Arrow Kilwinning Lodge

9 Wiltshire Street, Arrowtown

  • Arrow Kilwinning Lodge, Arrowtown. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Taken By: Phil Clark . Date: 19/03/2022.
  • Arrow Kilwinning Lodge, Arrowtown. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Bernard Spragg. Taken By: Bernard Spragg – volvob12b. Date: 27/05/2014.
  • Arrow Kilwinning Lodge, Arrwotown. Interior view of the Lodge Room.
    Copyright: Andrew Winter. Taken By: Andrew Winter. Date: 1/06/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2110 Date Entered 10th December 2010 Date of Effect 10th December 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 19573 (RT OT12C/1273) Otago Land District and the building known as Arrow Kilwinning Lodge (including the access steps) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: Canopy and frame over the Master's Chair, including rail, swags, curtains and tie backs; The Master's Chair; Symbolic objects, including all located on tessellated pavement, tracing boards and roller blinds. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Queenstown-Lakes District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 19573 (RT OT12C/1273), Otago Land District.

Location description

Located on the south eastern side of Wiltshire Street.


The diminutive Arrow Kilwinning Lodge sits amongst mature trees overlooking the small Otago township of Arrowtown, its formal exterior providing no clue to the magnificent interior within. The single storey stone building with its classical façade has been the meeting place for Arrowtown Freemasons since 1888. Concealed behind the restrained exterior, the Lodge Room is decorated with rare hand painted friezes and emblems depicting Masonic symbolism.

The Freemasons in Arrowtown held their first meetings in a hotel in the late 1870s. Discussion turned to a purpose built Lodge in the 1880s. George Brown designed the building with John McDonald completing the contract in 1888. The handsome building has served as a meeting place for generations of Arrowtown Masons since that time.

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is a small schist building rectangular in plan with an addition containing a kitchen and ablutions on one elevation. In common with other Masonic buildings the focus of the building is the Lodge Room. The Lodge Room with its layout based around the formal requirements and hierarchy for Masonic ritual has special significance because of the rare surviving interior decorative scheme which was restored in 2009, with the building rededicated in a formal ceremony in February 2010.

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has special aesthetic significance due to its hand painted decorative paint scheme in the Lodge Room, and for its prominent setting overlooking the business centre of Arrowtown. The decorative scheme with its Masonic symbols is a special surviving example of Masonic art. The Lodge links with the larger architectural history of Freemasonry both in New Zealand and internationally. The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has cultural significance as an example of the cultural expression of the Freemasons. The design, decoration and use of the building are grounded in the culture of Freemasonry which went through a growth period in the later nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Built in 1888, it is an important reminder of the importance of non-governmental support systems and community networks which served an important community function in nineteenth century New Zealand.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has historical significance. Constructed in 1888, the Lodge building is an important reminder of the importance of non-governmental support systems and community networks which served an important community function in nineteenth century New Zealand. Along with other lodges and friendly societies, such groups the Freemasons provided mutual support and connections in often newly formed communities.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has special aesthetic significance due to its hand painted decorative scheme in the Lodge Room, its attractive stonework and prominent setting overlooking the business centre of Arrowtown. The decorative scheme with its Masonic symbols is a special surviving example of Masonic art, described as very rare by both the conservation architect and the local Master Mason, and carefully restored between 2006 and 2009.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has architectural significance as an example of a late nineteenth Masonic Hall, representing an example of the style and architectural philosophy of Freemasonry in small town New Zealand at this time, with the Lodge Room the focus for ritual practice. The interior decorative scheme is a rare survivor and a significant insight into Masonic beliefs. The Lodge links with the larger architectural history of Freemasonry both in New Zealand and internationally, with the use and design of the Lodge Room space, with its layout, furniture and decoration essential in the understanding of Masonic architecture, in the widest sense.

Cultural Significance or Value

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has cultural significance as an example of the cultural expression of the Freemasons. The design, decoration and use of the building are grounded in the culture of Freemasonry which went through a growth period in the later nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The Lodge Room with its fittings, decorative symbolism, and ritual objects provide an important insight into the culture of Freemasonry.

Social Significance or Value

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge has been a meeting place for Arrowtown Freemasons since 1888. The Lodge, still active today, played an important role as a community meeting place and provided support for members and their families for funerals.

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

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is historically significant as it illustrates the important role the Masons in the community when the mutual support was vital in the early years of settlement when there were no wider welfare provisions, and where lodges and friendly societies often played this role. The Lodge also demonstrates the significance of the ideas of the Masonic Lodge in New Zealand’s history. The organisation values the principles of integrity, goodwill and charity as the foundations for an individual's life and character. The Masonic Lodge is one of the world's oldest and largest fraternal organisations and is heavily involved in supporting charity and community service.

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

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is associated with the ideas and individuals involved in Freemasonry in New Zealand. The Lodge represents the historical importance and presence of the Masonic Lodge during the early years of Central Otago gold mining when the Lodge played an important role in the town’s providing a meeting place and network for lodge members.

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

There is considerable public esteem for the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge. The Lodge has been a meeting place for over 120 years. The wider community support is shown through the funding of the $220,000 project by a number of community groups. The building is considered to be one of Arrowtown’s significant buildings locally, and is identified in a heritage inventory of the town.

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

The Lodge is a typical example of a nineteenth century stacked schist building which illustrates the building technology used at that time. Many of its original features and details are intact.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

Local Freemasons as well as the conservation architect involved in the restoration project consider that the interior decorative scheme found beneath the Pinex wall lining is a rare and special example of hand-painted wall decoration.

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

The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is an important element in the historic streetscape of Arrowtown. Arrowtown is noted for its small clustered buildings associated with the nineteenth century gold mining heyday. The Lodge is located on a raised site overlooking Buckingham Street and adjoining residential areas notable for their diminutive miner’s cottages. The handsome stone building with its formal classical façade is a notable element in the townscape.


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

Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is of special significance as an authentic example of a nineteenth century lodge made from vernacular materials that features a magnificent, rare and meticulously restored hand-painted decorative scheme in its Lodge Room. As such, the Lodge is an important illustration of Masonic art associated with nineteenth century Freemasonry in Otago and more widely in New Zealand, and the ongoing significance of Freemasonry.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Brown, George F

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori History

The Wakatipu area was well known to Maori. The name 'Whakatipu-wai-maori' originates from the earliest expedition of discovery. Rakaihautu is traditionally credited with creating the great inland waterways. There are many traditions relating to Lake Wakatipu. Whakatipu-wai-maori supported nohoanga and villages which were the seasonal destinations of Otago and Murihiku (Southland) whanau for many generations. The lake also supported permanent settlements, such as Tahuna near Queenstown. The lake was part of a network of trails. Knowledge of these trails continues to be held by whanau and hapu.

The land in the Queenstown Basin was alienated through the 1848 Kemp’s purchase for the Crown and subsequent declaration as part of the Otago goldfields. Nothing is known about the Maori occupation of land on which the Arrow Lodge Kilwinning sits.


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 and Scotland. Scotland’s Kilwinning Lodge (known as the Mother Lodge) is regarded by many the oldest Masonic Lodge – some arguing that it began in Scotland as early as the Eleventh Century when the Kilwinning Abbey was built. The Lodge was founded in the chapter house within the Abbey and remained there until 1560 when the Earl of Glencairn sacked the Abbey. Before the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1736 Mother Kilwinning was a Grand Lodge in her own right, and was able to issue warrants and charters to Lodges. Many Lodges still carry the name of Kilwinning, including Lodges in Arrowtown and Cromwell, a total of eight in New Zealand, five being in the South Island.

Lodges provided mutual social support for members. Lodges were a prominent part of the social landscape in goldfields Otago, with their activities recorded in newspapers, and a Lodge being present in many of the small towns, and noted for their provision of support for members and their families. In Lawrence, for example, historian W.R. Mayhew records that lodges and friendly societies started early because of the support they provided in a community where the hazards of gold mining meant some form of community and/or financial support was needed. There has been little analysis on their role or contributions to the community.

A masons’ 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. Within the Masonic hall or temple the Lodge Room was the centre of Masonic ritual, serving as both sites of worship and theatre, where ‘concepts of hierarchy and incorporation were central to their function and design.’

The interior of the Masonic Lodge was the essential focus for Masonic practice – focusing on the architecture and geometry, ritual and symbolism of Freemasonry. As architectural historian James Curl writes the idea of architecture and geometry in Freemasonry was seen to hold within it ‘the kernel of all advancement, all truth, and the ultimate mystery elevated that art to the highest pinnacle in the respect and awe of Mankind.’ Imagery and symbolism then was central to Freemasonry, and the art, ritual and symbolism of the Lodge Room was integral to Masonic practice. Curl writes that Masons were seeking the origins of their Craft in the ‘still centre of their Lodges, which were drawn apart from the rest of the world and shielded from prying eyes; in the Lodge and its emblems Masons sought the memory of beginnings and of the Temple itself. The Lodge therefore was, with its iconography, mnemonic of the Temple, and itself a Temple to the Art of Memory.’

The Lodge Room had certain characteristics. It was usually longer than it was wide, with a high stud, symmetrically placed doors at one end and an altar at the centre. The rooms were organised around two axes: the first through the centre of the length of the room; the second perpendicular to the first, both the objects and a person’s relationship to these axes determined their ritual significance. The chairs of the officers were often of exaggerated size and their status further indicated by their position on a raised platform. The Lodge Room was designed to emphasise an individual’s position in the body corporate. It was designed to shut out the outside world: Lodge Rooms often have no windows. Masonic symbols often decorated the walls and ceiling, which allowed Masons to distance themselves from the world, and provide inspiration for meditation on matters Masonic. The Lodge Room’s importance is shown by the care and attention paid to the furnishings and the decoration, the colours and emblems all symbolic of Mason ideas.

Arrow Kilwinning Lodge No. 86

The preliminary work for founding a Masonic charter in Arrowtown took place in July 1878 when a group of ‘gentlemen’ were appointed to carry out the work necessary for establishing a lodge in the town. The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge was chartered on 15 February 1879 with the appointment of new officers a ‘most substantial and imposing description’ and the lodge was considered to have started ‘under very prosperous auspices’ and a ‘glorious future may safely be predicted for it.’ The fifty attendees adjourned to the reading room of the athenaeum to a ‘sumptuous banquet’, ‘excellent music’ and all present were sent home in the ‘best spirits imaginable.’ A charter was formally granted to the lodge by the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Scotland in July 1879.

A section overlooking the centre of Arrowtown was selected for the construction of a purpose built lodge building. The land had previously been a garden or a fenced paddock belonging to John Laxton and Henry Smith. The contract for the construction of the lodge was let on 12 March 1887. The tenders for the lodge were called for on 4 March 1887. .The plans indicate that George F. Brown designed the building, and the contractor was John Macdonald, with a tender of £239 10s. The foundation stone for the lodge building was laid on 23 April 1887, with a capsule containing a history of the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge, a copy of the local newspapers, a miner’s right, and a list of local councillors were deposited under the stone. The lodge was consecrated on 23 January 1888. In common with other lodges or friendly societies the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge offered ‘convivial society, moral and spiritual refinement, material assistance, and social advancement.’

On 16 March 1893 the Otago Witness reported that the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge joined the New Zealand [Masonic] constitution. Another article in the Fielding Star on 18 February 1893 noted that the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge No. 637 S.C. would become Lodge No. 87 under the New Zealand Charter.

The newspapers also give an insight into the yearly election of offices, the interaction between local lodges, and the social role of the lodge. There is an account of a ball celebrating the first year of the lodge in 1880 and again in 1886, both of course before the building was constructed. There are also several accounts of funerals of lodge members.

In 1898 the Lodge Room was plastered and a dado rail installed. It is thought that the wall paintings uncovered in 2009 were painted at this time. Probably in the 1950s the interior of the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge was relined with Pinex. In 1991 an addition containing a kitchen and toilets was added. In 2006 the Lodge undertook a programme of structural repairs and upgrade of facilities. The first part of the project was the strengthening and repair of the roof, re-wiring, remodelling of the kitchen and foyer. During the building work pinex was stripped out revealing a decorative interior that both conservator Eimear O’Connell and long standing Arrowtown Mason Blair Rodger consider ‘extremely rare’ and unique in the South Island. The painted scheme of the interior includes stencilled Masonic symbols, painted swags of drapery and the moon and stars. A painted canvas floor cloth at the centre of the floor was also uncovered. This interior was painstakingly reinstated and repaired, new heating and lighting installed and interpretation of the building’s history and symbolism prepared. There is considerable public esteem for the Arrow Kilwinning Lodge. The Lodge has been a meeting place for over 120 years. The wider community support is shown through the funding of the $220,000 project by a number of community groups. The newly restored lodge was rededicated in a Masonic ceremony in February 2010.

Physical Description


The Arrow Kilwinning Lodge is located on a rise overlooking Buckingham Street, the main business area of the small Otago town of Arrowtown. The building sits on a grassy hill surrounded by mature trees.

Access to the Lodge is up a concrete stair with stone balustrades and a metal hand rail, matching the style of the building. These are placed centrally so access is directly to the main entrance doors. It is not clear when these steps were installed as earlier pictures show a steep flight of timber steps.


The Lodge is a simple rectangular stone building with a decorative stone pediment to the front elevation. There are concrete elements in the capping and a plastered Freemason’s motif of square and compasses on the centre of the pediment.

There is a central door on the front elevation flanked by two sash windows. The door has four panels with raised bolection mouldings and a fanlight over. The door and windows are painted blue, which according to conservation architect Jackie Gillies is in accordance with the constitution of Scottish lodges, and in Masonic symbolism represents universal brotherhood and friendship, among other meanings.

The gable roof is corrugated iron with skylights mounted in the ridge near the centre. The walls are construction of random rubble stacked schist, mortared in mud with a lime plaster weathering coat.

The front door opens into the anteroom. The anteroom has been created out of three original spaces: a central hall with two small rooms on either side. Part of the original partition wall remains and a larger opening has been created. The location of the other partition wall can be seen on the ceiling and wall of the anteroom. A four-panelled varnished door leads into the Lodge Room. Another door into the Lodge Room has been blocked off. An opening in the wall leads to the new kitchen.

The Lodge Room is 6 metres by 9 metres, with a 3 metre ceiling height, with a blue painted dome in the centre of the ceiling. The dome, with a skylight in the centre, sits over the symbolic black and white tessellated pavement, which according to Arrowtown Freemason’s worshipful master Graeme Wilson, is believed to have been painted on the remains of a tent used in Arrowtown’s gold mining days. The roof lights were originally able to be blocked out by roller blinds operated by chords and pulleys. There is a fireplace in the south western wall, with a concrete fire surround and a new mantle.

At the far end of the Lodge Room is the canopied Master’s chair. The Master’s chair is set on a semi-circular podium reached by three steps. The Master’s chair is not original rather inherited from another Lodge. Over the top of the Master’s chair is a semicircular canopy with a printed woollen curtain with swags and ornate tie backs. The original Master’s chair is located next to it on the podium.

At the opposite end of the Lodge Room is the Senior Warden’s chair set on another semicircular podium with two steps. A third podium accessed by a single step is on the south western wall, and has the chair for the Junior Warden.

The Lodge Room has special significance because of its decorative scheme of Masonic symbols painted on the plaster walls. A dado-level stencilled frieze repeating square and compass motifs between single stars in dark red paint with gold highlights. At cornice level there are hand-painted swags of drapery, with other Masonic motifs at each corner with large painted tassels. A large square and compass motif is painted on the chimney flue.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1888 -
Lodge opened.

1898 -
Decorative interior scheme completed.

Concrete steps replace earlier timber ones. Anteroom created out of three original rooms.

1991 -
Addition to south western elevation with kitchen and toilet facilities.

2009 -
Restoration work on the interior completed.

Construction Details

Stone, concrete, corrugated iron, timber joinery.

Completion Date

11th May 2010

Report Written By

J. Gillies and Associates & H. Bauchop

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

Curl, 1991

James Stevens Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry, London, 1991

Miller, 1973

F.W.G Miller, Golden Days of Lake County, 5th edn, Christchurch, 1973

Bowman, 1995

I. Bowman and B. Reid, ‘An Inventory of heritage structures for Arrowtown, Report prepared for the Queenstown Lakes District Council’, Queenstown, 1995

Gillies, 2007

J. Gillies & Associates, ‘Conservation Report’ Arrowtown Masonic Lodge, 15 Aug 2007

Copy held Otago/Southland Area Office, NZHPT, file 12009-858

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.