The earliest recorded
'making' of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646.
began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717,
the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and
Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace
themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.
There are two
main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons
who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they
discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and,
as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade
union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to
demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site
In the 1600s, these
operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as "gentlemen masons".
Gradually these non-operative took over the lodges and turned them from
operative to 'free and accepted' or 'speculative' lodges. The other
theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group
which was interested in the promotion of religious and political
tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on
matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In
forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a
As the means of
teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea
of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The
main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known
to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described
in detail in the Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basis
of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basis
administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the
operative mason's tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with
which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
From the UGLE web