Monday, 14 February 2011

English and Welsh Freemasonry

This might help if your ancestor had a funny handshake down south...!


Freemasonry in England is approaching its 300th birthday. During the course of those three centuries thousands of documents have been created by Masonic lodges. Local historians may well have come across some of them in local record offices or the National Archives. Now the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, based in London, has completed a survey of the whereabouts and types of material relating to freemasonry held by record offices around the country. This covers, on the one hand, the records of individual lodges and chapters which have been deposited by their creating body and, on the other, the surviving lists of members of masonic lodges submitted to the county magistrates and held among quarter sessions records under the 1799 Unlawful Societies Act. Whilst this is unlikely to be a complete record as it has relied on catalogued material available on the internet, it should be a useful starting point for local historians. The survey is available on line at:

The Library and Museum has also completed a much larger survey of the records held by all masonic lodges and chapters in England and Wales. There are nearly 12,000 lodges and chapters, each holding records of their activities and membership. Some go back to the 18th century; most hold records going back to the foundation of the lodge in question. Returns were received from two thirds of the lodges and chapters surveyed and the survey details what records are held, their covering dates, their location and physical condition. This body of data – information was given on nearly 120,000 individual record items - provides an unrivalled source about the survival of a vast body of primary source material that can shed light not just on the masonic community that created but on the local societies in which freemasonry existed. If you would like to know what surviving records there might be for a particular area or town contact the Library and Museum initially on

An increasing amount of archive material on freemasonry in England and Wales has been catalogued by the Library and Museum and the searchable catalogue is available on the website Working towards 2017 the Library and Museum of Freemasonry is undertaking a number of initiatives, including events and publications, to encourage more research into the role of freemasonry in English society.

Diane Clements
020 7395 9250

(With thanks to Helen Tovey and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry)

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