And under what authority were those four lodges in England working?

by David Sheihan Hunter Lindez BFA, MFA, MSM

Most persons with even the most cursory knowledge of Masonic history in England, are familiar with the story of four speculative Masonic lodges composed of English Gentlemen who came together in the Goose and the Gridiron Tavern to formulate a maternal grand lodge system, essentially subordinating all existing lodges with the demand that they submit to this new authority for charters or warrants.   Under Cromwell, laws were created which when enforced, essentially classified lodges as subversive organizations unless they came under the protection of the new Grand Lodge.  But, were not these English lodges to find their origin in the Ancient Scottish or even the Ancient Irish Lodges?  If one were to trace back their origins, would it not be found that they originated with the very lodges that they were now seeking to subordinate?  If so, it would not be the last time.  Again, anyone familiar with the origins of the English Masonic Rosicrucian Society would know that Robert Wentworth Little was initiated by the Magus O'Haye in Scotland's Edinburgh College, only to turn around and offer to charter the same after founding a High Council in Anglia.  

With regards to the four lodges of Drury Lane, St Paul's Churchyard, Covent Garden and Channel Row in Westminster, where else might their authority have derived?  From what organization or Masonic body could they have obtained their Warrants (Charters) from if no Grand Lodge existed in London before 1717?  Masonic histories recorded by the likes of Oliver, Knoop, Carr, Coil and the likes each treat the matter in their own way.  The three lodges that survived till this day, seem to have had the charters of other lodges forced upon them as a result of mergers with other lodges, as was the case with Fortitude Lodge.  It merged with a lodge ("Old Cumberland Lodge") whose origins only went back as far as 1723.  The lodge's identity became lost in the shadows and for a brief period of years, the membership were unaware of its important origins.  The fact that a lodge can lose the knowledge of its own origins in this manner, actually gives credence to the tales of Iona and the Isle of Man and the oral history of one Commander Harris transferring the See to the Lodge in Aberdeen.  Apparently, modern day members of the Masonic Lodge in Aberdeen, while acknowledging their ancient history, are surprised to hear of their inclusion in such lore associated with the Strict Observance and offer no validation to affirm it.

So, where are the original warrants for the four lodges that came together to form the first Grand Lodge in England?  Were such documents even necessary?  There might never have been any warrants at all, or they may have simply eroded over time from vermin and damp weather.  Or...they were destroyed or secreted away.  Why would they be destroyed or hidden?  Jacobite Masons would point to the intention to obscure the fact that the origin and provenance of authority given to these English lodges of gentlemen was to be found without the city of London in the form and places that the London Grand Lodge would eventually condescend to in its effort to suppress while usurping or assuming an authority of antiquity via Anderson's Constitutions.  

Some lodges such as St Mary's and Kilwinning issued warrants for other lodges and some lodges made claims to antiquity by simply using Kilwinning in their name.  Most lodges of this era would have actually claimed authority to meet from their possession of copies of one of the 'Old Charges' written out.  It is important to point out that there are many records in the minutes of lodges where the Old Charges were read out loud in full and long form at the making of new Masons.  This is most likely the case when it comes to these four lodges in London, though I would welcome evidence to the contrary.

Dr. Trevor Stewart, a Past Prestonian Lecturer for the UGLE and Past Master of both Sir Robert Morray Lodge of Research in Scotland and the prestigious Quator Corronati Lodge of Research in England, points out Anderson’s references to ‘lodges’ in England, from the year 1603 to 1717.  Could this be suggestive of a connection or continuity that leads us back to Scotland?  Have a look at the following extracts from Anderson's 1738 New Book of Constitutions, as not one of them can be found in the 1723 edition:

KING JAMES VI & I: ‘Royal Brother Mason’ (Scoon & Perth Lodge No. 3 has preserved the unchallenged tradition of his initiation at his own request) and ‘Grand Master by Prerogative’ (GM of what?)
Appoints INIGO JONES to be ‘his Surveyor General’ and approves ‘of his being chosen Grand Master of England to preside over the Lodges’ (Chosen by whom?  Where?  When?)
Foundation stone of new Banqueting Hall in Whitehall laid ceremonially ‘attended by many Brothers in due form’ (Where did they come from?  What does he mean by ‘in due form?  Was there a settled order of procession and/or apparel?  Settled by whom, where and when?)
INIGO JONES ‘always allow’d good wages and seasonable Times for Instruction in the Lodges, which he constituted with excellent By-Laws, and made them like the Schools or Academies of the Designers in Italy.  He also held the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Masters and Wardens and the Annual Assembly and Feast on St. John’s Day when he was annually rechosen, till A.D. 1618’.
‘Masonry thus flourishing, many eminent, wealthy and learned Men, at their own Request, were accepted as Brothers, to the Honour of the Craft, (Where and by whom?) till the King died 17 March 1625’.
KING CHARLES I: ‘also a Royal Brother and Grand Master by Prerogative’ (absolutely no evidence for this statement)
INIGO JONES continued to hold office as Deputy GM under Pembroke, Danby, Arundel, Bedford.  After the latter he assumes office again as GM.
‘Yet even during the (Civil) Wars, the Masons met occasionally at several places’.  Where?  When?  Who?  16 October 1646: initiation of Elias Ashmole in Warrington
KING CHARLES II: ‘In his travels (in exile) he had been made a Free Mason’.  Absolutely no evidence of this!  He is claimed ‘to encourage the Augustan Stile by reviving the Lodges’.  Where?  Who was involved? 
St. ALBANS chosen as GM (by whom, where and when?)  ‘held a general Assembly and Feast on St. John;s Day 27 Dec. 1663’.  Several ‘Regulations’ were made.
No. 1 refers to the notion of ‘a regular lodge’.  What does this mean?  Who decides on the regularity and by what criteria?  It also refers to ‘that Limit or Division where such Lodge is kept’.  ‘Regular’ implies a continuity?  This regulation certainly implies a restriction to the lodge’s jurisdiction.
No. 3 refers to a Certificate of the Time and Place of his Acception from the Lodge that accepted him (i.e., a person claiming to be a ‘Free Mason’).  This implies some continuity and some rudimentary administration on a national basis.
No. 5 refers to ‘for the Future the said Fraternity of Free Masons shall be regulated and govern’d by One Grand Master and as many Wardens as the said Society shall think fit to appoint at every Annual General Assembly’.  Continuity again, perhaps!
Succession of noblemen as GMs: Rivers, Buckingham, Arlington – with CHRISTOPHER WREN as Deputy GM.  ‘Many Lodges were constituted throughout the Islands’ (implying England, Ireland as well as Scotland). 
‘But many of the Fraternity’s Records of this and former Reigns were lost in the next and at the Revolution (i.e., the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688); and many of ‘em were too hastily burnt in our Time from a Fear of making Discoveries: So that we have not so ample an Account as could be wish’d of the Grand Lodge, &c.’  Note the ‘&c.’) – what could this imply? 
1685 ‘the lodges met and elected CHRISTOPHER WREN’ as GM (Where? When?)
KING WILLIAM III & QUEEN MARY II: ’Particular Lodges were not so frequent and mostly occasional in the South (does this mean in England?), except in or near the Places where Great Works were carried on.  Thus Sir Robert Clayton got an Occasional Lodge of his Brother Masters to meet at St. Thomas’s Hospital Southwark, A.D. 1693 and to advise the Governors about the best Design of rebuilding that Hospital as it now stands most beautiful; near which a stated Lodge continued long afterwards’.  Notice the new distinction that has emerged – between an ‘occasional’ lodge and a ‘stated’ lodge. 
‘Besides that (i.e., the ‘stated’ lodge at St. Thomas’s Hospital) and the old Lodge of St. Paul’s, there was another in Picadilly over against St. James’s Church, one near Westminster Abbey, another near Covent Garden, one in Holborn, one on Tower Hill and some more that assembled statedly’. 
WILLIAM III (who survived his wife, Mary II) ‘was privately made a Free Mason’ (absolutely no evidence of this!) and ‘approved of their choice of G. Master WREN’ (no evidence of this either).
At the re-construction of Hampton Court Palace ‘a bright Lodge was held during the Building’. 
1695 RICHMOND & LENNOX was ‘Master of a Lodge at Chichester’.  At ‘the annual Assembly and Feast at London, was chosen Grand Master and approv’d by the King’;  Wren appointed to be his Deputy GM and then again elected as GM in 1698.
QUEEN ANNE: ‘Yet still in the South the Lodges were more and more disused, partly by the Neglect of the Masters and Wardens, and partly by not having a Noble Grand Master at London, and the annual Assembly was not duly attended’. 
‘Some few Years after this (i.e., completion of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1708) Sir Christopher Wren neglected the Office of Grand Master; yet the Old Lodge near St. Paul’s and a few more continued their stated Meetings still’.  This would be what later became known as ‘Lodge of Antiquity’. 
KING GEORGE I: ‘after the Rebellion was over (i.e., the first Jacobite incursion) A.D. 1716 the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master ...’
Anderson lists four such lodges:
1.     At the Goose and Gridiron ale-house in St. Paul’s Church-yard;[1]
2.     At the Crown ale-house in Parker’s-lane near Drury Lane;[2]
3.     At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-Street, Covent Garden;[3]
4.     At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster.[4]

‘They and some old Brothers (where did these come from?) 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’.

[1]  This old ale-house was probably off, rather then ‘in’, St Paul’s Churchyard.  The famous old lodge (now known as) Antiquity No. 2 met there from 1716 to 1729 almost certainly in an upper room.  The first assembly of the four original old lodges took place there in June 1717.  The tavern, undistinguished architecturally, was demolished in 1894 and the immediate area (St. Paul’s Churchyard) has since then undergone many radical architectural changes.  Officially, the lodge had been formed in 1691 but it may have had an even earlier origin.  In 1760 it acquired the name ‘West India and American Lodge but adopted its present name in 1770.  It is a highly prestigious ‘Red Apron’ Lodge.  No Charter or Warrant.  The first warrants were issued in 1731 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland (1 February 1731 for Mitchelstown, Co. Cork.  That was a feature of the noted revival of Irish freemasonry under the Grand Mastership of   Originally in England there operated an ad hoc arrangement of issuing letters of ‘Deputation’.          
[2]  This old inn was situated in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  The lodge which met there is claimed to have existed since 1712.  It was assigned the number 2 in the 1729 printed List.  It moved around a little in the Holborn area.  1723 – to the Queen’s Head Tavern, Turnstile, Holborn; 1725 – to the Green Lettuce Inn, Brownlow Street, Holborn; 1727 – to the Rose and Rummer Tavern, Furnival’s Inn, Holborn; 1729 – to the Rose and Buffalo Inn, Furnival’s Inn, Holborn; 1730 – to the Bull and Gate Inn, Furnival’s Inn, Holborn.  No Charter.  It was deleted from the lists in 1736.  
[3]  This old inn has long ceased to exist.  It was situated in Charles Street (which is now part of Wellington Street) in Covent Garden.  It was there that the first preliminary meeting of the four originating lodges was held in June 1716.  By 1723, when the lodge that met there had moved to the Queen’s Head Tavern in Knave’s Acre, the Apple-Tree ceased to have any connection with freemasonry.   The Lodge is now known as Fortitude and Old Cumberland No. 12, though when it accepted a ‘Certificate of Constitution’ from the nascent Grand Lodge in 1723 it was assigned No. 11.  The lodge continued to operate under this mere ‘letter of authority’ until 1967 when it reverted to its ‘Time Immemorial’ status.  It is, of course, a highly prestigious ‘Red Apron’ Lodge.  Hence no Charter.     
[4]  This is another Time Immemorial Lodge.  It still exists, though its present name is Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4.  The Grapes and Rummer Tavern was situated in Channel Row, Westminster – a location strongly associated with Dr. J. T. Desaguliers who had his home in the same street.  Soon after he joined, and certainly by 1723, the lodge adopted the name the Old Horn Lodge after the tavern in which it met.  It was famous for the quality of its members even then.  Membership was highly sought (as it is now, of course!)  However, it lapsed and was deleted from the lists in 1747 but restored thereto in 1757.  The Lodge has continued to meet thereafter in various central London locations.  It is also a ‘Red Apron’ Lodge.  No Charter or Warrant but in 1883 deigned to apply for, and accept, a Centenary ‘Warrant’ from UGLE.