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Freemasonry in St Albans

Becoming a Freemason in St Albans

Becoming a Freemason: The Dowland Manuscript was first printed in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1815. The contributor, James Dowland, wrote "For the gratification of your readers, I send you a curious address respecting Freemasonry which not long since came into my possession. It is written on a long roll of parchment, in a very clear hand apparently in the 17th century, and probably was copied from a MS. of earlier date." This earlier date is still estimated to be around 1550, making the Dowland the second oldest prose constitutions known. The wages mentioned in the text agree with other manuscripts known to originate in the second half of the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the original is now lost.

The history is similar to that of the Cooke manuscript. In this case we are told that the first charges proceeded from Euclid's instruction of the sons of the Egyptian Lords. The Master Mason at the construction of the Temple of Solomon is a son of King Hiram of Tyre called Avnon. Again Masonry diffuses from the Temple and enters Saint Alban's England from France. The science suffers in the wars following Alban's death, but is restored under Athelstan. His son, now named as Edwinne, is the expert geometrician who obtains his father's charter for an annual assembly of masons, that should be "renewed from Kinge to Kinge". The assembly under Edwin is for the first time identified as having occurred at York. The articles and points are now replaced with a series of charges, in the form of an oath.

The emergence of York, and the appearance of the more modern form of the charges after a century of silence in the documentary record, have been linked by Prescott to government policy in from the second half of the sixteenth century, which allowed wage increases for London masons, while attempting rigid wage control in the North of England.

Grand Lodge No 1: This manuscript inexplicably appears in Hughan's Old Charges with a date of 1632, which Speth, the next editor, attributed to the terrible handwriting of Rev. Woodford, Hughan's collaborator. It is the first of the charges to bear a date, which is just discernible as 1583, on 25 December. The document is in the form of a roll of parchment nine feet long and five inches wide, being made up of four pieces pasted at the ends. The United Grand Lodge of England acquired it in 1839 for twenty-five pounds from a Miss Sidall, the great-granddaughter of Thomas Dunckerley's second wife. The handwriting is compatible with the date of 1583, although the language is older, leading Henry Jenner to propose that it was copied from an original up to a century older. The contents of Grand Lodge 1 tell the same tale as the Dowland manuscript, with only minor changes. Again, the charges take the form of an oath on a sacred book.

Within this manuscript and the Dowland we find a curious mason called Naymus Grecus (Dowland has Maymus or Mamus Grecus), who had been at the building of Solomon's Temple, and who taught Masonry to Charles Martel before he became King of France, thus bringing Masonry to Europe. This obvious absurdity has been interpreted by Neville Barker Cryer as a coded reference to Alcuin of York, possibly from a misunderstanding of one of his poems. In Carmen XXVI is the line, "Et Nemias Greco infundat sua poculo Baccho", expressing the wish that Nemias should fill Alcuin's cup with Greek wine. Nemias, or Nehemias, was Alcuin's code name for Eberhard, Charlemagne's cupbearer. Cryer presents the possibility that a misunderstanding allowed Nemias Greco to be assumed to refer to the Yorkshire saint and scholar.

Later manuscriptsAt this point, the old charges had attained a standard form. What became known as the York Legend had emerged in a form that would survive into Preston's Illustrations of Freemasonry, a work of 1772 which was still being reprinted in the mid nineteenth century. The requirement for every new admission to be sworn to the Old Charges on the bible now meant that every lodge should have its own manuscript charges, and over a hundred survive from the seventeenth century until the period in the eighteenth when their use died out. Describing them all is beyond the scope of a single article, and unnecessary since differences are only in details, such as occasional clumsy attempts to deal with the absence of Edwin, Athelstan's son, from any historical record. Differences also occur in the specifics of the charges and the manner of taking the oath. A very few manuscripts have a separate Apprentice Charge. Families of documents have been identified, and two systems of classification exist. A few documents deserve special attention.

LansdowneThis document was purchased by the British Government as part of a collection amassed by William Petty, Marquis of Lansdowne. It was bundled with papers from William Cecil, a prominent Elizabethan politician who died in 1598, and was assumed to belong to the same period. Analysis of the handwriting places it a hundred years later, and later papers have been found in Cecil's bundle. Lansdowne is still frequently cited as an Elizabethan document.

The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, "For the Use of the Lodges" in London and Westminster, was published in 1723. It was edited by the presbyterian clergyman, James Anderson, to the order of John Theophilus Desaguliers, and approved by a Grand Lodge committee under his control. This work was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin, who was that year elected Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania. It was also translated into Dutch (1736), German (1741), and French (1745).

Anderson was minister of the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street, London, which had once been Huguenot church, and one of its four Deacons was Desaguliers' father. At the time of his meeting with Desaguliers, he seems to have passed himself off as a Talmudic scholar. His reward for his labours was the copyright on the work. In time, and to Anderson's dismay, it was condensed into "pocket" editions over which he had no control and from which he received no income. It was expanded, updated, and re-published in 1738.

The historical section, which comprises almost half the book, has already been described. This is followed by the "Charges", general rules for the conduct of Freemasons, and Payne's Regulations, the specific rules by which Grand Lodge and the lodges under its control were to be governed. The ceremony for dedicating a new lodge was briefly outlined, and the work finished with a section of songs. For the first time, the old hand-written charges and constitutions was replaced by an accessible, printed condensation of all there was to being a Freemason, omitting only the ritual. Although the historical section was attacked at the time, and ever since, as being a work of obvious fiction, the work remains a milestone in masonic history. The "Antient Charges" published in the current Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England have altered little from those originally published by Anderson.

In common with other trades or mysteries, medieval Masonry recognised three grades of craftsman;— the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master. An apprentice who had learned his craft became a journeyman, qualified to do all manner of masonic work. The master was also qualified as a project manager, often functioning as architect as well. He would sketch the day's work on a tracing board for execution by the journeymen and apprentices. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 show how this had evolved in the lodge system of Scottish Masonry. An apprentice, after serving his term of seven years, could elect to pay to join a lodge, becoming an "entered apprentice". (Alternatively, he could elect to freelance on the lower grades of building work as a "Cowan".) The journeymen were referred to as "fellows" or "fellows of the craft", which accords with the Regius poem's injunction (line 51) that masons should "calle other felows by cuthe". The members of the lodge were "Brithers" (brothers), a Scottish legal term for those bound to each other by oath. The Master was simply the mason in charge of the lodge, or one who had held that distinction.

While the swearing of some sort of oath goes back to the earliest records of organised Masonry, the first recorded ritual is not until 1696, in the Edinburgh Register House manuscript. From this, and from other documents of the same period, such as the Trinity College, Dublin manuscript of 1711, we can form an idea of the ritual of an operative lodge at the end of the 17th century. On taking of the oath of an Entered Apprentice a mason was entrusted with appropriate signs, a "Mason's Word", and a catechism. This was accompanied by much horseplay, which was probably excised as the craft became more gentrified. The fellowcraft was made to take a further oath, and entrusted with two further words and the "five points of fellowship", which in 1696 were foot to foot, knee to knee, heart to heart, hand to hand, and ear to ear. The distinction between a fellowcraft and a master is unclear, and in many documents they appear to be synonymous. As accepted masons became initiated, where the various words and signs could no longer be regarded as professional qualifications, the entered apprentice ritual and the fellowcraft/master were sometimes condensed into one ceremony.

In Pritchard's Masonry Dissected, an exposure of masonic ritual written in 1730 by a disillusioned ex-mason, we see for the first time something recognisable as the three degrees of modern Freemasonry. On being admitted to a lodge, a new mason naturally progresses through the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. There still remains the rank of Installed Master, which comprises the Master in charge of the lodge and its past masters, and involves its own ritual, words and signs, but entails being elected to take charge of the lodge for a year. These are the regular degrees and ranks of "craft" Masonry, common to all constitutions. Other, "higher" degrees are optional and require a mason to join a side-order, except in lodges constituted under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which are empowered to confer the Mark Master Mason degree on Master Masons, as an extension to the second or Fellowcraft degree. (see main article, Freemasonry)

The City and District of St Albans is a local authority district in Hertfordshire in the East of England region. The main urban settlements are St Albans and Harpenden. The council offices are in St Albans. St Albans City and District is a non-metropolitan district and city created on 1 April 1974 as a merger of the Municipal Borough of St Albans, the Harpenden Urban District and most of St Albans Rural District. The municipal borough had had city status since 1877 and it was granted to the entire district by letters patent on 9 July 1974. The district is in the west of Hertfordshire, bounded on the north west by Luton, on the north east by North Hertfordshire, on the east by Welwyn Hatfield, on the south by Hertsmere, on the south west by Watford and Three Rivers and on the west by Dacorum. The largest urban settlement is St Albans, followed in size by Harpenden, with lesser settlements at Redbourn, Wheathamstead, London Colney, Chiswell Green and Bricket Wood. Nearby towns include Hatfield to the east, Welwyn Garden City to the northeast, Luton and Dunstable to the northwest, Hemel Hempstead to the west, Watford to the southwest and Borehamwood to the south. The M1 motorway, the M25 motorway, the A414 road and A1081 road run through the district. There are rail routes to London St Pancras from St Albans City railway station and to Watford from St Albans Abbey railway station.

In 2001 St Albans City and District had a population of 129,005 (50.8% female, 49.2% male). The mid 2012 population estimate was 138,800. In 2001 there were 20.5% children, 64.5% people of working age (16–64) and 14.9% older people (65+). 86.9% of St Albans residents are White British, 4.3% Other White, 2% Irish and 1.3% Bangladeshi. 71% identify as Christian, 24.1% as "no religion" or "religion not stated", 2.6% as Muslim and 0.9% as Jewish. The City and District of St Albans has a strong local economy, is an excellent location for rail, road and airports, and is seen by many employers as a desirable place to be. The District also benefits from the proximity of the University of Hertfordshire, based close by at Hatfield, which is one of the country's leading business orientated universities. St Albans has a highly skilled workforce, with the 4th highest proportion of managers, senior officials and professional occupations in the country. Nearly half of working age residents have a degree or equivalent qualification. Average weekly earnings are £724.40, 44% higher than the national average. The St Albans District has lower than average unemployment and the lowest in Hertfordshire. 2.8% of residents are disabled or permanently sick, compared with 5–6% nationally. Deloitte, Spreadex, AECOM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Premier Foods have offices in the district. Sainsbury's Retail Distribution Centre at London Colney employs over 600 staff.

Becoming a Freemason in United Kingdom

Becoming a Freemason in England

Region          East of England

Non-metropolitan county   Hertfordshire

Status            Non-metropolitan district, Borough, City

Admin HQ     St Albans

Incorporated 1 April 1974


 • Type           Non-metropolitan district council

 • Body           St Albans City and District Council

 • Leadership            Leader & Cabinet

 • MPs            Daisy Cooper (LD)

Bim Afolami (C)


 • Total           62.23 sq mi (161.18 km2)

Area rank      177 (of 317)

Population (mid-2019 est.)

 • Total           147,095

 • Rank          141 (of 317)

 • Ethnicity    90.9% White

4.1% S.Asian

1.7% Black

1.9% Mixed Race

1.4% Chinese or Other

Time zone     UTC0 (GMT)

 • Summer (DST)     UTC+1 (BST)

ONS code     26UG (ONS)

E07000100 (GSS)

OS grid reference    TL148073