The History of Freemasonry in England is clouded in the mists of time but there is some positive evidence of the existence of speculative as distinct from operative Masonry in the 17th Century.
Lodges of Freemasons at this period were largely occasional in the sense that they were summoned at irregular intervals and according to circumstances. Nevertheless the making of Masons continued in
London and the Provinces with sufficient regularity so as to preserve knowledge of the procedures and tenets of the Craft. The upsurge in speculative masonry, giving rise to the as yet unidentified
events which led to the formation of a Grand Lodge, took place in London. It is accepted that four Lodges, then meeting in taverns in London, came together and agreed to establish a Grand Lodge. The
process by which agreement was reached is unknown but it is known that the premier Grand Lodge was established on 24 June 1717, St John’s Day, when a feast was held at the Goose and Gridiron Ale
House in St Paul’s Churchyard.
The four Lodges involved met at the Goose and Gridiron, the Crown Ale House in Parkers Lane (near the present building in Great Queen Street), The Apple
Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden and the Runner and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster. Three still survive and are now known as Lodge of Antiquity No 2, Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge No 12 (originally No 3) and Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No IV. These are known as “time immemorial lodges” the
only lodges within the English constitution, with this distinction. They, together with Grand Stewards’ Lodge, have the ability to operate without a warrant.