At a regular meeting of Boteler Lodge No 7367 held at Warrington Masonic Hall, just before the lodge was closed, a special dispensation was read to allow the next part of the evening to happen. The secretary George Bennett asked Masons to stay in the lodge room and invited guests to join them. The lodge room then almost filled to capacity with Masons, their Masonic guests and non-Masons. George introduced himself and the subject of his talk which was ‘A brief history of the Masonic apron’.
The talk was put together from a number of sources, some of which conflicted with each other and some in which he felt facts had been invented to fit the story, so he had to filter a lot out. As well as the important significance of the apron, he wanted to try and convey its history and its development, but at the same time make it interesting to non-Masons and Masons alike, sprinkled with a bit of humour.
George started by explaining that aprons are not a modern invention, King James Bible – Genesis 3:7 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made an apron for themselves.” Open for debate as to apron or loincloth, tabards are also a form of apron that are often depicted in drawings and paintings from ‘The Middle Ages’. The Egyptian Pharaohs are depicted wearing jewelled aprons/loincloths.
George explained that aprons were worn initially for protection by craftsmen and traders, also to indicate their trade. Cobblers wore black – protection from the black wax used when making footwear. Barbers used to wear check aprons. Butchers and dairymen/milkmen traditionally wore aprons with blue and white vertical stripes. In Victorian times they were quite often horizontal stripes. Blue was worn by spinners and weavers, also by gardeners. Servants, as in Downton Abbey, polishing silver and boots wore green. Carpenters generally wore brown.
At the start of Masonry nearly 300 years ago Freemasons adopted the practice of wearing plain lambskin aprons which were similar to the entered apprentice apron worn today. The plain lambskin aprons were tied at the front underneath the flap. The flap is what remains of the bib of the original stonemason’s apron.
The remainder of the talk evolved around the differences in Masonic aprons appertaining to rank. The picture shows the entered apprentice, fellowcraft, master Mason and a past master’s apron. In contrast George also demonstrated a Provincial grand officer’s apron (worn by him), a Provincial Grand Steward’s apron (red) and a grand officer’s apron.
When the talk was concluded, loud applause followed which was an indication of the level of interest shown by the audience.
The talk was followed by a ‘Boteler Lodge Ladies to Dine’ style banquet. Gastronomic delights included canapés, chicken and ham vol-au-vents with a white wine sauce, lemon sole and asparagus fishcake, roast rack of lamb served with pommes boulangère and seasonal vegetables, blackcurrant cheesecake with a fruit coulis and to finish off, a premier cheese board and biscuits, with tea of coffee. Premium red and white wines accompanied the food.
Jim Carrington WM and his lady Elizabeth hosted the remainder of the evening. Total attendees were 75, including 41 non-Masons who enjoyed the excellent banquet served by the Masonic hall staff.