Who Was the First Grand Master of Freemasonry?

As announced in the Book of Constitutions of the Free-masons in 1723, Anthony Sayer was the first Grand Master of the first Grand Lodge of England, formed in 1717. Sayer was born in 1672 in London, and was a bookseller living in the St. Giles Fields area of the city.

Anthony Sayer (c.1672–1741/1742) | Art UK

He was elected as Grand Master for a period of one year by the Freemasons who inaugurated the Premier Grand Lodge on St. John Baptist’s Day, 24th June 1717.

After his short spell as the first Grand Master, throughout the 1720s, Sayer fell on hard times. Like others at the time, he may have fallen foul to a bad investment in shares of the doomed South Sea Company, but there is no conclusive proof that this was the cause of his hardship.

By 1930, Sayer was accused by fellow brothers of ‘acting incorrectly’ while serving as Tyler for the Lodge of Friendship and Old King’s Arms Lodge. After being summoned to the Grand Lodge to explain himself, he was let off with a warning and was told not to break Masonic rules again.

It seems that Sayer’s life didn’t improve a great deal in the years that followed. In February 1736, there’s a record of the first Grand Master receiving charitable support from Old King’s Arms Lodge to the sum of two guineas. He subsequently requested charity on several other occasions from the Grand Lodge. Each time his request was granted.

When he died in 1742, he was laid to rest at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. His funeral service was well attended by Freemasons and his wife was given a contribution by the fraternity.

Sayer’s life and journey as a Freemason is seen as symbolic of what’s possible for ordinary men who join the Craft. He came from a modest background and rose to prominence to serve as the first Master Mason. He was regarded as a man of great integrity and humility, and showed fortitude in the face of hardship and adversity.

It’s extremely pertinent, then, that the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England evinced many of the desirable Masonic characteristics, and was a man who was esteemed by his peers throughout his life.