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History Of Masonry From Its Revival In The South Of England Till The Death Of King George I


BOOK Iv - The History of Masonry in England

illustrations of masonry
william preston

The reputation of the Society being now established, many noblemen and gentlemen of the first rank desired to be received into the lodges, which had increased considerably during the administration of Mr. Payne. The duties of masonry were found to be a pleasing relaxation from the fatigue of business; and in the lodge, uninfluenced by politics or party, a happy union was effected among the most respectable characters in the kingdom.

On the 24th of June 1721, Grand Master Payne and his wardens, with the former grand officers, and the masters and wardens of twelve lodges, met the Grand Master elect at the Queen's Arms Tavern in St. Paul's Church-yard, where the Grand Lodge was opened in ample form. Having confirmed the proceedings of the last Grand Lodge, several gentlemen were initiated into masonry at the request of the duke of Montague; and, among the rest, Philip lord Stanhope, afterwards earl of Chesterfield. From the Queen's Arms the Grand Lodge marched in procession in their clothing to Stationers'-hall in Ludgate-street, where they joyfully received by one hundred and fifty brethren, properly clothed. The Grand Master having made the first procession round the hall, took an affectionate leave of his brethren; and, being returned to his place, proclaimed the duke of Montague his successor for the ensuing year. The general regulations compiled by Mr. Payne in 1721, and compared with the ancient records and immemorial usages of the fraternity, were read, and met with general approbation; after which Dr. Desaguliers delivered an elegant oration on the subject of masonry.

Soon after his election, the Grand Master gave convincing proofs of his zeal and attention, by commanding Dr. Desaguliers and James Anderson, A. M men of genius and education, to revise, arrange, and digest the Gothic constitutions, old charges, and general regulations. This task they faithfully executed; and at the ensuing Grand Lodge held at the Queen's Arms St. Paul's Church-yard on the 27th of December 1721, being the festival of St. John the Evangelist, they presented the same for approbation. A committee of fourteen learned brothers was then appointed to examine the manuscript, and to make their report; and on this occasion several very entertaining lectures were delivered, and much useful information given by some old brethren.

At a Grand Lodge held at the Fountain Tavern in the Strand, in ample form, on the 25th March 1722, the committee reported, that they had perused the manuscript, containing the history, charges, regulations, &c. of masonry, and, after some amendments, had approved thereof. The Grand Lodge ordered the whole to be prepared for the press, and printed with all possible expedition. This order was strictly obeyed, and in little more than two years the Book of Constitutions appeared in print, under the following title: "The Book of Constitutions of the Free Masons: containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. For the Use of the Lodges." London, 1723.

In January 1722-3, the duke of Montague resigned in favour of the duke of Wharton, who was very ambitious to attain the office. His grace's resignation proceeded from the motive of reconciling the brethren to this nobleman, who had incurred their displeasure, by having convened, in opposition to the resolutions of the Grand Lodge, on the 25th of March, an irregular assembly of masons at Stationers'-hall, on the festival of St. John the Baptist, in order to get himself elected as Grand Master. The duke of Wharton, fully sensible of the impropriety of his conduct, publicly acknowledged his error; and promising in future a strict conformity and obedience to the resolutions of the Society, was, with the general consent of the brethren, approved as Grand Master elect for the ensuing year. His grace was regularly invested and installed on the 17th of January 1722-3 by the Grand Master, and congratulated by upwards of twenty-five lodges, who were present in the Grand Lodge on that day. The diligence and attention of the duke of Wharton to the duties of his office soon recovered and established his reputation in the Society; while under his patronage masonry made a considerable progress in the South of England. During his presidency, the office of Grand Secretary was first established, and William Cowper esq. being appointed, that gentleman executed the duties of the department several years.

The duke of Buccleugh succeeded the duke of Wharton in 1723. This nobleman was no less attached to masonry than his predecessor. Being absent on the annual festival, he was installed by proxy at Merchant-taylors'-hall, in presence of 400 masons.

His grace was succeeded in the following year by the duke of Richmond, under whose administration the Committee of Charity was instituted. Lord Paisley, afterwards earl of Abercorn, being active in promoting this new establishment, was elected Grand Master in the end of the year 1725. Being in the country at the time, his lordship was installed by proxy. During his absence, Dr. Desaguliers, who had been appointed his deputy, was very attentive to the duties of his office, by visiting the lo9dges, and diligently promoting masonry. On his lordship's return to town, the earl of Inchiquin was proposed to succeed him, and was elected in February 1726. The Society now flourished in town and country, and under the patronage of this nobleman the Art was propagated with considerable success. This period was rendered remarkable, by the brethren of Wales first uniting under the banner of the Grand Lodge of London. In Wales are some venerable remains of ancient masonry, and many stately ruins of castles, executed in the Gothic style, which evidently demonstrate that the fraternity must have met with encouragement in that part of the island in former times. Soon after this happy union, the office of Provincial Grand Master was instituted, and the first deputation granted by earl Inchiquin, on the 10th of May 1727, to Hugh Warburton esq. for North Wales; and on the 24th of June following, to sir Edward Mansell bart. for South Wales. The lodges in the country now began to increase, and deputations were granted to several gentlemen, to hold the office of Provincial Grand Master in different parts of England, as well as in some places abroad where lodges had been constituted by English masons. During the earl of Inchiquin's mastership, a warrant was issued for opening a new lodge at Gibraltar.

Among the variety of noble edifices which were finished during the presidency of this nobleman, was that excellent structure the church of St. Martin in the Fields; the foundation stone of which, it being a royal parish church, was laid, in the king's name, on the 29th of March 1721, by brother Gibb the architect, in presence of the Lord Almoner, the surveyor general, and a large company of the brethren.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014