Around a fifth of the City of London’s 110 Livery Companies have a masonic Lodge. The Livery Companies comprise London's ancient and modern trade associations and guilds, almost all of which are styled the "Worshipful Company of..." followed by their respective craft, trade or profession.
Most Livery Companies maintain their original trade, craft or professional roles to a greater or lesser degree; some still exercise powers of regulation, inspection and enforcement, while others are awarding bodies for professional qualifications.
In 1515, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London settled the order of precedence for the 48 Livery companies then in existence, based on those companies' contemporary economic or political power . The 12 highest-ranked companies remain known as ‘the Great Twelve’ City Livery Companies.
Almost all the Livery Lodges are either growing or in rude health. A number of them, notably Cito Lodge No 9650 have told us that they have an unusually young average age, due in part to it being linked to the W orshipful Company of Information Technologists which, as an industry, tends to have a younger demographic. Almost all the Livery Lodges have strong links with Royal Arch Chapters, often being a ‘feeder lodge’ for those chapters. City Guilds Chapter No 4256 and Paviors and City Livery Chapter No 5646 have a number of the Livery Lodges feeding into them, for obvious reasons.
Most of the Livery Lodges follow the Livery traditions of singing grace and having a loving cup during their festive boards. The sung grace is usually ‘Laudi Spirituali’. The ceremony of the loving cup, which is traditional with many Livery Companies, is said to date back to Saxon times before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and to derive from the assassination, by command of Elfrida, of King Edward while he was drinking. As a consequence, a practice evolved into a tradition, of the person taking a drink having a fellow diner protect their back from an attack, and it is commonplace in Liveries and their associated Lodges. Interestingly the Distillers Livery, when performing this tradition, not only pass the loving cup, they also pass around daggers with which those taking part can protect themselves.
The favourite tradition of the Livery Lodges according to their secretaries is that of visiting amongst themselves-the ‘Inter Livery Lodge Visiting Scheme’ of the Sister City Livery Lodges. Due to the sheer number of such Lodges, it is difficult for them all to be visited in the one year of office-especially as some of them clash dates. However, I’m led to believe that it is possible to do with sufficient planning. Masters of Lodges making such visits are often treated as honoured guests, and a number of the secretaries have pointed out that they’ve completed the full circuit, and particularly enjoyed doing so.
An Installed Master who is also a member of a City Livery Company may apply to join The City of London Lodge of Installed Masters No 8220. This Lodge meets in the crypt of the Guildhall, the epicentre of the City of London, and hence all the Liveries. This is a prestigious Lodge and has a number of the most senior officers of the craft as members and indeed past masters.
As an Installed Master’s Lodge, it regularly runs presentations and question and answer sessions for the benefit of the brethren present. Recently the Lodge’ s Immediate Past Master R W Bro Alderman Sir David Wootton JP Assistant Grand Master (Fletcher’s Company) and RW Bro Alderman Sir Andrew Parmley PJGW (Musician) were interviewed in Lodge about the City, being Lord Mayor and the Livery Companies generally.
Recently the first Lodge meeting to be held onboard a ship, in this case, the HQS Wellington, was organised by the newly formed Wellington Livery Masters Lodge No 6991 - the only ‘floating lodge’ in the UK. This Lodge exists for the benefit of brethren who are Masters and Past Masters of City Livery Companies. The HQS Wellington is a well-known London landmark, permanently moored on the north bank of the River Thames on Victoria Embankment, near the Temple.
For the Freeman and Liveryman of Liveries that don’t have an associated Lodge, there is the City Livery Lodge No 3752. This Lodge meets at the Charterhouse and is well known for its dining and camaraderie. Fine dining seems to be a common theme across Livery Lodges, with Innholders Hall, The Charterhouse, The Guildhall and The Bakers’ Hall being some of the excellent venues used by Livery Lodges for the Festive Board.
These, broadly , are the similarities; however, there are far more aspects of these Lodges which make them unique. Pellipar Lodge No 2693 has its Ritual, Cartwright. Similarly , Lora et Aries No 5086 has its Inner Working and several other parts of the ritual rarely seen in a Lodge. So both Lodges are well worth a visit if you’re looking to see something you’ve not seen before.
While some Livery Lodges are open to any Liveryman, others are closed... and membership of the Livery is a pre-requisite to joining the Lodge - and in some (but not all) of them, membership of the Livery is only open to people with a 'trade' connection.
For instance, prospective joiners of Cito Lodge No 9650 should be able to show that they either work in or can show significant involvement with information technology.
Similarly, Per Caelum No 8602 expects that you’re a pilot or in some way involved in flying.
Taurus Lodge No 3981 is another Lodge in the same vein, and you should be engaged in butchery or its industry in some way as it is linked to the Worshipful Company of Butchers, which has that requirement of its members.
In conclusion, I think there are only three things that they all have in common but what wonderful three things they are to share. Firstly, they are all linked to the Livery Companies of the City of London in some way and share membership with them. Secondly, they all have their unique traditions which aren’ t present in other types of Lodge, and they particularly enjoy their place within the ‘City’. Thirdly and probably most importantly , they particularly enjoy the juxtaposition of their being unique Lodges in themselves but which all enjoy being members of “a unique group within Freemasonry”.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 41 July 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 41.