reply to post by ForkandSpoon
I can only assume that none of your brethren has ever been to York, or certainly none of the ones who have so far investigated the subject. I do not
read Latin, or rather cannot, so I am entirely reliant on the translations of others. The fabric rolls of York Minster and the Civic records of the
city, have not been translated in their entirety, records of those taking out the freedom start in 1290 and masons are particularly well represented
at specific periods. There is a significant quantity of unpublished doctoral research in the archives of the University of York, as well as those
thesis overviews that are produced by the Borthwick Institute. 'Building Craftsmen in late Medieval York' by Heather Swanson (University of York,
Borthwick Paper No 63, 1983), should get you started off nicely and is my source for wage information and role in building disputes...the rest is more
fragmentary, source wise.
There is very little direct mention, and even then it is in passing, of an organised body of Masons, free or otherwise, as I have already stated.
That such a body existed is only clear from the documentation that shows that they served a civic function. They are mentioned in records of Henry
the 8th's visit to York, and other significant events...this one is quite well documented, I have seen it online and in published books about York.
They are responsible for collecting contributions of 4d from each of the 'other' trade guilds for the Corpus Christi
. So while there is no
concrete or consistent evidence there is some presence felt. Other guilds are well documented in their proceedings and ordnances, and yet performed
less civic duties.
While England may have been a backwater as a whole during much of the 'dark ages' and early medieval period, that is not to say that there were not
pockets of culture, and some trade did persists, though on a small scale, with the rest of Europe. Additionally, the ecclesiastical population
thrived, and as a result, England did nurture some important scholars during that time, Wilfrid and Alcuin to name but two. The 'medieval literacy
drive' took a while to reach England for numerous reasons, mostly because it wasn't needed, literacy is only relevent to 'citizenship' and did not
involve teaching commoners the language of the law and church, latin, but of formalising local dialects into written languages in order to communicate
laws and provide basic, uniform knowledge, to facilitate the smooth running of the town or city. There was very limited need in England prior to the
From the 11th century onwards there is major building work going on all over Britain, by the 13th century experts are being specifically brought in,
many from France, to work on ecclesiastical buildings. At this point, the skills associated with cathedral buildings, including freestone workers,
were administered from York, we know this because the records at Coventry, Durham etc, indicate as much. All in latin of course, but I repeat, you
would be surprised at how much research has been done in medieval builders that has not yet been published. And, the buildings themselves are often
the best records, consistency in the use of some marks, styles or personal mason's marks show clear pathways. On the buildings produced by the
builders who travelled with Templar groups, you often find the 'fish' for example, but this is seldom found in any of the great cathedrals, so they
kept their masons strictly in house. As far as I can tell. Presumably. There seems to be a trainspotter-esq cult of keeping track of mason's
marks, quite a lot of information available there.
I am not proposing that there is a single source that provides evidence of a body of Freemasons, but what I am suggesting is that there is sufficient
evidence from a wide variety of sources to suggest that there should be a body of Freemasons documented. Not the same. At all, admittedly. But if
you map out all the information there is a cluster where something should be but isn't.
A couple of interesting, yet random, links...
I think possibly, most historians of Freemasonry are looking with some expectation in mind rather than looking at the evidence that is
available and analysing that in the societal context. Not sure.