The Degree of Mark Master Mason is open to all Master Masons. The ceremony, in which a Brother is ‘advanced’, can be said to comprise two Degrees; the first in which he is acknowledged as a Mark Man, followed by the second where he becomes a Mark Master Mason. The Mark referred to in its title takes its name from the mark or symbol with which the stonemason identified his work and can still be found in many cathedrals and important buildings.

Much use is made of Holy Writ to instruct the Candidate and Brethren in the story which serves to teach that the real message is one of contemplation of human strengths and weaknesses. In chronological terms, the Degree follows that of the Second Degree in Craft Masonry. There is reputedly some evidence that the Degree is 400 years old but the earliest English records stem from 1769 when it was first worked in Chapter of Friendship, Royal Arch Chapter No. 257 (formerly No. 3) in Portsmouth. However, a minute book dated 1599 of the Lodge of Edinburgh states that several speculative brethren had appended their marks after their names.

The first meeting of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons was held on Monday, 23 June 1856.

The ordinary members’ regalia comprises an apron and breast jewel. The apron is of a white kid with a triangular flap bordered with a two-inch ribbon of light blue with crimson edges. It has rosettes of the same colour whilst Masters and Past Masters have the rosettes replaced with silver levels. The jewel of the order is a keystone appended to a ribbon which matches the apron and bears a mallet & chisel which are the tools of the Order. The keystone, which bears certain characters, forms an integral part of the ceremony.

The History

From the earliest times of the art of building it has been customary among operative masons to put special marks for identification upon stones wrought by them and to indicate its position in the structure. These marks are to be found in all countries and on buildings of all ages throughout the world. If any of the workmanship was found to be defective, it was a matter of no difficulty for the overseers to ascertain at once who was the imperfect craftsman and remedy the defect. Thus, the faulty workman was punished, without diminishing the wages of the diligent and faithful craftsmen. The placing of the Mark on finished work was not peculiar to stone Masons but was the practice of the Cutters, Pavers and Jointers and possibly other craftsmen.

Origins of the Mark Degree

There is no authentic account of the origins of the mark degree as well may be written with all Masonic degrees and the subject has had many students.

The Mark Degree was once considered as a second part of the Fellow Craft and therefore, was a qualifying degree for the MM.  To understand many parts of the MM’s Degree requires some knowledge of the Mark Degree.  Let us take an example. It is commonly believed that it was Fellow Crafts, who conspired to extort the secrets from Hiram Abiff. This is not correct as it was not the FCs, but a different category.  Our ritual states – “Fifteen FC’s of that superior class appointed to preside over the rest, finding that the work was nearly completed but that they were not in possession of the secrets of the third degree, conspired etc. etc…” So, it is ‘fifteen FC’s of that superior class appointed to preside over the rest’ who conspired to extort the secrets.  Therefore, we see that a new class of supervisors is being created to preside over the FCs. The ritual goes on to give their names, “the Menatschins or Prefects or more familiarly speaking the Overseers” This category of supervisors were called Menatschins or Overseers. Besides this, no further information is available in the Craft about the role or function of this category of supervisors.

The events of the Mark degree require that the candidate to undertake the role of a Fellowcraft, thus the degree is seen as an extension of the Fellowcraft Degree and fill that part of our ritual in the traditional history of the craft degree as quoted, and the philosophical lessons conveyed are appropriate to that stage in a candidate’s Masonic development. While the Fellowcraft degree teaches a Mason what the historical wages of a Fellowcraft Mason are, the Mark Master Mason degree teaches a Mason how to earn those wages, how to prove his work is his own, and what the penalty for fraud was during the building of the Temple.

The Shaw statutes dated 25 December 1598 ordain that no Master or fellowcraft is to be received or admitted except in the presence of Six Masters and Two entered apprentices, the warden of the lodge been one of the six, the date thereof been orderly booked and his name and Mark inserted in the said book.

The first record of the degree having been conferred is in 1769, when Thomas Dunckerley, as Provincial Grand Superintendent, conferred the degrees of Mark Man and Mark Master Mason at a Royal Arch Chapter in Portsmouth. Where he got the degree is lost in antiquity. In the minute book of St Thomas Lodge, London, No. 142, an entry on the 9 August 1777 reads: “The WM with the following brothers of the Lodge were made Mark Masons and Mark Masters”. The Mark Degree is considered fourth in the series of Degree’s in Freemasonry and the Mark Degree forms a very close link in the chain connecting the Speculative Craft Lodges of today with the Old Operative systems of Freemasonry


The Mark Degree conveys moral and ethical lessons using a ritualised allegory based around the building of King Solomon’s Temple. It is particularly directed to the inculcation of order, regularity, and discipline. It teaches us that we should discharge all the duties of our several stations with precision and punctuality; that the work of our hands and the thoughts of our hearts should be good and true—not unfinished and imperfect—not sinful and defective—but such as the Great Overseer and Judge of heaven and earth will see fit to approve as a worthy oblation from his creatures.

History of the degree in South Africa

Knowing that the degree was conferred in Craft lodges from 1769 onwards it must be assumed that the degree was conferred in craft lodges in South Africa, as many Ships Lodges and Military Lodges operated in South Africa during the British occupation of 1795, but there is no Historic record of this, what we do know is that the first Mark Lodge warranted in South Africa was the Cornerstone Lodge No 217 of 1878 in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, followed by Natalia Mark Lodge no 252 and Spes Bona Mark Lodge no 253 Spes Bona Mark Lodge became the sponsor Mark Lodge of British Mark Lodge of Mark Master Masons no 345.