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Question : Our Lodge
has resolved that a pair of White Gloves be presented to each of our
Candidates on the night of his being raised. Could you supply us
with material for a few brief words explaining how our Glove customs arose ?
Answer : « The gloves, which, like the aprons, forni part of our regalia nowadays,
were originally a necessary part of the operative masons' protective clothing, the gloves
being specially important to prevent injury. Numerous early records show that they were
supplied to the masons by their e-ployers At Ely, in 1322, the Sacrist bought gloves for
the masons engaged on the « new work », and at Eton College, in 1456, five pairs of
gloves were provided for « lavers » of die walis « as custorn may have required ».
(Knoop & Jones, The Medieval Mason, 1949, p. 69.) At York, in 1423, ten pairs
of gloves were supplied to the mason « setter » at a total cost of eighteen pence
(Salzman, Building in England... p. 80). At Ayr, Edinburgh and St. Andrews there
are a large number of records of gloves supplied to « hewers » and « layers » from
1598 to 1688. (Knoop, The Scottish Mason, pp. 42/3.)
All these records relate to masons « on the job ». But for the masons in their lodges
there was another source of supply. From 1599 onwards there is evidence that masons were
obliged to furnish a pair of gloves to each of the Brethren on the day of their entry into
the lodge, as part of their admission fees. The carliest official record on the subject is
in the Schaw Statures addressed to the Kilwinning Lodge in 1599, requiring that all
Fellows of Craft at their admission to that grade were to pay £ 10 Scots with 10/- worth
of gloves. (These fees must be divided by twelve to find the corresponding English sums.
F. C's therefore paid the equivalent of 16/8d plus ten pence for gloves.)
Records of the Lodge of Meirose for 1674 and 1675 show that both apprentices and Fellows
at their entry were to pay the requisite fees with « sufficient gloves to ye whole
company... » (Vernon, pp. 12J 13.) At Aberdeen, in 1670, the apprentice was called
upon to pay « 4 rex dollars », with « ... Ane linen apron and a pair of good
gloves... » to each of the Brethren. (Miller, p. 6 1.) The linen apron is rather
surprising, but linen was probably a local product and therefore economical.
At Dunblane, in 1724, the Lodge presented gloves and aprons to its « intrants ». (Lyon,
p. 204.) At Haughfoot, as late as 1754, the Lodge enacted : « ... that none can Enter
here in time Corneing without a pair of Gloves to each member oi the sd Lodge. ».
(Carr, Haughfoot, p. 35.). In 1723, a Masonic exposure, now known as The Mason's
Examination, was published in a London newspaper, The Flying Post. It's opening
words run : « When a Free-Mason is enter'd after having given te, all present of the
Fraternity a Pair of Men and Women's Gloves and Leathern Apron ... ».
This is the earliest known refèrence to woman's gloves in connection with Masonic
practice, but from this time onwards they become a regular part of admission procedure.
The Letter, the earliest known French exposure, of 1737, records that an apprentice
received an apron of white skin, a pair of gloves for himself and a pair of ladies' gloves
« for her whom he esteems the most ». Thee same practice appears, in more or less
gallant language, in practically all the French 18th century accounts of the initiation
Additionnal note by Christian GUIGUE (France) : One ritual, the first Apprentice
ritual from Rectified Scotish Rite, 1773, use three pairs of gloves. One for hilmself, one
for this mystery lady he esteems the most (later, in high degrees, he will understand that
this lady is not a woman but a picture of Mary the Virgin, mother of Jesus), the last pair
of gloves will be a emblem of this purety he have to reach. Only the first pair will be
weared in lodge.