In good company

In good company

A search through the archives of the Royal Society has provided us with new information regarding the claim that Sir Christopher Wren was initiated into Freemasonry in London on May 18th 1691 along with Sir Henry Goodrick of Ribston. This claim was advanced in a handwritten note added to the manuscript of John Aubrey's Natural History of Wiltshire, 1685 now in the Bodleian library at Oxford. This manuscript is in two parts, bound and filed separately as MS AUBREY 1 and MS AUBREY 2. In the second part a short account of Freemasonry appears:

"Sir William Dugdale told me many years since, that about Henry the third's time, the Pope gave a bull, or diploma ['patents' added above] to a company of Italian Architects ['Freemasons' added above] to travel up and down and over Europe, to build churches. From those derived the Fraternity of Free Masons [adopted masons added above]. They are known to one and another by certain signs & ['marks' erased] and watch words: it continues to this day. They have several Lodges in several Countries for their reception: and when any of them fall into decay, the brotherhood is to relieve him & c. The manner of their adoption is very formal, and with an oath of secrecy."

The page to the left of this account was originally left blank and on this page, at some later time, were added three additional notes in Aubrey's own hand. One of these notes concerns Freemasonry. It reads thus:

"MDM, this day (may 1691 the 18th. Being Monday after Rogation Sunday) is a great convention at St. Paul’s' church of the fraternity of the Accepted[ 'free' being struck out] masons where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a brother: and Sir Henry Goodrick of ye tower, & divers ['several' being struck out] others - and there have been kings, that have been of this -Sodalitie."

Of those who have studied the text, Clarke in ARS Quatour Coronatorum, 1965, concluded that Wren was "almost certainly a freemason. John Hamill, in 1986, in his book "THE CRAFT," is more cautious, concluding that however possible it might be, "it is not proven". As we will show, the text can now be accorded a greater degree of veracity. To understand this it is necessary to look at the history of John Aubrey's manuscript.

John Aubrey's Manuscript.

John Aubrey, who lived 1626 to 1697, was one of the founding members of the Royal Society, being recorded in the list of Fellows May 20th 1663. In 1685 he wrote his Natural History of Wiltshire, It was never published but remained in manuscript form. However, the Royal Society so admired his work, and felt that it was of such value to Fellows, that an official copy was ordered and made for the society’s archives in order that Fellows would not have to travel to Oxford to consult it. Dr. Michael Hunter, in his biography of John Aubrey wrote:

"Above all, the Royal Society did Aubrey the honour of having a transcript made of his Natural History of Wiltshire in 1690-1, a unique and extraordinary gesture showing their esteem for it, which cost them the considerable sum of seven pounds.(£832.64 in 2001)"

The Clerk of the Royal Society, Mr. B. G. Cramer who, in 1690, began the task and completed it by mid 1691, made this copy, which is still in the archives of the Royal Society. It is listed as MISC. Ms 92, and it runs to 373 pages.

When Cramer was ordered to produce this copy Aubrey took the opportunity to make many additions and emendations and he oversaw their inclusion into the new text. This is indicated by a short note, in Aubrey's own hand, attached to folio 124a. of part two of the original manuscript: Aubrey writes, referring to a printed pamphlet on wool which has been appended:

"Mr Cramer! As to this Treatise of wool, transcribe only the presentment of the grand jury at Brewton in Somersetshire"

When Aubrey had written the original manuscript he had written only on the first page of each leaf. In consequence, a blank page appears to the left of each page of text. On this blank page are written the additions and emendations relating to the text on the right. It can be supposed that all these changes were made for the purpose of Cramer's new copy, but we cannot be absolutely certain of this. We can say however, that Cramer included them in his new copy. In his copy, Cramer included the following in the main body of text:

"Memorandum. This day (May the 18th. Being Monday 1691 after Rogation Sunday0 is a great convention at St. Paul's church of the fraternity of the Adopted Masons: where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a Brother: and Sir Henry Goodrick of the tower & divers others. There have been Kings that have been of this Sodality."

We can, therefore, accept that Aubrey, Wren and the Royal Society agreed with this addition citing Wren's initiation into Freemasonry. It seems reasonable to accept it as a truthful statement.

John Aubrey was a close friend of Sir Christopher Wren. Both were in the Royal Society, Wren had been a founding member of the Society and served as its president from 1680-2. He was still alive and active in the society in 1691, the date of Cramer's copy. It has been suggested that perhaps Wren intended to be initiated but on the day he was unable to attend. However, on the 18th. May 1691, the date of the initiation and the date of the additional text relating to Freemasonry, Cramer would have still been working on earlier pages of his copy. Given that the date is written on the day in question and that Cramer Copied this page at a later date, after the fact, there was ample time to amend the text to reflect any variation on the planned event. That this was not done is good evidence that Wren did not miss his 'adoption'.

In Conclusion, given that none of these men objected to this statement, nor altered it after the event but prior to the coping, we can accept that it records a real occurrence. We can be confident that Sir Christopher Wren was indeed initiated into Freemasonry in 1691 along with Sir Henry Goodrick. We should like to thank the librarian and staff of both the Royal Society and the Bodleian Library for their help in making these manuscripts available to us.

The Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar were an order of warrior monks officially founded in 1118 by Hugues de Payns after the successful campaign to recapture the holy city of Jerusalem. They were originally known as the "Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon,"  and their stated purpose was to protect Christians travellers to the Holy land. They were officially sanctioned by the church at the Council of Troyes in 1128 and received the support of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who was commissioned to write their "Rule." The organization was known for being ferocious in battle and it acquired, primarily through donations, vast holdings of land all over Europe, particularly in France. It also accumulated enormous wealth during the time of the crusades.

On Friday October,13th 1307, following a lengthy series of events, the bailiffs of King Phillip IV, the fair of France, entered the Templar Commentaries and took prisoner without a hint of struggle or protest all of the Knights Temple. They were imprisoned, tortured, forced to confess to a variety of heresies and perversions and were offered the choice of reconciliation or death.  Jacques de molay, their Grand Master, choose death at the stake and died in 1312, ending the tumultuous 200 year existence of the Knights Templar.

It is widely believed that a conspiracy between the French crowns in particular Philip and the chancellor, Guillaume de Nogaret and the Vatican, who envied the power and wealth of the Templar was responsible for their demise. Perhaps this is so, but there has been no adequate explanation of why the Templar went into captivity so meekly. The only possible clue, an ambiguous one at that, lies in the story of a wagon, believed to be loaded with Templar treasure, that was seen leaving the Paris Commanderie, a week before the mass arrest. Some believe that the ones left behind to face torture and death, did so willingly, to protect what ever was carried off in that wagon. Of cause that story does not answer any questions it merely creates more. The wagon must have contained some thing of immeasurable value, through it is hard to imagine anyone willing to die such a horrible death by fire and sword to protect a wagon loaded with gold, that someone else will enjoy. As the flames were doing their worst it is said that the Grand Master  Jacques de molay predicted the immanent deaths of Philip IV and his conspirator pope Clement V, That prophecies came true as both men were dead within a year.

As we know the Templar went under ground after that and later repapered as Freemasons in the 7th century.        

Ribston Goodricke Family seat for more than 300 years was a Templar strong hold.

Ribston, North Yorkshire

William de Grafton was named as the Preceptor of Ribston at the suppression, he also served as the Preceptor of Yorkshire a position thought to be unique to the county. After his trial by inquisition at York he was sent to Selby Abbey to undertake one year of Penance, years later something strange occurred, he was given secular release by the Master of the Temple, (This document apparently survives and sets a puzzle as it is dated 1331, long after the official suppression). Below is a translation from the original Latin of part of the document as described in "The History of Temple Newsam" by Weater 1889 Edition page 97 it reads:- "The Master of the Temple with the assent of his brethren absolves from his vow William de Grafton one of the brethren of the Order and granted that having laid aside the habit of the Temple he may be allowed to turn himself to the secular state which King Edward II and the present King have confirmed".

Though most of the of the Preceptory complex has long since disappeared, the original Templar chapel still exists and is incorporated into the end of the present Ribston Hall, this unfortunately is a private residence so access is restricted. Some of the surrounding Templar Churches still exist and the Church of St Andrew in Ribston village has a pair of Knightly effigies either side of the alter that are supposed Templars. Interestingly the Church of nearby Spofforth has two stones "hidden" in its outer walls, one high up above the North aisle roof the other near ground level at the East end, these stones are a totally different composition to the stone used on the rest of the Church, a glance at the accompanying picture of the East one saves a thousand words.

 

 

 Though little of the fabric of the Preceptory survives there is probably more documentation from this site than any in England, many Templar inventories still exist. Some of these have been translated and published last Century notably in "The Gentleman's Magazine" of 1857 page 519 and "The Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal of 1882 vol vii (part one) and vol viii (part two).

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