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StarRed Special Project 2009 StarRed
PS Review of Freemasonry meets the Australian and New Zealand Masonic Research Council.

Ten selected papers first published by
the Australian and New Zealand Masonic Research Council.

Plus an illustrated account of the formation and activities of the ANZMRC:
by W.Bro. Tony Pope, Editor of the ANZMRC’s publications.

PS Review of Freemasonry
The Australian & New Zealand Masonic Research Council (ANZMRC) is an inter-jurisdictional association of research lodges for the promotion of Masonic research and education on an international basis.

by W.Bro. Ken Brindal
WM of South Australian Lodge of Research #216
Grand Lodge of South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The inaugural (1992) Kellerman Lecture for South Australia and the Northern Territory, published in AMRC Proceedings 1992.

© No part of this paper may be reproduced without written permission from the The Australian & New Zealand Masonic Research Council. HTML code is property of PS Review of Freemasonry - All rights reserved ©

Every Masonic researcher must have encountered illustrations of masons' marks at some time in his career. These illustrations abound in early volumes of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum and the Transactions of several other lodges of research, and in certain non-Masonic publications as early as 1843. Unfortunately, much of the published material reveals a lack of scientific method in observation and recording of data, and there is no definitive study of the subject as a whole. Worse — some authors attempt to link masons' marks with occult religion, numerology, alchemy, the genesis of alphabets and other imaginative theories which blithely ignore sites and ages that do not fit their needs.


ANZMRC publishes a quarterly newsletter, Harashim (Hebrew for Craftsmen), which is circulated worldwide in PDF format by email. Subscribe Harashim.

Bro Robert Gould's History of Freemasonry provides a sound beginning to the study of the subject but, as a summary of what has been published elsewhere, it necessarily reflects the limitations of its sources. It is interesting, however, to compare Bro Gould's essay in the first edition (vol 1, ch 9) with Bro Herbert Poole's revision in the third edition (vol 1, ch 7), revealing the advance in knowledge in the intervening period and contrasting the attitudes of these two great researchers.

Masons' marks have been found throughout the northern hemisphere, and range over a timespan of nearly 5000 years.


It is very remarkable indeed that these marks are to be found in all countries — in the passages of the pyramids; on the underground walls of Jerusalem; in Herculaneum and Pompeii; on Roman walls and Grecian temples; in Hindustan, Mexico, Peru, Asia Minor, — as well as on the great ruins of England, France, Germany, Scotland, Spain, Italy and Portugal.[1]


Since we in Australia lack the opportunity to examine the original marks on ancient stones (apart from those made by our aboriginal inhabitants), we are obliged to limit our studies to the secondary sources available to us. Within this limitation, this paper will briefly consider marks found throughout the northern hemisphere on structures erected over a period of 5000 years. It will refer to a selection of sites, for the most part in chronological sequence, illustrating some of the marks and noting (where such information is available) their position on the stones and the frequency of their use. From the data thus recorded, this paper will consider the functions of these marks. Because of the limitation of time, only passing reference will be made to the symbolism of some marks, and the speculative degrees that make use of masons' marks.





Brother Hayter Lewis, in his paper ‘Masonry and Masons’ Marks’,[2] says:


The earliest marks now known to exist are those found by Col. Vyse in the Chambers of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh. I quite acquiesce in the opinion of the late Dr. Birch that these are not strictly Masons' but quarry marks. But some of them require especial notice inasmuch as they continue in use, as Masons' Marks, through all the centuries down to mediaeval times — and many even to the present.


He goes on to refer to one of these marks as ‘the Greek P’, but does not illustrate it; we are left in some doubt whether he is refering to pi or rho. Commenting on this paper, Bro William Simpson states that these marks were not incised, but were made with red paint.[3]


Professor Flinders Petrie (a grandson of Matthew Flinders) records a number of incised marks of the 12th dynasty (c 2500 bc),[4] including the following:

mark01.jpg - 9814 Bytes



One of the most interesting sites for us, as speculatives, is that of the Haram area of Jerusalem. This includes the site of the Temple, virtually closed to excavation for religious reasons. In the 1860s three young officers of the British army, Charles Wilson, Charles Warren and C R Conder, were seconded successively to the Palestine Exploration Fund. Wilson is later referred to as Colonel Sir Charles Wilson, and Conder as Colonel Conder. Warren was already a Mason at the time of his secondment, and was to become Major General Sir Charles Warren, gcmg, kcb, the foundation Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders.


Josephus, writing in the first century ad, gave a description of the great height of the walls of Jerusalem, which appeared to 19th century archaeologists to be a gross exaggeration. Bro Warren reasoned that the repeated destruction of the city would have caused the valley to fill. He decided to excavate on the outer side of the wall surrounding the Haram as Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. He sank a shaft at the southeast corner, where the wall rose 77 feet 6 inches above ground level. He discovered the foundations 80 feet below, on bedrock: a tall wall indeed.


Some massive and uneven stones were used in the construction of this wall. Barclay's Gate, on the western side, near the Wailing Wall, boasts a lintel from 20 to 24 feet long and 6 feet 10 inches wide. On the south wall is a stone estimated to weigh 100 tons.[5] Bro Warren found a broken stone that had spanned Robinson's Arch, 42 feet wide, on the western side of the Haram Wall, near the southwest corner.[6]


At the excavation at the southeast corner there were mostly smaller, hewn stones, and the base of the wall rested on rock cut to receive the foundation stones. Here were Masons' marks. Some were incised, about 3/8ths of an inch deep, and others were painted red — like the marks in the chambers of the Great Pyramid. There were splashes of the same colour paint on the bedrock.[7] As historical researchers, we would be unwise to read too much into this particular link across the miles and the millenia.


These marks were viewed by two notable visitors, Dr Emanuel Deutsch and Bro William Simpson (who became the third Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge). Later, the excavations were filled in, presumably because of danger to locals and tourists, and Bro Prof T Hayter Lewis (7th Master of QC) was unable to view these marks when he visited Jerusalem.


The painted marks were on the second and fifth courses of stones, and consisted mostly of curved characters resembling e, j, Q and u, but also with marks similar to T, X and Y. Curiously, one stone of the fifth course and one of the second had at least 7 marks each. The incised marks were angular but not clean-cut, mainly crosses and squared U-shapes. They are illustrated in (1889) AQC II at page 125. Dr Deutsch declared the marks to be Phoenician letters and numbers.[8] C R Conder considered them ancient Hebrew characters, in use up to the time of Herod.[9] Prof R A S Macalister conceded that some of the marks resembled Phoenician or Old Hebrew characters, but suggested that they were ‘probably mere graffiti with no special significance’.[10] Bro J F Finlayson went further and argued that they were totally unlike Phoenician script.[11]


Identification of the marks is important in determining the age of the lower courses of the Haram Wall. Bro Warren, following Deutsch, placed it in King Solomon's reign, probably constructed by the same craftsmen who built the Temple. Brothers Gould and Lewis tended to concur, but Bro Simpson was more cautious. Wilson took the view that the foundation stones were second-hand, brought from elsewhere, and placed in their present position in Nehemiah's time (c 457 bc), while Conder ascribed the construction to Herod the Great (c 20 bc).


As Bro Simpson remarked:[12]


No one supposes that they are later than Herod's time, and that gives a very respectable antiquity to these masons' marks.

mark02.jpg - 3858 BytesBro Warren also recorded masons' marks in Lebanon and Syria,[13] but without indication of date of origin. Among those at Baalbek were:

mark03.jpg - 4139 Bytesand at Damascus:


The many marks on castle walls at the ancient Phoenician port of Sidon included:

mark04.jpg - 11811 Bytes

Further East


Generally, the snippets of information available about marks observed in the East do not include date of origin. Those referred to hereafter in this paper are clearly less than 2000 years old.


Bro Harry Rylands (6th Master of QC) provides information supplied by W F Ainsworth[14] on marks in the ruined palace at Al-Hadhr (ancient Hatra) in Iraq. Ainsworth observed a single mark in the centre of the exposed face of each stone, generally one or two inches in size. He remarked:


Every stone, not only in the chief building, but in the walls and bastions and other public monuments, when not defaced by time, is marked with a character, which is for the most part either a Chaldaic (Khaldi) letter or numeral.


He noted several instances of a character similar to the Roman A and frequent use of the ‘ancient mirror and handle’ — a circle above an inverse T. Among the signs he and Esau Rassam recorded were

mark05.jpg - 15255 Bytes

Bro Gould illustrates four marks observed by Selah Merrill[15] at ‘the Mosque and Reservoir at Bozrah’ — presumably Al-Basrah, in Iraq. Each of these marks was restricted to a single wall, but appeared on many of the stones on that wall. Many stones, however, had no mark.


In the discussion of Bro Lewis' paper, Bro Simpson remarked[16] that in northern Persia (Iran):


… sun-dried bricks, or mud, was the building material, and in important structures the walls were covered with coloured tiles. All that remains of a deserted city in that region are mounds, and Masons' Marks are out of the question. Bro Purdon Clarke should be able to tell us if such marks are to be found any where in Persia.


Bro Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke (13th Master of QC) responded:[17]


… I only noted two extensive series of markings, one at Besitoon, … the other at Ispahan … At Besitoon the marks occurred on a single course of Ashlar facing of the plinth of the brick built Caravanserai of Shah Abbas. The stones were about 18 inches high by 2 feet long, and were most probably not more than 5 inches thick. Each bore a mark about 2 inches high right in the centre and strongly cut in … At Ispahan the marks were also very numerous, they occurred on almost every stone of the paving of a large court yard in the old Palace.


Bro Clarke dated both buildings as early 16th century. He noted that several of the 10 or 12 varieties of mark at Besitoon appeared ‘distinctly European’, whereas none of the 30 or so varieties at Ispahan bore such a resemblance. Bro Clarke's observations and enquiries indicated that at both places the stones had been recently turned, the inference being that the marks had not been on an exposed face, originally.


Bro H J Whymper reported a number of marks on 16th century buildings in Jaunpore (Jaunpur, northern India),[18] including:

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Two contributors to AQC have supplied marks from Agra, also in northern India: Bro John Yarker and (Brother ? Sister ?) H G M Murray-Aynsley. Bro Yarker submitted copies of masons' marks obtained from the Taj Mahal by Bro Lawrence-Archer, including:

mark07.jpg - 11222 Bytes

mark08.jpg - 15137 Bytes Mrs Harriet Murray-Aynsley, who bore the unique distinction of being the only associate member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, [19] contributed papers on symbols such as the Tau and the Swastika. On the platform of the Taj she located (fig.62) a more elaborate version of the 'squared' swastika of figure 52 (above).


She also noted masons' marks at the Ram Bagh in Agra, [20] including fig. 63-66.


Finally, Bro Yarker presented marks found on ruined Hindu temples, and among them were the following fig. 67-71


Rome and Pompeii


Under the general heading ‘Rome’, the Encyclopedia Britannica has an informative entry on masons' marks:


A very curious series of masons' marks exists on buildings of the regal period, especially on the stones of the agger wall and those of the small cellae on the Palatine near the Scaelae Caci. They are deeply incised, usually on the ends of the blocks, and average from 10 to 14 inches in length; some are single letters or monograms; others are numbers; and some are doubtful signs …


The regal period was 753-509 bc. All the marks included in the Britannica are reproduced herewith:


mark09.jpg - 32415 Bytes


Marks found at Pompeii by Bro Simpson,[21] include:


mark10.jpg - 10267 Bytes



Medieval and modern Europe


Examples of masons' marks in Europe since Roman times are generally dated from late 12th century onwards.[22] Academic interest in these marks seems to have commenced with the publication of papers in England by George Godwin frs, fsa in 1841, V Didron in France in 1845, and by Patrick Chalmers fsa in relation to Scotland in 1852.[23] These and subsequent articles, some containing hundreds or even thousands of marks, were published in the transactions of local or national societies of architects, antiquaries and archaeologists. To locate and collate all of them (or even those published in a single country) would be a mammoth task for a European researcher, and an impossible one for those of us resident in the antipodes.


Articles and collections of masons' marks began to be published in Masonic periodicals from 1851 and subsequently (as already noted) in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum and the Transactions of other lodges of research. Most of these are deficient in essential details, and many provide only a small selection of the marks observed. Bro Gould (and, later, Bro Bernard Jones[24]), covering the whole subject of Freemasonry, was necessarily restricted to a small sample in his summary of the subject of masons' marks. Other historians and encyclopedists offer even smaller samples, or none.


The student outside Europe, therefore, has access to only a minute proportion of secondary sources, the selection of which has been made by a number of people (sometimes from primary and sometimes from secondary sources), based either on unspecified criteria or in support of a particular theory.


As if this were not difficult enough, there is the further complication that in the 18th and 19th centuries speculative degrees and Orders developed which adopted the registration and use of masons' marks. From the 16th century, and perhaps earlier, Scottish operative masons were allocated a mark, recorded in the lodge register. Those lodges which admitted non-operative masons extended the practice to them. When English-style speculative Masonry became popular in the 18th century, various ‘Mark’ degrees were developed, including: Mark Mason, Mark Fellow Mason, Mark Master; Ark, Mark and Link; Link and Chain; Black Mark; Knight of the Christian Mark; Fugitive Mark; Travelling Mark; Cain's Mark; Mark Man and Old Mark.[25]


The modern Mark degree, whether part of the Royal Arch (Ireland, Scotland) or of the Craft (Scotland) or as a concordant body (England), registers a mark to each member. In South Australia it usually takes the form of a monogram of the candidate's initials. Such monograms would seldom appear on stone and, in any event, would generally be distinguishable from operative masons' marks. However, there remains the possibility of confusion of operative and non-operative sources on stones worked in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Clearly, the present paper cannot illustrate all of the relatively small number of marks (i e, thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands) available to Australian researchers. It would be advisable, then, to outline the types of data to be sought, and the grounds for selection of illustrative marks.


The ideal report would indicate the age and type of building, whether standing, undergoing renovations or in ruins; the position of the mark on the face of the stone, and whether on an exposed or (originally) concealed face; the type of mark and the frequency of use of that mark on the site; the number of marks on a single stone; the proportion of stones marked, and the significance of marked stones (cornerstone, keystone, etc).


Such information could reveal the original purpose of the marks in a particular area during a specified period, such as a signature (for quality control, payment of piece-work, or simply the pride of the master craftsman), as instructions for placing the stone in the intended structure, or for a religious or esoteric purpose. The information might also indicate the movement of individual masons or groups, the spread of building knowledge or style, or previously undiscovered links between operative and speculative masonry.


The English, French, German, Irish and Scottish marks which follow have been selected for their relevance to one or more of the points in the previous paragraph, or to illustrate how widely the mark was used, whether for one of the above purposes or as a symbol.


It should be borne in mind that where marks of similar design are illustrated, and one is rotated 90 or 180 degrees in respect to the other, they may in fact be identical. For example:


mark11.jpg - 11009 Bytes


 One further point, before we examine European marks: the cross may take many forms, some of which predate Christianity. English heraldry recognises 285 varieties.[26] Among the following 14 variations are those which appear as marks in this paper:


mark12.jpg - 18896 Bytes



England and Wales


The earliest certain date for masons' marks in England is 1119, when a particular part of Norwich Cathedral[27] was constructed. Some very elaborate marks were found on the arches there, which suggests that even then a large number of masons had individual marks.


mark13.jpg - 27886 Bytes

Some of the simpler marks, which also appear on other sites, are fig. 110-113:

Stones removed from the east end of the choir of Manchester Collegiate Church, erected in mid-15th century, bore masons' marks, but Bro A Abrahams of Adelaide, who copied them (fig.114-118), did not indicate on which face they appeared.[28]

At Corbridge-on-Tyne the following marks were observed ( fig.119-122) by Bro J Witter on a bridge built in 1674:[29] Of those signs, the triangle appeared most frequently.

He then examined a bridge at Chollerford, dated 1745, where he found numerous examples of 5 marks (here illustrated in order of frequency)- Fig. 123-127:


Two brethren reported marks on buildings under construction, at Truro in 1886[30] and Newcastle in 1891.[31] The clerk of works at Truro Cathedral recorded the marks of the masons under his supervision. The stones were marked on the lower face, and thus the marks were concealed when the stones were laid. They included:


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mark15.jpg - 38802 Bytes


See notes: [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]


Lancashire and Cheshire


Bro Harry Rylands made a special study of masons' marks in Lancashire and Cheshire, and presented a paper to the historical society of those counties. Subsequently, the plates from that paper were published in AQC.[38] They contain about 1140 marks, collected by several observers, some of whom noted the location and frequency of the marks and the age of the buildings. From this large and useful collection, 26 marks have been selected as of particular interest, appearing at one or more of the 21 sites described in the table, below.


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France and Germany


The only marks generally available in Australia from continental Europe are a few from France and Germany, contained in Gould's History of Freemasonry. Those of the ‘Chateau of the Popes’ at Avignon include (below, left):


mark19.jpg - 52816 Bytes


See note:  [39]


Ireland and Scotland


The earliest known examples of masons' marks in Ireland are to be found in the ruins of Grey Abbey, north of Killyleagh. It was built in 1193 for the Cistercian monks, and the marks are recorded in Caementaria Hibernica. Bro Chetwode Crawley, clearly of the Gould-Carr school, has this to say:[40]


… This edifice was built by a company or Lodge of Freemasons, who had been previously employed on the great Cistercian monasteries at Whitby and elsewhere in the North of England. They left behind them on their work the characteristic Masons' Marks, to which we attach so much importance, because we can safely assume that wherever they occur they were made by Operative brethren, who were bound by the same ties, and had learned their lessons in the same way as ourselves; who, in short, belonged to an organisation which lacked but time and circumstance to develop into the Speculative system of today. These marks cannot be later than 1210, A.D., and are, as far as the present writer knows, the earliest in Ireland to which an incontrovertible date can be assigned.


Curiously, few of these ‘characteristic’ marks resemble marks found elsewhere. They are of ragged outline and are difficult to reproduce, but some are similar to:


mark20.jpg - 5686 Bytes


Those on St Mary's Church, Youghal,[41] in the southeast of Ireland, are of two distinct types:


mark21.jpg - 6538 Bytes

Again, Bro Crawley states that these are the marks of English masons.[42]


We are indebted to the Texas Grand Lodge Magazine[43] for a dated collection of early Scottish marks, from Ayrshire and Fifeshire, including:


mark22.jpg - 59287 Bytes


Bro A Abrahams, of Adelaide, visited Edinburgh in 1851 and copied some 30 marks from stones of the underground walls of Old Trinity Church, which was being demolished.[44] This church was founded by Mary of Guelders, consort of James II (1430–1460). The marks included:


mark23.jpg - 11376 Bytes


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Bro Gould supplies an interesting but undated set from Melgund Castle: [45]


and Bro Bernard Jones an undated collection from Melrose Abbey:[46]


Bro W I Macadam was a frequent contributor of undated marks:[47]


mark25.jpg - 44009 Bytes


Let us now turn to the theories arising from observation of masons' marks.





The symbolism attributed to masons' marks is itself a vast field of study, one which, apart from a few general comments, I must leave for another occasion.


Symbolic marks are by no means confined to stones, as reference to any dictionary of symbolism, or examination of medieval art, will readily disclose. Christianity adopted many symbols from earlier times. Louisa Twining[48] illustrates not only the familiar Latin, Greek and St Andrew's crosses as symbols of Jesus, but also the tau and swastika. She provides several variations of the chi rho monogram of Jesus[49] (below), and an asterisk in a circle as an emblem of immortality. She describes the triangle as a symbol of the Trinity, and comments that two triangles combined (as a six-pointed star) was a favourite design in medieval Christian art.


mark26.jpg - 9224 Bytes


Bro Gould[50] gives a short summary of the symbolism of the tau, swastika, five- and six-pointed stars, the trident and the hourglass, and suggests that the figure 4 may often be an incomplete hourglass. To these we might add the asterisk and S-shape as sun symbols, and the plain circle as a symbol of eternity.


It seems to me that a mason could well adopt a religious or other symbol as a mark for work-related purposes, either deliberately or unknowingly. From this I reason that where symbolic marks are found in conjunction with non-symbolic marks, the symbolism is not relevant. If the symbolic mark is isolated or in company only with other symbolic marks, the symbolism may be germane. This emphasises the need for full notes to be supplied with observations of marks.


Masons' marks have, of course, given us an excuse to form another degree, and to ascribe moral teaching to some of the more common marks.



Theories, notions and ideas


Bros Wynn Westcott and F F Schnitger submitted to Ars Quatuor Coronatorum two theories based on the cabbalistic writings of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, relating to secret alphabets and magical numbers. Bro Speth, the editor, chose a polite and gentle way of setting the record straight, and added some useful information:


The above theory is ingenious, but I am afraid untenable. I can only speak from a limited experience of marks, practically confined to Canterbury Cathedral. There, at least, the same marks recur over and over again in every part of the building  … the well-known hour-glass, for instance. The zigzag mark … is prominent beyond all others at Canterbury, and, curiously enough, is seldom found alone on a stone, but almost always in conjunction with some other mark, as if it were the countersign of a foreman, or inspector …

My limited experience runs counter to Bro. Hayter Lewis' suggestion that marks are seldom found on the plain wall stones, but chiefly on carved work. At Canterbury the opposite is the case. In the long north wall of the nave hardly a stone but has at least one mark, besides usually the countermark already mentioned; but on the columns hardly a mark is to be seen. On the south wall the marks are not quite so plentiful, but I believe many of the stones in this wall have been turned, because the hoofs, etc., of the horses at one time stabled along this wall had occasioned much damage.


Bro Speth's reference to columns reminds me that statues, when part of a group sculpted by different craftsmen, are often marked in inconspicuous places, so that they can be correctly assembled.

Professor Rziha, who made a study of the German Steinmetzen, theorised that a complex ‘master-diagram’ would have been drawn of an intended large structure, and marks would be extracted from the diagram and allotted to masons employed on the site. He claimed to have recovered such diagrams from several European cities, to which Bro Poole[51] comments:


It would be rash to deny the possibility of such a system, however improbable (and unnecessary) it may appear. But it is difficult to see how it could have applied in the case of the Scottish Mason, whose Mark was allocated to him at the outset of his career, and could not be substantially altered. For the same reason, it is not easy to see how it could have been applied to the German stonemason … as the conditions seem to have been similar.


Bro Poole further states:[52]


Among the Steinmetzen of Germany in the seventeenth century, the Mason who was free of his apprenticeship and had thereby attained the rank of Fellow Craft, was formally admitted into the Fraternity at a regular Lodge meeting, when he took a solemn obligation to be a true, loyal and obedient Mason and, among the avowals, he declared that he would not of his own initiative change his distinctive mark. This was known as “pledging his mark,” which, henceforth, became his distinctive property. The mark was used by him as a signature, and he was required to engrave it upon all his work on completion, but he was punished severely if he did so before his work had been approved or passed. The placing of a mark upon finished work was not, however, peculiar to stonemasons, but was the practice also of cutters and joiners and, possibly, of other craftsmen. Nor was it a custom observed only in Germany. It was certainly adhered to in France …

In Lodge Kilwinning, according to the Minutes of December 20, 1678, two Apprentices were entered who “paid their binding money and got their marks.”…


and earlier:[53]


The Schaw Statutes, which are dated December 28, 1598, ordain that


no Master or Fellow-of-Craft is to be received or admitted except in the presence of six Masters and two Entered Apprentices, the Warden of the Lodge being one of the six, the date thereof being orderly booked and his name and mark insert in the said book.


It seems clear from this that the selection of a mark took place at the time when the Entered Apprentice became a Fellow Craft.


Bro Poole cites other authorities, from which he reasons:[54]


The conclusions which we may draw from these references to the Scottish use of the Mark—and there seem to be no reasons for supposing that English practice was different, or that they differed materially from the practice of a much earlier age—are:

(i) that the Mason was allotted a Mark of his own choosing;

(ii) at the time when he first became qualified to accept work under a master;

            (iii) and that he could not alter his Mark except temporarily under special circumstances.


Some 19th-century observers claimed to be able to distinguish indications of the class or grade of worker by the marks. For example, V Didron divided French marks into those of overseers and workers.[55] That this may be so in some cases is supported by the observation of Bro Speth in Canterbury Cathedral. Two other students, E W Shaw  (who intended to publish a book, Historical Masonry, illustrated by 5,700 of the 11,000 marks he had collected) and Smith,[56] went further, claiming to distinguish between the marks of masters, fellow crafts, apprentices, and unskilled labourers, so-called ‘blind’ marks. This is difficult to accept, in view of the evidence that, except in special circumstances, a mark was allocated to an individual for life.


In England and Scotland, at least, there seems to be little evidence to support a further contention, that marks were passed from father to son, or that a relative received basically the same mark but with a small distinguishing feature. These practices may have occurred occasionally, but were not widespread.


A group effort to collect marks systematically in a small geographical area, such as that of Bro Rylands and others in relation to Lancashire and Cheshire (illustrated earlier in this paper), promises a much better opportunity to draw valid conclusions, in relation to that area and timespan. Bro Poole[57] cites further concerted efforts of this nature. In such circumstances the recurrence of particular marks may well be significant, allowing the student to trace a craftsman or group of masons as they moved from site to site.


With sparser information it is impossible to attach significance to the duplication of a mark, especially when the marks are widely separated geographically or temporally. As an extreme example I refer to the triangle, figures 4 (Egypt, c 2500 bc), 21 (Crusader castle at Sidon), 68 (Hindu temple), 120 (northern England, 1674), 157 (Holyrood Abbey, undated) and 240 (Scotland, undated). The only positive deduction to be made is that the triangle is popular among masons as a mark, and that is not surprising; it is aesthetically pleasing, has significance in the construction of buildings, and is easy to carve. In fact, there is bound to be duplication of marks, witting or unwitting, considering that the majority of marks consist of less than 8 strokes, mostly straight lines.


I have numbered most of the marks in this paper (and the others are readily identifiable) to facilitate further study and discussion, although I anticipate that any serious student whose interest has been aroused will refer to my sources—and find others.





Can one draw a conclusion? The very magnitude of the subject seems to prevent this. The marks open many fascinating lines of study and of speculation, as evidenced by the number of leading researchers in Quatuor Coronati in the early days who included the marks as a subject for study.


To me, the fact that the practice was widespread indicates that their use had a strictly practical purpose. Building is a severely practical pasttime; it does not devote time or energy to flights of fancy. Therefore, my feeling is that when we get in-depth research on this subject — and it will, of necessity, be conducted in the northern hemisphere — the results will be quite prosaic.


I hope that in presenting this preliminary study I have drawn the veil from an aspect of the Craft to which not much attention has been given in recent years, and stimulated your interest. I trust that you will judge that I have marked well.


[Editor's note:   A condensed version of this paper was presented to the conference. The very full endnotes are the reason for the omission of a bibliography.]




[1] WOODFORD A F A: Kennings Masonic Cyclopaedia, p458, London, George Kenning, 1878, quoted without acknowledgement in GOULD R F: Concise History of Freemasonry, p239, London, Gale & Polden, 1903.

[2] (1890) AQC III 65 @ 69.

[3] ibid p73.

[4] ibid p189.

[5] SIMPSON W, (1889) AQC II 124.

[6] SINGER I (ed): Jewish Encyclopedia, vol 7 p123.

[7] SIMPSON W, op cit.

[8] Quarterly Statement (1889) Vol 1 p33, Palestine Exploration Fund.

[9] ‘The High Sanctuary of Jerusalem’, Good Words, October 1881.

[10] A century of excavation in Palestine, pp35,6, London, 1925, quoted in HORNE A: King Solomon's Temple in the Masonic Tradition, p75, London, Aquarian Press, 1972.

[11] (1890) AQC III 75.

[12] (1889) AQC II 124.

[13] ibid p126.

[14] (1892) AQC V 147-9.

[15] History of Freemasonry, 1st ed, vol 1 p464, citing East of Jordan (1881).

[16] ‘Masonry and Masons' Marks’, (1890) AQC III 65 @ 73.

[17] ibid p74.

[18] Masonic Record of Western India, April 1890.

[19]   see DYER C F W: The history of the first 100 years of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, p63, London, QCCC Ltd, 1986.

[20]   (1892) AQC V 147.

[21] (1889) AQC II 127.

[22] GOULD R F: ‘Collected essays and papers on the antiquity of Masonic symbolism’, (1890) AQC III 130.

[23] GOULD R F: History of Freemasonry, vol 1 pp455,6.

[24] The Freemasons' Guide and Compendium, 1950.

[25] St CLAIR W K: ‘Degrees of Mark Masonry’, Texas Grand Lodge Magazine, February 1946, reprinted in Chips from the chisel, Holden Research Circle, Melbourne, 1992.

[26] Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 14th ed p285, London, Cassel, 1990.

[27] (1897) AQC X 160.

[28] (1891) AQC IV 242.

[29] ibid p243.

[30] ibid p60.

[31] ibid p61.

[32]   ibid p60.

[33]   (1899) AQC XII 207.

[34]   (1890) AQC III 190.

[35]   Gould's History of Freemasonry vol 1 ch 9.

[36]   Freemasons' Guide and Compendium p543.

[37]   (1889) AQC II 127.

[38] (1894) AQC VII 90.

[39]   Mrs Murray Aynsley says: '… the tradition regarding it is that when the true cross was found by the Empress Helena, the footpiece was found displaced, therefore this form was adopted and has ever since been retained by their communion.', 'The Tau or Cross: a heathen and a Christian symbol', (1892) AQC V 84.

[40] Caementaria Hibernica, Fasciculus primus 1726–1730, p10.

[41] Gould's History of Freemasonry, vol 1 ch 9.

[42] op cit p12.

[43] ‘Degrees of Mark Masonry’, by Bro Lt Col W K St Clair, February 1946.

[44] (1891) AQC IV, 242.

[45]   op cit.

[46]   op cit.

[47] (1895) AQC VIII, 233; (1899) AQC XII, 207.

[48] Symbols and Emblems of Early and Mediaeval Christian Art, new  edn, London, John Murray, 1885.

[49] op cit, plate 3.

[50] Concise History of Freemasonry, pp246-9.

[51] in his revision of Gould's History of Freemasonry, 1951, vol 1 ch 7.

[52] op cit, vol 4 p198.

[53] biid, p197.

[54] op cit, vol 1 p160.

[55] GOULD R F: History of Freemasonry, vol 1 pp455,6.

[56] Proceedings, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol iv p548.

[57] op cit, vol 1 p168.

ANZMRC The Australian & New Zealand Masonic Research Council (ANZMRC) is an inter-jurisdictional association of research lodges for the promotion of Masonic research and education on an international basis. A brief account of its aims, formation and development is contained at
Masonic Research in Australia and New Zealand. Full membership is open only to research bodies in Australia and New Zealand, but associate membership is extended to research bodies worldwide, and ANZMRC has associates in Africa, America, Asia and Europe.

Every two years ANZMRC holds a three-day conference at which major research papers, designated Kellerman Lectures, are presented. These are published prior to the conference in ANZMRC Proceedings. The venue for conferences is rotated between New Zealand and the six states of Australia.


In the ‘off’ years when a conference is not held, ANZMRC organizes a lecture tour by an overseas Masonic scholar, and publishes a book of the lectures offered in the tour. Past lecturers include: Yasha Beresiner, Robert Cooper, Neville Barker Cryer, James Daniel, John Hamill and Wallace McLeod.


ANZMRC publishes a quarterly newsletter, Harashim (Hebrew for Craftsmen), which is circulated worldwide in PDF format by email. This contains research articles (originals & reprints), book reviews, news and comment. ANZMRC is also developing a digital library of full-text research papers from Australia and New Zealand (about 2000 to date).


Membership of ANZMRC is restricted to organizations (lodges, study circles, etc), but its products (publications, lectures, etc) are available to individuals (Masons and non-Masons).
For purchase of Proceedings, tour books & CDs, free enrolment for the newsletter, and general enquiries, contact by email:
Colin Heyward (Secretary) or Kent Henderson (Assistant Secretary). For further information please visit ANZMRC website.

ANZMRC – Something Worth Reading


masonic-digital-library The Paper Masonic Research in Australia and New Zealand, by W.Bro. Tony Pope  talks about a project that was in development in 2007 when the paper was written.


The first edition of the “Masonic Digital Library”, sponsored by the ANZMRC was issued in March 2008, and a further edition is planned for release during 2009.


Many readers of Pietre–Stones Review of Freemasonry are also members of a ‘masonic research organisation’. They know that the publications of ‘research lodges’ cover the whole range of Freemasonry, and that within that huge range of material are some real gems – information to cover most general enquiries, talks that have inspired, discussions that have clarified uncertainty, and topical lectures that illustrate matters of concern to freemasons through the last century.


The problem is that these are inaccessible – often even to members of each organisation. The Digital Library gathers a file for each ‘paper’ or item of Masonic interest, collects these in electronic form, and allows the generation of lists by author, title, subject – or searches by any word or phrase. With many research lodges coming up to their centenary, the Masonic Digital Library offers a way to make past papers accessible to members – as well as sharing these with members of other research organisations, and giving your members access to papers from other research lodges.


The collection (currently over 2,100 files and growing) will only be accessible by members of participating research organisations – similar to sharing copies of transactions. The plus is that it is free to those who qualify for access.


This desirable reference collection can only get better as more publishers participate. If you are a member of a Masonic research lodge or association, make sure someone contacts the Secretary of the ANZMRC to discuss participation. 


W. Bro. Ed Robinson


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