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More History of the Lodge
History of Lodge Bible
Charles Ligar
Malcolm Keith Draffin
Richard Oliver Gross
Blomfield family 164 years in the Lodge

The Ara Lodge 348 IC has arguably always been the premier Freemasons’ lodge in New Zealand, both through its foundation and subsequent history and influence. It was the first lodge to apply for and obtain a Dispensation to practice ancient craft masonry. This was obtained from the Australian Social Lodge No 260 IC [now Lodge Antiquity No 1, UGL of NSW] in Sydney, 12th September 1842.

A significant number of Freemasons were among the new government officials who arrived in Auckland with Lieutenant Governor Hobson to found New Zealand’s first capital city of Auckland in 1840. The New Zealand Herald reported that at the laying of the foundation stone of the first church in Auckland, St Pauls, 24th July 1841 “The gentlemen in Auckland who are Freemasons appeared with the decorations and insignia of their Order”.

The first meeting under the Dispensation was held on the 9th February 1843. As only one of the brethren who had requested the Dispensation was present, Brother Frederick Whitaker later a premier of the colony and a knight of the realm, was appointed by vote to act as Wor. Master until the arrival of those who had applied for the Dispensation, and were qualified by rank to fulfil the offices of the Lodge.

W. Bro. Sir Frederick Whitaker

Early meetings were held in local hotels but within two years the foundation members by personal subscription ensured its permanency and future economic wellbeing by purchasing a plot of land in Princes Street, near the heart of the new settlement and built the Masonic Hotel. In a reserved room of the hotel the Lodge met for the next 33 years. In 1890 the Masonic Hotel was rebuilt by the Lodge as the Grand Hotel and approximately a century later that wise and prudent investment became the source of the Ara Lodge Charitable Trust which continues a founding tenet of the Lodge; to assist the poor and necessitous.

Royal Hotel, Masonic Hotel &
Freemasons' Hall Site pre 1880

Until 1850 the Lodge was known as the Auckland or Auckland Social Lodge in honour of its mother lodge in Sydney, but as from 8th October of that year without flourish or fanfare, it began referring to itself as Ara in its minutes. There has been much speculation about the origins of this name. Amongst these, three serious possibilities have stood out; from the Latin word for altar, the Maori word for pathway, or the constellation Ara. The most probable all things considered, is that it was taken from the constellation Ara, consisting of twenty stars, about 40º from the South Pole and thus visible from New Zealand and well known to early mariners some of whom were members of the Lodge.

Not only professional and business community leaders were amongst the early members of the Lodge. With the worsening relationships between the settlers and the Maori inhabitants an increasing number of Imperial troops were stationed in the upper North Island. Beginning in the early 1850’s, over the next twenty years, soldiers of many regiments of the British army became members of Ara. To these must be added the sailors of the navy’s H M Brigantine ‘Pandora’ which was stationed in Auckland for most of that decade. Significant members of the Lodge during this period of the NZ Land or Maori Wars included Charles Heaphy, a treasurer of the Lodge and later a recipient of the first Victoria Cross awarded in NZ, Colonel A Wyatt of the 65th Regiment and master of the Lodge in 1860, and Henry De Burgh Adams, a major without title, the Principal Purveyor of the Army in New Zealand. He was responsible for the foundation of at least three Irish lodges in Auckland and the Waikato and the first substantive Irish Provincial Grand Master of New Zealand.

Charles Heaphy V.C. R.W. Bro. H. De Burgh Adams
Prov. Grand Master I.C. 1865 to 1869

Initially as the mother Irish lodge in the colony, Ara was instrumental in granting dispensations for several new lodges. With the formation in 1860 of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New Zealand, some twenty years before similar provisions were made by the English and Scottish lodges in the country, it henceforth assumed this responsibility. In all until 1892, 17 further Irish lodges were warranted. Of these Ara and three others remain under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

The Lodge continued to prosper and progress in the years leading up to the end of the 19th Century. Befitting its pre-eminence it purchased a plot of land adjacent to its Masonic Hotel in Princess Street on which in association with other early lodges in Auckland it built in 1881 one of the first Freemasons’ Halls in the country. This was the home of the Lodge for the next 47 years.

Grand Hotel & Freemasons' Hall circa 1905 Today Facade only with tall building behind

A movement to constitute a United Grand Lodge of NZ in 1890 created a momentous dilemma for the members of the Lodge. As recorded by G.A. Gribbin, Wor. Master of the Lodge in 1898 in his “History of the Ara Lodges” [1909], “Ara was the cradle of Freemasonry in NZ; for the first half century of its existence had maintained the greatest membership of any lodge in the country and on its roll appear some of the most illustrious names in Masonic history”.

By the narrow margin of one, the members of the Lodge voted to support the foundation of the new Grand Lodge of New Zealand. 40 brethren forthwith became members of Ara No 1, New Zealand Constitution. Their erstwhile colleagues renewed their allegiance to the Grand Lodge of Ireland and have maintained so for the following 126 years.

Undeterred by this schism the Lodge kept its pre-eminence in the annals of NZ masonry. Membership grew markedly in the 20th Century to a peak in 1957 of 175, and has been constantly over 100 since. Its roll has numbered worthy masons from all walks of life including two mayors of the city, knights of the realm and leaders of the cultural, professional and business communities.

Both the 1st and 2nd World Wars took their toll on the brethren of the Lodge. Five of the 23 [one a Boer War veteran] who served in the first conflict gave their lives for their country. Of the 18 who left NZ in the second, two were killed in action.

Our War Memorial

The most outstanding project the Lodge ever accomplished was the construction and dedication in 1928 of the Airedale Street Masonic building. Both externally and internally it is a tribute to the architectural skills of one of its members. Designed by Bro. Malcolm Keith Draffin who also was the architect of the Auckland War Memorial Museum the Ara Lodge room is one of the finest in the country, in its ambience and appointments. Bro Richard Gross, a nationally renowned sculptor contributed to the Lodge’s impressive ante-room.

The Ante-Room

Finally the musical brethren of the Lodge created and maintained for 60 years another unique feature of the Lodge. Beginning in 1900, Wor. Master F. Prime, a well known violinist, formed a twelve piece orchestra. Ara became known as the ‘Musical Lodge’ and memorable performances were given at installations and on other occasions.

Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution is unique, has provided an unrivalled example of excellence in the field of Freemasonry in New Zealand since 1843 and is well placed to continue in the same undeviating manner in the years ahead.

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Speech By Very Worshipful Brother Geoff Grenfell 10th February 2006
On the occasion of the celebration of the foundation of the Ara Lodge 348 I.C.

Distinguished Guests, Brethren & Ladies, Students and Parents.
Tonight we celebrate the birthday and foundation of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution. The Lodge is 163 years old, well yesterday it was. When I think about the twelve hundred or so freemasons who have belonged to this historic and illustrious Lodge over those 163 years, I and my colleagues as well, feel particularly proud to be counted amongst them. All have been worthy citizens of this city and our country. Some were truly remarkable men of whom the Lodge is justifiably proud. Whatever their status tonight we pay a tribute to them.

There have been freemasons in Auckland since that very first day in September 1841 when Lieutenant Governor Hobson arrived to establish this city. Indeed one of the first to step ashore was Hobson’s Superintendent of Works, aptly named William Mason. Another who became a foundation member of this Lodge in a little over a year from that date was James Coates, the Sheriff of Auckland and a witness to the purchase of the land from the local Ngati Whatua on which the city was to grow.

The first land sales took place in April 1842 and amongst the buyers were masons, Frederick Whittaker, a lawyer from an Oxford lodge who chaired the first meeting of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution to be, William Turner later the Auckland Postmaster and a petitioner for the founding dispensation, and Joseph Moses a foundation member of the Lodge. At the laying of the foundation stone of the first public building in Auckland, St Pauls Church, in July 1842, the procession of civic, government and other dignitaries included many freemasons in full regalia immediately in front of the Governor.

With such a strong presence in early Auckland it is not surprising that within two months of this ceremony the freemasons of the town initiated the foundation of this Lodge. Irish freemasons appear to have predominated and some had connections with the Australian Social Lodge No 260 IC in Sydney. So on 5th September 1842 a dispensation to establish a Lodge in Auckland was requested from that Lodge. And that Dispensation written on parchment and which took nearly five months to arrive, we have in the Lodge Room today. I doubt whether any other organisation in the city has a founding document as old as this in its possession. [In Masonic practice a new lodge has to be sponsored by an existing one and this permission is called a dispensation]

With that accomplished on 9th February, 163 years ago, the first meeting of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution was held. Not that it was called the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution at that point, but the Auckland Social Lodge. It was not until the minutes of the Lodge dated 7th October 1850 that the name Ara appears. Speculation as to its origin has included the Latin name for altar, the Maori word for a pathway but most historians of the Lodge have opted for the Ara Constellation of 20 stars in the Southern Hemisphere especially as many of the early members of the Lodge were seafarers.

And not only do we possess the Dispensation to establish the Lodge but in pride of place next to it is the Warrant of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution embellished with a frame given to the Lodge by Henry de Burgh Adams about 1868. The Warrant of the Lodge, dated 1844 is especially important as it is the Lodge’s authority, in this case from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, in Dublin, to operate within the brotherhood of freemasonry. You may be interested to know that the Lodge also possesses its first minute book, written in copperplate script and beautiful Victorian language as well as every subsequent minute book and a wealth of other documents. The first minute book can be seen in the display cabinet in the foyer of the Lodge.

The theme of this celebration must be “Let us give praise for famous men” And in saying that I must emphasise that despite its notables, the strength and vitality of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution like all similar social organisations has been in its individual members working together to achieve the goals of the organisation. For 163 years the collective endeavours of the Lodge have determined its reputation and its place in the annals of history. But having said that, we should also acknowledge that from the very first meeting, Ara has also been blessed with more than its fair share of outstanding figures.

William Leech, later the Collector of Customs was the first installed Master of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution, but the true father of the Lodge in my opinion was Charles Ligar, Governor Hobson’s second Surveyor General. Known in the early days of Auckland as the builder of the notorious Ligar’s Canal which ran down present day Queen Street he steered the Lodge through some difficult early years. He, in particular, and a few supportive members provided in 1845 the initial funds to purchase what became known as the Masonic Hotel, the home of the freemasonry in Auckland for the next 35 years.

Masonic Hotel
Princes St 1845

Grand Hotel & Free Masons Hall
Princes St.1905

Grand Hotel & Free Masons Hall
today facade only


That prudent investment in Princes Street and the subsequent purchase of land nearby on which the second home of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution, the Freemasons Hall, was built in 1881, has through wise and astute management and the generous contributions of its members, enabled the Lodge and the Ara Trust to make significant benevolent donations each year. The awards to be made later in the evening are a direct consequence of this.

Successive members of the Lodge have come from all walks of life but have included many prominent lawyers, teachers, doctors, businessmen and community leaders. Many lawyers have graced this Lodge. Perhaps too many to mention, but the first important educator was the Rev. Dr Kidd from Trinity College Dublin, Master of the Lodge in 1870. He became the first Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School. [Modesty doesn’t permit me to name any more!] George Patrick Pierce, twice Master of the Lodge and later the second Provincial Grand Master of the Irish Order in NZ, was General Manager of the N Z Insurance Company, the largest of its kind in those days. Dr John Hooper was another Master widely respected by the public and the medical fraternity of Auckland.

Around the turn of the 20th Century Frederick Prime, a very well known Violinist was Master and he established the Ara Orchestra which continued to entertain the Lodge members for the next 60 years. Sadly it no longer exists. At that time another Past Master, Alfred Kidd was Mayor of Auckland City. He was not the only Member of the Lodge who served Auckland City in its highest position. Sir John Alum of Auckland Harbour Bridge fame sat in this very lodge room for over 50 years. Another Knight of the Realm also a member for over 50 years was Sir Jack Butland of Butland Industries. And in mentioning this Lodge Room, the third real home of the Lodge, we should acknowledge Charles Schnauer, well known Auckland solicitor and Frank Wiseman, an even better known businessman who were Masters just before World War One. Charles Schnauer as Provincial Grand Master laid the foundation stone of this building in 1927 but I am sure my colleague, Bro Barry Robinson will tell you more about that splendid event a little later on.

But no chronicle of the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution should omit the servicemen of Ara. One of the first casualties of the Land Wars and a member of the Lodge was Captain Strange of the 65th Regiment who was killed at Waitara, Taranaki in February 1861. Soldiers from many of the British regiments stationed in Auckland from 1850-70, joined Ara. Colonel Wyatt, Master of the Lodge in 1862, was often prevented from attendance by military duties south of Auckland. Of greater importance masonically was Henry de Burgh Adams the Master in 1861. He was the Purveyor to the British forces in NZ and is credited with the founding of at least four Irish Lodges in his ten years in the colony. Such was his mana that he was the first substantive Provincial Grand Master of the Irish Constitution in NZ and his memory is still alive in the name of our sister Lodge in New Plymouth.

Our servicemen in those days included not only soldiers. HM Brigantine “Pandora” was stationed in Auckland for several years in the 1850’s while its crew surveyed the coastland of the North Island. About a dozen officers of the ship joined the Ara Lodge 348 Irish Constitution. On numerous occasions emergency meetings of the Lodge were held to accommodate the ship’s comings and goings.

A very famous member of the Lodge was Charles Heaphy, later a Major in the Local Volunteers. Not only a fine draftsman and artist, he was a-pioneer explorer [Heaphy Track] before winning the first VC ever awarded to a colonial soldier for outstanding bravery near Te Awamutu in 1864. We have a small acknowledgment to him on the landing downstairs which includes copies of his original letters as Treasurer of the Lodge and of four of his watercolour paintings. 23 soldiers, one of whom was also a Boer War veteran, served in the Great War of 1914-18. Of these 5 did not return home. In the Second World War a further 15 from all branches of the armed forces served overseas. Two died in active service. Our memorial brass plaques in the Lodge foyer are an appropriate tribute to these Lodge members.

Finally I wish to pay once again a sincere tribute to all our past and present members. They, like me, have been proud to be part of our brotherhood and particularly The Ara Lodge, No 348, Irish Constitution. Although I have singled some out for special mention, it has been the contribution, loyalty and commitment of them all which have made the Lodge what it is today. They truly practiced those Masonic virtues of brotherly love, relief and truth, in the spirit of peace, love and harmony for the betterment of not only themselves and their Lodge but also for the community at large. We the members of today salute them on this the 163rd celebration of the Lodge’s foundation.
V.W. Bro.G L Grenfell P.M.

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(Published in 1813)

The Lodge minutes show that one of the last acts of the Lodge in 1857 was of considerable significance in the Lodge's history. During the year the Lodge had been visited by Brother Thomas Whitney of Lodge 243 English Constitution and a Past Provincial Grand Senior Warden of Somerset. On 2nd November he wrote to the Lodge "presenting to the Worshipful Master and Brethren of Lodge Ara a Masonic pedestal Bible, - also soliciting a little Masonic assistance towards the payment of his passage etc. to Europe." The Lodge decided "that a voluntary subscription list be opened on behalf of Bro. Whitney, and that a sum should be given from the Lodge funds to make up any deficiency to the amount of twentyfive pounds."

Bro. Whitney thanked the Lodge for its 'munificent gift' and presumably returned to Europe, but his Bible has remained on the altar of the Lodge for almost 150 years. This Volume of the Sacred Law is one of the oldest 'treasures' of the Lodge with an extremely interesting history before it arrived in Auckland. It was published in 1813, the same year as English Ancient and Moderns Lodges merged to form the United Grand Lodge of England, it is bound in full Red 'Russia' leather, a popular style of the period, and highly decorated all over with Masonic symbols. It was first presented in 1818 to the Royal York Lodge of Perfect Friendship No. 243 which met at The Shakespear Head, Bath, Somerset by Bro. G.G. Browne Mill the Junior Warden of the Lodge.

He was a medical doctor and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, residing in Bath and with property at Carriocou in the Windward Isle of the West Indies. Within six years the Lodge of Perfect Friendship in Bath was erased from the Roll of the U.G.L. of England and the Bible came into the possession of Bro. Chas. Geary of the Royal Cumberland Lodge No. 43. He then, in 1840, presented it to Bro. Thomas Whitney. It is thus a truly exceptional and historic Volume of the Sacred Law.
(Extract supplied by W. Bro. G.L. Grenfell)

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Photo: Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

Charles W. Ligar, a Foundation Member of Lodge Ara 348 Irish Constitution and early Worshipful Master, was also a prominent citizen of Auckland and New Zealand.

Charles W. Ligar, Surveyor-General of New Zealand, a civil engineer, laid out the Auckland town plan much on the circular style of Bath, England. Ligar, appointed to his post in 1836, became an influential person in the colony from 1840-1856 after which he departed to Melbourne. Of greater interest is that he became a foundation member of Ara Lodge. His plan for Auckland was never implemented in any infinite manner and the streets when built rarely followed his design.

At the Lodge’s ‘Foundation Meeting’ Charles Ligar was appointed treasurer and he and George Lardner [the first secretary] and James Coates became a committee for the formulation of by-laws for the use of the Lodge.

The third or second master of the Lodge depending on your opinion as to the status of Frederick Whitaker, was Charles Ligar, elected on 4th December 1843 and in the chair at the next meeting without any record of installation. He then appointed the other officers of the Lodge. He and Leech were to alternate in the mastership from 1843 to 1849 and there is no doubt that Ligar by virtue of his place in the early society of Auckland and his tremendous support for the Lodge was the great underpinning of it in those first few years. Not only was he the Surveyor-General of New Zealand but he held the rank of Lt. Colonel in the militia and along with Leech, a foundation member of the Auckland Agriculture and Horticulture Society established in 1848. He was the first man to see the possibility of a canal between the Manukau Harbour and the Waikato River. It was he who first offered financial assistance to purchase a permanent home for the Lodge.

On a very different note Bro. Michael A. Allen of the Ara Lodge, in a paper given at the 150th Celebration of the Lodge in 1993 recounts; Ligar’s name was not remembered fondly by Aucklanders for some generations because of his efforts to clean up the Waihorotiu Stream (later colloquially known as the Horotu Creek) which skirted and abutted Queen Street. This drained the enormous gully bounded today by Hobson Street, Karangahape Road, Symonds and Princess Streets. The whole countryside for miles around was predominantly scrub and bracken fern. It became a repository for dead horses, old mattresses and the like discarded by the citizenry. Ligar tried to straighten and redirect it to give a swift flow that would carry sewage into the harbour. He erected a rickety footbridge at the lower end, which became known as “Ligar’s Folly.” All efforts failed, walls collapsed, a flood carried away a merchant’s stock of butter into the harbour and the citizens continued to dump their garbage into it. It was finally covered over in 1867 about the time the Bank of New Zealand Building opened in Queen Street.

On St. John’s Day, 27th December 1853 Charles Ligar took the Chair of the Lodge for the last time. This term at the helm was to be short lived, just six months. Following his giving notice of seeking permission to resign as master at the Festival of St. John on 24th June, at an emergency meeting on 6th July 1854 the brethren accepted his resignation as master in “consequence of his official duties calling him elsewhere.”

Charles Ligar’s contribution to the Lodge was outstanding; to this writer’s mind unsurpassed by any other of the ‘originals’ of the Lodge. His was a stable and solid influence as he saw the Lodge through its early uncertain years. He did appear to have a very strong sense of rightness and discipline in regard to all things Masonic and particularly so about Lodge attendance. Even in his last year as master he was attempting to rigidly enforce the by-law with respect to attendance as he had when previously in the master’s chair. Of one thing there is no doubt. But for him and Bro. Andrew Rooney the initial deposit for the Masonic Hotel would never have been raised. It is worth recording that they both faded from the Lodge’s official records about the same time. Bro. Ligar’s last attendance was on 12th January 1857 and it is known that soon after he left New Zealand for Melbourne.


Ligar, Charles Whybrow 1809-79 born in Ceylon, where his father was stationed, and educated at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He received his commission in the Royal Engineers, but soon resigned and afterwards joined the hill drafting department of Ordnance Survey. He was serving in Ireland when he was appointed by the Colonial Secretary to be surveyor general in New Zealand (1840).
Ligar married (1839) Grace (1811-58)
Sailed to NZ in the Prince Rupert which was wrecked on the coast of Brazil, and then continued their voyage in the Antilla, arriving in December.
In 1856 retired from Surveyor General and proposed to take up a run in south Otago. Discovered gold in the Mataura River at Tuturau.
Ligar went on pension in 1857 and afterwards Surveyor General in Victoria Australia 1858-69. On retiring he settled in Texas as a cattle grazier, but without much success.
He married secondly Marie, daughter of Captain Williams (of New Zealand).
Ligar died 1879.

(From Dictionary of NZ Biography
By G H Scholefield

Ligar Canal long forgotten

Photo: Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

It is almost - but not entirely - true to say that Auckland is built on a sewer.
Almost, because after a fire in the commercial district of Shortland Street in the mid-1800s, Auckland's businesses stampeded to relocate along the banks of the muddy stream which then dribbled down the western side of Queen Street. This stream, which became known as the Ligar Canal, began life as Te Waihorotiu or the Horotiu Stream, a tidal creek emanating from the swampy area around Myers Park and Aotea Square. Children fished there for eels and it was a source of drinking water for the colony's first settlers.
By the 1840s, grog shops and hotels had sprung up along the stream's western bank. There were many houses and farmlets close by and, because no laws existed to forbid it, effluent was discharged directly into the creek, turning it into an open sewer.
The canal became so polluted it was described in The New Zealand Herald as "an abomination, a pestiferous ditch, and the receptable of every imaginable filth".
It was a constant source of controversy, not least because horses, people and even buildings were constantly falling in. To make matters worse, it flooded in winter.
The canal took it's name from the colony's second surveyor general. Charles Whybrow Ligar, who eventually had it diverted and boxed off. But one night in June 1860, heavy rain proved too much for the roof of the canal and it collapsed, creating a jagged ditch across lower Queen Street.
The collapse proved to be the final straw, and permanent repairs were carried out which saw the sewer lined with bricks and sealed. By 1875 it was out of sight, out of mind.
The Ligar canal still lies far below the bustle of modern-day Queen Street, a half-forgotten remnant of colonial times.
(Auckland City Scene, 25/6/06)

Remarkable settler mapped country

Although the name Ligar became synonymous with filth and pollution, Charles Ligar was a man of great influence in New Zealand's early history.
He was appointed surveyor general in 1841 and arrived in New Zealand the following year, having survived a shipwreck on the way.
Much of his work was connected with acquiring Maori land for European settlement, but he also served in a number of other capacities. He was a Colonel in the local militia, Commissioner of Land Claims, a member of the Legislative Council and chief surveyor for the province of Southland where he was also a sheep station run-holder.
In 1846 he managed the remarkable feat of walking from Wellington to Auckland, to determine the feasibility of an overland route.
Once the goldfields in Victoria had opened up, Ligar decamped to Australia where he became surveyor general and one of the organisers of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition of 1860.
(Auckland City Scene 25/6/06)

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Bro Draffin was born and educated in Auckland and served his architectural apprenticeship in the years leading up to World War One. He was enlisted in the NZ Field Engineers in 1914 and saw active service in Egypt, Gallipoli, France and Germany [at armistice]. He was twice wounded and awarded the Military Cross. At the end of the war he was able to take advantage of the very liberal educational opportunities granted to ex-servicemen to pursue formal professional training in Britain on full military pay. Draffin was thus able to attend courses at one of the most progressive architectural schools in England – the Architectural Association in London.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

After passing his Royal Institute of British Architects examinations he returned to New Zealand about 1921 and as a registered architect commenced professional practice. He soon won success when in 1922 with two other architects Messrs Grierson and Aimer, they won the competition to design the Auckland War Memorial Museum, beating 73 other design entries in doing so. Whatever the individual contributions of the partners to the winning design, Draffin’s was the hand which produced the notable and compelling perspective drawings. The partnership won a Gold Medal from the New Zealand Institute of Architects for this design in 1929. During the Depression there was insufficient work to sustain the practice and in 1932 the partnership was dissolved.

Besides being the architect for the Ara Lodge Building in 1927 other buildings created by Bro Draffin included: Wellington Citizens War Memorial Museum, Havelock North War Memorial, RNZYS War Memorial, Auckland, Auckland Teachers College War Memorial, and several Auckland Cinemas including the Rialto in Newmarket, the Majestic and the Capitol in the city. Later Bro Draffin in association with his son Rodney was commissioned in 1947 to design the additions which were made to the original Museum to commemorate the Second World War, the ‘Maori’Wars and the South African War.

Bro Draffin was President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1951-52. He died in 1964 at the age of 73. In an obituary in the NZIA Journal, it was written that “although Draffin had practiced through half a century of profound change in architectural thought…when the work of New Zealand architects is judged in the proper perspective, the work of Draffin will take a very high place”
Wor. Bro. Bary Robinson

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Bro Gross was born in Lancashire, England. His father was an engine driver. He had a passion for art from a very early age and on completion of his schooling he trained at several studios of arts and crafts in London to become a sculptor. He spent his twenties in South Africa working as an architectural carver. After marrying in 1912 he and his wife migrated to New Zealand and he became a dairy farmer near Helensville. By taking a seat on the Kaipara Dairy Coop Board he proved he was more than just a competent dairy farmer.

But sculpting was always his first love however and when World War One had ended he moved to Newmarket and opened his new studio at a time when communities were looking for a way to commemorate the Great War thus creating opportunities for public sculptures in war memorials. [About the time that Bro Draffin commenced his architectural practice]. Bro Gross’s first commission was for the Cambridge War Memorial which he completed in 1923. Characteristically he chose to carve in marble a semi-nude male figure; a realistic portrayal of a shirtless digger with sandbags at his feet. Other memorial commissions followed, all carried out in association with two Auckland architects, Gummer and MK Draffin. Working with Gummer, Gross sculpted in bronze an aspiring male figure on the top of the Auckland Grammmar School Memorial, the lion at the base of the Dunedin centotaph,and the fountain at the National Memorial Carillon in Wellington. With Bro Draffin he produced the delicate bronze frieze around the Havelock North Memorial, the stone frieze on the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the decorative elements on the Wellington Cenotaph including the equestrian figure on the top. After the Second World War Bro Gross added bronze lions to the Cenotaph.

Domain Gates Sculpture

Despite the Depression Bro Gross continued to attract commissions for public sculptures. In Auckland there was The Athlete for the Domain Gates unveiled in 1936, the Davis Memorial Fountain at Mission Bay, a bronze Maori chief for the One Tree Memorial and a madona-like figure of love and justice for the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial at Bastion Point. In 1938 he was made a CMG and was President of the Auckland Society of Arts from 1936-1945. He had a fondness for lions which expressed the imperial connection and in the Ara Lodge Anteroom are two unique black Abyssinian examples of his work, while his fascination with naked or semi-naked figures reaching upwards conveyed the attempt of mankind to rise out of material confines and grasp after spiritual ideals.

Black Abyssinian Lion

Ara Lodge Anteroom

Bro Gross also died in 1964 aged 82. It has been quoted that “Trained in classical sculpture Gross was uncomfortable with the emerging aesthetics of modernism. The pursuit of the ideal remained his artistic aim. His lasting memorials are the beautifully proportioned male figures which remain among New Zealand’s finest public sculptures”
Wor. Bro. Bary Robinson

A Noteworthy Record of Family Membership.

With the recent death of Bro Frank E Blomfield at the age of 95, shortly after receiving his 60 year certificate, a remarkable family record of Masonic membership came to a close.

It began in 1890 when William Blomfield was the first initiate of the resurrected Ara 348 IC after the schism which occurred when the New Zealand Grand Lodge was established in 1889. He was a well known artist and publisher [including George Gribbin's "History of the Ara Lodges"] in Auckland of those times and a friend and contemporary of the better famed Charles Goldie. He was to remain a member of Ara for the next 48 years until his death in 1938.

W.Bro Charles Blomfield

His son, Bro Charles Blomfield joined the Lodge in 1900 and was Worshipful Master in 1907. He was a builder and completed 54 years in the Craft before his demise in 1954.

To complete the dynasty Bro Frank Blomfield who founded the signwrting business of Blomfield Signs, and which is still in business under that name, was initiated into the Lodge in 1949. His record of membeship surpassed those of his father and grandfather, being 62 years.

In all, an outstanding record of 164 years of Masonic membership, which in itself nearly equates to the age of the Lodge.

V. Wor. Bro. G. L. Grenfell
10th March 2012.

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