Women and Freemasonry

Written by United Grand Lodge of England  

  Whilst the United Grand Lodge of England is the headquarters of a male-only organisation, there is a Grand Lodge which admits both men and women, and there is another which refuses to admit men. Please see the Grand Lodges links page for more information.

  This is the official line taken by United Grand Lodge of England on the question of Women Freemasons:

Statement issued by UGLE - 10th March 1999

  There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary.

  The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.

History of Freemasonry

Written by United Grand Lodge of England 

There are two different theories for the formation of Freemasonry:

  The first theory is that operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles, had Lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple Initiations for Apprentices and Fellows and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words so that they could demonstrate they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s these operative Lodges began to accept non-operatives as 'gentlemen masons' who gradually changed these lodges into 'free' or 'accepted' Lodges.

  The second theory is that the group who formed Freemasonry (in the late 1500s and early 1600s) were a group who were interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance, when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. What they were trying to do was to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building and construction as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone (even if they could not read), and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basic administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason's tools provided them with a wealth of symbols to moralise upon.

  It is quite possible that the origins of Freemasonry, as we know it today, are a mixture of both of these theories. The first record of the 'making' of an English Freemason is Elias Ashmole, the antiquarian and herald, whose collections formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He recorded in his diary that a lodge met at his father-in-law's house in Warrington, Cheshire on 16th October 1646 to 'make him a Mason'. None of those involved was a stonemason.

  Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24th June 1717 when four London lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, St Paul's Churchyard, forming themselves into a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, as their Grand Master – the first Grand Lodge in the world. Initially the Grand Lodge was simply an annual feast for lodges in London but in 1721 John, Duke of Montagu, was elected Grand Master and the Grand Lodge met in 'quarterly communication' and began to establish itself as a regulatory body, attracting to it lodges meeting outside London.

  In 1723 the first rulebook – the Constitutions of Masonry – was published and William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, was appointed Secretary to the Grand Lodge to keep minutes of its meetings. By 1730 the Grand Lodge had over 100 lodges in England and Wales under its control and had begun to spread Freemasonry abroad, warranting lodges to meet in Madrid and Calcutta.

  For historical reasons separate Grand Lodges were formed in Ireland (1725) and Scotland (1736). Between them the 'home' Grand Lodges took Freemasonry around the globe. From the 1730s lodges were set up in Europe, the West Indies, North America and India.

  In the later 18th and the 19th centuries, British Freemasonry was taken to the Mid and Far East, Australasia, Africa and South America, mirroring the development of the British Empire. When those areas eventually achieved nation status, many of the lodges formed independent local Grand Lodges, but other lodges decided to remain with their parent Grand Lodge – resulting in the United Grand Lodge of England still having some 750 lodges overseas, principally in Commonwealth countries.

  The premier Grand Lodge of England continued developing in the 1730s and 1740s without any opposition. There had been considerable public interest – meetings were advertised and reported on in the growing number of local newspapers – more especially in what the ceremonies of Freemasonry were. Enterprising journalists and pamphleteers were not slow to produce 'exposures' of what they believed were the 'secrets' of Freemasonry. Publicity increased interest and a growing number of aristocrats, landed gentry and professional men began to seek admission. In 1737 the first Royal Freemason was made - Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, son of King George II.

The Two Grand Lodges - Unification - Consolidation and Growth

  In the 1740s there was a growing number of Irishmen in London, many of whom had become Freemasons before leaving Ireland. For reasons now unknown they appear to have had difficulty gaining entrance into Lodges in London, so in 1751 a group of them formed a rival Grand Lodge. They claimed that the premier Grand Lodge had made innovations and had departed from 'the ancient landmarks' whereas they claimed to be working 'according to the old institutions granted by Prince Edwin at York in 926CE'. For this reason they became known as the 'Antients' and referred to their older rival as the 'Moderns'.

  Despite their differences, the two Grand Lodges co-existed both at home and abroad for nearly 63 years, neither recognising the other or considering each others members as 'regular' Freemasons. Even at the centre, however, there were those who were active in both Grand Lodges.

  In 1799 Freemasonry almost came to a halt. In the wake of the French Revolution a number of Acts of Parliament had been passed in an attempt to curb trade unions, political clubs and other 'subversive' organisations. The 1799 Unlawful Societies Act banned any meetings of groups which required their members to take an oath or obligation.

  The Earl of Moira (Acting Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge) and the Duke of Atholl (Grand Master of the 'Antients' Grand Lodge) called on the Prime Minister William Pitt (not himself a Freemason) and explained to him how Freemasonry was a supporter of the law and lawfully constituted authority, and was much involved in charitable work.

  As a result Freemasonry was specifically exempted from the terms of the Act, provided that each lodge secretary once a year lodged with the local Clerk of the Peace a list of the members of his lodge together with their ages, professions and addresses. That provision continued until 1967 when it was rescinded by Parliament.

  In 1809 the rival Grand Lodges appointed Commissioners to negotiate an equable Union. The negotiations took four years to complete but on 27th December 1813 a great ceremony was held at Freemasons’ Hall in London, at which the two Grand Lodges (the Antients and the Moderns) combined to form the United Grand Lodge of England with HRH The Duke of Sussex (younger son of King George III) as Grand Master. The Union was a time of consolidation and standardisation, setting the basic administration of Freemasonry – which continues to this day. Lodges outside London were grouped into Provinces, based on the old Counties, each headed by a Provincial Grand Master appointed by the Grand Master.

  A Board of General Purposes was introduced to formulate internal policy and to inquire into and report on any matters referred to it by the Grand Master or Grand Lodge. It had no executive power but could only report to Grand Lodge, which reserved to itself the ultimate power of decision. Standard patterns for regalia and jewels were introduced, which are still in use today.

  The 19th century was a period of consolidation and expansion for English Freemasonry. The move away from the country to the growing industrial and manufacturing towns and cities led to a growth in the number of urban lodges. The growth of the railway system led to greater mobility and easier communication between the Grand Lodge and the Provinces. The growth of the number of lodges in urban centres led to the development of imposing Masonic Halls, many of which survive today.

  The election of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) as Grand Master in 1874 gave great impetus to Freemasonry. The Prince was a great supporter of and publicist for Freemasonry. He regularly appeared in public, both at home and on his tours abroad, as Grand Master laying the foundation stones of public buildings, bridges, dockyards and churches with Masonic ceremonial. His presence ensured publicity and reports of Masonic meetings at all levels appeared regularly in the national and local press. Freemasonry was constantly in the public eye and Freemasons were known in their local communities. From 637 lodges in 1814, the Grand Lodge had grown to 2,850 lodges when the Prince resigned the Grand Mastership on becoming King in 1901.

Nazi Propaganda - Withdrawal After the War - Re-emergence Into Open Society

  Growth was to continue in the 20th century, particularly in the years after the two World Wars. It seemed that after those two great cataclysms were over and as a result of the great social changes they brought about, large groups of men looked to Freemasonry as a calm centre of tradition and certainty in which they could continue the fraternity they had found in the services.

  The period leading to the outbreak of the Second World War was to have consequences for today. A great deal of anti-Masonic propaganda came out of Nazi Germany and Franco's Spain in the late 1930s. In both countries Freemasonry was banned and many Freemasons were imprisoned and killed. Plans were laid by the Nazis to seize prominent Freemasons when they occupied Britain.

  English Freemasonry turned in on itself and continued to be excessively private after peace came. Allied to that, from the 1950s there was a deliberate policy of not dealing with the media and, more importantly, not correcting factual errors. As a result a mythology grew up of Freemasonry as a secret society serving its own aims. In effect Freemasonry was taken out of the community of which it had been a very visible part for nearly 250 years. Since 1984 the United Grand Lodge has been actively countering that mythology pursuing a policy of openness on Freemasonry.

  The latter part of the 20th century saw two major celebrations. In 1967 over 6,500 Freemasons, including delegations from other Grand Lodges around the world, gathered at the Royal Albert Hall, London, to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England. Central to the celebration was the installation of HRH The Duke of Kent as Grand Master, a position to which he has been annually re-elected ever since.

  On 10th June 1992 over 12,500 attended a Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge at Earls Court to celebrate the 275th Anniversary of the formation of Grand Lodge and the 25th Anniversary of HRH The Duke of Kent's installation as Grand Master. For the first time, in addition to English Freemasons and delegations from 94 other Grand Lodges, ladies and non-Masons (representing the many Charities which Freemasonry has supported over the years), and the press and television attended the meeting. The meeting was followed by a banquet for 4,000.

  From the four Lodges which formed Grand Lodge in 1717, Freemasonry has grown to an organisation of around 6,000,000 members worldwide. Its membership has included men of rank and those who have become distinguished in many fields of human endeavour, but the membership has always been a microcosm of the society in which it currently exists reflecting the social, religious and ethnic composition of our diverse society.

  The United Grand Lodge of England has some 270,000 members grouped in 8,322 lodges. Lodges in London (an area within a 10 mile radius of Freemasons' Hall), are organised into groups administered by Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London. Lodges outside London and within England, Wales and the Channel Islands are grouped into 47 Provinces, based on the old Counties, each headed by a Provincial Grand Master.

  Lodges meeting abroad are grouped in 33 Districts each headed by a District Grand Master, 5 Groups each headed by a Grand Inspector, with 12 lodges being administered from Freemasons' Hall.

  The Grand Lodge publishes a Year Book which can be purchased from Freemasons' Hall, listing all of its lodges with their meeting dates and places, Grand Officers, and senior Provincial and District Officers.

  The Book of Constitutions (rule book) has been in the public domain since the first edition was published in 1723 and can be purchased from Freemasons' Hall.

About Freemasonry

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. For many, its biggest draw is the fact that members come from all walks of life and meet as equals whatever their race, religion or socio-economic position in society providing a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships, achieve their potential and, above all, have fun.

What are its values?

Its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Freemasonry does not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, religion, political views or social standing. What is more, the organisation provides a valuable forum for discussion between members in an open environment, helping to build trust. Freemasonry prides itself on its transparency. Not only are Freemasons completely free to acknowledge their membership, they are encouraged to do so.

Why join?

Why do people join Freemasonry? People from all walks of life become Freemasons for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted by the valuable work that the movement performs in raising money for charity. A proportion of these funds is used to assist Freemasons and their dependents in times of need, particularly the sick and the elderly, but the greater part goes to non Masonic charities and worldwide disaster relief funds – local, national and international. All money donated comes from our own efforts - Freemasons do not employ any external fundraisers. Freemasons also assist the community in more direct ways, such as carrying out voluntary work. Others become Freemasons because of the unique fellowship it provides. Visit a Masonic lodge anywhere in the country – or indeed, the world – and you are greeted as an old friend. Freemasonry is the ultimate leveller, a community where friendship and goodwill are paramount.

How will it benefit me?

It has been said that some people become Freemasons for personal benefit. This statement is true, but for the wrong reasons. The personal gain is in experiencing the warmth of an honorable society and being part of an organisation that works hard to help the less fortunate of the world. Freemasonry does ask its members to give as freely as they can to charity. How often have we told ourselves that we really should send money to help with some famine or other disaster we have seen on TV, only to forget all about it in the rush of everyday life? Freemasonry provides a structured channel for fundraising from its members and reacts quickly when help is needed urgently - often quicker than governments following major disasters.

Why the strange ritual?

But what about the so called funny handshakes and the outlandish dress styles? Freemasonry has been in existence for over 300 years and over this time has developed a pattern of rituals. They are no more outlandish than ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament but, like this event, they perform a valuable function in reminding members of the heritage and standards they are expected to maintain. Once people have become Freemasons and understand the context of the rituals and symbolism, they no longer seem quirky.

Province of Cambridgeshire

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cambridgeshire is headed by the Provincial Grand Master  and to assist him in the management of the Province he appoints a Deputy Provincial Grand Master & Executive

Provincial Grand Master

R.W.Bro. W.C.M. Dastur

William (Bill) Charles Mason Dastur was born in 1952 and was educated at Peter Symonds’ School Winchester and Pembroke College, Cambridge.
R.W.Bro. W.C.M. Dastur picture
Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 1977 he subsequently worked as a Partner for Ernst & Young in Sierra Leone between 1982 and 1984, later becoming Managing Partner for them in Cambridge and East Anglia between 1984 and 1996. Since 1996 he has been with Marshall of Cambridge as Group Financial Director and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

He married Elisabeth in 1977 and they have 2 sons, Robin and Rupert and now lives in Edwardstone, Suffolk.

He was initiated into Alma Mater Lodge No.1492 in 1986 and attained the Chair in 1993. He served the Province first as Provincial Grand Registrar and later as Provincial Grand Treasurer between 2003 and 2012 receiving a first Grand Lodge appointment as PAGDC in 2005. 

In 2012 he was appointed Deputy Provincial Grand Master and promoted to Past Grand Sword Bearer in 2013, whilst in the Royal Arch, he was appointed as Second Provincial Grand Principal in 2008 and promoted to Past Grand Standard Bearer in 2013. He is a member of Euclid Chapter being Exalted in 1991 and became its First Principal in 1999.

Among the other orders of freemasonry, he is a past Sovereign of Simon of Sudbury Rose Croix Chapter and a member of Mark Master Masons and Royal Ark Mariners Degrees with Geoffrey Dicker Lodge No.1906. In all he is a member of 5 Craft Lodges, 3 Royal Arch Chapters, 2 Rose Croix Chapters, one Mark and one RAM.

Outside of Freemasonry he is a keen golfer and active skier. He still plays a little cricket at village club level with his son and also enjoys playing Bridge. He has attained the honour of Freeman of the City of London and is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers of London.

Deputy Provincial Grand Master

V.W.Bro. John Roger Sherriff PGSwdB

John Sherriff was born in 1944 in Skegness, Lincolnshire and moved, with his family, to London in 1948. He attended Sutton County Grammar School and graduated from the School of Building in London in 1966.

Elected as a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in 1969, he was elevated to Fellow of the Institution in 1973. He started his working life at a leading international quantity surveying practice in London and, after a short secondment to work in Paris, he moved to Cambridge in 1968,becoming an associate partner with the practice in 1974.

In 1984 he started his own surveying and construction management consultancy and also took the position of part time lecturer in the School of Architecture at the University of Cambridge.
He retired from professional practice in 2008.

He has been married to Jacqueline for some 47 years and they have one daughter Anna.
He was initiated into Masonry in the Lodge of Three Grand Principles No.441 in 1988 and took the chair in 1996, serving as secretary, ADC and DC in that Lodge over the years since.

His first appointment within the Province was to Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works and subsequently to Provincial Grand Secretary in 2009, retiring at the Provincial meeting in 2014. A first Grand Rank appointment to PAGDC was received in 2011.

He has, for some years been a director of Cambridge Masonic Hall Ltd and a trustee and the secretary of the Province of Cambridgeshire Masonic Building Fund.

He is a member of the Chapter of Fidelity No.441, being exalted in 1991 and becoming its First Principal in 2006. He also enjoys his Masonry as an active member of the Ancient and Accepted Right and is a Past Sovereign and a 30th Degree Rose Croix mason.

He is currently a member of 2 Craft Lodges, 2 Royal Arch Chapters, 2 Rose Croix Chapters and an honorary member of 21 Craft Lodges within the Province.

His interests outside Masonry include travel, art, and gardening and tries to keep fit by walking (mostly with dog) and playing tennis.

Provincial Grand Secretary

W.Bro. Patrick B. Kilby PAGDC

Patrick [Pat] Kilby was born in 1948 in Cambridge and lived his formative years in the Market Town of Soham. The early part of his working life was in the building industry where occupying many roles he worked on such prestigious buildings as the Wren library in Cambridge.

W.Bro. Patrick B. Kilby picture
A change in career path led him to join the Cambridgeshire Local Authority Fire and Rescue Service in 1978 completing the full term of employment and retiring in 2008. During a long and eventful career he attained the rank of District Manager [Group Manager] with responsibility for East Cambridgeshire and Fenland Districts as well as being a member of the senior management team.
He is proud to have been awarded the Queens Golden Jubilee medal as well as being the holder of the Queens Fire Brigade long service and good conduct medal for exemplary service. Outside Cambridgeshire Fire Service his responsibilities also included being a senior examiner for the National Fire Service Examination board and branch Secretary for the [International] Institution of Fire Engineers, of which he was also a corporate member.

Pat married Marion in 1970 and they have two children Rebecca and Mathew and now live in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire.

Pat was initiated into the Gild of St Mary Lodge No.7288 in 1990 and became Master in 1996. He received his first Provincial appointment as Provincial Senior Grand Deacon in 2003 followed by Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer in 2009 and Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden/Provincial Grand Secretary in 2014. He is a member of Pythagoras Chapter No.88 being exalted in 1995 and first Principal in 2005. His first Provincial Office in the Holy Royal Arch was Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2009 followed by Provincial Grand Scribe Ezra in 2012 to 2014. Supreme Grand Chapter honoured him with the rank of Past Grand Standard Bearer in 2014. Pat is also an active member of Rose Croix.

Outside Freemasonry he is very much a country and family man with a keen interest in country pursuits and since retirement is kept busy supporting his family and enjoying the company of grandson Henry.

Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies

W.Bro. Jonathan Lambert AGStB


Jonathan was born and educated in East Kent and having left school he was indentured as an apprentice goldsmith, following in a family tradition dating back to 1795.

He joined The National Association of Goldsmiths in his early twenties and rose to become the association’s youngest ever chairman at the age of 32. He served on the association’s board for over 20 years and also spent 5 years as Chairman of the Institute of Registered Valuers. He is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and a Freeman of the City of London. In 2016 he was made an honorary life member of The National Association of Jewellers for his services to the jewellery industry. In partnership with his wife Yasmin, he continues to run the family business in Suffolk.

Jonathan was initiated into Etheldreda Lodge in Newmarket in 1998 and became Worshipful Master for the first time in 2004 and secondly in 2016. His first appointment to Provincial Grand Lodge was to Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in 2011 followed by his appointment as Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies for four years from 2013 to 2017. He was appointed to Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies in 2017 and also received his first appointment to Grand Rank as Assistant Grand Standard Bearer.

Jonathan was exalted into the Holy Royal Arch in St Etheldreda Chapter in 2002 and has served the chapter as First Prinicipal twice, firstly in 2008 and again in 2013. His first appointment to Provincial Grand Chapter came in 2011 as Provincial First Assistant Sojourner and then a subsequent promotion in 2016 to Past Provincial Grand Sword Bearer. He is an active member of Rose Croix and holds the 30°. Jonathan is also a member of the Lodge of Regularity No. 91, a founder member of The Cambridgeshire Lodge of Provincial Grand Stewards No. 9277 and an honorary member of Fenland Farmer’s Lodge No. 9233.

Outside of masonry he and Yasmin enjoy spending time with children, Henry & Evie, and walking the family’s beloved Border Terrier either across the fields of Suffolk or in North Devon where the family have a holiday cottage.

Other Provincial Officers 2017 - 18

Provincial Senior Grand Warden

W.Bro John Surbey

Provincial Junior Grand Warden

W.Bro James Haggarty

Prov Grand Chaplain

W.Bro Nigel Pett PAGChap

Prov Grand Treasurer

W.Bro David Blair PAGDC

Prov Grand Registrar

W.Bro Robert Kidger

Prov Grand Sword Bearer

W.Bro Kevin Mader

Prov Grand Superintendent of Works

W.Bro David Cameron

Prov Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies

W.Bro David Parker

Prov Grand Almoner

W.Bro George Brennan

Prov Grand Charity Steward

WBro Paul Gillingwater PAGDC

Prov Grand Mentor

W.Bro Jonathan West

Prov Grand Orator

W.Bro Harry Rooke PAGStB

Prov Senior Grand Deacon

W.Bro Stuart Britt

W.Bro Wayne Snedeker

Prov Junior Grand Deacon

W.Bro Richard Phillips

W.Bro Michael Surbey

Prov Assistant Grand Secretary

W.Bro John Jones

Prov Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

W.Bro Neil Taylor

W.Bro Craig Titmus

Prov Grand Organist

W.Bro Allen Brown PPJGD

Prov Grand Standard Bearer

W.Bro Anthony Hore

W.Bro Robert Page

Prov Grand Pursuivant

W.Bro Andrew Pugh

Prov Grand Steward

W.Bro Peter Brindle PAGSwdB

W.Bro Alan Jones PPGReg

W.Bro Richard Kemp PPGSwdB

W.Bro Kim Sheldrick PPGSwdB

Prov Grand Tyler

W.Bro Douglas Gates PPGSuptWks