Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Masonic Hall at Warkworth (1883)


Frequently I've passed this building and wondered about its history. Finally, I took my camera with me, and found some time to photograph this iconic structure which is now used for yoga classes, a market and as a public meeting place. The building has been nicely restored and painted. For years it stood looking neglected and forgotten despite its architectural merits. The building at 3 Baxter Street, Warkworth is registered as a Category 2 Historic place with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The old Masonic hall was designed in the Greek Revival style by Auckland based architect William Henry Skinner (1838-1915) who also supervised the construction of the building. The construction itself in 1883, was contracted out to James Clayden of Mahurangi, with the principle graining and varnishing done by Ponsonby, Auckland, based painter William Felton.

The New Zealand Herald (6 July 1883) proudly gave an indepth description of the design and construction of the newly completed building, The NZ Herald correspondent noted the new masonic building was "..one of the best halls north of Auckland, and would be no discredit to any city in the colony, and eminently suited in every way for the purposes of masonry for many years to come..."



The new hall was consecrated on the evening of Thursday, 17 May 1883 with a large number of Freemasons coming up from Auckland for the occasion as the NZ Herald (19 May 1883) reported:

RODNEY LODGE, No. 1711, E.C. The new Freemasons Hall at Warkworth, erected for the above Lodge, was duly consecrated on Thursday last. The s.s. Rose Casey having on board Bro. Lodder, D.D.G.M., and the principal officers of the District Grand Lodge and a large number of visiting brethren left Auckland shortly before 9 a.m., and arrived at Warkworth wharf at 2 p.m., where the visitors were received by the brethren of the Rodney Lodge and conducted to the new hall. After the usual preliminary business had been transacted, the brethren marched in procession to St. Mary's Church where short service was held, and an eloquent address delivered by Bro. the Rev. W. E. Mulgan, acting District Grand Chaplin. After returning to the hall the consecration ceremony was completed, being ably rendered by Bro. Lodder, Bro. H. G. Wade acting as Director of Ceremonies After a .short interval, Bro. W. P. Moat, D.S.G.W., took the chair, and installed Bro. Enoch Richards as W.M. of the lodge for the ensuing year. 


Sometime during June 1909, the Masonic Lodge had written to the Warkworth Town Board, advising that the hall could be purchased for use as a public hall. If the Town Board decided against purchasing the building then public use of the building would cease (Rodney & Otamatea Times 27 September 1911) . It was decided by the board to build a new town hall (Auckland Star 23 September 1909) rather than take up the purchase of the Baxter Street building. By September 1911, the new Warkworth Town Hall was complete and public use of the Masonic Hall ceased.


I don't know if the hall itself has ceased being a venue for the Rodney Freemasons, I have yet to find a record, so I will have to check with the Rodney Lodge and see if they are still using the hall or if it was vested to Auckland Council ownership. What is pleasing is that now once more the building is in use for public meetings and other activities. It's a beautiful building well deserving of preservation.



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