The Phoenix Lodge No 43, History


Nestled in a harbour carved out by nature from an extinct volcano on Banks Peninsula is the historic township of Akaroa. Steeped in history involving the intrigue of international rivalry, the township embraces a unique French heritage. This is a New Zealand town where the French flag is flown daily with pride.

This is the home for our Lodge of Freemasons with special links back to the very very beginnings of Freemasonry in New Zealand and the early whaling industry in the Southern Ocean.

1837 (or 1838) - Masonic meeting at Port Levy.

It is recorded this first meeting in New Zealand took place on the “Cachalot”, commanded by Captain Jean L’Anglois, one of four whalers then anchored in Port Levy.

The Tyler at this meeting (François LeLievre) was the father of Mr E X LeLievre who, as reported in the Akaroa Mail of 8th November 1881, was at the founding meeting of the present Phoenix Lodge.

Both Captain L’Anglois and Mons LeLievre (senior) returned on the Compte de Paris to settle in Akaroa.

1842 - “Mons. LeLievre acted as Tyler on board the “Compte de Paris”, then lying in Port Levy, Banks Peninsula; the captain and some of the officers were Freemasons, and the captains of four other vessels that were lying in Lyttelton Harbour joined the meeting.

Lodge Française Primitive Antipodienne No. 86

Akaroa, 1845Akaroa, 1845

1843 – 1st of February - First Lodge in Akaroa. Most of the founding members were from the French warship Le Rhin which was in harbour.

VW Bro. (Rev A H) Julius GPC ascertained that this Lodge erected a meeting place on the site where "Garthowen" house now stands, and that the builder was one of the "Compte de Paris" immigrants "named Etevenaux."

The Lodge was of the Scottish Rite and while English Lodges had by then been established in New Zealand and Australia, the only other recorded Scottish Rite Lodge in the Pacific was in Honolulu, formed in 1842.

The history of the French settlement of Akaroa is exceedingly interesting. All who are familiar with New Zealand history know of the sensational arrival at Akaroa on 10th August 1840, of the HMS "Brittomart", which ship, commanded by Captain Stanley, had been dispatched from Auckland by Governor Hobson, whose representative on the following day took possession of the South Island in the name of the British Crown. Also, that a few days later the French frigate "L'Aube", commanded by Commodore Lavaud arrived, while on 18th August, the "Compte de Paris", with the first lot of French immigrants, reached Akaroa.

The warship "L'Aube" remained for some time in Akaroa being relieved by the "L'Rhin", the war vessel containing the Brethren who, as it will be shown, were responsible for the establishment of the French Lodge.

It is interesting to note that the “representative of Governor Hobson” mentioned above was a founding member of this Lodge Francaise Primitive Antipodienne.

Akaroa is irrefutably the location of the first Masonic Lodge in the South Island.

Akaroa Lodge No 1666 E.C.

1876 – The origin of the current Lodge.

Lodge rooms circa 1990

Early meetings were held at the Anglican Vicarage (at that time occupied by the Worshipful Master, the Rev W H Cooper), and later at the Bruce Hotel.

Cooper was not satisfied with the temporary premises and went about establishing the current Lodge rooms.

The Akaroa Mail of 29th December 1876 notes that the foundation stone was laid 27th December 1876 by Rev. Wm. Henry Cooper. A bottle lodged in a cavity with the foundation stone contains a copy of the Akaroa Mail, a copy of the Lodge bylaws and an “engrossed document” recording the event.

The Akaroa Mail notes that “the building when completed will be sufficiently commodious not only for the purpose of Freemasonry, but also for the meetings of other societies.

Activity waned in 1878 however the Lodge was soon reactivated.

E.C. denotes English Constitution.

Lodge Phoenix No. 1959 E.C.

1881 – After the Akaroa Lodge No.1666 E.C. lapsed, it was rejuvenated as Lodge Phoenix No.1959 E.C.

Lodge Room InteriorLodge Room Interior

A report in the Akaroa Mail of 8th November, 1881, noted that at a meeting of Masons held at Bruce's Hotel two or three days previously, arrangements were made for the consecration of the Lodge and installation of officers, which took place on 16th November, 1881.

It is recorded that “In the unavoidable absence of the D-DGM Bro. Thomson, Bro. Joyce, P.M. of Conyers Lodge, acted as D-DGM and with him were Bro. Fleming P-DGW; Bro. Seymour, P-DJW; and Bro. Mitchell, DGS Bro. T. Grange. The Master-elect met the visiting Brethren at Pigeon Bay and acted as their escort across the ranges.” - Suggesting that the brethren traveled to Pigeon Bay by sea from Lyttelton

"The ceremony took place at 5 p.m., about 20 Freemasons being present.
The following officers were installed: - Bro. T. Grange, WM; Bro. JD Garwood, SW; Bro. E.X. LeLievre. JW; Bro. G.H. Wright, IG; Bro. S. Lee, OG; Some of the other members present (according to the toast list) were Brothers Piper, Fleming, Seymour, Masefield, Jacobson and Coop.
The Lodge was opened in the name of Phoenix No. 1959 E.C.. When it came under the New Zealand Grand Lodge jurisdiction on May 1st 1890, the name was formalised as The Phoenix Lodge No 43 NZC.

Copy of the request by the founders of Lodge Française Primitive Antipodienne:

The year 5843 of the V.L. on the 12th April. [12 April 1843]

Very Ill. and Very Venerable Brother.

Several Freemasons address to you from the Antipodes a petition with a view to obtaining from your kindness an authority confirming the sanction of a Masonic Lodge founded at Akaroa, New Zealand. The enormous distance, and the few means of communication, have prevented us from conforming to the established regulations and from awaiting a permission from your Supreme Council to inaugurate our temple.

We have taken it upon ourselves, and in the interests of the Order in general, to establish at Akaroa a Masonic Lodge of the name "L. Francaise Primitive Antipodienne d'Akaroa". The reasons which have determined us to do this are these:-

1. The intention formed by several Englishmen and Americans living at Akaroa, to found their Masonic Lodge in which, according to deplorable custom of all most distant Colonies, men sometimes of tarnished reputation, whose conduct would compromise the Masonic Order might be admitted.

2. To secure that the Lodge at Akaroa should claim under and be subject to the Grand Orient of France, and not depend on a foreign Orient.

3. Finally, to assure myself that the Lodge should consist of suitable men, in choosing myself the foundation members.

This, Very Illustrious brother, is what I have done. If I am to blame, it is only by excessive zeal and with the intention to do good. I feel persuaded in advance, that in the view of the motive, you will excuse the lack of observation of the established regulations. Our Lodge is composed as follows:-

1. Viscount de la Perrotiere, Surgeon of the Royal Marines and the warship "le Rhin", stationed in New Zealand. Venerable Titulaire.

2. Robinson, English Representative and Sheriff. First Titulaire Superintendent (M.M.)

3. Danger, Captain of Arms on the warship "le Rhin". Second Titulaire Superintendent (M.M.)

4. Fabre Tonerre, Marine Surgeon on the warship "le Rhin". Orator (M.M.)

5. Cooper, English Collector of Customs. Treasurer (M.M.)

6. Guyon, Quartermaster on the warship "le Rhin". Secretary (M.M.)

7. Chauvin, Master Armourer. Expert (M.M.)

8. Gendron, French Colonist. Hospitaller (Companion)

9. Francois, French Colonist. Servant (Steward or Tyler?) (Apprentice)

These are the names, Very Illustrious Brother, of the foundation members of the Lodge of Akaroa. All I am certain are worthy of Freemasonry.

We pray you, Very Ill. Brother, to be good enough to send us a Charter confirming, if you judge it proper, the arrangements made up to date, and thus give them by your assent a proper Masonic recognition, which they now lack.

We are, with the most profound respect. Very Ill. Brethren, your very humble and respectful Brethren.

Members of the Primitive Antipodienne
FrancaiseL. d'Akaroa
Viscount de le Perrotiere, Venerable.

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