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

The queen being assured that the fraternity were composed of skilful architects, and lovers of the Arts, and that state affairs were points in which they never interfered, was perfectly reconciled to their assemblies, and masonry made a great progress at this period. During her reign, lodges were held in different places of the kingdom, particularly in London, and its environs, where the brethren increased considerably, and several great works were carried on, under the auspices of Sir Thomas Gresham, from whom the fraternity received every encouragement.

Charles Howard, earl of Essingham, succeeded Sir Thomas in the office of Grand Master, and continued to preside over the lodges in the fourth till the year 1588, when George Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, was chosen, who remained in that office till the death of the queen in 1603.

On the demise of Elizabeth, the crowns of England and Scotland were united in here successor James VI. of Scotland, who was proclaimed king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the 25th of March 1603. At this period, masonry flourished in both kingdoms, and lodges were convened under the royal patronage. Several gentlemen of fine taste returned from their travels, full of laudable emulation to revive the old Roman and Grecian masonry. These ingenious travellers brought home fragments of old columns, curious drawings, and books of architecture. Among the number was the celebrated Inigo Jones, son of Inigo Jones, a citizen of London, who was put apprentice to a joiner, and had a natural taste for the art of designing. He was first renowned for his skill in landscape painting, and was patronized by the learned William Herbert, afterward earl of Pembroke. He made the tour of Italy at his lordship's expence, and improved under some of the best disciples of the famous Andrea Palladio. On his return to England, having laid aside the pencil and confined his study to architecture, he became the Vitruvius of Britain, and the rival of Palladio.

This celebrated artist was appointed general surveyor to king James I. under whose auspices the science of masonry flourished. He was nominated Grand Master of England, and was deputized by his sovereign to preside over the lodges.

[The Grand Master of the North bears the title of Grand Master of all England, which may probably have been occasioned by the title of Grand Master of England having been at this time conferred by Inigo Jones, and which title the Grand Masters in the South bear to this day.]

During his administration, several learned men were initiated into masonry, and the society considerably increased in reputation and consequence. Ingenious artists daily resorted to England, where they met with great encouragement. Lodges were constituted as seminaries of instruction in the sciences and polite arts, after the model of the Italian schools; the communications of the fraternity were established, and the annual festivals regularly observed.

Many curious and magnificent structures were finished under the direction of this accomplished architect; and, among the rest, he was employed, by command of the sovereign, to plan a new palace at Whitehall, worthy the residence of the kings of England, which he accordingly executed; but for want of a parliamentary fund, no more of the plan than the present Banqueting-house was ever finished. In 1607, the foundation stone of this elegant piece of true masonry was laid by king James, in presence of Grand Master Jones, and his wardens, William Herbert earl of Pembroke, and Nicholas Stone esq. master-mason of England, who were attended by many brothers, clothed in form, and other eminent persons, invited on the occasion. The ceremony was conducted with the greatest pomp and splendor, and a purse of broad pieces of gold laid upon the stone, to enable the masons to regale. This building is said to contain the finest single room of its extent since the days of Augustus, and was intended for the reception of ambassadors, and other audiences of state. The whole is a regular and stately building, of three stories; the lowest has a rustic wall, with small square windows, and by its strength happily serves as a basis for the orders. Upon this is raised the Ionic, with columns and pilasters; and between the columns, are well-proportioned windows, with arched and pointed pediments: over these, is placed the proper entablature: on which is raised a second series of the Corinthian order, consisting of columns and pilasters, like the other, column being placed over column, and pilaster over pilaster. From the capitals are carried festoons, which meet with masks, and other ornaments, in the middle. This series is also crowned with its proper entablature, on which is raised the balustrade, with attic pedestals between, which crown the work. The whole is finely proportioned, and happily executed. The projection of the columns from the wall, has a fine effect in the entablatures; which being brought forward in the same proportion, yields that happy diversity of light and shade so essential to true architecture. The internal decorations are also striking. The cieling of the grand room, in particular, which is now used as a chapel, is richly painted by the celebrated Sir Peter Paul Rubens, who was ambassador in England in the time of Charles I. The subject is, the entrance, inauguration, and coronation of king James, represented by pagan emblems; and it is justly esteemed one of the most capital performances of this eminent master. It has been pronounced one of the finest cielings in the world.

Inigo Jones continued in the office of Grand Master till the year 1618, when he was succeeded by the earl of Pembroke; under whose auspices many eminent , wealthy, and learned men were initiated, and the mysteries of the Order held in high estimation.

On the death of king James in 1625, Charles ascended the throne. The earl of Pembroke presided over the fraternity till 1630, when he resigned in favour of Henry Danvers, earl of Danby; who was succeeded in 1633 by Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, the progenitor of the Norfolk family. In 1635, Francis Russel, earl of Bedford, accepted the government of the society; but Inigo Jones having, with indefatigable assiduity, continued to patronize the lodges during his lordship's administration, he was re-elected the following year and continued in office till his death in 1646.

[That lodges continued regularly to assemble at this time, appears from the Diary of the learned antiquary, Elias Ashmole, where he says: 'I was made a free-mason at Warrington, Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Mainwaring, of Kerthingham, in Cheshire, by Mr. Richard Penket the Warden, and the fellow-crafts, (all of whom are specified,) on 16th October 1646.' In another place of his Diary he says: 'On March the 10th, 1682, about 5 hor. post merid. I received a summons to appear at a lodge, to be held the next day at Masons' Hall in London. - March 11, Accordingly I went, and about noon were admitted into the fellowship of free-masons, Sir William Wilson knt. Capt. Richard Porthwick, Mr. William Woodman, Mr. William Gray, Mr. Samuel Taylour, and Mr. William Wise. I was the senior fellow among them, it being thirty-five years since I was admitted. There were present, beside myself, the fellows after-named; Mr. Thomas Wise, master of the masons' company this present year. Mr. Thomas Shorthose, and 7 more old free-masons. We all dined at the Half-moon tavern, Cheapside, at a noble dinner prepared at the charge of the new accepted masons.'
An old record of the Society describes a coat of arms much the same with that of the London company of freemen masons; whence it is generally believed that this company is a branch of that ancient fraternity; and in former times, no man, it also appears, was made free of that company, until he was initiated in some lodge of free and accepted masons, as a necessary qualification. This practice still prevails in Scotland among the operative masons.
The writer of Mr. Ashmole's life, who was not a mason, before his History of Berkshire, p. 5. gives the following account of masonry:
"He (Mr. Ashmole) was elected a brother of the company of free-masons; a favour esteemed to singular by the members, that kings themselves have not disdained to enter themselves of this Society. From these are derived the adopted masons, accepted masons, or free-masons; who are known to one another all over the world, by certain signals and watch-words known to them alone. They have several lodges in different countries for their reception; and when any of them fall into decay, the brotherhood is to relieve them. The manner of their adoption or admission is very formal and solemn, and with the administration of an oath of secrecy, which has had better fate than all other oaths, and has ever been most religiously observed; nor has the world been yet able, by the inadvertency, surprise, or folly of any of its members, to dive into this mystery, or make the least discover."
In some of Mr. Ashmole's manuscripts, there are many valuable collections relating to the history of the free-masons, as may be gathered from the letters of Dr. Knipe of Christ-church, Oxford, to the publisher of Ashmole's life; the following extracts from which will authenticate and illustrate many facts in this history:
"As to the ancient Society of free-masons, concerning whom you are desirous of knowing what may be known with certainty, I shall only tell you, that if our worthy brother E. Ashmole esq. had executed his intended design, our fraternity had been as much obliged to him as the brethren of the most noble Order of the Garter. I would not have you surprised at this expression or think it at all too assuming. The Sovereigns of that Order have not disdained our fellowship, and there have been times when Emperors were also free-masons. What from Mr. Ashmole's collection I could gather was, that the report of our Society taking rise from a bull granted by the pope in the reign of Henry VI. to some Italian architects, to travel over all Europe to erect chapels, was ill-founded. Such a bull there was, and those architects were masons. But this bull, in the opinion of the learned Mr. Ashmole, was confirmative only, and did not by any means create our fraternity, or even establish them in this kingdom. But as to the time and manner of that establishment, something I shall relate from the same collections.
"St. Alban, the proto-martyr, established masonry here, and from his time it flourished, more or less, according as the world went, down to the days of king Athelstane, who, for the sake of his brother Edwin, granted the masons a charter. Under our Norman princes they frequently received extraordinary marks of royal favour. There is no doubt to be made, that the skill of masons, which was always transcendently great, even in the most barbarous times; their wonderful kindness and attachment to each other, how different soever in condition; and their inviolable fidelity in keeping religiously their secrets; must have exposed them, in ignorant, troublesome, and superstitious times, to a vast variety of adventures, according to the different state of parties, and other alterations in government. By the way, it may be noted, that the masons were always loyal, which exposed them to great severities when power wore the appearance of justice, and those who committed treason punished true men as traitors. Thus, in the 3d year of Henry VI. an act passed to abolish the society of masons, and to hinder, under grievous penalties, the holding chapters, lodges, or other regular assemblies; yet this act was afterwards [virtually] repealed; and even before that, king Henry and several lords of his court, became fellows of the craft.']

The taste of this celebrated architect was displayed in many curious and elegant structures, both in London and the country; particularly in designing the magnificent row of Great Queen-street, and the west side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, with Lindsey-house in the centre; the late Chirurgions's hall and theatre, now Barbers-hall, in Monkwell-street; Shaftesbury-house, late the London lying-in hospital for married women, in Aldersgate-street; Bedford-house in Bloomsbury-square; Berkley-house, Piccadilly, lately burnt, and rebuilt, now in the possession of the duke of Devonshire; and York-stairs, at Thames, &c. Beside these, he designed Gunnersbury-house near Brentford; Wilton-house in Wiltshire; Castle-abbey in Northampton-shire; Stoke-park; part of the quadrangle at St. John's, Oxford; Charlton-house, and Cobham-hall, in Kent; Coles-hill in Berkshire; and the Grange, in Hampshire.
The breaking out of the civil wars obstructed the progress of masonry in England for some time. After the Restoration, however, it began to revive under the patronage of Charles II. who had been received into the Order during his exile.

[Some lodges in the reign of Charles II. were constituted by leave of the several noble Grand Masters, and many gentlemen and famous scholars requested at that time to be admitted of the fraternity.]

On the 27th December 1663, a general assembly was held, at which Henry Jermyn, earl of St. Alban's, was elected Grand Master; who appointed Sir John Denham knt. his deputy, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Christopher Wren, and John Webb his wardens.

[He was the only son of Dr. Christopher Wren, dean of Windsor, and was born in 1632. His genius for arts and sciences appeared early. At the age of thirteen, he invented a new astronomical instrument, by the name of Pan-organum, and wrote a treatise on the origin of rivers. He invented a new pneumatic engine, and a peculiar instrument of use in gnomonics, to solve this problem, viz. 'On a known plane, in a known elevation, to describe such lines with the expedite turning of rundles to certain divisions, as by the shadow of the style may shew the equal hours of the day.' In 1646, at the age of 14, he was admitted a gentleman commoner in Wadham college, Oxon, where he greatly improved under the instructions and friendship of Dr. John Wilkins and Dr. Seth Ward, who were gentlemen of great learning, and afterward promoted by king Charles II. to the mitre. His other numerous juvenile productions in mathematics, prove him to be a scholar of the highest eminence. He assisted Dr. Scarborough in anatomical preparations, and experiments upon the muscles of the human body; whence are dated the first introduction of geometrical and mechanical speculations in anatomy. He wrote discourses on the longitude; on the variations of the magnetical needle; de re nautica veterum; how to find the velocity of a ship in failing; of the improvements of gallies; and how to recover wrecks. Beside these, he treated on the convenient way of using artillery on shipboard; how to build on deep water; how to build a mole into the sea, without puzzolan dust, or cisterns; and of the improvement of river navigation, by the joining of rivers. In short, the works of this excellent genius appear to be rather the united efforts of a whole century, than the production of one man.]

Several useful regulations * were made at this assembly, for the better government of the lodges, and the greatest harmony prevailed among the whole fraternity.

[Among other regulations made at this assembly, were the following:

  1. That no person, of what degree soever, be made or accepted a free-mason unless in a regular lodge, whereof one to be a Master or a Warden in that limit or division where such lodge is kept, and another to be a craftsman in the trade of free-masonry.
  2. That no person hereafter shall be accepted a free-mason, but such as are of able body, honest parentage, good reputation, and an observer of the laws of the land.
  3. That no person hereafter who shall be accepted a free-mason, shall be admitted into any lodge or assembly, until he has brought a certificate of the time and place of his acceptation from the lodge that accepted him, unto the Master shall enrole the same in a roll of parchment to be kept for that purpose, and shall give an account of all such acceptations at every general assembly.
  4. That every person who is now a free-mason, shall bring to the Master a note of the time of his acceptation, to the end the same may be enrolled in such priority of place as the brother deserves; and that the whole company and fellows may the better know each other.
  5. That for the future the said fraternity of free-masons shall be regulated and governed by one Grand Master, and as many Wardens as the said Society shall think fit to appoint at every annual general assembly.
  6. That no person shall be accepted, unless he be twenty-one years old, or more.

Many of the fraternity's records of this and the preceding reign were lost at the Revolution; and not a few were too hastily burnt in our own times by some scrupulous brothers, from a fear of making discoveries prejudicial to the interests of masonry.]

Thomas Savage, earl of Rivers, having succeeded the earl of St. Alban's in the office of Grand Master in June 1666, Sir Christopher Wren was appointed Deputy under his lordship, and distinguished himself more than any of his predecessors in office, in promoting the prosperity of the few lodges which occasionally met at this time; particularly the old lodge of St. Paul's, now the lodge of Antiquity, which he patronized upwards of 18 years.

[It appears from the records of the Lodge of Antiquity, that Mr. Wren at this time attended the meetings regularly, and that, during his presidency, he presented to that lodge, three mahogany candlesticks, at that time truly valuable, which are still preserved, and highly prized, as a memento of the esteem of the honorable donor.]

The honours which this celebrated character afterwards received in the society, are evident proofs of the unfeigned attachment of the fraternity toward him.

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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