An Introduction to The Society
The Society exists to perpetuate or preserve a memorial of the practices of operative Free Masons existing prior to, or continuing independently of, modern speculative Freemasonry.
It does not claim to be the successor to or connected with any former society of the same or any like name, nor that the ceremonies in fact represent precisely the practice of stonemasons, although some elements certainly reflect former practices. For instance, anyone wishing to learn the craft of stonemasonry in days gone by would do so in two ways; by either watching and practising next to an experienced workman (i.e. 'Sitting by Nellie', as it was known), or by entering into a formal apprenticeship deed with a master. This latter method is reflected in our Society today and, on joining, a candidate does not promptly become a 'mason' but is known as an Indentured Apprentice until through time and experience he is able to progress through the seven degrees of the Society, which are:
Grade I……. Indentured Apprentice
Grade II…… Fellow of the Craft
Grade III ...... Fitter and Marker
Grade IV…... Setter Erector
Grade V…… Intendent, Overseer, Super Intendent and Warden
Grade VI …..Passed Master (Note for Masons: Not Past Master)
Grade VII…. Master Mason, of whom three are Grand Master Masons
The Society is governed by three Grand Master Masons who traditionally hold their offices ad vitam, but waive that right. The First Grand Master Mason retires after a tenure of five years and the Second Grand Master Mason after a period of three years (although both are eligible for reappointment), whilst the office of Third Grand Master Mason terminates annually with the enactment of the Ancient Drama one year after his appointment.
The three Grand Masters are the sole members of the seventh degree Lodge, all others being said to be members of the seventh degree honoris causa. The minimum qualification for the sixth degree is to be an Installed Master in good standing in both the Craft and Mark degrees of speculative Freemasonry. The candidate also has to have attended at least seventy percent of his Assemblage meetings. The Senior Passed Master of a Region confers this degree in a Lodge of Passed Masters, usually held once per year. In his capacity as head of a region the "SPM" is known as a Deputy Grand Master Mason.
The first four degrees are conferred in an Assemblage of Lodges IV° to I°, each degree beyond the first being conferred when the Assemblage is appropriately opened as a Lodge of that degree. The fifth, sixth and seventh degrees are conferred in separate Lodges of those degrees.
The Society has over two thousand members scattered throughout the world in England & Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Belgium, India, Malaysia, Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, South Africa, Brazil and Bolivia, although Assemblage membership is not restricted to those countries alone.
Apart from the Grand Master Masons and the Grand Clerk, regalia is minimal and consists simply of a blue collarette or cord from which is suspended the badge of one's grade. Badges are exchanged as progression is made. Each Assemblage, however, has considerable furniture and equipment, all of which has its basis in antiquity and is related to the craft of stonemasonry.
All ceremonies are distinctly English in character. No matter where they are being worked, they are always conducted in English and the first toast at the luncheon or dinner which follows the meeting is, whenever possible, always to the Monarch of the United Kingdom.
Assemblages around the World
We have over 100 Assemblages spread around the world. The number of Assemblages in each area is indicated. For instance, there are 57 in Great Britain and 5 in the EU.