order of Scotland York Rite Side Degrees English Knights Templar Order of Women Freemasons Walter Leslie Wilmshurst Preston Illustrations of Masonry Masonic Tutor Support

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