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