The exact origins of Freemasonry are unknown and it is likely to remain a mystery despite the multitude of theories concerning its origin and purpose.
Illustrious references are often made to the working, or 'operative', stonemasons of the Middle Ages who built castles and cathedrals throughout Europe, while symbolically, the Craft of Freemasonry as practiced today dates back to the days o f biblical King Solomon and his building of the first temple in Jerusalem.
Reference is also made to The Knights Templar and to the Rosicrucian brotherhood.
The oldest documentary reference to Masons is in the Regius Poem circa 1390 and later, the documents known as the Old Charges - dating from the 14th century to after the 1600's. These documents define a set of regulations, or 'Charges', to govern the social behaviour of Masons within their Craft and in society in general. The Old Charges also describe a largely legendary history of geometry, architecture and the craft of Masonry and the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Whatever its origin, Freemasons are the oldest and mostly widely known fraternal organisation of men in the world today.
While there is recorded reference to the existence of lodges as far back as the 15th Century, 24 June 1717 is widely acknowledged as the date on which Freemasonry was officially founded, when four previously-established lodges in London met together to constitute the Grand Lodge of England - the Premier Grand Lodge for Masons all over the world.
One theory is that this was the culmination of a three-stage process of evolution of Freemasonry which began with the formation of 'Lodges' in the Middle Ages which regulated the trade of stonemasons employed to build the great castles, abbeys and cathedrals of medieval England.
These stonemasons were known as 'Operative' masons and their lodges as 'Operative' lodges.
In the early 17th century these operative lodges began to accept non-stonemasons or 'accepted' masons into their lodges. As 'Accepted' Masons began to form majorities in these operative lodges, they transformed the lodges into 'speculative' lodges.
These speculative lodges eventually evolved into the Masonic Lodges of today.
Shortly after the formation of the Grand Lodge in England in 1717, dissent grew amongst certain members because of changes that were being introduced in both custom and ritual. Several lodges refused to acknowledge the authority of the Grand Lodge of England, which in turn promulgated various edicts to prevent the growth of these lodges. These lodges however continued to operate independently and eventually joined forces with a group of Irish Masons who were denied entry to the London lodges, mainly because of their artisan status and because their ritual did not conform to the 'new' English convention.
On 17 July 1751 these independent lodges formed a new Grand Lodge "the Ancients" Grand Lodge as opposed to the "Modern" Grand Lodge of 1717.
On the 26 June 1725 the Grand Lodge of Ireland was formed and on 30 November 1736 the Grand Lodge of Scotland was formed.
The Ancient Grand Lodge and the Modern Grand Lodge continued to co-exist as the two 'official' grand lodges of England until 27 December 1813, when they came together to form the United Grand Lodge of England.
The resultant three British Grand Lodges namely England, Ireland and Scotland have maintained a close relationship since those days, despite retaining their individual autonomy and developing differences in custom and practice.
From the United Kingdom, Grand Lodges were established across the four quarter of the earth.
Although a number of Masons had settled in the Cape of Good Hope in the 1700's, the first lodge was formed on 2nd May 1772.
Abraham van der Weidje, a captain of a ship sailing to the East Indies, called at the Cape and under authority from the Grand Master of the Grand East of the Netherlands Lodge; he summoned a meeting of Masons that were residing in the Cape.
The Lodge De Goede Hoop was founded on this day with Abraham Chiron as its Charter Master.
On 27 December 1800 the 1st English lodge was formed in South Africa when Lodge No.1 at the Cape of Good Hope and No. 321 in the Registry of the Grand Lodge of England, came into existence.
During the next 87 years Freemasonry spread rapidly from the Cape Province to the provinces of the Eastern Cape, Natal, Northern Cape and Free State and ultimately to the Transvaal, where on 21 September 1887, the Lodge Golden Thistle of the Scottish Constitution was the first lodge to be chartered in Johannesburg.
The first English lodge to be chartered in the Transvaal in 1887 was the Transvaal Lodge No. 1747, which was based in Pretoria. In May 1890, Johannesburg Lodge No. 2313 was the first English lodge to be formed on the Witwatersrand.
The District Grand Lodge of Transvaal, of which the Witwatersrand Lodge is a member lodge, was inaugurated on 30 April 1895 with R W Bro George Richards (who had received his patent on 1 January 1895) being installed as its first District Grand Master.
The first lodge to be consecrated on 16 February 1985 by the newly constituted District Grand Lodge of the Transvaal was the Roodepoort Lodge (No. 2539) which was granted its warrant on 1 December 1894.
Roodepoort was the 12th lodge constituting the new District in 1895.
The other eleven, in chronological order of consecration, were:
|Royal Albert Lodge||2315||1889/10/08|
|El Dorado Lodge||2314||1892/02/03|
|Gold Fields Lodge||2478||1893/10/14|
|Pietersburg United Lodge (formerly Zoutpansberg Liberty Lodge)||2485||1893/11/29||Merged with Star of the North Lodge in 1916|
|Ermelo Lodge||2516||1894/05/15||Erased 1904.|
This was followed by the establishment of the following lodges in sequential order - resulting in the District Grand Lodge of South Africa, North ultimately becoming the largest geographical District in English Freemasonry in the world.
|St George Lodge||2544||1895/05/11||Transferred into the Natal District in 1903.|
|Star of the North Lodge||2640||1896/12/22||Erased 1916. Merged with Zoutpansberg Liberty Lodge No. 2485 to become Pietersburg United Lodge.|
|Royal George Lodge||2643||1897/04/21||???|
|United Services Lodge of Pretoria||2967||1903/08/08|
|Pyramids Lodge||2968||1903/07/27||Erased 1916|
|King Edward Lodge||3004||1903/12/12|
|Richmond Lodge||3045||1904/08/18||Erased 1943|
|Astrea Lodge||3073||1905/01/21||Waterval Boven|
|Royal Edward Lodge||3070||1905/03/14|
|Civil Service Lodge||3118||1905/04/07|
|Outpost Lodge||3132||1905/08/23||Erased 1916|
|Rose and Thistle Lodge||3150||1906/03/31|
|Premier Diamond Lodge||3172||1906/08/30|
|The Arts Lodge||3203||1907||Erased 1937|
|The Ionic Lodge||3235||1907/05/29|
|Makwassi Lodge||3253||1907/10/05||Erased 1919|
|Vereeniging Peace Lodge||3461||1910/12/03|
|Bethel United Lodge||3594||1912/05/18|
|The 'Mkonto Lodge||3627||1913/01/16|
|Lion of the North||3640||1913/04/18|
|Witwatersrand Lodge||3745||1915/05/01||Formerly Transvaal Masters Lodge|
|Waldie Peirson Lodge||4737||1925/05/19|
|Golden Reef Lodge||5834||1940/08/31|
|Komatipoort Lodge||6121||1945||Erased 1950|
|Transvaal Jubilee Lodge||6143||1945/09/15|
|Golden West Lodge||6689||1948/08/07|
|The Lodge Vaal||7039||1951/01/19|
|White River Lodge||7082||1951/05/12|
|Southern Cross Lodge||7226||1952/09/09|
|Semper Vigilans Lodge||7362||1954/10/27|
|J H Vivian Lodge||7440||1956/04/21|
|President Lodge||8053||1965/10/30||President Lodge is now a Universities Scheme Lodge|
|Transvaal D G Stewards Lodge||8194||1967/12/08|
|Amiantos Lodge||8288||1969/06/21||Mhlume, Swaziland|
|St George's Lodge||8322||1970/05/30|
|Jack Folly Lodge||8335||1970/08/29|
|First Pride Lodge||8447||1972/10/07|
|Flame Lily Lodge||8540||1973/11/24|
|St Michael's Lodge||8643||1975/04/10|
|Boksburg St John Lodge||8642||1975/05/29|
|Park Lane Lodge||8657||1975/09/04|
|Lyceum Lodge of Research||8682||1975/12/01|
|New Horizons Lodge||8703||1976/05/21|
|New Zealand Lodge||8824||1978/07/19|
|Universal Friendship Lodge||9042||1982/06/29|
|Golden Harvest Lodge||9234||1987/07/22|
|Baden Powell Lodge||9370||1990/08/15|
|Transvaal Nomads Lodge||9519||1993/08/27|
|The Lodge of Friendship||1696||1877/10/11||Brought into the Transvaal District in 1994, this is the oldest Lodge in the District.|