History of Freemasonry

The true origin of Freemasonry is a mystery. One can only follow what written records exist and what has been passed from generation to generation. It is said to derive its origins from local fraternities of stonemasons who were involved in the building of the incredible cathedrals, castles and fortresses that we admire today. Towards the end of the fourteenth century it became necessary to regulate the qualifications of stonemasons when interacting with clients and authorities.

Freemasons’ Lodges first appeared in London most likely during the mid-1500s or early 1600s with an organisation and structure similar of the Livery Companies and trade gilds which exist to this day. It was not until 1717 when Lodges in England were united by forming the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Today, it is regarded as the Mother Grand Lodge and is the governing authority on Freemasonry throughout England as well as some Grand Lodges overseas which fall under its control. 

Modern Freemasonry has no links to stonemasonry and is regarded as Free and Accepted (or Speculative) Masonry. Much of the friendship, values and morals of the members has been preserved to this day. Members today retain the three grades of the medieval craft guilds, namely Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft (Journeyman or Fellow in the old days) and Master Mason. The grades helped to distinguish stonemasons in terms of their qualifications and also when receiving their wages. Very few stonemasons could actually write, although many were highly skilled in the craft. As such a number of traditions were developed with secrets restricted to each grade which involved passwords, handshakes and other for the purpose. The purpose was to distinguish brethren from each other and demonstrate their credentials (i.e. level of expertise) with Master Masons being the most skilled craftsmen. Today the use of all these traditions is entirely symbolic.