By: Allen Roberts
Bro. Roberts is a member and Past Master of Babcock
Lodge #322 of Highland Springs, VA. VA is a noted
Masonic Writer and historian. Bro. Roberts has several
books to his credit, including House Undivided, Brother
Truman and Freemasonry in American History,
This STB is an excerpt from his new book by the same
title Masonic Trivia (and facts). This book will be published
in late 1993. MSA will keep you informed as to its
When did Freemasonry begin?
No one knows when Freemasonry began.
The first written reference to Masonry as an
organization appeared in 1356 when a Code of
Mason Regulations was formally drawn up at
the Guildhall in London, England. In 1376 we
find information about the London Masons'
Company and it's interesting to note its early
evolution. According to Grand Lodge, it leased
in 1463 some land and buildings for 99 years,
and the buildings were converted into the first
Masons' Hall. (In the 99th year it purchased
this property outright); in 1472 the company
was given a Grant of Arms with the motto
"God Is Our Guide," later changed to "In the
Lord is all our trust." The Arms, but slightly
changed, remain part of the Arms of the United
Grand Lodge of England today.
What is the Regius Manuscript?
The first known document about Free
Who determined the Regius Manuscript (or
Poem) to be what it is?
A non-Mason named J.O. Halliwell-Phillips
(the Phillips was added much later to appease
How was the Regius Manuscript first
As "A Manuscript of Moral Duties."
Where was and is the original copy of the
Regius Manuscript kept?
In the British Museum. (Its early history is
unknown, but it apparently belonged at one
time to John Thomas. The first known owner
of record was John Thayer, an antiquarian who
died in 1673; his grandmother Ann Hart Thayer
offered his library to Bodley Library at Oxford
but it didn't accept it, so it was sold to
Robert Scott, a London book dealer, then it
was sold to Charles II after I678 [the volume
was valued at two shillings!]; it eventually
became a part of the Royal Library of Henry
VII [thus the name "Regius'" attached to the
manuscript], and in 1757 the library was presented
to the British Museum by George II in
whose honor the collection is known as "The
When was the Regius Manuscript discovered
to be a poem about freemasonry?
In 1839. Halliwell presented a paper on this
manuscript in that year; a portion of the paper
was published in Archaeologia in 1840; on the
same year the poem was reprinted, and has
been many times since then.
In what language is the Regius Manuscript
written? What year was it written?
It was written about A.D- 1390. and was
evidently copied from an older document. It is
written in Middle English making it difficult
for the non-linguist to decipher. Over the years
several linguists have translated it into modern
According to the Regius Manuscript who
called an assembly of all Masons to meet?
Athelstan (925-940), virtually King of all
England, according to the Reigus Manuscript,
called the Masons to meet, then he gave them
"modernized" charges and sent them forth to
carry them out. James Anderson said this took
place at York, England, in 926. Coil notes that
the two earliest documents (the Regius and
Cooke) don"t mention York, and he believes
the date would be closer to 932. Perhaps the
best known portion of the Regius is found in
lines 61 to 66 which read:
The Craft came into England, as I now say.
In the time of good King Athelsant's day;
He made them both hall and likewise bower
And high Temples of great honor.
To dusport him in both day and night,
And to worship his god with God with all his might.
Who, in the opinion of most historians. was
the foremost Masonic historian who
compiled and account of the early centuries
in the development of the Craft?
Robert Freke Gould. See his three volume
The History of Freemasonry. He painstakingly
covers the history of the Craft from what
is known about its beginning through 1885.
Where are the earliest lodge records to be
found in Scotland? in England?
In Scotland the earliest lodge records still in
existence were recorded in Aitchison's Haven
in 1598; minutes of Mary's Chapel lodge at
Edinburgh are unbroken from 1599; in England,
according to Gould, only the records of
Alnwick between the dates of l7OO and 1717
are known to have been recorded. Grand lodge
tells us: "Early evidence relating to other [than
Acception] non-operative Lodges is very
scarce." From many sources we lean of Elias
Ashlmole's entry on October 16, 1646 in his
diary: "I was made a Free-Mason at Warrenton
in Lancashire" along with "Coll: Henry
Mainwaring of Karincham in Cheshire." He
added the names of seven members of the
lodge. The records of this lodge have disappeared.
When did Freemasonry enter Ireland?
No one knows. It was some time after a
Grand Lodge was formed in England before
the first Lodge came into being in Ireland.
Without doubt Masonry was known there at
least as early as July 11, 1688.
Which Gothic or Manuscript Constitutions
(hereafter called Gothic) contains the first
link between the Craft and King Solomon's
The Cook Manuscript f 1410. Harry Carr
in Grand Lodge recorded this from this Manuscript
"And at the making of Solomon's
Temple that King David began-King David
loved all Masons, and he gave them charges
right nigh as they are now. And at the making
of the Temple in Solomon's time, as it is said
in the Bible, in III Book of Kings ... that
Solomon had four score thousand Masons at
his work; and the King's son of Tyre was his
"Time immemorial" is used frequently in
Freemasonry; what does it mean?
Other explanations are given, but briefly
"time Immemorial" can be termed as ancient,
something having existed from a time one
A major group of historians believe Freemasonry
descended from stonemasons. How long have these
craftsmen been in existence?
It is generally agreed that stonemasons, in
some form, have existed all over the world
since the dawn of time, long before the building
of the pyramids in Egypt. Actually it takes
no stretch of the imagination to realize there
had to be stone Masons, and other craftsmen,
since men first began to build edifices to
protect them from the elements. This would
require some type of organizing, leading to
some type of organization. Stories in the Bible
and other old historical documents readily
verify this theory.
How long have lodges with speculative
masons been in existence?
To be historically accurate, one cannot go
beyond six centuries to find lodges of masons
accepting men other than operative craftsmen.
And for many centuries few, other than actual
craftsmen, were accepted. But it's not unreasonable
to assume clerics and other educated
men were readily united with the craftsmen
(most of whom couldn't read or write). Grand
Lodge says the first record of non-operatives
being accepted was in July 1634 when Lord
Alexander, Sir Anthony Alexander and Sir
Alexander Strachan were admitted "fellow
craft" in the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's
Chapel). Coil dates non-operative masons
from 1600 in the Lodge of Edinburgh, but
Mc Leod believes this incorrect. The non-
operative, John Boswell, attended a trial of a
warden, not a meeting of the lodge. But this
Lodge did admit Lord ALEXANDER of Menstrie
in 1634 as a Fellowcraft. Then Coil finds non-
operatives in Kelso, 1652; Aberdeen, 1670;
Kilwinning, 1672. He found the last of the
operative masons as members of a lodge in
Lodge Glasgow in 1842.
W@ere did the term "lodge" come from?
As with many things we can only speculate
as to where the word "lodge" derived. Dictionaries
say that it probably came from the
buildings, or huts, where the craftsmen worked
and lived. Lodges of masons are mentioned at
York Minster in 1352, at Canterbury Cathedral
in 1429, at the Church of St. Nicholas,
Aberdeen in 1483 , and at St. Giles, Edinburgh,
in 1429. "Lodge" first referred to non-permanent
bodies, but gradually reverted to fixed
localities, such as Edinburgh in 1598.
What's the story of "the Four Crown
Martyrs" for whom the premier research
Lodge (Quatuor Coronati) is named?
Gould recounts the tale in this fashion: In
A.D. 298, during the reign of Diocletian, the
Roman Emperor, five Christian stone masons
refused to carve a statue of a pagan god. They
were put to death and cast into the Tiber.
Crowns appeared on the water above where
the bodies had sunk. (That's five crowns!)
Two years later the Emperor ordered all soldiers
to march past and throw incense on the
altar of Acsculapius. Four Christian officers
refused to obey the order. They were put to
death, and later became the martyrs. So we
have four of them. Later all nine were honored.
In Germany the five became four. In all
of the known Gothic Constitutions this legend
is mentioned only in the Regius.
What were the Schaw Statutes?
In 1598 these statutes, or rules and regulations,
were enacted in Scotland to cause the
craftsmen to observe the ancient usages and to
live charitably together. Fines were made enforceable.
Obedience to wardens, deacons and
masters was enjoined. Cowans were prevented
from working under any master, and other
rules and regulations pertaining to craftsmen
were made mandatory. In 1599 these statutes
were amended at the request of Kilwinning
Lodge in an attempt to receive royal recognition.
The masters convened at Edinburgh and
thirteen articles were adopted. Royal recognition
was obtained in part.