A LOOK BACK IN HISTORY (Added to
website 2 May 2006)
The following newspaper article
was published in the "Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne
Advertiser" Thursday, 28th July 1842 just seven years after the
founding of Melbourne.
It was provided to the Editor of the Lodge of Australia Felix Website by
Wor Bro Terry Webster a Past Master of the same Lodge. The source is not
known to me however the following acknowledgement appeared at the foot of
the original article.
“Brethren I would like to
acknowledge the assistance given to me by V. Wor. Bro. Bill Wilkinson of
the Bi-Centennial Lodge who gave me a reprint of the newspaper article to
read and Rt. Wor Bro. Peter Thornton, the Grand Librarian who gave
permission to use information from his book: "A Century of
Union". The book is out of print but if you can get your hands on a
copy have a read, it is a history of the craft in Victoria
and contains many details of people and places in early Melbourne”.
Ceremony of laying the foundation
stone of the first courthouse in Australia Felix
Monday last will long be remembered
by the inhabitants of Melbourne.
The Ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new Courthouse, which
had been postponed from the previous Friday on account of the inclemency of
the weather, was announced to take place on that day, and the weather
proving favourable, at an early hour expectation was on the tiptoe in
anticipation of a spectacle never before witnessed in the province, and
never before by the majority of the inhabitants of our good town.
At a quarter to eleven o'clock the
Freemasons were to start from their Lodge-Room at The Royal Exchange Hotel,
Collins Street; but long before that the street was crowded with vast
numbers of men, women and children, in the most breathless anticipation of
At the promised hour public
expectation was gratified by the appearance of the Masonic body, about two
hundred in number, who walked in procession to the temporary courthouse in King Street
where they were joined by the Independent Order of Odd-fellows.
The procession being formed
proceeded in the following order:
The Ranger on
Order of Odd-fellows in the following order:
The Guardian with
The Conductors in
Brethren two by
The Warden with
The Secretary with
Grandmaster carrying the bible and hour glass
A Past Grandmaster
carrying the emblems of mortality
10. Past Grandmasters two by two
11. The Grandmaster of the lodge and the Grandmaster
of the District
12. Past Grandmaster with the dispensation
13. Followed by the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity
of Free and Accepted Masons in the following order:
The banner of
Deacons with wands
Treasurer with bag
The Doric Light
Banner Of Hope
The Members of the
bearing Cornucopia, Pitcher with Wine and Pitcher with Oil
The Organist and
Bible, Square and
The Banner of
Clergy of all
The Past Master
14. Followed by
Civil Officers of
Chief Constable on
Magistrates of the Territory Two by Two
Members of the Bar
The Resident Judge
and Members of his Court
The procession moved along King Street,
along Little Collins Street and down Queens Street to Collins Street, left into Elizabeth Street
and right into Lonsdale Street,
turning left into Russell
Street and arriving at the site of the new
Courthouse near the new goal. Some idea of the length of the procession can
be gathered by the fact that when the procession reached Elizabeth Street the rear had not
reached Queen Street.
The appearance of the procession was imposing.
The Odd-fellows though few in
number attracted considerable attention from the variety of hues which
distinguished their clothing and which on the whole had a very pleasing
The procession of the Masons
infinitely excelled any singular procession we have ever witnessed in the
Australian Colonies, the decorations and appointments being far superior to
those exhibited by the Freemasons of either Sydney or Van Diemans Land.
This was, however, in great measure, owing to the arrival of the sailing
ship "Platina" on the very day the procession was postponed. The "Platina"
arrived with a large assortment of Masonic paraphernalia ordered from London last year,
which, by the polite attention of Capt Wycherley, the brethren were able to
take possession of before the procession started.
The appointments of the lodge and many
of the brethren were remarkably good, but those which claimed particular
attention were Brothers Stephen, Ross and Hind who took part in the
procession as Royal Arch Masons, and of Brothers Campbell and Broderick who
took their station as Knights Templar.
Brother Moor who took his place as
an attorney of the Supreme Court but wore his insignia as Sovereign Prince
of the Knights Templar also attracted attention from the number of his
orders and the great value of his Jewels, several of which, we understand
were presented to him by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Sussex, the
Grandmaster of The United Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England.
The procession having arrived at
the site of the new Courthouse halted, and formed into double column. The
Judge and the Masonic Officers who were to take part in the ceremony of
laying the foundation stone passing up the centre towards the excavation.
The Judge, the Architect and the various Masonic Brethren required to take
part in the ceremony having taken their places in the excavation, the Rev.
Mr. Thomson offered up a prayer. The stone was then lowered by three
successive halts until fixed in position. The Plummet was then handed by
the J.W. to the P.M. and by him to the W.M. who applied it to the stone to
ascertain its perfect adjustment. The same ceremonial was gone through with
the Level, and then the Square and Maul
were handed to the Judge who gave three knocks on the stone, which were
repeated by the W.M.
In the evening the Masonic
Fraternity gave a grand banquet in their Lodge Room in the Royal Exchange
Hotel at which they entertained the Deputy Sheriff, the Registrar of the
Supreme Court, the Police Magistrates, the newspaper editors, the principal
officers of the Odd-fellows and several other gentlemen. The evening passed
over with the utmost hilarity.
NOTES: The courthouse stood on the comer
of Russell and Latrobe streets until the early 1900s when it was demolished
to make way for the sandstone building that currently occupies the site -
most of us probably know it as the Magistrates Court.
The events of the day were the
responsibility of Lodge Australia
Felix, the first Masonic Lodge in Melbourne.
You will remember from our history that Australia
Felix was the name Sir Thomas Mitchell gave to that part of New South Wales south of the Hume
River - we now know the Hume River
as the Murray River. The Lodge was
consecrated on 25 Mar 1840 under the English Constitution and came under
the Provincial Grand-master in Sydney.
In the first 12 months of its existence they had 50 Candidates and 30
joining members, certainly different to today's situation.
The parade is significant in
Australian history that it was the first parade or procession in the
history of the Australian colonies that did not have a military presence.
The Commanding Officer of the troops did not receive the invitation because he was on leave and the 2/IC, who was
commanding the company of troops, wanted a personal invite from the Judge
and when the invite from the judge did not arrive the pleas of the masons
went unheard and the military stayed in their barracks.
A later issue of the newspaper had
an article which claimed that the Lodge Australia Felix members, at their
latest meeting, voiced their disgust with the inaction of Capt. Lewis and
intended to complain to his Commanding Officer and the Commander-in-Chief,
and as both these gentlemen were members of Freemasonry it was felt that
Capt. Lewis may have a much shorter military career than he had hoped for.
If I may now go back a bit farther
to 23 December 1839, for it was on this day that 21 Freemasons met and drew
up a petition to form a Lodge; the Lodge was to be called Lodge Australia
Felix and to come under the authority
of the United Grand Lodge of England. The 1st Worshipful Master of Lodge Australia Felix was George Brunswick Smythe,
who was initiated into St. Mary's Lodge, No. 76 in London in 1835. Smythe was installed as
the Worshipful Master of Lodge Australia Felix and 'hen
resigned after the conclusion of the consecration ceremony - he never
attended another Lodge meeting. He felt that as he was the Police
Magistrate there could be a conflict of interest - there must have been
some shady characters at the consecration. It is interesting to note that Brunswick Street,
Fitzroy was named after him. The Senior Warden of the Lodge was William
Meek, the first lawyer to settle in Melbourne,
he was initiated in Restoration Lodge, no. 128 on 31 July 1834 in Harlington, England. William Meek was the
foundation secretary of the Melbourne Club: the Junior Warden was Isaac
Hind who was initiated into the Tasmanian Lodge, No. 313 in Hobart.
When Smythe resigned, his duties
were taken over by John Stephen who was born in America in 1798, of English
parents. Stephen who eventually became the 2nd Worshipful Master was
employed by "The Port Phillip Patriot" as a freelance journalist
and may be the author of the
newspaper article. He was initiated into Lodge of Regularity, No. 259 in England
on 25 March 1824 and was appointed Grand Steward in 1826, well before the
usual time. In 1827 he arrived in Sydney
and was appointed Registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, he was
eventually removed from this position. During his time in Sydney he served as Master of a Lodge and
First Principal of a Chapter. He arrived in Melbourne two weeks before the original
meeting to sign the petition to form Lodge Australia
Felix. He served a number of terms as a Town Councilor. As Stephen and
Smythe were the only past masters in the colony and Smythe was to be the
first Master, it fell to Stephen to consecrate the Lodge and install the
first master. Evidence suggests that he was the driving force behind the
formation of Lodge Australia
Felix. He also had a street named after him - Stephen Street, which became Exhibition Street,
when the Royal Exhibition building was opened in 1869.
The 3rd Master William Kerr was
the editor of the "The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser", and he also
had a street named after him - Kerr
Street, Fitzroy. He was at one stage the
Provincial Grand Master of the Orangemen of Victoria, the first secretary
of the St. Andrews Society and Chairman of
the Burns Society. Rt. Wor. Bro. Peter Thomton in his book "A Century
of Union" states,” nothing is known
of Kerr's previous Masonic background”.
The 4 master was John Thomas
Smith. Smith was probably the best known of the early Masonic leaders,
among his achievements were:
1. He opened the first theatre in Melbourne,
2. He was elected a town councilor in 1842,
3. He was mayor in 1852 and on six other occasions
4. And he also had a street named after him. Smith Street
that divides the cities of Fitzroy and Collingwood.
Smith was initiated into Lodge Australia
Felix on the 12th April 1840; the first meeting after the consecration and
with three others holds the distinction of being one of the first brethren
initiated into freemasonry in the colony. In 1856 John Thomas Smith was
appointed Provincial Grand Master of the Irish Constitution in Victoria, a position
he held until his death in 1879. As a point of trivia: Smith's sister was
the Great-grandmother of the famous Gregory cricketing brothers who
at the highest level.
Back in those days the intrigues
of Freemasonry must have appeared very curious to the non-initiated - and I
am not talking about the Secrets or the Ritual. Kerr, the 3rd Master fell
out with the 2nd master, John Stephen and was suspended, he and several
members of Lodge Australia Felix then formed the Australasian Kilwinning
Lodge which came under the Scottish constitution and recently amalgamated
with the Letchworth Lodge and became the Letchworth Kilwinning Lodge which
meets in the Brunswick North Masonic Centre. It should be noted that the
4th master of Lodge Australia
Felix, John Thomas Smith was the brother that consecrated the Australasian
Kilwinning Lodge on 13 May 1844. He, and John Thomas Smith, eventually fell
out with both Stephen and Kerr and formed the Australia Felix Lodge of Hiram,
which of course came under the Irish constitution.
By 1844 Melbourne
had 4 lodges - the fourth being the Lodge of Australasia
but times were tough and a lot of the population had moved out on to the
land. The membership of Lodge Australia Felix had dwindled to just 10, and
by 1849 Lodge of Australasia had gone into abeyance and in June of 1851
Australia Felix Lodge of Hiram went into abeyance.
In December 1851 Lodge Australia
Felix installed a new Master and the Lodge did not meet of 13 months - the
Master would not hand in the warrant as he wanted to achieve the rank of
past master, and the only way he could do this was by being a W.M. for 12
The first lodge in Geelong, The Geelong Lodge of Unity and Prudence was formed in 1847
and the first lodge in Portland, the Portland Lodge in Victoria for the Queen, was formed in
In 1839 when Lodge Australia Felix was consecrated the
population of Melbourne
was just over 6000, by the year 1851 the population was over 20,000.
Taken from A Century of Union Peter