within the UK dates back to before the 1600’s as one of the earliest surviving minute book records of a Masonic Lodge, Lodge Edinburgh No 1 (Mary’s Chapel) dated 31 July 1599, were affirmed by its Warden, who placed his mark to them. Wardens were at that time the ‘Masters’ of Scottish Lodges. Lodge minutes of that same year noted the presence of a number of non-operative masons or speculative masons, together with their marks.
Historical evidence continues from those early days of record keeping to demonstrate that a mason’s mark was of significance and held in high regard and that the awarding of a mark to a member of a Masonic Lodge, within Scotland, was being carried out. The Masonic artefact known as the ‘Aberdeen Mark Box’ also demonstrates that a Mason’s mark was more than just symbolic; it had meaning and purpose.
The earliest records of a speculative Mark Degree being worked in England are those of Royal Arch Chapter No 257 in Portsmouth, dated 1 September 1769 when several brethren were made Mark Masons and Mark Masters. The Mark Degree remained and was intimately linked with the Craft from the earliest days in England until the Preliminary Declaration was agreed upon in the Act of Union of 1813 between the two principal Grand Lodges of England; the Ancients and the Moderns.
Notwithstanding this Preliminary Declaration, the Mark Degree remained very popular, so much so that in 1856, the Craft Grand Lodge put forward a resolution to include the Mark Degree as an integral part of Craft Freemasonry, just as it still is in Scotland today. However, just three months later at the next meeting of The United Grand Lodge of England, the proposition had been withdrawn.
Further research points to the fact that it may well have been the Mark Masons themselves who withdrew, rather than the other way round, presumably being reluctant to lose their independence. Whatever the reasons, just nineteen days later the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons was formed. The present Grand Master is His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, the Duke of Kent’s brother, who is the current Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England which governs Craft Freemasonry.
As with the Craft, Mark Masonry is now divided into Provinces, each with its own Provincial Grand Master and Provincial Grand Officers. Mark Masonry started in Bedfordshire in 1889 with the Consecration of Lea Lodge of Mark Master Masons No 405 at Luton Town Hall.
Being the only Mark Lodge in Bedfordshire at that time, it was taken under the auspices of the Mark Province of Leicester, Northamptonshire, Derby & Rutland. In 1894 a new Province was formed, that of Northampton, Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire. It wasn’t until 1985 that Bedfordshire went it alone and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Bedfordshire was constituted which, to date, has nine Mark Lodges and five Royal Ark Mariner Lodges meeting at the various Masonic centres throughout Bedfordshire.
If you are interested in becoming part of Mark Masonry then please contact the Provincial Grand Secretary or complete the on-line form.