Port Chalmers Marine Lodge (Former)

29 Wickliffe Terrace And Currie Street, Port Chalmers

  • Port Chalmers Marine Lodge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Jonathan Howard. Date: 1/03/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7759 Date Entered 27th June 2008


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Pt Sec 32 Town of Port Chalmers (CT OT233/166, OT403/157), Otago Land District and the building associated with Port Chalmers Marine Lodge thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 32 Town of Port Chalmers (CTs OT233/166, OT403/157), Otago Land District


Port Chalmers Marine Lodge (Former) was a Masonic Hall designed by Charles Mountfort, and built by James Richardson for the Freemasons on Wickliffe Terrace in Port Chalmers in 1863.

The Lodge was the first building to be constructed of the locally quarried breccia stone. This simple building is single-storeyed and has a single-gable. It has no exterior ornamentation except for the Masonic square and compasses on the south west elevation. In common with other mid-nineteenth century lodge buildings the focus was on the interior where Masonic rituals were performed.

The Lodge provided a base for other Masonic chapters and community organisations during its 140 year life as a Masonic Hall. It closed as a Lodge in 2004. Since that time it has been used as a private residence and as a performance venue.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Port Chalmers Marine Lodge is historically significant as one of the earliest benevolent institutions formed in Port Chalmers, and one of the early Masonic Lodges in the Otago area. In a period when there was no state social support, such institutions as Lodges and Friendly Societies played a significant role in supporting members, their families and the wider community in times of need. This was particularly important in the transient gold rush society evident at the time the Lodge was established in 1863.


The former Lodge, designed by Charles Mountfort (circa 1827-1918), 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. The Lodge saw itself as contributing to the wider social and philanthropic goals of the community.


Port Chalmers Marine Lodge has cultural importance. Freemasonry is a ritual-based fraternal brotherhood. Lodge buildings are the sacred spaces in which the masculine spiritual hierarchy of the brotherhood is reinforced. Freemasons used the Lodge for over 140 years, and the building reflects the strength of the culture of Freemasonry in the Otago region. The physical layout and design of the building provides insight into the nature of the tradition, with the ceremonial space of the main hall, and the ancillary functional rooms.

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

The history of Freemasonry and the hall is strongly associated with the history of Port Chalmers. Port Chalmers was developed by the huge population influx during the gold rush era, and its over 140 year survival shows the continued role in the local community during that period.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

The Masonic Hall has a strong association with the community of Port Chalmers. From its establishment in 1863, the building has been used as a social place for the Freemasons and the wider community, and performed that function for over 140 years. The multiple usages indicate the building has been a centre for community activity.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

As an early Masonic Lodge, and one that was in existence for over 140 years, the Port Chalmers Marine Lodge is a strong symbol of Freemasonry in Otago.


This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, and h.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mountfort, Charles

Architect for the Port Chalmers Marine Lodge (Former) Dunedin.

Richardson, James

Built the Port Chalmers Marine Lodge (Former) Dunedin.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Port Chalmers Marine Lodge was built in 1863 for the Port Chalmers Marine Lodge E.C.942, and has been home to a number of freemason lodge groups from the Port Chalmers community. It is located on Wickliffe Terrace.

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. Lodges were a prominent part 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.

A mason's lodge originally referred to a building or structure where stonemasons kept their tools, had meals, rested and received their pay. In Freemasonry the lodge refers to the basic unit of the organisation. During the nineteenth century purpose-built lodges or meeting halls were constructed, replacing the private or public houses which had been used for the meetings.

The first Dunedin lodge was The Lodge of Otago, No. 844, E.C., established in 1860. Port Chalmers freemasons established their lodge in November 1862, named the 'Marine Lodge'. The meetings of the lodge were initially held at the former Custom House on the corner of Beach and Mount streets. The Otago Daily Times on Saturday 29 November 1862 reported the consecration of the lodge:

The Masonic Lodge, towards the foundation of which the Brethren in Port Chalmers have for some time past devoted their energies, was inaugurated on Thursday night, and the occasion was seized for a display of hospitality towards their Dunedin Brethren. Precisely at 6 o'clock the Pride of the Yarra, which had been placed at the disposal of the Dunedin Lodges, hoisted the Masonic ensign, ('the square and compasses'), and steamed down to the Port, and soon after the arrival the Brethren assembled at the School House, which had been tastefully decorated with flags, ferns, and Masonic emblems for the occasion.

The ceremony of inauguration was at once proceeded with by the Installing Officer, P.M. Brother Nathan, P.P.G.J.W., under the English constitution, assisted by P.M. Brother James, the W.M. (Brother Leers) having appointed his officers for the ensuring year, and the usual business of the lodge having been gone through, the Brethren adjourned to the Royal Hotel, where a table replete with most of the good things of this life awaited them, to which hearty justice was done.

The usual amount of Masonic and loyal stories interspersed with songs brought the evening to a close, and the steamer with the most of the Dunedin brothers, returned to Dunedin at the early hour of three a.m.

The Lodge was built on Wickliffe Terrace, and was constructed of locally quarried breccia. The building was designed by Bro. Charles Mountfort (circa 1827-1918). Charles Mountfort (brother of architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort) was a surveyor, working in Otago from the mid 1850s until the late 1860s. The Lodge was built by Bro. James Richardson (born circa 1823). Richardson was a Port Chalmers builder, carpenter and timber merchant.

The Hall was the first stone building in the area. It was a simple rectangular-plan single-gable structure with no exterior ornamentation, save the lantern on the peak of the gable. It contrasts strongly with the highly ornamented Masonic Lodges of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Masonic Hall was used as a meeting place for other Friendly Societies in Port Chalmers. The Ancient Order of Foresters used the Hall until its own premises were built in 1876. Similarly the Loyal Prince of Wales Lodge, No. 5254 M.U.I.O.O.F. also used the Masonic Hall. Since then, the Hall has been used by Freemasons around Port Chalmers for their meetings. The Friendly Society Movement, including Freemasonry has contributed to the community of Port Chalmers. The Hall has been used by the wider community. Congregationalists in Port Chalmers used the building for their regular services on Sundays until they built the Congregational Church.

In 2004 the Lodge was sold and since that time has been used as a private residence and from 2005 as a live music venue.

Physical Description

The single-storey rectangular-plan Lodge is constructed from locally quarried breccia. Originally access was through an arched door in the south west fa├žade, but this was enclosed by a porch at a date prior to 1886. There is a single door on the south east elevation which does not appear in earlier photographs. The roof has two skylights installed on the north west side.

The main street elevation has been plastered, with the Masonic square and compasses picked out in relief. Compasses represent the sun, virtue, the measure of life and conduct, and the additional light to instruct in duty and keep passions within bounds. The square is a Masonic instrument used to measure an angle of ninety degrees, which implies exactness, and represents a symbol of morality. Altogether, the symbol represents the emblems of stonemasonry.

Entry is through a porch on the south west elevation. The porch provides assess to the vestibule, and also houses a toilet. The porch is plastered brick with a concrete floor.

The vestibule provides stair access to the mezzanine floor, and to a small ancillary room. The vestibule walls and ceiling are match-lined with moulded architraving. Timber stairs provide access to the mezzanine and there are cupboards beneath them.

The main hall or anteroom adjoins the vestibule. The main hall is lined with hardboard and has timber skirting with exposed conduit. A picture rail runs around the hall at 2.5m above the floor level. The pitched ceiling is hardboard-lined with exposed trusses. The trusses are a dominant feature of the hall. A seating plinth runs around the perimeter of the room, and steps lead up to a dais at the north east end. The floor is carpeted, with tongue and grooved floorboards, and has Masonic chequer board in the centre.

The mezzanine floor provided a supper room when the hall operated as a Masonic lodge, and has been used as living quarters when the building was used as a residence. There are cupboards, constructed with tongue and grooved timber along one side and the remainder of the area is largely lined with board and batten.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1863 -

Addition of front porch and south west elevation plastered

Removal of lantern

Removal of sash windows to the right of the entrance

2005 -
Skylights installed on the north west face of the roof

Construction Details

Port Chalmers breccia

Completion Date

8th October 2007

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Bowman, 1978

H. Bowman, Port Chalmers Gateway to Otago, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1978.

Church, 2001

I. Church, What Mean These Stones? Port Chalmers Early Settlers and Historical Society, Port Chalmers, 2001

Church, 1994

Ian Church, Port Chalmers and its people, Otago Heritage Books, Dunedin, 1994.

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

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.