There has been a lot of debate over which Masonic lodge is the oldest speculative (non-operative) lodge. There are two parts to the answer; the first is the earliest recorded lodge, known to have existed, and the second is the oldest Masonic lodge still in existence.
The answer to the first question is something that may change in years to come, as research or chance turns up new records. However, it is generally accepted that the oldest surviving minute of a lodge is for for Aitchison’s Haven Lodge (also spelt Atcheson Lodge or Achison Lodge. The minute, found in a book bearing the year 1598, is given in Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry as:
“The IX day of Januerie the Zeir of God upon ye quhilk day Robert Widderspone was maid fellow of Craft in ye presens of Wilzam Aytone Elder, Johne Fender being Warden, Johne Pedden Thomas Pettencrief John Crafurd George Aytone Wilzame Aytone younger Hendric Petticrief all fellowis of Craft upon ye quhilk day he chois George Aytone Johne Pedded to be his intenders and instructouris and also ye said Robert hes payit his xx sh. and his gluffis to everie Maister as efferis” (9th January 1598)
After being deleted from the books of the Grand Lodge in May, 1737, Aitchison’s Haven lodge was restored to the roll in 1814, until finally being declared closed in 1866. It is interesting to note that some historians suggest that Kilwinning Lodge gave Aitchison’s Haven their charter, so must actually pre-date Aitchison’s, although no specific details are currently known.
The oldest Masonic Lodge still in existence is considered to be Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1, Edinburgh, Scotland, and also known as Mary’s Chapel. The first recorded date being 31 July 1599, making it 410 years old at the time of writing. Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1 had two very famous former members: King Edward VII, and King Edward VIII.
Although Edinburgh Lodge is the oldest existing lodge, it should be noted that Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 is actually the oldest lodge temple that still exists. Most of the older early lodges have moved from their original premises.
David Stevenson, in his book The Origins of Freemasonry, lists the oldest Masonic lodges as follows (by earliest recorded mention):
1. Aitchinson’s Haven, 9 January 1599.
2. Edinburgh, 31 July 1599.
3. St Andrews, 27 November 1599.
4= Kilwinning, 28 December 1599.
4= Stirling, 28 December 1599.
6. Haddington, 1599.
7. Dunfermline, 1600-1.
8. Glasgow, 31 December 1613.
9. Dundee, 1627-8.
10. Linlithgow, 2 March 1654.