Your questions answered

Your questions answered

This page contains answers to a number of frequently asked questions about the collections of the Library and Museum and Freemasons’ Hall. More answers will be added from time to time.

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No printed ritual has ever been issued, approved or authorised by the United Grand Lodge of England. Whilst the basic Craft ceremonies were agreed by the Lodge of Reconciliation in 1816, the manner of carrying them out and the phraseology used is up to individual lodges. As a result there are over forty printed ‘workings’ of the ritual in use, the earliest of which, by George Claret, was published in 1838.

A Roll of Honour containing the names of brethren who fell in the First World War was produced by Grand Lodge in 1921 based on returns submitted by Lodge Secretaries. This was published in book form and was also the basis for a parchment scroll on display at Freemasons’ Hall. The scroll contains the names of approximately 3,533 Brethren in 1,550 Lodges under the English Constitution and may be seen as part of the public tour of Freemasons’ Hall.

Following the end of the Second World War lodges were asked to complete a record of their members’ activities during the conflict and to send a copy of this report to Grand Lodge. There were some 6,000 lodges in existence at the time, but in the event less than half submitted reports and even then many reports were accompanied by a letter of apology from the Lodge Secretary because several members had omitted to return their questionnaires. In 1991, those reports which had been received by Grand Lodge were collated and a Roll of Honour, in book form, was produced. There is no permanent memorial in Freemasons’ Hall to brethren who fell in the Second World War although this printed Roll of Honour is available for consultation in the Library.

A skirret is an instrument usually made of wood, shaped like the letter T, which acts on a centre pin, from which a centre line can be drawn, chalked and struck, to mark out the ground for the foundation of the intended structure. It is one of working tools used symbolically in masonic ceremonies but is not included with the other tools depicted on the membership certificate issued by the United Grand Lodge of England. e explanation of the omission of the skirret (nor is, the 24 inch gauge). Apart from the three pillars, the two globes and the “Furniture” of the lodge the certificate does not however show the tools as working tools but as the Moveable and Immovable Jewels of the Lodge. Thus the plumb-rule, level and square on the certificate are not the Working Tools of the Second Degree but the three Moveable Jewels of the Lodge. As such they are associated in the design of the certificate with the three principal officers of the lodge, who are themselves distinguished by those Jewels. The three Immovable Jewels (the rough ashlar, perfect ashlar and tracing board) are likewise pictorially related to the same pillars.

In January 1965 United Grand Lodge of England omitted Latin from Grand Lodge Certificates. The original Grand Lodge Certificates from 1755 until 1819 had been in English only. The Antients’ Grand Lodge had issued certificates in English and Latin from 1766. In 1819 the United Grand Lodge of England started producing Certificates in both languages. For further information about the history of English Craft Certificates see T.O. Haunch’s paper in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. 82, 1969 (class mark: A 31 QUA), or browse the subject “certificates” on the Library and Museum Catalogue.

A “lewis” is a Freemason’s son, who has not yet been initiated into Freemasonry. In stonemasonry, a lewis is an iron cramp that is forced into a cavity of a stone to enable the lifting or lowering of that stone. Although it is not a working tool used in Masonic ritual it can be seen as a symbol of strength, which a son is to his father. Under some Masonic Constitutions “lewises” are granted privileges such as in Scotland where the son of a Master Mason can be initiated at the age of eighteen rather than twenty-one. In England the only privilege extended to a “lewis”, is that he takes precedence if he is one of two candidates at initiation.

The Antients’ Grand Lodge formed in 1751 published a Book of Constitutions in 1756, under the title Ahiman rezon, or a help to a brother. Eight editions were published in all before the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813. Earlier editions were almost copies of Anderson’s Constitutions produced by the Premier Grand Lodge, although the later editions were less than complementary about their older rival. There has been considerable debate over the meaning of the Hebrew title Ahiman Rezon. The will of selected brethren, The secrets of prepared brethren, Royal Builders and Brother Secretary are just four of the explanations that can be found in Masonic encyclopaedias. Copies of various editions can be viewed in the Library and Museum under the class mark: BE 94 GRA (ANT). (MC, April 2003)

The Constitutions of the Free-Masons containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity: For use of the Lodges was the first official publication of Grand Lodge in 1723. It was the work of Revd. Dr. James Anderson (1680-1739), who also produced a second edition in 1738. Anderson’s Constitution contained a “traditional” history of Freemasonry, rules and regulations of the Craft and some songs and music for use in Lodges. Copies of both the first and second edition can be viewed in the Library and Museum under the following class mark: BE 94 GRA. (MC, April 2003)

Although there have been a number of Masonic dating systems, the most familiar to Craft Freemasons will be Anno Lucis (A.L.), which is the system that appears on certificates. Anno Lucis (the year of light) is based on a chronology that puts the year of creation as 4,004 B.C. and is traditionally derived by adding 4,000 to the year in question. For example 1717 A.D. the year Grand Lodge was formed would become 5717 A.L., and 2003 would become 6003 A.L. The system was not exclusive to Freemasons having been designed by an Irish cleric James Ussher (1581-1656) many years before the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. (MC, April 2003)

Boy's School Lewis Jewel
Scarbrough
Anderson's Constitutions frontispiece & title, 1784