There are two main theories about the origins of Freemasony and the main difference is between what we call 'operative' and 'speculate' masons.

The word 'operative' describes working masons, those who actually work with stone, building castles, churches and cathedrals.

Masons working on buildings like these, which often would take tens of years to construct, would build shelters, or 'lodges' at the quarry or building site in which they could exchange views.

In the middle ages, it is reported, masons had to go through an apprenticeship before they were considered qualified, or 'free'. Because of the time and effort it took to become qualified, they did not want unqualified people taking their jobs and as so few people could read or write, and therefore a certificate of so little use, masons used methods of recognition – signs and words – to prove that they were properly qualified and for obvious reasons, kept such things secret.

At some point, men who were not working masons either joined existing lodges, or set up their own to replicate such lodges and 'speculative' masonry was born. The old word 'speculative' describes someone who speculates about, or ponders on, the definition or meanings of things. The speculative mason therefore uses the tools and practices of masonry as symbols for moral teaching.

Other people disagree with this theory. They see speculative Freemasonry as a completely separate creation, probably arising in the 16th century, possibly in reaction to the religeous troubles of the time. The time of Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, Oliver Cromwell and the later Jacobite rebellions. This could have inspired well-meaning men seeking ways of meeting together, irrespective of religeous belief.

This fact, that from the very beginning, speculative Freemasonry was open to all religions could be evidence for this, in fact we still forbid all political and religeous discussion in Lodges. Therefore, the secrets of Freemasony would have been words and signs of recognition, to protect members from spies.

Freemasons Hall, LondonIn 1717 four London Lodges, who had been established for some time, came together and decided to hold an annual assembly and feast. They declared themsleves a Grand Lodge, the first Grand Lodge of the world.

In 1774 a site is acquired in Great Queen Street, London, consisting of a tavern house fronting the street with a garden behind leading to a second house. Thomas Sandby, RA, wins the architect’s competition for the Hall. His Grand Hall is built over the garden, linking the two houses.

The new Freemasons’ Hall was subsequently dedicated on 23 May, where, in addition to Masonic events, it becomes an important venue in London social life for concerts, balls, literary evenings and meetings of learned and charitable societies.