Section. 6 - The History of Masonry in England from the Fire of
London, to the Accession of George I.
[For many of the particulars contained in this Section, I am indebted
to Mr. Noorthouck's edition of the Book of Constitutions, published
in 1784; which, much to the honour of that gentleman, is executed in
a masterly manner, and interspersed with several judicious remarks.]
The year 1666 afforded a singular and awful occasion for the
utmost exertion of masonic abilities. The city of London, which had been visited
in the preceding year by the plague, to whole ravages, it is computed, above
100,000 of its inhabitants fell a sacrifice, had scarcely recovered from the
alarm of that dreadful contagion, when a general conflagration reduced the
greatest part of the city within the walls to ashes.
[The streets were at this time narrow, crooked, and incommodious; the
houses built chiefly of wood, close, dark, and ill-contrived; with
several stories projecting beyond each other as they rose, over the
contracted streets. Thus the free circulation of air was obstructed,
the people breathed a stagnant and unwholesome element, replete with
foul effluvia, sufficient of itself to generate putrid disorders.
From this circumstance, the inhabitants were continually exposed to
contagious disorders, and the buildings to the ravages of fire.]
This dreadful fire broke out on the 2d of September, at the house of a baker in Pudding-lane, a wooden
building, pitched on the outside, as were also all the rest of the houses in
that narrow lane. The house being filled with faggots and brush-wood, soon added
to the rapidity of the flames, which raged with such fury, as to spread four
ways at once.
Jonas Moore and Ralph Gatrix, who were appointed surveyors on this occasion to
examine the ruins, reported, that the fire over-ran 373 acres within the walls,
and burnt 13,000 houses, 89 parish churches, besides chapels, leaving only 11
parishes standing. The Royal Exchange, Custom-house, Guildhall, Blackwell-hall,
St. Paul's cathedral, Bridewell, the two compters, fifty-two city companies
halls, and three city gates, were all demolished. The damage was computed at
10,000,000 pounds sterling.
[Anderson's History of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 130.]
After so sudden and extensive a calamity, it became necessary to adopt some
regulations to guard against any such catastrophe in future. It was therefore
determined, that in all the new buildings to be erected, stone and brick should
be substituted in the room of timber. The King and the Grand Master immediately
ordered deputy Wren to draw up the plan of a new city, with broad and regular
streets. Dr. Christopher Wren was appointed surveyor general and principle
architect for rebuilding the city, the cathedral of St. Paul, and all the
parochial churches enacted by parliament, in lieu of those that were destroyed,
with other public structures. This gentleman, conceiving the charge too
important for a single person, selected Mr. Robert Hook, professor of geometry
in Gresham college, to assist him; who was immediately employed in measuring,
adjusting, and setting out the grounds of the private streets to the several
proprietors. Dr. Wren's model and plan were laid before the king and the house
of commons, and the practicability of the whole scheme, without the infringement
of property, clearly demonstrated: it unfortunately happened, however, that the
greater part of the citizens were absolutely averse to alter their old possessions,
and to recede from building their houses again on the old foundations . Many
were unwilling to give up their properties into the hands of public trustees,
till they should receive an equivalent of more advantage; while others expressed
distrust. Every means were tried to convince the citizens, that by removing all
the church-yards, gardens &c. to the out-skirts of the city, sufficient room
would be given to augment the streets, and properly to dispose of the churches,
halls, and other public buildings, to the perfect satisfaction of every
proprietor; but the representation of all these improvements had no weight. The
citizens chose to have their old city again, under all its disadvantages, rather
than a new one, the principles of which they were unwilling to understand, and
considered as innovations. Thus an opportunity was lost, of making the new city
the most magnificent, as well as the most commodious for health and trade, of
any in Europe. The architect, cramped in the execution of his plan, was obliged
to abridge his scheme, and exert his utmost labour, skill, and ingenuity, to
model the city in the manner in which it has since appeared.
On the 23d of October 1667, the king in person levelled in form the foundation
stone of the new Royal Exchange, now allowed to be the finest in Europe; and on
the 28th September 1669, it was opened by the lord mayor and aldermen. Round the
inside of the square, above the arcades, and between the windows, are the
statues of the sovereigns of England. In the centre of the square, is erected
the king's statue to the life, in a Caesarean habit of white marble, executed in
a masterly manner by Mr. Gibbons, then grand warden of the society.
In 1668, the Custom-house for the port of London, situated on the south side of
Thames-street, was built, adorned with an upper and lower order of architecture.
In the latter, are stone columns, and entablement of the Tuscan order: and in
the former, are pilaster, entablature, and five pediments of the Ionic order.
The wings are elevated on columns, forming piazzas; and the length of the
building is 189 feet; its breadth in the middle, 27; and at the west end, 60
This year also, deputy Wren and his warden Webb finished the Theatrum
Sheldonium at Oxford, designed and executed at the private expence of
Gilbert Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury, an excellent architect and able
designer. On the 9th of July 1669, the capestone of this elegant building was
celebrated with joy and festivity by the craftsmen, and an elegant oration
delivered on the occasion by Dr. South.
Deputy Wren, at the same time also, built, at the expence of the University,
that other master-piece of architecture, the pretty museum near this theatre.
In 1671, Mr. Wren began to build that great fluted column called the Monument,
in memory of the burning and re-building of the city of London. This stupendous
pillar was finished in 1677. It is 24 feet higher than Trajan's pillar at Rome,
and built of Portland stone, of the Doric order. Its altitude, from the ground,
is 202 feet; the greatest diameter of the shaft or body of the column, 15 feet;
the ground plinth, or bottom of the pedestal, 28 feet square; and the pedestal
40 feet high. Over the capital, is an iron balcony, encompassing a cone 32 feet
high, supporting a blazing urn of gilt brass. Within is a large stair-case of
black marble, containing 345 step, each step ten inches and an half broad, and
six inches thick. The west side of the pedestal is adorned with curious emblems,
by the masterly hand of Mr. Cibber, father to the late poet-laureat Colley
Cibber; in which eleven principal figures are done in alto, and the rest
in basso relievo. That to which the eye is particularly directed, is a
female, representing the City of London, sitting in a languishing
posture, on a heap of ruins. Behind her, is Time, gradually raising her
up; and at her side, a woman, representing Providence, gently touching
her with one hand, while, with a winged sceptre in the other, she directs her to
regard two goddesses in the clouds; one with a cornucopia, denoting Plenty; the
other, with a palm branch, the emblem of Peace. At her feet is a bee-hive, to
shew that, by industry and application, the greatest misfortunes may be
overcome. Behind Time, are the Citizens, exulting at his
endeavours to restore her; and beneath, in the midst of the ruins, is a dragon,
the supporter of the city arms, who endeavours to preserve them with his paw. At
the north end, is a view of the City in flames, the inhabitants in
consternation, with their arms extended upward, crying for assistance. Opposite
the City, on an elevated pavement, stands the King, in a Roman habit,
with a laurel on his head, and a truncheon in his hand; who, on approaching her,
commands three of his attendants to descend to her relief. The first represents
the Sciences, with a winged head, and circle of naked boys dancing
thereon, and holding Nature in her hand, with her numerous breasts, ready to
give assistance to all. The second is Architecture, with a plan in one
hand, and a square and pair of compasses in the other. The third is Liberty,
waving a hat in the air, and shewing her joy at the pleasing prospect of the
City's speedy recovery. Behind the King, stands his brother, the duke of York,
with a garland in one hand, to crown the rising city, and a sword in the other,
for her defence. The two figures behind them, are Justice and Fortitude;
the former with a coronet, and the latter with a reined lion; while, under the
pavement, in a vault, appears Envy gnawing a heart. In the upper part of
the back ground, the re-construction of the city is represented by scaffolds and
unfinished houses, with builders at work on them. The north and south sides of
the pedestal have each a Latin inscription, one describing the desolation of the
city, the other its restoration. The east side of the pedestal has an
inscription, expressing the time in which the pillar was begun, continued, and
brought to perfection. In one line continued round the base, are these words:
"This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful
burning of this Protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and
malice of the Popish faction, in the beginning of September, in the year of our
Lord 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the
Protestant religion, and old English liberty, and introducing popery and
slavery." This inscription, upon the duke of York's accession to the crown,
was erased; but, soon after the Revolution, restored again.
The rebuilding of the city of London was vigorously prosecuted, and the
restoration of St. Paul's cathedral claimed particular attention. Dr. Wren drew
several designs, to discover what would be most acceptable to the general taste;
and finding persons of all degrees declare for magnificence and grandeur, he
formed a design according to the very best stile of Greek and Roman
architecture, and caused a large model of it to be made in wood; but the bishops
deciding that it was not sufficiently in the cathedral stile, the surveyor was
ordered to amend it, and he then produced the scheme of the present structure,
which was honoured with the king's approbation. The original model, however,
which was only of the Corinthian order, like St. Peter's at Rome, is still kept
in an apartment of the cathedral, as a real curiosity.
In 1673, the foundation stone of this magnificent cathedral, designed by
deputy Wren, was laid in solemn form by the King, attended by Grand Master
Rivers, his architects and craftsmen, in the presence of the nobility and
gentry, the lord mayor and aldermen, the bishops and clergy, &c.
[The mallet with which the king levelled this foundation stone was
lodged by sir Christopher Wren in the old lodge of St. Paul, now the
lodge of Antiquity, where it is still preserved as a great
During the whole time this structure was building, Mr. Wren acted as master of the work and
surveyor, and was ably assisted by his wardens, Mr. Edward Strong and his son.
St. Paul's cathedral is planned in the form of a long cross; the walls are
wrought in rustic, and strengthened, as well as adorned, by two rows of coupled
pilasters, one over the other; the lower Corinthian, and the upper Composite.
The spaces between the arches of the windows, and the architecture of the lower
order, as well as those above, are filled with a variety of enrichments.
The west front is graced with a most magnificent portico, a noble pediment, and
two stately turrets. There is a grand flight of steps of black marble that
extend the whole length of the portico, which consists of twelve lofty
Corinthian columns below, and eight of the Composite order above; these are all
coupled and fluted. The upper series support a noble pediment, crowned with its
acroteria; and in this pediment is an elegant representation in bas relief, of
the conversion of St. Paul, executed by Mr. Bird, an artist whose name, on
account of this piece alone, is worthy of being transmitted to posterity. The
figures are well executed: the magnificent figure of St. Paul, on the apex of
the pediment, with St. Peter on his right, and St. James on his left, produce a
fine effect. The four Evangelists, with their proper emblems, on the front of
the towers, are judiciously disposed, and skilfully finished; St. Matthew is
distinguished by an angel; St. Mark, by a lion; St. Luke, by an ox; and St.
John, by an eagle.
To the north portico, there is an ascent by twelve circular steps of black
marble, and its dome is supported by six grand Corinthian columns. Upon the dome
is a well-proportioned urn, finely ornamented with festoons; over the urn is a
pediment, supported by pilasters in the wall, in the face of which are carved
the royal arms, with the regalia, supported by angels. Statues of five of the
apostles are placed on the top, at proper distances.
The south portico answers to the north, and, like that, is supported by six
noble Corinthian columns; but as the ground is considerably lower on this side
of the church than the other, the ascent is by a flight of twenty-five steps.
This portico has also a pediment above, in which is a phoenix rising out of the
flames, with the motto, RESURGAM, underneath it; as an emblem of rebuilding the
church. A curious accident is said to have given rise to this device, which was
particularly observed by the architect as a favourable omen. When Dr. Wren was
marking our the dimensions of the building, and had fixed on the centre of the
great dome, a common labourer was ordered to bring him a flat stone from among
the rubbish, to leave as a direction to the masons. the stone which the man
brought happened to be a piece of a grave-stone, with nothing remaining of the
inscription but this single word, in large capitals, RESURGAM; and this
circumstance left an impression on Dr. Wrens' mind, that could never afterwards
be erased. On this side of the building are likewise five statues, which
correspond with those on the apex of the north pediment.
At the east end of the church is a sweep, or circular projection for the altar,
finely ornamented with the orders, and with sculpture; particularly a noble
piece in honour of king William III.
The dome, which rises in the centre of the whole, is superlatively grand. Twenty
feet above the roof of the church is a circular range of thirty-two columns,
with niches placed exactly against others within. These are terminated by their
entablature, which supports a handsome gallery, adorned with a balustrade. Above
these columns is a range of pilasters, with windows between; and from the
entablature of these, the diameter decreases very considerably; and two feet
above that, it is again contracted. From this part the external sweep of the
dome begins, and the arches meet at 52 feet above. On the summit of the dome, is
an elegant balcony, and from its centre rises the lantern, adorned with
Corinthian columns. The whole is terminated by a ball, on which stands a cross,
both of which are elegantly gilt.
This noble fabric is surrounded, at a proper distance, by a dwarf stone wall, on
which is placed the most magnificent balustrade of cast iron perhaps in the
universe, four feet six inches in height, exclusive of the wall. In this
inclosure are seven beautiful iron gates, which, together with the balusters, in
number about 2500, weigh 200 tons and 85 pounds.
In the centre of the area of the grand west front, on a pedestal of excellent
workmanship, stands a statue of queen Anne, formed of white marble, with proper
decorations. The figures on the base represent Britannia, with her spear;
Gallia, with the crown in her lap Hibernia, with her harp; and America,
with her bow. These, are the colossal statues with which the church are adorned,
were executed by the ingenious Mr. Hill.
A strict regard to the situation of this cathedral, due east and west, has given
it an oblique appearance with respect to Ludgate-street in front; so that the
great front gate in the surrounding iron rails, being made to regard the street
in front, rather than the church to which it belongs, the statue of queen Anne,
that is exactly in the middle of the west front, is thrown on one side the
straight approach from the gate to the church, and gives an idea of the whole
edifice being awry.
Under the grand portico, at the west end, are three doors, ornamented at the top
with bas relief. The middle door, which is by far the largest, is cased with
white marble, and over it is a fine piece of basso relievo, in which St. Paul is
represented preaching to the Bereans. On entering the door, the mind is struck
by the extend of the vista. An arcade, supported by lofty and massy pillars on
each hand, divide the church into the body and two aisles; and the view is
terminated by the altar at the extremity of the choir; subject, nevertheless, to
the intervention of the organ standing across, which forms a heavy obstruction.
The pillars are adorned with columns and pilasters of the Corinthian and
Composite orders; and the arches of the roof and enriched with shields,
festoons, chaplets, and other ornaments. In the aisle, on one hand, is the
consistory; and opposite, on the other, the morning prayer chapel. These have
very beautiful screens of carved wainscot, which are much admired.
Over the centre, where the great aisles cross each other, is the grand cupola,
or dome, the vast concave of which inspires a pleasing awe. Under its centre is
fixed in the floor, a brass plate, round which the pavement is beautifully
variegated; but the figures into which it is formed, can nowhere be so well seen
as from the whispering-gallery above. Here the spectator has at once a full view
of the organ, richly ornamented with carved work, and the entrance to the choir
directly under it. The two aisles on the side of the choir, as well as the choir
itself, are inclosed with very fine iron rails and gates.
The altar-piece is adorned with four noble fluted pilasters, painted and veined
with gold, in imitation of lapis lazuli, and their capitals are double
gilt. In the intercolumniations below, are nine marble pannels, and above are
six windows, in the two series. The floor of the whole church is paved with
marble; and within the rails of the altar, with porphyry, polished, and laid in
several geometrical figures.
In the great cupola, which is 108 feet in diameter, the architect seems to have
imitated the Pantheon at Rome, excepting that the upper order is there only
umbratile, and distinguished by different coloured marbles; while, in St.
Paul's, it is extant out of the wall. The Pantheon is no higher within than its
diameter; St. Peter's is two diameters; the former shews its concave too low,
the latter too high: St. Paul's is proportioned between both, and therefore
shews its concave every way, and is very lightsome by the windows of the upper
order. These strike down the light through the great colonnade that encircles
the dome without, and serves for the abutment, which is brick of the thickness
of two bricks; but as it rises every way five feet high, it has a course of
excellent brick of 18 inches long, banding through the whole thickness; and, to
make it still more secure, it is surrounded with a vast chain of iron, strongly
linked together at every ten feet. This chain is let into a channel, cut into
the bandage of Portland stone, and defended from the weather by filling the
groove with lead. The concave was turned upon a center, which was judged
necessary to keep the work true; but the center was laid without any standards
below for support. Every story of the scaffolding being circular, and the ends
of all the ledgers meeting as so many rings, and truly wrought, it supported
As the old church of St. Paul had a lofty spire, Dr. Wren was obliged to give
his building an altitude that might secure it from suffering by the comparison.
To do this, he made the dome without, much higher than within, by raising a
strong brick cone over the internal cupola, so constructed as to support an
elegant stone lantern on the apex. This brick cone is supported by a cupola
formed of timber, and covered with lead: between which and the cone are easy
stairs, up to the lantern. Here the spectator may view contrivances that are
truly astonishing. The outward cupola is only ribbed, with the architect thought
less Gothic than to stick it full of such little lights as are in the cupola of
St. Peter's, that could not without difficulty be mended, and, if neglected,
might soon damage the timbers. As the architect was sensible that paintings are
liable to decay, he intended to have beautified the inside of the cupola with
mosaic work; which, without the least fading of colours, would be as durable as
the building itself: but in this he was over-ruled, though he had undertaken to
procure four of the most eminent artists in that profession from Italy, for the
purpose. This part, therefore, is now decorated by the pencil of Sir James
Thornhill, who has represented the principal passages of St. Paul's life, in
eight compartments. These paintings are all seen to advantage by means of a
circular opening, through which the light is transmitted with admirable effect
from the lantern above; but they are now cracked, and sadly decayed.
Divine service was performed in the choir of this cathedral for the first time
on the thanksgiving day for the peace of Ryswick, Dec: 2, 1697; and the last
stone on the top of the lantern laid by Mr. Christopher Wren, the son of the
architect, in 1710.
[ Howell's Medulla, Hist. Ang.]
This noble fabric, lofty enough to be discerned at sea
eastward, and at Windsor to the west, was begun and completed in the space of 35
years, by one architect, the great sir Christopher Wren; one principal mason,
Mr. Strong; and under one bishop of London, Dr. Henry Compton: whereas St.
Peter's at Rome was 155 years in building, under twelve successive architects,
assisted by the police and interest of the Roman see, and attended by the best
artists in sculpture, statuary, painting, and mosaic work.
The various parts of this superb edifice I have been thus particular in
describing, as it reflects honour on the ingenious architect who built it, and
as there is not an instance on record of any work of equal magnitude having ever
been completed by one man.
While the cathedral of St. Paul's was carrying on, as a national undertaking,
the citizens did not neglect their own immediate concerns, but restored such of
their halls and gates as had been destroyed. In April 1675, was laid the
foundation stone of the present Bethlehem-hospital for lunatics, in Moorfields.
This is a magnificent building, 540 feet long, and 40 broad, beside the two
wings, which were not added until several years afterward. The middle and ends
of the edifice project a little, and are adorned with pilasters, entablatures,
foliages, &c. which, rising above the rest of the building, have each a flat
roof, with a handsome balustrade of stone. In the centre is an elegant turret,
adorned with a cloak, gilt ball, and vane. The whole building is brick and
stone, inclosed by a handsome wall, 680 feet long, of the same materials. In the
center of the wall, is a large pair of iron gates; and on the piers on which
these are hung, are two images, in a reclining posture, one representing raving,
the other melancholy, madness. The expression of these figures is
admirable; and they are the workmanship of Mr. Cibber, the father of the laureat
The college of Physicians also, about this time, discovered some taste in
erecting their college in Warwick-lane, which, though little known, is esteemed
by good judges a delicate building.
The fraternity were now fully employed; and by them the following parish churches,
which had been consumed by the great fire, were gradually rebuilt, or repaired:
Allhallows, Bread-street, finished 1694; and the
steeple completed 1697.
Allhallows the Great, Thames-street, 1683.
Allhallows, Lombard-street, 1694.
St. Alban, Wood-street, 1685.
St. Anne and Agnes, St. Annes's-lane, Aldersgate-street, 1680.
St. Andrew's Wardrobe, Puddledock-hill, 1692.
St. Andrew's, Holborn, 1687.
St. Anthony's, Watling-street, 1682.
St. Augustin's, Watling-street, 1683; and the steeple finished 1695.
St. Bartholomew's, Royal Exchange, 1679.
St. Benedict, Grace-church-street, 1685.
St. Benedict's, Threadneedle-street, 1673.
St. Bennet's, Paul's Wharf, Thames-street, 1683.
St. Bride's, Fleet-street, 1680; and farther adorned in 1699.
Christ-church, Newgate-street, 1687.
St. Christopher's, Threadneedle-street, (since taken down to make room for the
Bank,) repaired in 1696.
St. Clement Danes, in the Strand, taken down 1680, and rebuilt by sir
Christopher Wren, 1682.
St. Clement's, East Cheap, St. Clement's-lane, 1686.
St. Dennis Back, Lime-street, 1674.
St Dunstan's in the East, Tower-street, repaired in 1698.
St. Edmond's the King, Lombard-street, rebuilt in 1674.
St. George, Botolph-lane, 1674.
St. James, Garlick-hill, 1683.
St. James, Westminster, 1675.
St. Lawrence Jewry, Cateaton-street, 1677.
St. Magnes, London-bridge, 1676; and the steeple in 1705.
St. Margaret, Lothbury, 1690.
St. Margaret Pattens, Little Tower-street, 1687.
St. Martin's, Ludgate, 1684.
St. Mary Abchurch, Abchurch-lane, 1686.
St. Mary's-at-hill, St. Mary's-hill, 1672.
St. Mary's Aldermary, Bow-lane, 1672.
St. Mary Magdalen, Old Fish-street, 1685.
St. Mary Somerset, Queenhithe, Thames-street, 1683.
St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside, 1683.
This church was built on the wall
of a very ancient one in the early time of the Roman colony; the roof is arched,
and supported with ten Corinthian columns; but the principal ornament is the
steeple, which is deemed an admirable piece of architecture, not to be
paralleled by that of any other parochial church. It rises from the ground a
square tower, plain at bottom, and is carried up to a considerable height in
this shape, but with more ornament as it advances. The principal decoration of
the lower part is the door case; a lofty, noble arch, faced with a bold and
well-wrought rustic, raised on a plain solid course from the foundation. Within
the arch, is a portal of the Doric order, with well-proportioned columns; the
frieze is ornamented with triglyphs, and with sculpture in the metopes. There
are some other slight ornaments in this part, which is terminated by an elegant
cornice, over which rises a plain course, from which the dial projects. Above
this, in each face, there is an arched window, with Ionic pilasters at the
sides. The entablature of the order is well wrought; it has the swelling frieze,
and supports on the cornice an elegant balustrade, with Attic pillars over
Ionic columns. These sustain elegant scrolls, on which are placed urns with
flames, and from this part the steeple rises circular. There is a plain course
to the height of half the scrolls, and upon this is raised an elegant circular
series of Corinthian columns. These support a second balustrade with scrolls;
and above there is placed another series of columns of the Composite order;
while, from the entablature, rises a set of scrolls supporting the spire, which
is placed on balls, and terminated by a globe, on which is fixed a vane.
St. Mary Woolnoth's, Lombard-street, repaired in 1677.
St. Mary, Aldermanbury, rebuilt 1677.
St. Matthew, Friday-street, 1685.
St. Michael, Basinghall-street, 1679.
St. Michael Royal, College-hill, 1694.
St. Michael, Queenhithe, Trinity-lane, 1677.
St. Michael, Wood-street, 1675.
St. Michael, Crooked-lane, 1688.
St. Michael, Cornhill, 1672.
St. Mildred, Bread-street, 1683.
St. Mildred, Poultry, 1676.
St. Nicholas, Cole-abbey, Old Fish-street, 1677.
St. Olive's, Old Jewry, 1673.
St. Peter's, Cornhill, 1681.
St. Sepulchre's, Snow-hill, 1670.
St. Stephen's, Coleman-street, 1676.
St. Stephen's, Walbrook, behind the Mansion-house, 1676.
Many encomiums have been bestowed on this church for its interior beauties. The dome
is finely proportioned to the church, and divided into small compartments,
decorated with great elegance, and crowned with a lantern; the roof is also
divided into compartments, and supported by noble Corinthian columns raised on
their pedestals. This church has three aisles and a cross aisle, is 75 feet
long, 36 broad, 34 high, and 58 to the lantern. It is famous all over Europe,
and justly reputed the master-piece of sir Christopher Wren. There is not a
beauty, of which the plan would admin, that is not to be found here in its
St. Swithin's, Cannon-street, 1673.
St. Vedast, Foster-lane, 1697.
While these churches, and other public buildings, were going
forward under the direction of sir Christopher Wren, king Charles did not
confine his improvements to England alone, but commanded sir William Bruce,
bart. Grand Master of Scotland, to rebuild the palace of Holyrood-house at
Edinburgh; which was accordingly executed by that architect in the best Augustan
During the prosecution of the great works above described, the
private business of the Society was not neglected, but lodges were held at
different places, and many new ones constituted, to which the best architects
In 1674, the earl of Rivers resigned the office of Grand Master, and was
succeeded by George Villiers, duke of Buckingham. He left the care of the
brethren to his wardens, and sir Christopher Wren, who still continued to act as
deputy. In 1679, the duke resigned in favour of Henry Bennett, earl of
Arlington. Though this nobleman was too deeply engaged in state affairs to
attend to the duties of masonry, the lodges continued to meet under his
sanction, and many respectable gentlemen joined the fraternity.
On the death of the king in 1685, James II. succeeded to the throne; during
whose reign the fraternity were much neglected. The earl of Arlington dying this
year, the lodges met in communication, and elected sir Christopher Wren Grand
Master, who appointed Gabriel Cibber and Mr. Edward Strong his wardens.
Masonry continued in a declining state for many years, and a few lodges only
occasionally met in different places.
[Both these gentlemen were members of the old lodge of St. Paul with
sir Christopher Wren, and bore a principal share in all the
improvements which took place after the fire of London; the latter
in particular displayed his abilities in the cathedral of St. Paul.]
At the Revolution, the Society was so much reduced in the south of England, that
no more than seven regular lodges met in London and its suburbs, of which two
only were worthy of notice; the old lodge of St. Paul's, over which sir
Christopher had presided during the building of that structure; and a lodge at
St. Thomas's-hospital, Southwark, over which sir Robert Clayton, then lord mayor
of London, presided during the rebuilding of that hospital.
[See the Book of Constitutions, 1738, p. 106, 107.]
King William having been privately initiated into masonry in 1695, approved the
choice of sir Christopher Wren as Grand Master, and honoured the lodges with his
royal sanction; particularly one at Hampton Court, at which it is said his
majesty frequently presided during the building of the new part of that palace.
Kensington palace was built during this reign, under the direction of sir
Christopher; as were also Chelsea hospital, and the palace of Greenwich; the
latter of which had been recently converted into an hospital for seamen, and
finished after the design of Inigo Jones.
At a general assembly and feast of the masons in 1697, many noble and eminent
brethren were present; and among the rest, Charles duke of Richmond and Lenox,
who was at that time master of a lodge at Chichester. His grace was proposed and
elected Grand Master for the following year, and having engaged sir Christopher
Wren to act as his deputy, he appointed Edward Strong senior and Edward Strong
junior his wardens. His grace continued in office only one year, when he was
succeeded by sir Christopher, who continued at the head of the fraternity till
the death of the king in 1702.
During the following reign, masonry made no considerable progress. Sir
Christopher's age and infirmities drawing off his attention from the duties of
his office, the lodges decreased, and the annual festivals were entirely
[Book of Constitutions, 1738, p. 108.]
The old lodge at St. Paul, and a few others, continued to meet.
To increase their numbers, a proposition was made, and afterwards agreed to, that the privileges of masonry
should no longer be restricted to operative masons, but extend to men of various
professions, providing they were regularly approved and initiated into the
Order. In consequence of this resolution, many new regulations took place, and
the Society once more rose into notice and esteem.