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Chapter 5 - The Working Tools Of The Craft

Page 1 of 13

THE WORKING TOOLS OF THE CRAFTCHAPTER VMASONIC ESSAYS (1998) W.M. DON FALCONER

THE CRAFTA craft originally was an organisation of workers who had a range of skills in a particular trade or vocation. Craft comes from the Old English craeft, derived from the Old Saxon and Old German kraft. The word originally meant "strength" and "skill" and its adjective craeftig, meaning "crafty", signified "dexterous" or "expert". The sinister aspects of "crafty", which include "cunning" from the Old English cunnan meaning "to know", are modern usages of the word. This change in usage is reflected in the Bible in different versions of I Kings 7, verse 14, which records that Hiram Abif was sent by Hiram King of Tyre to assist King Solomon at the construction of the temple at Jerusalem. In the Authorised Version of King James, Hiram Abif is described as "filled with wisdom and understanding and cunning to work all works in brass", whereas in the New English Bible he is called "a man of great skill and ingenuity, versed in every kind of craftsmanship in bronze". Family peace guilds, called frith, existed in London about the middle of the tenth century. The first merchant guild is believed to have originated in Dover about the middle of the eleventh century, when the first weaver guilds also seem to have been established. In medieval times the workers in many crafts established fraternal associations for the mutual assistance of their members, which they called guilds from the Old English gield and the Old Norman gildi. There is ample evidence that the craft guilds were well established in Britain around 1135, during the reign of Henry I. Although the craft guilds came into existence to safeguard the interests of skilled workers in the various trades, they also were religious fraternities whose members were required to attend church on a regular basis and frequently. Under the protection of the guilds, many families rose from serfdom to become employers within a few generations. The operative masons who erected medieval ecclesiastical structures formed the largest and most effectively organised of the craft guilds and became known as free masons, or more familiarly as "the craft". The rough masons, wallers, slaters, paviors, plaisterers, bricklayers, carpenters, bronze founders, iron workers, gold smiths and white smiths, who worked closely with the free masons on all important building works, often formed their own craft guilds in the larger centres.

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LODGES OF OPERATIVE MASONSAlthough the members of most crafts could find work in the vicinity of their homes, many members of the craft of free masonry frequently had to travel long distances to find work and establish new project sites. This undoubtedly was a significant factor leading to the establishment of lodges. In operative practice the "lodge" originally signified the place of work, especially the stone yard, being derived from the Old French loge meaning an arbour, which was adopted into Middle English to mean a stall as in a modern theatre. The earliest known reference to a "lodge" as a building occurs in the accounts of the Vale Royal Abbey in 1277, when logias and mansiones were erected for the workers because the site of the abbey was some distance from habitation. Logias derives from Old French and mansiones from Middle Latin, respectively signifying "to lodge" and "a household", reflecting the influence of French and Latin on English. In England, operative documents often refer to "lodges" as places of residence and sometimes also as repositories for tools and implements, as at York in 1399. By association a body of masons also became known as a "lodge", almost certainly in medieval times, although the first known references in this context are to be found in relation to operative practice in Scotland, in the minutes of the Aitchison's Haven Lodge in 1598 and in the Schaw Statutes of 1598 and 1599. In the earliest days many of the lodges must have worked independently, because travel was very difficult and time consuming. Even so, there is evidence that annual assemblages of free masons were taking place during the 1300s and that these were the gatherings sought to be prohibited in 1436-1437 by the Statutes of Henry VI. The guild system was highly successful until devastated by the Reformation of 1530-1560, when Henry VIII confiscated most of their possessions. The process of disendowment was completed by his son, Edward VI, under the Act of 1547 by which any remaining guild funds that had been dedicated for religious purposes were confiscated, as were the funds of all other religious fraternities. The guilds that survived the Reformation became the Livery Companies of the City of London, among the best known of which is the "Fellowship of Masons". Until some time in the 1500s it was formally entitled "The Worshipful Company of Ffree Masons of the City of London", but in 1655 in the aftermath of the Reformation it was renamed "The Company of Masons". Within the operative lodges there also were officers such as foremen, intendents, superintendents, wardens and deacons, who were responsible for control of the various sections of the work. All were fully qualified craftsmen who were promoted through the ranks as they gained experience and demonstrated sufficient skill and ability to undertake progressively higher levels of responsibility. Medieval guilds in England had wardens of the craft and wardens of the mystery. In medieval lodges in Scotland the chief officer frequently was a deacon who was often supported by wardens, although the

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two offices sometimes merged into one or a warden alone was the chief officer. In some assemblages the masons were under deacons and the lodges were under wardens. By the second half of the seventeenth century Master Masons began to rule operative lodges in Scotland, with Wardens as their deputies. Evidence suggests that English speculative lodges had Wardens in the seventeenth century and that Deacons were later introduced following the practice in Scotland.

TRAINING IN OPERATIVE LODGESIn medieval times in England, a youngster learning the mason trade was indentured as an apprentice in a lodge of operative masons. He received training nominally for a period of seven years. The earliest known regulation relating to apprenticeships in London dates from about 1230, but it was not enforced strictly for many years and almost a century had passed before apprenticeship was in general use. In operative masonry apprentices were recruited from suitable boys, usually aged between twelve and fifteen years. A boy seeking engagement and acceptable to the members of the lodge was required to swear that he would be obedient and learn the craft. He would then be bound over as an Indentured Apprentice to a senior mason, who was his master for the period of his indentureship. Whilst in training, the apprentice lived with his master and gave him implicit obedience in all things, with little recompense other than food, clothing and lodging. His place in lodge life was equally subordinate. In England, an apprentice who had a good record was tested in the stoneyard for practical proficiency at the end of period of his indentureship. If he proved himself to be capable and passed an examination in the lodge, the members voted on his admission into full membership. When accepted, he was regarded as a fully qualified tradesman. However, as he did not then have sufficient experience to take charge of construction, he would be required to work under the guidance of expert craftsmen for up to seven more years, although the time varied considerably. When he had proved his ability to take charge of building work, he was accepted as a Fellow and was free to engage subordinate labour and to carry out work in his own right. As a title, Fellow is first found in English documents towards the end of the fourteenth century, when it clearly signified membership of a fraternity, but did not appear to indicate a specific grade of proficiency. Records in Scotland, dating from the fifteenth century, show that youths were apprenticed to monasteries for periods varying from five to nine years. When an apprentice mason had satisfactorily completed his training in the stoneyard, he was "entered" in the books of his lodge. This feature of Scottish operative practice dates from 1598 and probably earlier. In Scottish lodges an Entered Apprentice was put in charge of a small group of junior apprentices, but he was still required to work for a few

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more years under the guidance of experienced masons to develop his proficiency and leadership. In Edinburgh the Trade Regulations incorporated in the Seal of Cause of 1475 provided for an apprentice to serve a term of seven years, after which he was to be examined by four searchers. If proficient he became a Fellow of the Craft, when he was entitled to all the privileges of membership of his lodge. Fellows of the Craft in operative lodges were fully qualified masters of their craft in all its aspects, being allowed to engage labour and take charge of building work. In operative times the title of "Master Mason" usually referred to the master tradesman in charge of a building project, often the proprietor of the lodge engaged to carry out the work. It is of interest to note that the word "fellow" is associated with the Middle English word fee, which signified a fief or payment, derived from the Old High German fihu or fehu. It has an important cognate in the Scandinavian group of Germanic languages, the Old Norman felag, which signified a laying together of property an