Who we are
The craft of stonemasonry is alive today and the Company is at the forefront of supporting that craft.
The Worshipful Company of Masons is number 30 in the order of precedence of the Ancient Livery Companies of the City of London, as set by the Aldermen of the City in 1515. Today there are over 110 and the number continues to grow. The focus of our Livery Company is to preserve and encourage the use of natural stone in the built environment. This includes supporting the training of craftsmen as well as the preservation and appreciation of iconic historic stone buildings.
Happily stonemasonry is still practiced today and the Worshipful Company of Masons is at the forefront of supporting the craft in education and preservation. Our membership includes professionals from the construction and property, specialists in stonemasonry as well as those with connections to or interest in the City and its national and international importance. Membership is made up Liverymen, Freemen and Yeoman Masons.
Our Company was formed with the object of regulating the craft of stonemasonry so that standards could be properly maintained and rewarded. The earliest available records of regulation from the Court of Aldermen are dated 1356.
In 1472 a Grant of Arms was received under Letters Patent but it was not until 1677 that the Company was formally incorporated by Royal Charter under the seal of King Charles II which gave it authority to control the work of masons in the Cities of London and Westminster and seven miles around. This was a necessary power in order to control the influx of provincial stonemasons assisting in the rebuilding of the capital following the Great Fire in 1666 and to enable the maintenance of strict standards, although governance was never quite as tight again.
Since then members of the Company have been involved in the creation and preservation of the majority of iconic stone buildings and structures across these Cities and nationwide.
Joshua and Edward Marshall erected Temple Bar in 1673, the barrier from where trade was officially regulated into the City. Four years later Thomas Strong laid the foundation stone of the new St Paul’s Cathedral and his brother Edward laid the last stone of the building’s lantern in 1708. Both Marshalls and Strongs were Master Masons among a number of other prominent members of the Company who worked on the City’s most beautiful monuments under Sir Christopher Wren. Between 1670 and 1718 at least 8 individuals actively involved in the construction of St Paul’s became Masters of the Masons’ Company.
Our impact today
London’s pre-eminence as a financial and business centre is sustained by the shared goals of the Livery Companies and the City of London which have grown up, developed and adapted together over centuries.
While Liverymen propose two Aldermen to be Lord Mayor it is the Court of Alderman who elect the one of these two nominees while the appointment of the City Sheriffs is the duty of the Livery alone. All liverymen are entitled to vote in these elections at Common Hall.
The City Alderman are the senior officials within the Common Council which acts as a local authority for the City. The Sheriffs are elected on midsummers day and take up office on 29th September each year in time to elect the Lord Mayor who is sworn in during the Silent Ceremony the day before the Lord Mayor’s show. This historic event with its pageantry and charitable fundraising is a highly prized spectacle of our City which takes place on the second Saturday in November each year.
Such a diverse group of trades, crafts and professions add colour and richness to the City’s heritage which is prominent in the many ceremonial occasions. Beyond this the Livery Companies continue to be central in maintaining standards and supporting education and welfare and our own case the preservation of an ancient craft with important relevance today. Each year the Livery Companies collectively donate over £40m in charitable giving.
Who we are not
The ‘Masons Company’ should not be confused with the comparatively modern fraternity of Freemasons which is entirely separate.
Ancient documents refer to ‘stonemasons’ as ‘free masons’ purely because the nature of the job meant a mason had to be free to move around the City to where building projects were underway rather than living and working in a certain quarter as shoemakers, bakers and members of other guilds would have done. The hierarchy of craftsmen was also such that those at the top of their trade were skilled in carving freestone, the fine-grained limestone or sandstone used for traceries and mouldings. A mason of this calibre would have been ‘free’ of his master.
Such terminology has led to ideas of a joint history but evidence of a shared heritage is sparse and modern scholarship disentangles the two.