Visit to Launceston Masonic Centre, Tasmania
Visit to Launceston Masonic Centre
WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion
Last December we headed down to Tasmania via the Spirit of Tasmania to meet friends for Christmas. Georgina was the logistics and commanding officer of this expedition. We sailed during the day, with two of the Ocean Recliners (like an airplane seat overlooking the rear of the boat) and a double cabin. This gave the two adults and two young adults a restful spot to prop, important on the busy boat, it was a good call. Return, it was a night sailing with a cabin for four and the crossing was mostly calm. Not like in February 2005 when sailing from Melbourne to Devonport and 20 meter seas smashed cabin windows and the boat returned to Melbourne after water had even entered deck 9, the deck immediately below the bridge. This was not mentioned to the girls prior to departure….
I’d never been to Tasmania. Reports of its picturesqueness and relaxing vibe are well deserved. We did the usual, sites like Port Arthur the former penal colony, Tamar Valley Wine Region and Cataract Gorge in Launceston. In Hobart we visited the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and other attractions like the Salamanca market. It’s only a couple of hours from the top to the bottom of our only island state.
Prior to going, I had a look at the Masonic Buildings in Tasmania and contacted The Launceston Masonic Centre to compliment them on their web site at www.llaml.org I thought I might drop in, but dismissed it as it would not have been too interesting for the girls. When we got to Launceston, we drove past the Centre and discovered it was directly behind the Grand Chancellor Hotel where we were staying. Too late to call, I emailed WBro David C of the Centre who agreed to met me and show me through next morning. I spent an hour with David, looking over the building and exchanging experiences in Freemasonry. It was one of the highlights of the trip and special thanks to David for taking time out to meet me.
Above: The Launceston Masonic Centre 39 Brisbane Street, Launceston, Tasmania.
The front of the building is in the Italian style of architecture, with a Corinthian facade
On the 20th February 1880 a meeting was convened between representatives from the English, Irish and Scotch Constitutions to consider providing a hall to be used by the Launceston Lodges and to discuss the purchase of land which was available in Brisbane Street for £500. A committee was formed and the land purchased.
In 1882 the Masonic Hall Co. Ltd., was formed. Plans and estimates were called for the erection of a new hall, and the plan submitted by Rt. Wor. Bro. H. Conway, a Launceston architect, was accepted. On the 10th October 1882 the tender submitted by Bro. James Hill was accepted, and on the 30th November in the same year the foundation stone was laid with Masonic honours by His Excellency, Bro. Sir G.C. Strahan, K.C.M.G., Governor of Tasmania. The building was finished and the ceremony of dedication and consecration was performed on the 15th October 1884 by Right Worshipful District Grand Master, E.C., Bro. Rev. R.D. Poulett-Harris.
Between 1884 and 1910 shares in the building were not restricted to members of the Craft. In fact the mortgage was held by a person who was not a Freemason. In August 1910 delegates from the Lodges met and resolved to secure the property for the Fraternity. At a General Meeting of shareholders on 14th March 1911 the directors were empowered to transfer all assets to three Trustees and the building was secured from the mortgagee. The Trustees were: Wor Bro L.J. Abra of St Johns Lodge No. 2; Wor Bro H.R.J. Payne of Lodge of Hope No. 4; and Wor Bro C. James of St Andrew Lodge No. 6. By careful financing, the Trustees supported by members of the three Lodges were able to carry out repairs and within a few years were able to pay off all debts.
The building is now owned and used by five Lodges. There are also a number of other Masonic Orders using the building for Meetings.
The building has three main users. The Freemasons use the lodge room and a small dining room upstairs. As you can see from the picture to the right, the block slopes and the building’s second story is entered basically from ground level at the rear. The ground floor has two occupants. The Freemasons have given up their grand dining room for a dance school. Sad they cannot use it, but as at Collingwood, such sacrifices are a small price to pay to see the building kept in Masonic Hands. There is also a denture clinic to the bottom right front of the building, again providing revenue. David tells me there is another Masonic Centre not far away. It was suggested several years ago the building might be, using Victorian Speak, “surplus to requirements” and sold.
Very close to the main street and on a main road, with parking at the rear, which again is leased to external users, the custodians gave a similar reaction to the idea of a sale that the Collingwood Committee has give to such suggestions over the years – no way !
We know all too well it is not easy to hold such assets, but also the value of doing so.
We commend our Launceston Brothers for keeping their historic building in the middle of the city.
The Launceston Masonic Centre’s Lodge Room
This Lodge room might have been in Victoria. The one noticeable difference was the ashlars were on the floor rather than the warden’s pedestals. I looked with envy at the columns at the entry door, it would be great to see something similar at Gipps Street. We once has them outside our lodge room, but they were owned by a Lodge that moved on. The only other thing to mention is there is a stall above the East allowing for extra seating. You can make it out in the pictures to the right that looks towards the east.
(note the large square on the wall behind the DCs chair under the large tracing board cabinet and running down the wall beside JW – it’s easily missed but once you spot it, it really stands out). In the above photo, the short arm of the square is behind the JW Column.