THE OLD LODGE AT YORK
by R. W. Bro. O. P. (Paul) Thomas, 1969
According to Masonic tradition, generally admitted, a
General Assembly of Operative Masons in England was held at York in 926 when
King Athelstan granted the Masons a Charter.
Dr. Anderson, author of the first printed history of Free Masonry approved
by a Grand Lodge, in 1722, and published in 1733, refers to "The Old Lodge
of York City."
Here Preston calls the General Assembly of Masons in England, which did not
always meet at York, a Grand Lodge. True, it met there oftener than at any
other place, and was governed by a Grand Master. It issued no Charters to
form new lodges, for Masonic lodges were spontaneous bodies of workmen who
organized wherever they were working, and were not obliged to report to a
These General Assemblies fore little resemblance to a Constituant Grand
Lodge. Hughan says: "The Grand Loge of England, first of its kind, was
inaugurated in 1717."
Several years after the Grand Lodge of England was organized, the Masons at
York set up a Grand Lodge for the North of England. If a Grand Lodge existed
there before that, why organize another?
For a fact, all the lodges in England did not report to a General Assembly,
nor did they all come under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodges after the
latter were formed. The Lodge at Alnwick also remained an independent body.
The Grand Masters of General Assemblies were not always Free Masons: skilled
architects were sometimes chosen to preside; sometimes the King or Prelate.
Masonry, previous to the 16th century, seems to have been a purely operative
institution, though recognized and patronized by the Crown and the Church as
a useful and loyal body of workmen. That there was a Lodge at York is well
known, but that it had any more authority among the corporations of builders
than any other Lodge cannot be proven by any document history or process of
We often hear Masons say, "Is your Lodge the York Rite?" as though there was
any difference between ceremonies practiced at York and any other part of
England before the organization of the Grand Lodge of England. Whatever the
ceremony of initiation was at York, it as the same at London until the
London Masons introduced what the others called innovations, to which they
strenuously objected, but afterwards went further in introducing new
features that did the Grand Lodge of England.
The Grand Lodge of England introduced or adopted the Fellow Craft and Master
Masons Degree, but the Royal Arch and Templars Degrees were introduced at
York , while the United Grand Lodge of England, in 1813, declared pure Craft
Masonry consisted of three Degrees: Entered Apprentices, Fellow Craft, and
Craft Masonry is York Masonry as we universally accept the tradition that
what we call "Blue Masonry" began at York in the 10th century and has
developed into a universal fraternity known wherever established as York
The original Charter at York was kept in the archives of the Old Lodge at
York City and destroyed in the War of the Roses. Copies were made from
memory and preserved in the British Museum with many other old Masonic
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