Freemasonry: The Naked Truth

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Freemasonry in Cambridge

Becoming a Freemason in Cambridge

Becoming a Freemason

The first meetings of the Antients, as they came to be known, are also missing, but these span only a few months instead of the six years of silence from the older institution. On 5 February 1752 Laurence Dermott became Grand Secretary, and proper minutes ensued. Although these have still to be published, they have been extensively mined by masonic writers, particularly Bywater's biography of Dermott, which draws verbatim from the minutes. Dermott's style is quirky, occasionally obtuse, and often full of dry humour. Discipline is a frequent subject, collecting dues from delinquent lodges, and the "leg of mutton" masons who admitted men to the Holy Royal Arch for the price of such a meal without the least idea what the actual ritual was, and claimed to teach a masonic technique for becoming invisible. The conflict between the two Grand Lodges, while obvious from other contemporary sources, is largely absent from both sets of minutes.

Other Masonic documents

Fabric Rolls of York Minster

Records of the operative lodge at York Minster are included in the rolls relating to the 'fabric' (the building material) of the construction, starting with an undated entry from about 1350–1360, and ending in 1639. Written mainly in Latin until the Reformation, they comprise accounts, letters, and other documents relating to the building and maintenance of the church.

Statutes of Ratisbon

The Statutes de Ratisbon were first formulated on 25 April 1459 as the rules of the German stonemasons, when the masters of the operative lodges met at Ratisbon (now Regensburg). They elected the master of works of Strasbourg Cathedral as their perpetual presiding officer. Strasbourg was already recognised as the Haupthütte, or Grand Lodge of German masons. The General Assembly was held again in 1464 and 1469, and the statutes and society were approved by the Emperor Maximilian in 1498. The final form of the statutes regulated the activity of master masons (Meister), with an appendix of rules for companions or fellows (Gesellen), and apprentices (Diener). These regulations were used for over a century as the Strasbourg lodge operated as a court for the settlement of building disputes. This ended in abuse of power, and the Magistrates removed the privilege in 1620. Strasbourg was annexed by France in 1681, and its rule over German operative lodges interdicted at the beginning of the 18th century. While there seems little likelihood that the code affected the emergence of German speculative lodges in the 18th century, they may have had some influence on a few of the English "charges".

Other German ordinances are found in the Cologne records (1396-1800), the Torgau ordinances of 1462, and the Strasbourg Brother-book of 1563. The Cologne guild comprised both stonemasons and carpenters, and was repeatedly referred to as the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist.

Schaw Statutes

William Schaw was master of works to King James VI of Scotland, and was also the general warden of all the lodges of Scottish stonemasons. This meant he was in charge of the erection, repair and maintenance of all government buildings, and also the running of what was already a fraternity of masons, who ensured that all building work was undertaken by properly qualified persons, and also provided for their own sick and the widows of their members. Schaw formalised the working of the lodges in two sets of statutes, set down on 28 December 1598 and 1599. Many now see these as the beginnings of modern Freemasonry. Robert Cooper, the archivist and writer, goes so far as to call Schaw the Father of Freemasonry.

The Schaw Statutes were issued from Edinburgh, where Schaw seems to have met with representatives of lodges from central and eastern Scotland to formulate these regulatory principles. The 1598 Statute enjoined masons to be true to one another, and live charitably together as becomes sworn brothers and companions of the craft. This shows that there was already an oath involved, and invoked the legal definition of a brother as one to whom another was bound by oath. There followed directives as to the regulation of the craft, and provisions for the masters of every lodge to elect a warden to have charge of the lodge every year, and that the choice be approved by the Warden General. An apprentice had to serve seven years before being received into a lodge, and a further seven before becoming a fellow in craft, unless by consent of the masters, deacons and wardens, and after examination. The term Entered Apprentice is used for an apprentice who has been admitted to the lodge. The document was circulated to every lodge in Scotland, which caused some degree of upset in Kilwinning. The lodge in Kilwinning claimed to be the oldest lodge in Scotland, and was insulted not to have been represented. They sent Archibald Barclay to a further meeting in 1599, from which issued the second Statute, again on 28 December. In an attempt to paper over the crack created by the first meeting, Edinburgh was declared the first and principle lodge, Kilwinning the second and head lodge. Stirling came third. Kilwinning was given charge of the West of Scotland, and charged to examine their masons in "the art of memory", with fines prescribed for failure. What is being remembered is unspecified, but evidently known to all the masons present. Schaw also insisted that each lodge employ a notary, which resulted in the Scottish lodges starting to keep minutes. The document ends by thanking Archibald Barclay, and looking forward to obtaining the King's warrant for the statutes. Kilwinning, far from being appeased, took no further part in the dealings of Schaw's lodges.

Prince Hall Freemasonry exists because of the refusal of early American lodges to admit African Americans. In 1775, an African American named Prince Hall, along with 14 other African-American men, was initiated into a British military lodge with a warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, having failed to obtain admission from the other lodges in Boston. When the British military Lodge left North America after the end of the Revolution, those 15 men were given the authority to meet as a Lodge, but not to initiate Masons. In 1784, these individuals obtained a Warrant from the Premier Grand Lodge of England (GLE) and formed African Lodge, Number 459. When the UGLE was formed in 1813, all U.S.-based Lodges were stricken from their rolls – largely because of the War of 1812. Thus, separated from both UGLE and any concordantly recognised U.S. Grand Lodge, African Lodge retitled itself as the African Lodge, Number 1 – and became a de facto Grand Lodge. (This lodge is not to be confused with the various Grand Lodges in Africa.) As with the rest of U.S. Freemasonry, Prince Hall Freemasonry soon grew and organised on a Grand Lodge system for each state.

Widespread racial segregation in 19th- and early 20th-century North America made it difficult for African Americans to join Lodges outside of Prince Hall jurisdictions – and impossible for inter-jurisdiction recognition between the parallel U.S. Masonic authorities. By the 1980s, such discrimination was a thing of the past. Today most U.S. Grand Lodges recognise their Prince Hall counterparts, and the authorities of both traditions are working towards full recognition. The United Grand Lodge of England has no problem with recognising Prince Hall Grand Lodges. While celebrating their heritage as lodges of African-Americans, Prince Hall is open to all men regardless of race or religion.

Emergence of Continental Freemasonry

Masonic initiation, Paris, 1745

Masonic initiation, Paris, 1745

English Freemasonry spread to France in the 1720s, first as lodges of expatriates and exiled Jacobites, and then as distinctively French lodges that still follow the ritual of the Moderns. From France and England, Freemasonry spread to most of Continental Europe during the course of the 18th century. The Grande Loge de France formed under the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Clermont, who exercised only nominal authority. His successor, the Duke of Orléans, reconstituted the central body as the Grand Orient de France in 1773. Briefly eclipsed during the French Revolution, French Freemasonry continued to grow in the next century, at first under the leadership of Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse, Comte de Grassy-Tilly. A career Army officer, he lived with his family in Charleston, South Carolina from 1793 to the early 1800s, after leaving Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, during the years of the Haitian Revolution.

The ritual form on which the Grand Orient of France was based was abolished in England in the events leading to the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. However the two jurisdictions continued in amity, or mutual recognition, until events of the 1860s and 1870s drove a seemingly permanent wedge between them. In 1868 the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the State of Louisiana appeared in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, recognised by the Grand Orient de France, but regarded by the older body as an invasion of their jurisdiction. The new Scottish Rite body admitted blacks. The resolution of the Grand Orient the following year that neither colour, race, nor religion could disqualify a man from Masonry prompted the Grand Lodge to withdraw recognition, and it persuaded other American Grand Lodges to do the same.

A dispute during the Lausanne Congress of Supreme Councils of 1875 prompted the Grand Orient de France to commission a report by a Protestant pastor, which concluded that, as Freemasonry was not a religion, it should not require a religious belief. The new constitutions read, "Its principles are absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity", the existence of God and the immortality of the soul being struck out. It is possible that the immediate objections of the United Grand Lodge of England were at least partly motivated by the political tension between France and Britain at the time. The result was the withdrawal of recognition of the Grand Orient of France by the United Grand Lodge of England, a situation that continues today.

Not all French lodges agreed with the new wording. In 1894, lodges favouring the compulsory recognition of the Great Architect of the Universe formed the Grande Loge de France. In 1913, the United Grand Lodge of England recognised a new Grand Lodge of Regular Freemasons, a Grand Lodge that follows a similar rite to Anglo-American Freemasonry with a mandatory belief in a deity.

The early history of Grand Lodge is uncertain, since no minutes were taken until 1723. It is known that the four lodges mentioned above held an assembly at the Goose and Gridiron, in St Paul's Churchyard, on, 24 June 1717 (the Feast of St John the Baptist). They agreed to restore their "Quarterly Communications", four meetings a year for the transaction of masonic business, and an annual assembly to elect the next Grand Master. At this meeting, they elected Anthony Sayer, Master of the lodge at the Apple Tree, of whom little else is known, and the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster was born. At this stage, it is unlikely that they saw themselves as anything more than an association of London lodges. This perception was to change very rapidly.

The next year, George Payne became Grand Master. He was a career civil servant with the commissioners of taxes. In 1719, they elected John Theophilus Desaguliers, a clergyman, an eminent scientist, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. The last commoner to serve as Grand Master was George Payne in his second term of office in 1720/21, when he wrote The General Regulations of a Free Mason [sic] which were later incorporated in Anderson's Constitutions. Thereafter, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to raise the profile of the organisation, all the Grand Masters have been members of the nobility.

Desaguliers is often described as the "father" of modern Freemasonry. It was Desaguliers who inscribed the dedication to Anderson's Constitutions, headed the committee which directed and approved them, and supplied the "Gothic Constitutions" from which they were formed. Although he only served one term as Grand Master, he was twice Deputy Grand Master under figurehead Grand Masters, and at other times behaved as if he was Grand Master, forming irregular lodges to conduct initiations. It seems to have been Desaguliers who insisted that ritual be remembered rather than written down, leading to a dearth of material on the development of English ritual until after the formation of United Grand Lodge.

Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately 55 miles (89 km) north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, the population of the Cambridge built-up area (which is larger than the remit of Cambridge City Council) was 158,434 including 29,327 students. Cambridge became an important trading centre during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area as early as the Bronze Age. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although modern city status was not officially conferred until 1951. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. The buildings of the university include King's College Chapel, Cavendish Laboratory, and the Cambridge University Library, one of the largest legal deposit libraries in the world. The city's skyline is dominated by several college buildings, along with the spire of the Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church, and the chimney of Addenbrooke's Hospital. Anglia Ruskin University, which evolved from the Cambridge School of Art and the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, also has its main campus in the city.

Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology Silicon Fen with industries such as software and bioscience and many start-up companies born out of the university. Over 40 per cent of the workforce have a higher education qualification, more than twice the national average. The Cambridge Biomedical Campus, one of the largest biomedical research clusters in the world, is soon to house premises of AstraZeneca, a hotel, and the relocated Royal Papworth Hospital. The first game of association football took place at Parker's Piece. The Strawberry Fair music and arts festival and Midsummer Fair are held on Midsummer Common, and the annual Cambridge Beer Festival takes place on Jesus Green. The city is adjacent to the M11 and A14 roads. Cambridge station is less than an hour from London King's Cross railway station.

Local government

Cambridge is a non-metropolitan district served by Cambridge City Council. Cambridge Local Authority District covers most of the city's urban area but some extends outside this into South Cambridgeshire District. Cambridge is one of five districts within the county of Cambridgeshire, and is bordered on all sides by the mainly rural South Cambridgeshire district. The city council's headquarters are in the Guildhall, a large building in the market square. Cambridge was granted a Royal Charter by King John in 1207, which permitted the appointment of a Mayor, although the first recorded Mayor, Harvey FitzEustace, served in 1213. City councillors now elect a mayor annually. For electoral purposes the city is divided into 14 wards: Abbey, Arbury, Castle, Cherry Hinton, Coleridge, East Chesterton, King's Hedges, Market, Newnham, Petersfield, Queen Edith's, Romsey, Trumpington, and West Chesterton. The political composition of the city council is currently: 25 Labour councillors, 14 Liberal Democrat, 2 independent and one Conservative. Each of the 14 wards also elects councillors to Cambridgeshire County Council. Responsible for services including school education, social care and highways, since 2017 the County Council has been controlled by the Conservative Party.

Becoming a Freemason in         United Kingdom

Becoming a Freemason in  England

Region          East of England

Ceremonial county Cambridgeshire

Admin HQ     Cambridge Guildhall

Founded       1st century

City status     1951


 • Type           Non-metropolitan district, city

 • Governing body   Cambridge City Council

 • Mayor         Russ McPherson (L)

 • MPs:           Daniel Zeichner (L)

Anthony Browne (C)


 • Total           40.7 km2 (15.71 sq mi)

Elevation       6 m (20 ft)

Population (mid-2019 est. -)

 • Total           124,798 (ranked 186th)

 • Ethnicity (2011)    66% White British

1.4% White Irish

15% White Other

1.7% Black British

3.2% Mixed Race

11% British Asian & Chinese

1.6% other

Demonym(s) Cantabrigian

Time zone     UTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time)

 • Summer (DST)     UTC+1 (BST)


CB1 – CB5

Area code(s) 01223

ONS code     12UB (ONS)

E07000008 (GSS)

OS grid reference    TL450588