ASHMOLE, ELIAS

ASHMOLE, ELIAS

Encyclopedia Masonica



A celebreted antiquary, and a the author of, among other works, the well-known History of the Order of the Garter, and founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. He was born at Litchfield, in England, on the 23d of May, 1617, and died at London on the 18th of May, 1692. He was made a Freemason on the 16th of October, 1646, and gives the following account of his reception in his Dairy page 303:

"1646. Oct: 16. 4,30 P.M., I was made a Freemason at Warington, in Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Mainwaring, of Karincham, in Cheshire. The names of those that were then of the Lodge, Mr. Richard Penket Warden, Mr. James Collier, Mr. Rich: Sankey, Henry Littler, John Ellam, Rich: Ellam and Hugh Brewer."

In his Diary, page 362, he again speaks of his attendance at a meeting, and thirty-six years afterward makes the following entry:

"1682. March 10. About 5 h PM, I received a summons to appear at a Lodge to be held the next day at Masons' Hall, London.

"ll. Accordingly, I went, and about Noone were admitted into the Fellowship of Freemasons, Sir William Wilson, knight, Capt. Richard Borthwick, Mr. William Woodman, Mr. William Wise" I was the senior fellow among them, (it being thirty-five years since I was admitted;) there was present besides myself the Fellows after named: Mr. Thomas Wise, Master of the Masons company this present year; Mr. Thomas Shorthofe, Mr. Thomas Shadbolt,-Waindsford, Esq., Mr. Nicholas Young, Mr. John Shorthofe, Mr. William Hamon, Mr. John Thompson, and Mr. William Stanton. We all dined at the half Moone Taveme in Cheapeside, at a noble dinner prepared at the charge of the new Accepted' Masons."

It is to be regretted that the intention expressed by Ashmole to write a history of Freemasonry was never carried into effect. His laborious research as evinced in his exhaustive work on the Order of the Garter, would lead us to have expected from his antiquarian pen a record of the origin and early progress of our Institution more valuable than any that we now possess. The following remarks on this subject, contained in a letter from Doctor Knipe, of Christ Church, Oxford, to the publisher of Asmole's Life, while it enables us to form some estimate of the loss that Masonic literature has suffered, supplies interesting particulars which are worthy of preservation.
"As to the ancient society of Freemasons, concerning whom you are desirous of knowing what may be known with certainty, I shall only tell you, that if our worthy Brother, E. Ashmole, Esq., had executed his intended design, our Fraternity had been as much obliged to him as the Brethren of the most noble Order of the Garter. I would not have you surprised at this expression, or think it all too assuming.

The sovereigns of that Order have not disdained our fellowship, and there have been times when emperors were also Freemasons. What from Mr. E. Ashmole's collection I could gather was, that the report of our society's taking rise from a bull granted by the Pope, in the reign of Henry III, to some Italian architects to travel over all Europe, to erect chapels, was ill founded. Such a bull there was, and those architects were Masons; but this bull, in the opinion of the learned Mr.Ashmole, was confirmative only, and did not by any means create our Fraternity, or even establish them in this kingdom.

But as to the time and manner of that establishment, something I shall relate from the same collections. Saint Alban the Proto-Martyr of England, established Masonry here; and from his time it flourished more or less, according as the world went, down to the days of King Athelstan, who, for the sake of his brother Edwin, granted the Masons a charter. Under our Norman princes.

They frequently received extraordinary marks of royal favor. There is no doubt to be made, that the skill of Masons, which was always transcendent, even in the most barbarous times,-their wonderful kindness and attachment to each other, how different soever in condition, and their inviolable fidelity in keeping religiously their secret,-must expose them in ignorant, troublesome, and suspicious times to a vast variety of adventures, according to the different fate of parties and other alterations in government.

By the way, I shall note that the Masons were always loyal, which exposed them to great severities when power wore the trappings of justice, and those who committed treason punished true men as traitors.

Thus, in the third year of the reign of Henry VI, an act of Parliament was passed to abolish the society of Masons, and to hinder, under grievous penalties, the holding Chapters, Lodges, or other regular assemblies.

Yet this act was afterwards repealed, and even before that, King Henry VI, and several of the principal Lords of his court, became fellows of the Craft."

But the most difficult question for the student is to find an answer to the following: What induced men like Ashmole and others to be made Masons early in the seventeenth century? Was it for 'cake and ale'? Surely not. Was it for company sake? perhaps; but then why so much mystery ?

It is certain that men like Dr. Plot, John Aubrey, Randle Holme, and Elias Ashmole were attracted to the subject for something more than what we find given at length in the Manuscript Constitutions."-Edward Conder, in Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge (volume xvi, page 15, 1903). Another question a the influence exerted by such Brethren at and after their initiation and possibly up .to the time of the notable organization of the Grand Lodge of 1717. Our old friend Brother Trevaman W. Hugo wrote among his last contributions---printed after his death-for the Daluth Masonic Calendar (March, 1923), a biographical article on Elias Ashmole and he concludes thus:

" The object of going into those details is to enable the writer, and you who may read it, to have in mind the personage for whom we want to find a place between the date of his death, 1687 and 1717. We do not know whether there is some place in between there where such a personage could have made an impression on the Operative Masons at that time, so that his influence, when the time came, would make them willing to fall in and join with the Speculative Brethren, or vice versa, or whether the Speculative Brethren were able to deliver to the Operative Masons in 1717, the Astrologic, Philosophic, Symbolic Lore, which they held in regard to the order of Free Masons. There is an unquestionable 'hole in the Ballad' somewhere between 1646 and 1717."


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