Masonic Hall (Former)

64 Forth Street And 20 Nith Street, Invercargill

  • Masonic Hall (Former), Invercargill. Image courtesy of Robin Miller.
    Copyright: Robin Miller. Date: 26/07/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 2457 Date Entered 24th November 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 3807 (CT 468724) and Lots 2-3 DP 3807 (CT SL8D/515), Southland Land District, and the building known as Masonic Hall (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 3807 (CT 468724) and Lots 2-3 DP 3807 (CT SL8D/515), Southland Land District


Designed by architect Frederick Burwell and opened in 1882, this was the third Masonic Lodge built in Invercargill. The building has historic, architectural and cultural significance.

The Southern Cross Lodge No. 9 was established in 1863, following meetings where Masons from different constitutions met to discuss forming a lodge. This building was the third lodge built in Invercargill, the first being taken over by the Southland Provincial Council in 1866. The lodge continued to meet at the hall, sharing the meeting space with the new owners. As the lodge recovered from the slump of the mid-1860s and numbers began to increase again, they offered to buy back the building but the Provincial Government declined. The lodge built a small timber hall in Nith Street in 1876, which served as a meeting place until the larger Masonic hall, again on Nith Street, was opened in 1882. The Southern Cross and St John’s Lodges built the hall to provide joint premises.

In April 1882, the ceremony to hand over the hall to the brethren of the Masonic Order took place. A long article in the Southland Times detailed the event and described the hall as ‘chastely finished within and without’ and a ‘decided acquisition to the architectural amenities of the town.’ Both the architect and builders were Masons themselves. Burwell’s ‘severe treatment’ of the exterior concealed the ornate interior. The Forth street elevation was ‘relieved by columns and a massive pediment’ bearing the Masonic symbols. The entrance hall extended the width of the building, adjoining which was the ante room, and adjoining that ‘another apartment for probationers’ – both rooms giving access to the hall.

The hall merited a detailed description: ‘On slightly raised platforms along the side walls are placed continuous seats, elegantly upholstered in crimson plush, and of most inviting appearance. In the “East” or Master’s end a dais has been erected, approached by semi-circular steps and provided with the usual Master’s chair and pedestal. The Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric columns forming part of the symbols of the Order terminate in shafts formed as candles. These are provided with gas jets; the effect being novel. The usual seats for officials are incorporated with the other seating; being divided therefrom by massive arms. Round the hall and supported by elegant foliated columns is a handsome entablature supported by trusses. This again over the master’s dais is further enriched by a pediment supported by Corinthian columns. Over this again the roof curves inward, to panels extending across the hall. Light is obtained from a lantern which forms the external finial of a nicely proportioned interior dome, the whole rising 35 feet from the floor. The centre of the floor is laid in an intricate black-and-white pattern with Minton tiles, specially designed by a London firm, and which afford food for curiosity for the uninitiated. Artificial light is obtained from one brilliant gas star occupying the centre of the dome. Two large ventilators, relieved by Masonic emblems occupy the remaining roof panels.’ Open fireplaces provided the heating. To the rear of the hall were the Master’s room, and attached strong-room. Adjoining the Master’s room was an organ and choir-room. The articles emphasised the use of permanent materials – bricks, concrete, plaster and imported slates, and native timbers.

In 1912, additions were made to the rear of the building. The building remained the Masonic Hall until an even grander hall was built on Forth Street in 1926 (List No. 390, Category 1). The lodge transferred the title to The Orange Hall Company Limited in 1924. The Orange Hall Company sold off the rear of the section at this time. The Orange Hall was associated with the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternity with its origins in England and Ireland, established in New Zealand in 1843, and in the South Island in 1870. In later years, the hall housed manufacturing premises, the Southland Country Music Association, and was used as a hall. In 2018, the hall is the premises of E-scape Glass.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Burwell, F. W.

F.W. Burwell (1846-1915) is noted for designing many buildings in Invercargill, transforming the centre of the town between 1874 and the mid-1880s. Born in Scotland, Burwell served his articles with the architect John Matthews and immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s. By 1873, he had established his practice in Queenstown. He moved to Invercargill the following year. Once established there, he began designing elegant two and three-storey buildings in the Renaissance style. He designed almost all the buildings in Dee Street, including the hospital. 'The Crescent' was another notable Invercargill streetscape created by Burwell. In recognition of his work, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1880. The depression in the 1880s saw his commissions decline and he moved to Australia in 1887 where he practised in Melbourne, Perth and then Fremantle. He was particularly successful in the last, as Western Australia was in the middle of a building boom, and a number of his commercial buildings in central Fremantle are now classified by the Australian Heritage Commission. Burwell returned to Melbourne in 1910, and died there five years later. (Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Burwell, Frederick William (1846-1915)' in Jane Thomson (ed.), Southern People: a dictionary of Otago Southland biography, Dunedin, 1998, p. 74.)

W. and A. Little

William and Adam Little, trading as Messrs Little Brothers, worked in Invercargill in the 1870s and early 1880s. Their work included the Anglican parsonage on Tay Street, Invercargill (1876), the erection of offices for Martin, Maitland and Co. in Esk Street (1877), offices shops and a grain store for McArdell and Co (1880). Their partnership was dissolved in October 1882.

Adam Little carried on the business on his own account, working on some large projects including warehousing for Cleave and Ross on Dee Street (1884), the construction of fever wards at Invercargill hospital (1885), a grain store for Dalgety and Company in Gore (1900) and the erection of buildings at the Mataura Freezing Works (1906). Adam Little died in 1921.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1881 - 1882

Completion Date

22nd January 2018

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

New Zealand Freemason

NZ Freemason magazine, Issue 2 June 2014

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand