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York Rolls

Of the many old and important works within the Lodge are a number of ancient manuscripts or rolls, more commonly now known as the “York Rolls”.

Considerable research was undertaken about these manuscripts, most notably by Bro. Joseph Todd & Bro. W. R. Makins, both Past Masters of the Lodge.

Bro. Todd completed a work entitled “Ancient Masonic Rolls of Constitutions” published in 1894, with Bro. W.J. Hughan, an honorary member and renowned Masonic historian providing the introduction.
This work provides a full description of these interesting items, a copy of which is held in the Library.

The following brief notes are taken from the works of the above.

Roll No. 1. Believed to be dated 1600.

This is unquestionably the most interesting, as well as the oldest manuscript. It is made up of four pieces of parchment sewn together into one continuous Roll of seven feet in length. It states that it was found at Pontefract Castle at its demolition. It is know that the commencement of the demolition of Castle started in 1649.

Roll No. 2. Dated 1704.

This is the most modern of the York Rolls, also written on parchment and is headed “The Constitution of Masonry 1704”. This is particularly interesting as it is the only manuscript in which the word “Freemason”, as distinct from “Mason” appears.

Roll No. 3.

Unfortunately this manuscript is now missing. It was however recorded in the inventory of 1779 where it was described as “a parchment Roll of Charges on Masonry 1680”.

Roll No. 4. Dated 1693.

Believed to have been written by Mark Kypling and is also known as the “He and She” manuscript due to apparent admission of females to the Guild within its texts.

“Then one of the Elders taking the Book and that he or she that is to be made a Mason shall lay their hands thereon and the Charge shall be given”.

However, it is believed that as the original “instruction” was given in Latin, a copyist or translator may have miss spelt the plural of “he’s” as “she”.

This manuscript is written on one roll of paper of 10 ½ feet in length.

Roll No. 5. Bears no date, but believed to be about 1690.

This appears to be a copy of Roll No.1.

Roll No. 6. Dated about 1680.

Described as “a parchment Roll of Charges whereof the bottom part is awanting”.