The earliest recorded ‘making’ of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Freemasonry in its current form, began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.
- According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as “gentlemen masons”.
Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to ‘free and accepted’ or ‘speculative’ lodges.