Maitland, as we know it, has not always been Maitland.
Aboriginal history recalls the junction of the Hunter River with Wallis Creek as “Boomi”. (1) p13
In 1801 a survey party surveyed the Hunter River and gave the name “Shanks Forest Plains”, the 1st official name to the area now known as Maitland. (1) p16
In 1818 the area received its 2nd official name when Governor Macquarie, on an exploration of the Hunter River by boat, when he saw the area wrote; “I named a very fine tract of Forest Land on the right Bank of the River near this Reach ‘Wallis Plains’ in honor (sic) of Capt Wallis ... having examined the land on both sides of this River which appeared to be of excellent quality both for cultivation & grazing we returned down the River to the Burying Ground (2) Raworth} ...” (3) p10 Wallis – Commandant at Newcastle.
In the early 1830’s Wallis Plains was seen as a dusty or muddy town with a winding High Street constantly used by bullock teams travelling to and from the port of Morpeth.
It was described by one writer “... a raw and vigorous settlement of new and old colonists; a port for small craft; a disordered camp of waterborne strangers -
In 1835 Wallis Plains was officially recognised as West Maitland. In 1945 the City of Maitland was proclaimed – including East Maitland, West Maitland & Morpeth. (1) p27
In early days road transport between Morpeth and Wallis Plains was hampered by Wallis Creek which was deep, had steep banks and was dangerous to cross. People usually crossed in a boat with their horses swimming behind. Wheeled vehicles were sent by boat between Morpeth and Wallis Plains.
In 1827 Alexander McLeod built a toll bridge over Wallis Creek, known as the “Family Bridge”, which enabled drays to travel directly between Morpeth and Wallis Plains. The tolls were steep and many refused to pay and some crossed via a fallen tree until McLeod removed it.
In 1852 the bridge was replaced and called “Vittoria Bridge”. In 1895 the present bridge was built about 150m downstream. ‘Vittoria’ was a township in Northern Spain, the scene of a battle in the Peninsula Wars. The bridge was and is more commonly known by the English equivalent, ‘Victoria’.
Wallis Creek, since European settlement came to the area, has changed its course. Originally it meandered from near where Victoria Bridge is now, westward between the High Street and the railway line and joined the river proper approximately where the road enters Smyth Field (Athletic track) field from High Street. This is a consequence of the River changing its course. Wallis Creek, downstream of Victoria Bridge, now runs in the ‘bed’ of the river proper until it meets the present River east of ‘Horse Shoe Bend’.
Freemasonry came to (West) Maitland on 4th November, 1840, with the formation of Maitland Lodge of Unity No 804 EC (Lodge Unity). Lodge Unity’s early years were spent moving between different meeting locations until 1877 when it located to 280 High Street, Maitland in a two storey building erected by the Great Northern Permanent Building Society, with an arrangement that the top floor be reserved for Masonic use only for ten years, at a rental of one shilling (ten cents) per year. The building is still in use and is presently occupied by the orthodontist, Dr Russell Kift.
Near the end of the arrangement, lodge members purchased a block of land in Victoria Street and in 1887 built the current lodge building.
Lodge Unity is credited with being the fourth lodge formed in New South Wales, but it was in fact the fifth. In 1820 the Australian Social Mother Lodge was formed under the Irish Constitution. In 1824 the Irish formed Lodge Leinster Marine. In 1828 the English Grand Lodge formed Lodge Australia. All of the above were in Sydney. In 1838 the English formed Lodge of St John at Parramatta. In 1840 the English formed Lodge Unity in Maitland which was therefore the fifth lodge. (4)
About 1862 Lodge St John at Parramatta was erased which gave 4th place to Maitland’s Lodge Unity. When the register of lodges was compiled by UGL NSW in 1888, and lodges were numbered according to the date of their formation, Unity received number ”4”.
A somewhat similar circumstance attends Lodge Mindaribba which is recognised as (West) Maitland’s second lodge. In fact it is the third. In 1858 the Grand Lodge of Scotland formed in West Maitland a lodge named Hunter’s River No 381. (5) This second lodge is also referred to as Hunter River Lodge of Harmony No 15 (4). The Lodge moved to Newcastle in 1873 and became Lodge Harmony No 15. In Maitland, the Hunter River Lodge met at the Cross Keys Hotel in High Street. It was situated at the eastern end on the northern side near the original Wallis Creek junction with the River. “The site is now occupied by the turn off from High Street to the overhead bridge” (6) p99
Lodge Unity’s highest membership was in 1929 when it reached 233. The lowest membership was 31 at the time of consolidation with Lodge Mindaribba in 2009.
Lodge Mindaribba’s history does not include membership statistics.
Lodge Mindaribba No 307 was formed in February, 1917. Since its inception, this lodge has met at the Victoria Street Centre.
Its first two installations, 1918 and 1919 were unique. They were held jointly with Lodge Unity with the then Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother William Thompson installing both new Worshipful Masters in their respective lodges on both occasions.
Characteristic of Lodge Mindaribba and Unity’s bondship is reflected in 1935. The Freemason of December 5, 1935 wrote: “Lodges Unity and Mindaribba meet conjointly. The East and West townships of Maitland celebrated the reaching of the hundredth milestone in civic age .. It was fitting that Lodges and Craftsmen should join in the celebration for throughout this century Masons have played their part. Many Past Masters’ were present at this combined meeting, which marked the 96th anniversary of Lodge Unity, among them was Most Wor Bro John Goulston who was initiated in No4.
Wor Bro Smith, Worshipful Master of Lodge Mindaribba, surrendered his gavel to V Wor Bro C B Worden, an initiate of Lodge Unity and Foundation Master of Lodge Mindaribba, who with a team of officers from the two lodges, conducted the initiation of Mr R Hunt”. (8)
When Lodge Unity tried an alternative procedure and changed to daylight activities in 1992, several Lodge Mindaribba members affiliated with Lodge Unity, retaining membership of their original lodge.
Lodge Wallis Plains No 4 came into being through the amalgamation of Maitland Lodge of Unity No 4 and Lodge Mindaribba No 307 in December, 2009.
Whilst both would no doubt have preferred to continue as individual lodges, circumstances were such that the consolidation became one of necessity.
Rather than retain one or parts of the existing lodge names, it was felt that the best outcome would be achieved by ‘new start’, complete with a new name, but with a finite link to the history of Freemasonry in Maitland. “Wallis Plains” was or course the name gifted on Maitland by Bro Governor Lachlan Macquarie during his visit in 1818 and the registered number “4” recognition of the Lodge’s unique place in history. (formed 2009)
Lodge Wallis Plains No4 has a diverse range of members ranging from self-
Many have interests outside Freemasonry that involve the community and schools.
Having joined Freemasonry there are several criteria that are to be respected by members. As Freemasons come from all walks of life, members are expected to interact with each other free from religious or racial prejudice.
Its philosophy is designed to encourage its members toward self-
Members are encouraged to support Masonic Charities which perform valuable services throughout NSW and the ACT.
A Freemason is required to pay annual membership fees to his Lodge and to the United Grand Lodge of NSW and the ACT. A joining fee is also charged by most Lodges. The average yearly cost to members varies between Lodges however the fees are explained to potential members before joining.
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Lodge Wallis Plains No.4
Victoria St, Maitland NSW 2320
Contact Bill Lennox
Ph. 02 4933 1602
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Lodge Wallis Plains No.4