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Robin Hood and 'her' Merry Women: a society of Freemasons in an early eighteenth-century London pleasure garden

Pink, A; (2010) Robin Hood and 'her' Merry Women: a society of Freemasons in an early eighteenth-century London pleasure garden. Presented at: Les femmes et la franc-maçonnerie, des Lumières à nos jours / Women and freemasonry since the enlightenment, Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux III, Bordeaux, France.

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Abstract

In February 1739 the Lancashire Journal announced that a lodge of ‘masons’, “has lately been founded in Cold-Bath Fields; their Number is already increased to nine hundred and they admit Women as well as Men, who they call Sisters. They hold a Lodge every Night, but Sunday Night is the greatest Meeting. They are govern’d by a Grand Master and Warden". This lodge is among the earliest eighteenth-century manifestations of male-female masonic sociability, and yet It has never received scholarly attention. This article presents the surviving evidence of it: announcements of its meetings in the London newspapers; details of benefit performances that the lodge sponsored in London theatres; an engraving of a meeting; and the society's song. The lodge’s obscure London pleasure-garden venue in Cold Bath Fields suggests that there was no elite participation in the membership, and that this was very much a local London phenomenon. But, intriguingly, the picture that emerges from the evidence is of a mixed (para)masonic association whose activities echo important elements found elsewhere in Europe in contemporaneous manifestations of such individual masonic groups. So, the lodge’s emphasis on sociability, meeting every night, suggests a libertine element found in French societés bachiques, such as the Ordre de la Felicité and its precursors from the mid 1730s; its motto ‘Let honour preside’ echoes the appeal to Virtue that was the motto of the Viennese Mopses who were already active by 1738; the bucolic imagery of the lodge’s rhetoric, and its androgynous chivalric elements are also found among the aristocratic Hermites de bonne humeur, also established in 1739, in Germany; and there appears to be a strong link with the theatre, as there is with the ‘Lodge de Juste’ established in Holland about 1751. So far, no details of the London lodge’s ritual have emerged, and the lodge seems to have ceased in the mid-1740s when all references to it stop.

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: Robin Hood and 'her' Merry Women: a society of Freemasons in an early eighteenth-century London pleasure garden
Event: Les femmes et la franc-maçonnerie, des Lumières à nos jours / Women and freemasonry since the enlightenment
Location: Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux III, Bordeaux, France
Dates: 2010-06-17 - 2010-06-19
Publisher version: http://www.u-bordeaux3.fr/fr/actualites/theme-3-ma...
Language: English
Keywords: freemasons, freemason, women, Robin Hood, eighteenth century, England, London, Clerkenwell, Silvesters Gardens
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP International
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/192805
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