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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Society of Oddfellows, M.U

page 86

Society of Oddfellows, M.U.

The establishment of Oddfellowship in Canterbury followed very quickly upon the foundation of the settlement. Brother P. G. Thos. Abrahams, who arrived in one of the first four ships, having brought out the necessary dispensation for the formation of a lodge. In consequence of his exertions the Loyal City of Norwich Lodge was opened in Lyttelton, at Bro. Rowland Davis's Canterbury Hotel, on the 22nd December, 1851. It continued to hold its meetings there for some years, till their new Hall was built. It may be mentioned here that Bro. Davis had, previously to this, introduced the order into Wellington.

In 1853 the first steps were taken for the formation of a Lodge in Christchurch. Bro. Thomas Kent, then Secretary of the City of Norwich Lodge, having removed to the plains, as Christchurch was then termed, thought he would like to see a Lodge near him, instead of having to walk over the port hills to attend Lodge meetings. After some time he succeeded in getting a sufficient number together, who were proposed in the Lyttelton Lodge, and on the 27th June, 1853, the Loyal City of Christchurch Lodge, No. 4602, was duly opened by Provincial G. M. Thomas Abrahams, Deputy Provincial G. M. John Bannister, and Provincial C. S. Rowland Davis, assisted by Bros. Stout, Kent, Kerridge, &c. Prov. G. M. Abrahams was appointed N. G.; P. S. Thomas Kent, V. G.; Bro. Thomas Papprill Secretary, and Bro. M. B. Hart, Host. It was resolved that the Lodge meet every alternate Saturday, commencing from July 9, at the White Hart Hotel, Christchurch.

The first meetings were held in a room 12ft x 10ft, next to the bar, but it was found too noisy and inconvenient, and it was decided to move higher up, to the cock-loft over the White Hart stables. Here many pleasant evenings were spent, and the people in the lower regions were often attracted by the warbling notes of the harmonious brethren in the cock-loft above them. After some months, the number of members increasing, it was decided to find a more suitable place to meet in, and a two-roomed cottage opposite the Royal Hotel was taken for one year. The partitions being removed and the walls renovated, it made a very comfortable little Lodge-room. The first meeting was held there on April 29, 1854. The members continued to increase, so that there were fifty to sit down to the first anniversary dinner supplied by Host Bro. Stewart, of the Royal Hotel. The recollections of evenings spent in this Hall are very pleasant to old members. Subsequently, on July 25, 1855, the Lodge moved back to the page 87White Hart Hotel, where they obtained better accommodation than formerly. The Lodge progressed steadily, making fresh members, but not increasing very fast in numbers, owing to the unsettled state of the community, &c. The Lodge was put to great inconvenience through not having received the dispensation, lecture books, &c., owing to some informality in the application by the District Officers; in consequence of which it had to borrow the lecture book, &c., belonging to the Lyttelton Lodge (at that time the only one in the Province), and some past officer had to fetch it from Port over the hills, not always a pleasant journey, especially in a sou'-wester. At length, after application and correspondence, on June 22 (four years after the opening of the Lodge), P.G. Kent had the pleasure of handing the dispensation to the Officers of the Lodge, he having brought it from Port that day. A unanimous vote of thanks was recorded to him for the interest and trouble he had taken to get the dispensation for the Lodge. The anniversary dinner, June 27, 1857, was held at Bro. Dilliway's Plough Inn, Riccarton, P.G. Barnard presiding. During the evening a silver snuff box was presented to P.P.G.M. Thos. Abrahams, as a token of respect and esteem by the members; a very pleasant evening was spent; good dinner; good wine; good singing; and a good walk home in the morning.

On September 20, 1858, the Kaiapoi Lodge was opened at the house of Bro. Everest, by Rowland Davis, P.G.M., and Thomas Kent, D.P.G.M., assisted by Bros. Kerridge, Everet, Haymond, Hutchinson, &c. Bro. Hutchinson was appointed N.G. On the 4th January, 1859, the Good Intent Lodge, Akaroa, was opened at the house of Host Gibbs, by Thomas Kent, P.G.M., George Kerridge, D.G.M., Thomas Barnard, Corresponding Secretary, assisted by P.G.'s Garwood and Gibbs. P.G.S. Gibbs was appointed N.G.; P.G. James Garwood V.G.; and Bro. Richard Hill Secretary. On the 15th October, 1860, the Loyal Rangiora Lodge was opened at Rangiora by George Kerridge, P.G.M., Thomas Kent, P.P.G.M., and Thos. Barnard, C. S., assisted by Bros. Stevens and Evans. Bro. R. Evans was appointed N.G., and Bro. F. Bean, Secretary.

During the year 1858 it was decided to purchase a piece of land and build a hall for Lodge meetings. The site selected was in Lichfield-street, which was purchased of Mr. Richard Packer, for the sum of £50. The foundation stone of the new hall was laid on April 1, 1859, by Thos. Kent, Provincial Grand Master of the District, in the presence of George Kerridge, D.P.G.M.;Thos. Barnard, P.G.; George page 88Cliffe, N.G.; Joseph Ashby, P.G.; Edward Rossiter, C.J. Rae, &c. The new hall, which was built by Bro. George Cliffe, was opened with a dinner on the 27th of June, 1859. At the District Meeting held at Christchurch on June 22, 1862, it was agreed that the District be divided into two, to be called respectively the Lyttelton and Christchurch Districts; P.P.G.M. Thos. Kent was appointed Grand Master of the Christchurch District, P.G. Soloman Stephens, D.G.M., and P.G. John Ashton, C.S. During the year 1862, and part of 1863, there had been, from various causes, a falling off in the number of the members of the Lodge. In the latter part of June, in response to a letter received from the committee appointed to arrange a public procession to commemorate the Prince of Wales marriage, it was resolved to accede and to join in a procession; and a committee was appointed by the Lodge to procure banner, regalia, &c. (the Lodge at that time not being in possession of anything of the kind). The Committee spared no time and trouble to carry out the wishes of the Lodge, and on July 9 there was a very respectable and numerous turn out of the members on the occasion, and many persons who lined the streets on that day were surprised to see such a number of members in marching order, as it had been supposed by many that the Odd fellows were nearly defunct, or, as one person in the crowd said, "I thought you chaps had all gone to pot some time ago," From this time the Lodge began to improve again, many members who had left rejoined when they found that it was making a fresh start, and others were induced to join the Lodge: and on the anniversary dinner held in September, Mr. John Ollivier presiding, more than fifty members sat down. On Dec. 26, 1863, the members of the Lodge amalgamated with the Foresters in a procession and public demonstration. On June 28, 1864, the members of the Lodge sat down to a good dinner, Mr. William Sefton Moorhouse in the chair, supported on his right by P.P.G.M. Roland Davis, on his left by Prov. G.M. Thos. Kent, the guest of the evening. After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been responded to, Mr. Moorhouse proposed the toast of the evening, and after some remarks in reference to the valuable services rendered to the Society in Canterbury by its Grand Master, Bro. Thos. Kent, presented that gentleman with a gold medal, on one side of which were the name and device of the Order, and on the other the words, “Presented to Prov. G.M. Thos. Kent by the officers and brothers of the Loyal City of Christchurch Lodge, No. 4602, as a token of their respect and esteem.” The Insignia of the Order was then presented to Bro. Thos. Grantham.

On December 16, 1864, by request of the Secretary to the page 89Cathedral Commission, the Lodge formed in procession and assisted at the laying the foundation stone of the Cathedral. From 1864 to 1871 the Lodge gradually increasing in members and funds, and the hall being too small for meetings, although it had been enlarged at various times, it was thought advisable to procure another site and erect a larger building, which could be used for summoned meetings and entertainments of the Order, also for letting to the public, as there was a want of a public building in Christchurch (the old Town Hall having been destroyed by fire). A site was selected in Lichfield-street, nearly opposite the original hall, which was purchased, and plans prepared by Mr. Armson. The foundation stone was laid on August 12, 1881, by Bro. Henry Sawtell, in the presence of the Building Committee, &c., and on Easter Monday, April 1, 1872, it was opened by a tea and entertainment, Bro. William Rolleston presiding. The members soon had reasons for being satisfied with the outlay, for it became in great demand by the public for meetings and entertainments; in fact, in the course of time it was so much monopolised for public use that the members were often put to a great inconvenience for a place for the Lodge meetings, though in possession of two halls. It was then determined that the old hall should be pulled down and a substantial two storey brick building erected in its place, the upper storey to be used, for Lodge purposes. Competitive designs were called for, and those of Mr. Maddison accepted.

The Mayor of Christchurch, Mr. C.T. Ick, laid the foundation stone of the new building on Saturday afternoon, May 8, 1880; there was a goodly attendance both of brethren of the Order and spectators; of the former P.P.G.M. Kent, E. Rossiter, P. Secretary C.T. Rae, were present at the laying of the foundation stone of the first building twenty-one years previously. A short history of the rise and progress of the Lodge, a parchment with names of Lodge, also names of District Officers, Lodge Officers, Trustees, and Building Committee, along with the newspapers of the day, also a small piece of parchment, in excellent preservation, which had been dug out of the old foundation by P.P.G.M. Thos. Kent, were deposited in a cavity prepared for that purpose. The architect, Mr. T.C. Maddison, then presented the Mayor on behalf of the contractors with a very handsome silver trowel, a spirit level, and mallet.

The building was opened with a dinner on Thursday, October 14, 1880, when the new Lodge room was taxed to its utmost extent, at least 200 members and visiting brethren sat down to dinner, P.P.G.M. Kent presiding, supported on the right and. page 90left by Drs. Deamer and Campbell, the medical officers of the Lodge. After the cloth, had been removed the Chairman made a few remarks appropriate to the occasion, and called upon Bros. Borland and Pratt to unfurl the large and handsome new banner which, had just been received from England.

The Ashley District, which consists of the Lodges situate in the County of Ashley, and extends to the dividing range between Canterbury and Nelson, was formed in January, 1880, having been a portion of what was then known as the North Canterbury District, and was named Ashley after the county, though a proposal was made to change its name and to retain the more appropriate one of North Canterbury. At the time of it being formed there were nine lodges, viz,: the Rangiora, Woodend, Leithfield, Cust, Oxford East (called Nil Desperandum), Oxford West (called Oxford), Ohoka, Amberley, and Sefton; they comprised 390 members, having funds to the value of £3532, of which £1400 was the property of the Raugiora Lodge, the oldest in the District. There has since been another Lodge formed, viz.: the Waikari, and the latest return gives now ten Lodges, comprising 456 members, owning £4977. This steady progress is due to the care and attention paid to the working of the District by that veteran of Corresponding Secretaries, Mr J. J.Robinson, of Rangiora. The meetings of the Executive Committee are held bi-annually; the Annual one in April being always held at head quarters, Rangiora, the Half-yearly meeting being moveable, and held at the different Lodge rooms. Mr R. Aherne, of Rangiora, was elected the first Provincial Grand Master, and Mr A. Simpson, of Amberley, was elected to the office of Deputy G.M., which they held respectively during the first fifteen months of the formation of the District. All the Lodges in the District have a uniform set of by-laws adopted by the District for their guidance. In the North Canterbury District there are now twenty Lodges, with a total capital of over £16,000; and in the Lyttelton District, which includes Timaru, there are several, the oldest being the City of Norwich, at Lyttelton, which has a capital of £3867.