Guilds and the leap to Freemasonry


Guilds and the leap to Freemasonry,

notes and comments from Bill McElligott and Peter Taylor.

Anything I say is just my opinion. Many will say something completely different, it just feels plausible to me.

Have a look at The Salters Company, salt trading was absolutely enormous and with the kings blessing many made fortunes.

These are the people who put on the Lord Mayors show.

Election of Lord Mayor

Together with all other Livery companies, The Salters’ Company plays an important role in the governance of the City of London, including the election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the two sheriffs who serve as his assistants. Livery companies also participate in ceremonial occasions like the Lord Mayor’s Show, a popular event held the day after the Lord Mayor takes office in November that includes a procession to Westminster where the new Lord Mayor is sworn in.

Have a read of the history an wonder what you would think of doing if you were an academic or an operative Mason around the 1400’s say 1475. You may aspire to emulate that which you see in operation that kept its members safe.

Most of the livery Companies seem to either have taken on a role within the education area or because they were appointed by the Monarch taken on inspection within their trade.

The Guilds themselves seemed to die off, just evolution I think.

I watched with Peter the DVD of the Scottish / Royal Society connection I think you can buy it from UGLE ‘The Scottish Key’ there is an add clip on you tube

The stone Masons became the object of imitation I believe, they were the most powerful of the Guilds, having dealings with both the Church and The Charitable side of the community. I don’t think we should kid anyone I suspect much of this was done like it is done today for profit.

Today in the UK the Builders that are doing OK are the ones that have links with The Housing Associations, they the Housing Ass. in turn obtain funds from Government to purchase new housing, there have just been some hefty fines given to most of the large construction companies for price fixing.

Just imagine for a moment the Church, the City Aldermen and the Builders in 1565 for example, I wonder if they did something similar ? yeah right they did it all for the benefit of mankind.

Not so easy to do if your the fishmonger.

But many of the Guilds, and it is difficult to see where the guilds ended and the Worshipful Companies began have today massive funds available to them, have a look at what some of the Worshipful companies do today.

I worked for one of the Livery Companies, this was about 10 years ago, at there main Hall in London I met 2 young ladies who worked there. They told me what their jobs were. One had to travel round the country buying Silver Plate items and the other purchased cut Glass items. These items were for the display cases in the Hall. So these Guys live in a different world from myself, good luck to them. But I think you get the idea.

Let me give you an insight into why I came to the conclusion below.

This is from a web site of one of the Livery Companies it is a summary of the history of, The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers
The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers has its origins in medieval times. Throughout six and a half centuries it has moved away from its historical involvement in the trade of haberdashery and developed into a significant supporter of schools and education in England and Wales

The Company has its roots in a fraternity, a group of people who lived in the same area doing the same sort of work in medieval times and who worshipped at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Members were haberdashers by trade. They sold ribbons, beads, purses, gloves, pins, caps and toys and in 1502 were joined by the hatmakers’ fraternity. Thereafter there were two types of haberdasher: haberdashers of hats and the original haberdashers of small wares.

The first surviving ordinances were recorded by the Mayor’s Court in 1371. In 1446 the Company adopted its first Coat of Arms, an important symbol when many people could not read. In 1448 the Company was granted a charter of incorporation by Henry VI enabling it to hold land and to have its own Hall in which to hold meetings. The first of three subsequent Halls was built on the corner of Staining Lane and Maiden Lane (now Gresham Street) in 1459.

By 1650 the population of London had grown to such an extent that it was no longer possible to control the haberdashery trade. This resulted in a change of direction, over a long period, to the Company as it is now, with its emphasis on education and charitable giving. To this day the Company continues its historical involvement in the governance of the City of London.

Generally I agree with Peter the Great here, the most plausible origin of the word Freemason is Free Stone Mason.

‘Freestone’ was easier to work with, to make ornate stonework.

But it was a long period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the beginning of the Early Modern Period in the 16th century, a millennium. A lot of things happen in a thousand years.

I believe the Guilds had more influence than most give them credit for and then I believe the Worshipful or the Livery Companies completed the transformation by including academics into the Birth of Freemasonry.

Scotland or the ‘Operative’ Scottish Stone Masons, I think greatly influenced these academics and by 1630 say, the seedlings of what we know today as Speculative Freemasonry were sewn.

The Guilds were extremely powerful and lets say in 1275 if you wanted to be a Tailor in Norwich the Guild were the people who decided if you would be allowed to be a tailor.

As time passed the power of the Guild was replaced by the contacts drawn up between City managers, usually a Mayor and a Livery Company, now these Livery Companies were mostly appointed by the Crown, so you can see it as a shift in power between the ‘Unions’ and the ‘Government’ if you will. Remember at this time the Government was what the King wanted.

So show me the connection I hear you shout. …. OK

The Lord Mayor would be referred to as ‘His Worship the Lord Mayor’

The ‘top dog’ of the Livery Company would be called The Worshipful Master.

If you would like to search ‘Worshipful Companies’ you will find they have a Master and Wardens. If you search Guilds you will find they had Masters , Wardens, Stewards, Almoners. The Guilds were the mainstay of the Almshouses. Most Guilds put on morality plays in the streets to raise money for Almshouses. You can find most of this on line now.

One of the largest building campaigns of the 14th / 16th century was Almshouses along with Cathedrals and Churches, they went hand in hand.
Then in London ‘1666’ after the great fire there was a further boom in building of stone and brick, for it was the timber that created the devastation. Who was in the middle of this boom ‘The Operative Masons’.

Much of the reconstruction in London would have had ornate stonework, this would have been very largely from ‘Freestone’.

I think the term was probably “free stone” mason, which many have sought to link as an origin of the word Freemason.

Prior to 1350 all masons came under the general term caemantarii which had been a common name for them in much earlier times, but in 1350 a statute was passed which fixed the wages of “master freestone masons” at four pennies a day, of other masons at three pennies, and of their servants (apprentices) at one and one-half pennies. He says this phrase Mestre mason de franche pere is most significant for the probable origin of the term “freemason.” In 1360 the statute was amended which fixed the wages of the “chief masters of masons” (chiefs mestres de maceons) at four pennies a day, and the other masons at two pennies or three pennies according to their worth, and then went on to provide that: “All alliances and covines of masons and carpenters, and congregations, chapters, ordinances and oaths betwixt them made, or to be made, shall be from henceforth void and wholly annulled; so that every mason and carpenter, of what condition that he be, shall be compelled by his master to whom he serveth to do every work that to him pertaineth to do, or of free stone, or of rough stone.” Here again is an indication suggestive of the original derivation of “freemason” from “free stone.”

Many of the masons were bondmen or serfs under the old feudal system, but no serf or bondman was accepted into the masons’ guilds. Many masons, who had enough work near their homes and had no need to travel, did not join the Guilds, but the guild was of extreme importance to those masons who travelled from place to place for work. Coulton surmises that the term “freemason” might have grown up; it did gradually come to connote certain privileges enjoyed by the master masons that belonged to the guilds.

In the original building records of Eton College near Oxford (which was begun in February 1441) Coulton states that often the same man would be called “mason,” “freemason” or “master mason,” just as an English college teacher might be called “master,” “doct or” or “professor.” The accountant at first calls the freemasons simply “masons” and adds the full title as time goes on, but by February 1442 the payroll listed 41 employees as “freemasons,” which was a separate classification of masons. The payroll listed, for instance, on the week ending May 28, 1442: 49 freemasons, 14 rough masons, 16 carpenters, 2 sawyers, 2 daubers, 1 jacker, 1 tiler, 10 hard hewers and 28 labourers. Six years later, an estimate for the chapel work in the same building reckons the need of 40 to 60 “freemasons,” 12 to 20 masons of Kent called “hard hewers” and 12 layers.

In 1444 we have the first statutory occurrence of the name freemason – “frank mason.” Such freemasons, like master carpenters, are to take five pennies a day, while the rough-mason and under-carpenter take only four pennies.

In 1495 the statute is in English, and the word is “freemason.” He and the rough-mason are now valued at the same wage of six pennies a day. In 1513 the master-mason who contracted to finish King’s College Chapel undertook to “keep continually 60 ‘freemasons’ working upon the same works.” In 1515 the “freemasons, rough-masons and carpenters” of the City of London sent a petition to the King. In 1548, for the first time in any one statute comes the three-fold classification of “freemasons, rough- masons, and hard-hewers.”

In Sir Thomas Elyot’s Latin Dictionary (1538) caementarium is translated” rough masons, which do make only walls.” In Cooper’s Latin Dictionary (1578) caementarius is translated “a dauber, a pargeter, a rough-mason”; and latomas is translated as “a mason, one that cutteth and diggeth stones.” In 1602 the Oxford English Dictionary states that at Burford, the “master freemason” and the “master roughmason” who were employed together on a job were paid five pennies a day.

G.G. Coupon of St. Johns College, Cambridge, England, entitled Medieval Faith and Symbolism (published by Harper and Brothers, New York).

have not seen any reference that would support this, but I have not seen everything so ??

The Morality play seems to be a reasoned starting point for Modern Freemasonry. The world in England over these years would have been heavily Christian, and racked with feuding between Catholic and Protestant factions. In either camp the basic story of Solomon and the Temples would have been acceptable to both, being Old Testament it did not encroach on the Christian doctrine.

So it is not beyond the reach of imagination to see a play in the street giving direction to the people in simple terms, a bit like a Nativity, that we would be more used to today.

My own view is that certain small group of individuals around the turn of the century 1675 / 1700, wanted to find a new way to keep decent like minded people together because they had enough of the Church bickerings
and the influence of the Crown and Nobility over all things. My bet is that it was protectionism ? we may want to give it fancy romantic ideals today but I think it was a case of survival.

Remember , a citizen at this time could be executed for being a Catholic, or thrown into jail.

Wikipedia = Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, re-established independence from Rome in a 1559 settlement and was finally excommunicated in 1570. Roman Catholicism continued in England, although it was subject to various forms of persecution, with most recusant members (except those in diaspora on the continent or part of the aristocracy) going underground for all practical purposes until 1832 when the Catholic Emancipation Act came into force.

Being Catholic in England duringthe latter years of Elizebeth 1 reign was a dangerous thing to be. So likewise was not keeping the Protestant line.

So it is easy to see where the secrecy came into being and the desire not to write anything down.

When GLs were being formed say around 1717, in England and in Ireland there were probably no more than a handful of Lodges actually in existence. In fact there was no Operative Lodge in England at all. The lack of quarried stone and the rapid expansion of the use of bricks in England meant that the stonemason’s trade had all but died out. Even Henry VIII had some spectacular palaces built of brick!

The matter was somewhat different in Scotland. Whilst manufacture and use began in the 17th century it was with the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century that the use of brick really came into prominence in Scotland. In fact it was Scottish Operative Stonemason’s Lodge that carried most of the work in England. London Bridge and the foundations of the Houses of Parliament are good examples.

In the early 1700s when a few Lodges in Edinburgh decide they would create a Grand Lodge they decided to invite all of the Lodges in Scotland to attend a meeting to discuss this possibility. There were in excess of 100 Lodge working in Scotland at that time, (remember none in England which had a much larger population as well. Operative Lodges had been controlled by the Schaw statutes of 1598 and 1599, but still retained much autonomy). Of that 100 plus who were invited 33 turned up. 12 decided not to vote in favour of a GL; the 12 that voted no were a mix of operative and non-operative members, the 21 that did were purely “non-operative in nature”. So more that 79% of Lodges in Scotland didn’t want a GL.

The New GL, created in 1736, adopted the model of the GLE, although much of the “traditions” of the Operative Lodges were retained, (different aprons for example). Soon after the 3rd degree was adopted also, which further distanced the vast majority of Lodges in Scotland as the highest degree in these Lodges was the FC and they wished not to associate with the non-operative Lodges who accused FCs of committing a criminal act, (see 3rd degree). This situation lasted until 1746 when Kilwinning broke away and started chartering Lodges again. There were now 3 systems in Scotland.

No more changes took place until the The Illegal Oaths Act of 1797 an then the The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799. The fear at that time being that any “secret” meeting may be a place where a British style “French Revolution” may be planned. The British Government, and of course the aristocracy who still really controlled things, needed that act to prevent their (unfounded) fears being realised. The GLoS said the would vouch for each of it Lodges and its Members as being loyal to the crown and would supply a list of all of its membership. This appeased the Government but left the vast majority of Operative and Kilwinning Lodges “out in the cold”. They had no option but to “capitulate” and become members of the GLoS.

Thus we have a GL with Operative and Non- operative Lodges working with in the 3 degree structure. As the demise of stonemasonry hit Scotland Lodges still needed to survive so the admission of non-operative was made “easier” by being a part of the GLoS.

Now let us look at this little gem of thought:-

Norman architecture in Normandy

[snips from wikipedia]
Viking invaders arrived at the mouth of the river Seine in 911, at a time when Franks were fighting on horseback and Frankish lords were building castles. Over the next century the population of the territory ceded to the Vikings, now called Normans, adopted these customs as well as Christianity and the langue d’oïl. Norman Barons built timber castles on earthen mounds, beginning the development of motte-and-bailey castles, and great stone churches in the Romanesque style of the Franks. By 950 they were building stone keeps. The Normans were among the most travelled peoples of Europe, exposed to a wide variety of cultural influences including the Near East, some of which became incorporated in their art and architecture. They elaborated on the Early Christian basilica plan, longitudinal with side aisles and an apse, and a western facade with two towers as at the Church of Saint-Étienne at Caen begun in 1067, which formed a model for the larger English cathedrals beginning some twenty years later.

The Abbaye aux Hommes (“Men’s Abbey”) is a former abbey church in theFrench city of Caen, Normandy. Dedicated to Saint Stephen (“Saint Etienne”), it is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames, to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine. Lanfranc, before being archbishop of Canterbury, was the abbot of Saint-Etienne.
Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic. The originalRomanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

Norman building in England
In England, Norman nobles and bishops had influence before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and Norman influences affected lateAnglo-Saxon architecture. Edward the Confessor was brought up in Normandy, and in 1042 brought masons to work on Westminster Abbey, the first Romanesque building in England.

A Norman arch above the church doorway at Guiting Power,Gloucestershire In 1051 he brought in Norman knights who built “motte” castles as a defence against the Welsh. Following the invasion Normans rapidly constructed motte-and-bailey castles, and in a burst of building activity built churches and abbeys, as well as more elaborate fortifications including Norman stone keeps.
The buildings show massive proportions in simple geometries, the masonry with small bands ofsculpture, perhaps as blind arcading, and concentrated spaces of capitals and round doorways and in the tympanum under an arch. The “Norman arch” is the round arch. Norman mouldings are carved or incised with geometric ornament, such as chevron patterns around arches. The cruciform churches often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the great English cathedrals were founded from 1083.

After a fire damaged Canterbury Cathedral in 1174 Norman masons introduced the new Gothic architecture. Around 1191 Wells Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral brought in the English Gothic style, and Norman became increasingly a modest style of provincial building.

William the Conqueror had a passion, he started the Norman revival of fortunes by building massive Castles and then Cathedrals, he used a soft stone easily found in his home town, commonly called in English Freestone, because it was easily sculptured to form ornate edgings and caps.

So is there a probability that The Normans and in particular William 1st were instrumental in introducing into England the first Freestone Masons ?

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