Lodge of Unanimity No 3

6 St Davids Street And Sumner Road, Lyttelton

  • Lodge of Unanimity No 3.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Liza Rossie. Date: 1/06/2005.
  • Interior. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7382 Date Entered 24th April 1997


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 63772 (CT CB37B/779), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Lodge of Unanimity No. 3 thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following notable features: Master's Chair, Honours Boards 1896 and 1976, Oak Altar 1927, Warden's columns). (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the Information Upgrade Report for further information).

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 63772 (CT CB37B/779), Canterbury Land District

Location description

The frontage of the Lodge of Unanimity No. 3 is at the junction of St Davids Street and Sumner Road, Lyttelton.


The Lodge of Unanimity building, at the junction of Sumner Road and St Davids Street in Lyttelton, was built in 1876-78 for the oldest Masonic Lodge to have been established in the South Island and the third to be formed in New Zealand. Less than a year after the arrival of the Canterbury Association immigrant 'First Four Ships' at Lyttelton, in October 1851, a meeting was held at the Canterbury Association's store in Lyttelton with the intention of forming a lodge under the Grand Lodge of England. An application was made through the Pacific Lodge in Wellington and was duly founded in May 1853 as the Freemasons Lodge of Unanimity No 879 (later to become 604 English Constitution, and eventually in 1890 it became Lodge of Unanimity No. 3, New Zealand). The foundation stone for the first lodge hall was laid in 1855 and the building was opened in October 1858. In 1876 that hall was demolished and the foundation stone for a new brick lodge building to the designs of Colonial Architect, Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, was laid. It was opened in the same year but not completed until 1878 when the exterior was cemented and timber panelling was installed in the interior.

The design of the building is Victorian Free Gothic style, employing a simple interpretation of the Gothic Revival movement. The choice of such a style over the more common neo-classical design makes the building unusual for a lodge. The exterior has cemented walls and buttresses, parapeted gables and a steeply pitched slate roof. There is no fenestration in the original part of the building. In contrast to the relatively plain exterior, the interior is richly decorated and contains pointed arches in moulded relief wall design and an archived timber trussed ceiling. Masonic symbolism is found throughout the interior, including tessellated pavement (black and white squares) on the centre of the floor of the main hall, the square and compass, columns or pillars representing three ancient Greek orders of architecture, and tracing boards with symbols associated with Masonic principles of Truth, Love, Harmony, Peace and Charity.

In 1896-8 a timber refectory, also built in a restrained Gothic Revival style, was added to the original building to the designs of architect Cyril Mountfort, son of Benjamin W Mountfort. That addition has a large double window with timber architrave supported by decorative corbels. On the interior, the refectory walls having tongue and groove timber lining and the ceiling is of trussed timber of a simpler design than the original Lodge building ceiling.

Freemasonry has made an important contribution to the social, political and business life of New Zealand over the years. The Lodge of Unanimity has provided the setting for Freemasonry events since 1858, when the earlier building opened on the site. It helps inform about Lyttelton's history of having a relatively high number of Masonic lodges for the size of the town. Lodges provided a place where men could meet, exchange information and make social and business contacts. Lodge members have included a former mayor of Lyttelton (N C Schumacher), architect B W Mountfort and businessmen and local body members. Chattels of significance within the building include the Master's Chair made of English oak which was brought out to Lyttelton in the First Four Ships in 1850; Honours Boards of 1896 and 1976; the oak Altar, 1927; and Warden's columns which were presented by Fidelity No. 3 (English Constitution) in thanks for food parcels sent during World War Two and which are made from timber salvaged from the bombed out London Guild Hall.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mountfort, Benjamin Woolfield

Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-98) trained as an architect in England, in the office of Richard Cromwell Carpenter, a member of the Cambridge Camden Society (later the Ecclesiological Society). He arrived in Canterbury in 1850.

Mountfort was New Zealand's pre-eminent Gothic Revival architect and, according to architectural historian Ian Lochhead, 'did most to shape the architectural character of nineteenth-century Christchurch.' The buildings he designed were almost exclusively in the Gothic Revival style.

During his career he designed many churches and additions to churches; those still standing include the Trinity Congregational Church in Christchurch (1874), St Mary's Church in Parnell, Auckland and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, Christchurch (1884). In 1857 he became the first architect to the province of Canterbury. He designed the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings in three stages from 1858 to 1865. The stone chamber of this building can be considered the greatest accomplishment of his career. He was involved in many important commissions from the 1870s, including the Canterbury Museum (1869-82) and the Clock-tower Block on the Canterbury College campus (1876-77). He was also involved in the construction of Christchurch's Cathedral and made several major modifications to the original design.

Mountfort introduced a number of High Victorian elements to New Zealand architecture, such as the use of constructional polychromy, probably first used in New Zealand in the stone tower of the Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings (1859). Overall, his oeuvre reveals a consistent and virtually unerring application of Puginian principles including a commitment to the Gothic style, honest use of materials and picturesque utility. The result was the construction of inventive and impressive buildings of outstanding quality. He died in Christchurch in 1898. A belfry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, the church he attended for the last ten years of his life, was erected in his honour.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1876 - 1878
Construction of Lodge of Unanimity building

1896 - 1898
Refectory addition

Completion Date

4th March 2009

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

Lyttelton Times

Lyttelton Times

28 July 1876, p3.


The Press

9 October 1875, p2

Hewland, 1959

J L Hewland, English Freemasonry in Canterbury 1859-1959: a short history of the District Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canterbury, New Zealand, under the United Grand Lodge of England constituted 19th July, 1859, Christchurch, 1959.

Rice, 2004

Geoffrey W Rice, Lyttelton: Port and Town, an illustrated history, Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 2004.

Wilson, 2007

John Wilson, City and Peninsula: the Historic Places of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, 2007.

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the NZHPT Southern 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.