Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 in Scotland and Ireland, over a quarter of a million under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England and just under two million in the United States.

A Masonic Lodge, often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge, is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. Every new Lodge must be warranted or chartered by a Grand Lodge, but is subject to its direction only in enforcing the published Constitution of the jurisdiction.

From England, Freemasonry spread to Holland in 1731 and eventually, through officials of the Dutch East India Company, to the Gape and other areas of the Company's influence.

Netherlandic Freemasonry in South Africa was first mooted about 1764 when Jacobus Cornelis Matthews Rademacher, a senior merchant in the Company, called at Cape Town when homeward-bound from Java. Impressed with the possibilities of a lodge being started, he recommended on his return to Holland that steps be taken to found such a lodge. This masonic expansion was facilitated by the appointment by the Dutch central body, the Grand East of the Netherlands, of Deputy Grand Masters with roving commissions.

One of these, a sea captain, Captain Abraham van der Weyde (or Weijde), arrived at the Cape on 24 April 1772 and invoked a meeting on 2 May 1772 when ten masons assembled under his presidency and the master and officers were elected. Two days later he issued a provisional warrant or authority subject to Holland's approval and the Lodge De Goede Hoop, the first in South Africa, came into being.

Meetings of the Masonic Lodges are held in Masonic Halls.

The titles associated with the various Freemasonry abbreviations were provided by Andrew Arthur, the Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of South Africa, and are noted below:
Past D.G. Reg.S.A., W.D.: Past District Grand Register, South Africa, Western Division.
Past D.G.W. (Mark): Past District Grand Warden in the Mark Degree.
Past D.G.H. (R.A.), S.A.W.D.: Past District Grand Haggai Royal Arch, South Africa, Western Division.

The terms are:
The local (District) Lodge controls all Daughter Lodges and, after a Mason becomes Master of his Lodge, he is invited to join the relevant District Grand Lodge. The position of District Grand Registrar is about half-way up the District hierarchy.
The Mark Degree is undertaken after the Master Mason Degree and is a separate allied body. District Grand Warden is a very senior rank therein.
In the Royal Arch Degree, also completed after the Master Masons Degree, the title of Haggai represents one of the senior Chapter Officers.

(For more information visit Wikipedia - Freemasonry; Wikipedia - Masonic Lodge; Cooper 1986:16)

The following practitioners are recorded as Freemason in Artefacts

ABURROW, Charles (1852 - 1933), a pioneer architect in Johannesburg, was a keen freemason, 'a leading light in Transvaal Provincial Masonic circles' (Afr Archt Dec 1911:143)

ANDREWS, George Samuel Burt (1868 - 1937 11 03), City Engineer of Johannesburg from 1904 until 1927 was a prominent freemason.

BOWEN, Ernest David William (? - 1956). He is listed as a Past Master of the Freemasons’ Buffalo Lodge in East London in 1906.

CONNER, William Tait (1867 - 1931 11 06) was so keen a Freemason that it moved his obituarist (WJS - probably WJ SLOAN) to comment: 'it may be said that he sacrificed his profession to his military and masonic services' (SAAR Dec 1931:129). He never married and died in considerable penury in Johannesburg, dependant on Freemason support and the Architects' Benevolent Fund.

COPE CHRISTIE, James Alfred (1870 12 12 - 1953 01 02) was a Freemason and President of the Rhodesian Society of Architects in 1928 and 1929.

CORDEAUX, Herbert John Charles (1866 - 1923). He is listed as a Past Master of the Freemasons’ Buffalo Lodge in East London in 1907.

ELLIS, Thomas Gordon (1887 01 06 - 1940 12 10), was a Freemason and a Past Master of Transvaal Lodge, Pretoria.

GOODE, Frank (fl. 1893 - 1897), March 1893 he drew and signed plans for the Jeppestown Freemasons' Lodge in Haus Street, Johannesburg, as did FG GREEN (Johannesburg: Jeppestown Freemason's Lodge, Haus St (RAU doc) 1893)

GREATBATCH, Daniel Westwood (1868 - 1925 09 16), (Kimberley Publ Libr gives 1871 1926), was a pioneer architect of Kimberley, also a keen Freemason.

GREEN, Frederick George (1850 - 1927 06 10), did plans for the Freemasons' Hall, Jeppe St (RAU doc) 1894.

HARRISON, William Rhodes (1886 - 1967 02 26), was a keen freemason.

MICHELL, Charles Cornwallis (1793 03 29 - 1851 03 28), was a dedicated freemason.

OBEL, Louis Theodore (1897 - 1955 04 14) worked mainly in Durban from around 1929 was a Freemason, one time Vice President of the FC Hollander Lodge and recipient of the Hebrew Order of David.

ORANJE, Pieter, was a Freemason.

REID, Arthur Henry (1856 07 05 - 1922 10 ?), was a Freemason, active in Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and later in Johannesburg where he established the first British Lodge in Johannesburg.

ROWE, Henry Rowe (1870 07 06 - 1932). A prominent Freemason.

SCHUTTE, Herman (1761 12 25 - 1844 10 25), was responsible for building of the Goede Hoop Lodge in Cape Town, (1801 1803), designed by LM THIBAULT.

SKIRROW, John (? - 1846), was a Freemason and one of the two Grand Superintendents of Works in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Freemasons from 1838 onwards.

THIBAULT, Louis Michel (1750 09 29 - 1815 11 03) may have left France because he was a member of the Freemasons who were under suspicion in France. Thibault completed the Freemasons' Lodge of Goede Hoop (plans free of charge) by 1803, having designed the work in 1801 and in 1804. In accepting in 1813 the appointment as advisor to a technical and art school under the patronage of the Freemasons and the directorship of Anton Anreith, Thibault became 'the first educator in the field of architecture in South Africa in addition to being the first formally trained architect.'

THOMPSON, James (1866 08 21 - 1937 06 ?) was a member of the Freemasons (Scottish Constitution) in the Transvaal.

WALLACE, Herbert Alexander Craig (? - 1939 10 ?) was an enthusiastic freemason and was elected the first reigning Master of the Emerald Lodge in Bloemfontein.

WILSON, Allen (1860 - 1938 03 09) was a Freemason.

WOCKE, Richard (1831 - 1890), a master builder who worked in Bloemfontein became a founder member of the Freemasons' Lodge Union.

WRIGHT, Richard Ernest (fl. 1874 - 1910) in 1880 designed the Freemasons' Temple in Port Elizabeth (Heroldt 1988:350).