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Freemasonry in Ripon

Becoming a Freemason in Ripon

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.

Ripon is a cathedral city in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. The city is located at the confluence of two tributaries of the River Ure, the Laver and Skell. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The city is noted for its main feature, Ripon Cathedral, which is architecturally significant, as well as the Ripon Racecourse and other features such as its market. The city was originally known as Inhrypum. Bede records that Alhfrith, king of the Southern Northumbrian kingdom of Deira, gave land at Ripon to Eata of Hexham to build a monastery and the abbot transferred some of his monks there, including a young Saint Cuthbert who was guest-master at Ripon abbey. Both Bede in his Life of Cuthbert and Eddius Stephanus in his Life of Wilfred  state that when Eata was subsequently driven out by Alhfrith, the abbey was given to Saint Wilfrid who replaced the timber church with a stone built church. This was during the time of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria, a period during which it enjoyed prominence in religious importance in Great Britain. It was for a period under Viking control, and later suffered under the Normans. After a brief period of building projects under the Plantagenets, the city emerged with a prominent wool and cloth industry. Ripon became well known for its production of spurs during the 16th and 17th centuries, but would later remain largely unaffected by the Industrial Revolution.

Ripon is the third-smallest city in England and the smallest in Yorkshire, by population. According to the 2011 United Kingdom Census it had a population of 16,702, an increase on the 2001 United Kingdom Census figure of 15,922. It is located 11 miles (18 km) south-west of Thirsk, 16 miles (26 km) south of Northallerton and 12 miles (19 km) north of Harrogate. As well as its racecourse and cathedral, Ripon is a tourist destination because of its proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site which consists of the Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey. Communications were improved with the opening of Ripon railway station in May 1848. During the First World War a large military training camp was built in Ripon, the local community offering hospitality not only to soldiers' wives but to the Flemish refugees who became part of Ripon's community. The racecourse south-east of the city also served as an airfield (RFC Ripon) for the Royal Flying Corps (and latterly, the Royal Air Force). The racecourse was also used as a demobilisation centre for troops returning from France well into 1919.

The town had a similar though smaller role during the Second World War and, in recognition of this, the Royal Engineers were presented with the Freedom of the City in 1947. Since the War, Ripon has gone through some remodelling and has grown in size; it attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to see its famous buildings with their long Christian heritage, nearby Studley Park, Ripon Racecourse, and in recent times the theme park Lightwater Valley. Ripon was the first Church of England diocese to be created after the English Reformation, as it was recognised that existing dioceses were unsuited for the large increases in population caused particularly by the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century in central England. It was deemed that new cathedral building on a national scale was not viable and so Ripon, containing a high status parish church, was created from the existing Chester and York dioceses in 1836, with the building promoted to cathedral status. Ripon council presumed this had elevated the town to the rank of city, and started referring to itself as such. The next diocese Manchester was promoted similarly, but doubts as to its use of the title were raised. With the subsequent clearer understanding of needing to petition the monarch, Manchester did so and obtained the status in 1853. Ripon was encouraged to follow suit, with its own status being recognised by the parliamentary City of Ripon Act in 1865.

In 1974 Ripon borough (see Governance) was abolished and a parish council established as part of wider local government reform. The award of city status is typically granted to a local authority, whose administrative area is then considered to be the formal borders of the city, the grant in this case being removed at the same time and bestowed onto the parish. By this definition, the whole parish council area of Ripon, including its settlement and surrounding rural area containing a tiny portion of the Nidderdale AONB to the north west, is considered to be the limits of the city. It contains the third lowest population of all the cities in England, however it falls to seventh place when taking the whole of the UK into consideration. Ripon has the third smallest city council area but the fourth lowest urban area of any city in England.

Population    16,702 (2011 census)

OS grid reference    SE312714

• London       227 mi (365 km) SSE

Civil parish  




Shire county

North Yorkshire


Yorkshire and the Humber

Becoming a Freemason in England

Becoming a Freemason in United Kingdom

Post town      RIPON

Postcode district      HG4

Dialling code            01765

Police North Yorkshire

Fire     North Yorkshire

Ambulance   Yorkshire

UK Parliament        

Skipton & Ripon


List of places UKEnglandYorkshire

54.138°N 1.524°W