According to the history books the first New Zealand Masonic meeting was in 1837 at Port Levy, Banks Peninsula, with a gathering of French Masons on board the whaling ship Le Comte de Paris.
The first lodge was the New Zealand Pacific, under the English constitution, which met in Wellington in November 1842. By May 1849 Donald McLean Inspector of Police finalised the purchase of the Rangitikei Block from the local Maori Ngatiapa tribe. Settlement followed quickly with the arrival of pioneers who had trekked up the coast line from Wellington to Scot’s Ferry at the mouth of the Rangitikei river.
In 1858 James Bull a carpenter from Chelsea, England, together with his mate Dick were employed to build a new ferry house at the mouth of the river. Upon completion they travelled up the rough road though the area known as Parewanui. Due to the discovery of a forest of Totara trees a mill was set up by James Bull to serve the local settlers.
James established a local store in 1859 so began the township. 'Killeymoon’ and ‘Clifton’ (the name of an emigrant ship) were apparent two unofficial names for the village in the early settler days, although Rangitikei seems to have been an original official name. However “going to Bulls” was the expression in current use and when in 1871 the Government requested the people of the village to give the township some other name (Wanganui Herald , 11th Feb 1871) the name of Bulls was accepted and the name was officially adopted in 1872. Bulls is situated on the crossroads of State Highway one and Three, 149 Kilometers North from Wellington.
In 1880 Bulls was a thriving township and home to several notable Freemasons who wanted to establish a Lodge within the township. On Monday the 3rd of May 1880, a meeting was arranged at the Criterion Hotel.
At that meeting were five notable Freemasons:
Charles Richard Alder Lendrick Maclean Past Master of the Southern Star Lodge No. 735 English Constitution, Nelson New Zealand.
J. Stevens, Senior Warden of the St. Andrew and Kilwinning Lodge No. 481 Scottish Constitution, Whanganui New Zealand.
T.T. Kerslake, Master Mason, Plattsville Lodge No. 178 Canadian Constitution. Plattsville Ontario, Canada.
G.A. Holland. Master Mason, Witham Lodge No. 297 English Constitution, Lincoln, Lancaster, England
S. Hill Senior Warden. Hugh Lodge No. 1386, Lincoln, Lincolnshire
A. Dalziell an Entered Apprentice, where abouts unknown.
The meeting concluded with everyone tasked to seek out other Freemasons in the area who would join this new Lodge.
The meeting night was formally agreed upon at a meeting on the 11th of may. the lodge will meet on the Tuesday after the full moon of each month. Meetings continued to discuss the application for a warrant from the United Grand Lodge of England, the selection of a meeting place and the opening ceremony.
The Ceremony of Dedication was conducted in Bulls Town Hall on October 25th 1880, with W. Bro Cooper DDGM residing. The installing Master was W.Bro. T. King, from the United Manawatu Lodge No. 1721. The warrant being read the Lodge was duly declared open. The number of the Lodge on the register of the Grand Lodge of England was 1904 E.C.
Bulls Township Circa 1880
For the next ten years the Lodge grew from strenght to strenght and it was not unusual to have two initiates on one night.
The Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of New Zealand (Freemasons New Zealand) was constituted in April 1890 which meant many Lodges had to decide if they wanted to breakaway from their original constitutions, uptake was slow at first with only sixty five Lodges heeding the call. On the 13th April 1890 The Grand Lodge of New Zealand issued a dispensation to Lodge Rangitikei No.38 until the Warrent or Charter was issued. This caused some problems with English Constitution Lodges at the time, as documented in the minutes of the Lodge in 1993, members of Lodge Rangitikei refused an invitation to visit The Ruapehu Lodge in Marton due to the situation.
Lodge Rangitikei Officers 1891-1892
After the Establishment of The Grand Lodge of
On the 25th October 1980 the Lodge celebrated its 100th anniversay with W.Bro. Keith Mitchell as Master. The Grand Master at the time MW.Bo. Ashby attending and wishing the Lodge a fruitful , eventful and progressive next one hundred years.
The Lodge thrived in Bulls until 2003. The popularity of joining societies such as the Freemasons in rural areas declined and membership fell below a level where a Lodge could support its self both financially and in membership. The decision was made to sell the old Lodge rooms in Bulls and merge with The Ruapehu Lodge No. 128 based in the local town of Marton. The last meeting was held in Bulls on the 16th September 2003.
The Rangitikei District is dominated by the Rangitikei River, New Zealand’s fifth longest waterway, and, if you believe us locals, it's most beautiful. Peter Jackson certainly thought so: he cast the Rangitikei as the Anduin, the Great River of Wilderland in The Fellowship of The Ring.
How do you write the history of a Freemason's Lodge that celebrated its establishment in 1880? There have been so many stories and tales over the years which have disappeared into the mists of time. However, Freemasons since the dawn of time have kept records of every meeting and the members of the Lodge, it is these records on which we base this page.
In 1930 the Lodge celebrated its Golden Jubilee. An Emergency Meeting was held on the 29th October to mark this special occasion. RW.Bro Perrett PPGM gave a brief but interesting address on the history of the Lodge, paying notice to W.Bro. Bryant of The United Manawatu Lodge No. 1721 who in addition to be present at the Jubilee ceremony , was also the only Brethren who was at the inaugural Consecration ceremony fifty years earlier.
The merging of the two historic Lodges has been a success story and the name of Lodge Rangitikei No.38 is alive and in good heart today. We meet every second Thursday in the Month, except January with our Installation meeting in February.
A copy of the original stamp print used as payment by the Lodge. Presently in the Bulls Musuem.
During the Second World War, Ohakea was the RNZAF's main training base for operational conversion to fighters, observers/navigators for medium bombers and air gunners. After the war, No. 14 Squadron RNZAF, No. 42 Squadron RNZAF and No. 75 Squadron RNZAF were re-formed at Ohakea, and No.1 Repair Depot relocated from RNZAF Base Te Rapa in Hamilton, New Zealand. Many Masonic Brethren from all over the country found themselves stationed at Ohakea The Royal new Zealand Air Force Base for varying periods of time. Wishing to maintain their links with the Craft they joined the Brethren of the Lodge at their regular meetings.
It was felt in 1941, that a separate Lodge should be formed particularly for Air Force personnel and a temporary charter was obtained, The new Lodge using the facilities and regalia of Lodge Rangitikei and taking the name of The Ohakea Air Force Lodge. Following the war, our daughter Lodge moved to Palmerston North and was consecrated as the Ohakea Services Lodge. No. 309.
Following the Second War war a number of food parcels were sent to our sister Lodge, The Lodge of Union No. 38, English Constitution, Chichester, Sussex. Following a country wide appeal.
For the next two years the Brethren met and conducted ceremonies in the Town Hall, sharing rooms with the Odd Fellows. In April 1882 fifty punds was paid to obtain one of the hospital buildings which stood near the river, following payment three months were aloowed to remove it to a new site. on the 28th of November a section was purchased from James Bulls at eighty pounds. The building was taken by steam traction engine down to the new section in the main street. The buidling work was contracted out to Messrs. Broadbent Bros and the painter Bro. Macintosh, of Marton. Such was the work it was reported as a barn transformed into the most superior Lodge anywhere in any colony the same size as Bulls, anywhere in the colony.
The Foundation of Freemasonry in Bulls
Joining the New Zealand Constitution
The first Bulls Town Hall, built by the Rangitikei Town Hall Company. To its left is the building currently housing the Bulls Museum
Our Golden Jubilee, 50 years
Royal New Zealand Airforce
Charles William Lendrick Maclean, a Brother of Worthy Note
There have been many members of Lodge Rangitikei who deserve a mention on this web page but none as worthy as our dearest Brother Charles. W.Bro Charles Maclean was the son of the first Master W.Bro. Charles Lendrick Maclean. He was born in 1859, Drumbanagher, County Armagh. At the age of four he travels to New Zealand with his family. Charles spends his early childhood in Nelson where his father is employed at Nelson College. In 1875 at the age of 16 he arrives in Bulls penniless after his Father is taken to court in Nelson for not being able to settle his debts to a wine and spirit merchant. His father surrenders all he owns to a trust to pay his creditors.
A ballot was recorded in the minutes for Charles in November 1880 and having been proved clear the initiation was arranged for the next regular meeting.
With his Father in the chair, Charles was initiated into Freemasonry on the 21st December 1880, a double initiation. he completed his second degree the next month and raised to a Master Mason on the 15th February 1881. he took office as Senior Deacon on the 24th June 1881. 24th June 1882 becomes Senior Warden.
In 1883 At the age of 24 he is installed as Master for a two year term. Again in 1890 he was Master when the Lodge transferred to the New Zealand Constitution, and again in 1893 and 1894. No one else has ever been the Master of the Lodge five times.
Charles worked as the the Secretary to the Town Board, he died suddenly on the 14th of August 1895 aged 34 years from an enlarged heart.
The Lodge held an emergency meeting on the 16th of August 1895 to assemble for the funeral procession in full regalia (dispensation had been received that day by telegram from the Grand Secretary). The Lodge was opened in due form and in solemn prayed at 1pm. There were 75 names recorded in the attendance register that day. The Lodge was raised to the 3rd Degree and the Lodge formed in regular procession and carried the remains of our departed brother to the Clifton Cemetery where the internment was carried out with Masonic Honours. W.Bro King conducting the ceremony. back in the Lodge letters of condolences were read out from the Grand Secretary, The Grand Superintendent and other worthy Brothers
This memorial tablet was purchased by the Brethren of the Lodge and was to be placed on the East Wall of the Lodge,
it is still displayed in the Lodge room today
Dedication & Consecration of the Masonic Hall
The ceremony in connection with the dedication and consecration of the Masonic Hall at Bulls, for use of the Rangitikei Lodge, 1904 E.C., took place on the 27th December 1883. About thirty of the Brethren assembled assembled at the Town Hall at one o'clock, where the Lodge was duly opened by WBro C.W. Maclean WM, after which the members marched in procession to the new hall. The unusual spectacle of the Masonic Fraternity marching, in full regalia, through the publis streets, attracted a large number of onlookers. Arriving at the new hall, the ceremony was commenced by the WM who read the dispensation from the District Grand lodge authorising WBro Batt, of the United Manawatu Lodge, Palmerston North, to act on behalf, and for the District Grand Master. Wbro Batt who said he duly appreciated the honour, thereon appointed W.bro King, of Palmerston, to act as his assistant.
The hymn, "Lead Kindly Light" was then sung. The Acting District Grand Master read the 95th Psalm, and the dedication anthem, "Pleasant are thy courts above" followed. Next cam the ceremony of consecration, during which the ADGM scattered corn, and poured wine and oil upon the floor, accompanying each act with an invocation, the Brethren sing a stanza from the Masonic hymnal. W.Bro C.L. Maclean next gave a short address on "The nature and objects of Freemasonry" which was of a highly interesting character. The ceremony concluded by the singing of the "Old Hundreth"
The proceedings in the hall thus far were witnssed by a number of ladies, who were then requested to retire, and the Lodge was closed in due form.
On the close of the ceremony, votes of thanks were passed to the residing officers. After the Lodge had ben closed they retired to the ante-room , where an excellent cold collation had been laid by Bro. J.M. Broughton, and which full justice was done.
The Lodge thanks went to a lady who under took at a moment's notice to play the organ, owing to the non arrival of that member who has said he would do it. During the day the masonic Hall was thrown open to the public and a large number of ladies and gentlemen took the oppotunity of viweing the the interior of a Masonic Lodge. In the evening a ball took place in the Town Hall, and was very numerously attended. The hall was tastefully decorated and furnished for the occasion.
The date of the Lodge meeting was determined by the phase of the moon, this was done so that members might have the best light available for travelling home by horse and trap. The horses were turned out into the paddock behind the Blacksmith's shop immediately opposite the Lodge. How ever when the bridges across the river were damaged or washed away by floods members on the Ohakea sideof the river would travel to Lodge in the afternoonin order to cross the river by punt which only operated during daylight hours. After Lodge members would spend the night at the Criterion Hotel before returning home in the morning. There are stories of some Lodge members taken even longer to get home as Lodge provided a good excuse for 'Being on the town' . The Criterion is a very popular hostelry, and contains twenty-one rooms, including a cheerful dining-hall. The billiard-room contains one of Wright's best tables. Sixty visitors can be accommodated at this pleasantly situated hotel, which is selected by the Commercial Travellers' Club. The house was opened in 1875 by Mr Dalziell. Everything in connection with this hotel is suited to the needs of a first class hostelry. Splendid stabling is situate on the premises, and consists of thirteen stalls and nine loose-boxes. (The criterion Hotel was demolished in 2016).