Was Sir Christopher Wren a Mason?
Bro. The Rev. F. De P. Castells, A.K.C.
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE AFFIRMATIVE RE-STATED AND CRITICALLY EXAMINED
- That Anderson was the official historian of the first Grand Lodge.
- That the high position he occupied entitles him to some respect.
- That he was on terms of intimacy with the leading members of at least the four lodges that brought the Grand Lodge into being.
- That although not connected with the lodge that claimed Wren, he must have had access to most of the documents available for the compilation of a Masonic history.
- That in preparing this history he had the assistance of two excellent Masonic scholars, Dr. Desaguliers, D.G.M., and George Payne, the antiquary.
- That while some documents used in the compilation have perished or gone astray, there remains collateral evidence for all the main facts.
- That the two editions of the Constitutions, 1723 and 1738, were submitted for examination and at length approved and authorised by Grand Lodge.
- Anderson in 1723 wrote that the King was "a great Encourager of the Craftsmen," and set Wren to build the new Cathedral on that account.
- Wren's own son, speaking of the "Free and Accepted Masons," says that they were "chiefly employed in the execution of the work."
- There was a Masonic Lodge which actually took its name from Old St. Paul's, which met at the GOOSE AND GRIDIRON in St. Paul's Churchyard.
- This lodge had had a former Surveyor-General, Inigo Jones, for its W.M. This statement does not rest merely on Anderson's second Book of Constitutions, for it appeared in the Dublin Constitutions in 1730, having been made in both cases on the authority of the MS. of Nicholas Stone, which was destroyed by fire in 1720.
- It is with that lodge that Aubrey and others have connected Wren.
- In the list appearing in the official Masonic Calendar of 1729, the old St. Paul's Lodge is entered as founded in 1691, the year of Aubrey's Convention; but that fact is misleading. What happened in 1691 was (as Gould points out) that the said lodge, "from being an occasional, became a stated lodge." And this implies that not only Wren, but all the old Masons who had been meeting more or less informally, were now to be "adopted" in the reconstituted lodge, in which there may, or there may not have been, the distinction between subscribing and honorary members. Preston says that Wren attended that lodge in earlier days, but does not explain in what capacity, whether as an ordinary member, or as a visitor, or as S.G.W.; but he uses the word "patronised," which suggests an honorary position; this may have been his position before, but by his "adoption" or reception into the reconstituted lodge, he may have become a full subscribing member.
- Or, it may be, that the members of the reconstituted lodge had arranged to give a welcome or reception to the eminent Brother — in which case the expression "to be adopted" would simply mean his election, reselection, or recognition as an honorary member, to be done probably by acclamation. We adopt distinguished Masons now, and our ancient Brethren were equally free to do it. Obviously, if the lodge consisted of brethren employed in the cathedral, the directing architect would be a privileged member, while any other Brother of rank coming with him (like Sir Henry Goodric, expressly mentioned by Aubrey) would be sure of being honoured in a similar way.
- Again, there is the possibility that the ceremony which Wren had to undergo was not merely a reception, but his reselection and installation as W.M. of the reorganised lodge. For even if he was already recognised as President of the Fraternity, he would not be debarred from taking the office of W.M. in a private lodge; indeed, we must suppose that he was serving in that capacity somewhere, the lower position qualifying him for the higher. Our ancient Brethren were much freer than we are, and they did not always act in what we should now think the right mode of procedure.
- 4. But apparently the "great Convention" was not the meeting of any private lodge at all; it was rather a general assembly of the whole "Fraternity of the Accepted Masons"; and the work done was such as to affect other lodges besides that of St. Paul's. This is fully borne out by one of our bitterest enemies, Samuel Pritchard, who, in his book "Masonry Dissected " (1730), while arguing that Freemasonry cannot be very ancient, makes this remark: "No constituted Lodges or Quarterly communications were heard of till 1691, when lords, dukes, lawyers and shopkeepers and other inferior tradesmen, porters not excepted, were admitted in this mystery or no mystery." Here is collateral evidence for Aubrey's testimony; clearly the Convention did take place. And presumably the adoption of Wren was his re-adoption, or reselection, as Grand Master, when he would be installed and proclaimed and saluted as such. "Sir Henry Goodric ... of ye Tower, and divers others" may have been the officers who were to be appointed or invested on the same occasion. Nor is there anything forced in this idea of a reselection; for, according to the Stone MS., Inigo Jones, who, like Wren, had once combined the two offices of Surveyor-General and President of the Masonic Fraternity, ceased to hold the second title in 1618, but was subsequently "reselected." Certainly the Freemasons never appointed their Grand Masters for life.
- This designation is used to conform to our way of speaking. In reality that Grand Lodge did not claim the exclusive territorial jurisdiction which it now exercises.