MASONRY - Whats it all about?
A Brief History of Freemasonry
There is much speculation as to why and where Freemasonry originated. It is generaly agreed by Masonic scholars that it has its origins indirectly in the organisation of "operative" stone masons, who built the great halls, cathedrals, palaces and castles of the middle ages. As these people were actual stone masons, they were classed as operative.
In 1646, a site is acquired in Great Queen Street, London, consisting of a tavern house fronting the street with a garden behind leading to a second house. Thomas Sandby, RA, wins the architect’s competition for the design of the Hall. His Grand Hall is built over the garden, linking the two houses.
From the 1660s onwards, there is quite a bit of evidence of gentlemen being made Masons in a "non-operative" role within Lodges. By this its speculated that these "non-operative" Masons had a similar character and mind set to the "operative masons, but were in different professions to stone masonry.
On 24th June 1717, four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at the "Goose and Gridiron Tavern" in St Paul’s Churchyard, declared themselves a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer as their Grand Master. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world.
Between 1723 and 1736 the new Grand Lodge had published its first rule book - "The Book of Constitutions of Masonry", The Grand Lodge of Ireland and The Grand Lodge of Scotland were established. From here the three Home Grand Lodges began to take Freemasonry overseas and the development of Freemasonry abroad mirrors the 18th and 19th century development of the British Empire.
In 1751 a rival Grand Lodge appeared in London. Its original members were Irish Masons who claimed that the original Grand Lodge had made innovations. They dubbed the first Grand Lodge the "Moderns" and called themselves the "Antients".
The two existed side by side - both at home and abroad - for nearly 63 years, neither recognising each other as regular. In 1813 after four years of negotiation, the two Grand Lodges in England united on 27th December, to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This union led to a great deal of standardisation of ritual, procedures and regalia. In 1814 some 647 Lodges were in existence. The 19th century saw a great expansion of Freemasonry - both at home and abroad. By 1900, over 2,800 Lodges had been established throughout the world.
The two World Wars both had a great effect on English Freemasonry. In the three years after the First World War over 350 new Lodges were set up, and in the three years after the Second World War nearly 600 new Lodges came into being. In many cases the founders were servicemen who wanted to continue the camaraderie they had built up during their war service, and were looking for a "calm" centre in a greatly changed and changing world.
On 14th June 1967 the 250th anniversary of Grand Lodge was celebrated at the Royal Albert Hall. Centrepiece of the celebrations was the installation as Grand Master of HRH The Duke of Kent, who still holds that office today. On 10 June 1992 over 12,500 Freemasons and guests gathered at Earls Court in West London to celebrate the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge and for the first time, press and television were present at a meeting of Grand Lodge and the event featured on television newscasts throughout the world.
Have you ever wondered what Freemasonry is all about?
Well, it means different things to different people. Its one of the oldest and largest non religious, non political and charitable organisations in the world. To some people its about helping worthy causes, to other its about making new friends, others find it a way of developing themselves and their spirituality, but to everyone that is a Mason, its a an enjoyable way to do all of the above.
In England and Wales, there are over 250,000 Freemasons belonging to 8,000 Lodges, and districts overseas. Worldwide, the figure rises to over six million Freemasons, all with their own special reasons as to why they enjoy Freemasonry.
Its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness.
Freemasonry provides a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships, achieve their potential and, above all, have fun. What is more, the organisation provides a valuable forum for discussion between members in an open environment, helping to build trust.
Freemasonry prides itself on its transparency. Not only are Freemasons completely free to acknowledge their membership, they are encouraged to do so. There are no closed doors in Freemasonry – anyone can visit its headquarters at Freemasons’ Hall in London – and Lodges throughout the UK regularly open their doors to visitors in order for the visitor to look around, meet some existing masons, ask any questions they may have and apply to join Freemasonry.
For everyone, Lodges offer a place of friendship, harmony and tranquillity.
Freemasons make a major contribution to society through their own charities, as well as through donations to UK charities and worldwide disaster relief funds, with members playing an active role in their communities, examples of this can be seen below.
Freemasonry is more relevant and important to society today than ever, as it encompasses and embraces all the fundamental principles of good citizenship. Many of these are learnt through traditional rituals that take the form of one-act plays, leading to personal development through increased self-esteem and confidence.
Every Freemason embarks on his own journey of self-discovery when he enters the organisation. With three levels of Freemasonry, the progression through to senior roles within a Lodge can be seen in much the same way as a person progressing in his career – each promotion bringing greater understanding and responsibility.
As Freemasonry is based upon Three Grand Principles which are Brotherly Love (friendship), Relief (charity) and Truth (integrity).
Charity is therefore one of the three great pillars which support the fraternity. Every year, Freemasons help thousands of people in need, by donating millions of pounds to charitable causes at various levels, at "Grand" level, "Provincial" level and at a "Local" level.
At "Grand" level which is a National level, they are distributed via "The Freemasons' Grand Charity" and three further "Craft" Central Charities. Since 1981 over £120 million has been donated to charitable causes. These charities are funded entirely by Freemasons and their families.
Freemasons’ Grand Charity
Provides help for those Freemasons and their families who are experiencing hardship.
Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB)
This provides support that relieves poverty and addresses the educational needs of Freemasons’ children and (when funds permit) children in general.
Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI)
The RMBI provides residential, nursing and dementia care for older Freemasons and their dependants, as well as practical support for those who wish to remain in their own homes.
Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF)
The MSF provides grants towards the costs of private medical and dental treatment in situations where there would otherwise be either a long wait for, or no access to, state-funded treatment. Grants are also available towards the cost of providing respite care.
Below are some of the worthy causes to which funds have been donated:
The Grand Charity also assists Freemasons and their families who are in financial distress following life changing events (bereavements, accidents, redundancies or other personal crisis). These grants are made towards essential daily living expenses etc. Around half of those assisted are of retirement age, the majority of whom have been recently widowed and who found themselves in financial distress due to the change in their circumstances. Those of working age normally require short term assistance due to unforsen health issues or loss of job or business.
Since 1981 The Grand Charity has given nearly £25 million to fund projects that support people in a variety of situations, including serious illness, disability, homelessness, poverty and deprivation. £816,000 was awarded in 2014. Amongst this figure, £100,000 was given to Carers UK to help fund their national advice and information service, offering support to 6.5 million full time carers in the UK.
At a "Provincial" level within our region they are distributed via "West Riding Masonic Charities Limited". This Charity distributes funds throughout or region which is the Province of West Yorkshire and West Riding. The principal aim of the charity is to support present and past Freemasons of the Province and their dependents when in need and who qualify for assistance.
The Charity also assists the non Masonic community with grants for community projects through its Provincial Grand Master’s Fund. It also makes emergency grants available to qualifying Freemasons and their dependants and also provides grants to beneficiaries who do not qualify for National Masonic Charity support. Birthday and Christmas gifts are also provided.
It works closely with the Provincial Grand Almoner to help identify those in need and how any assistance may best be given, provides the services of a Welfare Visitor who maintains contact with all beneficiaries who are receiving masonic support and who are connected with the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding.
It endeavours to develop schemes and services to support the frail and vulnerable within the Province and responds rapidly to provide emergency assistance for local or national disasters. It is pleased to provide Match Funding when monies distributed by Grand Charity to a National Charity are destined for local branches within the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding.
Below are some of the worthy causes to which funds have been donated: