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FAQs

 

Origins, Development and History

Freemasonry is a Fraternal & Charitable Institution going back more than 300 years! It is principally about good behavior in life and actions, loyalty to the Queen and Country, obedience to the Law, and particularly, charitable giving. No one is exactly sure how Freemasonry developed but modern day Freemasonry almost certainly developed from the Operative Stone-Masons probably during the 17th & 18th Centuries. By Operative Masons, we mean the Stonemasons who built our Great Minster’s, Churches, other kinds of wonderful buildings and indeed, many other more modest architectural works.
Obviously for such work it was essential that only truly ‘Skilled Stone-Masons’ were employed. Indeed if ‘unqualified workmen’ had been employed on such work, then the results would never have lasted as long as they have. Those who did do the work, had to be properly trained and serve their apprenticeships. Indeed such Masons were in much demand and often traveled far away from their homes to seek for work. 


Is it a secret Society? 


Of course there were no Union cards and printed certificates in these early times, there was no means of rapid communication so Qualified Operative Stonemasons needed, as they moved about, to be able to prove that they were indeed qualified and able to work to a high standard.The Operative Masons therefore devised a means of “Identifying their Qualifications and Skills” by means of “certain words and signs” which they were given when they were qualified, and which they “Swore” to keep secret to ensure only qualified workmen were ever employed on great works. These are the only secrets in Freemasonry.These days, these old words and signs, are of no use to anyone !We only use these in our Lodge Rooms when performing the little two act Plays during the reception of new members at their Initiation and during their advancement through the three degrees of Freemasonry.
Lodge meetings, like meetings of other social and professional associations are private occasions and are only open to members.Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering not to use it for their own, or anyone else's benefit.The ‘Secrets’ are just one of many legacies we have maintained from the Old Operative Masons.We wear aprons, which the Stone Masons wore to protect themselves when working stone. We call our Meeting places “Lodges” as they called their wooden buildings where they lived on the job. We promote good behaviour in life and actions, as they did. 


Why do people join? 


To make more friends. To learn to be better citizens in support of their families, neighbours and Country. To enjoy the Masonic world. To be part of a great charitable organisation.


Can women join? 


Women do become Freemasons. Whilst our society is for men only, there is a parallel and totally independent Masonic organisation for women. 


What's the rolled up trousers all about? 


It is entirely symbolic and is simply to show the prospective member is a ‘free man’ with no marks of imprisonment


And why the funny handshake? 


The handshake, which is well known to much of the public, is a private method of recognition used in conjunction with certain signs and words ONLY in our ceremonies. The signs, words and handshake were devised by the Operative Masons who used them to enable Masons (without written proof) to prove they were qualified and had the required skills for the work. 


What do you do at a meeting? 


There are Three Degrees (or Stages) in Freemasonry. They are The Entered Apprentice, The Fellowcraft, & The Master Mason, each having its own distinctive apron.Each of these three degrees consists of a kind of ‘little two part play’, which we refer to as Ceremony.Each play has its own symbolic message to the candidate, about the way to live and how to behave in life.A new member usually goes through the 3 Degrees in less than one year. Every Freemason from the Duke of Kent to the newest entrant, has been through exactly the same process.
In the First Degree, which is called the Candidates “Initiation”, the great importance of benevolence and charity is powerfully stressed. In the 2nd & 3rd. Degrees other disciplines about behaviour in life are taught.
Once each year, a new ‘Master’ is elected and is installed into “The Chair”, and the Master has the sole right to select and appoint his officers. The Master and the Two Wardens are the principal officers of the Lodge.
Each year there is a “Roll over”, a New Master is elected and the Officers move up one place. (this is optional) no one has to go forward any further than he wishes, indeed there is no requirement to take office at all, it ispurely voluntary. However everyone is given the choice.
The number of meetings which Lodges have each year does vary from 4 to 10; most Lodges here have 10 meetings. Most meetings here in the Lodge Room, involve advancing candidates through the 3 Degrees; sometimes however we have talks, lectures and business meetings. Charitable business is dealt with as it arises along with the normal business of the Lodge and arranging social events.


What's done for local charities? 


The Lodges of Middlesbrough are always helping local charities.The money we collect is from our own members we do not collect fromthe public.In 2006 over £10,000 was donated to charities in and around Middlesbrough.


Who can join? 


Men from every ethnic group in the world, regardless of race, national origin, religious creed, social status or wealth. However, atheists and agnostics are not accepted and members who abuse, in their public and private lives, the trust placed in them, are excluded.


Is Freemasonry a religion ? 


There is no Masonic God. All members must declare a belief in a Supreme Being and we therefore have members of many faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.


When did it all start? 


We have Minutes from an Operative Lodge from as far back as 1599. Starting during the 1600’s, we know, that Gentlemen who where not Operative Masons, were accepted into some Operative Lodges. These members were known as ‘Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons’ or ‘Gentlemen Masons’ who gradually developed the present system we have today.By 1717 four Lodges in London, formed what has become the present day “Grand Lodge of England” which since then has been the governing body of Freemasonry. (if you like our Head Office) and its Head, is the Duke of Kent as “Grand Master”.In England & Wales there are at present about 300,000 Freemasons in some 8,000 Lodges, and another 150.000 Freemasons in Scotland. 
As you can see there is a ‘Structure to Freemasonry’First, “Grand Lodge” a sort of head office located in London
Secondly, "Provincial Grand Lodges like ‘Area Offices’ each more or less covering a County. (except Yorkshire which is split into two parts, because of its great size). We here, in Middlesbrough are part of “Yorkshire North and East Ridings”.
Thirdly, "Private Lodges" like the eleven, which meet in Middlesbrough, (there are 97 in this Province). Each private Lodge is responsible for their own conduct within our ‘Masonic Rules’. These Lodges are under the Guidance of our‘Provincial Grand Master’, the head of the Provincial Grand Lodge, which is located in York.
Every Lodge has Elections, keeps minutes, keeps accounts which are audited, and organizes social events, just like Round Table and Rotary.