In the Middle Ages and until about 1500 the Operative Masons were not organized as
Speculative Freemasons are. The builders as a whole, including the numbers of special types of them such as Freemasons, wallers, setters, tilers, quarrymen, etc., were everywhere subject to the general laws of the gild system. In some periods and in some places they had a local guild of their own.
If a cathedral (or abbey, or priory of large size) was to be built they formed their organization on the spot; a Master of Masons (called by different titles) would be secured by the foundation or administration behind the building enterprise, and he would sign an agreement; this done he would send out a call for workmen, so many of one sort, so many of another; if houses for them and their families were not available they would build them; they would build a dodge room or building for their own use, and also, in most instances, a second room or building in which plans were drawn, models were made, etc.
Enter: The Freemasons
The Freemasons among the total number of workmen would have meetings in the Lodge room or building, when the need for one arose, or possibly at fixed times, their officers presiding. From then until the building was completed, in ten, twenty-five, or even fifty years, the Freemasons thus had their own local organization.
There is no evidence of any national or general organization with a single centre, but there is evidence in Masonic traditions and in the text of labour laws that a local organization would send delegates to assemblies, which appear to have been called only at need.
Yet there was such a thing as Masonry in general. Apprentices received everywhere the same training, same at least in general outline though it is known that in detail it differed an experienced Craftsman could tell a workman’s origin by his use of a stone axe. The modes of recognition were such that any regular Freemason could prove himself to be one not only at any place in his own country but also in foreign countries.