Historic Event – Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Freemason’s Almshouses, Melbourne 17 July 1867

Contemporary Account of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Freemason’s Almshouses – 17 July 1867

This interesting ceremony took place on Monday, the 17th ult., with all the formalities appertaining to the Masonic order. The Government having granted a piece of land of about five and a quarter acres in extent fronting the Punt-road and contiguous to the Wesleyan College, a plan was agreed upon to erect buildings which will form the nucleus of a number of charitable institutions for the poor and indigent, the widows and orphans of the brethren. 

The piece of ground is of a quadrangular form, 650 feet in depth by 350 feet in width, and the architects, Messrs Reed and Barnes, have sketched out a design, which, when complete, will be a great ornament to the locality. The plan embraces the erection of 24 cottages or almshouses, and a centre building to form an orphan asylum. 

Entering the ground from the Punt-road the design shows twelve triple semi-detached cottages ranged on the right and left of the quadrangle, which will be planted, and form the grand approach to the orphan asylum and superintendent’s quarters, to be erected at the north end of the ground. Each cottage will be replete with every convenience, and contain a dining room, bedroom, kitchen, &c, in which families or individuals may procure all the isolation that may be desired in their domestic arrangements. 

The first portion of the Almshouses, the foundation stone of which was laid on Monday, the 17th ult., will be the second of the cottages on the western side of the quadrangle, a contract for which has been taken by Mr Thomas Dalton, for £659, the funds being subscribed by the brethren of the various lodges of the order. 

The ceremony took place at two p.m., in the presence of his Excellency the Governor and a numerous assemblage of ladies, for whose accommodation a gallery had been erected, commanding a view of the proceedings. For his Excellency’s convenience a platform was constructed, upon which a carpet and suitable furniture were placed. The brethren assembled at the Town Hall, Prahran, about one p.m., where a lodge was opened, and soon afterwards a procession was formed and set out for the ground. 

The Freemason’s Almshouses – Laying of the Foundation Stone

The ceremony commenced by singing the Hundredth Psalm, in which the vast assemblage joined; Mr Pringle, the Provincial Grand Organist, accompanying on the harmonium. The Provincial Grand Chaplain, English Constitution, the Rev. Thomas Cole, M.A., then offered up prayer. The P.G. Chaplain Irish Constitution, the Rev. Mr Rintel, then read the invocation and pronounced a blessing. The chairman of the managing committee, Mr James, read the following inscription roll, prior to placing it in its proper position: — 

“At Melbourne, Victoria, on Monday, the 17th day of June, a.d. 1867 — A.L. 5867, in the thirtieth year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, his Excellency the hon. Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton, K.C.B., &c, being Governor of the colony, this foundation stone of almshouses, for aged Freemasons and their widows (being the first portion of the ‘Freemasons’ Charitable Institutions of Victoria,’) was laid according to ancient masonic usage, by the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Masters of Antient Free and Accepted Masons under the Constitutions of England, Ireland and Scotland, namely, Brother Capt. Fredk. Charles Standish, District Grand Master, English Constitution; Brother John Thomas Smith, Esq., M.L.A., Provincial Grand Master, Irish Constitution; Brother Thomas Reed, Esq., Provincial Grand Master, Scotch Constitution; in the presence of and assisted by the Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Wardens, officers and brethren of the three Constitutions combined. The almshouses are built upon a portion of a plot of ground, containing five acres and twenty-one perches, granted by the Government for Masonic Charitable Institutions, and are the first buildings erected by the Masonic body in this colony for Masonic charitable purposes. Reed and Barnes, architects; Robert Dalton, builder; Brother John James, P. District Grand Senior Warden, E.C., Chairman of Provisional Committee; Brother J. J. Moody, P. Prov. Grand Junior Warden, Cheshire, E.C, Vice-chairman of Provisional Committee; Brother Joseph Aarons, District Grand Junior Warden, E.C., Treasurer; Brother Montagu S. Machen, Honorary Secretary.”

The chairman of the managing committee also deposited the journals of the day in the cavity of the stone, which was covered with a copper plate. Mortar being roughly spread on the stone, the P. G. Masters were each, presented with a silver trowel, with which they completed the work, when the upper stone was slowly lowered, the band playing “Rule Britannia.” The stone being proved by plumb, level and square, the P. G. Masters with their mallets gave three knocks upon the stone, and pronounced it well and truly laid. The cornucopia with corn, the ewer with wine and the ewer with oil were successively presented to the P.G. Masters, who each performed certain ceremonies and made a few appropriate remarks.

HIS EXCELLENCY then, addressing the P.G. Masters, said: — 

“I wish to express to you my sense of the terms in which you have been pleased to notice my presence on this occasion. I can assure you that, although I have not the honour to be a mason, I have always recognised the members of that order as loyal subject and good citizens, and as most useful in works of charity. I hope that those who do not belong to the craft will authorise me to express it as their feeling as well as my own, when I state to you that we all sympathise with you in the motives which have induced you to commence this useful work, and we heartily hope with you that the Masonic institutions of Victoria will conduce to its lasting prosperity.”

Three cheers were then given for the P.G. Masters; three cheers for his Excellency; and three cheers for the ladies. The choir then sang the Masonic version of the National Anthem, and the ceremony terminated.

Source:  The Freemasons’ Almshouses (1867, July 20). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 – 1875), p. 5.

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