Guilds are and have always been associations of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular town. The earliest types of guilds were formed as fraternities of tradesmen. When organized, these groups transformed into part professional association, part trade union, part cartel, and part secret society.
Most Speculative Free Masons are aware of the fact that a Guild of Operative Free Masons still exists and that The Masons Company of London still endures. Its a fact that Societies of Operative Masons were in England, France, and Italy during the Middle Ages and built churches, bridges, and cathedrals which still adorn those countries.
If any one man can be said to have founded today’s Operatives, that man was Clement Edwin Stretton, who was born in 1850 and lived in Leiceste. Stretton’s activities were not confined to Guild Masonry alone. In 1871, he joined speculative freemasonry, being initiated, as was his father, into St. John Lodge No. 279 in Leicester.