[permaculture] Order of Free Gardeners - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Tue Apr 19 13:17:42 EDT 2011

Order of Free Gardeners - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Order of Free Gardeners
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Insignia of the Order of Free Gardeners

The Order of Free Gardeners is a fraternal society that was founded in 
Scotland in the middle of the 17th Century and later spread to England 
and Ireland. Like numerous other friendly societies of the time, its 
principal aim was the sharing of knowledge—secrets—linked to the 
profession and mutual aid. In the 19th Century, its activities of mutual 
insurance became predominant. By the end of the 20th Century it had 
become almost entirely extinct.

In 1849, The Ancient Order of Free Gardeners Scotland formed at 
Penicuik. In 1956, due to falling attendances in Scotland, the Grand 
Lodge charter was transferred to Cape Town, South Africa and remains 
there. In September 2005, saw the Ancient Order returned to Scotland 
when the Countess of Elgin Lodge no. 105 received its Charter to meet in 
Dysart, Fife.

Although the Free Gardeners always remained independent of Freemasonry, 
the history and organisation of the two orders show numerous 
similarities that shed light on the birth of the latter.[1]

     1 History
     2 Ritual
     3 The first members
     4 Comparisons with Freemasonry
     5 Miscellaneous
     6 See also
     7 Notes and references
     8 Further reading
     9 External links

[edit] History

The most ancient evidence of the order is a record of the minutes of the 
Haddington lodge, opened 16 August 1676, which begins with a compilation 
of fifteen rules called Interjunctions for ye Fraternity of Gardiners of 
East Lothian.[2]
Edzell Castle's walled garden, Scotland, dates back to 1604.

Scotland was, in the 17th century, subject to civil unrest and 
intermittent famines. Rich landowners were interested in Renaissance 
architecture and the design of formal gardens for their vast estates. 
The first members of the Haddington lodge were not gardeners by 
profession, but small landowners and farmers who practised gardening for 
pleasure. Not practicing an urban profession, they could not obtain the 
status of a guild and modeled their organization on the Masons, who had 
an organization, additional to and independent of their guild: the lodge.[3]

This organisation set up in Haddington could be viewed as a primitive 
form of union. It organised cooperation between members, provided 
practical training and ethical development, and supported the poor, 
widows, and orphans. The lodges of gardeners were also the first to 
organise floral exhibitions, from 1772.[3]

About 1715, a lodge similar to Haddington was founded in Dunfermline, 
supported by two members of the local aristocracy, the Earl of Moray and 
the Marquess of Tweeddale. From its origin, it admitted numerous 
non-gardeners as members. It created a charitable society to benefit the 
widows, orphans, and poor of the lodge, sponsored a horse race and 
organised an annual horticultural fair before transforming itself little 
by little into a mutual aid society. It reached a membership of 212.[3]

The lodges of Haddington and Dunfermline expanded their recruitment area 
widely without authorising creation of new lodges. It was only in 1796 
that three new lodges were created: at Arbroath, Bothwell, and 

During the 18th Century, about twenty other lodges were created, always 
in Scotland, and on 6 November 1849, they organized a meeting with a 
view to create a Grand Lodge. Establishments then accelerated, and in 
1859, in Edinburgh, the Grand Lodge gathered representatives from more 
than 100 lodges, including three established in the USA.

At the peak of the movement there were more than 10,000 Free Gardeners 
for the Lothians alone, belonging to more than 50 lodges.[5]

Encouraged by this success, competing horticultural societies appeared 
during the 19th Century. Unlike the Free Gardeners, they did not have a 
charitable role, mutual help, or rituals, and they would accept anybody, 
male or female, who paid their dues.
Free Gardener regalia on display in Edinbourgh

In the 20th Century, the two World Wars called up most of the members. 
The economic crisis of 1929 weakened their charitable capacities.[3] The 
social protection laws weakened the attraction of mutual aid, before the 
National Insurance Act of 1946 removed their entire purpose.[4] Even 
before the Second World War, the number of deaths exceeded the number of 
admissions to the lodges. In 1939, the minutes of the Haddington lodge 
were interrupted until 1952, when its eight last members attempted in 
vain to relaunch it.[3] Despite the recruitment of new members, the 
Haddington fraternity pronounced its dissolution on 22 February 1953.[6] 
The Dunfermline lodge lasted until the middle of the 1980s.[7]

These disappearances were part of a wider social change. In 1950 there 
were around 30,000 Friendly Societies in the UK, while in 2000 there 
were fewer than 150.[8] In 2000, the research of R. Cooper counted no 
more than a single lodge (in Bristol) for Great Britain, but mentioned 
the survival of the Order of Free Gardeners in the Antilles (Caribbean 
British Order of Free Gardners) and in Australia.[3] In 2002, a 
conservation society was created in Scotland with aims of research and 
conservation of the traditions of this Order and some lodges were 
revived on this occasion.[9]
[edit] Ritual

Fraternity documents from the end of the 17th century reveal no trace of 
secret knowledge or rituals. However, the interest rapidly shown by the 
members of the aristocracy suggests this association did not exclusively 
deal with mutual assurance.[10]

The oldest known mention of the existence of an initiation secret in 
this order appears on 28 January 1726, when the fraternity studied an 
internal complaint that accused one of its members of defaming certain 
of its officers in saying they could not correctly give its words and 
signs. In 1772, other documents established that the fraternity of the 
Free Gardeners had 'Words' and 'Secrets'. An 1848 document mentions a 
teaching, in the form of 'Signs, Secrets and Grips'. Historians have at 
their disposal complete rituals of the Apprentice, Companion and Master 
dating from 1930. Minutes of the lodges show that the ritual of the 
order progressively developed, from a fairly basic ceremony of 
transmission of the 'Word' at its very beginnings, to a system of three 
grades similar to that of Freemasonry at the end of the 19th Century.[10]
Garden of Eden
Paradisi in Sole (1629) by John Parkinson

A conference of 1873 indicates that Free Gardening used the cultivation 
of soil as the symbol of the nurturing of the spirit in intelligence and 
virtue and made reference to the Garden of Eden.[10]

     The admission ritual of the Free Gardeners' apprentices shows many 
similarities to that of Freemason apprentices. Adam could thus 
symbolically be the first Free Gardener. Use is made of the compass and 
the square, to which is added the knife, presented as 'the simplest tool 
of gardening', allowing 'pruning the vices and propagating virtues by 
cuttings'. At the end of this ceremony, the apprentice received the 
apron of his grade.[10]

     The second degree made reference to Noah, the 'second Gardener' and 
made the Companion symbolically accomplish a voyage that led him towards 
the Garden of Eden then towards that of Gethsemane.[10]

     The third degree made reference to Solomon, the 'third Gardener', 
and to the symbol of the olive tree.[10]

The aprons are of two types:

     Long aprons, reaching the ankle, embroidered with numerous symbols 
relating to the legends of the order.[11]
     Shorter aprons, with a semi-circular bib, strongly resembling the 
aprons of the Freemasons of Scotland.[12] That of the president is 
embroidered with the letters P, G, H, E, initials of the four rivers of 
the Garden of Eden,[13] and A, N, S, initials of Adam, Noah and 
Solomon,[11] to which is added the letter O, probably for 'Olive'.

Generally, the symbolism utilized by the Free Gardeners seems to have 
been strongly influenced during the 19th Century by that of Freemasonry.[14]

On numerous objects of the order dating from the very beginning of the 
20th Century, one finds an emblem composed of a square, a compass and a 
grafting knife. As there is not a trace of this emblem in the earlier 
documents, it is probable that it had also been inspired lately by that 
of Freemasonry.[4]
[edit] The first members

There is little information on the professions of the members before the 
end of the 17th Century. During this period the Haddington lodge 
included merchants, tailors and clerks as well as gardeners. All the 
members of the lodge were originally from the county. On the other hand, 
the lodge at Dunfermline, former capital of Scotland, prided itself on 
counting among its members 'numerous renowned persons of Edinburgh, as 
well as East Lothian including the Marquess of Tweeddale, the count of 
Haddington (Earl of Haddington), Lord William Hay etc.'.[4]

The first record of the Dunfermline lodge was established in 1716 with 
the signatures of 214 members. At this time the membership was composed 
of a majority of gardeners by trade, but also numerous artisans and two 
members of the local aristocracy. Rapidly, the membership grew and the 
social level rose—to the point that the professional gardeners no longer 
formed the majority of new members—but the recruitment remained local. 
In 1721, 101 new members of all social statuses were admitted into the 
lodge, from gardeners and butchers to the Duke of Atholl. The following 
years saw a fairly large number of aristocrats initiated in Free 
Gardening in the Dunfermline lodge, even while they remain on the edge 
of the Haddington lodge, which remains mainly active. Most of these 
people possess famous gardens. Starting from 1736, the date of the 
creation of the (Masonic) Grand Lodge of Scotland, this tendency ceased 
and there were no more initiations of aristocrats in the Dunfermline 

Religiously, all the members of this time were Protestants and belonged 
to the Church of Scotland. Politically, on the other hand, there were 
all types.[4]
[edit] Comparisons with Freemasonry

In the 1720s, Scotland had a profusion of societies, fraternities, and 
clubs. Freemasonry and the Order of Free Gardeners are merely those that 
spread the furthest and lasted the longest.[4]

Those two orders present important similarities concerning their 
organisation and development. Both were born in Scotland in the middle 
of the 17th Century among groups of professional workers who very 
quickly accepted members from other professions. In both cases, members 
of the original profession became minorities from the beginning of the 
18th Century. In both orders also, certain lodges open very rapidly to 
'accepted' members and in particular to the local nobility, whereas 
others, like that of Haddington for the Free Gardeners and that of 
Edinburgh for the Freemasons, are more reticent.[4]

Almost all known members who belonged to the two orders were Free 
Gardeners before becoming Freemasons. The largest group of Free 
Gardeners who later became Freemasons joined the Kilwinning Scots Arms 
Masonic lodge founded in 1729. There were nine members of the free 
gardeners Dunfermline lodge. None of them were gardeners by trade, they 
were aristocrats and soldiers.[4]

Freemasonry expanded rapidly in England and, after creation of the Grand 
Lodge in London in 1717, across the entire world. On the other hand, the 
Order of Free Gardeners remained principally Scottish. In both cases, 
the Scottish lodges seemed to have difficulties grouping together into 
larger structures called Grand Lodges. In the case of the Order of Free 
Gardeners, the first Grand Lodge only formed in 1849, and 15 lodges 
remained independent until the disappearance of the order. In both 
cases, it is in particular the lodges founded before their Grand Lodge 
that remain the most reluctant to renounce their independence.[4]
[edit] Miscellaneous

Ancient Free Gardeners, an indie-rock band in Melbourne, Australia, 
takes its name from the Free Gardeners, though the group has no 
association.[15] The inspiration came from a visit to the Melbourne 
branch of the Free Gardeners, which is now extinct.
[edit] See also

     Friendly Society

[edit] Notes and references

     ^ Robert L.D. Cooper, Les francs-jardiniers Ivoire Clair (ed)(2000) 2-8
     ^ Interjunctions for ye Fraternity of Gardiners of East Lothian
     ^ a b c d e f R. Cooper, op. cit., pp. 11-24
     ^ a b c d e f g h i j R. Cooper, op. cit., pp. 87-93
     ^ Free Gardeners of the Lothians and Fife at HistoryShelf.org 
(consulted 8 April 2007)
     ^ The Fraternity of Gardeners of East Lothian at HistoryShelf.org 
(checked 8 April 2007)
     ^ The Society of Gardeners in and about Dunfermline at 
HistoryShelf.org (checked 8 April 2007)
     ^ Friendly societies at HistoryShelf.org (checked 8 April 2007)
     ^ Adelphi Bluebell Lodge (consulted 13/03/2007)
     ^ a b c d e f R. Cooper, op. cit., pp. 27-40
     ^ a b Regalia and Ritual and symbols (checked 19 March 2007)
     ^ R. Cooper, op. cit., p. 45
     ^ Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates
     ^ Free Gardeners and Freemasons at HistoryShelf.org (consulted 18 
March 2007)
     ^ "Album reviews of rock band - Ancient Free Gardeners". Retrieved 

[edit] Further reading

     Robert L.D. Cooper. Les francs-jardiniers, Ivoire Clair (ed) (2000) 
ISBN 2-913882-05-6
     Robert L. D Cooper. Freemasons, Templars and Gardeners ANZMRC 
(Melbourne 2005) ISBN 09578256-2-5
     The Free Gardeners website at HistoryShelf.org (Consulted 18 March 
     W. Gow. A Historical Sketch from the Records of the Ancient Society 
of Gardeners, Dunfermline (1910)

[edit] External links

     Ancient Order of Free Gardeners on the Grand Lodge of British 
Columbia and Yukon website (consulted 13/03/2007).
     Website of the Adelphi Bluebell Lodge No. 4 of Free Gardeners in 
Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, Scotland (consulted 13/03/2007).
     Ancient Free Gardeners - web site of the Melbourne, Australia band 
taking its name from the Order of Free Gardeners.

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