ISSUE 11, October 2004
Elias Ashmole: Masonic Icon
Travel: The magical beauty of Scotland
Honoured: By the Glovers' livery company
The Theatre: Strong links between Craft and stage
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Mauritius: Fascinating Masonic history
Rochester Cathedral: Kent Masons' magnificent fresco
Clerkenwell: 25 years of Masonry
  Bravery award: One Mason's heroism is honoured
Christmas shopping: What to buy in London's West End
High flight: Helping terminally ill children
Jewels of the Craft: An essential part of Masonry
Library & Museum: John Pine exhibition and Library & Museum Trust report
Masonic education: Events for Masons; Quatuor Coronati Lodge; Mentors for new Masons
Charities: Masons provide emergency aid for flood victims; Charity news; Demelza gives voice
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Featured Masons

The Duke of Wellington
Neal Arden
Elias Ashmole
Richard Eve
John Pine
Cyril Spackman


The official design of The Royal Society, however, is not that designed by Ashmole. But he was a founding member of The Royal Society, whose first president, Sir Robert Moray, had been initiated five years before Ashmole.
     In May 1641 Moray was serving with the Scottish forces besieging Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and on 20th May he was admitted a Mason at St Mary’s Chapel Lodge of Edinburgh, the first recorded Masonic initiation on English soil. It is interesting to speculate whether the two men discussed Freemasonry.
     The second and only other Masonic mention in the 1,850- odd manuscript pages that comprise his annotations and diaries is dated 10th March 1682, 35 years after his initiation, and states:

About 5 pm I reced a summons to appr at a lodge to be held the next day at Masons Hall London

     with an additional entry on the next day:

11th Accordingly I went & about Noone were admitted into the fellowship of Freemasons, Sir William Wilson Knight, Capt. Rich: Borchwick, Mr Will: Woodman, Mr Wm Grey, Mr Samuel Taylour & Mr William Wise. I was the senior Fellow among them (it being 35 years since I was admitted). There were present beside myself the Fellowes after named. Mr Thos: Wise Mr of the Masons Company this present yeare. Mr Thomas Shorthose, Mr William Hamon, Mr John Thompson, & Mr Will: Stnaton. We all dyned at the Half Moone Tavern in Cheapside, at a Noble Dinner prepared at the charge of the New-accepted Masons.

The same questions arise in this instance as they did with regard to the first entry. What ceremony did Ashmole exactly attend? He was the senior Fellow among them, thus a speculative gathering in an operative environment of the Masons Company of London. Of the ten who ‘dyned at the Half Moone Tavern’ eight were operative Masons employed by Christopher Wren.
     Ashmole ‘reced a summons to appr’ implying that he was known to be a Mason. The recorded ceremony of the ‘acception’ in the Masons Company has yet to be explained. It appears to be a ‘club within the club’ to which selected individuals were admitted as members.
     Ashmole’s presence here may be seen as evidence, or at least suggest, that Ashmole’s own Lodge into which he was initiated in 1646 was of a similar composition, namely an operative lodge with non-Masons as members, and that the ceremony Ashmole experienced at his making was the same ‘acception’ ceremony that Ashmole was now attending in London. The arguments continue.
     Once again, the first printed version of the diaries published in 1717 deviated from the original entry in a manner which was misleading at best. The word ‘by’ was inserted before Sir William Wilson, reading:

11th Accordingly I went, and about Noon were admitted into the fellowship of Freemasons, by Sir William Wilson...

     This implies that the candidates or ‘newly accepted’ Masons were their own hosts, which was certainly not intended by Ashmole. James Anderson, in his second Book of Constitutions, published in 1738, makes an equally misleading statement. Paraphrasing Ashmole’s words, Anderson quotes him as saying ‘…when we admitted into the Fellowship…’ implying that Ashmole actively participated in the ceremony.
     From 1675 Ashmole lived quietly in south Lambeth in the grounds that once belonged to the Tradescant family. For the next decade he continued writing, completing works on the Antiquities of Windsor and a Biography of John Dee. He also gathered material for various projects never completed.
     John Hart, curator of the Worcester Museum, recently commented: “What a pity Elias Ashmole never anticipated Robert Gould and wrote a history of Freemasonry.”
     However, Ashmole appears to have had plans for a history of Freemasonry, evidenced in several writings and references. All the more pity that this project never took off and that none of the material collected, outside of minor references to details of the Temple in Jerusalem, survived or has been located.
     Elias Ashmole died on 18th or 19th May 1692, well into his seventies, and no doubt oblivious to the speculative legacy that was to follow his long and fulfilling life.

Selected Bibliography and Sources
Aligh Josten, Elias Ashmole, Oxford, 1966.
Churton Tobias, Elias Ashmole 1617-1692: Notes on his life with special attention given to his connections with Freemasonry & Rosicrucianism. Privately printed folio, 1992.
Ovenell R.F, The Ashmolean Museum 1683-1894, 1986.
Page Bryan F, Elias Ashmole: The First recorded English Freemason. Prestonian Lecture, 1988.
Rogers Norma, The Lodge of Elias Ashmole, 1646. AQC 65, 1952.
Rylands W H, Freemasonry in the 17th Century. Published in the Warrington Masonic Magazine, December 1881.
Scanlan Matthew, The Mystery of the Acception, Heredom Vol II, 2003.
Tuckett J E S, Dr Richard Rawlinson and the Masonic Entries in Elias Ashmole’s Diary. AQC 25, 1912.

My thanks are extended to William Hunt, Windsor Herald, who treads in Elias Ashmole’s footsteps, and John Hamill for his ready accessibility.