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by R. W. Bro. O. P. (Paul) Thomas, 1969

According to Masonic tradition, generally admitted, a General Assembly of Operative Masons in England was held at York in 926 when King Athelstan granted the Masons a Charter.

Dr. Anderson, author of the first printed history of Free Masonry approved by a Grand Lodge, in 1722, and published in 1733, refers to "The Old Lodge of York City."

Here Preston calls the General Assembly of Masons in England, which did not always meet at York, a Grand Lodge. True, it met there oftener than at any other place, and was governed by a Grand Master. It issued no Charters to form new lodges, for Masonic lodges were spontaneous bodies of workmen who organized wherever they were working, and were not obliged to report to a Grand Lodge.

These General Assemblies fore little resemblance to a Constituant Grand Lodge. Hughan says: "The Grand Loge of England, first of its kind, was inaugurated in 1717."

Several years after the Grand Lodge of England was organized, the Masons at York set up a Grand Lodge for the North of England. If a Grand Lodge existed there before that, why organize another?

For a fact, all the lodges in England did not report to a General Assembly, nor did they all come under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodges after the latter were formed. The Lodge at Alnwick also remained an independent body. The Grand Masters of General Assemblies were not always Free Masons: skilled architects were sometimes chosen to preside; sometimes the King or Prelate. Masonry, previous to the 16th century, seems to have been a purely operative institution, though recognized and patronized by the Crown and the Church as a useful and loyal body of workmen. That there was a Lodge at York is well known, but that it had any more authority among the corporations of builders than any other Lodge cannot be proven by any document history or process of reasoning.

We often hear Masons say, "Is your Lodge the York Rite?" as though there was any difference between ceremonies practiced at York and any other part of England before the organization of the Grand Lodge of England. Whatever the ceremony of initiation was at York, it as the same at London until the London Masons introduced what the others called innovations, to which they strenuously objected, but afterwards went further in introducing new features that did the Grand Lodge of England.

The Grand Lodge of England introduced or adopted the Fellow Craft and Master Masons Degree, but the Royal Arch and Templars Degrees were introduced at York , while the United Grand Lodge of England, in 1813, declared pure Craft Masonry consisted of three Degrees: Entered Apprentices, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.

Craft Masonry is York Masonry as we universally accept the tradition that what we call "Blue Masonry" began at York in the 10th century and has developed into a universal fraternity known wherever established as York Masonry.

The original Charter at York was kept in the archives of the Old Lodge at York City and destroyed in the War of the Roses. Copies were made from memory and preserved in the British Museum with many other old Masonic Manuscripts.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014