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A History of Mark Masonry
MARK MASONRY BETWEEN 1813 AND 1856
Following the last module’s glimpse at Mark Masonry before 1813, this paper attempts to trace its subsequent story, until the establishment of the 1856 English Grand Mark Lodge.
We will follow developments in Scotland, then England, thereafter Ireland and, finally, elsewhere in the wider world.
This study ends with the formation of the English Grand Mark Lodge, when it can be said that Mark Masonry, as it is generally understood today in the British Commonwealth, began.
It will be recalled that the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 caused the Scottish Craft Grand Lodge to allow its lodges to work only the standard three degrees. Other degrees, however, were looked after by other authorities.
There were nearly 20 Irish Early Grand Encampment encampments (Cryer:217) in Scotland in the early 1800’s. These included Mark ceremonies. Following the Irish example the ‘Royal Grand Conclave of Knight Templars for Scotland’ was formed in 1811. Included in its repertoire was the Mark.
Defiance of Grand Lodge, however, occurred. Some St John (Craft) lodges continued to work the Mark, so preserving versions of it. Various encampments and chapters also worked it. There were also in existence independent lodges, giving their allegiance to no one, and they also conducted Mark ceremonies.
In 1817, notes Cryer (217), the Grand Lodge of Scotland considered the position it had taken on Masonic degrees in 1800. It confirmed that position. It would only recognise the first three degrees. In addition, officers of the ‘higher degrees’ would not be allowed to sit in Grand Lodge.
As a reaction, and aware beforehand of what was coming, those prepared to stand by their convictions formed, within three weeks of the announcement, the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. This was done by removing all the non-chivalric degrees (Grantham: 7) from the care of the Royal Grand Conclave, and putting them in the control of the newly formed body. This had twelve degrees. The Mark thus passed to the Grand Chapter. The Royal Grand Conclave of Knight Templars for Scotland continued on, with less degrees, seven in all, but not the Mark.
The new Supreme Chapter invited all the chapters in Scotland to join, but got off to a slow start, with only about five wishing to sign up. Many Irish-warranted chapters considered it disloyal to leave the Irish fold. Many independent chapters considered the new body to be an upstart. By 1842, however, The Supreme Chapter had 56 chapters (Grantham:10) on its books, although those active numbered but 25.
The remaining Irish Early Grand Encampment bodies, unwilling to go into a novel arrangement, and lose old practices, formed their own ruling body. This was with Irish blessing. Titled the Early Grand encampment for Scotland (Cryer:218), it was consecrated in 1822.
By this means other forms of the Mark were worked, and still in association with Knight Templary. This particularly ancient link was important, although their possible significance by now was probably known to a very few. Putting this time into an historical context, Melbourne was founded in 1835. In 1839, in Scotland, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Dumfries blacksmith, invented the bicycle. King George IV had died in 1830, and his son, William IV, had taken the British Throne.
The other Scottish grand bodies, seen by most as straightforward, grew in strength. The Early Grand Encampment, however declined, and was to expire in 1985.
It is known that a Mark token was used in Scotland in the 1820’s (Cryer:300-1), a ‘shekel’. It depicted the Pot of Manna on one side and ‘the rod of Aaron budding’ on the other. Even now a shekel token, of a white metal, is used in Queensland, one side depicting the budding rod.
In 1842 the Scottish Supreme Grand Chapter enacted that any Mason wishing to take the Royal Arch had to be a Past Master (Cryer:219). This harked back to the situation in older, probably operative times. To enable a non-Past Master to become a Royal Arch Mason it was decided that a special ‘Master Passed the Chair’ degree would be used. To this end it issued ‘Chair Master’ warrants to purpose-formed lodges.
It was also a Supreme Chapter condition that no-one became a Past (or Passed) Master without first taking the Mark (Grantham:10). Hence the Chair Master arrangement gave the Mark a boost. However the whole business was apparently too hard in practice, and after 1846 no more Chair Master warrants were issued.
Although the Master Passed the Chair ritual received no official support after 1846, where it had been established it tended to live on. Cryer (219) is of the opinion that the present Installed Master Degree of the English Mark Grand Lodge type was derived from it, being picked up in 1856 by the newly formed Mark Grand Lodge. In Scotland. of course, there were no Mark lodges as such, the St John, chapter or encampment lodges, etc, installing the one master for all the degrees they worked, that master being installed in the group’s top degree or order.
The Grand Treasurer of the Supreme Grand Chapter at this time, Hector Gairn, was a studious man, He collected as many written copies of Mark rituals as he could, and consolidated them, in 1845, into a ‘standard’ one. This was promulgated to the Grand Chapter’s chapters (Cryer:174), and became the earliest authorised version of the Mark.
Bro Gairn’s integrated degree featured a heptegonal ‘plugstone’, for King Solomon’s ‘secret arch’. This is an indication that early Mark rituals had to do with a secret underground vault. The secret vault, of course, is a central feature of the Holy Royal Arch and other degrees; those worked in South Australia include ‘Select Master’, ‘Royal Master’, ‘Most Excellent Master’, ‘Super-excellent Master’, "Knight of St John the Evangelist’, ‘The Order of the Red Cross of Babylon’ and ‘Grand Tilers of Solomon’.
A feasible source and application of the secret vault ‘legend’, so deeply embedded into Freemasonry, has recently come forward. This is the claim of Lomas and Knight, in The Hiram Key, that beneath Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland is a secret vault which contains manuscripts found by the Knights Templar in a secret vault deep beneath Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
By 1850 Royal Arch Chapters in Aberdeen had been reduced to two. St George’s Lodge had a chapter which had joined Supreme Chapter in 1817. It was rated to be the best in the north of Scotland. A Dr Beveridge, however, decided that even better could be achieved. He therefore had erected a third chapter, Bon Accord.
By this time there was working a system whereby chapters worked only the Royal Arch. All the preceding degrees, including the Mark, were worked in lodges holding (Cryer:220) a chapter. Chapters issued a charter to one of their members to conduct a lodge in the required degree, which might be the Mark, and this was done in a St John lodge context. This scheme was to have a profound effect on Mark Masonry.
It is Cryer’s opinion (219) that the Supreme Chapter was the principle force behind the organisation and growth of the Mark in Scotland. It achieved the state where English gentlemen would travel to Scotland to receive the degree.
As the century developed it became apparent that, of the ‘ordinary’ Mark, there were two forms. There was a ‘short’ degree and a ‘long’ degree. Although nowhere near as ‘developed’ as current forms, they left their marks. Scotland still works a longer and a shorter form of the Mark.
In 1860 a Scottish Grand Lodge examining committee (Cryer:41) concluded that by then the Mark was, with regard to St John lodges, not being much worked. It was, however, upheld in the ‘Old’ operative lodges. The committee also noted that the Supreme Chapter regarded the Mark as the fourth degree.
The early years of the 1800’s were momentous for England. As already noted, there was the ever-present threat of political and religious upheaval, due to the Hanovarian - Stuart rivalry.
Over this hung the great struggle with France, which had, from 1803 to 1805 posed a very real threat to invade England. Only the desperate Trafalgar sea battle ended that. It was only in 1814, however, that Napoleon suffered real defeat, and was banished to Elba. Escaping, the pivotal battle between Wellington and Napoleon at Waterloo, in 1815, saw the end of the French threat.
Crucial to the Mark’s advancement or suppression in England (and subordinated Wales), was the Second Article of the Act of Union of the Antients and the Moderns. Enacted in 1813. it read:
"Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three 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. 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 Orders."
As it reads, the degree or order of Mark Masonry was not included in the list Some see this as a Hanovarian anti-rocking of the Protestant Establishment Boat move. It could be slipped in as a prerequisite for the Chivalric Orders, but it was plain That the Moderns were having their way. Acceptable Freemasonry was being sanitised.
It must be remembered that politics and religion were at this time exercising a particularly dominant place in English life. Freemasonry was much influenced by this. The imported Hanovarian Royal Family, never popular, always feared the deposed, originally Scottish, Royal Family. The Stuarts were Roman Catholics. Under the Tudors, who found it convenient to be head of both State and Church, England had become a Protestant nation.
Prince Charles Edward Stewart, ‘Bonny Prince Charley’, who had led a Scottish army into England in 1745, had died as recently as 1788. His son, Prince Edward James Stewart (Gardner, 1996:357), alive and well in Paris, was ever ready to assume the Throne. (In fact, Prince Michael James Stewart is ready so at present). The Unlawful Societies Acts of the turn of the century reflected these fears, as well as those arising from the French Revolution.
To the Hanovarian/Establishment mind the ‘higher degrees’ were Scottish or French-derived tools of the Jacobites (supporters of the Stuarts), and were to be put down. To this end two of the sons of George 111 took control of the two English Grand Lodges and forced their union. This was under Augustus Frederick, styled The Duke of Sussex. Under him there was a suppression of higher degrees.
It is also to be remembered that in 1813 the English were in a life-and-death struggle with the French under Napoleon. At this time, also, the 1812-14 Anglo-American War was raging, basically because the British were stopping US ships from entering blockaded European ports. English Masonry was very much restricted to the English alone. As the United Grand Lodge was born in this atmosphere it can be better understood why English Masonry still regards itself as supreme in all things Masonic.
Although in England the Mark was getting poor publicity, elsewhere in the English-speaking world it became of ‘paramount’ (Grantham, 1960:4) importance.
On the Masonic front 1817 saw the formation of the United Supreme Grand Chapter, to control the Holy Royal Arch Degree. The United Grand Lodge of England recognised this body; one outcome, as Grantham (3) points out, was that thereafter the other ‘higher degrees were not recognised. That included the Mark. From then on, despite the original agreement written into the Second Article of the union, Craft lodges could no longer officially work any of them. That, theoretically, should have seen them off stage.
Stifling of the Mark certainly occurred. Springett (1946:2) wrote, "Little or nothing is heard of working the Degree in England between 1813 and 1851 when the Bon Accord Mark Lodge came into existence...". He, however, was writing when relatively little sound research had been done. Pick and Knight later (1953:215) wrote:
"The effect of the Union of 1813 on the additional degrees, many of which had been worked under Craft warrants, was disastrous. Some continued for a few years to be performed until they wilted under the cold eye of that peculiar autocrat, the Duke of Sussex."
Drawing upon evidence collected since, in 1996 Cryer (193) gave it as his opinion that the English Mark situation was not as bad as was being made out. Indeed, he claims (192), there was a "...steady will to persist and its practitioners were spread over as many areas as before."
Thus we enter into a contentious period for the Mark in England, but also a time of some Mark advancement. Such of the latter which did occur was often done in defiance, and never with the aid of a overseeing authority. This was a time when the Industrial Revolution was going full steam ahead and the British Empire was expanding. The waltz was all the rage in Europe, and Shelley had written "Queen Mab" in 1813, the same year in which Jane Austen had published "Pride and Prejudice".
Some Craft lodges continued to work the Mark, regardless of the official line. As the regional strength of new Grand Lodge grew, however, many caved in and ceased working the old beloved ‘higher’ degrees. But others persisted.
Cryer (210) notes that the Minerva Lodge at Kingston-upon-Hull continued as usual. Moreover, it actively promoted the Mark. At Portsmouth, scene of Dunckerley’s earlier great efforts, Fortitude Lodge has documents which show that the Mark was still being worked by it a quarter of a century after the union. It was this year, 1837, that William IV died; as there was no male heir the Kingdom of Hanover was lost to England. The young Victoria became Queen of Great Britain.
In an effort to get round the Duke of Sussex’s put-down of the Mark some Craft lodges convened Mark ‘lodges’. Grantham (3) writes:
"...by 1816 or 1817 groups of Mark Masters in various localities in England had formed themselves into Mark lodges. In order not to sever their relationship with their Masonic (Craft or Royal Arch) parent and at the same time violating the provisions of the Secret Societies Acts, it was usual for Mark Brethren to convene their Mark Lodge and to meet under the shelter of the warrant of their Craft Lodge or - in a few instances - of their Royal Arch Chapter."
Note that these were not separate or independent Mark lodges as known today, but similar to the present Irish Mark ‘lodges’. The Duke of Leinster Lodge, 363 IC, in South Australia, is a good example of this old English strategy at its best.
Those times were colored by the wider English scene. 1817 was marked by riots in Derbyshire against poor treatment and low wages. The Industrial Revolution was biting. The following year saw the ‘Peterloo Massacre’. At that time the vast majority of the people had no vote. Thousands gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to hear a speech for democracy. The Government, still fearing Jacobinism and the people, but mainly anxious to keep its own narrow-based power, sent in troops, including mounted Hussars with sabres. They slashed into the unarmed crowd, killing and maiming many, including women. That was just 19 years before the proclamation of South Australia. Riot Acts followed, taking away several ancient basic rights.
Typical examples of Mark ‘lodge’ developments of those times can still be traced. At Portsmouth, on the south coast, the Phoenix Lodge had an attached Royal Arch Chapter, Friendship. This Chapter, in turn, held its own Mark ‘lodge’.
The same occurred at Bristol, on the west coast, where the ‘Bristol Mark Lodge’ was in 1857 noted as being ‘old’. Notice that these centres, as was the case of many others, were great sea ports. This indicates that merchants and sailors found Freemasonry to be to their advantage. At Nottingham, in middle England, a Craft Mark ‘Lodge’ - the ‘Newstead Mark Lodge’ - drew candidates from great distances around. Already in existence in 1813 it was still going strong at mid-century.
Even in London, headquarters of the old ‘Moderns’ and now the United Grand Lodge, the Mark was still worked. The Old Kent Lodge managed to do this. The Royal Cumberland Lodge, Bristol, was in 1820 noted as ‘one of the most distinguished Mark Lodges’ in the country. The Royal Sussex Lodge, at Bath, in England’s south-east, was originally an Antients lodge. Regardless of the 1813 Union it kept working ‘higher’ degrees, Mark included, at least until 1857.
Many Craft lodges, thinks Cryer (200), were probably working the Mark, but clandestinely. For this reason the working of non-approved degrees would not be recorded in the minutes. However, quite a few from time-to-time did. Three lodges at Bury, near Manchester, north western England, did. The Union Lodge at Norwich, in the south east, from 1819 on worked a range of degrees. These included, Mark, Ark, Royal Arch and Knight Templar. Cryer (211) thinks that other English Craft lodges did the same, but records are missing, camouflaged or not yet researched.
Near the lower east coast the Humber Lodge worked the Mark as a ‘distinctive part’ (Cryer:210) of the second degree. In this it was continuing operative practice. Cryer is also of the opinion that this approach was also fairly common.
Prince George Lodge exists at Bottoms, West Yorkshire, which is to the north of England. Following the Union of 1813 Mark ceremonies were in no way altered. By 1838, notes Cryer (207), it was running the Mark separately, and with separate minutes. It was held in high esteem, and acted as a Mark centre, attracting a membership from far afield. It was so influential that in 1856 the London Bon Accord Mark Lodge contacted it regarding the formation of a Mark Grand Lodge. In context; in 1838 Great Britain had 90 ships of the line, Russia deployed 50, France 49 and the US 15. Britain ruled the waves.
Another central lodge is known to have existed at Pembroke, in Wales. The Loyal Welsh Lodge began to administer the Mark from 1827. Freemasons came from surrounding lodges to be made Mark Master Masons. This continued until 1857, when the new Grand Mark Lodge took over.
In the ‘dark days’ of the Mark in England some lodges sent their Mark ‘lodge’ or degree team to various localities, there to advance candidates to the Mark and to demonstrate how to do so. Going to a central lodge in an area members from nearby lodges would also attend. Cryer thinks (206) that these travelling ‘lodges’ made an ‘invaluable contribution’ to Mark Masonry.
Please note that in various Orders the same procedure happens even today. A good example is the travelling South Australian Royal Arch team, which goes to various areas to work the ‘new’ chapter degrees, Excellent Master Mason and The Order of the Red Cross of Babylon, introduced in 1985.
One such travelling lodge was based at Oldham, in England’s north west. What is known of its workings suggest and Antient/Irish flavour. Its first known workings were in the early 1800’s. It had its own Cypher. It is also known it used to set out on a Sunday morning, accompanied by a horse and cart loaded with Mark paraphernalia.
A relatively nearby town, Ashton under Lyne, did the same, and is well known for it. Its travelling ‘Lodge’ is now the Ashton District T1 Mark Lodge. Highly mobile, it visited, on Sundays, 20 or more placed on a rotational basis. It dispensed the Mark and degrees then appendant, It began working in the latter part of the 1700’s, possibly in the 1770’s, when a regimental officer who had taken the Mark in India settled there.
Another travelling lodge was probably based at Farnsworth, near Bolton, in the same region as Bury and Ashton under Lyne. It worked from 1853 to 1855. It seems the idea was spreading. I
It is known that the Friendship Lodge, 202, at Devonport, Cornwall, produced a Mark lodge which described itself (Cryer:194-5) as ‘independent’. It formed itself into a travelling Mark lodge and went on the recruitment trail 1846 and 47. Then the authorities found out and stopped its career. The year 1847 was when a Factory Act restricted the six day working day of women and children to ten hours a day.
Another travelling lodge, the Newstead Mark Lodge, is known to have travelled to Birmingham in 1850. There members of local lodges were advanced. This is the year in which gold was discovered in Victoria.
The Lodge of Hope 302 at Bradford, after a submission to the Grand Master, was told that because it had the authority of the ‘old York Manuscript Constitution’ it could continue to work the Mark. It claims to have been originally warranted by the Grand Lodge of all England, York, in 1713. It further claims (Cryer:99) to have worked the Mark from the start. Its old ritual is known to have included a Red Cross element, and to opened in the Fellow Craft Degree. It kept working this right up till the new mark Grand Lodge forced it to change.
The knightly orders provided another avenue of evasion. They could insist that there were ‘steps’ to full membership. In this way any degree at all could be worked, although not in a Craft lodge setting. Chapters and other assemblies began to take on a new significance. The old Portsmouth Royal Arch Chapter is known to have done this. The Knights Templar conclave at Kingston upon Hull, in England’s north west, made it a requirement for candidates for its knightly degrees to be ‘endowed with the degrees of ‘Mark Past’, ‘Past Master in the Chair’, "Superintendent’ and Royal Arch’. On the other hand the St John of Jerusalem Encampment at Redruth, Cornwall, bestowed the degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master, but did not insist on them being dubbed a Knight Templar. This is known to have been the case between 1806 and 1826 (Cryer:194). 1826 was the year of the world’s first railway tunnel, constructed on the Liverpool-Manchester line.
Regimental lodges continued to have strong influences. The Isle of Wight, near Portsmouth, housed large army barracks. The Newport Lodge, which took the name of Albany in 1822, decided to adopt an Irish approach. Sometime prior to 1848 it established the Albany Mark ‘Lodge’. This was formally attached to the Minden Lodge, IC. Records from 1848 are still extant (Cryer:198). Amongst other things these show that between 1848 and 1874 58 soldiers from 20 regiments and 218 civilians from 53 lodges received their mark from this lodge.
The Albany lodge also produced an apron for the Mark alone (Cryer:145), probably among the first. Earlier aprons existed, but with the symbols of several degrees. One such is described as being used in Quebec in 1758. The Albany apron, of which one still exists, is tapered like a keystone. Of Craft colors, white with blue edgings, it features a large printed keystone and various inscriptions.
Some perspective on 1848 can be gained by remembering that was the year Macauly, who advocated parliamentary reform and the abolition of slavery, had published the four volume masterpiece "History of England". In that year, also, Marx and Engles brought out their "Communist Manifesto", and serfdom was abolished in Austria.
As noted, the Scottish Grand Chapter in 1842 decided to charter Chair Master lodges. One, St Johns, was founded in Manchester, England, in 1846 (Grantham:12). Although the idea was rescinded in Scotland later that year the Manchester lodge kept its Scottish contacts, and therefore ideas and rituals. The working, also, seems to have been taken to the Newcastle area (Cryer:171-2) about 1845, with the Newcastle and Berwick TI lodges working it. The latter body was reluctant to give it up when it helped found the new Mark Grand Lodge.
It was in 1850 at Nottingham, in the English Midlands, that Newstead lodge formed a Mark ‘lodge’. It is known (Cryer:142) that its ritual, from about 1850 onwards, first used the terms ‘East, West and South Gates’.
The Bolton area, in the north west, between 1845 and 1852 is known to have produced some additions. The four lodges working there would open in the third degree and then as a Mark lodge. There was no mention of a Mark apron but they had a Mark jewel. The ceremony came closer to the current English version.
It will be recalled that it is known that early forms of the Mark were worked in Ireland in the late 1700’s. As the century wore on several Masonic bodies were found to be fostering Mark-type degrees.
Cryer:(213) points out that in Ireland the Mark "... was either disguised under various other titles or was divided amongst several other ceremonies, and these had not so far coalesced as to provide something recognisable as the Mark we know today."
The Irish Craft Grand Lodge said that their warrant covered all the ‘higher degrees’. for example in a letter of 1822. This included the Mark, which was mentioned by name in 1844. But soon after that there was a reorganisation, and thereafter Craft lodges were issued with warrants for ‘Blue Masonry’ (Cryer:217) only.
There were in Ireland so-called ‘Irish Mark Lodges’, but that were not autonomous. They operated under a particular Craft lodge’s warrant; those issued before the exclusion. These semi-attached Mark lodges became clearer in the mid 1800’s. An example of an Irish-warranted Craft lodge was that of Minden Lodge, 63 IC, on the English Isle of Wight. It ran its own Mark ‘lodge’.
The ancestor of the present Irish Mark degree was started in Dublin in 1825 (Turnbull, 1956:15). It soon became popular all over Ireland. Lodges registered Mark Master members in Grand Lodge books until at least 1850. In that year the Mark was taken over by the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland.
In rural Ireland, states Cryer (216), most individual lodges did not work the ‘higher degrees’. This was probably because it was too hard to learn a lot of them. Members who wanted to take on particular degree, for example the Mark, went to a local central lodge for it. An example of this rationalisation is found in the Comber district of County Down.
Cryer notes (213) that Stephen Foster wrote that the ceremonies and degrees worked under the protection of Ireland’s Early Grand Encampment were not standardised, the specific degree, its ritual and the order in which degrees were done varied according to the wish of the local encampment.
In general, however, some form of Mark degree appears to have been associated with Red Cross Degrees - ‘Knight of the Sword’, ‘Knight of the East’ and ‘Knight of the East and West’.
The Great Priory of Ireland, wrote Pick and Knight (234), claims descent from the ‘Early Grand Encampment of High Knights Templar’. One claimed a beginning in 1770, but with its records lost. There is some evidence of a Knight Templar being made in 1765. It is certain that an Irish encampment was chartered in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1794.
By 1820, writes Cryer (214), the encampments ‘were largely responsible for anything resembling Mark ceremonies’. But the Early Grand Encampment went into decline, and the scattered encampments fell into ‘disarray’. Thus, the Mark suffered accordingly.
In 1825, however, a John Fowler had imported from Charleston, USA, a Mark Master Mason degree. This had probably gone over much earlier with a regimental lodge. This was first used by two lodges in Dublin. Fowler organised such a workable system that (Cryer:214) it received the ‘semi-official’ blessing of the Grand Craft Lodge.
It should be noted that, in 1836, there was formed the "Supreme Grand Encampment of Ireland’. This presumably rose from the ashes of the Early Grand Encampment, It took over the Red Cross degrees and probably included Mark ceremonies. 1836 saw HMS Buffalo arrive in the Province of South Australia and the founding of Adelaide. It was also the year Boer farmers in South Africa began The Great Treck. In Europe the fashionable dance was the Lancers.
The Mark received the official patronage of the Supreme Grand Chapter in 1884. A feature by then was the keystone and the completion of the secret vault. 1844 was the year Daniel O’Connell, named the Liberator of Ireland, was found guilty of political conspiracy against British rule in Ireland.
Following stabilisation the Mark was apparently judged to be a sound degree, and about thirty years after the Grand Chapter’s adoption of it, became a ‘necessary step’ (Newton:289) to the Royal Arch.
The style of ‘Antient’ Masonry prevailed everywhere. There is a record that in 1821 Loyalty Lodge 358 EC, situated in the Bemudas, borrowed money (Cryer:225) from its Mark Lodge.
Strong anti-Masonry campaigns were mounted in North America in the 1830’s. Masonry, including the Mark, survived. It was in 1831 that Charles Darwin, naturalist, sailed on HMS Beagle to survey nature in the Southern Hemisphere.
In 1818 a Canadian Provincial Grand Lodge in Lower Canada -an English-based organisation, it issued a manual for use of Masons in ‘Lower Canada". It includes a full exposition of the then Mark Degree.
In 1823 a Simon McGillivray sought to introduce the English Grand Lodge rules produced at the 1813 union, to Canada. There was some attempt by some lodges to be aware of and follow these, but overall they fell away.
The dissolution of the old Grand Lodge of Antient York Masons was not liked in Quebec Province. The lodges wished to remain ‘Antient York Masons’ (Cryer:226). In particular the fact that lodges of all jurisdictions except English could work any degree they liked, including the Mark, rankled. In general Mark was worked anyway.
Letters were sent to London. One sent in 1844 stated (Cryer:227) that the Mark and other degrees were performed everywhere in Canada, except for the English Constitution lodges trying to toe the line. The English Grand Lodge sat on such letters or dealt with them in a superior manner.
A Bro Thomas Harrington (Cryer: 228) wrote from Toronto to the Earl of Zetland:
The Canadians formed their own, independent, Grand Lodge. The Mark was in.
The strong influence of military lodges was everywhere evidenced, although almost no records remain. Amongst other things the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58 saw to that. Many degrees. including the Mark, were worked.
A newspaper report exists which shows that in Madras, about 1840, Social Friendship Lodge 326 had a ‘Keystone Chapter’ attached, It worked at least the Mark, Mariner and Royal Arch degrees, which were ‘very popular’.
Lodges in centres throughout India are known to have worked the Mark. These include Canote, Calcutta, Cawnpore, Agra and Simla.
The Masonic Mark ceremony probably evolved in the main from operative practices. There was probably originally a great number of operative lodges and the like in the British Isles, each no doubt with ceremonies a little different from its neighbour. As these transformed into speculative lodges or as such lodges self generated, the ceremonial presentations would have invariably widened.
Thus we arrive to the stage examined in the second part of these papers, with a great variety of Mark rituals being performed. It is also apparent that they were nurtured or otherwise in two main environments. On the one hand, that of the Scottish, the Irish and the English Antients, the rich variety of Mark ceremonies went their own way, with a minimum to no interference from ‘above’, where an some sort of authority existed or was acknowledged. On the other hand, with the arrival in 1717 of the English Moderns, the Mark was virtually banned from Craft lodges. It struggled along in various forms and in various shelters. Overseas, the Mark was appreciated, with the Antient/Scottish/Irish forms taking root.
As the Eighteenth Century turned to the Nineteenth it was Scotland’s turn, at least for a while, to remove the Mark from Craft favour. In this case, however, various authoritative bodies took it under their wings. The Mark, in various forms, continued to evolve. The same happened, at a delayed and slower pace, in Ireland.
1813 saw the beginning of an attempt in England to put the Mark away for ever. Never-the-less it survived and evolved. Overall, then, by this time in the British Isle it is clear that there existed a rich variety of Mark customs and rituals. It is this mix which generated the present day Mark observances found in the British Isles.
Cryer, Neville: The Arch and the Rainbow, Lewis, Addelstone, 1996.
Gardner, Lawrence: Bloodline of the Holy Grail, Element, Shaftesbury, 1996.
Grantham, John: History of the Grand Mark Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England and Wales and the Dominions and Dependencies of the British Crown, Lewis, London, 1996.
Handfeild-Jones, RM: A New and Comprehensive History of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England...1856-1968, G Mark L, London, 1996.
Knight, Christopher, & Lomas, Robert: The Hiram Key, Century, London, 1996.
Newton, Edward: ‘The Mark Degree’, in Ars Quatuor Coronatum, London, 1954.
Pick, Fredrick, & Knight, Norman: The Pocket History of Freemasonry, Muller, London, 1953-83.
Springett, B: The Mark Degree, Lewis, London, 1948.
Turnbull, R & Denslow, R: A History of the Royal Arch, Trenton MO, USA, 1995.
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