Historical Significance or Value
The Masonic Hall building (former) is historically significant for being one of two purpose built lodge buildings erected in the thriving 19th century mining town of Reefton.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The building has architectural values in its Neo-classical form and timber construction and, with its Masonic symbols incorporated into the architecture, it is representative of Masonic lodge buildings of the 19th century in New Zealand.
Social Significance or Value:
The Masonic Lodge was an institution that fulfilled an important social welfare need in Inangahua in the late 19th century and early 20th century. In particular, lodge doctors and lodge benefits were of assistance to victims of mining accidents and disease and their widows.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Masonic Hall (former) in Reefton reflects the development of Freemasonry in colonial society in New Zealand in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Freemasonry was a particularly important movement in early colonial, male society, when migrants sometimes 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.
The design and choice of construction materials of the Masonic Hall (former) is representative of many 19th century Masonic buildings in New Zealand.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The Masonic Hall is part of the NZHPT registered Reefton Historic Area (record number 7050). This historic area comprises: Penington House and Fountain, the School of Mines and the Masonic Lodge [Hall] on Shiel Street; the Oddfellows Hall, the Courthouse and the Surveyors' House on Bridge Street; the Sisters of Mercy Convent [although destroyed by fire in 2007], the Sacred Heart Church and St Stephens Anglican Church on Church Street and the War Memorial on Buller Road. Several of the places included in the historic area are also individually registered historic places. Currently these are as follows: Reefton School of Mines Building (record number 263), Reefton Courthouse (former) (record number 1685), Sacred Heart Catholic Church (record number 1689), Oddfellows Hall (record number 3035), Penington House (record number 5037), Horse Trough, Pennington House (record number 5038), War Memorial Obelisk (record number 5039), and the Clerk of the Court & Survey Office House (record number 5068).
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
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 (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.
Lodges have been likened to friendly societies, volunteer fire brigades, military units and bands in the vital role they played in the social and business life of the colonial male. They have been seen as a place for men to escape domestic worries, talk business and socialise with their fellow men. 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 and employees alike. Freemasonry continues in New Zealand, and is noted for its supportive environment provided to many men returning to civilian life after the First and Second World Wars. However, membership of lodges has been declining over the past 40 or more years.
Reefton (or Reef Town) developed in 1870 with the discovery of alluvial gold in the area. With the influx of miners of different religious denominations, pressure soon mounted to build churches and other civic and recreation buildings. Like most towns and cities, Reefton eventually had several lodges. The Reefton Lodge of the Independents Order of Oddfellows was established in 1872 and a hall was soon erected for them on Broadway (later relocated to its present site on Bridge Street). Consecration of that hall took place in July 1873. A contemporary account of the consecration ceremony acknowledged the Freemasons of the Inangahua district, most of who were said to be Masons of rank and long standing. The lodge was named the Pacific Lodge of Reefton, under the English Constitution, and Bro. Charles Broad was elected the first Worshipful Master. Initially all branches of lodges in Reefton used the Oddfellows building, as did other organisations. In 1891-2, the brethren of the Pacific Lodge of Reefton built their own lodge building in Shiel Street, known as the Masonic Hall.
The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand in 1906 listed several lodges in Reefton. They were The Independent Order of Oddfellows with a hall on Broadway, the Ancient Order of Foresters in Shiels [sic] Street, and also the Lodge of Druids. The Cyclopaedia also notes that 'the Masonic Order is represented by Lodge Robert Burns, No 50, New Zealand Constitution'. These institutions fulfilled an important social welfare need in the Inangahua district. In particular, lodge doctors and lodge benefits were of assistance to victims of mining accidents and disease and their widows.
Masonic Hall, Reefton:
In June 1884 a new site was purchased on Shiel Street and tenders were called for the erection of a hall, but it was not until June 1891 that the tender of James Johnston was accepted. The new Masonic Hall building was consecrated on 12 July 1892. The ceremony was conducted by the District Grand Master of Westland, Brother John Bevan, accompanied by brethren from Hokitika and Greymouth.
The appearance of the Masonic Hall building was described in great detail at the time of consecration, as follows:
The building has a frontage to Shiel-street of 50 feet with a depth of 26 feet, and it stands back about 40 feet from the fencing line and five feet above the road level. The walls are 19 feet in height together with a well proportioned hip roof, which gives the structure an imposing appearance. It is erected on two town sections and placed so as to secure an east and west position. A very handsome portico 20 feet in width stands out boldly six feet from the main building and roof. The latter is supported by two square fluted columns and two round pillars standing on a floor which is approached by three steps. A heavy doorway with a fanlight in the centre is supported by a fluted column on each side to correspond with the square columns in front. In the pediment above the portico is fixed the Masonic emblem, the square and compass, in gold. The four corners of the building are supported by square fluted columns on massive pedestals, the mouldings on the entablature standing well out, and on the frieze in relief is the emblem of the five-pointed star. The eaves of the roof form a bold cornice supported by carved trusses, and a bold entablature runs round the whole of the building and portico, with good effect. Double circular-headed windows are fixed in front and single ones on the sides. The building is tastefully painted in two shades of fawn colour [sic] relieved with white, the round pillars at the porch are pure white; the doors and window sashes are dark green. A massive fence in front has been erected, and the ground, rising gradually to the building, to be laid off as a lawn and planted with a few evergreen shrubs.
The interior of the building consists of a hall 40 feet by 25 feet and two ante-rooms; provision being made for the extension of the building at the back for the banqueting hall and store-rooms. The hall is well proportioned, and the walls and ceiling are very handsomely finished, the general effect being very beautiful. The walls from the deep skirting to the entablature are panelled with white pine, relieved with red pine mouldings, and scolloped [sic] out on top and varnished, which gives the appearance of French polish. Above the panelling the entablature of twenty-five inches is carried round the hall, having a bold cornice and frieze, tinted in French grey, and pink picked out with gold. On the frieze are fixed shields bearing Masonic designs worked in gold on vermillion, together with the mottoes of the Order beautifully cut into the fretwork; the lettering is in Old English, and is painted in vermillion. The Gothic capitals are of gold on square blocks painted blue. Above the cornice a cone ceiling rises to twenty feet from the floor of the hall, having a handsome centre piece picked out with gold. The ceiling is painted pure white, and the heavy mouldings are picked in light grey and pale blue. A handsome mantelpiece has been fixed after the style of an Egyptian monument, painted in white and gold, and bearing appropriate Masonic emblems. The furnishing of the hall is very effective, the benches being upholstered in scarlet, and the canopy over the Master's chair draped with curtains of Masonic Blue. The building is lighted throughout with electric light, which admirably sets off the decorations.
After completion in 1892 the Pacific Lodge meetings were transferred from the Oddfellows Hall to the new building. The place remained in use as a Masonic lodge for over a century. In the mid 1950s 'Lodge Robert Burns' moved into the Masonic Hall to share with the original occupant 'Pacific Lodge'. According to octogenarian Mason, Frank Hudson, at this time a refectory was demolished and a new refectory and kitchen were added. The builders were Colin Hannah and Gary Willis and they were assisted by lodge members. The combined membership of the two lodges using the building was about 120, although in the mid 1980s at least, only 30 of those lived in or near Reefton. Hudson describes 'Lodge Robert Burns' having met weekly for 'instruction meetings', monthly and then annually for 'installation' and money was raised for charities such as Playcentre. An earthquake in 1992 caused damage to the chimneys. From 1993 the two lodges became 'dormant' for three years.
In 1997 the Masonic Hall was sold and since that time the lodge meetings have been held in a room at the Reefton Racecourse buildings. Most of the furniture was given away and some of it went to Motueka Lodge. The interior of the Masonic Hall in Reefton was substantially modified during conversion to residential use. The interior retains its painted coved ceiling and clear coated timber wall panelling but otherwise the original furnishing and decoration has been largely stripped from the interior.
Lodge buildings were generally designed and constructed by its members. William Hindmarsh, in the Inangahua Times of 14 July 1892, notes that the plans and specifications were largely prepared by Bro. Dunn while Hindmarsh himself provided designs for the fretwork. There is some suggestion, however, that Hindmarsh had more of an architectural role in the design than this, and it is known that he produced the architectural designs for St Stephen's Church (1877-78) and Reefton's second Methodist church, completed in 1906.
A Reefton company, in 1888, was the first in New Zealand to run an electrical system selling power to the public. Consumers were able to purchase electricity for a set charge of £3 per light whether power was used or not. Reefton was described as leading the way above all cities in the Southern Hemisphere and had a brilliantly lit Christmas in 1888, with some 500 lights being supplied. It is not surprising therefore that the new Masonic Hall, when completed, followed the trend and had electricity installed from the outset in 1892.
Many of New Zealand's cities and towns have Masonic Lodges or Halls. They had an important role as community welfare and bonding agencies for the men, and they are known for their elaborate rituals and their exclusion of women. New Zealand's first lodge, Ara Lodge, met in Auckland on 5 September 1842. Four days later the New Zealand Pacific Lodge was established at Port Nicholson, Wellington. In the South Island, the first Masonic lodge formed (other than an early Akaroa lodge) was the Lodge of Unanimity established at Lyttelton in May 1853.
A number of Masonic buildings survive, though many do not retain their original function. The NZHPT Register currently includes 25 buildings that either were or still are Masonic Lodges, Halls or Temples.
Brother Dunn and William Hindmarsh, Architects
James Johnston and sons, Builders
Sited on a raised grassy section in Shiel Street, the Masonic hall (former) is located diagonally opposite the Oddfellows Hall, which is on the corner of Shiel and Bridge Streets, and backs on to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Church Street.
The Masonic hall (former) is of Neo-classical design and the original timber building is broadly symmetrical in its external appearance. An addition on the north side from the mid 1950s has more than doubled the size of the floor plan.
The original single storey building is clad in rusticated weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. The roof is hipped and its eaves are supported by regularly placed brackets. The entrance porch, on the south elevation, is typical of a style favoured by many Lodges. This elevation has supporting squared and conventional Roman Doric columns, segmented head windows with keystones, corner pilasters, timber brackets, and Masonic emblems appear on both the pediment and at the top of the corner pilasters. The main entrance door within the portico is a six panelled double door. A second six panelled door is located on the west elevation. Segmented headed windows with sashes appear on the south, east and west elevations.
The large concrete block addition on the north side has a gradually sloping roof. The north façade of this addition is constructed of unpainted corrugated galvanised steel.
The interior has been considerably modified for conversion to residential premises.
A concrete fence with capped posts runs along the street boundary. The metal gate incorporates the Masonic symbol of square and compass. Half of the metal component of the square has been replaced with timber (refer photograph Figure 6).
1891 - 1892
Masonic Hall building constructed
Refectory and kitchen addition on north side
Timber, corrugated iron, glass, corrugated galvanised steel. Concrete fence. Metal Gate.
6th June 2008
Report Written By
James Stevens Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry, London, 1991
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906
West Coast Times
West Coast Times
12 July 1873, p2.
14 July 1873, p2.
J. Martin, People, politics and power stations: electric power generation in New Zealand 1880-1998, Wellington, 1998
Gavin McLean, 100 Historic Places in New Zealand, Auckland, 2002
Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.
A fully referenced registration 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.