The Freemasons at Mordialloc

Prior to 1919 Freemasons living in Mordialloc were obliged to attend meetings in other locations due to the absence of a temple in Mordialloc. Travelling by steam train they joined brethren at lodges located either in Moorabbin or Frankston. At that time the train journeys were slow, tedious, and often uncomfortable on cold winter evenings, so the idea was put forward that a lodge be formed in Mordialloc.

S A Bavington, C E Murfett and R T Vale discussed this possibility, and with the assistance of E T Nicholls, prepared a list of Freemasons living in Mordialloc. A meeting was called and seven brethren attended. At a subsequent meeting the twenty members present appointed R T Vale as secretary and gave him the task of interviewing the Grand Secretary of the Lodge in Victoria to ascertain what needed to be done to form a new lodge. A further meeting followed in Mordialloc at which thirty Freemasons signed a petition calling for the creation of a lodge at Mordialloc and appointed foundation officers. [1]

R G Cornall was appointed the first worshipful master with R T Vale and E T Nicholls being elected as senior and junior wardens. G Fethers accepted the position of foundation secretary until the time when R T Vale could take on the role. These men continued to play important roles, after the Grand Lodge granted a charter, and Mordialloc Lodge No 258 was consecrated. The first meeting took place on 24 March 1920. R G Cornall was installed as master by special dispensation because he was also master of a lodge meeting at Port Arlington. R T Vale was installed as senior warden. He had joined the masons at Donald, Victoria, where he was later secretary, before moving to Mordialloc. He became Master of the Mordialloc Lodge on 21 March 1921. The following year saw him appointed secretary, a position he occupied for thirty six years. At that first meeting E T Nicholls was installed as junior warden and became master following Vale in 1922. At the time of installation there was a total of thirty four brethren.

The early meetings were held in the Mechanics’ Hall in Albert Street, Mordialloc, a building later replaced by the Allan McLean Hall. For some of this time the hall was used by the Mordialloc High School during the day so portable blackboards, desks and other class furniture had to be replaced with lodge furnishings in order to conduct lodge meetings. This involved crawling under the stage retrieving furniture which then was replaced, usually in the early hours of the morning, long after lodge ceremonies had concluded.

Mechanics Hall, Albert Street Mordialloc, 1962. Courtesy Leader Collection.

Late in 1920 a meeting of members of the Moorabbin and Mordialloc lodges was convened and addressed by T Morton of Grand Lodge to discuss the advisability of erecting a Masonic Temple in Mordialloc. Initially after two meetings the idea was abandoned, but on 14 February 1921 the Mordialloc Lodge appointed a committee to seek suitable land for the building of a temple. The committee identified two suitable sites and reported their findings one week later. One block of land was on the corner of Barkly and Ormond streets, Mordialloc. The second was in Powlett Street, Mordialloc and owned by T H Connard, a member of the lodge and a local Estate Agent. The price of the first site was £214-10-0 while the second block was £95. The second option was approved by the lodge with a deposit of £50 being paid. The balance was to be ‘paid when possible’ interest free. [2]

During the processing of the land sale, T H Connard purchased an allotment which was located almost in the centre of the current Primary School grounds in Albert Street. He offered this site to the Lodge at his purchase price of £364 and indicated he had a purchaser for the Powlett Street property at £200. The lodge granted approval to sell the Powlett Street land on 24 April 1922 and authorised the purchase of the Albert Street land twenty one days later.

The land that the Lodge purchased was originally part of a two acre government grant to the Church of England. [3] The grant was made in 1865 when space was required to erect a church, vicarage, hall, stables and provide a paddock to graze the parson’s horse. By 1913 this amount of land was deemed unnecessary by the parish vestry who applied to the diocese for permission to sell a portion of the original grant and thus provide funds to improve the physical condition of their church. [4] Approval was not granted.

After a parish meeting with the Diocesan Registrar, on 15 October 1914, the Archbishop in Council agreed to the sale of one acre of land. [5] An offer was made to the Education Department through the local school committee of 132 ft frontage to Barkly Street and 132 ft in Albert Street; the former at £4 per ft and the latter at £6. As a reply was not received, and because of the unsettled state of the property market due to the war, the question of sale was not pursued at that time. [6]

The Education Department had not replied to the offer of sale by November 1916 so the Diocesan Registrar wrote to the parish secretary, R Scott and advised him that a survey be made of five allotments immediately opposite the railway station and that they be offered for sale at a reserve fixed jointly by the vestry and himself. An auctioneer was engaged, dodgers printed and the sale advertised, but no sales were made. [7] Later, on 10 April 1918, Small & Edwards advised that they had arranged the sale, on terms, of Lot 5 for £234. [8] This was the block of land, mentioned above that Connard later purchased and sold on to the Mordialloc Masonic Lodge in 1922. Subsequently, the remaining church land marked for sale was taken over by the Education Department to allow the Mordialloc State School to accommodate expanding school enrolments.

On the 18 September 1922 the trustees together with T H Connard were instructed to approach the Public Works Department to discuss the transfer of land they had purchased located opposite the railway subway and surrounded by school land, for a block closer to the north-east corner of Albert and Bear streets. The lodge gave its approval for this swap on 19 May 1924 when the Education Department agreed to pay all costs in relation to transfer of titles and the erection of a fence between the properties. A few months later, in September, the Finance Committee of the lodge was authorised to negotiate a bank loan to finance the building of a temple. [9]

A first mortgage was arranged for £3000, as well as an overdraft of £1255 with the English, Scottish & Australian Bank Limited guaranteed by seven members of the Lodge; H E Beissel, C C Caudwell, P W Coleman, T H Connard, G Fethers, J M Gilmour and C H P Kelley. In addition, the sale of debentures raised £2182. The Building Committee was authorised to work with the appointed architects, Messrs Blackett and Forster of Collins Street, Melbourne, in the preparation of plans and specifications for consideration by members of the lodge. [10]

Architectural drawing of façade of Mordialloc Masonic Lodge by Blackett and Forster. Courtesy Kingston Collection.

Within a short time, on 20 October 1924, the plans were presented to the lodge and tenders were called for the erection of a two storey brick building, one which consisted of a main hall with stage, dressing rooms, and cloak rooms. The second storey was the lounge hall, lodge room, candidate room and locker room. Access to this storey was via an internal staircase accessed through an entrance on the south side of the building. Attached to the rear of the brick building, was a wooden structure, serving as a supper room and kitchen. [11] By February the following year the tender submitted by L Butterworth to erect the building at a cost of £4830 was accepted. A local newspaper reported in March that the window frames were in position. [12] On 17 August 1925 the first meeting of the Mordialloc Masonic Lodge was held in the completed building.

South East Elevation of the Mordialloc Masonic Lodge. Courtesy Kingston Collection.

Furnishings were another expense faced by the lodge but fortunately many of these were donated. H E Biessal and A H Enticote presented the master’s and wardens’ chairs while the brethren contributed to the remaining seating accommodation. A committee organised by T H D Connard and G T Gardner found money for floor coverings, curtains and railings. Other efforts raised funds for a clock, cushions and electric radiators. It was G Fethers who provided the first piano and a pedal organ used in ceremonies. During the 1940s £200 was raised to defray the cost of sewerage connections.[13]

In addition to the Mordialloc Lodge, the Mordialloc Temple was the home of eight other craft lodges. [14] Later, Chelsea, Edithvale and Carrum lodges moved to the new temple erected at Chelsea, reducing this number. With the passing of time the maintenance of the Mordialloc building became a burden, particularly the wooden addition at the rear of the temple. There was also the need to reduce the existing mortgage. These issues led to the brethren considering their options.

David Forbes, Master of South Brunswick Lodge later joined the Parkdale Lodge where he held many senior positions. Courtesy Dorothy Booth, Kingston Collection.

At a special meeting of Mordialloc Lodge on 17 February 1947 a recommendation was submitted to members by the Committee of General Purposes that an independent expert be appointed to investigate and prepare a proposition that a non-profit company be formed to purchase the hall from the Mordialloc Lodge, manage its operation and take over existing mortgages and debenture. Numerous discussions took place amongst the lodges using the Mordialloc Temple but it was not until April 1962 that a general meeting of all the craft lodges met to seriously discuss the formation of a company to take over the joint ownership and operation of the building. [15]

Seven months later members of the lodges agreed that a company or trusteeship be formed to take over the management of the building. Yet despite this agreement there were still many problems that had to be overcome before a limited liability company could be formed. The Mordialloc Lodge had to be reimbursed for the transfer of title, preliminary plans to alter some aspects of the building had to be resolved and the legal requirements to form a company had to be completed.

All the lodges, meeting in the Mordialloc Temple, agreed on 29 May 1963 that a limited company be created, that it accept the transfer of land and buildings from the Mordialloc Lodge, that it assumed responsibility for the repayment of the £2000 mortgage and the £500 for debentures, and each member lodge initially pay the company £225 as well as £120 per member each year from the end of the first year. Each lodge was to have equal representation on the company’s board of directors.

May 1964 saw the first official meeting of the Mordialloc Masonic Company directors, a meeting at which William Templeton was appointed first president. The official company registration was signed by the government on 22 June 1964. Over the next few months plans for the building alterations were drawn up, and on 18 November 1964 tenders were called. A mortgage of £12,000 at 8% interest was arranged with the Mordialloc Branch of the Bank of New South Wales. Part of the deal was that all lodges would transfer their accounts to that bank to act as a surety. The successful tender was submitted by A E McDonald and Sons Pty Ltd for £4460. Later a second loan of £12,000 was granted by the same bank to complete further alterations so that the building complied with public health and council requirements. [16]

For some years, even prior to the formation of the Masonic Company, the ground floor of the building was made available for public events. In 1926 the first courthouse to be officially opened in the municipality of Mordialloc-Mentone occurred in the ‘ballroom’ of the temple. On that occasion the police magistrate Mr Grant presided with Cr J Blanche (mayor) and C G Imes, J M Bilmoure, H Brown, D White, J Sheedy, H C Edwards J H McBean, J C Caudwell, J Chadwick and Captain Allitt joining him. [17] In 1929 the Mordialloc Tourist and Publicity Association made use of its facilities. For many years the local garden club and Mordialloc Horticultural Society held their annual Spring Flower Show in the hall.[18] It was also the venue for functions organized by the Mordialloc Primary School Mothers’ Club, the Mordialloc Football Club and the Mordialloc Marching Girls. Fund-raising events were also held there in aid of the Mordialloc Band.

Mr and Mrs E Smibert (left) and Mr and Mrs M Kelly at the Mordialloc Horticultural Society’s Flower Show at the Masonic Hall, 1963. Courtesy Leader Collection.

The year 1973 saw internal renovations to the building with acoustic tiles being added to the ceiling and the bagged, green painted walls being covered with selected panelling and plaster. Further changes occurred three years later when L G Grant, architects, designed the addition of external fire escape stairs to the lodge room and the internal arrangements of what was originally the supper room and kitchen with the former supper room being designated as the rehearsal room. [19] Minor renovations, painting and repairs, were carried out in the 80s.

By the 90s lodge membership was falling and there were concerns about building maintenance and operating costs. In was in this context that district lodges at Chelsea, Mordialloc, Dandenong and Springvale, joined together to build a new temple in Greens Road, Keysborough. On its completion the lodges meeting at Mordialloc moved to the new temple and the property in Albert Street was listed for sale in 1991. [20]

Jack Foley, a resident of Mordialloc, a member and past master of the Clifford Book Lodge which met in the Mordialloc Temple, on the urging of Shirley, his wife, attended the auction of the temple and made the successful bid at $246,000. Shirley had assisted her husband when he was a master of the lodge and just loved the building. [21] After settlement, Peter, Jack’s son, took up residence on the first floor of the building with his wife and three children. For their occupancy three bedrooms were created with two in the former lodge room as well as a kitchen. The bathroom and toilet were created from what was previously a locker room. The architect for this work was Peter McGann of Black Rock. The building continued to be occasionally used as an informal meeting place for small groups. Under Shirley Foley’s auspices a small house group of approximately a dozen people met to talk about genealogical problems and discoveries that occurred when researching family histories. [22] There were also occasions when members of the Mordialloc Band met for practice sessions.

After Peter Foley and his young family had left the property in Albert Street in 2008, Jack Foley approached the Kingston Council with the offer to sell them the building; suggesting it be converted into a community arts facility, perhaps with an emphasis on music. This reflected his long term desire to see the building utilized by the community. Money for him was not the focus, commented Topsy Petchey. [23] While the building’s external fabric and façade were protected by a council heritage overlay the internal arrangements were open to creative redevelopment. Cr Topsy Petchey took the Foley proposal to council and it was assessed by council officers who recommended that the option of converting the site into an Arts Facility not be pursued due to cost and that its purchase would replicate an existing council asset in the Allan McLean Hall. [24] While the market assessed value of the property was quoted at between $1.4 million and $1.6 the conversion costs to make it into an Arts Facility were thought to require a significant capital investment, possibly in the vicinity of $6 million to $8.5 million. [25] Two months later, on 29 October 2008, a letter signed by the mayor, Cr Bill Nixon, informed the Foleys that consideration of the matter was deferred as the up-coming elections made it more appropriate for the new council to consider and act upon the offer. [26]

Beams in the Mordialloc Masonic hall by an engineering company also supplied steel for the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photographer Graham Whitehead Courtesy Kingston Collection.

Almost three years later Jack Foley offered the property for public sale through an ‘expressions of interest’ process closing on 6 September 2011. Nina Earl, a Mordialloc resident, wrote to the Council and to the Mordialloc Village Committee arguing that the Masonic Lodge should be ‘rescued for community usage’. She gave suggestions of how the building might be used including art gallery, arts cinema, history centre, maritime museum, library and sustainability centre. Moreover, she indicated possible tenants for the building. The Kingston Arts Centre she believed would prefer larger and more central premises to those they currently occupied, the Mentone-Mordialloc Arts Group location in Mentone was threatened by demolition to make way for a new road so they needed an alternative site and the Mordialloc Brass Band would prefer to move from the Jack Grut Reserve cricket pavilion for meetings. To finance the venture Earl suggested the Council should sell surplus properties so that the building could form an historical precinct with the Mordialloc Beach Primary School, and the Anglican and Presbyterian churches. [27]

Council officers again recommended that the Council should not proceed with the purchase of the building given the absence of a strategic reason for the purchase and the lack of a funding source. Nevertheless, several councillors expressed an interest in the building and council officers were instructed to seek an extension of the expression of interest period to give the Council time to formulate a position on the property as well as canvassing potential uses for the building, and also available funding options. In September council officers were instructed by Council to negotiate a price at which the owners were willing to sell. The figure of $1,150,000 was established although a further $500,000 was identified as being required immediately to protect the building from further deterioration. The asking price was considered fair and reasonable by Council. [28]

At a special council meeting on 10 October 2011 two properties were named as being under-utilized and able to be put on the market promptly. While no formal valuation had been obtained, the sale of these two properties was expected to yield $1,750,000. Other, alternative funding sources were noted including a loan from a financial institution, the reallocation of the budget of previously approved capital works, and reallocating cash from existing reserves. These options were considered along with the plans to build a new facility on the Allan McLean precinct in Mordialloc.

The Council resolved to purchase 81 Albert Street Mordialloc financing it through the sale of a council-owned property in Mordialloc and the reallocation of money from the Road and Drainage Infrastructure Capital Works program. [29] Immediately after the sale of the building was concluded, council officers moved to make the building safe, to undertake work to stabilise the fabric, replace the roof, remove asbestos and make ceiling plaster and window repairs.

Responding to council requests council officers identified several possible uses for the newly acquired asset. They included a Public Arts Gallery/Museum; a performing Arts Space/Recital Hall, Dance Studio/Public Hall; Youth Centre, U3A/Seniors, and an Environmental Centre for Excellence. Each of these options required an upgrading of the building to appropriate standards for a modern public building. In addition each option required the installation of a variety of specialist features such as climate control and acoustic treatments, special lighting, change areas, kitchen facilities, practice rooms, and flexible spaces. How the building is used in the future, and the changes needed, depend on the outcome from a community consultation process but a beginning was made with the appointment of a reference panel in August 2012. [30] In the meantime the stabilising work continues.

The former Mordialloc Masonic Temple, 2012. Photographer Joe Astbury. Courtesy Kingston Collection.


  1. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, manuscript c1983.
  2. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District. Ibid.
  3. A similar two acre grant was made to the Presbyterian Church at the other end of the block with a grant of one acre in between both church grants to the Common School – the forerunner of the Primary School.
  4. Bull, L. W., Mordialloc Modes, 1968 page 27
  5. Moorabbin News 7 March 1914.
  6. Bull, L. W., op.cit. page 28.
  7. The Argus, 25 November 1916.
  8. Bull, L. W. op.cit. page 28.
  9. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  10. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  11. Architectural Plans.
  12. Moorabbin News, 28 March 1925.
  13. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  14. Lodges meeting in the Mordialloc Temple – Clifford Book, Chelsea, Edithvale, Carrum, Mordialloc, Parkdale, Mentone, St Andrews, and Lodge of Charity.
  15. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  16. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  17. The Argus, 3 September 1926.
  18. Mordialloc News, 24 October 1963 & Mordialloc News 22 October 1964.
  19. Architectural Plans.
  20. History of Freemasonry in the Mordialloc District, op.cit.
  21. Conversation with Jack Foley, December 2011.
  22. Communication from Carmel Hogan, a participant.
  23. Conversation with Topsy Petchy 24 July 2012.
  24. City of Kingston, Document 08/76262.
  25. City of Kingston, Ibid .
  26. City of Kingston, Correspondence 08/92297.
  27. Earl, N., email communication, 6 September 2011.
  28. City of Kingston, Special Council Meeting 10 October 2011.
  29. Crs Athanasopoulos, West, Ronke, Staikos and Shewan voted in favour of the motion while Crs Moloney, Peulich, Dundas, Brownlees voted against. – City of Kingston, Council Minutes, 10 October 2011, page 10.
  30. City of Kingston, Council Minutes, 27 August 2011, page 289.
11 September 2012
Article reference:

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City of Kingston acknowledges the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the land on which the municipality is a part and pays respect to their Elders, past and present. Council is a member of the Inter Council Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ICACC).