Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Masons and Canons Ashby - additional information.

I've had 3 emails, and quite a few hits for the first posting I did on Canons Ashy, and I believe the interest stems from the information given about its early Masonic connections, and those origins in the trade/craft of stonemasons.

I am therefore, going to copy out the information from the NT handbook which was in the room, as this gives more information and fuller details for those interested.  It is written by Clem Hatzel and the sources are at the bottom of this posting. The paintings were uncovered from layers of paint, and appear as originally painted. The National Trust do a talk about this room, and are able to give much more information; a link to the property if you wish to contact them appears on the original Canons Ashby 1 posting.

The mystery of the Winter Parlour.

In the early 14th century operative masons were organised in site lodges (from the Latin for temporary lean-to site structures) used for meetings, rest periods, tool storage.

These were ruled by a fellow elected from their own lodge membership, master masons were barred from the lodge. The lodge was responsible for work conditions, wage rates, qualifications and regrading of members. By 1350 the population had been decimated by the black death, there was a shortage of masons and wage demands rocketed. The final outcome was that to practice a trade or profession one had to be a member of a guild holding a Royal Charter. Guilds became regional and masters could now mix with the other grades of member. The masons trade contracted severely in the 16th century. Henry VII demolished castles, his son closed the monasteries and associated buildings, a preference for building in brick and wood developed. Masons allowed members of other trades (middle classes) to join their guild provided they were freemen. According to the masons they were obliging the non-operative, members who wanted to retain the old religious ceremonies and rites.  My own more cynical interpretation is its good for what little business there is about. By 1666 the masonic lodges were so packed with non-operative members, a new guild was formed to represent the working masons!

The original Drydens come from the right area in Britain to have been associated with early freemasonry. Indeed the motto adopted by Edward Dryden, Antient as the Druids, could have been taken straight out of early 17th century non-craft freemasonry. The Brotherhood was and still is a male club, therefore one room is for entertainment, the other for rituals. As a secret society non-members are barred.

It is possible that a CA Lodge which included non-operative members was formed when Sir John Cope separated his house from the Priory buildings. John Dryden, who was demolishing the rest of the priory and using the materials to build his house was probably a member, he had to provide external site lodge facilities whilst the house was being built and could finally have brought the lodge meeting room into the house when non-operatives exceeded working masons. The Winter Parlour was probably decorated whilst John was still alive.

One last point, it is claimed the servants didn't like the parlour decor when it became their room. Did they not like it or being aware of the rites which had been conducted there were they afraid of it or did Edward decide the sacred decor was not suitable for the uninitiated and had the panelling painted with cream distemper?

The Symbols identified by Dr. Hill:

Crowned head on a platter - the motto probably indicates authority.
Head with slipped crown - probably depicts weakness/dishonour/loss of authority.
Column surmounted by a lion - Masonic symbol for strength
Five Arrows - depicts balance and harmony
Inverted crescent above a dagger - Masonic clouds, associated with the apron and depicted in the Temple of Solomon
Scallop and staff - symbols of pilgrimage to Compostela Santiago, likely to be Templar because the scallop alone was used by pilgrims.
Boar's head on a cushion, no neck - symbolises courage, authority, antagonism. The boar's head without neck is only found in Scottish heraldry.
Red moline cross (surrounded by 8 minor crosses) - the Templar cross appears in the coat of arms of more than one Northamptonshire family.


Stephen Knight (The Brotherhood isbn 0246-12164-5)
Rev N Cryer - The Development of English Freemasonry from 1350 to 1730
Dr. Peter Hill - Private letter identifying symbols.

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