About Waitemata Lodge
About Waitemata Lodge
The Waitemata Lodge is a Freemasons’ Lodge, which is part of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons Of England, also known as the English Constitution. It is the oldest English Constitution Lodge in the Auckland area, having met regularly in Auckland since 1855.
The Lodge meets in the purpose-built Masonic Centre at Ellerslie, in Auckland, New Zealand. It meets on the first Wednesday of each month from March to December, and our members enjoy a dinner together after the ceremony.
Waitemata Lodge History
At the time of the formation of the Waitemata Lodge, the only Masonic Lodge in Auckland was the Ara Lodge, No. 348 in the Irish Constitution. A petition, signed by six brothers, was sent to the Provincial Grand Lodge of New South Wales asking for dispensation to start this Lodge. The Petition was granted and the first meeting of the Lodge was held on 6 September 1855 when W. Bro. Buchanan, W. Master of Ara Lodge No. 348 IC installed Sir Samuel Osborne-Gibbes as Master of Waitemata Lodge.
It was not until 3rd December 1856 that Waitemata received its own Grand Lodge Warrant, which carried the number 990. This remained our number until 1863 when the following letter was received from Grand Lodge.
That the Grand Lodge having resolved that the number of new Lodges on the Register shall be brought forward in regular succession by filling up those numbers which have become vacant either by the voluntary surrender of Warrants or by erasure of Lodges. I have the honour to inform you that your Lodge which has hitherto been known and distinguished as No.990 will henceforth stand on the Register of Grand Lodge as No. 689 and the latter number you are to refer to in all returns and communications addressed to the Grand Lodge.
By Order Wm. Gray Clark. G. Sec.
In 1903 the Lodge wrote to Grand Lodge asking if the number on our Warrant should be changed to 689 and received the following reply:
In answer to your letter of the 20th regarding the Warrant of your Lodge it is in the same condition as all the others that were established before 1863. It is not necessary to have the new number placed on the Warrant but if it is desired the Warrant may be returned for endorsement but as such endorsement is usually made on the back it would not be of service if the Warrant is to be framed. Moreover the Lodge will be unable to meet in the absence of the Warrant.
Letchworth. Grand Sec.
Needless to say the Warrant was never endorsed and still shows the number 990.
Suffice it to say that the early years of the Lodge were on numerous occasions very stormy.
We have on record that on two occasions peace was only restored after communications from Grand Lodge and the minutes show that several times the Lodge was closed in due form and not in peace, love and harmony. Perhaps these stormy years were to be expected as when the Lodge received its Warrant it also had a letter from Grand Lodge stating that a copy of the Book of Constitutions could not be spared for Auckland. It is possible that the strength of independence that was necessary to become successful pioneers did not always lead to peaceful Lodge meetings, but following truly Masonic teachings these disturbances were always settled in the end. The Brethren concerned once again sat in open Lodge and worked with that love and harmony which should at all times characterise Freemasons.
The population of Auckland during the early years of Waitemata’s existence was of an essentially floating nature and this reflected itself to a large extent in the Lodge; many of our early brethren were members of Naval or Merchant ships or served in the regiments of the regular British Army based in New Zealand to assist in the early settlement and many took part in the Land Wars in the area. This led to a fluctuating work load in the Lodge and we note that in the years 1860 to 1867 the Lodge admitted 205 members, 81 joining and 124 initiates. This caused as many as 20 emergency meetings to be worked in a year and it was common to work two different degrees at one meeting, many of these meetings not finishing until 11pm. This heavy workload must have been very tiring as we find record of a notice of motion put to the Lodge that no degree be started after 9.30pm.
It was inevitable that as Auckland grew more Lodges would be required and despite the fact that some of the Brethren wished for Waitemata to remain the only English Lodge, the majority supported the Petition for a new Lodge. This being successful, the Prince of Wales Lodge had its first meeting on 28th September 1871. Once again, we find records of several stormy years, which continued until Grand Lodge wrote and asked that Masonic relationships be re-established between the Brethren concerned. From then on Masonry in the Auckland Province took a new lease of life and on 17th July 1878 the second daughter Lodge, The Eden Lodge, had its first meeting. The Minutes show that the Waitemata Lodge presented their spare Bible to Eden Lodge with their best wishes. This should dispel the rumours of many years standing that they came by it dishonestly!
During the following 10 years or so, Waitemata either assisted or signed the petition for several new Lodges
- The Eden Lodge, No. 1530 – 1875
- The Star of the North Lodge No. 1647 – 27th September 1876
- Remuera Lodge No. 1710 – 28th February 1877
- St George Lodge No. 1801 – 3rd November 1877
- Northern Light Lodge No. 1878 – 1880
- Duke of Albany Lodge No. 2073 – 2nd September 1884
- Franklin Lodge No. 2138 – 1885
- Lodge of Harmony No. 2180 – 26th May1886
Waitemata was connected with nearly all the English Lodges in the Auckland Province, a sure indication of the firm Masonic roots our early brethren planted back in 1855.
Before we leave those early years let me repeat a passage in the Centennial History:
It is not necessary to do a pen picture of conditions pertaining at that time in Auckland, with its ill-formed streets, poor lighting, and lack of transport facilities, to visualize the discomfort and self-sacrifice which had to be borne by the brethren in attending the regular meetings. They showed a zeal worthy of the true spirit of the Pioneers. Let us honour them in the first pages of this History by acknowledging our indebtedness to them for their love and loyalty. By their devotion and determination they have established a strong and virile influence on Freemasonry in the Auckland District.
Lodge Meeting Place
For the first three years, with a few exceptions, the meetings were held in the William Denny Hotel on the corner of Queen and Swanson Streets. For the next 23 years the meetings were held in the Masonic Hotel, Princes Street, on the site subsequently occupied by the Grand Hotel.
The Waitemata Lodge then became shareholders with other Lodges, who built the Masonic Hall next door to the Masonic Hotel in Princes Street. Here the first meeting of the Lodge was held on 12th December 1881.
In 1974 it became obvious that a considerable amount of money would be needed for structural repairs and general refurbishing and, as the parking had become extremely difficult since the building of the Hotel Intercontinental opposite, it was decided by all the Lodges holding shares to sell the building. The last meeting of the Lodge there was held on 21st July 1975. It was with a great deal of sorrow that Waitemata left the hall that they had called home for 94 years.
In June of 1975 Waitemata accepted the offer from the Lodge of Harmony to use the Lodge rooms at Princes Street, Otahuhu, and held our first meeting here in August of that year.
In 1989 the Waitemata Lodge was invited to purchase a one-quarter share in the Herne Bay Lodge room, in Argyle Street in Herne bay. The invitation was accepted and in 1990 the Waitemata Lodge started meeting in Herne bay. The Lodge continued to meet very happily there until the merging of The United Services Lodge and The Herne bay Lodge led to a situation where the Herne Bay Lodge and the Ponsonby Lodge no. 54 could no longer maintain their share of the outgoings and decided to move to the new Masonic Centre for the New Zealand Constitution at Khyber Pass. This made it necessary to sell the building in Herne Bay. The Waitemata Lodge moved to the English Masonic Centre at Ellerslie and changing our meeting night from the third Monday to the first Wednesday.
After two interim meetings in October and November 2010 which were held in the Eden Lodge Rooms, the Waitemata Lodge commenced meeting in the Ellerslie Masonic Centre on the first Wednesday of February 2011. At the same time, we became a Dining Lodge, enjoying a full dinner after our ceremonies, with no charge to any visitors – and starting at the earlier time of 6.30pm. At the same time, our Installation Meeting was moved from May to June. A small change was subsequently made to our schedule, so that we now meet from March to December rather than February to November.
The Lodge and The Grand Lodge of New Zealand
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a very understandable movement to establish an autonomous Grand Lodge of New Zealand. After discussion and negotiation with the English, Irish and Scottish Constitutions, this came about in 1890.
Some Lodges, however, did not join the new Constitution, adhered to their original loyalties. The 23 English Lodges in the North Island have persisted to the present day and coexist happily with each other and the New Zealand Constitution Lodges. The difference in uniform, attitudes and the conduct of ceremonies provides a source of interest and comparison that would be lacking if there were only one constitution.
The Ara Lodge No. 348 IC
The history of the Lodge would not be complete without some brief reference to our close relationship with Ara 348 IC. Of the 35 Brethren present at our foundation, 27 were members of Ara Lodge, and their regalia were used by both Lodges for several months. In the early days whenever the necessity arose the Master of Waitemata would occupy the Chair of Ara Lodge and conduct the business and confer Degrees.
I understand that the Ara Lodge Minute Book shows that a person who was not accepted as a member of Ara later joined Waitemata and when he was Master of Waitemata he visited Ara and as their Master was absent he occupied the Chair and conducted the Work. (A real Irish story!)
We still today have a very close affection for the Ara Lodge and long may it continue.
Officers of the Waitemata Lodge, together with members of Ara Lodge No. 348 IC, the Mother Lodge of Waitemata, in period costume met in the Ara Lodge rooms for a re-enactment of the first meeting of Waitemata Lodge on 6th September 1855. The re-enactment, held on 6th September 2005, was attended by the Assistant Grand Master, R. W. Bro. David Kenneth Williamson, our District Grand Master, R. W. Bro. Peter Gudsell, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, M. W. Bro. David Mace, The Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New Zealand, Grand Lodge of Ireland, R. W. Bro. Roland Whyte and the District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of New Zealand North, Grand Lodge of Scotland, Bro. Robert McLeod Russell.