In the Middle Ages a guild of masons specially employed in
building churches. Called “free” because exempted by several papal
bulls from the laws which bore upon common craftsmen, and exempt from
the burdens thrown on the working classes.
St. Paul's, London, in 604, and St. Peter's, Westminster, in 605,
were built by Freemasons. Gundulph (bishop of Rochester), who built the
White Tower, was a “Grand Master;” so was Peter of Colechurch,
architect of Old London Bridge. Henry VII.'s chapel, Westminster, was
the work of a Master Mason; so were Sir Thomas Gresham (who planned the
Royal Exchange), Inigo Jones, and Sir Christopher Wren. Covent Garden
theatre was founded in 1808 by the Prince of Wales in his capacity of
“Before the beginning of the 13th century the corporation of
freemasons was not sufficiently organised to have had much influence on
art.” —J. Fergusson: Historic Archaeology, vol. i. part ii.
chap. viii. p. 527.
The lady Freemason
was the Hon. Miss. Elizabeth St. Leger, daughter of Lord Doneraile,
who (says the tale) hid herself in an empty clock-case when the lodge
was held in her father's house, and witnessed the proceedings. She was
discovered, and compelled to submit to initiation as a member of the
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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