Freemasonry, what do you really know about it?
Where did it all start?
There are several theories about the origins of Freemasonry, ranging from ancient builders to medieval stonemasons.
Still to this day, the roots of modern Freemasonry are the subject of intense speculation, but the general consensus among Masonic scholars is that they lie with the medieval stonemasons that built our castles and cathedrals.
When, Where and How Freemasonry started is still a question yet to be fully answered. It is accepted that most probably, Freemasonry takes its origins from the medieval stonemasons who built many of our castles and cathedrals.
Castle Acre Priory
Early stonemasons like many occupations at this time belonged to Guilds, (a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants,) Goldsmiths, Butchers, Bakers, Smiths and many more alike. Stonemasons often erected “Lodges” on the site of a major work. These stonemasons were known as “Operative” Masons.
The Lodges started to employ a reputable notary as a secretary, and they should record all important transactions. So, we see the first mention of lodges and also, more importantly, the bringing into the Lodge of non-operative masons, or as they are called “Speculative” Masons.
The Beginning of the First Grand Lodge
On St John’s Day, 24 June 1717, four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard, declared themselves a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer as their first Grand Master. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world. This was the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge, the first of its kind anywhere in the world and the origins of the United Grand Lodge of England.
1725 saw the Grand Lodge of Ireland established.
In 1736, the Grand Lodge of Scotland was established.
A rival Grand Lodge appeared in London with different practices. London Scottish and Irish Freemasons had formed a rival Grand Lodge in 1751, labelling the original Grand Lodge ‘Moderns’ and calling themselves ‘Ancient’s’. The two rivals existed side by side – both at home and abroad – for nearly 63 years, neither recognising each other as regular.
Harmony in 1813
After nearly 63 years, the two Grand Lodges in England united on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This union led to a great deal of standardisation of ritual, procedures and regalia.
Operating under the core values of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth – now expressed in the guiding principles of Integrity, Respect, Friendship and Charity – English Freemasonry attracted people from all walks of life and spread around the globe. In the times before a welfare state, it created charities to look after the wellbeing of members and their families, but over time it has evolved into a major supporter of charities and causes beyond Freemasonry throughout local communities across the country.
More Information on the history and traditions of Freemasonry can be found on the main United Grand Lodge of England website. www.ugle.org.uk
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Browse our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about Freemasonry. We will answer everything you need to know!
What is Freemasonry?
WHAT WE ARE (Purpose)
We are a unique members’ organisation which has thrived for over 300 years. Having no political or religious affiliations, we comprise members of all ages, races, religions, cultures and backgrounds. We meet in our individual Lodges throughout the country where we have ceremonial traditions which encourage us both to be more tolerant and respectful and actively to fulfil our civic and charitable responsibilities; we also make time to eat, drink and meet together, and form lifelong friendships.
WHAT WE AIM FOR (Vision)
To attract those from all backgrounds and walks of life, enabling them to develop into more thoughtful and confident people. To inspire and challenge them to practise the core values we celebrate – Integrity, Friendship, Respect, Charity – in their private and public lives. To cement our reputation as a force for good in our communities and society at large and as a thriving organisation that people aspire to join.
INTEGRITY: Rather than working on buildings like the masons of old, today’s Freemasons focus on building themselves as people of integrity, and membership provides the structure to help achieve that goal.
FRIENDSHIP: One of the oldest social organisations in the world, Freemasonry is not defined by an ideology. It is open to people from all religions and political persuasions, and provides the common foundation for friendships between members, many of which will last for life.
RESPECT: With a membership of more than 150,000 people drawn from communities across the UK, Freemasonry brings people together irrespective of their race, religion or any other perceived differences that can divide us as a society.
CHARITY: Kindness and charitable giving are deeply ingrained within the principles of Freemasonry. The organisation provides a support structure that helps members make positive contributions to communities and worthwhile causes through fundraising events or volunteer work.
Why become a Freemason?
People join Freemasonry for many different reasons, some join for the friendships they will make; friendships that last a lifetime and encompass the key milestones in life for better or worse. You will meet people who are different to you, those of different ages with radically different life experiences and interests, drawn together by common experience through Freemasonry.
Our members are, and have been for three centuries, drawn from all walks of life. From Captains of industry and chief executives to manual labourers and forklift truck drivers, so you will find people with a wealth of different outlooks from all races, religions, classes and backgrounds.
There are also those who enjoy the ceremonial aspects. Our meetings consist of centuries old lessons centered around you as an individual. How you live your life, the decisions that you make and how to become a better person are all found within our meetings.
Freemasons are taught to look after those less fortunate than themselves, charity is our lifeblood and many members devote their time and energy to helping those less fortunate than themselves.
We also have a huge amount of fun along the way, we eat, drink and meet together and form lifelong friendships.
What goes on in a Lodge Meeting?
There are three ‘degree ceremonies’ performed during masonic meetings. They are essentially one act plays and teach members how to be better people and each play represents a different stage in life.
As an ‘initiate’ or Entered Apprentice, Freemasons are taught we are all born equal, we learn that in life some do better than others and it is up to those that do well to look after the less fortunate. From this stems our belief in the importance of Charity.
The next stage is to become a ‘Fellow Craft’ where Freemasons are taught the importance of improving yourself as a person, and finally as a ‘Master Mason’, where we learn that we have but one life, and the importance of using it wisely.
The details of the ceremonies can easily be accessed online but nothing beats experiencing it for yourself.
After the meetings members dine together informally in order to enjoy good food, good wine, and good company. And most importantly, to have fun together.
Why do Freemasons wear aprons?
The aprons stem from our historical and symbolic roots as stonemasons. Being leather, they were designed to protect them from sharp tools and rough stones. For today’s Freemasons, the apron is a mark of their membership. They are presented with a white leather apron and as they progress this becomes more elaborate.
Can women be members?
Only men aged over 18 are allowed to join the United Grand Lodge of England in England and Wales.
The two leading women’s Grand Lodges, that we have the closest relationship, with are: Freemasonry for Women and the Order of Women Freemasons. These two groups only admit women because that is the choice of their memberships. Both of the women’s organisations, and ourselves, prefer to practice our Freemasonry in single sex environments. The United Grand Lodge of England regularly hires its facilities out for meetings of the two women’s Lodges due to our mutual respect and close relations.
What is different about the way Freemasons give to charity?
It is the sheer scale. We are one of the biggest charitable givers in the country and gave £51.1m to charities in 2020 alone.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ Charity – our national charitable grant giving arm, tackles some of the most significant challenges facing society, in particular, reducing loneliness in later life and ensuring a positive future for young children. We work in partnership with some of the biggest charities in the country to deliver our support.
Freemasonry also does a huge amount for medical research into treatments for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a whole range of other conditions. In addition it makes donations to support those affected by overseas disasters as well as those at home, such as the Grenfell Tower disaster.
During the Covid Pandemic Freemasons working together to help their communities. The United Grand Lodge of England, and its members, are doing all they can to help in the fight the coronavirus. We have seen remarkable stories from across the country of how our members came together – from helping to raise vital funds for the NHS and delivering food to the community, through to purchasing ambulances and manufacturing vital personal protective equipment (PPE). To support Freemasonry’s charitable response to the coronavirus pandemic, UGLE and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ charity, established the Freemasons’ COVID-19 Community Fund.
This Fund has helped to support a range of local and national charities and projects that are helping people through the current coronavirus pandemic and in total has donated £3m during the pandemic.
Is Freemasonry International?
Freemasonry exists throughout the world and the United Grand Lodge of England has Districts in many overseas countries. Our members are free to visit any of our Lodges abroad and will often find a warm welcome from fellow members who know the local country very well.
In addition to our Lodges, many other counties have sovereign grand lodges, which our members are free to visit and whose members visit us in England and Wales when travelling.
How many Freemasons are there in the UK?
The United Grand Lodge of England has 180,000 members. The Grand Lodge of Scotland has approx. 27,000 members and The Grand Lodge of Ireland has approx. 20,000 members, whilst the two female Grand Lodges in England comprise of around 5,000 members. Worldwide there are estimated to be around six million members.
How much does it cost to become a Freemason?
On average the annual dues and other fees amount to £200 a year, although there are local variations.
Do you have to believe in a God?
When becoming a Freemason, members are expected to be able to affirm a belief in a ‘Supreme Being’. This is deliberately phrased so as to be fully inclusive; most of our members generally believe in a God – be it Christian, Muslim, Sikh or Jewish etc – of some sort, and there is no requirement to be an active practitioner of any particular religion.
A video explaining Freemasonry and looking what it means to some of its members.
You maybe interested in learning more about Freemasonry, if so, our main United Grand Lodge site has much more information. Or head over to our very own recruitment site, Just Ask One, www.justaskone.org
Joining a Lodge in East Kent
One of the biggest misconseptions about Freemasonry, and there are many, is that you have to be asked to join. This is totally unture, all you need to do is, JUST ASK