Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
Historical Importance

The Historical importance of the action of our Masonic ancestors in creating the “Original Grand Lodge”  may be gauged from the fact that the establishment of all Grand Lodges now in existence, must, in no small way be attributed to their foresight.

It must however, be borne in mind that the formation of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1725, and the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736, were created on their volition, and did not stem directly from the Original Grand Lodge of England, although the success and advantages of having one controlling body may have influenced the Freemasons in these areas in doing so.

The three Grand Lodges, that of England, Ireland and Scotland have worked in amity continually since their formation, and periodically hold representative meetings or conferences to discuss and formulate decisions  on Masonic activities and problems, thus creating a good relationship between Freemasons and Freemasonry wherever established.

Authentic Record

Despite the absence of authentic written evidence of the activities of Freemasonry  for a period of time, historians and researchers  have collated sufficient knowledge  for us to accept  a reasonably accurate account of what  actually transpired masonically during the late 17th.  and early 18th. century. From these records it can be found that an earlier attempt  to amalgamate the control and activities of Masonry in the London area  took place  in 1663.

This was a period of time in English history just prior to the double calamity inflicted on London by the Great Plague and Fire in 1665 - 1666.

It is believed that during this early move toward the unification of Masonic control, a statute or constitution based on a version of the then known manuscripts of the “Old Charges” ( the Regius written C. 1390 and the Cooke C. 1425) was considered, and also the possibility of creating a governing body  by a General Assembly and Annual feast as practiced by the Medieval Operative Masons in the 14th. century.

As stated earlier, an authentic historical record of the activities of Freemasonry is unfortunately not available, brought about mainly by the hasty destroying of the minute books and records  of many of the Pre-Grand Lodge  lodges to prevent them falling into the unauthorised and prying hands of those antagonistic  to members of the Craft, (political and religious groups).

It was not until Dr. James Anderson produced his second Book of Constitutions in 1738, that, what is believed to be the first authentic account of  the formation and the actual proceedings of the six earliest years  of the “Original Grand Lodge” became available.  Anderson’s first edition in1723 appears to have been a personal amplification of the Old Charges compiled from the information selected from the Regius and Cooke manuscripts.

It is of interest to know that the originals of these  two old manuscripts , from which over 100 translations have been produced, are now held in the safe custody of the British Museum.

The Four Old Lodges

The Lodges responsible for the formation of the “Original Grand Lodge” have become known and referred to as the Four old Lodges , and designated as :-  the Original No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4.

No. 1 :  The Goose and Gridiron Lodge is believed to  have been constituted in 1691, but probably had a far earlier origin.  When Lodges ceased to be known by their meeting places it became  in 1760 the West Indian and American Lodge.  In 1770 it became the Lodge of Antiquity, and is now No.2 on the register of the        U. G. L.  with the year of constitution being recorded  as “Time Immemorial”.

No. 2 : The Crown Lodge had a rather brief history, having been constituted in 1712, and came to an end between 1736 and 1738.

No. 3 : The Apple and Tree lodge although originally recognised as a ‘Time Immemorial Lodge’  did during 1723 obtain a Grand Lodge Warrant, in doing so it canceled it’s  time immemorial seniority. In 1729 following a re-allocation of Lodge numbers it was relegated to eleventh place in precedence.  In 1768 it became the Lodge of Fortitude , and following amalgamation with the Old Cumberland Lodge  in 1818, is now, the Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, no. 12  on the register of the U. G. L.

No. 4 :  The Rummer and Grapes lodge was considered by many to have been the aristocrat of the Old Lodges. Several of the Earliest grand Masters being members of this lodge.  The lodge took the original number three’s  place in 1729 on the relegation of that lodge to position no. 11, and when No. 2 came to an end C. 1737, it assumed the No. two position, which it retained until the union of the Moderns and Ancients in 1813.

In 1747 owing to non-attendance at quarterly communications, the lodge was erased from the list of lodges, and was only restored after the intervention of George Payne the second grand Master.

Moving it’s meeting place to the Horn Tavern the lodge became known as the Horn Lodge until 1774 when it amalgamated with the Somerset House Lodge .  it is now known as the Royal Somerset and Inverness Lodge No. 4 and is one of the two ‘Time Immemorial” lodges on the register of lodges of the United Grand Lodge.

The Inauguration of the “Original Grand Lodge”

In 1716 representatives of the Four Old Lodges meeting in London,  met at a preliminary meeting , agreed and thought it fit to combine the Lodges under a Grand Master as a Centre of Union and Harmony. (Wow ! . . . in these days responsibility for ten or more lodges only warrants a D.G.I.W.)

Later, they, and some Old Brethren met, and having elected the oldest Master Mason present to the chair, they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge Pro-tem  in due form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly communications of Officers of Lodges ( now called the Grand Lodge), and resolved to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast,  and then to choose a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.

In accordance with this resolution, the Communication incorporating the Annual Assembly and Feast of Free and Accepted Masons was held at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse on St. John’s Day, 24th. June, 1717.

The oldest Master Mason, (now the Master of a Lodge), in the chair, submitted a list of eligible candidates, and the brethren present by a majority show of hands elected Anthony Sayer, Grand Master of Masons, who was duly invested and paid homage by the assembly.

The Grand Master commanded the Masters and members of the lodges to meet the Grand Officers every quarter in communication at the place he should appoint in his summons sent by the Tyler.

The practice of holding Quarterly Communications appears to be a custom which has traditionally remained an integral part of English Freemasonry throughout the intervening 280 plus, years of Grand Lodge Control.

Some Observations

Let me now draw your attention to a number of points which may, or may not have caught your attention in the foregoing talk.

1.  Although we constantly refer to the start of modern Freemasonry as      being  synonymous with the formation of the first Grand lodge in 1717, a previous attempt to establish a Grand Lodge or Controlling body was made fifty four years previously. Might not ‘Modern’ freemasonry have dated from at least 1663 ?

2.  as early as 1663 Freemasonry had it’s political and religious detractors, so what else is new ?

3.  Dr. James Anderson produced, at the request of the Grand Lodge, a Book of Constitutions in 1723 which he revised in 1738, N.B. : Constitutions - Plural, a substantial portion of Masonic Jurisdictions throughout the world refer to the Book of Constitution - singular. For no apparent reason other than it’s what they have always called  it.

  1. 4.   A “Time Immemorial Lodge” what a wonderful expression, who could mistake the antiquity implied by that expression.

5.  One can only but imagine the maneuvering which took place even in those days long past, to achieve precedence in the standing of one’s lodge. Only a few years ago if two lodges in N.S.W. consolidated the resulting new lodge had to assume the number of the older lodge. But today, there are a variety of options from which to select both the Name and the Number for the new Lodge arising from consolidation.

6.  Did you notice that it was the duty of the Tyler to issue/deliver the summonses for the Quarterly Communications of the Grand Lodge.

7.  The term “Quarterly Communication” appears to have been in use since the establishment of the first Grand Lodge. Also, you will note, that in 1747 a Lodge could be erased from the list of lodges, for non attendance at grand Lodge Quarterly Communications.

Gleaned from the Hobart Lodge of Research, 1967 Transactions
This address given by Wor. Bro. A. R. Kempster, the Secretary of the Hobart Lodge of Research