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The Craft in the 18th Century  The "Moderns," 1717, and the " Antients," 1751

Part II


The Builder - May 1926


THE members of Dundee Lodge, No. 18, or No. 9, as it stood on the Register of the "Moderns," purchased in 1763 the freehold of a Warehouse in Red Lyon Street, Wapping, and letting out the ground floor and basement--at first for a school and later on as a general store--utilized two rooms on the first floor for the purpose of Lodge meetings, the smaller one being used as a Making Room and the larger one being used as the formal Lodge Room, which rooms when not required for Masonic work were often let for the purpose of public dances--to such an extent was this the practice that they became known locally as the Wapping Assembly Rooms. The Lodge Room was spacious and well adapted for a ball, being 44 feet long by 25 feet wide and 15 feet high. The author of Multa Paucis describes the building as Dundee Masons' Hall, Wapping, thus the Dundee Lodge, No. 9, must have had quite a vogue in those days and been well known in that neighborhood. The Lodge Room was always well furnished, for in 1754 the paraphernalia was insured from loss by fire in the Union Fire Office for 200 pounds -which was increased to 300 pounds in 1777--whilst the Freehold building in Red Lyon Street was insured for 800 pounds in 1763 in "Hand-in- Hand" Fire Office, and in 1810 the building and contents belonging to the 'Dundee' Lodge, No. 9 at Wapping were insured for no less than 2,000 pounds in the Sun Fire Office. By way of contrast the late Henry Sadler informs us that the only paraphernalia possessed by the Grand Lodge of the Moderns in 1766 was a sword, possibly a Bible, a jewel or two and two books of records; but that it had neither regular furniture, jewels nor habitation; thus it was scarcely worth while insuring these from fire! In 1763 two oil-lamps were purchased to illuminate the entrance to the Lodge Room and on dark winter nights--especially when a public ball was in progress--the building must have been very conspicuous, and it is obvious from his own statements that Bro. Laurence Dermott was well acquainted not only with the exterior of the building in which the Dundee Lodge met from 1763, but also was well informed as to certain private features of the Ritual gained either from personal experience or else from stories received from visitors to the Lodge.


These were the jovial expressions by which Dermott described his opponents the Moderns when writing about their Masonic doings in 1764. In his capacity of Grand Secretary of the 'Antients,' he apparently felt that he was quite entitled to try and enhance the prestige and fortunes of that society by deriding and attempting to depreciate his rivals. It would almost appear, however, that he felt some little compunction in the matter and was rather uneasy as to whether his statements were too severe and might be considered unfraternal and not evincing a truly brotherly spirit--at any rate he adopted a very apologetic tone when he first opened fire upon those who were (after all) only conducting their Masonic life under the express authority and sanction of the Mother Grand Lodge of the world. The following is how he commences what he considered was his exposure:


In the 2nd Edition of this book on p. xxiv, Dermott in his "Address to the Reader" states: "Gentlemen and Brethren:--

"Several eminent Craftsmen residing in Scotland, Ireland, America, and other parts both abroad and at home, have greatly importuned me to give them some account of what is called modern masonry in London," and then says

"I cannot be displeased with such importunities because I had the like curiostly myself about 16 or 17 years ago [the 1800 Edition says "in 1748"] when I was first introduced into that Society."

[Note.--Dermott here tells us that--though Made a Mason in Ireland-he himself joined a Modern Lodge on his arrival in London, consequently he was well able to discuss the differences in their Ritual as compared with that of the Antients.] To show, however, that he had no real ill feeling in the matter, he then proceeded to say:-- "However, before I proceed any farther concerning the difference between antient and modern, I think it my duty to declare solemnly before God and man that I have not the least antipathy against the gentlemen members of the modern society, but on the contrary, love and respect them, because I have found the generality of them to be hearty cocks and good fellows (as the bacchanalian phrase is) and many of them I believe to be worthy of receiving every blessing that good men can ask or heaven bestow, I hope that this declaration will acquit me of any desire of giving offence, especially if the following queries and answers be rightly considered." After which followed certain "Questions" and "Answers" seeking to prove that Masonry as practised by the Antients was more correct and genuine than that favoured by the 'Moderns.'


It is very interesting to note that Dermott states that he gives his information "to satisfy the importunities of my good Brethren (particularly the Right Worshipful and very worthy Gentlemen of America) who for their charitable disposition, prudent choice of members and good conduct in general deserve the unanimous thanks of the masonical world." The Grand Secretary of the 'Antients' appears therefore to have had some excellent friends amongst the brethren who were then practising Freemasonry in the Lodges working in the American colonies. Please note that in any quotations in this article taken from 'Ahiman Rezon' the italics have been inserted by the present writer.

Dermott then proceeds to explain to his readers a matter that only those who were in the habit of attending the Dundee Lodge could possibly be familiar with, for he actually refers to a very prominent feature of their ceremonies. On page xxxii of the same Ahiman Rezon, Dermott states:

"I have the greatest veneration for such implements as are truly emblematical or useful in refining our moral notions, and I am well convinced that the custom and use of them in lodges are both antient and instructive, but at the same time I abhor and detest the unconstitutional fopperies of cunning avaricious tradesmen, invented and introduced amongst the Moderns with no other design but to extract large sums of money, which ought to be applied to more noble and charitable uses."

He then proceeds to tell his audience that the item that offended his Masonic taste--and which he consequently "abhors and detests"-is none other than the symbol of the "Master's authority to Rule his Lodge", for he says, referring to the "Sword of State":

"There is now in my neighborhood" [that means, near Tower Hill, London, E.,-- where he carried on the business of a Wine Merchant--, but in his 3rd Edition of 1778 he is more explicit for he there says "There is now in Wapping," [meaning thereby "There is now in the Dundee Lodge, No. 9, at Wapping"] "a large piece of iron scrole work, ornamented with foliage, &c. painted and gilt (the whole at an incredible expense) and placed before the Master's chair, with a gigantic sword fixed therein, during the communication of the members, a thing contrary to all the private and public rules of Masonry; all implements of war and bloodshed being confined to the lodge door, from the day that the flaming sword was placed in the East of the garden of Eden, to the day that the sagacious modern placed his grand sword of State in the midst of his Lodge." The following extracts furnish ample proof that this "Gigantic Sword" that so offended the Masonic principles of Laurence Dermott in 1778 [and also as far back as 1764] belonged to the Dundee Lodge, No. 9.


1761, June 26. "By Cash pd. Bro. Gretton--

for Repairing Ye Sword, etc." - 10. 19. 0 Aug. 13. "Paid Bro. Stevens his Bill- for Ye Iron for Ye Sword" - 15. 15. 0 do "Paid Bro. Noy's Bill Painting do" 3. 10. 0 30. 4. 0

Now, Bro. Henry Gretton, a jeweler was our R. W. M. in 1760 (he was referred to in the Minutes of G. L. of 28th Jan., 1767, see later on), whilst Bro. Thomas Noy, a painter, was Master in 1765. The suggestion of Bro. Laurence Dermott is that these two "cunning avaricious tradesmen" had compelled their Mother Lodge to purchase this sword and iron stand and have it gaily painted merely to extract monies from their brethren that should have been devoted to charity; but as we had 59 members and the total income of the Lodge in 1761 was 114 pounds the brethren were well able to bear the expense--although it must be admitted that 30 pounds was a large sum in those days. However, in order to rebut Dermott's suggestion that this money was wasted and could have been better applied in charity, it may be here stated that the annals of the Dundee Lodge give ample proof that "Relief" was constantly voted at "Lodge Nights" in sums varying from 1 1s. Od. to 5 5s. Od. in many cases to applicants who were not even members of the Lodge. The brethren also granted donations towards the funerals of their poorer members, whilst certain brethren--who became incarcerated in prison for debt-were also relieved; a few items by way of illustration are here mentioned.


1759, Dec. 27. "Paid into the hands of Sir Joseph Hankey & Co. [Bankers] for the Widows and Orphans of those slain at Minden and Quebec," "Paid towards Clothing the French Prisoners," "Pd. Advertising the 2 last Donations," [The above incident refers--inter alia--to the capture of Quebec from the French by Major-Genera James Wolfe on the 13th Sept., 1759, when--in the moment of victory--he fell mortally wounded on the heights of Abraham. The surrender of Montreal soon followed and with it all the Province of Canada. There must have been some special need here for assistance for Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1760--to help the cause -wrote an "Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Clothing the French Prisoners."]

1762. "Pd. Br. Harrison for his Trouble to get Br. Bride into Greenwich Hospital"; 2. 2. 0 1762, Mar. 11. "Recd. Cash of Bro. Halley Borwick, his Donation for the Benefit of Poor Brothers of this Lodge," 2. 2. 0 1766, Feb. 10. "Pd. as a gift to Jos. Hankey & Co. for the sufferers at the Great Fire in Barbadoes," 30

[A subscription list was opened in the Lodge, 30 members subscribing this 30 pounds; we do not read of similar generous gifts on the part of the Antients !]

1767. "Br. Croke having been previously helped, was Relieved with 1. 1. 0 on his promise of never troubling this Lodge again."

do. Mch. 26. "2. 2. 0 to be sent to the Quarterly Comm. the Master to have the Use of the Jewels." 1774, Nov. 24. "Bro. Peter Batson now a Prisoner in the Marshalsea relieved with 2 guineas." 1783, Feb. 27. "Br. Sandwell being now a Prisoner in the King's Bench was relieved from this Lodge with 2. 2. 0." 1807, Feb. 12. "A Petition was read from Br. Cathro, confined in H.M. Goal of Newgate for Debt from Misfortunes in trade to be Relieved with 2 guineas."


But the real answer to Bro. Dermott's accusation, however, is that our Sword of State thus exhibited in open Lodge--fixed by its hilt in a massive wrought Iron Stand which was suitably painted and decorated with foliage in gilt--was merely used by our Brethren as a symbol of the absolute authority of the R.W.M. to Rule over his Lodge. This Sword--still extant--is a handsome weapon, double- handed with blade 38in. long, the hilt 10in., while the guard is 9 1/2 in. wide. The identity is absolute--No. 9 was then the premier, practically the only Modern Lodge at Wapping--an on one side of the blade, near the hilt, are the words "Dundee Arms Lodge, Wapping, No. 9." [Note.--In 1761 when this sword was bought and renovated, the Lodge met at the Dundee Arms Tavern.] The symbols marked on the blade are chiefly of a martial character, consisting of swords and flags:--in several places the initials "G.R." appear on the flags, and as the sword was damascened in 1761 these clearly refer to King George III. [It was thanks chiefly to assistance kindly rendered by Bro. W. J. Songhurst, P.G.D. (the erudite Secretary of the 'Quatuor Coronati' Lodge) that the writer was enabled in 1918 to identify this interesting relic of our Masonic past; Bro. Songhurst was also the first student to draw my attention to some of the weird statements in Ahiman Rezon which thereby led to the preparation of this paper.] This sword--which was used as a tyler's sword from 1835 to 1918--is now kept for better preservation in a mahogany box, presented on 4th Nov., 1919, jointly by the writer of these notes and by another P.M. of the Lodge. This rare Masonic curio is therefore a direct connecting link with the inner life of an old Modern Lodge, thus severely criticized by Bro. Laurence Dermott in 1764 and 1778.


Various other old Lodges also owned swords and stands which were used in a similar manner. An old Yorkshire Lodge [Const. 1793] still possesses and makes use of a 'Flaming Sword'--fixed in a wooden stand placed on the right side of the W.M.'s Pedestal,-which remains with its naked blade uplifted during the whole time the Lodge is at Masonic labor. Bro. Welsford, P.A.G.St.B. informs me that in 1923, two 'Flaming Swords' [also with naked blades fixed upright side-by-side on a stand] were placed near to the Master's chair during the working of the ceremonies in two old Lodges in the North of England; clearly relics from the days of old.--It is really difficult to understand the merit of Dermott's objection to the use of a sword in Lodge in 1761. It was the continuance of a well known custom, for we are told that at the Grand Lodge Feast held at Merchant Taylor's Hall on 24th June, 1724:-"In the Procession round the Table, there preceded the Grand Master The Sword carried by the Master of the Lodge, to which the Sword belonged."

In 1731, the Grand Master [the Duke of Norfolk] presented Grand Lodge "with the old Trusty Sword of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, which was ordered to be the Grand Master's Sword of State for the Future"; and this sword is still borne by the Grand Sword-bearer before the Grand Master, or his representative at all meetings of Grand Lodge, and during the entire proceedings it is laid--in its scabbard--on the altar before the Grand Master. The Lord Mayor when attending the city churches in his official capacity, used also to be attended by his Sword-bearer, carrying the civic Sword of State, which was fixed by the side of his pew (in special sword rests) during divine service. This old custom is still observed provided the sword-rests are extant; the blade, however, is now safely ensconced in its scabbard.

Bro. Dermott's criticism on this point seems therefore to be idle and captious for it can be safely asserted that the brethren of the Dundee Lodge committed no breach of Masonic law or custom when they thus symbolically used their 'Sword of State' in 1764.


Immediately following his reference to our 'Sword of State' Dermott proceeds to cast ridicule on another old custom [viz., that of 'Drawing the Lodge on the Floor, in chalk and charcoal'] which had been practiced by the Moderns certainly since 1726--doubtless earlier still--and was a regular feature of the Ritual in the Dundee Lodge from 1748 to 1812. In 1764--when Dermott wrote his remarks--the tyler, on the Lodge nights when a candidate was made a Mason (previous to the ceremony) invariably drew the Lodge on the floor in chalk and charcoal, receiving for such work a special fee of 2s. 2d. for each making, so Dermott's statement that the tyler sometimes received "ten or twelve shillings" for thus "Drawing the Lodge" when four or more candidates were made at a time is substantially correct. To the writer, however, the sarcastic way in which this portion of the ceremony was referred to by Dermott seems rather like "playing to the gallery," his object clearly being to bring the Moderns and their Ritual into ridicule; his remark as to the "two sign posts" thus 'Drawn upon the floor' of course alludes to the emblems of the two Masonic columns, marked and described as "J" and "B" in accordance with instructions received from the Grand Lodge of the Moderns.


The following are Dermott's own words in his Ahiman Rezon [2nd Edition, 1764] p. xxxii:- "Nor is it uncommon for a tyler to receive ten or twelve shillings for drawing two sign posts with chalk &c and writing Jamaica (rum) upon one, and Barbadoes (rum) upon the other, and all this (I suppose) for no other use than to distinguish where these Liquors are to be placed in the Lodge." Such an ironical statement--especially proceeding from a wine merchant--seems not only in bad taste but rather overdrawn, and it makes one wonder as to whether at this period the Antients in their Assemblies --when they made a Mason--used themselves to draw the Lodge in chalk and charcoal or did they instead instruct their candidates as to the symbols of the Craft by means of the actual working tools of the Craft or by emblems depicted on a floor cloth, or did they leave them still in ignorance on such vital and important matters ? A few extracts from the Cash Books of No. 9

1749. "Pd Tyler and Drawer"... ... ............... 2. 0 1764. "Pd Cash to the Tyler" ... ............... . 2. 2 1795, Apl. 9. "Pd Tyler's Fees for 4 Makings" ....10. 0 1799, Aug. 8. "Pd. Br. Mills ,'[Tyler] for Form ing 6 Lodges" 15. 0


Dermott in the same Ahiman Rezon [p. xxxii] again seems to try and invent an excuse to poke fun at his opponents, for he dilates as follows:

"And it is pleasant enough to see sixty or seventy able men about a little Lewis and Capstan etc, erected upon a mahogany platform (purchased at an extravagant price) all employed in raising a little square piece of marble, which the weakest man in the company could take between his finger and thumb and throw it over the house." Here Dermott is ridiculing the practice the Moderns had of exhibiting the Perpend or Perfect Ashlar on a tripod placed on the S.W.'s pedestal. It is interesting to note that the following extracts taken from the records of Lodge, No. 9, show that in 1746 our Brethren possessed one of these items that so aroused the satire of the Grand Secretary of the Antients. This appears from a list of paraphernalia;

1746. "1 Triangle with Blocks, Lewis, Crabb, etc, 2 Stones, and 1 Marble Block."

The 'Old Dundee' Lodge, No. 18, still possesses and uses regularly at its Lodge Meetings a very old and similar tripod (made of brass) erected on a mahogany platform, perhaps the original that was purchased in 1746. It may even possibly be the actual article that so offended Dermott in 1764 ! Bro. Songhurst in 'A.Q.C.,' Vol. xxxv, p. 82, also calls attention to the fact that Dermott ridicules the 'Moderns' for using such apparatus.

1754, Apl. 11. Resolved that "A New Pel pend Ashler Inlaid with Devices of Masonry valued at 2. 12. 6 be purchased."

It is perfectly clear that the Lodge "at Wapping" referred to in 1764 by Laurence Dermott was the 'Dundee' Lodge, No. 9, for it met there from 1739 to 1820 (a period of 80 years) and was practically the only Lodge in that neighborhood at that date.

"APRONS ' [CIRCA 1717?]

Dermott in the same book, p. xxxi, has now a far more serious charge to make against the Moderns for he there says (speaking of the period soon after the Grand Lodge of 1717 was Constituted):

"It was proposed" [i.e., by the Moderns] "that no brother (for the future) should wear an apron. This proposal was rejected by the oldest members, who declared, that the aprons were all the signs of masonry then remaining amongst them and for that reason they would keep and wear them." [Dermott here suggests that the motive of the Moderns was that they objected to appearing as Mechanics or as Operative Masons; he adds, however, the following statement] "It was then proposed, that (as they were resolved to wear aprons) they should be turned upside down in order to avoid appearing mechanical. This proposal took place and answered the design, for that which was formerly the lower part was now fastened round the Abdomen, and the bib and strings hung downwards, dangling in such a manner as might convince the spectators, that there was not a working Mason amongst them. Agreeable as this alteration might seem to the gentlemen, nevertheless it was attended with an ugly circumstance; for in traversing the lodge, the brethren were subject to tread upon the strings, which often caused them to fall with great violence, so that it was thought necessary, to invent several methods of walking, in order to avoid treading upon the strings."

The third edition of Ahiman Rezon [1778] contains the following foot note:

"After many years observations on those ingenious methods of walking up to a brother &c, I conclude, that the first was invented by a Man grievously afflicted with the Sciatica. The second by a Sailor, much accustomed to the rolling of a Ship. And the third by a man, who for recreation or through excess of strong liquors, was wont to dance the drunken Peasant."

Are we to take Dermott seriously ? If so, it may well have been that a few Lodges--or perhaps only a few members of such Lodges-consisting of men of exalted rank or dignified professors in art and literature, might have--at first-- declined to wear a garment that (even although only intended as a symbol) might affect their pride, in that they should even be asked temporarily to wear an apron--often soiled by stains of 'porter' or 'punch'--in such a way that in daily life would only be used by an Operative Mason; they may have fairly argued that being merely Speculatives they ought to be absolved from what to them may have appeared an indignity. However, we have no certain knowledge on this point but such a custom certainly was not prevalent and it is clear that the Dundee Lodge,--consisting of many tradesmen engaged in nearly every description of business life--was not one of the offenders, if so, we should expect that Dermott would again have singled it out by way of example as he certainly did concerning two or three of his other objections. The records of the Dundee Lodge contain many items proving that aprons were constantly bought for the use of its members and also that the Lodge itself--when required--was often "New Cloathed" with fresh aprons at the cost of the Lodge funds. This is evidence that our ancient brethren wore their aprons seriously and in accordance' with the custom of the old Operatives; a few illustrations are here given.

Extracts from the Minutes of No. 9

1750, Sept. 13. Bro. Lane proposed "That the Box in which we formerly put our Aprons in should be given to the Maid Servant of this House [i.e. The Dundee Arms Tavern, Wapping], 2nd by Bro. Banson, 3rd, 4th and 5th." 1752, Dec. 14. Bro. Lane's proposal for "New Cloathing the Lodge carried in the Affirmative." Dec. 28. "That Ye Past Masters' and Ye Secretary's Aprons be lined."

1755, Apl. 10. "That a convenient Nest of Boxes be provided to hold the Aprons in an Alphabetical Order and that the Master and Wardens procure the same."

1764, Nov. 22. Resolved "That this Lodge be new Cloathed with Aprons"; "That the Past Master of this Lodge have Aprons bound with the same Ribbon as they wore their Meddals." Extracts from the Cash Books 1755. "Paid for 2 Doz . Aprons" [1s. 4d. each] ... 1. 12. 0

1764. "Pd. for Gold Fringe for the Steward's Apron" . ... ... 2.6

(To be concluded)

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