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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Easterlings

Published in Masonic Bulletin-BCY-April 1956
Westminster Abbey, the sublime church in which monarchs of Eng­land have
been crowned, and also in which so many of England's mightiest men have been entombed, is very old, for the main body of it was erected by Henry III
during the 25 years from 1245 to 1270, and the structure was designed by
some of the greatest Masters of Masons England ever knew, and the work was
done by Freemasons silently and cautiously chosen from over England, France,
and Scotland. William Morris wrote of it that It is a building second to
none amongst all the marvels of archi­tectural beauty produced by the Middle
Ages. Like all such build­ings, its beauty is convincing and sets criticism
During the centuries a Master Mason has had custody of the build­ing and has preserved a day-by-day account of goods and money re­ceived or used. A portion of these accounts, selected from the earliest, was printed in facsimile. A copy is in the Iowa Masonic Library. Here and there in it are notes made of the expenditure of certain sums spent for "easterling" boards. What were these boards? What meant "easterling"? To find the answer a Masonic student must make a long detour through the oldest and most historic tract of geography in the whole world.
On the East of England lies the North Sea, a Stormy barrier between island people and a nearby contin­ent. That sea extends an arm northward along the west coast of Denmark, bends around the head of that peninsula, and then breaks it­self into channels along the east side of Denmark, where it enters the Baltic Sea, which extends vast­ly northwards into the heart of Scandinavia, and sends an arm into the midst of Russia. At the en­trance to the Baltic stands a tri­angle of the three ancient cities that formed the basis of the Han­seatic League: Copenhagen in Den­mark; Stockholm in Sweden; Oslo in Norway.
In the period when Henry III began Westminster Abbey certain forest men from the eastern regions of the Baltic brought to England in small ships costly fine lumber, ob­tainable nowhere else. They had for their use a walled enclosure outside the London gates called The Steelyard. The men them­selves were called Easterlings, and that name, by one of the romantic accidents of history, is still in uni­versal use in England as the world "sterling," which is a contraction made by long use of "easterling"; it came to denote genuine, pure silver and thus was the standard for the English pound sterling, and for sterling silverware.
The Freemasons working in the Abbey made sketches or plans with a crayon or pencil, and required a wood that was smooth and yet was soft enough for marks on it to be easily erased. It was the Easter­lings who furnished the wood, and did so for centuries, for which reason the boards were called "easterling boards." They were an early form of our own Trestleboard or Tracing Board. -
Courtesy, Iowa Bulletin

Credit given to:
Ron Bushby
Mt.St.Paul 109
Kamloops, B.C.

1 comment:

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