If you are a Mason, at least once you have told someone the story about the beginnings: On St. John Baptist’s day A.D. 1717 four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St Paul’s Church-yard, decided to form a Grand Lodge… and the rest is history. Or is it?
According to the 1738 edition of Anderson’s Constitution where this “record” of the events appeared some twenty years later, that’s what happened. Actually, it mentions the four lodges meeting a year before – see the original text1 transcription from the original shown in the header image.
It turned out there was one little problem with this nice story: namely, that the Apple-Tree Tavern (under #3.) on Charles Street did not exist at that time!
This was the sensational discovery presented at this year’s Sankey Lecture in Masonic Studies2. Professor Andrew Prescott of Glasgow University had a captivating story to tell and shattered our idea of having certain knowledge regarding the beginnings of the Craft.
Now, if this detail proved to be untrue… how much can we trust Anderson’s history in general?
- King George I. enter’d London most magnificently on 20 Sept. 1714. and after the Rebellion was over A.D.1716. the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony, viz. the Lodges that met,
- At the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St.Paul’s Church-Yard.
- At the Crown Ale-house in Parker’s-Lane near Drury-Lane.
- At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-Street, Covent-Garden.
- At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster.
They and some old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (call’d the Grand Lodge) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.
Accordingly, on St. John Baptist’s Day, in 3d Year of King George I. A.D. 1717. the Assembly and Feast of the Free and accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-house.
Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates; and the Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected.
Mr. Antony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons, who being forthwith invested, with the Badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master, and install’d, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who pay’d him the Homage. (Cap. Joseph Elliot, Mr.Jacob Lamball, Grand Wardens).
Sayer Grand Master commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication, at the Place that he should appoint in his Summons sent by the Tyler. ↩
- See more at Sankey Lectures website ↩