The Ritual of the Operative Free Masons – P1

The original paper was written, first, to prove that Speculative Free Masonry was derived from Operative Free Masonry; second, to give some account of the Operative Free Masons, of their Ritual, and of their customs.



By Thomas Carr, M.D., P. M. Honorary Member of the Guild of Operative Free Masons

​Chapter 1. Introduction.
Chapter 2. The Derivation of Speculative from Operative Free Masonry.
Chapter 3. Existing Operative Free Masons.
Chapter 4. The Apprentice. First Degree.
Chapter 5. The Fellow of the Craft. Second Degree.
Chapter 6. The Super Fellows. Third and Fourth Degrees.
Chapter 7. The Overseers. Fifth and Sixth Degrees.
Chapter 8. The Three Masters. Seventh Degree.
Chapter 9. Annual Ceremonies. The Sanhedrim.
Chapter 10. Conclusion.

The Worshipful Society of Free Masons,
Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers,
and Bricklayers.

Lodge “Mount Bardon,” No. 110
Established 1831.
Bardon Hill, Leicestershire.

The above Lodge, No. no, of the York Division, passed the following resolution at a meeting held on the sixth day of May, 1911:

“That the paper written by Thomas Carr of 9 Carlton Terrace, Blackpool, M. D., on ‘The Ritual of the “Operative Free Masons’ is a true and accurate account “of the ceremonies practiced by this Lodge, and that the “tradition which has been handed down to us is that “these ceremonies have been so practised from time im- “memorial.

“That the said paper is based upon information furnished by us or by our accredited members and that the “said Thomas Carr has received our permission to publish the said paper.

“That there is much more of our ritual and ceremonies than is described in the said paper, but the ac- “count in the said paper is strictly accurate as far as it goes.

“That Thomas Carr is a corresponding member of “this Lodge in full standing and of good repute.”

Signed, John A. Grant, 1st Master.
Signed, Robert Walter Grant, 2nd Master.
Signed, William George Major Bailey, 3rd Master.
Signed, Robert B. Grant,
Secretary, I. P. M., VII



Relief of craftsman Anton Pilgram, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna. – Photo: Andreas Praefcke 
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Chapter 1. Introduction

Most Speculative Free Masons are aware of the fact that a Guild of Operative Free Masons still exists, and that the Masons’ Company of London is also still extant.

It is well established that Societies of Operative Masons existed in England, France, and Italy during the Middle Ages and built the Churches, Bridges, and Cathedrals which still adorn those countries.

Also, that in Germany there flourished a well-organized today of Masons, known as Steinmetzen.

The name Free Mason first occurs in Statute 25, Edward 3, (1352). Elsewhere I have shown how Masons had to travel about to their work and how English Masons worked in France, and French Masons in England.

In days when writing was confined to the clerics and diplomas were unknown, it was the readiest solution of the difficulty of an unknown man testifying he was, a skilled and accredited craftsman, to have a system of pass words and signs which enabled him to prove he had been regularly taught his trade and was no cowan or pretender.
These ancient Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, both in England and on the Continent, had their regular procedure by which a lad was admitted as an apprentice, taught his work, and subsequently became entitled to practise his trade.
A good many of the old Regulations and Charges of these early days have come down to us. Some 80 examples are known and recognized.

The following is a list of some of the more important of these “Ancient Charges” as they are generally called:

List of Some Ancient Charges.

Regius (Halliwell), c. 1390, British Museum, Royal Library 17 A 1.
Cooke, Early 15th Century, British Museum, Add. M.S. 23, 198.
Lansdowne, Before 1598, British Museum, No. 98, art 48, f 276 B.
Sloane No. 1, 1646, British Museum, No. 3848.
Sloane No. 2, 1649, British Museum, No. 3323.
Harleian 1942, 17th Century, British Museum, Harleian No. 1942.
Harleian 2054, 17th Century, British Museum, Harleian No. 2054.
Harris No. 2, 1781, British Museum, Ephemerides, pp. 2493 g a a.
Grand Lodge No. 1, 1583, Grand Lodge Library.
Grand Lodge No. 2, 17th Century, Grand Lodge Library.
Buchanan, 1670, Grand Lodge Library, (Copy in Gould’s Book).
Colonel Clerke, 1686, Grand Lodge Library.
Thomas Foxcroft, 1699, Grand Lodge Library.
Stanley, 1677, W. Yorks, Masonic Library.
William Watson, 1687, W. Yorks, Masonic Library.
Taylor, Late 17th Century, W. Yorks, Masonic Library.
Plot, 1686, Published in Natural History of Staffordshire. Dr. Plot.
Bain, Bro. C. A. Wilson, Armley, Leeds.
Scarborough, Before 1705, Grand Lodge of Canada.
Hidalgo Jones, 1607, Prov. Grand Lodge, Worcestershire.
Wood, 1610, Prov. Grand Lodge, Worcestershire.
Lechmere, 17th Century, Prov. Grand Lodge, Worcestershire.
Phillips No. I, 17th Century, Rev. J. E. A. Fenwick, Cheltenham.
Phillips No. 2, 17th Century, Rev. J. E. A. Fenwick, Cheltenham.
Phillips No. 3, Early i8th Cent., Rev. J. E. A. Fenwick, Cheltenham.
Strasburg, 1459, M.S. at Strasburg (Findel).
Torgau, 1462, –? – (Findel).
Kilwinning No. 1, Late 17th Century, S. Michaels, Kilwinning,
Dumfries. Kilwinning No. 2, 17th Century, S. Michaels, Kilwinning, Dumfries. Kilwinning No. 3, Late 17th Century, S. Michaels, Kilwinning,
Dumfries. Kilwinning No. 4, 1730-40, S. Michaels, Kilwinning, Dumfries,
(A. Q. C. 6). Kilwinning No. 5, 1730-40, S. Michaels, Kilwinning, Dumfries. Antiquity, 1686, Lodge of Antiquity.

In these Ancient Charges we get evidences of the commencement of Moral teaching and of Secret Signs.

It is at once obvious that from very early times a high moral standard was inculcated by these Ancient Charges.

In the oldest Charge of all, “The Regius,” dating about 1390, implicit truth is recommended.

The Harleian No. 2054, dating from the 17th Century, was originally the property of the Chester Guild and among other things says there are “several words and signs of a Free Mason to be reveiled” which may be communicated to no one “except to the Master and Fellows of the said Society of Freemasons. So help me God.” Here followeth the worthy and godly oath of Masons.

There is said to have been a M.S. by King Henry VI (1422-1461) in the Bodleian Library, in which that King says “some Maconnes are not so virtuous as some other menne, but for the most parte they be more gude than they would be if they were not Maconnes.”

In the 17th Century and probably earlier private gentle- men and Army Officers began to be admitted as Members of this Society of Free Masons in England and Scotland.

John Boswell, Esq., a landed proprietor, was a member of St. Mary’s Chapel Lodge, Edinburgh, in 1600.

Robert Moray, Quarter Master General of the Scottish Army was made a Mason at Newcastle in 1641.

Elias Ashmole, the celebrated antiquarian, and Colonel Henry Manwaring were made Masons at Warrington in 1646.

It is interesting to note the fact that of these three men, who were among the earliest Honorary, or non-operative, or in more modern terms Speculative, Masons made in England, Moray was a Scotch Covenanter, Ashmole was a Royalist and Manwaring was a Parliamentarian.

So that even in those days Masonry was a bond of union between men of differing religious and political opinions, and that even in the time of the great Civil War.

In 1647 Dr. William Maxwell joined the Lodge at Edinburgh. As far as is known he was the first medical man to become a Mason.

It is also noteworthy that in the minutes of St. Mary’s Chapel Lodge, Edinburgh, it is recorded that Boswell attested his mark at the meeting of the Lodge held on June 8th, 1600.

The Earls of Cassilis and Eglinton were initiated in the Lodge of Kilwinning in or about 1670. Private gentlemen such as these I have instanced began about this time to be known as Accepted Masons, and gradually increased in number.

In 1717 under the influence of Dr. Anderson and his friends some Operative Freemasons with some of these non-operative.

Accepted or Speculative Freemasons, belonging to four Lodges in London, met and formed the first Grand Lodge; a combination in which Speculative Masonry instead of Operative Masonry was the primary consideration.

Architecture and Operative tools became symbolical, but the Ritual was based on the Ritual of the old Operative Society, of which indeed it was largely a reproduction.

The Apprentice Degree and the Fellow Craft Degree were founded on the corresponding degrees of the Operative system.

Later on, when a Master’s Degree — not a Master of a Lodge but a Master Mason — was added, Anderson and his friends invented a ceremony based in the Operatives’ Annual Festival of October 2nd commemorating the slaying of Hiram Abiff at the Building of King Solomon’s Temple.

The real Secrets and the real Ritual of the Operative Masters’ Degree could not be given as but few knew them, namely only those who had actually been one of the three Masters, 7th Degree, by whom the Operatives were ruled, and Anderson had certainly not been one of these; his function having been that of Chaplain, although it is quite possible he had been admitted an Accepted member of the Craft some years previously in Scotland.

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The Ritual of the Operative Free Masons 

By: Thomas Carr, M.D.

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