In 2017 the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) celebrates the Tricentenary of Freemasonry.
Grand Lodges are modern institutions, but there were governing bodies for Masonic purposes, which were in existence centuries before 1717, when the Premier Grand Lodge of the world was inaugurated in London, and the first Grand Master elected and installed.
I have given here a brief sketch of Albion Lodge’s history so that you may appreciate and understand the early days of this ancient Lodge
There was a great rivalry which divided the English Craft into two opposing Fraternities for over half a century from 1751 of which this Lodge was one of the founders.
New Lodges from that period were rapidly constituted; Old Lodges joined and took part in the fresh foundation, and from 1751 some 175 subordinates were on the register, mostly working in this country.
On the 17th July 1751 another governing organisation was started in the metropolis, known by the title of the “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Old Institutions”.
Without enquiring into the reasons or motives of the founders of this opposition body, it will be sufficient for our present purposes to note that this affection of antiquity, and their being termed “Antient Masons” assuredly contributed much to their phenomenal success, and when, later on, the supporters of this rival society obtained countenance and patronage of many of the great and noble of the land, their warrants were soon in request, especially from abroad and by military brethren.
The “Moderns” as they were usually termed were really the senior to the “Antients” by many years, but when the third Duke of Atholl become Grand Master of the “Ancient” designation it was frequently changed for “Atholl Masons”.
The fourth Duke of Atholl on the death of his father was admitted into Freemasonry; he was initiated, passed and raised in the three degrees, then elected and installed as Master of the “Grand Master’s Lodge” all in one day; VIZ., 1st March 1775 this being some nine months before obtaining his majority.
He retired in September 1781 but succeeded the Marquess of Antrim (who died in 1791) and was again installed as Grand Master on 20th January 1792 occupying that distinguished position until November 1813 when his grace resigned, and HRH the Duke of Kent became the Most Worshipful Grand Master.
On 27th December 1813 the two sections of the fraternity “joined hands” as well as hearts and formed the ‘United Grand Lodge of England’ the so-called “Moderns” contributing 388 and the “Antients” 260 of the total 648 Lodges.
The members on the United Roll were allotted alternately to the two quondam rivals so that all the Antient Lodges obtained positions on the register in advance of their antiquity then No. 5 became No. 9.
Brethren desirous of becoming more acquainted with the history of Freemasonry, should study the splendid
treatise by Bro. R. F. Gould and in relation, especially to the two Grand Lodges previously referred to, Bro. Sadler’s able volume entitled “Masonic Facts and Fictions” will be found quite a Storehouse of particulars on that subject.
The two Grand Lodges that joined together in 1813, become what is known today as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) ; they were the Moderns (London 1717) and the Antients (London 1751).
However, there were in fact 5 Grand Lodges in England at one time; but that was only for a short period.
The second was started by the Old York Lodge, which was at work in the northern metropolis from “time immemorial”. The York Grand Lodge died out about 1792 and so did all its subordinate’s.
The fourth only lasted some five or six years, and had about five or six lodges under its jurisdiction.
The fifth was warranted by the Old York Lodge in consequence of an unfortunate split in the famous “Lodge of Antiquity” which, however, was soon healed, and the new creation collapsed.