The Oldest Masonic Lodge in the World

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by My Freemasonry, Sep 11, 2016.

  1. 3150646_4c835f57.jpg

    The oldest Masonic Lodge in the world (with verifiable lodge minutes) is Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1, Edinburgh, Scotland.

    In July, 1949, it observed its 350th anniversary of its establishment. As of 2016, Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1 is 417 years old.

    Oldest Masonic Lodge Minutes - July 31, 1599: Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1 has records to prove its long time existence as the Oldest Masonic Lodge.

    Most impressively, its first 5 pages of minutes incorporate the Schaw Statutes which are dated December 28, 1598.

    Six months later, on July 31, 1599, are to be found the minutes which confirm the lodge's claim as having the oldest existing Masonic minutes. It must be noted, however, that from these minutes there exists no conclusive evidence that the lodge was actually constituted on this date nor that it is, in actuality, the oldest lodge.

    Schaw Statutes: The Schaw Statutes (part of the Old Charges) are named for William Schaw, who was Master of Work to His Majesty and General Warden of the Masonic craft. In these Statutes, he declared that theses ordinances issued by him for the regulation of lodges considered the lodge at Edinburgh to be for all time, the first and principal lodge in Scotland.

    Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1 was first called "The Lodge of Edinburgh" and retained this name until 1688, when the Grand Lodge of Scotland confirmed its charter, designating it as "The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No. 1"

    Prominent members belonging to the Lodge of Edinburgh in its very early days were:
    • His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales (afterward called King Edward VII)
    • His Royal Highness King Edward VIII

    Both were affiliated with the lodge, taking the obligation on the "Breeches Bible", which was printed in 1587. The pen with which these 2 brothers signed the roll is still preserved in the Edinburgh Lodge No. 1 museum.
  2. MarkR

    MarkR Premium Member

    I've been in the Lodge Room of Mary's Chapel. They have the name of every Master of the Lodge in gold lettering on the walls around the room, dating back to 1599. It's only a couple of blocks away from the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
  3. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

    Wow, great info!
  4. Tyler Atkinson

    Tyler Atkinson Registered User

    I have to look at my family tree again but I wanna say that my family are direct descendents of a lot of Princes of Wales.

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  5. Ripcord22A

    Ripcord22A Site Benefactor

    So its the oldest continually operated masonic in stone craft. What does their minutes say they were doing then?

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  6. drw72

    drw72 Premium Member


    "it possesses the oldest existing minutes of any masonic lodge still operating (July 1599) and the first historical reference of a non-operative or speculative Freemason being initiated as a member (1634)"
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  7. MarkR

    MarkR Premium Member

    Yes, they were an operative lodge in 1599; no question. But they also unquestionably transitioned into a speculative lodge, and were initiating non-operatives well before the existence of the Grand Lodge of England.
  8. Ripcord22A

    Ripcord22A Site Benefactor

    So if they have minutes from that far back...what do they say they were doing? How did they initiate? What was their reason for allowing non stone crafters in to their Union?

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  9. MarkR

    MarkR Premium Member

    Their minutes do not reveal the rituals of initiation, just as my lodge's don't. The question of why Scottish lodges started admitting non-operatives in the mid-1600's is one that researchers have long been asking. There are theories, but nothing in the records of the lodges gives a clue.

    You might try to get inter-library loan on a copy of the minutes if you want to see them, but they're tough to read from what I understand, due to archaic English intermixed with Scots.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2016
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  10. Mark Stockdale

    Mark Stockdale Premium Member

    Lodge of Aitcheson's Haven first Minute dated 9 January 1599 , the First Minute reads as follows:


    The IX day of Januerie the Zeir of God upon ye [the] quhilk [which] day Robert Widderspone was maid fellow of Craft in ye [the] presens of Wilzam Ayton Elder, John Fender being Warden, John Pedden [,] Thomas Pettencrief [,] John Crafurd [,] George Aytone [,] Wilzame Aytone younger [,] Hendrie Petticrief all fellowis of Craft upon ye [the] quhilk [which] day he chois [chose] George Ayton [,] Johne Pedden to be his intenders and instructouris [mentors and instructors] and also ye [the] said Robert hes [has] payit [paid] his xx sh [20 shillings] and [has given] his gluffis [gloves] to everie Maister [Master] as efferis [afterwards].

    The details within the square brackets: [,] are either to provide the meaning of certain words (the Minute is written in what is known as Middle Scots), give modern punctuation or aid clarity in reading the text.

    The above paragraph is a transcription and translation of the very first entry in a Lodge Minute Book.
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  11. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

    There is a record in the St Andrews University archive of St. Andrews Lodge #25 renting a room in 1551 while their 'dilapidated lodge room' was remodeled.
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  12. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

  13. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

    It's very interesting that a person made fellow of the craft was going to be mentored and instructed by other fellows of the craft. Was the term "fellow of the craft" at that time merely conveying that they were all members of the organization and it did not denote the degree classification "fellow craft"?

    I do know the term "fellow" was later used post 1717 to denote the person qualified to run the lodge as opposed to the term "Brother" which denoted a general member and apprentice.
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  14. Mark Stockdale

    Mark Stockdale Premium Member

    An extract from a 2015 lecture......


    As we are now all aware there are written records from Lodges in Scotland from as early as 1598 and there is evidence from non-Lodge sources there were Lodges functioning (but not recording anything in writing) as early as 1481. These Lodges were stonemasons’ lodges but many have a continuous exist to this day. The histories of these early Lodges have previously been posted on this page.

    In Masonic circles it is generally accepted that the third or Masters Mason’s degree was ‘invented’ in London, England, during the early part of the 1720’s. There are several reasons for this assumption. Firstly, in the ‘The Constitutions of the Free Masons’ published in London in 1723, makes reference to how the affairs of Grand Lodge are to be conducted. Article XIII (page 61) states: ‘Apprentices must be admitted Masters and Fellow-Crafts only here…’. This led many to believe that in addition to the [Entered] Apprentice degree there were two others that of Fellow Craft and Master Mason.

    However as we know in Scotland from the earliest written rituals (the Edinburgh Register House MS (1696), the Haughfoot Fragment (1702) the Airlie MS (1705) and the Chetwode Crawley MS (c.1710) MSS)) the terms Fellow Craft and Master Mason were inter-changeable. In other words these were two terms for the same degree.

    Because of the literal interpretation of the rather cryptic (some would say nonsensical) reference to Fellow Craft and Master Mason in 1723 it became ‘fact’ that there were three degrees of Freemasonry. The earlier Scottish rituals were not discovered until much later and could not therefore be used to correct this ‘fact’ that became embedded in Masonic knowledge.

    To make matters worse the earliest reference to the conferral of a third degree was also said to have taken place in London in 1725 but not in a Lodge but in a musical society (‘Philo-Musicae et Architecturae Societas Appolloni’). The reference to the Fellow Craft and Master Mason’s was like the reference in the Constitutions of two years earlier taken literally. One error (a ‘fact’) served to confirm the same error as ‘fact’. Masonic historians are now well aware of those errors but they have become so embedded in the lore of the Craft that they are repeated in the most knowledgeable and respected sources of the history of Freemasonry: Coil’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry reprinted as recently as 1996, is the supreme example.

    What therefore are the ‘facts’ (not errors masquerading as facts!) regarding the Fellow Craft or Master’s degree. First and foremost we now know far more about the ritual used by stonemasons’ lodges before any Grand Lodge existed and as we know these rituals were all Scottish, all quite similar in content but unknown until relatively recently. The first of the three was not discovered until 1930 and the most recent, the Airlie MS was accidentally discovered a mere eight years ago. Attempting to use these recent documents to overturn almost 300 years of ‘fact’ is an uphill struggle. That said, the attempt should be made and tonight I wish to bring to the attention of the brethren two pieces of evidence that ought, at the very least, cause every respectable Masonic historian to reconsider where and when the Master Mason’s degree originated.

    The first piece of evidence is fairly well known but I wish to ‘tease out’ the implications of the evidence in a way that has not been done before. The effect is I believe quite profound. This piece of evidence is to be found in the Minute Books of the Lodge of Dunbarton, No.18, (NOT a stonemasons’ Lodge but a recognisably modern Speculative Masonic Lodge. I will quote the entries in full:

    ‘At the meeting of the Lodge of Dunbritton [Dunbarton] the 29th day of January 1726 the which day there where present ‘John Hamilton, Grand Master, accompanied with seven Master Masons, six Fellows of Craft and three entered apprentices’

    The Minute of the next meeting reads: ‘25th March 1726 – the said day Gabriel Porterfield by unanimous consent of the Masters admitted and received a Master of the Fraternity’.

    Gabriel Porterfield was named in the Minute of 29 January a being a Fellow of Craft and on 25 March was admitted and received a Master of the Fraternity.

    This clearly shows that in 1726 in Scotland there were three degrees being conferred within Lodges.

    BUT there is a much greater implication than just that irrefutable fact – an indisputable written fact and concerns the first Minute mentioned – 29 January 1726. I repeat it again:

    ‘At the meeting of the Lodge of Dunbritton the 29th day of January 1726 the which day there where present ‘John Hamilton, Grand Master, accompanied with seven Master Masons, six Fellows of Craft and three entered apprentices’

    The enormous significance of this is that in January 1726 there were eight members of a Scottish Lodge who were in the possession of the Master Mason’s degree and that they conferred that degree on a Fellow of Craft.

    Where, when and how these eight Scottish Freemasons received the Third Degree before it even existed in England is the intriguing part but sadly we are unlikely ever to know because the Minutes only commence at that time. Our best hope is that Minute Books of another, earlier, Lodge reveal to us that it had invented or developed the third degree.

    It may strike you as strange to suggest that the third degree was invented or developed in SCOTLAND but there are two reasons why I can make such a claim. The first comes from the earliest rituals in the world, previously mentioned - ERH (1696), Airlie (1705) and CC (c.1710) MSS. At the very end of the Fellow Craft part of these rituals the candidate is asked:

    Q ‘Are to a Fellow of Craft?’
    A Yes

    Q How many points of Fellowship are there?
    A Five, viz: We should all know what they are and so I shall not repeat them here.

    The FPOF were therefore an essential part of the second or Fellow of Craft degree – so important in fact that the candidate had to be able to repeat them exactly before he would be accepted a TRUE mason. Where do we find the FPOF today? In the third, or Master Mason’s, degree. Sometime between 1710 (and earlier) part of the Scottish second degree was removed and made part of the third or Master Mason’s degree.

    I now come to an artefact, the importance of which has never been fully appreciated before now:

    A large brass Square and Compasses (43.7 cm (17.2 inches) wide X (26.5 cm) 10.4 high and weighing slightly more than two pounds (almost one kilogramme).

    Inscribed on the arms of the square is the following:

    'This square and compass was gifted to the Lodge of Lanark by' (the text is interrupted by the insertion of an heraldic shield bearing three boars’ heads) 'Mr' a monogram is engraved immediately after ‘Mr’ and the inscription continues ‘Brother to the Laird of Cleghorn’.

    After consulting with the Lord Lyon ( he has confirmed that this is a Scottish heraldic device and monogram and are those of John Lockhart 13 January 1684 – 26 February 1766.

    NOTE the words: This square and compass in other words it was presented to the Lodge a single piece ‘This’ Square and Compass.

    However, there remain two more revealing things about this object. Firstly not that the points of the compass are jointed in such a way so that either point, can be concealed behind the arms of the square, or one (or other) point behind one arm of the square or that both points of the compass can be hidden behind both arms of the square. In other words this artefact can be used to position the points of the compass for any of the modern three degrees.

    Why should I made such a fuss? – simply because the artefact is dated 1714.

    Robert L D Cooper, PM
    Lodge Sir Robert Moray, No.1641.
    5 February 2015

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  15. Mark Stockdale

    Mark Stockdale Premium Member

    Getting back on subject of the oldest Lodge.......

    A short history of the Lodge of Aberdeen No.1 Ter
    The lodge of Aberdeen is one of our oldest lodges in Scotland and has made a distinctive contribution to the history of Freemasonry, in its long association with operative masonry, far exceeding 300 years, and in it’s possession of the celebrated ‘Mark Book’ of 1670, the Laws and Statues contained therein, and also of one of the copies of the ‘Old Charges’.

    It was at one time thought that the lodge dated from the rebuilding of St. Machar Cathedral, begun in 1359, when masons were brought from Melrose and were said to have introduced St. John’s Masonry to Aberdeen and founded the lodge. Modern historians, however, consider this unlikely, as in those days Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen were two quite distinct places, and there is nothing in our records to connect us with Old Aberdeen. More likely this distinction belongs to our honoured sister lodge St. Machar No. 54, who refer to the matter in the book issued at their Bicentenary in 1953, whilst admitting that “proof is absent’’.

    For more reliable information regarding the mason craft in Aberdeen we must look to the old records of the burgh, almost unbroken since 1398, which contain numerous references to masons, particularly in regard to such important buildings as St. Nicholas Church, King’s College and the Bridge of Dee. The first reference in the town records to the ‘’lodge’’ is in 1483, in which year one if the minutes mentions “the masons of the lodge”. This is the earliest recorded instance of the use of the word in connection with the Scottish Craft. Over the next few years many agreements and rules regarding conduct are recorded, and in 1544 we learn that Alexander Rutherford presented to the town four great chandeliers of iron “lying in the lodge”.

    In 1527 the magistrates issued a proclamation known as the Seal of Cause, incorporating certain crafts and granting them disciplinary powers. By this the mason craft obtained for the first time official recognition as one of the crafts of the town, but whilst the other crafts eventually formed a joint organisation the masons always kept separate and developed along different lines.

    In 1541 the masons received a second Seal of Cause and the lodge was then reconstituted on a new footing. When eventually the lodge obtained it’s charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland dated 30th November, 1743, by which it was acknowledged as a regular lodge “under the title and denomination of The Lodge of Aberdeen in all time coming”, it started “it was made to appear by an extract of some of their old writings and other documents produced that year 1541 there had been a regular lodge formed in Aberdeen but the records had by accident been burned”

    In the absence of the lodge records previous to 1670 there is no definite evidence to show that the lodge of 1670 was the direct successor of the lodge of 1483 and 1541, but from indications provided by our traditional history it seems very probable this organisation continued in the years between. The question of the date of formation of the lodge was reconsidered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1891, when recognised as having existed “before 1670”. It’s position on the roll was then advanced from No. 34 to No. 1 ter, thereby conceding to the lodge a position in accordance with it’s history which had long been claimed by it’s members.

    During its long history the lodge has had many meeting places. In its earliest days it was forbidden to meet in house “where there is people living”, and meetings were held in the open air in some secluded spot-chiefly at the point of Ness (Girdleness) but also at Carden’s Haugh and Cunninhar Hill. The first recorded building was on St. Katherine’s Hill, and later in the Gallowgate. In 1700 a house for the lodge was build at Futtiesmyres on the Links, and in 1755 ground was acquired at what is now the corner of Union Street and King Street, on which a hotel, the New Inn, was built containing lodge rooms, entrance to which was from the street still known as “Lodge Walk”. Later premises in Exchequer Row were in use the move to the present magnificent temple in Crown Street in 1910.

    Very few lodges possess more complete or more interesting records relating to the early days of masonry. R. F. Gould in his “History of Freemasonry” says “Many of these documents possess features exclusively their own, whilst some are unsurpassed by any others of a similar character in interest and value”. Unfortunately lack of space allows the briefest reference here to these records. By far the oldest and most important is the Mark Book which was commenced in 1670, when it records the names of 49 fellow crafts and master masons and 11 apprentices-conclusive proof of our existence “prior to 1670”. It is noteworthy that even at that date only 10 members were operative masons. In 1748 the original book having worn out, a new one was commenced in which were pasted 28 pages from the original, and it is this book which is still in use, though it has been rebound with modern covers. Of the 49 original names four are peers and many others are known to have been men of prominence in the town. The Mark Book also contains the Laws and Statues of the Lodge and the Mason Charter. The Laws and Statues are of great importance, not only on account of being a Masonic document written 300 years ago, but because they supply the best and fullest example of the rules of an old Scottish Mason Lodge. The Mason Charter is a record of the traditional history and teachings of the lodge.

    The earliest existing Minute Book dated 1696 – 1778 records only admissions of members and elections of office-bearers, but general minutes are complete from 1737, and treasurer’s cash books from 1719. The old minutes are of interest, reflecting as they do the life of a Masonic lodge in those days, with great bursts of activity following periods of inertia, and also the growing influence of non-operative masons.

    In 1753 Lodge St. Machar was formed and the lodge of Aberdeen no longer stood alone as representing masonry in the town. Since then of course many other lodges have formed, but our lodge has continued it’s leading role at all times. During the present century three past masters-Brothers A.L. Miller, R.P. Masson and G.G. Nicol-have become Provincial Grand Master of Aberdeen City Province. During the Second World War activity almost ceased, but in 1945 a nucleus of active members got going again, and under a succession of excellent masters the lodge soon got back on its feet. The present office-bearers are masons of the highest calibre and keenness and there is no doubt that the lodge enters its fourth century with every prospect of continuing success.
  16. Mark Stockdale

    Mark Stockdale Premium Member

    And then there's the oldest purpose built Masonic Temple....

    For more than 250 years Freemasons the world over have considered the oldest purpose-built Lodge Room to be that situated in St John Street, Edinburgh which belonged formerly and wholly to Lodge Canongate Kilwinning but is now owned by the Royal Order of Scotland and used as their Headquarters.
    There are, particularly in Scotland, older Buildings which are used by Freemasons for their meetings but without exception these edifices were erected for other purposes. The example which comes immediately to mind is the premises of Lodge Elgin & Bruce in Limekilns, Fife which was originally the King’s Wine Cellar. Lodge Elgin & Bruce was not formed until 1910 but the building may be traced back to 1362.
    Some four or five years ago there appeared in the national magazine “Town & Country” a letter from an American reader in Virginia who claimed that in that State there had existed, until demolished some years ago, the world’s oldest purpose-built masonic premises.Publication of the letter caused a flurry of communications resulting in a claim from the Lodge at Dalkeith that her premises had been designated the world’s oldest building erected for masonic purposes. This claim came to the ears of the Grand Secretary of the Royal Order of Scotland, who asked the writer of this article to look into the matter. The Dalkeith Kilwinning Lodge’s claim was said to be supported by a letter, displayed in their Lodge Room, from Historic Scotland. A letter was therefore addressed to that body and a prompt and courteous reply was received. This reply referred to the Virginian letter and went on to state that the letter displayed at Lodge Dalkeith Kilwinning No.10 stated only that the Lodge owned one of the oldestpurpose-built masonic premises.The writer of this article addressed a letter to the Virginian gentleman as well as a reply to Historic Scotland. It transpired that the Virginian premises had been timber built and on that premise alone the claim had been made. It transpired also that the gentleman making this claim was not a Freemason and had simply made an assumption.The reply sent to Historic Scotland pointed out that the documentary evidence supported the claim of the Canongate Lodge.Prior to 1735 the Lodge appears to have rented the rooms of the Canongate Incorporation of Shoemakers for Masonic purposes but in fact that year the rental terms could not be agreed. As a result the lodge members commissioned the building of their own premises, which saw the first meeting being held there in December 1735. Consecration of the Chapel, on the 18th December, 1736, was carried out by the Master, George Frazer, at the behest of William St Clair of Roslin, who, on 30th November 1735, had been elected as Scotland’s first Grand Master, The minute of the occasion reads:-“Canongate, 18th Dec, 1736. AM: 5736.
    “The Lodge having been summoned to attend the Grand Master at the Consecration of the New Lodge, built by the Subscribers, members of this Lodge ……….”By sheer co-incidence, just before the then Grand Secretary of the Royal Order asked him to examine the whole matter, Bro. David Currie PM had been carrying out an examination of old documents discovered in the bottom of a recess in the Lodge. Badly affected over the years, they were nonetheless still legible. Among them were several of the receipted bills of 1735 – 1736. The most prominent one stated“To ye erection of ye canopy, supply of curtains for ye doors and ye windows, 9s. 6d.” In modern terms 47½p.As a result of this evidence being submitted to Historic Scotland, that body not only amended its records, but very graciously sent photo-copies of the amended documents. It is understood that this documentary evidence is now held by The Royal Order of Scotland, except for the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning minute, which remains in the minute book.
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  17. Chaz

    Chaz Registered User

    Awesome info, thanks for sharing!
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