The history of the Mother Lodge dates back to the year 1140 at 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 of the masons at this point but they still met at various locations including the Abbey in 1598-1599, the house in the Crossbrae in the town centre in 1643 known as the “masons howf” and 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 today. The present Lodge was consecrated in 1893.
A Kilwinning Chapter 1771
Before the forming of Grand Lodge in 1736 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 Kilwinning’s name today. Scotland being a small country it was undesirable to have two Grand Lodges so Mother Kilwinning gave up this right.
in 1743 Grand Lodge decided to number lodges by seniority and oldest records, unfortunately Mother Kilwinning’s minute books date back to 1642, previous records 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 was placed second on the roll of the Grand Lodge a position she strongly disagreed with, so withdrew 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 and a new and binding agreement was reached, that being that Mother Kilwinning was placed at the Head of the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and now has the famous and distinctive Number ‘ 0 ‘. The master of the Lodge would by right of that office become Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire. Mother Kilwinning also 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.
Shaw Statue’s 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 amended 1983, where once again Masonic change was required of Mother Kilwinning. The Master of Kilwinning no longer becomes Provincial Grand Master of Ayrshire , instead:-
1. Mother Kilwinning has the right for all time being to nominate a Brother to become Grand Lodge Bible Bearer.
2. There was 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 ensure Mother Kilwinning’s still present singular position and autonomy in the Masonic world.