Freemasons’ Lodges have been meeting in London since, at least, the late 1600s. In fact Elias Ashmole (who had recorded his own Initiation on the 6th Oct 1646) recorded in his diary the receipt of a summons on the 10th Mar 1682 for a meeting to take place on the 11th, which he duly attended at Masons Hall London this was followed by a meal at the Halfe Moone Taverne in Cheapeside .
On 24th June 1717, four of these London Lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron alehouse in St Paul’s Churchyard and took the decision to form the Grand Lodge of the Cities of London and Westminster, thereby establishing the first Masonic Grand Lodge.
Initially, the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge was solely limited to Lodges meeting in the London area, specifically an area within 10 miles of Charing Cross. Within a few years, Lodges outside London were also acknowledging the authority of Grand Lodge. However, it was the members of London Lodges who, attending Grand Lodge meetings in greatest numbers, played such a prominent role in its affairs.
Freemasonry expanded across England and Wales and developed an administrative structure through Provinces (essentially the historic county shires). London Freemasonry remained outside the Provincial structure and was administered by the Grand Secretary’s office. Between 1851 and 1911 the population within the 10-mile radius increased from 2.5 million to over 7 million and Freemasonry had to deal with this rapid growth. Many new London Lodges were formed. A larger building was required and the modern Freemasons’ Hall was built in Great Queen Street as a memorial to those who Freemasons who had died in the First World War. It is the home of Freemasonry in England and Wales (see www.ugle.org.uk). In 1971 the 10-mile radius was reduced to five miles; Lodges in the band between five and 10 miles opted either to remain a London Lodge or transfer to the relevant Province.
In 1767-8 a plan to establish a Province of London was considered but rejected after objections were raised by London Lodges and a review in 1913-14 included the proposal to create 10 Metropolitan Grand Lodges: that plan was shelved when war broke out in 1914. Despite subsequent discussions about the administration of London Lodges by the Grand Secretary’s office it was only in the late 1990s that the Grand Master (HRH Duke of Kent) set up a formal review.
The outcome was the formation of Metropolitan Grand Lodge (MetGL) on 1 October 2003, as an independent administrative body under a Metropolitan Grand Master. It supports Freemasonry in London in a similar way that the various Provincial Grand Lodges support Lodges elsewhere in England and Wales. Metropolitan Grand Lodge has over 1,400 constituent Lodges comprising nearly 40,000 members; the offices are situated in Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London which is also the home of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Further information about Freemasonry in London can be found on the MetGL website, it is listed on our Links page.