The settlement of Melbourne having commenced during the latter part of 1835, it is not surprising that Freemasonry, which has stood the test of time and outlived all opposition in its aim to uplift mankind, should, within the short space of four and a half years, become established in the State of Victoria by the formation and consecration of the first Freemasons' Lodge.
In those early days, when the inhabitants were engaged in pastoral pursuits, a few of the settlers, who were Freemasons, conceived the idea of starting a Masonic Lodge in this new land. For their initial efforts, the Brethren of the Craft generally, and especially the Brethren of No. 1, are sincerely grateful, as by them the Lodge of Australia Felix came into being, marking the birth of Freemasonry in this State. Despite the mad gold rush days, two world wars the Lodge continues to this day and without out doubt will be still be around to celebrate it’s double century in 25 years time.
On the 23rd December, 1839, a meeting was convened of Freemasons who were desirous of forming a Lodge in this Colony, now known as the State of Victoria (then the Port Phillip District of New South Wales) and the following members of the Craft were present:—
WBro. John Stephen, P.M, Brothers. William Meek, John Caulfield, Geo. B. Smyth, Joseph Anderson,
Isaac Hind, John Allie. James Clark, John Cropper, James Liddy, John Moses, Samuel Crook, James Kell, Geo Lilly, James Brown, Henry Davis, James M. Gill, William Darke, Lewis Robertson (E.A.) . Thomas Jennings (F.C.), John Brown.
William Meek was called to the Chair, while Bro. John Cropper was requested to act as Secretary, and the subjoined proceedings were adopted:
The following petition, being read, was unanimously adopted:
“To the Right Worshipful George Robert Nicholls, Esq.Provincial Grand Master of Australasia of the Grand Lodge of England :—
We, the undersigned, being regularly initiated Masons of Lodges as set forth against our names respectively, having the prosperity of the Fraternity at heart, and willing to exert our best endeavours to promote and diffuse the general principles of Masonry for the convenience of our respective dwellings and other good reasons, have agreed to form a new Lodge.
In consequence of this resolution we pray for a warrant of constitution to empower us to assemble as a regular Lodge to be denominated 'The Lodge of Australia Felix,' and to meet on the third Wednesday in each month at Melbourne, and then and there to discharge the duties of Masonry in a regular and constitutional manner according to the original forms of the Order, and the laws of the Grand Lodge.
And we have nominated and do recommend Bro. George Brunswick Smyth to be the first Master, Bro. William Meek to be the first Senior Warden, and Bro. Isaac Hind to be the first Junior Warden of the said Lodge. The prayer of this petition being granted, we promise strict conformity to every regular edict and command of the Grand Master and his representative and to all the constitutional laws and regulations of the Grand Lodge.
Dated at Melbourne, Port Phillip, this 23rd day of December in the year of our Lord, 1839. Anno Lucis 5839.
As witness our hands-
George B. Smyth, 76, St. Mary's Lodge, London, James Kell, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, William Meek, 128, Restorative Lodge, Darlington. Isaac Hind, 313, P.S.W., Tasmanian Lodge, John Stephen P.M., 548 Lodge of Australia (NSW), Jno. Allie, 326, Union Lodge, J. A. Clark, 345, Operative Lodge, James Liddy, 345, Operative Lodge, Thos. Jennings, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, Samuel Crook, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, John Cropper, 602, Lodge of Good Fellowship. John Moses, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, James M. Gill, 345, Operative Lodge, Geo. Lilly, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, James Brown, 345, Operative Lodge. Henry Davis, 345, Operative Lodge, Lewis Robertson, Geometrical Lodge. Wm. Wedge Darke, 313, Tasmanian Lodge, John Brown,260, Lodge of Australia & Social Lodge, Isaac D. Nicholls, 548, Lodge of Australia, Jno. Caulfield, 266, Leinster Marine Lodge, Jno. Levien, 345, Operative Lodge, Adam Pullar, 548 Lodge of Australia Richard Forrest, 8, Lodge of St. Patrick, Joseph Anderson, 548, Lodge of Australia,
(Note:— Bros. Nicholls, Levien, Forrest, and Pullar were not shown as being present at the meeting so must have signed the petition at a later date.
First Provisional Meeting 23 December 1839
At this meeting a number of additional resolutions were recorded:
WBro. John Stephen, P.M. moved and seconded by Bro. Liddy that a Provisional Lodge be established, pending the arrival of the Dispensation Warrant, nominating the following Brethren as officers (as listed in the petition)
Worshipful Master G. B. Smyth, Senior Warden W. Meek, Junior Warden I. Hind, Treasurer Bro. G. Lilly, Secretary J. Cropper, Senior Deacon J. Allie, Junior Deacon, S. Crook, and Tyler Caulfield, Bro. Meek proposed and Bro. Brown seconded that this meeting, on its rising, do adjourn to Monday, 6th January, 1840, the motion being carried unanimously. Bro. Caulfield proposed and Bro. Smyth seconded that Wor. Bro. John Stephen,P.M., should take the Chair and open and close the Lodge in the First Degree. The motion was carried unanimously, whereupon Bro. Meek attested his signature to the foregoing Minutes as Chairman and Wor. Bro. John Stephen, P.M., took the Chair and opened by the Lodge in the First Degree and the Minutes of the proceedings which had just taken place were read and duly confirmed.
• The Treasurer declared the funds in hand at £16/16/-.
• A motion by Bro. Hind, seconded by Bro. Davis, that the sum of £10/10/- for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the Warrant, accompanied by the
petition to the Provincial Grand Master, be transmitted to Sydney, was carried unanimously.
• A further motion by Bro. Hind, seconded by Bro. Robertson, that an amount be voted to defray the expenses incurred for stationery, etc., and the use of the
room, was carried unanimously.
• The labours of the Lodge being concluded, it was closed in Peace and Harmony at 10pm.
Second Provisional Meeting 6th January 1840
The next Provisional Meeting was held on the 6th January, 1840, Bro. Hind being in the Chair.
The first proposed By-Laws were read and adopted and ordered to be printed. As Bro. J. Cropper, Secretary, was about to proceed to Sydney, he was requested to obtain such Lodge Paraphernalia, Tools, etc., as he was able to procure at a reasonable rate. Donations had been invited from the Brethren for this purpose, and any subscriptions received were to be refunded as soon as the Lodge funds would permit.
The Paraphernalia and Tools comprised, Holy Bible, Square and Compasses, Rough and Perfect Ashlars, Set of Jewels and Collars. Working Tools, 3 Mawls. 3 Candlesticks, 2 Columns. 2 Swords, Square, Level, and Lodge Seal and Plumb Rule.
The meeting was then adjourned until the arrival of the Dispensation Warrant from
Sydney except in the case of emergency.
Third Provisional Meeting 25th March 1840
The next Provisional Meeting was held on Wednesday, the 25th March, 1840, it having been called pursuant to Public Advertisement, when the W.M. Elect, Bro. G. B. Smyth, stated that a Dispensation Warrant had been received from the Deputy Provincial Grand Master at Sydney, and, it being necessary, in the absence of the proper authorities, to elect an Installing Officer for the purpose of constituting and consecrating the new; Lodge and installing the W.M. Elect, he proposed and Bro. Meek seconded that WBro. John Stephen, P.M. of the Lodge of Australia, be requested to fill the Chair as Installing Officer. The motion was carried unanimously.
Constitution and Consecration of the Lodge 25th March 1840
WBro. John Stephen, P.M. of the Lodge of Australia No. 548 (E.C.), then took the Chair, whereupon the Lodge was opened in the First Degree. Each brother present took the usual oath as to his Initiation, etc., after which the Lodge passed to the Second Degree and then raised to the Third Degree.
The ceremony of constituting and consecrating the Lodge was thereupon proceeded with according to the pristine usage of the Order.
The Brethren named in the Dispensation Warrant, were confirmed in the respective offices. The Dispensation Warrant was read by Bro. Secretary and ordered to be duly enrolled.
The Masonic Oration was delivered by Bro. G. B. Smyth, W.M. Elect, after which the ceremony of Installation was proceeded with, when Bro. G. B. Smyth was duly inducted into the Chair as Master of the Lodge of Australia Felix by WBro. John Stephen, P.M. after which the officers as named in the petition and on the provisional warrant were duly invested with the collar and jewels of their respective offices.
Propositions for initiation were received for eleven candidates, and eight Brethren for affiliation. Two Brethren expressed a desire to take the Degree of a F.C. at the next meeting and one the Third Degree.
The Lodge was then reduced to the First Degree, and was called from Labour to Refreshment to meet at the Banquet Hall at 7 p.m. At that hour the Brethren assembled at the Hall for the Banquet, twenty-eight partaking, and the W.M. being in the Chair.
At 10 p.m. the Master recalled the Brethren from Refreshment to Labour and further Masonic Business conducted including a vote of appreciation to WBro. John Stephen not only for the manner in which he conducted the Consecration an d Installation ceremonies but also for the significant role he played in establishing The Lodge of Australia Felix.
The Lodge was closed in Peace and Harmony at 11 p.m. to conclude a most historical day in the annals of the Freemasonry in this State Victoria in general and the Lodge of Australia Felix in particular. A name aptly chosen, denoting .Australia the Happy
In retrospect to think that four and one-half years after permanent settlement of Melbourne had its beginning the first Lodge was formed and consecrated. Our founding Fathers would I’m sure continue to rest peacefully in the Grand Lodge above well satisfied that the Lodge of Australia Felix they breathed life into still flourishes with a 175 year unbroken chain of Masters occupying the Chair of King Solomon.
Interesting to note that the Lodge had three Masters in 1840, two in 1841 , two in 1843, two in 1848, and two in 1990 . On Friday 13 February 2015 WBro. Jim Puohotaua, PDGSuptMem, GPurs will therefore become not the 175th Master of the Lodge but the 182nd .
Our records show that the installation of the 175th Master of the Lodge of Australia Felix took place on 14 February 2008 and by a strange quirk of fate it was the current Master Elect Jim Puohotaua who was installed at that time.
A Few Interesting Anecdotes
1. In the early development of Melbourne, Freemasons played an important part in many civic ceremonies, more particularly in the laying of foundation stones of
public buildings and bridges.
a. On the 25th July 1842 the brethren of Australia Felix led the first non military parade through the streets of Melbourne to lay the foundation of the new
courthouse on the corner of Russell and Latrobe streets. This building stood until the early 1900’s when it was demolished to make way for the
sandstone building that currently occupies the site.
b. On 20th March 1846 the foundation stone for the Princess Bridge was laid.
a. The Lodge trowel used in these and several other foundation stone laying ceremonies is on Loan to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria for display in the
Grand Lodge Museum. It is held in the custodianship of the Grand Librarian. A Matching Mortar Board was recently misplaced somewhere within the 300
Albert Street complex.
c. It has been the established tradition in the Lodge of Australia Felix for the Trowel to be returned to the Lodge each year and presented to the new Master
on Installation night.
2. Foundation Master WBro. George Brunswick Smythe:
a. He was a Lieutenant of the 98th Regiment stationed at Devonport.
b. After his arrival in the Colony he was appointed to the Military Police and eventually appointed a Magistrate
c. He was a contract Surveyor in the Survey Department.
d. He was a landholder at Heidelberg.
e. Rode to and from Sydney on horseback to deliver the Provisional Warrant that named him as the Foundation Master authorizing and empowering him to
form and carry on the Lodge.
f. He delivered the oration at the Consecration/Installation Ceremony on 25 March 1840
g. His term in Office was short lived he resigned from the Lodge on 17 August 1840 believed to be through a perceived conflict of intrest.
h. The Lodge reluctantly accepted his resignation and presented him with a silver snuff box as a mark of fraternal regard. The silver snuff box is also on
Loan to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria for display in the Grand Lodge Museum.
i. He was made an honorary member of the Lodge on 1st June 1843
j. Foundation Member of the Melbourne Club
k. Brunswick Street in Fitzroy Victoria is named after George Brunswick Smyth.
3. Foundation Senior Warden of the Lodge William Meek was the first lawyer to settle in Melbourne, he was also the foundation secretary of the Melbourne
4. John Thomas Smith Worshipful Master installed on 27 Dec 1844:
a. Built the Queen's Theater Royal - also known as Queen's Theater on the corner of Queen and Little Bourke Streets in 1845.When it was built, the
Queen's Theater was the only functioning theater in Melbourne.
b. Was city Councillor and later became Mayor of Melbourne
c. Was the landlord of the Adelphi Hotel. a one time meeting place for the Lodge
d. Smith Street in Fitzroy is named after him
5. The Lodge has preserved all records of attendance and minute books from the First provisional meeting on 23 December 1839 to date. Like the Lodge Trowel
the First and Second minute books are on Loan to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria for display in the Grand Lodge Museum.
6. The original Volume of the Sacred Law (1840) is still in very good condition given its age and until recently was still being used at Lodge Meetings. It is now
only brought out on special occasions. It is also on Loan to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria for display in the Grand Lodge Museum to be returned to the
Lodge each year and used for the ceremony of Installation.
Lodge of Australia Felix Historical Collection (2015)
Historical ecords and artefacts tracing the history of the organisation from December 1839 to February 2015