The history of the Mother Lodge dates back to the year 1140 at the time of the building of Kilwinning Abbey, the ruins of which still stand to the rear of the Lodge. The Lodge was founded in the chapter house within the Abbey and remained there until the reformation in 1560 when the Earl of Glencairn, a blood enemy of the Earls of Eglinton who hold a long tradition with the Lodge, sacked the Abbey.
Kilwinning Lodge Chapter House
Little is known about the masons around 1598 – 1599 but they met at various locations in Kilwinning, including the Abbey. They then met in the house at Crossbrae in the town centre in 1643 which was known as the “Masons Howf” and also at the court house of the Earl of Eglinton. In the mid 1700’s the masons decided to build a new Lodge and in 1779 the old Lodge was built at the entrance to the Abbey. Unfortunately 100 years later due to decay and fear of the building collapsing it was demolished and a new Lodge was built 30 yards from the former site and remains there to this day. The present Lodge was consecrated in 1893.
Kilwinning Chapter 1771
Before the formation of Grand Lodge Mother Kilwinning was a Grand Lodge in her own right, issuing warrants and charters to Lodges wishing to enjoy the privileges of Freemasonry. Many Lodges still carry the name of Kilwinning to this day, but Scotland being a small country it was undesirable to have two Grand Lodges.
Grand Lodge in Edinburgh was formed in 1736 and it was decided to number lodges by seniority. Unfortunately at that time Mother Kilwinning’s known minute books only dated back to 1642 as previous records were thought to have been smuggled by the monks to France during the reformation or destroyed in the disastrous fire at nearby Eglinton Castle. Mother Kilwinning therefore did not receive her rightful place and was placed second on the roll of the Grand Lodge, a position she strongly disagreed with, so withdrew from Grand Lodge and continued to issue charters as before.
This dispute lasted until 1807 when the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Kilwinning met in Glasgow and settled their differences. A new and binding agreement was reached where Mother Kilwinning was placed at the Head of the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and has now has become recognised by the distinctive Number ‘ 0 ‘. However to be correct it is numbering nothing on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
By the signing of this agreement the master of the Lodge by right of that office become Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire but Mother Kilwinning gave up the right to issue warrants and charters.
In 1860 during a search in Eglinton Castle the now famous Schaw statutes of 1598 and 1599 were found.
The Old Schaw Statutes 1598 – 1599
William Schaw the ” Maister o’ Work and “Warden o’er a’ the masons ” wrote that Kilwinning was the “Heid (Head) Ludge o’ Scotland. Had these statutes been available in 1743 there would have been no doubt about Kilwinning’s position in Freemasonry. This agreement lasted for 176 years until 1983 when the need for masonic change was once again placed upon Kilwinning. With these changes the Right Worshipful Master of Kilwinning no longer by right of that office became the Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire, instead:-
1. Mother Kilwinning was given the right for all time being to nominate a Brother to become Grand Bible Bearer in the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
2. There was to be erected and consecrated the Provincial Grand Lodge of Kilwinning with Mother Kilwinning having the sole right to nominate the Provincial Grand Master in the Province of Kilwinning. These changes further ensured Mother Kilwinnings singular position and autonomy within the Masonic world.