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Freemasonry in St Asaph

Becoming a Freemason in St Asaph

Becoming a Freemason: Anderson's 1723 constitutions seem to recognise only the grades of Entered Apprentice, and the Fellowcraft/Master. Hence the third degree emerged sometime between 1723 and 1730, and took some time to spread within the craft. The fact that it did spread seems to many scholars to indicate that the tri-gradal system was not so much innovation, as the re-organisation of pre-existing material. The Mason word, once given to the Entered Apprentice, was now conferred in the third degree with the five points of fellowship, and the two linked words formerly bestowed on a fellowcraft were split between the first two degrees. The new Master Mason degree was centred on the myth of Hiram Abiff, which itself consists of three parts. The first is the biblical story of the Tyrian artisan with a Northern Israelite mother who became a master craftsman involved in the construction of King Solomon's Temple. The second is the story of his murder by subordinates, which is similar to one of the legends of the French Compagnonnage. Lastly, the story of the finding of his body, and the derivation therefrom of the five points of fellowship, which appears in the Graham Manuscript of 1725, where the body being sought and exhumed is that of Noah. The origin of this re-organisation is unknown. The earliest reference to the conferment of a third degree is from London, from the minutes of "Philo Musicae et Architecturae Societas Apollini", a short-lived musical society composed entirely of Freemasons. These minutes record the initiation and passing to the degree of Fellowcraft of Charles Cotton. Then, on 12 May 1725, the society took it upon itself to "pass" Brother Cotton and Brother Papillion Ball as Master Masons. This would nowadays be regarded as highly irregular. In March 1726 Gabriel Porterfield received the same degree in lodge Dumbarton Kilwinning in Scotland. That he was not the first is attested by the minutes of the lodge's foundation, only two months earlier, where Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons are recorded as attending. In December 1728, Greenock Kilwinning recorded separate fees for initiation, passing and raising.

Spread of Grand Lodges (1725–1750)

Initiation Paris 1745: Retinted to resemble Moderns Lodge 1805

Even in London, there were many lodges that never affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. These unaffiliated Masons and their Lodges were referred to as "Old Masons," or "St John Masons", and "St John Lodges". Nonetheless, the influence of the new central body spread quickly, and the 1725 minutes mention lodges in ten provincial towns as far north as Salford, with Provincial Grand Lodges in South Wales and Cheshire.

In the same year, a second Grand Lodge was founded in Ireland, which took several decades to bring all the Irish lodges under its wing. Rival Grand Lodges quickly appeared in Munster and Cork. It was in Ireland that the practice of recognising the regularity of a lodge by the issue of a warrant began, the first known example dating from 1731. The Grand Lodge of Scotland was not formed until 1736.

Also in 1725 "The Ancient and Honourable Society and Fraternity of Freemasons meeting since time immemorial in the City of York" assumed the title, " The Grand Lodge of All England meeting in the City of York." This should not be interpreted as rivalry, as there was no overlap in the two jurisdictions. Indeed, Anderson's history would have produced the expectation of an older Grand Lodge at York, and the London Lodges were duly furnished with minutes going back some twenty years. Anderson's 1738 Constitutions recognised the independence of "the Old Lodge of York City. and the Lodges of Scotland, Ireland. France, Italy, etc".

However, in 1735, the Master and Wardens of an Irish lodge were refused admission to Grand Lodge because they did not have the written authority of the Grand Master of Ireland. It seems that they hoped to be recognised as a deputation from Lord Kingston, then Grand Master of Ireland, and Past Grand Master of the London Grand Lodge. They were offered, and refused, the English authorisation. This has been interpreted as evidence of a split between the two constitutions.

Responding to the popularity of Pritchard's and other exposures of masonic ritual, Grand Lodge, about this time, made changes to ritual and passwords to make it more difficult for outsiders to pass themselves off as masons. These changes were not universally accepted by affiliated lodges. The Goose and Gridiron (now Lodge of Antiquity No. 2), one of the original and most senior lodges of the constitution, never adopted them. For the unaffiliated, the innovations simply deepened the division. At the time, London was absorbing many economic migrants from Ireland. Those who were already Freemasons felt that they could not work with the new ritual, and the lodges they formed swelled further the numbers of unaffiliated lodges in the capital.

In the same period, Freemasonry as practiced by the English, Irish and Scottish lodges began to spread to Europe. The establishment of the first Grand Lodge in France is particularly problematic. Freemasonry itself appears to have been established in France by exiled Jacobites. The Grand Lodge of France dates its foundation to 1728, when it claims the Grand Master was the Duke of Wharton. Some Grand Orient seals date the first Grand Lodge to 1736 (the split between the Grand Lodge and the Grand Orient occurred in 1773). French histories date the first Grand Lodge to 24 June 1738. The situation seems confused, as other histories state that the first legitimate Grand Lodge was formed on 11 December 1743 as "The English Grand Lodge of France" with the Count of Clermont as grand master. Although the government of the craft was in the hands of a series of deputies, the protection of the count until his death in 1771 afforded French Masonry a period of stability and growth. As Masonry was persecuted in other catholic states, the moral and egalitarian nature of the French lodges accorded with the spirit of the age.

Although Anderson seems to imply the existence of an Italian Grand Lodge, no such body existed until the creation of the Grand Orient of Italy in 1805. The first lodge was the English Lodge ("La Loggia degli Inglesi") in Florence, founded in 1731, and Freemasonry quickly spread, in spite of a series of Papal bans.

The first appearance of the many German Grand Lodges dates from the 1740s, notably "Of the Three Globes", founded in Berlin in 1744, which became the "Grand National Mother Lodge" in 1772. Frederick the Great became a Freemason while he was still Crown Prince and personally sanctioned the Berlin Lodge. Although a few authors cite the existence of German operative Grand Lodges as far back as that formed at Cologne Cathedral in 1250, continuity of tradition has been hard to prove, and most sources believe the Eighteenth-century German speculative lodges show descent from the English model.

Freemasonry was brought to the Russian Empire by foreign officers in the Russian service. For instance, James Keith is recorded as being master of a lodge in Saint Petersburg in 1732–34. Several years later his cousin John Keith, 3rd Earl of Kintore was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Russia by the Grand Lodge of England. In the early 1770s, Ivan Yelagin succeeded in reorganizing Russian Freemasonry into a far-reaching system that united some 14 lodges and about 400 government officials. He secured English authorization of the first Russian Grand Lodge and became its Provincial Grand Master. Most Russian lodges were attracted to the Swedish Rite. In 1782, Ivan Schwarz represented Russia at the masonic congress in Wilhelmsbad (a health resort in Hanau), where Russia was recognized as the 8th province of the Rite of Strict Observance. See History of Freemasonry in Russia for further details.

St Asaph is a city and community on the River Elwy in Denbighshire, Wales. In the 2011 Census it had a population of 3,355 making it the second-smallest city in Britain in terms of population and urban area. It is in the historic county of Flintshire. The city of St Asaph is surrounded by countryside and views of the Vale of Clwyd. It is situated close to a number of busy coastal towns such as Rhyl, Prestatyn, Abergele, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno. The historic castles of Denbigh and Rhuddlan are also nearby. The earliest inhabitants of the vale of Elwy lived at the nearby Paleolithic site of Pontnewydd (Bontnewydd), which was excavated from 1978 by a team from the University of Wales, led by Stephen Aldhouse Green. Teeth and part of a jawbone excavated in 1981 were dated to 225,000 years ago. This site is the most north-western site in Eurasia for remains of early hominids and is considered of international importance. Based on the morphology and age of the teeth, particularly the evidence of taurodontism, the teeth are believed to belong to a group of Neanderthals who hunted game in the vale of Elwy in an interglacial period.

Later some historians postulate that the Roman fort of Varae sat on the site of the cathedral. However, the city is believed to have developed around a 6th-century Celtic monastery founded by Saint Kentigern, and is now home to the small 14th century St Asaph Cathedral. This is dedicated to Saint Asaph (also spelt in Welsh as Asaff), its second bishop. The cathedral has had a chequered history. In the 13th century, the troops of Edward I of England burnt the cathedral almost to the ground, and in 1402 Owain Glyndŵr's troops went on the rampage, causing severe damage to the furnishings and fittings. Two hundred and fifty years later, during the Commonwealth, the building was used to house farm animals: pigs, cattle and horses. The Laws in Wales Act 1535 placed St Asaph in Denbighshire. However, in 1542 St Asaph was placed in Flintshire for voting purposes. Between 1 April 1974 and 1 April 1996 it was part of non-metropolitan Clwyd.

Population    3,355 (2011)

OS grid reference    SJ035743


St Asaph

Principal area         


Ceremonial county


Becoming a Freemason in Wales

Becoming a Freemason in United Kingdom

Post town      ST. ASAPH

Postcode district      LL17

Dialling code            01745

Police North Wales

Fire     North Wales

Ambulance   Welsh

UK Parliament        

Vale of Clwyd

Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament      

Vale of Clwyd

List of places UKWalesDenbighshire

53.258°N 3.442°W