Masonic Buildings - Creswick Havilah Lodge No 26 & its Building

(Formally 799 EC Originally 1101 EC)

From Bro Damien of Devotion

(most pictures on this page can be clicked for a closer view)

The Creswick Masonic Centre in Victoria is certainly a Masonic Treasure, with its rich history and ornate hand painted walls. Available in the foyer is a 115 page book on Creswick Havilah Lodge history 1859-2009 by L M Williams MM & R G Orr PDGM published in 2009. Cost $10.

One thing several of us were wondering about was the name of the lodge ‘Havilah’. This is explained that book; “On Monday 17 April 1859 ten masons met at Anthony’s American Hotel and carried a resolution “That it is advisable to establish a Masonic Lodge on Creswick to be called “The Creswick Havilah Lodge” and to be in subordination of the Laws of the United Grand Lodge of England”. The name Havilah was acquired in the reference to that land of Gold in the Bible Genesis 2:11-12”

The discovery of Gold 1851/2 in Victoria brought many Masons to the region. Prior to the 1859 foundation decision, on 14 February 1856 “A petition was received from brothers at Creswick Creek addressed to Provincial GM..”

The booklet is full of history and also comments on events in Victorian Freemasonry like the formation of UGLV, the ritual we use, and much other information too extensive to cover here. However it must be said that the History of the Lodge, and the Centre it built, are inseparable.

By 1857 there were 12 lodges in Victoria 9 under United Grand Lodge England, 2 under Ireland and 1 under Scotland. “As an indication is the delays in communication that were suffered, it might be mentioned that All Nations Lodge, Clunes, was formed under the Irish Constitution a year earlier than Creswick Havilah, but, whereas

Creswick’s warrant was dated 21.9.1859, that for Clunes was dated 9.5.1860. A number of Clunes Brethren assisted in the formation of Creswick Havilah Lodge, and some were among its first joining members, acting under the provisional warrant”.

The Lodge was “held at Bro T.W Anthony’s American Hotel, Creswick, on the Monday on or before the full moon”. Edward and myself had a beer at the American Hotel and the proprietor told us of the lodge room upstairs which is now decommissioned. Creswick Havilah met there for over 31 years prior to the current Temple being erected by that lodge.

The lodge was not officially constituted until 13 June 1859, the Warrant was not issued until 21 September 1859 and was not received until 2 July 1860. There was a provisional Warrant

dated 28 April 1859. The first meeting under the English Warrant was held on 30 July 1860, but the first meeting (by dispensation) was on Monday 16 May 1859 and the minutes “First Regular Meeting held at the Lodge Room, American Hotel on Monday May 16 5859 with a

letter from the Provincial Grand Master requesting the lodge be opened and to install Wor Bro Steinfeld PM into the Chair as first Master”. Wor Bro Steinfeld is commemorated in the foundation stone (see left) of the current Centre. Interestingly they titled at 8 pm and the initial meeting saw proposals for 9 joining members and two candidates.

The Lodge almost closed three times under threat from financial distress and poor attendance with 1864 seeing cost cutting and accounts running 6 months in arrears. Attendance between 1859/60 was about 22 or 23 but in 1862/3 it fell away - income barely met expenses. Thoughts were given to returning the warrant and in 1865 notice of motion to do so was given but happily failed. From 1865 and in 1869 there were only two

names in the Appearance Book and no minutes.

In 1872 small attendances and arrears again threatened the lodge. Notice of closure was given, but the motion was not seconded and with no voting, the WM declared it lost. Cost cutting and reducing dues were undertaken to try and improve the lodges’ circumstances

The third and last motion to close came in July 1874 but was withdrawn and the lodge history suggests it was in retaliation for the mover having been passed over in the ballot of WM.

The Grand Lodge of Victoria (as opposed to the later United Grand Lodge of Victoria) was formed in 1883, but “Creswick Havilah, on this occasion, stood aloof, remaining loyal to the Provincial GL under UGLE”.

Later, a letter was sent to the Lodge to “elect three Past Master to attend the Inaugural Meeting” of United Grand Lodge of Victoria.. Later the WM was authorized to surrender the UGLE warrant and this was done, together with the original Provincial Warrant.

The UGLV Foundation Warrant for Creswick Havilah was received on 13 May 1889 but the lodge was not given its number until September. A member of the lodge was offered Gl Junior Deacon which was accepted.

The foundation stone of the Centre was laid 14th May 1890 (the AL in the picture refers to “Anno Lucis” “Year of Light” to which you add 4,000 to current year.. there are other ideas on this, see Devotion News Feb-March 2007). Construction was finished by late August when the lodge has its last meeting at the American Hotel where it has met for 31 years.

Uniform ritual - a special Meeting of UGLV to which the officers of Creswick were summoned, was held on 22 March 1892 to hear an exemplification of the new ritual, generally approved but not adopted. This was not settled until the turn of the century “a large amount of the credit for which has been given to the MW Bro Sir Alexander Peacock when here was Grand Master.”

MW GM Peacock had been master of Creswick Havilah lodge in 1888-1889, a member for more than 50 years, “took an active part in the formation of UGLV” and held the office of Grand Master 1900-1905. At 39 he was the youngest person ever to obtain that position in Australian Freemasonry. He was also 20th

Premier of Victoria, a post he held three times. His widow Lady (Millie) Peacock won the by-election at Allandale caused

by his death, becoming the first woman member of the Legislative Assembly.

Back to the Centre… in 1894 the supper room and the murals adorning the lodge room were finished,

Worth noting that in 1939 it was proposed that for the period of the war “all alcoholic and soft drink be dispensed with in the South” which was defeated in a ballot but in 1940 it was passed that any brother enlisting in the AIF have his dues remitted from date of enlistment for the duration of the war.

225 brethren attended the Centenary of the lodge in 1959

In Jan 1978 a building committee was formed and approached the GL Masonic Buildings Committee on the subject of a new kitchen and indoor toilets. “The deputation soon discovered that the Grand Lodge building Committee did not favor speeding so much and proposed the temple should be closed and the lodge to meet at Ballarat, In 1980 the committee reconvened where it should be noted GL did loan $5,000 of the $11,498 cost – a $200 donation from the lady’s committee helping fund the work.

The booklet is quite extensive and tells of members such as “Brother Sunshine” - organist and singer, the tragic death of WBro John Francis, mine disasters and much local history. Well worth a read – and certainly the ten dollars it cost!

Special thanks to WBro Greg Todio for the images below.