Baulkham Hills seems an epicentre of Masonic Benevolence. Masonic Orphan Schools & William Thompson Masonic School

Post date: Mar 23, 2016 4:44:22 AM

The William Thompson Masonic School was founded in 1922 at Baulkham Hills (in Sydney's north west) for the care and education of the children of deceased Freemasons. It had previously been the Masonic Orphan Schools. Different sources give different dates when the school was closed. The site was sold to the Hills Shire Council in December 1973. The Masons opened family group homes in Baulkham Hills and Castle Hill following the closure of the Masonic School. In 2010 the Hills District Historical Society Museum and Research Centre opened in a former girls' cottage, Building 10. The Museum includes a display about the Masonic School including furniture, honour roll boards, magazines, minute books and photographs.

In 2012 Find and Connect staff were advised by the United Grand Lodge of the Masons NSW/ACT that all records relating to the Masonic Orphan Schools, William Thompson Masonic School and related institutions Orana, Boronia and Wybalenna were destroyed by accident in 2002, during construction works.

The Masonic Orphan School was the brainchild of William Thompson who was the Liberal Party member for Ryde from 1913-20, and Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons from 1914-24. Thompson's aim was to establish cottage homes for orphans. Land was purchased at Baulkham Hills in 1921 and the first stage of what was originally known as 'The Masonic Orphan Schools' was opened on 11 November 1922. The opening of the institution drew such a crowd of Masons that it was reported in Tasmania's The Mercury;

'There was a long procession of Masons in regalia on Saturday at the opening of the Masonic School for Orphans at Baulkham Hills. It was estimated that 10,000 Masons and friends attended the ceremony.

Most Worshipful Brother William Thompson, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, announced that Mr RS Cropley, a successful Sydney businessman and his wife had decided to give their services in superintending the school, which when completed would accommodate 100 boys and girls.

The institution is being financed by voluntary contributions from Masons in New South Wales and is modeled on the latest principles for the welfare of children. The school has a commanding position on the hills, and has 150 acres of land. Mr Cropley, who is a member of Cropley's Ltd, boot merchants, is giving up a lucrative business to devote his time to the welfare of orphans.'

In recognition of Thompson's leadership and service to the project, the school was renamed 'William Thompson Masonic Schools'. Please see the entry on William Thompson Masonic Schools for more information


Baulkam Hills certainly seems an epicenter of Masonic Benevolent activity. Not only do we have the above school opening in Nov 11 Nov 1922, "near Christmas" that year we also have five (5) unnamed businessmen (not always mentioned as Freemasons) returning from a trip via Parramatta Road and arrival at the Woolpack Hotel for a drink in 1922 to "wash away the dust of Baulkham Hills". Later those five plus another visit the "Home for mentally deficient boys at Carlingford" on 24 Dec 1922 and it is from these two events the Smith Family is born. You can read an account published in 1932 here. Baulkham Hills is just slightly North East of Carlingford and there is about 1 kilometer between the boundaries of the two suburbs. Both are in the "Hills District" of North Western Sydney.

It's also interesting to note that two of the five men credited with founding the Smith Family, Rupert Cropley (1881-1949) and J G Bannerman were members of Lodge Fortitude No. 439. Cropley was the Foundation Master, and Bannerman also a Foundation Member and later the Master in 1925. Oh, and naturally the lodge was founded in 1922 (same year as the Smith Family) and you will never guess where... yep, Baulkham Hills.

This seems to link the Smith Family's foundation not just in narrative, but also by geography.

Masonic Orphan Schools & William Thompson Masonic School