Freemasonry has had a strong presence in New Zealand since at least 1842. The early lodges were formed under the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In 1890, the Grand Lodge of New Zealand was formed, and lodges created since then have been under its jurisdiction.
There are 30 lodges that meet in the Canterbury and Pegasus Districts, with ten lodges meeting at the Shirley Freemasons Centre. The remaining lodges meet in various locations, including five at Ferrymead, four in Riccarton, two in Lincoln, two in Amberley, and one each in Kaiapoi, Oxford and Akaroa.
In 1916 the Freemasons Masonic Hall located in Gloucester Street was the home for many lodges, with others meeting in suburban lodge buildings in Riccarton, Cashmere, and Idris, to name a few. In 1993 the Gloucester Street building was sold and a new home purchased in Latimer Square. This building was occupied until 2002.
After the Latimer Square was sold, lodges met in the suburban Freemasons buildings. It was through the vision of V W Bro Martin Biss that a proposal was first considered to build a fit-for-purpose Freemasons Centre on the site of the Shirley Masonic Hall in Shirley Road. Although plans were prepared and consents obtained, a commitment to occupy by sufficient lodges to make it financially viable was difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, Lodge Shirley No 263 decided to proceed with the building development, and the last lodge meeting in the old building was held on 2 December 2010.
The series of devastating earthquakes which began in 2010 changed the face of Freemasonry in Canterbury, as lodge rooms in Wordsworth Street, Idris Road, Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Lyttelton were substantially damaged, with buildings in other suburbs also suffering some damage. This then became the catalyst for several lodges to become shareholders in the new Shirley Freemasons Centre.
The Shirley Freemasons Centre was opened by the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Selwyn Cooper on 11 May 2013.
The Shirley Freemasons Centre Board
The Board is made up of representatives of those lodges that are shareholders and have financially invested in the Centre. Current Board members are: