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When did Freemasonry begin?
We cannot say for sure, but the earliest recorded ‘Making of a Mason’ in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.
There are two main theories of origin. The operative stonemasons who built the great
cathedrals and castles had Lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. As there were no recognised qualifications or means to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site, they had a simple Initiation ceremony to prove the point. The other theory was that in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s these operative mason’s Lodges began to take in nonoperatives as ‘gentlemen masons’ and gradually
these non-operatives turned the Lodges into ‘free and accepted’ or ‘speculative’ Lodges.
Of these, a group was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance at a time of great intolerance when 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 better world.
The old trade Guilds provided them with the structure of organisation such as Master,
Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary and the operative’s working tools gave them a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
On 24 June 1717 four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at The Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul's Churchyard, declared themselves a Grand Lodge. This was the first Grand Lodge in the World.