Lodge St George (Former)

5 Colonsay Street, Lawrence

  • Lodge St George (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/03/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2249 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fixtures and fittings, and the gate with the Masonic Square and compass symbol and land on CT OT222/96

City/District Council

Clutha District


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 6 Blk II Town of Lawrence (CT OT222/96)


Freemasonry is a ritual based, male only benevolent institution, which promotes ethical conduct and mutual support for its members. It was first practised in New Zealand in 1842. The movement grew out of trade and guild organisations in England in eighteenth century and provided mutual social support for members. The Lodge was the basic unit of organisation, with each Lodge managing its own affairs. Each Lodge followed the same ceremonies, procedures and rituals, and aimed at providing charity for members and others. Visits to other Lodges were an important part of membership, promoting business contacts, community participation and friendships. Lodges were prominent parts of the social landscape in goldfields Otago, with their activities noted in newspapers, and a Lodge being present in many of the small towns. There has been little analysis on their role or contributions to the community.

The Masonic Lodge St George was formed in June 1865 in a meeting at the Commercial Hotel in Peel Street. A room at the hotel was consecrated in November 1865. It was common for Lodge organisations to meet in hotels or private houses, so this use is consistent with these practices. The Lodge leased a room at that hotel until they had raised the funds for their own building.

The Lodge Hall was built in 1878, close to Peel Street which was the main commercial area in Lawrence at that time. Section 6 had been granted to a Mr Jackson in August 1865. Subsection 3 of Section 6 was acquired for £110 by members and held in Trust for the Lodge in April 1876. The land was held in the name of various Lodge members as Trustees, including prominent local men - hotel keeper James Chalmers, blacksmith James Middlemiss, and storekeeper George Jeffrey. The lodge was built and designed by member and carpenter Samual Miller .

The new building was opened in mid October 1878. A newspaper article reported the occasion.

It is a substantial brick building with 14-inch walls, and will no doubt be suitable for Masonic purposes. These buildings, as a rule, do not seem to give much scope for architectural display. Being lighted from the roof, there is very little opportunity - especially in a small building - of relieving the four dead walls of which they generally consist. However, in the new Hall we are describing, Mr Miller, the architect and contractor - has succeeded as well as it was possible to do to relieve the monotonous appearance of such a building.

The opening was attended by 50 people, with a banquet following at the Commercial Hotel. The plain architecture was consistent with the Freemason architecture - reflecting the need for members to be drawn apart from the rest of the world and shielded from prying eyes. Lodge buildings were generally very discreet and gave no sign of the purposes or activities within. The main hall of the Lodge was used for ceremonies, and there was often another room used for "convivial" activities. The Lodge St George, unlike later Lodge buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth century was a small plain utilitarian structure without the ornamentation of Masonic symbols and architectural detailing found in later structures.

The Lodge's long history and community involvement was noted by local historian W.R. Mayhew. Along with other lodges, such as the Tuapeka Pioneer Lodge and the M.U.I.O.O.F. and the A.O.F., these organisations provided mutual benefits for members in the context of goldfields life which could be hazardous. The Lodge St George was noted as long standing, and as having also embodied this community spirit.

With Lawrence population in decline numbers attending the Lodge declined. The Lodge was sold to John Milne in 1993 (AG-971 Lodge St George). The Lodge was purchased late 2003 by the Lawrence Heritage and Charitable Trust, with an interest in restoring the building. In its long presence the Lodge can be seen as part of the Masonic movement emphasising the need to create an ideal society, emphasising sociability and good fellowship as the bases for a new society.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Lodge St George has historical significance for its long association with the town of Lawrence and its community, from 1865 when the Lodge was founded, and from 1878 to 1993 in the current building as an active Masonic Lodge. The Lodge was begun in the early period of the foundation of the town during the goldrush, and provided social and business contacts for the members of that period, many of whom were local businessmen. A search of the Register indicates that it is one of the four oldest registered Masonic Lodge buildings in the country, the others also being in the South Island.

The former Lodge St George represents a simple form of Masonic architecture, relating more to the middle of the nineteenth century rather than the more complex and decorated forms of later that century and into the twentieth century. Its architectural form is tied to its cultural importance. Freemasonry is a ritual-based fraternity, and Lodge buildings are the sacred space of that male hierarchy. The physical design, with originally windowless exterior, represents a separation from the wider world.

The Lodge has social significance as a long-standing organisation which contributed social support and networking functions for its members and the wider community. It arranged burials for members, and aided in the organisation of their affairs in such situations. It saw itself as contributing to the wider social and philanthropic goals of the community.

(a) The Lodge St George reflects the goldmining period in the history of Otago. Lawrence was established as a result of the goldrush at nearby Gabriels Gully, and the formation of the Lodge followed closely on the heels of the formation of the town. It was active from the mid 1860s, so providing a meeting place and support structure for the businessmen who were members. It provided mutual support for its members, and acted in a philanthropic fashion toward the wider community. It represents the informal network of social structures that operated in the community prior to the provision of state support.

(e) The Lodge St George had a strong association with the community, operating in Lawrence from 1865 to 1993 - a 128 year existence. Its continued importance to the community is recognised by its recent purchase by the Lawrence Heritage and Cultural Charitable Trust because of its importance in the history and townscape of Lawrence. They hope to undertake restoration work on the building, and use it as an artist-in-residence facility.

(h) As an early Masonic Lodge, and one that was in existence for 128 years, and in this building for 115 years, Lodge St George is a strong symbol of Freemasonry in Otago.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Miller, Samual

Also a carpenter.

Miller, Samual

Also a carpenter.

Miller, Samual

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Miller, Samual

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The building was described on its opening. The hall was 44ft by 24ft (13.5 by 7.5m), with wall height 11ft (3.3m) from the floor. The roof was open to a height of 22ft (6.7m) from floor to ridge line. The roof was supported by 6 pairs of principals and lit by skylights of rough rolled plate glass. The fitting included a 4 ft (1.2m) wide raised platform, 6 inches high, and the master's dais which was ascended by steps. Benches were placed on the platform for the Brothers. There was an anteroom finished with variegated timber, and panelled walls and ceilings. The outside door opened to a lobby with coat hooks. As well as the hall itself there was an anteroom.

Dates of further modifications have not been established, although local sources believe that the wooden hall (possibly associated with the Oddfellows) attached on the southern elevation to the original brick building, was shifted from Blue Spur, post 1900. This has not been confirmed. Current photographs show, however, that at a later date windows and a balcony were added to the north elevation, and the skylights removed.

The entrance gate still bears the compass and square Masonic symbols. The compasses, symbolic of the sun, and were an architectural and Masonic instrument. They also symbolised virtue, the measure of life and conduct, the additional light to instruct in duty and keep passions within bounds. The Square was also a Masonic symbol, representing an imperative to act honourably.

The interior was not inspected as part of this registration proposal.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Bevins, 2001

Alan B. Bevins, A History of Freemasonry in North Island New Zealand, Auckland, 2001

p.5, p.9.

Cromley, 1995

Elizabeth C. Cromley and Carter L. Hudgins (eds.), Gender, Class and Shelter: Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Knoxville, 1995


Curl, 2002

James S. Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry: An Introductory Study, London, 2002

Hocken Library

Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin

AG-971 Lodge St George No.1128 E.C.Records. Papers relating to the closure of the Lodge.

Martin, 1999

Alfred W. Martin et al, Freemasonry in Australia and New Zealand: A Definitive Statement Prepared for the Grand Lodges of Australia and New Zealand, Adelaide, 1999

Mayhew, 1949

W.R. Mayhew, Tuapeka: The Land and Its People: A Social History of the Borough of Lawrence and its Surrounding Districts, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949

Morton, 1994

G Morton, 'Gold, Law and Freemasonry: A biographical analysis of Vincent Pyke as a goldfield administrator in Otago 1862-1867.' BA(Hons) Research Essay, University of Otago, 1994 [Hocken Library

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

'A Chronicle of the Tuapeka County Council Established 100 Years', 12 January 1977

Tuapeka Times

Tuapeka Times

16 October 1878, p.2.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.