Remuera Masonic Hall (Former)

82 Remuera Road And Belmont Terrace, Remuera, Auckland

  • Remuera Masonic Hall (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 616 Date Entered 24th June 2005

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT NA2D/591 (as shown on Map C in Appendix 4), and the building, its fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 60 of Allots 17, 28 and 30 Sec 14 Suburbs of Auckland (CT NA2D/591)

Summaryopen/close

Freemasonry in New Zealand

Freemasonry is a fraternity of religious men of differing religions and denominations who believe in a system of moral and spiritual philosophy as outlined in Freemasonry's rituals, teachings and practice. Operative Masonry (organisations of medieval builders) existed in many European countries besides Britain prior to establishment of the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons in England in 1717. Speculative Masonry (or Freemasonry) developed in England, Ireland and Scotland and spread to the 58 countries where it is now practised. Masonic lodges, halls or temples, are places where Freemasons assemble. Lodge rooms are where ceremonies of the Craft are performed. Members regard the latter as sacred places, symbolically representing the world, the Ark and the lost Temple of Solomon. They are designed to distance members from the exterior spatial and temporal worlds, and are where the 'abstract idea of a fraternity of men' is considered to take concrete form.

While the practice of benevolence and charity is a hallmark of Freemasonry, Freemasonry is not a benefit society that undertakes to make payments in return for contributions from its members. Freemasons' Lodges in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century appealed to many employers, professionals and men in white-collar jobs. Although 'self-help' institutions in the form of lodges and friendly societies were evident in New Zealand as early as 1842, they tended to benefit those in regular employment with sufficient income to make regular contributions. Lodge membership was seen by some as an affirmation of status.

The Remuera Masonic Lodge (E.C.)

The body known as the Remuera Masonic Lodge (E.C.) was consecrated on 11 April 1877, at the beginning of a period of marked growth in Freemasonry in the North Island. Prior to 1890 and the formation of a Grand Lodge of New Zealand, lodges were established in this country under one of three Masonic constitutions (English ['E.C.'], Irish ['I.C.'] and Scottish ['S.C.']). The first gathering of Freemasons in New Zealand is said to have taken place in 1837, on board a French whaling ship anchored off Port Levy, Banks Peninsula. The first appearance of Freemasons in public occurred in 1841 at the foundation stone laying ceremony for St Paul's Church in Auckland. The building's architect, William Mason, was a freemason. New Zealand's first Masonic lodge, the Ara Lodge (I.C.), met in Auckland on 5 September 1842. Four days later the New Zealand Pacific Lodge was established at Port Nicholson, Wellington and has the distinction of being the first E.C. lodge formed in this country. In the South Island, the first Masonic lodge formed (other than an early Akaroa lodge) was the Lodge of Unanimity (E.C.) established at Lyttelton in May 1853.

The consecration ceremony establishing the Remuera Masonic Lodge, took place in the Newmarket Hotel, which remained the venue for meetings for the next three years. The Lodge, which commenced with a membership of about 50, was expected to be one Auckland's strongest as a large number of the city's businessmen lived at Remuera, Epsom and Newmarket. Remuera Masonic Lodge was one of eight lodges formed under the first District Grand Lodge for the North Island (E.C.). Remuera was the third E.C. lodge established in Auckland (the Waitemata and the Prince of Wales Lodges having been established in 1855 and 1871 respectively). Neither of these earlier lodges had their own hall. They met at the Masonic Hotel in Princes Street and, after 1881, at the Freemasons' Hall built on an adjoining site. The Freemason's Hall provided a venue for various lodges in Auckland until 1975.

Construction of the Remuera Masonic Hall

The Remuera Masonic Hall survives as the oldest purpose-built lodge premises in the former Auckland Grand Lodge District (E.C.). The site was purchased in July 1880, at a time when Remuera was being promoted as Auckland's elite new residential suburb. Prior to construction of the building, the land was vacant and formed part of a still semi-rural landscape. The Hall was consecrated on 9 November 1880, at a ceremony presided over by the Deputy Grand Master of the Auckland Grand Lodge District (E.C.), William Lodder.

Lodder, an engineer and a driving force in the establishment of the Remuera Lodge, had been its first Grand Master. In keeping with the custom of the time, a procession was formed from the new Masonic Hall to the local church, in this case St Mark's Anglican Church on the opposite side of Remuera Road. Following a service there, the brethren returned to the Hall, where the consecration ceremony was completed. There were particularly close links between St Mark's and the Remuera Masonic Lodge, as many of the Church's parishioners and some clergy were Freemasons. Occupying an elevated position overlooking the driveway to the church, the Hall provided visible evidence of the importance of Freemasonry within the community and the development of Remuera as a prosperous suburb.

Contemporary newspaper accounts do not identify the designer or builder of the Masonic Hall. Lodge buildings were generally designed and constructed by the members. Either Lodder or the architect Henry G. Wade, may have had a hand in the building's design. Although Wade was not a member of the Remuera Lodge, both he and Lodder were members of Auckland's first E.C. lodge, the Waitemata Lodge, and office holders in the Auckland District Grand Lodge (E.C.). They attended the consecration of the Remuera Masonic Hall in that capacity in 1880. Charles La Roche, a builder whose name later appears on the certificate of title, may have been involved in the building's construction. La Roche was one of the masons responsible for the development of Royal Arch Masonry in Auckland. His son, also Charles, served as one of Remuera Lodge's Grand Masters.

Although the Remuera Hall did not meet all Masonic ideals in its layout and appearance, careful consideration was given to selection of the site and to the building's design. In accordance with Masonic precepts, the main space inside the structure - the lodge room - was longer than it was wide and was accessed by two symmetrically placed doors in the same wall (the north wall of the transverse wing). Windows were placed so as to preclude views into the lodge room from the exterior, while the corner site served to isolate the hall from other buildings. On the two sides where common boundaries with other properties remained, the building either had no windows at all or had windows opening into a corridor rather than the lodge room itself. The more imposing transverse wing facing the main thoroughfare, Remuera Road, gave the building the appearance of a two-storeyed structure and sheltered the lodge room from the main street. The Neoclassical style of the Hall also accorded with the precepts of simplicity favoured by Freemasonry, and was frequently adopted for structures of this type.

Subsequent development

As occurred with the Remuera Hall, most Masonic buildings in New Zealand were initially constructed of timber, although more durable materials were used as these became available. Increasing memberships in the North Island Grand Lodge Districts (E.C.) between 1891 and 1930 saw construction of many new premises. In the years immediately following the First and Second World Wars, rates of lodge attendance were high, as Freemasonry offered stability, uniformity, comradeship and social ethics, which men sought after the instability of the war years.

A number of men who became masons at the Remuera Lodge went on to hold high office in Freemasonry. Alan Wilkin, initiated in 1921, and Claude Shroff, initiated in 1928, served as District Grand Masters. Norman Berridge Spencer (1891-1968) who was initiated in 1921 and became Remuera's Grand Master in 1932, was the first New Zealander to be awarded The Order of Service to Masonry ['OSM'], the highest honour the English Lodge (whose headquarters is in London) is able to bestow. Created in 1946, the OSM was awarded to Spencer in 1959. At that time there were only eight living holders of the award and Spencer was just the second person outside Britain to receive the honour.

Spencer had joined the research lodge in London, Quatuor Coronati (Lodge No. 2076) in 1951, after contributing a paper on New Zealand Freemasonry. He was installed as Master of that Lodge in 1959, a rare honour for anyone outside Britain. He was also involved in the formation of the Research Chapter of New Zealand, founded in 1954. Until the Chapter relocated to the Masonic Temple in Auckland's St Benedicts Street, the Remuera Hall was its home. The 'Norman Spencer Memorial Library and Museum' was established at St Benedicts Street following Spencer's death in 1968.

Freemasonry has experienced a steady decline in membership over the last 40 years. In 1993 Remuera Lodge sold its premises and moved to the new Masonic Centre in Ellerslie. The interior of the Remuera building was subsequently modified during conversion to mixed residential and commercial use. External alterations at this time included the addition of a garage and deck to the rear of the lodge building. Most of the exterior, however, retains its original character. The building currently remains in mixed use.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The building is historically significant as the oldest surviving English Constitution lodge building in the upper North Island, and for its association with Norman Berridge Spencer, a pre-eminent New Zealand Freemason.

The former Remuera Masonic Hall has aesthetic value for its simple classical form, enhanced by its prominent location on an elevated corner site on Remuera's main road. It is architecturally significant as a late nineteenth-century building exhibiting Masonic principles in its visual appearance and layout.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The former Remuera Masonic Hall is particularly important for reflecting the development of English Freemasonry in colonial society in New Zealand in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Freemasonry was a particularly important movement in early colonial, male society, when migrants often had no kin in New Zealand. The movement also provided a supportive environment for many men returning to civilian life after the First and Second World Wars.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The building is closely associated with Norman Berridge Spencer, a freemason of international standing and a recipient of English Freemasonry's prestigious award 'The Order of Service to Masonry.' Spencer was also a founder of the Research Chapter of New Zealand, a development of importance for New Zealand Freemasonry. The Chapter's first home was in the Remuera Masonic Hall.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Prominently located beside a busy main road in a densely-populated suburb of Auckland, the building has potential for public education about Freemasonry and its role in colonial society, as well as about the historical development of Remuera.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The place can be considered a technically accomplished example of a large, suburban Masonic Hall of late nineteenth-century date in the upper North Island.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The place forms part of a surviving nineteenth-century historical landscape in Remuera, being located immediately opposite St Mark's Anglican Church (NZHPT Registration # 113, Category I historic place) and its extensive graveyard, dating to 1860.

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Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The former Remuera Masonic Hall lies in Remuera, an inner eastern suburb of Auckland. The building is located beside a busy main road and opposite St Mark's Anglican Church. The structure covers most of a 405m² rectangular site on the north-eastern corner of the Remuera Road/Belmont Terrace intersection, and occupies an elevated position. Constructed in 1880, the building was converted into a photographic studio and dwelling in 1993, but is now used as a medical clinic and residence.

The purpose-built structure is of Neoclassical design and broadly symmetrical in its external appearance. Although the building is timber, its style makes subtle reference to masonry construction. In plan, the building's main axis runs north-south, at right angles to Remuera Road. The frontage at the southern end of the building consists of a transverse wing two storeys in height, presenting an imposing façade. The main body of the structure runs northwards from the transverse wing and is of gabled construction. This contains a single-storeyed hall in which the lodge room was located.

The southern façade consists of three bays, of which the central bay projects slightly, supporting a pediment above. A ground floor portico has Tuscan pilasters and columns, sheltering a central entrance. The entrance was once further emphasised by ballustrading on either side of a flight of steps to the entrance and along part of an external patio or landing. The western elevation contains four large pilasters with Tuscan capitals, which divide the side of the building into three bays. These echo smaller Tuscan pilasters found on the upper storey of the Remuera Road frontage.

The building is clad with rusticated weatherboards and sits on concrete footings. The roof has boxed eaves which have projecting brackets, and is covered with corrugated iron. Other than three arch-headed windows in the upper storey facing Remuera Road, the building has large square-headed, double-hung, four-light windows. An external staircase on the eastern wall has been enclosed with fibrolite.

While the building's external appearance has not altered greatly since its construction, the interior has been considerably modified. The ground floor currently provides office accommodation, and the upper floor has been developed as a residence.

The main entrance opens, via a vestibule, onto a large lobby. To the left is an office, the most intact of the original rooms, which retains its timber lining and ceiling. The door to the office was relocated from the northern to the eastern wall in 1993. A door (c.1950s) in the southeast corner of the lobby opens onto an external stairway, providing access to the former refectory upstairs. Elsewhere in the building, re-use of the building for residential/office purposes has necessitated new partitioning. The former lodge room has been considerably reduced in size to provide for two new offices, a new hallway and a stairway to an additional floor, developed in the roof space. The former refectory on the upper floor has been partitioned into three bedrooms. A double garage has been added at the northern end of the building. The roof of the garage serves as a deck for the living area upstairs.

Two important features associated with the building's original use as a Masonic Hall remain. On the ground floor, a chequerboard-patterned floor is located in the centre of the former lodge room, while a small (300mm x 300mm) covered hatch in the northern wall of the lobby allowed individuals to knock and be identified before entering the lodge room. The adjacent doorway to the lodge room, however, was removed during the 1993 remodelling.

A picket fence with capped posts originally formed the street boundaries. A low fence of more modern design now runs along the Remuera Road frontage. Limited remnants of a front garden survive, including a mature tree. Any below-ground archaeological material on the site is likely to be associated with the Masonic Hall.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1880 -

Modification
1950 - 1960
New doorway from main lobby to external stairway to refectory; stairway clad with fibrolite and lined with hardboard

Modification
1970 - 1980
Customwood flooring in refectory

Modification
1992 -
New toilet facilities and storage provided

Modification
1993 -
Building converted to residential and commercial use, incorporating additional floor in roof-space of former lodge room

Modification
1993 -
Construction of second stairway, minor extension to the east at second floor level and garage/deck added to northern side

Construction Details

Concrete footings; timber-frame construction; weatherboard cladding; corrugated iron roof

Information Sources

Bevins, 2001

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

Cromley, 1995

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

William D Moore, 'The Masonic Lodge Room, 1870-1930: A Sacred Space of Masculine Spiritual Hierarchy', pp.26-39

Curl, 2002

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

Glenie, 1993

J.P. Glenie, 'Norman B Spencer: Citizen, Humanitarian, Freemason', in United Masters Lodge No. 167, Auckland New Zealand: Selected Papers Vol. III, Auckland, 1993

pp.72-84

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

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

12 April 1877 p.2(7); 8 November 1880 p.4(8); 10 November 1880 p.5(1)

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region 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.