The ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’ published in the Sydney Herald on 5 July 1841 includes (12) Masonic Lodges, &c. (See the entries of 17/11/2010, 18/11/2010, 19/11/2010, 22/11/2010, 23/11/2010 and 24/11/2010 for further details.)
(12) The Directory lists five lodges: the Australian Social Masonic Lodge; the Royal Arch Chapter; the Leinster Marine Lodge of Australia; the Lodge of Australia; and the Australian Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows.
Two lodges meet at St. John’s Tavern, on the northern corner of Bridge and George Streets. The Australian Social Masonic Lodge meets there on the first Monday of each month, and the Royal Arch Chapter meets every three months, on the second Tuesday of January, April, July, and October.
Two lodges meet in the Masonic Hall in York Street, on the western side of that street a few doors from the Barrack Gate. The Leinster Marine Lodge of Australia holds meetings at stated times. The Lodge of Australia meets every month on the Tuesday nearest to the full moon.
The Australian Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows meets in the Lodge Room in King Street, on the northern side of that street between Elizabeth and Phillip Streets. It meets on a weekly basis, every Wednesday.
The name ‘Australian Social Masonic Lodge’ is an informal variant, occurring almost nowhere else, for the Australian Social Lodge, sometimes also called the Masonic Australian Social Lodge or the Australian Masonic Social Lodge, the term ‘Masonic’ being worked in somewhere from time to time to indicate the general category. A news item of 30 June 1821 notes that there are two Masonic bodies in the colony, that of His Majesty’s 48th Regiment (no. 218 Irish Constitution) and the Australian Social Lodge (no. 260 I.C.), the latter recently granted from Ireland by the Duke of Leinster and approved by the Governor of New South Wales. They celebrated, according to ancient custom, the anniversary of John the Baptist (24 June) with a procession and a meeting at the Lodge Room (Smith’s, Hyde Park), where Rev. Ralph Mansfield delivered a sermon on brotherly love and a collection was taken up for the Benevolent Society.
There was also a Lodge 227 I.C. attached to the 46th Regiment, which was replaced by the 48th Regiment in 1817. Some civilians admitted to Freemasonry by the military formed the original core of the Australian Social Lodge. In 1878 the Lodge was renamed under the NSW Constitution the Australian Social Mother Lodge No. 0, and then in 1888 with the formation of the United Grand Lodge of NSW it became the Australian Social Mother Lodge No. 1. On its hundredth anniversary in 1920 it became Lodge Antiquity No. 1. In 1988 Lodge Celestial (no. 512) merged with it.
The Royal Arch Chapter, attached to Lodge no. 260 I.C., was formed under a warrant from the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland. There are some early references from 1834. The Chapter met at that time at St. John’s Tavern, and communications could be sent to the Junior Scribe at that address. This remained the meeting place from at least that time until the period in which the Sydney Herald’s Directory was published – surely a measure of the stability and conservatism of the Masonic movement. Evidently the Australian Social Lodge and the Royal Arch Chapter met at the same place because they were connected with one another.
In 1821 the Australian Social Lodge asked the Grand Lodge in Ireland for permission to grant dispensations which would enable further lodges to be formed in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land until these proposed additional lodges in various places could receive a warrant. Permission was granted and under this ruling in 1824 three members of Lodge 260 were allowed to form a new lodge in Sydney which became the Leinster Marine Lodge of Australia (no. 266 I.C.).
Whereas the Australian Social, Royal Arch and Leinster Marine Lodges derived from Ireland, the Lodge of Australia (no. 820, later 548, and then 390 E.C.) was formed under a warrant to meet in Sydney issued in 1828 by the United Grand Lodge of England. In 1829 the warrant of the Grand Lodge of England itself fell into abeyance. The warrant was revived on the initiative of the Duke of Sussex in 1833 and the Lodge of Australia was renewed at that time. The Lodge Room in 1833 was at the Royal Hotel, Sydney. A special meeting was held on 13 December 1833 to ‘cement’ the renewal (including the election of a Master) and to plan for opening the Lodge on St. John’s Day (24 June 1834).
The lodges acted co-operatively. For example, in April 1834, in an advertisement for a concert at the Pulteney Hotel, three notices appear one under the other from the Lodge of Australia, the Leinster Marine Lodge and the Australian Social Lodge (in that order). In June of that year the United Lodges of Australia assembled to celebrate the Festival of St. John. There was a procession with banners and the bands of the 17th and 4th Regiments. ‘The day being remarkably fine, a great number of the inhabitants assembled to witness the sight, it being superior to any thing of the kind before seen in N. S. Wales.’ The procession went to St. James’s Church, where Rev. R. Hill preached an appropriate sermon. Collections were taken up for the Sydney Dispensary and indigent Freemasons. There was a dinner afterwards at the Lodge with numerous toasts and speeches and the band of the 4th Regiment played appropriate airs.
The Australian Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows, or more fully the Australian Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was introduced to Australia by Mr. William Moffitt, who returned to England in 1842, farewelled with great emotion by members of the Order. A brief history of the order appeared in the Sydney Monitor in November 1841. The Order grew from small beginnings in 1836, was formalised in 1837, and had the same standing as the Grand Lodge of the Manchester Unity. By November 1841 it had 274 members, a branch lodge at Port Phillip with 45 members, and ample funds. A Lodge Room was purpose-built at the Saracen’s Head Inn, King Street (at the corner of King and Sussex Streets), and dedicated in October 1842. The seventh anniversary was celebrated in February 1843 at ‘the Lodge Room, (Brother Smith’s, “Saracen’s Head Inn,” King-street)’. The Australian Supreme Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows celebrated its eleventh anniversary in 1847.
John the Baptist: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 30/6/1821, p. 3. Australian Social Lodge: cf. the website of Lodge Antiquity No. 1. Royal Arch Chapter: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 17/5/1834, p. 1. Leinster Marine Lodge: cf. ‘Some events in the early history of Freemasonry in Australia and the SW Pacific to 1848’, on the website of the Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territory. Renewal of the Lodge of Australia no. 820: Sydney Monitor 31/7/1833, p. 1; Sydney Herald 9/12/1833, p. 1. Concert: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 26/4/1834, p. 3. Festival of St. John, 1834: Sydney Monitor 28/6/1834, p. 3. See also the website of the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons of NSW and the ACT. There is a Museum of Freemasonry (279 Castlereagh Street, Sydney), with a Grand Archivist to answer historical questions. Australian Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows: Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser 29/11/1841, p. 2; Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 26/3/1842, p. 2 (Mr Moffitt’s departure); The Australian 14/4/1842, p. 2; The Australian 7/10/1842, p. 2 (Lodge Room); The Australian 1/3/1843, p. 2. Australian Supreme Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows: The Australian 27/2/1847, p. 3.