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
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,
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.
Web site created by Mark Griffin