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There is a famous quote from 1759 in the Scottish Grand Lodge to the effect that the Lodge St. Andrews had been ordered from ever using again a painted flooring because "a painted cloth containing the flooring of a Master's Lodge was hanging publicly exposed in a painter's shop," and the Grand Lodge considered that some "pernicious consequences to Masonry" would occur if this event occurred again. This is not a particularly accurate expression of Freemasonry in Scotland at the time; there are a great number of records of Scottish Lodges that were using these floorings for each of the degrees, and in fact there are even records of some of these Floor Cloths, because of their expense, being framed to be hung on the wall when the Lodge was in session.

fig3While the Scots may have been quite thrifty or at least very careful regarding the Lodge's assets, by taking the form of the Lodge from the flooring and putting onto the wall, they inadvertently changed the nature of Masonic symbolism. You would no longer be standing around the Lodge itself or be part of the Lodge itself but rather looking at the Lodge and all of the emblems emblazoned thereon. This I think is one of the significant leaps away from operative Masonry.

I have to get back to the language issue at this point, because the words are starting to change meanings. While the Lodge, that is those groups of men who were Masons, decided to paint a Lodge cloth or Lodge floorings, what they were doing is representing the Lodge and when they were standing around it or in a room where the Lodge flooring was, then they were in the Lodge or at the Lodge as compared to being members of the Lodge. In any event, the earliest floor cloth that I can find a picture of is from 1764; that of the Lurgan Lodge No. 394 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. (see fig. 3.)

There really was no centralized authority or convergence of information regarding any of this, and all of these matters seemed to have sprung up either spontaneously or contemporaneously in different parts of Europe. I won't go into European or Irish Floor Cloths because that would make this just too complicated. But the next step is the gradual change from Floor Cloths on the floor to cloths that were designed specifically to be on raised boards.

fig4In other words, rather than standing around or standing on a Floor Cloth the Lodge would be formed when the cloth was on a board, which was usually suspended by two trestles, therefore the phrase the trestleboard, or alternately the phrase Lodge Board which also causes some ambiguity. What was put on the trestle board were often at least the working tools in the degree that was to be worked. The frontispiece of the 1784 Book of Constitutions shows a trestle board. (see fig. 4) You will notice the two globes, the working tools, the Lewis, the Volume of Sacred Law, &c.

I understand that there’s a Lodge in Bristol that still uses a table with a Lodge cloth on it.

Before I get to Tracing Boards there are a number of issues about drawing the Lodge and the Lodge Floor Cloths and the Lodge Boards that need to be addressed.

1. Freemasonry, A Journey through Ritual and Symbol. W. Kirk MacNulty. Thames and Hudson Ltd, London: 1991. ISBN 0-500-81037-0^

2. It is not in the power of any man. T. O. Haunch. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 85 (1972).Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076: London.^

3. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. 64 (1953) p. 79. Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076: London.^