History of Freemasonry

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Withdrawal After WWII - Re-emergence Into Open Society

Growth was to continue in the 20th century, particularly in the years after the two World Wars. It seemed that after those two great cataclysms were over and as a result of the great social changes they brought about, large groups of men looked to Freemasonry as a calm centre of tradition and certainty in which they could continue the fraternity they had found in the services.

The period leading to the outbreak of the Second World War was to have consequences for today. A great deal of anti-Masonic propaganda came out of Nazi Germany and Franco's Spain in the late 1930s. In both countries Freemasonry was banned and many Freemasons were imprisoned and killed. Plans were laid by the Nazis to seize prominent Freemasons when they occupied Britain.

English Freemasonry turned in on itself and continued to be excessively private after peace came. Allied to that, from the 1950s there was a deliberate policy of not dealing with the media and, more importantly, not correcting factual errors. As a result a mythology grew up of Freemasonry serving its own aims. In effect Freemasonry was taken out of the community of which it had been a very visible part for nearly 250 years. Since 1984 the United Grand Lodge has been actively countering that mythology pursuing a policy of openness on Freemasonry.

The latter part of the 20th century saw two major celebrations. In 1967 over 6,500 Freemasons, including delegations from other Grand Lodges around the world, gathered at the Royal Albert Hall, London, to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England. Central to the celebration was the installation of HRH The Duke of Kent as Grand Master, a position to which he has been annually re-elected ever since.

On 10th June 1992 over 12,500 attended a Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge at Earls Court to celebrate the 275th Anniversary of the formation of Grand Lodge and the 25th Anniversary of HRH The Duke of Kent's installation as Grand Master. For the first time, in addition to English Freemasons and delegations from 94 other Grand Lodges, ladies and non-Masons (representing the many Charities which Freemasonry has supported over the years), and the press and television attended the meeting. The meeting was followed by a banquet for 4,000.

From the four Lodges which formed Grand Lodge in 1717, Freemasonry has grown to an organisation of around 6,000,000 members worldwide. Its membership has included men of rank and those who have become distinguished in many fields of human endeavour, but the membership has always been a microcosm of the society in which it currently exists reflecting the social, religious and ethnic composition of our diverse society.

The United Grand Lodge of England has some 270,000 members grouped in 8,322 lodges. Lodges in London (an area within a 10 mile radius of Freemasons' Hall), are organised into groups administered by Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London. Lodges outside London and within England, Wales and the Channel Islands are grouped into 47 Provinces, based on the old Counties, each headed by a Provincial Grand Master.

Lodges meeting abroad are grouped in 33 Districts each headed by a District Grand Master, 5 Groups each headed by a Grand Inspector, with 12 lodges being administered from Freemasons' Hall.

The Grand Lodge publishes a Year Book which can be purchased from Freemasons' Hall, listing all of its lodges with their meeting dates and places, Grand Officers, and senior Provincial and District Officers.

The Book of Constitutions (rule book) has been in the public domain since the first edition was published in 1723 and can be purchased from Freemasons' Hall.

View a timeline of the History of Freemasonry.