What does the title of Free and Accepted mean?
How did the words "free" and "accepted" originate? The ancient craftsmen were very skilled, and their craft was considered to be indispensible to the welfare of both church and state. For this reason, they were not placed under the same restrictions of other workers - they were "free" to do their work, travel and live their lives in a manner which befitted their importance. In Medival England, this freedom of movement was almost unheard. Most workers were under bond to the owners of the land on which they worked. We believe this freedom for the operative mason may date back as far as the year 946 in York. The word "accepted" also goes back to the time of the operative mason. During the latter years of the Middle ages, there were few educated men outside the monasteries of the church. Naturally, men wanted to become Freemasons to get the advantages the Craft had to offer. These men did not necessarily want to build buildings, they wanted to belong to the organization. These were "accepted" Masons rather than operative masons. This practice probably originated when some of the people for whom craftsmen were working asked to be admitted and the practice grew with time. This was a big boost to Masonry, because the secret techniques of building trades were becoming more widely known, the requirements of architecture were changing, and our operative membership was declining. By becoming "speculative," we grew rapidly. As time went on, there became more and more of the accepted members than there were operative members. Sometime in the late seventeenth century, we believe the accepted masons outnumbered the operative masons, and we became a speculative organization rather than operative one.