Durham Freemasonry from earliest records to 1734
The Masonic Province of Durham has strong and firm Masonic foundations and a rich history. Only seventeen years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, Joseph Laycock was appointed the first Provincial Grand Master for the County of Durham in 1734. Prior to this, a number of Lodges were operating independently in the County and the newly appointed Provincial Grand Master was given the task of persuading them to join the Grand Lodge and to form new lodges.
He met with little success but in 1735 Joseph Laycock ‘constituted’ the existing Lodge at Swalwell, as a regular lodge under the Grand Lodge of England. He also formed another, “The Fountain” in Pipewellgate, Gateshead.
The Lodge at Swalwell has minutes dating from 1725 and had evidently been in existence as an active organisation long before that year. Essentially operative in character, the Orders of Antiquity, the Apprentices Orders, and other documents point at least to the seventeenth century.
The Swalwell Lodge provides a most interesting study of this early period and possibly points out the link between operative and speculative Freemasonry. This lodge is now known as the Lodge of Industry, No.48 at Gateshead, and still meets today.
During this earliest period, the lodge at Swalwell believed that the patent of 1734 gave them the right to elect successive Provincial Grand Masters, as documented in their history and minutes.
However, from 1755 to 1787 two further Grand Lodge appointees managed to recruit or consecrate eleven more Lodges, seven of which are still operating today.