Wednesday, October 9, 2019

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: Goose and Gridiron Ale-House’

You know the first grand lodge was formed June 24, 1717 inside an ale house named the Goose and Gridiron, but do you know how that establishment’s name came to be?

Click to enlarge.
The Freemasons that day convened for the purpose of enjoying the Annual Assembly and Feast to establish, not the Grand Lodge of England, but the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. (London and Westminster were distinct municipalities then.) The building stood several stories tall, with its largest dining room measuring approximately 15 by 22 feet, apparently large enough to accommodate the brethren representing four lodges that met in area taverns.

Writing in his The Four Old Lodges, Founders of Modern Freemasonry, and Their Descendants (1879), the eminent Masonic historian Robert Freke Gould explains the establishment’s name’s origins. Quoting the periodical Tatler, itself dating to 1709, he writes:

“The Mitre was a celebrated music-house, in London House Yard, at the N.W. end of St. Paul’s. When it ceased to be a music-house, the succeeding landlord, to ridicule its former destiny, chose for his sign a goose striking the bars of a gridiron with his foot, in ridicule of the Swan and Harp, a common sign for the early music-houses.”

Freke continues in his own words:

“…it may also be a vernacular of the coat of arms of the Company of Musicians, suspended probably at the door of the Mitre when it was a music-house. These arms are, a swan with his wings extended within a double tressure, counter, flory, argent. This double tressure might have suggested a gridiron to unsophisticated passers-by.”

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