CRAFT, TRADE OR MYSTERY:
Part One - Britain from Gothic Cathedrals to the Tolpuddle Conspirators
By Dr Bob James
Revised May 2002
Freemasons, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions Index
Hosted by Takver's Initiatives
The Emergence of Speculative Freemasonry
On June 24, St John's Day, 1717, 4 apparently autonomous London lodges met together to form what English-speaking Speculative Freemasons (SF's) accept as the first and 'Premier' Grand Lodge of their Freemasonry, indeed the 'Mother and Creator' of SF worldwide. Other reasons for the meeting are sometimes given:
(Anyone)...wishing to indulge in a religious or political discussion would have been well-advised to make certain that the person to whom he spoke was of the same mind...there was an obvious need for secret societies...having carefully guarded signs for recognising other persons of a similar persuasion...Surely it is reasonable to think that there was a desire to establish Freemasonry [NB capitals] on a permanent and respectable basis and how could this be achieved unless some governing body were created with a well-known and revered figure at its head as Grand Master?327
There is a such a vast amount of literature which could be regarded as relevant to this question, that no-one person is likely ever to be able to say truthfully they had read everything which might be brought to bear, let alone that they had assimilated its implications. In that mass, has been sufficient cause for its general dismissal by scholars looking for definitive statements. Others have seen a need for yet more research. I make no claims to even know about everything relevant, let alone to have read it. I can only draw out what I think are reasonable conclusions from what I have read, and make myself a target for those whose knowledge will suggest I've been hasty, intemperate or 'have only touched the surface.'
The advocates for 'origin' histories of SF other than one involving the operative masons and guild heritage would seem to me to be either avoiding or missing the point, which is: why a 'Grand Lodge' at all? From whence came the idea of 'a Grand Lodge pro tempore in Due Form', the 'Quarterly Communications', the 'Annual Assembly and Feast' whereat was to be elected 'a Grand Master and Grand Officers', which are the terms apparently used in the key resolution at that 1717 meeting.
Brothers with an inflated sense of SF's uniqueness suggest that creation of its philosophy required a nurturing intellectual environment and stable social conditions, which necessary situation was met historically with the Royal Society (of London for Improving Natural Knowledge):
No other explanation is possible; regardless of how much the Grand Lodge of England would deny it...The Royal Society was an exclusive organisation that attracted men of learning and those who wished to explore esoteric philosophy in a secure environment which proscribed arguments of a religious or political nature, during these difficult and turbulent times and when any kind of original thought could be very dangerous. In these conditions it is easy to see why Speculative Freemasonry, with its concepts of tolerance, intellectual integrity, moral truth and oaths of secrecy, would have been attractive to these men.328
How could these ideas, a wish list rather than reality for the gentry in question, attract anyone unless they, the ideas, were already in play? How could 'men of learning' be driven to 'explore esoteric philosophy' unless such was already the basis of some operating institution?
For four years after the 1717 meeting very little activity was, publically, noted. Official minutes exist from 1721, and some would point to these to provide answers to the question 'What does a Grand Lodge do?' In fact very little is known for sure. Newly-wrought 'Grand Lodge' positions besides 'Grand Master' such as 'Grand Secretary' were in place by 1721, and shortly after one 'made' observer wrote that the brothers were finding it hard to 'find members enough to perform the ceremony' of admission. Somehow John, Duke of Montagu, was convinced he should accept the position of Grand Master, succeeding a 'gentleman', a tax inspector and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Those involved in 1721 appear to have celebrated with their first public procession and:
Now Masonry flourish'd in Harmony, Reputation and Numbers; many desir'd to be admitted into the Fraternity...Therefore the Grand Master was obliged to constitute more Lodges.329
Reading between the lines would suggest that along with increased amounts of administration went modish conviviality, wrangling over precedence in seating, toasting and dress codes and attempts to replace independence with a recognisable, hierarchically organised 'Order.'It would also seem reasonable to assume that politics and religion were the most discussed of all 'lodge' topics.
Most of the lodges prepared to express allegiance to the new authority were in London, where saturation would appear to have been reached before a general decline became obvious in the 1740's. Haunch, SF historian of this period, acknowledges GL administration was slack, a number of its decisions were inept, and public ridicule 'reached new heights'.330 Some of the public derision is believed to have been sparked by brothers disappointed at not sharing in what was believed to be a money-making scheme. A Charity Fund for 'indigent and decay'd brethren' proved less popular than the Annual Assembly and Feast where Grand Lodge's capacity to impose dress codes and drink disciplines were first tested.
An anti-SF Papal Encyclical in 1738, re-newed Jacobite threats, 1745, and hostilities with France added to a loss of momentum - Freemasonry had taken a run 'and run itself out of breath.'331 Horace Walpole, a brother, said that the Freemasons were in so low repute in 1743 that 'nothing but a persecution could bring them into vogue again.'332 Varying degrees of resentment were directed at the Grand Officers, reactions including the 'movement' known as the 'Antients' and a number of opposition 'Grand Lodges'.
The 'Antients' were initially Irish SF's of 'irregular', ie independent and/or self-instituted lodges, who looked for guidance to the Grand Lodge of York, not London, as the home and origin of the 'purest and most ancient of masonic systems.'333 As Bullock says, a social history of English Freemasonry 'awaits a serious study', but it is generally accepted that those who flocked to the 'Antients' as soon as they were established (1751) and as their Grand Secretary (GS) began to deride what he labelled 'the Moderns', were artisans and small traders (weavers, shoemakers and tailors have been mentioned), what Bullock calls those 'who lacked political power and social distinction.'
GS Dermott was a journeyman painter, 'obliged to work twelve hours a day for a Master Painter', and when the 'Antient' rites spread to the US and other colonies, newly-made brothers were more often than not plumbers, town constables, even street sweepers and pig catchers.334
This 'second wave' of Freemasonry proved to be a major escalator of social advancement for some, but the 'Antients' also actively encouraged the establishment of military lodges, whereby Masonic fellowship was provided 'for lower ranks of soldiers who could not mingle in polite local society.'335 The phenomenon of lodges in military regiments, for which Ireland's Grand Lodge provided more Charters than any other, was two-faced as we will see, and raises further questions about which SF reached the colonies. But the military's travel arrangements and the need for less-rigid formations in the 'New World' suggests that at least the flow of ideas of Locke, Rousseau, Hume and Voltaire was through these regiments, and some non-military lodges, to the 'whole of colonial administration, society and culture' along with lodge rituals, traditions, opportunities and benefits:
The Freemasonry of the age was a repository for an imaginatively stirring and potent idealism...It was largely through the lodges that 'ordinary' colonists learned of that lofty premise called 'the rights of man.' It was through the lodges that they learned the concept of the perfectibility of society. And the New World seemed to offer a species of blank slate, a species of laboratory in which social experiment was possible and the principles enshrined by Freemasonry could be applied in practice.336
The compromise by the 'Moderns' in the adoption of the 'Antient' ritual at the time English SF Union was secured, 1813, was only possible after the Jacobin threat was seen as removed from Britain. In the meantime, as Waite has observed:
The continent of Europe, but above all, France and Germany, was like a garden planted everywhere with exotic flowers of Ritual. Between 1737 and 1777 the growth of Masonic Rites and Grades, and of Grades and Rites which passed under the name of Masonry, however little they belonged thereto in the facts of their purport and symbolism, is a thing without precedent in history.337
Hamill and Gilbert338 in their recent summary of World Freemasonry argue that SF lodges were in place in Continental Europe by the 1720's and that these were begun by expatriate or travelling Britishers on their own initiative. One of these self-constituted lodges was begun in Rome, without reference to any Grand Lodge, by Jacobite rebels exiled from England after the 1715 uprising. Its activities gave rise to what Hamill and Gilbert call 'the myth' that much of early continental European Freemasonry was Jacobite-inspired and a means by which information was passed back to England to secret supporters of the Jacobite cause, ultimately leading to the 1745 rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie.339 They claim
The spread of Freemasonry in Europe was facilitated by three factors: the appointment of Provincial Grand Masters from England; lodges begun from England becoming 'mother' lodges; and the issue of travelling warrants by the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland to lodges in regiments of the British Army.
Normally, an SF lodge was issued a warrant or authority by a Grand Lodge to hold meetings at a place specified. The specifically-named 'travelling warrant' was devised to allow regimental lodges to meet wherever they were stationed. Often when they moved on, local residents with whom they had dealt and invited to join petitioned in their own right for a 'stationary lodge.'
As far as SF of the type associated with that 1717 formation (of the London, later English Grand Lodge) and now claiming millions of adherents world-wide, ie, that associated with the 'United Grand Lodge of England of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons', is concerned:
pure Ancient Masonry consists of 3 degrees and no more; viz, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.
The reference to the Holy Royal Arch Degree has to do with disappointment felt by the 'Antients' with what evolved after 1717 at the hands of Grand Lodge officials. The above declaration of 'pure Ancient Masonry' is the first sentence of Article II of the Act Of Union which in 1813 brought 'the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England' into the 'United Grand Lodge of England.' This event did not end disputation over the essence of 'the craft' nor stop its efflorescence. The second sentence of Article II reads:
But this article is not intended to prevent any Lodge or Chapter from holding a meeting in any of the degrees of the Orders of Chivalry, according to the constitutions of the said Order.340
There is thus available to 'graduates' of English 'Craft Masonry' a kind of extended family of Degrees. They include: ranks up to the 33 Degree of what's known as the Scottish Rite, the nine-degreed York rite, a number of Cryptic Degrees and Orders of Chivalry including Knights Templar Degrees. Outside that again, there is another, vast world of idiosyncratic, mainly esoteric rites, some of which are acknowledged by Grand Lodges other than London and some of which are acknowledged by no-one other than their founders. A French author in 1861 listed more than 75 kinds and 1400 'degrees' of 'Masonry', 52 separate 'Rites', 34 quasi-Masonic Orders, 26 Androgynous Orders (ie admitting women) and 6 'Masonic Academies.' This was just at the beginning of a period when dozens more new 'Degrees' and 'Orders' were established, many of them in 'the New World', where it has often simply been assumed they were 'Masonic' in origin.
'Freemasonry' has been seen behind every fraternity and secret society established since 1717 and at work behind every political and economic upheaval since that time as well. Margaret Jacob, interested in the dynamics of the Enlightenment whereby prevailing 'knowledge' explaining the world and its social arrangements in terms of religious, ie Catholic faith, was subverted by ideas based on 'natural philosophy', an emergent materialism, asked the question - what part did the establishment of Freemasonry play in the questioning of absolute power and the exploration of alternative forms of social decision-making, necessarily involving a clash between the Roman Church's teachings and the reformers?
Specifically, Jacob's reading of the years between 1717 and 1723 when SF published its 'Constitutions' is that the London brethren were divided into political factions and that Desaguliers, Anderson and other rational Protestants finally prevailed. Hughenot refugee Desagulier may not have actually written the ceremonies, but he and other escapees from Catholic persecution must have given SF a Protestant-tinge which allowed it to merge with the Royal Society, the Royal Court and engineering/commercial circles.
Desagulier, third Grand Master, held numerous patents and was awarded at the age of 60 the Copley Gold Medal for his continuing experiments on bridge construction, steam control and water supplies. He was Chaplain to the Duke of Chandos and demonstrated his scientific findings before George II. Fellow Hughenots brought many of the skills and manufacturing ideas which enabled the industrial revolution to occur in their new country. John Senex, as one example, was made SF's Grand Warden and a Fellow of the Royal Society in the same year, 1727. Charts of the planets and constellations were his scientific speciality, and for his 'improved' world globes he was recommended to the Society by Dr Halley.
The Jacob interpretation has placed SF within the world-wide struggles for political and religious dominance between Spain, France, Holland, Germany and England. One of her conclusions is that after William of Orange failed to deliver on his 1688 promises, disillusioned Protestants including Orangeists, formed secret societies to discuss an altogether new faith - a radical religion involving pantheism, republicanism and rational philosophy - this she argues was SF Mk 1.
Not only did they refuse to accept Christian doctrine, and indeed reject the most basic assumptions of Christian metaphysics, they also formulated an entirely new religion of nature and gave it ritualistic expression within Freemasonry.341
Never entirely in control, the republican/pantheists were defeated within a few years of establishing the Grand Lodge by others who nevertheless shared some of the radicals' scepticisms about established religions and established hierarchies. Thus, the Speculative Constitution required belief in a supreme being, or a religion that all men could agree upon, not the established Church and not even a specifically Christian God. Thus, SF Mk II:
Perhaps now we can see why, in the late eighteenth century and well beyond, at a time of revolutionary upheaval, proponents of the ancien regime fastened their paranoid theories of conspiracy around that very institution. There was no Masonic conspiracy to subvert the established order; but there certainly were Freemasons who from the early eighteenth century onwards brought their discontent with the post-revolutionary order in England on to the Continent and exported into northern Europe an institution that could provide a social nexus for displaced idealists, political agents and subversive thinkers.342
None of this is why Jacob believed the SFs were so important. She has argued that 'Masonic' lodges were the sites of the production of modern civil society.343 In other words, what was new and special about SF was that elections were decided by ballot of representative assemblies and that decisions on candidates were made on the basis of merit not social wealth or power. At the time this was as radical as the argument for religious tolerance.
Within any given SF lodge tensions between harmony and egalitarianism must have been rife and multi-faceted: tolerance vs freedom of speech; universalism vs Christianity; populism vs the elitism of those in the know. The dilemmas rarely lent themselves to clear analysis.
In practice, the choices of those in power within even a single lodge were being made from conflicting, human essentials. Disputing brothers, equally committed to SF, could 'see' totally opposed truths - the conviviality of 'the south' could be decorous & moderate or grandiose & excessive, and the rites of association could be simple or exotic and over blown. Similarly, secrecy struggled with openness and public display; thrift struggled with a desire for publicity; affluence struggled with simplicity as the mark of a successful lodge; secularism and rationalism with mysticism; 'ancient' wisdom with 'modern' wisdom; and levelling tendencies within a hierarchical structure.
After 200 years of both 'Grand Lodge' Freemasonry and industrialisation, a percipient observer pointed out the key conflict within 'the [modern] Craft':
It can never be too often repeated that the Word is, in Masonry, the symbol of Truth. This Truth is the great object of pursuit in Masonry - the scope and tendency of all its investigations - the promised reward of all Masonic labor...The loss of the Word is the loss of Divine Truth, which in this age of scientific materialism is so patently illustrated.344
What this glosses, of course, is the possibility of more than one 'Divine Truth', exactly the situation with which we are attempting to engage. My enterprise, modest enough in ambition initially, found itself needing to unpick seriously reinforced layers of historiographic selectivity. Fortunately, Norman Davies, another recent scholar setting himself against the prevailing wisdom, has already isolated three themes in what he has called 'the systematic state propoganda' which set up 'the English myth.' Set running by Thomas Cromwell, 'clothed in golden words' by William Shakespeare, reinforced by the Protestant Establishment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and set in stone by the dominant 'Whig Interpretation' of history, the myth has involved:
Obtaining Royal patronage was perhaps a cause as well as a result for Desaguliers, et al, but did the Protestants at the heart of that perhaps first Grand Lodge - aspiring, politically-astute 'creators' of SF - downplay what operative rites came into their hands because they were a mere shadow of their former selves, and therefore in need of rebuilding, as Gould suggested, or did they deliberately conceal only those ideas which were, at the time, dangerous? Were there in the discarded material even some ideas capable of successfully transmitting, describing and explaining the heritage but which were considered by these 'new men' to be embarrassing?
Women and Freemasonry
[NB: In this section, the symbol # = a right angle,
the symbol [ ] = a triangle squared on each side representing the well-known theorem of Pythagoras, and
the symbol [*] = an equilateral triangle.]
Women were 'officially' excluded from SFreemasonry because they were thought unable to keep secrets and likely to introduce passion and division within lodges. The lodge was, after all, to be harmonious and ordered, not disordered or disfigured by the blood, the sweat and the tears of sexual tension or its possibly violent consequences. As the new Science showed divine harmony becoming rational harmony so the internal workings of lodge were supposed to reflect that harmony, everything in its correct place, with each brother knowing and accepting 'his' place.
Lipson has no doubt that women were deeply and broadly involved in industry and industrial struggles from mediaeval times.346 An Australian SF scholar, Carter, has collected evidence disputing the numerous reasons given by Grand Lodge over the years to justify the continuing exclusion of women.347
In the period immediately after 1717, the creators of SF had a choice since their creation bridged the 'old world' and 'the new', the magical and the rational. Perhaps, as I have suggested, the 'gentry' were fobbed of with not-very-significant information. Perhaps the modish and the thrill seekers flocking into transitional lodges were not interested in and jettisoned anything difficult to understand. Perhaps the personalities involved conflicted over essentials - esoteric and/or practical - and were forced into 'accomodations'. At first glance, SF appears to have chosen rationality for its administration, and magic for its content. But what would a more perceptive brother do, if he did happen to uncover what we might call 'substantive secrets'? Not alternative or Old Testament names for God but actual operatives' secrets? What then?
Such secrets may have involved the figuring processes which made the cathedrals possible. Some may have disclosed the mathematics' mediterranean origin. Would brethren like Ashmole or Desagulier make such secrets accessible to everyone? The literature discloses no such broadcasts. Perhaps the reason for the calamitous destruction of 'old charges' came about for the obvious reason - that they disclosed information which these early SF decision-makers regarded as not just politically damaging, for example a too Catholic phrasing, but as capable of undermining the institutions which made their power possible. Did the information passed on orally by mediaeval Masters to their Apprentices include explanations relating divine and human 'creation', that is, were young men introduced to lodge practice and to their craft through female sexuality?
Geometry was central to mediaeval stonemasons and would have been the area of greatest emphasis in lodge instruction. Speculative Freemasons pay lip service to geometry's importance but ignore it in practice. SF's symbolism is replete with triangles and their derivatives, such as 5 and 6-pointed stars, with circles, arcs and angles, but the mechanics of geometry, its theorems, do not figure at all. This is intriguing.
Two articles in the English Grand Lodge's own research journal by Klein have rarely been mentioned in the century since their publication.348 The first article, published in 1897, was called 'The Great Symbol', and the second, in 1910, was called 'Magister - Mathesios'. Klein's opening sentences in the second showed his intentions were:
Klein does more even than this. He adds weight to the suggestion that official SF gives observers only a cleaned-up version, after the blood, the sweat and the tears have dried and those stuck-together pages have been torn out.
The title of Klein's second article translates as 'The Head of All Learning', by which is meant geometry. The startling truth of which he reminded his readers was that although geometry was stated in the 1723 Constitutions to be the foundation of all Speculative Masonry, very few SF authors actually use it in their explanations. He began:
The symbols, signs and SS [secrets] of our Fraternity were based upon what I called [in his 1897 article, 'The Great Symbol'] "the Knowledge of the #" [the right angle] and it is natural, therefore, to expect the arrangement of the Lodge to be in accordance with the same principle.349
For this assertion to be true, Klein says, it is necessary that there be a strongly-held belief system correlating with 'the knowledge of the #'[the right angle]. This is provided by the religion of the operative masons. The # symbolised Knowledge, but knowledge only attainable when it, the #, was perfectly formed. Given a belief that heaven was manifest on earth and revealed in all things, at least to those who knew how and where to look, it was believed that 'the very existence of the Universe' depended on the perfect creation of that perfect right angle.
The Operative Lodge, as the Universe, was marked out by three lights at the extremities of the right angle in which places the three principal officers were to be when the lodge was 'working.' The operative lodge master's seat was at the corner of the angle. Today's Worshipful Master, as that Master Mason [MM] before him, 'proves' his Lodge to be properly formed by means of the square he wears as the symbol of his office.
In operative times, the secret of the # was passed to the MM when he became master. In the 17th century, just the secret of the # was sufficient to attract Elias Ashmole [among the earliest known candidates] and others to be initiated as 'speculative masons', but by 1720 or so it was realised by outsiders that there were other lost treasures to be uncovered. The belief had developed that the 'Old Charges' revealed, not simply the workings of operative lodges, but the geometrical and symbolic core of all learning. Besides showing a way forward for science, 'Revealed Masonry' might also provide a path to spiritual enlightenment and to a place in Paradise.
Klein suggested there were three rival forms of sacred knowledge in the period, 1717-1730, and perhaps three different lodge settings in use also. He suggested there were followers of the #, the Operative, which was dying out, there were followers of the 'Modern Speculative', strongly in the ascendant and represented by the Pythagoras theorem,[ ] and there were followers of a much older speculative form, probably started in the 12th century, which he called the Religio-Speculative, or Mystic, and represented by the equilateral triangle [ * ]:
I think I can show that the new (1730) ceremony and legend contain evidence of, and are meant to depict, the competition between these three for supremacy in the third degree, resulting in the adoption of the Pythagorean theorem.350
In the 12th century, as operative or 'craft' masonry became more important and more complicated, lodges became more formal in shape and in their practice, and became centres of learning, wherein MM's taught apprentices and 'Fellow Crafts'. As monasteries and religious houses were the supporters and conservers of geometry, which they needed to build their cathedrals, they were the logical patrons of a developing Masonry:
It naturally followed that growing up alongside the Operative there was a religious symbolism...which attached itself to the tools used by Masons and formed the basis of Speculative Masonry.351
In these 'schools', it was discovered how to create a right angle by bisecting the base of an equilateral triangle and drawing from that point to the apex. This had been Euclid's first theorem. The [*] was perceived as the Divine Logos or Word, which created the Universe, that is, the Lodge in the form of #. The MM was thus symbolising the Sun.
Klein suggests great excitement amongst the mystic masons when they discovered that the [*] was itself created by the intersection of two circles, where the triangle's base was the line joining their centres. Joining the ends of this line to the points of intersection of the arcs creates the Christian symbol for Jesus, as it is for re-birth or re-generation. Though the same triangles above and below that line obviously provide a representation of female genitalia, a fact recognised as such in Arabic and European literature, this correlation was disguised by the symbol being called vesica piscis or 'fish's bladder.'
Klein quoted an early philosopher thus:
When you have discovered the meaning thereof, do not divulge it, because the people cannot philosophise or understand that to the infinite there is no such thing as sex.352
So, after social history, industrial relations and geometry353, the next obvious gap in SF literature is a discussion of sex and gender.
According to Klein, the symbolism of the Gothic cathedrals and of the Templars was Gnostic rather than Catholic, providing ample reasons for the Templar Knight bankers to be pursued and destroyed. He believes that by the 16th century the secret of the vesica piscis was already lost, its period of use, the Gothic, being the Templar era. When they declined in influence, so did the building program based on the knowledge they had been attempting to spread throughout Europe.354
Klein showed what he believed were the alternative lodge forms in use in transitional lodges. The 'new' MM Degree (the third) created after 1717, symbolically shows two things: the struggle between the new Speculatives and the Mystics, who had already defeated the Operatives, and a new completion when the superior knowledge of the Speculatives triumphed over all.355
The True Knowledge of the #, and its proving, necessitated changes in the positions of the key lodge officers, and the removal of the Craft's festival day from St John the Baptist Day to St John the Evangelist.356 Klein argues that in setting out the 'modern' degrees the new Speculatives deliberately censored the sacred knowledge, and not long after were accused by the 'Antients' of 'abolishing the old custom of explaining Geometry in the Lodge.' Grand Lodge (of England) insisted that the Order had no need of the mystical customs, which 'the Antients' insisted on retaining. While the 'modern' Speculative form achieved numerical dominance, the three degrees, of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, were widely regarded, even by some of their own brethren, as deficient without the Royal Arch (RA) Degree.357 In 1813 the 'Moderns', seeking unity, and by then overwhelmingly Protestant, accepted the 'Antient' forms, which included the RA degree. However, not acceptable to anyone apparently was information relating sex and gender to the Grand Architect of the Universe.
Grand Officers' actions were akin to a guild's guarding of the entrance to a trade. They wanted to determine who the brethren would be, who the 'forrins' were, what standards of 'working' were considered acceptable and when and how the 'masterpiece' was to be examined. However, any Calvinist/pantheist 'take-over' of English SF was never total, and the issue of female freemasonry has never gone away.
Setting the entry bar too high initially excluded some who desired membership, being Londoners their claim to pre-eminence irritated non-Londoners, being English they upset non-English brothers, and they angered many by arbitrarily altering the ritual. A steep decline in members and lodges occurred in the 1740's as SF suffered exposes, competition and a number of public parodies, the best-known being the 1742 burlesque by the 'Scald Miserable Masons'. Premier Grand Lodge responded by banning public SF processions in 1747 'to the annoyance of the rank and file'.358
Parades and Ritual
This study began with public displays that were made to be seen. Essential to the narrative, however, is the notion of 'secrecy', ie, keeping something hidden, out of sight. Historians are happiest dealing with the obvious, the visible, but seem to find mass public displays too visible. They are more likely to treat ceremonies as decoration to a text rather than to analyse them as part of it. Perhaps they don't know whether a display is the usually secret being unveiled, or whether they are somehow being pressed to believe that it is and the connection is altogether somewhere else, or whether there is no necessary connection between the two arenas, the public and the private, that each requires its own, distinct 'story'.
The benefit societies have always had secrets and they have always had parades - what connection, if any, can be found?
It is difficult to track the public displays of specific trades but the guilds, as Christian brotherhoods, took over the presentations of bible stories from the clergy in the 13th century. On what became their annual Saint's Day, at Easter or other special times, on moving wagons or in tableaux, trades portrayed 'the Great Story' - Creation/Crucifixion/ Resurrection/ Judgement. Each 'mistery play'359 was a guild's chance to show its strength, continuity and adherence to custom in an environment where symbols and allegories flourished:
Mediaeval society had a passion for order and symbol...Almost all the average man knew of his faith was through what he could see. Ritual was visual...and dramatic...
Contact with daily life introduced more naturalistic imagery as opposed to the early mystical abstract symbols - which included fire, light, wax, water, oil and incense. The adder was the image of the sinner, the lion often paired with the lamb became the symbol of peace, and the dragon represented the devil...Images with their all-seeing eyes and the cherished relics of saints revealed a hidden inner life...360
At York, for example, among 54 separate 'acts' the Armourers were responsible for presenting the story of Adam and Eve, the Shipwrights for Noah's Ark, and so on. The costs incurred by the 'Master Mariners and Ship Pilots' Guild' in one 1483 example have survived:
Sixpence for minstrels, ninepence each for Noah and his wife, and to Robert Brown for playing God - sixpence.361
Other material, from Coventry refers to a 'baner of velvet wrought wt golde', 'a sewt of vestments' and a 'canope of silk brodured wt golde', etc, etc.362 Buffoonery and local references were common but they were no mere entertainment:
'The Judgement' as acted by the mercers of York and the weavers of Chester, is the concluding pageant of all the English cycles. Starting with the Creation and ending with the general Judgement, the medieval playwrights have dramatised the most significant scriptural events in which they believed God's purpose for mankind is revealed.363
In the public 'cycles' such as 'Corpus Christi' numbers of performers and behind-the-scenes organisers brought colour, symbolism and mechanical effects together. Among the property of a Lincoln guild in 1564 was a 'citie of Jerusalem with towers and pynacles', 'a fyrmament with a fierye clowde and a duble clowde', 'a Hell mouth', 'a greate idoll with a clubb', and 'a tombe with a coveryng.'364 In the privacy of the lodge room, more dramatic effect could be created and more poetic licence taken. This should not cause us to forget that 'order' as well as 'symbolism' was passionately sought by mediaeval audiences. In this context, 'order' means familiarity and repetition of the visual elements and of the spoken words, not just because that approach makes popular acceptance more likely but because it asserts that despite apparent material changes, in the spiritual world where it matters nothing has altered and that therefore all is really right with the world.
The importance of the words, oral or spoken, is a constant, and cautions scholars from an over-emphasis of legal/bureaucratic language as a 'modern'innovation. The catechetic form (Q & A) would likely have been a boon to non-literate initiates over centuries. It is known that the 1658 work agreement signed by Perth (Scotland) operatives related the building of the abbey of Scone to that of Solomon's Temple, a story which became part of their lore rehearsed in catechetic (Q & A) form and on which degree candidates would have been examined in secrecy.365 Blacksmiths being 'made' for the first time in the late 19th century received printed cards relating the role of smiths in the contruction of the same building.366
The symbolic death and resurrection at the centre of SF's rite 367 is not that of Jesus Christ, it is Hiram Abiff, King Solomon's master-builder, standing in for the initiate. This provides a further clue that it was the 'lecture/s' delivered behind the closed doors of the lodge that tied-in the particular trade to the story of a special journey, not the public, for-mass-consumption, street performances.
In the secrecy of the lodge, the associative aspects of a citizen's personal search and that of the Bible as a whole were more likely to be stressed. A symbolic death and resurrection marked the admission of a candidate into Catholic Orders such as the Benedictines well into 'modern' times.368 As far as we know, the emotional death and rebirth in the sex act did not.
What we know of the public regalia of London Companies from observers' reports is at odds with the little we know of 'masonic' ceremonial, but some useful comparisons can be made with known 'trade' ceremonial.
A description of the 1553 Lord Mayor's procession has:
First were two tall men bearing two great streamers of the Merchant Taylor's arms,...all they in blue silk, and then came two great 'wodyn' armed with two great clubs all in green and with squibs burning, with great beards and side hair,...and then came men in blue gowns and caps and hose and blue silk sleeves...and then came a devil, and after that came the bachelors (yeomanry) all in livery and scarlet hoods.369
Unwin tells us that in the non-religious craft 'pageants', mobile displays such as the skinners' 'Forest of Wild Beasts' and 'the Grocers' Island' remained largely unchanged for centuries. 'Masterpieces' were sometimes carried with trade paraphenalia and effigies of their patron saints. A late 17th century 'Maiden Chariot of the Mercers' reminds me of 19th century trade certificates and 20th century displays such as the patriotic presentations for the British Empire, for May Day and Eight Hour Day:
(A young, beautiful woman dressed in rich robes with a coronet, sceptre and shield) Surrounding...her Roman chariot...sat Vigilance, Wisdom, Chastity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, (etc, etc) This immense pageant which was 22 feet high, was drawn by nine white Flanders horses..370
The well-known Guild Parade at Preston, an English Midlands town, was held from 1332 until the 20th century, near to the Feast of the Decolation of St John the Baptist. A relevant section announcing, in the 17th century, the 'Solemnization of the Guild', read:
Upon Munday next after the Decolation of St John Baptist, about 8 in the morning, all the Companys of Trades, with the Wardens of each Company in their Gowns and long white wands, each Company ranged into 2 fyles, the flags of each Company displayed, and variety of musick attending each Company, march regularly up and down the streets, wayteing for the Gild Mayor's attendance.
This prompted a reaction which provides a little more information:
And the young men within the Town, not being as yet free to Trade of themselves, have a Captain and Leftenant of their own, their ensign being the Towns Arms, a Flagg with the Holy Lamb; and they march and attend in the like order as aforesaid, with their drums and musiq.371
Whether 'official' or 'unofficial', these participants carried flags with recognised symbols, made music, and likely finished with riot and mayhem, since Saint's Days 'ended frequently in a manner not very consistent with their beginning'.
Unwin's descriptions of the highly-embroidered pall-cloths of the Company of Saddlers ('crimson velvet with a centre of yellow silk') and of the Company of Fishmongers ('centre slip of running flower of gold network, bordered with red on a ground of gold wrought with religious pictures') suggest a kinship with the well-known marching banners of the 19th and 20th centuries' friendly/trade societies. The London-based society of coach and harness makers in 1702 bought a funeral pall for use by members.372
Judging by contemporary illustrations, working stonemasons of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries often laboured without aprons, but examples of them in use do occur.373 Salzman's textual material relating to ornate 'livery', including gloves, gowns and aprons of master masons provided by employers and built into contracts as incentives in the 13th and later centuries, is not clear with regard to shape or length.374 However, the provision of apparel by employers, sometimes to work in, as marks of status or gifts to workmen for jobs completed, is quite clear. On celebratory occasions operatives wore white leather aprons and white gloves, probably to emphasise they were not at work.
The leather apron was common to many trades but when distinguishing colours and variations such as decorative embellishments first appear on the aprons of operatives is uncertain.375 A barber's 'flag of his profession' was his 'checque party-colored apron' in the 17th century. Besant's London in the Eighteenth Century tells of carpenters at work wearing white aprons and a brown paper cap, butchers a blue coat and apron, the brewers' draymen leather aprons and a red cap, bakers wearing all white, including a cap, and so on:
The apron, indeed, was the symbol of the servant and the craftsman; it belonged in varied form to every trade.376
George has observed for the same century:
(Trades) had their own customs, their own localities, often a distinctive dress and much corporate spirit (shown for instance in the customary obligation to attend the funeral of a fellow-workman).377 [Her brackets]
Mayhew reported on 1850's work-clothes the colors of which are clearly not arbitrary or accidental:
The working dress of the curriers is generally very thick blue flannel trowsers and jacket, strong coarse shirts, and blue flannel aprons.378
Working aprons have clearly been replaced with 'special' aprons for public ceremonial occasions in the 19th and 20th centuries, at least, but our understanding of them is minimal.(see below)
SF scholar Jones tells us that the word 'apron' was originally 'napron', French for 'cloth'.379 The word appears in guild charters. A 1908 Concise Cyclopeadia of Freemasonry has the following entry:
The apron of a speculative Freemason is directly descended from that worn by his operative predecessor. Until quite recent times operative masons wore long leather aprons reaching nearly to the ankles, with the fall held up by a thong of leather passed round the neck and fastened by two thongs tied around the waist in front.380
The first 'speculative' aprons were roughly shaped pieces of leather decorated as the owner thought appropriate. Only gradually did the well-known very neat, square version emerge. For example, a Hogarth engraving, 'Night', drawn in 1738 shows a drunken Freemason heading home still wearing a scarf with square attached and a long, possibly white apron.381 Dermott ridiculed the SF fashion-conscious, he called the 'Moderns' by claiming they were loath to wear aprons at all, as it caused them to resemble 'mechanicks.' Unable to avoid doing so inside the lodge, the gentlemen apparently turned the offending items upside down.382
Amongst such London gentry at least, understatement in normal street dress was still in the future. Aprons would not have been needed to indicate social status, since '(extravagance) of attire was the keynote of the century...blue and scarlet, green and gold, crimson and purple were the daily wear of the well-to-do.'
Fashionable dress was known to be often determined by membership of a club, so that in addition to the usual wigs, lace cuffs, patches and buckles, 'diehard Tories', for example, displayed their allegiance by way of a waistcoat of light blue silk with gold buttons, bordered round with yellow silk, and a dark blue frock-coat with a broad orange-velvet cape with still more buttons three inches in diameter, on which was inscribed 'October Club.'383
The colorful 'costume', not necessarily the same thing as regalia, of at least one SF lodge guardian or 'tyler' has been described. Whether this was uniform for tylers is not known. A Lodge Master on one occasion is reported wearing 'a yellow jacket and blue breeches' to a theatre.384 These colours and their arrangement, yellow above blue, were said to represent the bi-metal compass.
And yet when London Grand Lodge held the first SF public procession in 1721, by passing from its meeting place at the Kings Arms tavern in St Paul's Churchyard, restaint was in order - as GL's chronicler Anderson has it: 'on Foot to the Hall in proper Clothing and due Form'.385 Other attempts at description, sometimes with illustrations, show SF's walking in pairs with very little, if any 'paraphenalia.'386 Twenty years later, participants in the SF St John's Day procession are recorded travelling, not on foot, but in coaches with banners and musical accompaniment.387
Bullock has argued that by the 1740's the SF brethren were recognised as the elite and that no musical accompaniments or extra 'paraphenalia' were required to make the point. He argues that when SF aprons were worn in public388 the use of lamb skin not cow or bullock leather was intended to underline a simple, 'gentry' statement.
On 17 March, 1731, the (SF) Premier Grand Lodge ordered that only the Grand Master, his Deputy and Wardens were to embellish the basic white leather apron, which fell from the waist, with blue silk trim. Matching blue ribbons around their necks would be used for their gold 'jewels' of office. Stewards during their year in office could use red apron trim while Masters and Wardens of particular lodges would line theirs only with white silk:
But presently a custom grew up of ornamenting the plain white leather with all sorts of Masonic emblems and devices, and during the eighteenth century the utmost diversity in aprons prevailed, which however was checked at the Union of 1813, for the Constitutions of 1815 provided for uniformity of aprons in English Lodges.
Relaxed but increasingly structured use of public 'paraphenalia' by SF's in ' shared 'community' events can be mapped, where 'spontaneous invention' is clearly mixed with some customary items. A report of the 1738 procession to lay the stone for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary lists only SF's and other 'persons of quality and distinction' in 'proper clothing and jewels.' A 1753 parade to lay the stone of the Edinburgh Royal Exchange stresses the order of march, as follows:
1) Operative Masons not belonging to any lodge present.
2) A band of French Horns
3) The Lodges present arranged..., including a 'Lodge of Journeymen Masons.'
4) Gentlemen Masons belonging to Foreign Lodges
5) A band of Hautbois [oboes]
6) The Golden Compasses carried by an Operative Mason.
7) Grand Secretary, Grand Treasurer and Grand Clerk.
8) Three Grand Stewards with their rods.
9) Three Grand Stewards with their rods.
10) The Golden Square, Level and Plumb, carried by three Operative Masons..and so on...389
The operatives were there ostensibly to hand the appropriate tools to the Grand Officers, but no doubt also to keep an eye on how the actual business was done, an acknowledgement of their continuing social significance.
SF's use of white aprons, gloves and stockings appear towards the end of the century. Black ribbons were added to Grand Officers' white sashes and hatbands in funerals while officers of the lodge of the deceased carried white wands. A 1775 funeral procession was headed by the lodge tyler with sword, and ending with the pall-bearers, 'the Body with the regalia placed thereon and two swords crossed', thence 'the mourners, two stewards and a tyler.'390
'Rules for Public Ceremonies, including the Laying of Foundation Stones' were included in SF's 1815 Constitutions. There, besides dress codes and walking arrangements, an official order of march was set down, beginning:
Two Grand Tylers with drawn swords
Brethren not members of any lodge, two by two
The lodges according to their numbers
Members of the Grand Stewards Lodge
Officers of Grand Stewards lodge
Architect or Builder with the mallet
Grand Superintendent of works with the plan
Grand Director of Ceremonies
Grand Secretary with book of constitutions on a cushion..etc
Albert Mackey's 1867 Lexicon of Freemasonry provided the following description of what a post-1813 apron had to be:
The masonic apron is a pure white lambskin, from fourteen to sixteen inches wide, and from twelve to fourteen deep, with a fall about three to four inches deep; square at the bottom, without ornament, and bound in the symbolic degrees with blue...391
The three 'Craft' degrees were then to be indicated as follows - the Entered Apprentice - plain white apron without ornament; Fellow Craft - apron has two sky blue rosettes at the bottom; Master Mason - apron has additional rosette on the fall and has sky-blue lining and edging, and silver tassels. The tassels were supposedly the evolved form of the long thongs or ribbons which originally held the apron around the waist.392
In public, did SFs initially stand out with plain garb and silent walking because of the influence of a core of influential Calvinists and Puritans? Was it the secretiveness or the self-conscious dignity of the brethren which provoked the parodies? And was the Calvinist grip only broken inside the SF lodge room, by that other face of the mediaeval guild, conviviality?
Where discipline was likely first imposed and where its effects show most clearly with all of the trades under review is the period after the parade. What used to be general merry-making in the streets rounding off the saint's day was eventually confined within a hall of some sort until, in the 20th century, serious speeches towards strategic ends totally squeezed out the pranks, the quips and the ribald songs.
Drink and Discipline:
The consumption of alcohol and the degree to which it permeated work places and life in general, especially during the 18th century, has been much written about. George suggests it had a particularly vicious and socially subversive role in London, rather less so in the provinces. She also argues that many of the social reforms which, by the early 19th century, were clearly achieving improvements in public health, social stability and working class welfare were arrived at cumulatively by legislative changes put in place during this century - such things as the Marriage Act of 1753, variations in debtor law, the introduction of charity schools, vaccination, and the improved policing of licensing, prison and other regulations. But she begins by quoting observers who believed that the problem of alcohol consumption only became significant in the 18th century.393
In April 1721 the Government was concerned to discover certain 'scandalous clubs and societies of young persons' whose object was blasphemy and the denial of religion, as to which there was much rumour and little evidence. The Westminster justices were ordered to investigate...They failed to find the clubs, but took occasion to represent that in their opinion the immorality of the times was due to gaming houses, play houses and the great increase of alehouses and spirit shops..This they "humbly offer" is "the principall cause of the increase of our poor and of all the vice and debauchery among the inferior sort of people, as well as of the felonies and other disorders committed in and about this town."394
There is no doubt institutional corruption was widespread, levels of income varied enormously even within the one profession or trade, extreme poverty co-habiting with comfortable livings, as did generalised flouting of the law for personal gain with felony for survival. The loss of authority by the Roman Church played a major but subtle role, but instability would appear to have been a way of life. Vagrancy, vagabondage, murder, robbery and rapine were widespread, if not commonplace. Throughout the kingdom inns were at once the staging posts for travellers and havens for criminality. When the received wisdom seems to be that 'London life centred round the tavern, the alehouse and the club',395 how to weight SF claims that their new 'club' was different, even to this extent?
It would seem reasonable to conclude that at least some early 18th century SF lodges were indistinguishable from other convivial clubs of the time:
Eighteenth century masonic gatherings being associated with the drinking of many toasts and no clear-cut distinction between lodge ceremonies and after-proceedings having as yet developed, the convivial aspect of freemasonry probably continued very much to the fore until the end of the century or even later.396
Another SF observer has conceded:
We can no longer be in any doubt that the Freemasons Lodges which arose in 1717 were nothing else but a new sort of club; does not the Book of Constitutions state that the newly initiated 'found in the Lodge a safe and pleasant relaxation from intense study or the hurry of business, without politics or party.'397
Genteel writers warm to the idea of pleasant relaxation being the characteristic feature of this 'new' thing, despite speculative records showing that after 1717 lodge Rules were no more successful at keeping argument out of lodge than they had been before 1717.398 Neither the genteel 'club' image nor the also commonly-held image of an artisanal 'club' as noisy and undisciplined, can be applied without qualification:
The Great Lodge at Swaffham in Norfolk...was simply a club consisting of all the political leaders of the local independent whigs.399
This 'Great Lodge' may not have been kosher SF but records of the first provincial SF lodge constituted by Grand Lodge, at Bath in 1724, show gamblers, lay abouts and other 'well-to-do' wastrels joining because of the fun and conviviality.400 Aubrey, speaking in approx 1659, is often quoted: 'We now use the word Clubbe for a sodality in a tavern'.401 One SF author believed:
The history of Masonry...makes it clear that the innkeeper of any establishment where lodges met was a prominent factor in the future of those lodges...English speculative Masonry at its inception...was little more than a tavern affair of tradesmen and artisans and remained so until 1767 when Thomas Dunkerly and the Duke of Beaufort combined to inject a wider and more noble purpose into the Craft.402
Included in the agenda for this 'noble purpose' was a move of lodge meetings from 'squalid ale houses' to inns where dining rooms or private bars were available.
Another SF author has come to see that whatever other agendas were in play, the artisanal membership of 3 of the original 4 London lodges was probably intending to form a 'benefit society' when they agreed to associate with the fourth, 'made up of well-to-do men':
(In) the minds of many (of the brethren in the early 1700's) the expectation of a sickness and burial benefit was inseparable from the idea of a lodge.403
Another has written:
Although Masons are taught not to look upon the great Fraternity they have entered as in any way a benefit society, there is no doubt that in the early years of the Craft in this country [UK] many private lodges partook very largely of the nature of a trade union and friendly society or club, for the mutual encouragement of the brethren in their respective callings and for support and relief in times of distress.404
By 1731 all eighty three, alleged purely speculative lodges affiliated with Premier Grand Lodge were paying into a central fund for the relief of poor and distressed masons. Individual lodges also cared for their own memberships, buried their dead and looked after widows.405 Gould was perceptive:
Frequently the lodge, besides its normal functions, also discharged those of a benefit society...Virtually they were trades-unions, and in one instance a regulation enacts that the 'proposed' must not 'occupy any business which may interfere or (clash) with (that of) any member already entered.'406
SF historian Haunch was not prepared to go this far. Simply not bothering with the idea that the four initiating lodges could have been operative in character, he nevertheless allowed that:
(The) overwhelming impression remains that Grand Lodge came into being in a convivial, gregarious society...The main resolution of the preliminary meeting..(was)..'to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast'..(it is not until late in 1723 that we find Grand Lodge first legislating for the regulating of the Craft)..407
SF historian Rickard has described all 'benefit societies' from this time, including SF, as 'spontaneous combinations of handicraftsmen and labourers for the purpose of providing against the accidents of life by means of mutual help.'408
'Clubs' would have been limited in membership by the size of tavern spaces, the minimal furniture including a chamber pot and a punch bowl, whatever else.409 Some, no doubt, were 'extremely rumbustious', likely to add to out-goings rather than in-comings with 'the making' of candidates forming a relatively minor part of the proceedings, as would concern for the shape of the 'lodge room' or talks on architecture or science. Some, no doubt, if not thoroughly 'Calvinised' were set up to serve a specific purpose and were not at all riotous. Crane saw the range as being from 'clubs of wits, gaming clubs, merchant clubs, medical clubs' to clubs of a seriously scientific and philosophic bent.410
The landlord's tasks could be extensive on an SF 'lodge' night - deliver by hand the meeting notices, guard the door, provide clay pipes and all refreshments and food, clean up the broken glass and other debris, collect and store regalia, candelabra, minute books, jewels, working tools, etc - 'in other words, he might act as all of secretary, treasurer, tyler and steward of the lodge until these offices were separately established.'411
Since evidence shows that a popular tavern might serve as 'lodge' on the same night or successive nights for members of a Joiners Company, of SF, and/or of a 'free and easy' club, where one ended and another began was not necessarily of concern to the participants.412 And where one observer might see the inevitable roistering, for another 'hard nosed politicking' and conviviality were 'complementary and mutually reinforcing'. In the eyes of different observers, 'club' might imply a drunken assembly, a gathering of labourers chatting about their jobs, a 'local sick society', a seditious assembly, or the lodge of a 'speculative' Order. The more serious the intentions, the more 'private' the assembly wished to be, and the more emphasis was placed on a door 'tyler' and on membership qualifications.
The next step in the evolution was not necessarily a move out of the tavern and into a specially-built 'Masonic Temple or 'Oddfellows Hall'. A number of lodges, including SF are known to have located in what were being progressively called 'Trades Halls' where 'a host of enthusiastic and willing workmen' required little persuasion 'to go from labour to refreshment, and from refreshment to labour again'.413
'Sick-club' rather than 'box club' or just 'club' in the title can flag a change in emphasis, but the Rules, where they exist are a better guide to overall intentions. The 18th century examples indicate that mixing artisans, gentlemen and clerics was intensifing the clash of conviviality with discipline, that medical science was beginning to be recognised, that societies were beginning to take vigorous measures to combat malingering by sending a surgeon or an apothecary as 'sick visitor', and that reactions by the authorities were becoming a concern, on a number of levels.
An increased emphasis on accountability, the written record and the use of lawyers for conflict resolution resulted in rules being written with more of an eye to meeting procedure and the nature of members' duties and responsibilities. In 1752, the wording of Rules concerning lodge-behaviour was different to that used 400 years before but was about the same kinds of personal indiscretions. NB use of 'Club Room':
If any Member should come into the Club Room drunk during the hours of meeting, or shall swear or curse, or speak any ill-language, or promote gaming, or lay wagers or challenge to work, fight, push or strike in anger, or talk of state affairs, or speak any unseemly thing against the Crown Head..(he).shall pay twopence or be excluded.414
By the end of the 18th century, Rules commonly refused entry to persons working in dangerous and 'official' occupations, eg, soldiers, sailors, sheriff's officers or their agents, such as bailiffs. This reflects a concern to minimise pay-outs by excluding dangerous occupations, which of course forced specialisation within memberships, but it also points to a gathering crunch point at which a choice had to be made of hostility to authorities and their minions, or unalloyed loyalty and respectability.
The language of each set of Rules reflected a lodge's particular concerns. Societies with sea-faring members often contained Rules such as:
If any member shall be taken by a foreign enemy in time of war, or by any pirate in time of peace and imprisoned, the sum of six shillings shall be paid to his wife...and if any member be impressed into His Majesty's Service, his wife and family shall receive two shillings and sixpence per week during the time he is in such service.415
The rules also reflected concern with the very real potential for mayhem. A newspaper account read:
A few evenings since, a party of jovial mechanics being assembled at a public house...from business they ascended to politics, till disputes ran so high, that every man began to look for a weapon to enforce his arguments, or to defend himself..(etc)416
In practice, all 'lodges' continued to need a safe place for their funds. In the 18th century, a sea-chest or a trunk, a secure tin under the publican's bar or a locked drawer in someone's house, 'the box' from gild times, functioned, on occasion, as a common name for the societies themselves. The Scottish Hospital in London grew out of a 'Scottish Box' instituted in 1613 and used by Scottish traders and craftsmen in London during the Great Plague of 1665.417 And in the published Rules of another society we read:
This box being founded by Lord Alva, 7th January, 1678, as an Incorporation of Shoemakers in Abbey of Cambuskenneth, is now turned into a Friendly Society, for the relief of indigent Members, under the same title.418