The masonic movement is often described as the largest fraternal movement of the world. Its origins, which are lost, were probably in the craft organisations of the operative masons. The arms of the movement on the left are from a Victorian set. In the eighteenth century, and probably before, the term mason encompassed working stone masons and those who had advanced to the higher levels of the building trade and had organisational and architectural skills.


Whatever the origins, the speculative masonic movement, where most of the members had nothing to do with the trade of mason, was in being by the mid-seventeenth century. In 1717 a meeting in London formed the first Grand Lodge and laid the foundations of the modern organisational and regulatory framework of the masonic movement. The lodge system grew quite rapidly: the Grand Lodge of Ireland was founded in 1725, that of Scotland in 1736 and foreign lodges had been established by 1730.


There are now over 8,500 lodges under the English Grand Lodge with administration at local level through 47 Provincial Grand Lodges (in England, Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Isles) and 36 District Grand Lodges in the rest of the world.

The last twenty years has seen the movement making determined efforts to remove the mystery and myths which surround it, by a policy of much greater openess. There are now many masonic web sites from that of the Grand Lodge of England to those of individual lodges.

Perhaps the best known aspect of the masonic movement, apart from the 'secret' rituals, is that of philanthropy: illustrated here is a crest of their boys' institution. The greater secrecy which surrounded the movement and its members in the nineteenth century meant that very few personal crests had an allusion to masonry; two examples are shown below.

Other aspects of crests of the masonic movement are dealt with on the following separate pages:



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Page created 21 June 2001