The Masonic Magazine on Freemasonry and Research into Freemasonry made by Freemasons
Masonic research papers
Bookmark and Share print page Masonic Music our widgets Masonic Newsletter books alerts news alerts rss news feed


Online Masonic Education Course

For the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason

search site

logo Square Compasses

From: Freemasons Guide and Compendium. Bernard E. Jones.

Developed by W.Bro. Kent Henderson
Dip. T., B. Ed., Grad. Cert. Ed., Grad. Dip. Ed., M. Ed, Diploma of Masonic Education (Sth. Aust.)
Past Junior Grand Deacon, A. F. & A. Masons of Victoria, Australia.




The early speculative lodges enjoyed great independence, much of which they have bequeathed to the lodges of today. In addition to electing its own Master, each lodge regulates its own proceedings, and has an undoubted right to do so providing it acts consistently with the general laws and regulations of the Craft. It frames its own bylaws (they need the approval of the Grand Master), appoints standing committees and audit committees to assist the Master in ordering the business of the lodge, but in a number of matters - all making for uniformity and for the prevention of irregularities - observes certain regulations of Grand Lodge. Such regulations include the limitation of the number of candidates on any one occasion, except by dispensation; the holding of only one meeting of the lodge on any one day; the holding of an emergency meeting only when a dispensation has been granted; the necessity of each lodge keeping a minute book; etc.


The custom in every lodge of electing by ballot a new Master each year is of time-immemorial, although there is evidence to show that in many eighteenth-century lodges Masters were elected to serve for six instead of twelve months. The Master is elected from those members of the lodge who have served the office of Master or Warden, or who, in very exceptional cases, have been rendered eligible by dispensation. The Old MS. Charges appear to indicate that the Master, many centuries ago, was simply an experienced craftsman presiding over the lodge, and, so far as we can see, the idea of his ruling his lodge by virtue of his possession of peculiar secrets was not within the comprehension of our ancient brethren; but in this matter there is room for many different opinions. The same appears to apply to the old Scottish lodges. Today, in the speculative lodges throughout the world, the Master is one who has been elected to the office by his brethren, and who has passed through a special ceremony of Installation, in the course of which secrets peculiar to the Master’s chair have been communicated to him; but essentially the Master must always be a Brother who is well qualified by years of service as a member and officer of the lodge to govern his Brethren with wise understanding.


The rule that the Master should first have served as a Warden is also an old one. It was not always observed in the early speculative lodges, but it goes right back into the history of the craft guilds from        which masonry draws its system of government by Masters and Wardens. Every Master in the old days, as in the new, solemnly pledged himself to observe the ancient usages and established customs, and strictly to enforce them within his lodge. It is he who is responsible for the due observance of the masonic laws by the lodge over which he presides.


We pay respect to the ruler of the lodge by addressing him as “Worshipful Master”. On an earlier page it was pointed out that to be “worshipful” is to be “honoured”. Thus the “Worshipful” Master is the “Honoured” Master, even as the magistrate is “Your Worship”, or, in other words, “Your Honour”. In a great many lodges in the eighteenth-century the Master was “Right Worshipful”, a form of address now the exclusive privilege of certain Grand Officers. The custom of calling the Master “Right Worshipful Master” ceased about the time of the union is 1813, although we find it used in a Kendal Lodge up to 1819. Outside freemasonry the use of the term “Right Worshipful” must be of ancient standing, for in Pepy’s Diary for August 4, 1661, a clergyman addresses his congregation as “Right Worshipful and Dearly Beloved.” The celebrated Paul Revere, presiding as Grand Master at a Washington lodge, Massachusetts, at the end of the eighteenth century, addressed himself to the “Right Worshipful Master, Worshipful Wardens and Respected Brethren.” In La Cesaree Lodge, New Jersey, the Master was at one time addressed as “Venerable Master”, following an old French custom, which is still observed.


Grand Masters have always had the right of visiting a lodge within their jurisdiction, and, if they so wished, of presiding on the occasion of their visit. This right is enjoyed by the Pro Grand Master as well as the Deputy and Assistant Grand Master and by the Provincial and District Grand Master. With a brother of such exalted rank in the chair, the Master of the lodge sits to his immediate left, whereas when, as is sometimes the case, the Master of the lodge gives up his chair to a Past Master to work a ceremony, he sits on that Past Master’s immediate right, or, it may be, to the right of any Grand Officer having a prior right to preside.


Scots lodges have a Depute Master, but the English Master nowadays has no deputy known by that name, although some of the eighteenth-century lodges had regular Deputy Masters, the first mention of the office being thought to occur in the minutes of the Druidical Lodge of Rotherham, Yorkshire, in the year 1779, a lodge under the York Grand Lodge. Of course, in a sense, the Senior Warden, and failing him, the Junior Warden is the Deputy Master, but neither of these brethren, if not an Installed Master, can confer a degree in an English lodge, although (remaining in his own chair) he may preside over the lodge should the need arise. In the Master’s absence a degree can be conferred on a Candidate only by an Installed Master, whether a member of the lodge or not.


The Master is assisted in carrying on the work of the lodge by his officers, two of whom - the Treasurer and the Tyler - are elected, the former by ballot; all other officers being appointed by the Master. In an English lodge his regular officers are two Wardens, a Treasurer, a Secretary, two Deacons, an Inner Guard and a Tyler; additional officers are a Chaplain, a Director of Ceremonies and his assistant, an Almoner, an Organist, and Assistant Secretary and Stewards, but no others. A Brother can hold only one regular office at one and the same time, but may in addition be appointed by the Master to one “additional” office. On members declining office - including Masters-elect - many old lodges imposed fines graduated in amount to the importance of the office.


The precise position of the Immediate Past Master, who is not an “officer of the lodge”, is often a matter for debate. Grand Lodge prescribes that, as regards precedence, the Immediate Past Master comes immediately in front of the Chaplain, or, if there be no Chaplain, then immediately in front of the Treasurer; whereas, by decision of the Board of General Purposes, the name of the Immediate Past Master in a printed list comes immediately after that of the Master and before his officers. The appointment of a lodge Chaplain in 1769 is known, but it could hardly have been the first of its kind.


With regard to the Almoner, the alms-crest was a box provided in church to receive contributions; in a masonic lodge it is the charity box which provides the funds with which the lodge Almoner relieves any Brother, sometimes members of a Brother’s family, who need help. Originally the Almoner was an officer in a monastery. At St. Paul’s Cathedral, in London, he distributed the alms, had the care of the burial of the poor, and educated boys in music and literature for the service of the Church. The Almonries in the principal monasteries were often great establishments, with accommodation for the poor and infirm.


Many old guilds regularly relieved distressed Brethren and their families, and there are records in the fourteenth century of an amount of sevenpence per week (say, two or three days wages) being allowed a member of the Lincoln Guild of Tailors. In the same century a London trade, the Skinners, also paid that sum from their alms-box to any member who should fall into poverty though old age or ill health. There is no doubt that the lodge charity box, probably suggested by the alms-box of the guilds, was known far back in the eighteenth century. In a Sheffield lodge much earlier, there was a rule that:


on each Stated Lodge meeting every Memr shall spend and put sixpence into the Chest for the relief if distressed Freemasons, That the Junior Warden shall keep an exact acct of the reckoning…upon his negligence or omission he shall be accountable for the deficiency.


The early lodges of the eighteenth century had there own methods of raining charity funds, for we find the Old King’s Alms Lodge, No.28, ordering in October 1733, a ticket to be bought in “the present lottery in hopes of success as heretofore for the sake of charity.” In the following July the ticket “was reported to have come up a blank”.



Lodge Minutes.


The minutes of the lodge are the responsibility of the Worshipful Master and his Secretary, but it is the latter’s duty to write them. They need to be submitted for confirmation at the next regular meeting, and it is now fully understood that minutes can be refused confirmation only on the ground that they are incorrect, in which case they should be amended and afterwards confirmed. It is not now possible for something decided at one meeting to be cancelled at the next merely by refused to confirm the minute. There are other ways of overcoming any difficulty that may sometimes unfortunately arise.


There was a custom once upon a time, particularly in the Irish military lodges, of smoke-sealing instead of signing minutes on confirmation, the seal being made by coating a space with soot in a candle flame and then forcibly applying an engraved seal. The Irish Grand Lodge has from ancient days insisted that every lodge should have a seal, with which to verify lodge minutes and authenticate lodge communications to Grand Lodge. The actual device of the seal is a “hand and trowel”, together with the number, name, and town of the lodge. The United Grand Lodge of England decided in 1819 that every lodge should have its own seal “to be affixed to all documents proper to be issued,” but the rule has long been obsolete.


That old lodge minutes are frequently brimming over with unconscious humour is well exemplified by many quotations made in these pages. Secretaries in concluding their minutes are fond of the phrase, “the lodge was closed in perfect harmony” - just a formula, but expressing the literal truth in all but one case in a thousand. But what is to be made of the minutes of a meeting of the lodge belonging to a certain regiment of Light Dragoons? It was soon after the 1800. The meeting expelled a member for making an obnoxious threat, decided that another Brother was an improper person for admittance, erased the name of another Brother for using an unmasonic expression, and the Secretary still found it possible to bring his minutes to an end with “this night concluded with great harmony.” One old London lodge in 1787 “was not open’d upon the occasion of the Landlady being sick”, while another, in 1794, gave a Brother his certificate but did not transact any other business “by reason of the Landlady being in child-bed”.



Behaviour in and after Lodge.


The Ancient Charges which preface the General Laws and Regulations of Grand Lodge enjoin a code of behaviour upon lodges and Brethren. These charges are founded upon ancient models, and have remained much the same since Anderson took them from the old manuscripts and printed them in his Constitutions of 1723. Some of the injunctions hardly now apply. These are polite days, but as much can hardly be said for the eighteenth century, when it was entirely necessary to remind both lodges and Brethren of the limits to which good behaviour could go. Thus, in an old Sheffield lodge of the 1760’s there was the following rule:


If any Bror in this Lodge Curse, Swear, lay or offer to lay any wagers or use any reproachful Language in Derogation of God’s Name or Corruption of good manners or interrupt and officer while speaking, he shall be fined at the discretion of the Lodge.


Such rules were common in lodge bylaws of that day. We find a perfect phrase in another bylaw of about the same time:


If any member of the lodge come disguis’d in liquor he shall be admonish’d (by the presiding officer) for the first offense. For the second he shall forfeit One Shilling and for the third )or refusing to pay the fine) He shall be Excluded without any benefit from the Lodge; and reported to the Grand.


Of earlier date, about 1746, is a bylaw of the well-known Lodge No. 41, of Bath, in which an ugly word instead of “disguised” is used:


If a Brother be found Distemper’d with Drink, He shall be Admonish’d to go peacefully Home; which, if he refuses, he shall be turn’d out and taken Care of with as little Disturbance as possible, and fined Two Shillings, except the Lodge vote him excus’d from his ffine.



Erasure of a Lodge.


A lodge under the English jurisdiction ceases to meet should its membership drop to less than five, and the rule to this effect is more than two centuries old. A lodge failing to meet for one year is liable to be erased. Its warrant cannot be transferred.



Lodges of Instruction and Improvement.


What are known as “lodges of instruction” are held under the sanction of regular warranted lodges, or by the licence of the Grand Master. The lodge that gives its sanction, or the Brother to whom the licence is granted, is responsible for seeing that the proceedings are in accordance with the Ancient Charges, Landmarks, and Regulations of the Order. Each lodge of instruction makes an annual return to the Grand Secretary. Very frequently such lodges are nothing more than rehearsal lodges, serving an excellent and, indeed, useful purpose, but missing the opportunity of providing instruction for their members in such matters as those set forth in the pages of this book. Indeed, it is hoped that lodges of instruction will find this book of help to them in assisting their members to make that daily advancement in masonic knowledge so seriously enjoined by the Master on every initiate.





We learn much of the purpose and duty of the Warden when we go back to the curious history of his designation. Some hundreds of years ago, as Canon J. W. Horsley reminds us, R. Verstegan noted in a work on history and antiquities two words which looked so different and yet actually were one and the same - “warden” and “guardian”. Writing in 1605, he speaks of the French, Italians, and others whose language had come from the Latin, turning the “w” of such words as “warden” into a single “u,”


because their alphabet hath no acquaintance with the w at all, but then t mend the matter….they use before the u to put a g, and so of warden or wardian doe make guardian, and of ward, guard….. Hence it ariseth that we call him that waiteth at the Towre, “one of the ward”, or a “warder”, and he that in like livery wayteth at the Court, “one of the Guard” or “Gard”.


Thus the old writer explains that Wardian, Warden, and Guardian are all one, “a keeper or attender to the safety or conservation of that which he hath charge.”


Thus, in the Fabric Rolls of York Cathedral in 1422, John Lang is named as the Master Mason, and William Waddeswyk as the Gruardian or second Master Mason. In the building of the Great Hall of Hampton Court in 1531 John Molton the Master Mason was paid a shilling a day, William Reynolds the warden five shillings a week. The employment of a Warden under the Master or Master Mason was thus a common practice in the English medieval building trade, but the Warden has not always been second-in-charge. In some lodges and associations the Warden was the principal officer.


The old guilds had and have their wardens, and it is from the guild custom that English freemasonry probably derived the office and the word. The old English guilds had their wardens of the craft and their wardens of the mystery, and it is likely that the Scots borrowed the word hundreds of years ago to apply to the chief officer of an operative lodge. The Schaw Statutes of 1599 direct that a Warden should be chosen annually to have charge over the lodge. But this, apparently, was in some slight conflict with the custom of certain of the lodges, in which the chief officer was the Deacon (a word spelt in a variety of ways). The Deacon was the actual president, and might have with him a Warden who would be more a Treasurer, or Box-master, than a ruler.


In some Scots lodges we must assume that the two offices merged into one. The operative lodge of Mary’s Chapel, Edinburgh, was under the presidency at one time of a Deacon of the Masons and a Warden of the Lodge, and in other Scots lodges the Deacon was often senior to the Warden; in some, there was a Deacon but no Warden, and occasionally a Warden but no Deacon. This would relate to a period roughly the second half of the seventeenth century, in which their were other Scots lodges ruled by “the Master Mason” whose deputy was the Warden. Scots operative lodges had but one Warden, and he was either head of the lodge or the second officer. But the English guilds had Senior and Junior Wardens, or Upper and Lower Wardens, and it is from them directly, and not from Scots practice, that freemasonry appears to have derived its two Wardens.


It will be noted that one fact comes out very prominently - the close relation, and at times almost an identity between Warden and Deacon in Scots operative lodges. In English speculative masonry, the Warden came from the English guilds, as already pointed out, but the Deacon came into the English Craft from Scots practice, and he came as a close colleague of and assistant to the Warden. There were Wardens in English speculative masonry in the seventeenth century, or so the evidence points. In the speculative lodges early in the following century each of the two Wardens had a tall, distinctive pillar standing on the lodge floor, and great was the argument throughout the century as to the position of the Wardens and their respective pillars. We hear nothing of this argument today, because the pillar has long ceased to be an obvious pillar as already explained.


The Warden’s pedestal was not an essential part of lodge furniture in the days when the tall pillars stood on the floor, there being much diversity in the arrangements observed by various lodges, and no general agreement as to the use of pedestals, until the coming of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813.

Neither the Master nor Wardens had a pedestal in the very early lodges, but their was a central altar, as there still is in the systems that learned their freemasonry from the English Craft early in the eighteenth century. The matter is dealt with at greater length in the chapter relating to the form of the lodge, of which again there must have been great diversity of practice right throughout the eighteenth century, and with it, quite unavoidably, some diversity in the positions of Wardens and their pillars. (In lodges in Denmark we find in the north-east and in the south-west a tall pillar, behind which sits the Warden almost out of sight of the Master.)


In the rectangular lodges the arrangement with which we are now familiar gradually became general - that is, with a Senior Warden in the west and a Junior Warden in the south, the pillars being replaced by the small columns on the Warden’s pedestals, although some old lodges continued and still continue to have tall pillars on the floor, in some cases one near the Master and one near each Warden.


Although the old pillars have been spoken of as having been replaced by the miniature columns, we must not overlook the fact that floor pillars remain in a great many lodges in which their presence is not even noticed or suspected. They are the floor candlesticks (one to the right of each of the three pedestals), which will often be found to be carved in representation of the three classic orders of architecture, and may be assumed to be a modification of the older and larger pillars which frequently carried candles.


The Master’s gavel, or maul, and the Warden’s gavels are as traditional as the pillars. In some of the Irish lodges had their hammers and the Wardens had truncheons, for a bylaw of a lodge at Tanderagee (1759 - 1813) declares “that there is to be silence at the first clap (blow) of the Master’s hammer, and Likeways at the first stroke of each Trenchen struck by the Senr and Junr Wardens.”


The custom now followed in most English lodges of the Master when opening and closing a lodge addressing all his questions to the two Wardens is an incomplete survival from the early days, when the Master put a question personally to each officer, and obtained from each of them an acknowledgement of his place and duties. A few lodges nowadays maintain or have returned to the old custom.


There was a time in the eighteenth century when the Junior Warden himself proved the tyling of the lodge and admitted the Candidate, but only in lodges - those of the “Moderns” - in which the office of Deacon was not yet known.


The custom by which each Warden serves a full year before he is qualified for the chair of the lodge is of old standing, although officially it may not go back earlier than 1811.


As late as 1862 it was possible in many lodges for a Warden to work the ceremonies in the absence of the Master, and we imagine in a few lodges even later. A case is on the record in which a Brother was passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft by the Master Elect, who stood on the left of the Master’s chair, and was not himself admitted an Installed Master until the following day. Today, that would be impossible. In English lodges, should the Master be absent, a Past Master may go into the chair and work the ceremonies; failing which, a Senior Warden, in his absence, the Junior Warden, shall rule the lodge, but shall not occupy the Master’s chair and shall not confer degrees. There is nothing, however, to prevent a visiting Installed Master being invited to occupy the Master’s chair and work any ceremony.


The Junior Warden, on being invested, is informed in some workings that he is “the ostensible steward of the lodge” - that is, he is the officer who is the apparent, but not necessarily the real, steward of the lodge. The words quoted are now more or less an anachronism, inasmuch as in most lodges the stewards in the old sense, both real and ostensible, are the Treasurer and the Secretary, and on occasion, perhaps, some other especially qualified, but the Warden was the actual steward of the lodge at one time. In 1807, for example, one lodge in arranging to dine on St. John’s Day says “that the Wardens shall be appointed Stewards to transact all matters relating to the Feast”.

Home Page | Alphabetical Index | What is New | Freemasons World News
Research Papers | Books online | Freemasons History | Symbolism & Rituals | Book Reviews
Saggi in Italiano | Essais en Langue Française | Monografias em Português | Planchas Masonicas en Español

| Sitemap | Privacy Policy | How to Contribute a Paper |

Masonic Newsletter   News Alerts Subscribe News by Email

RSS Feed   Facebook   Twitter   Google+

visitor/s currently on the page.