About The Lodge
One of the ideals brought to the gold fields of Buninyong and Ballarat was Freemasonry. In June 1854 a number of members met in Ballarat to begin the process of forming a Masonic Lodge.
Records exist which show that on the 25th June,1854 a casual meeting was held and again on the 9th July, 1854 the second meeting was held. On the 26th November, 1854 it was decided that an advertisement should be placed in the “Spirit of the Age” and “The Ballarat Times” requesting that all of the Freemasons in the area should meet at 3 p.m. on the 3rd December, 1854 to complete the necessary arrangements for the formation of a Lodge. The minutes show that only three members arrived for the meeting at 3 p.m., for that was the day of the Eureka Affair and doubtless groups of people would not have wanted to be seen gathering during the uproar and sedition.Finally, on the 28 September, 1855 the Lodge in Ballarat was opened. Soon four Lodges were operating in Ballarat; they were the Victoria Lodge, the Yarrowee Lodge, the Ballarat Lodge and the United Tradesmen's Lodge of Ballarat East. In 1867 these four lodges amalgamated to become the Yarrowee Lodge which still operates in Ballarat to this day.
Just how many of the early settlers and inhabitants of Buninyong were Freemasons prior to the opening of a formal Masonic Lodge is unknown, but Buninyong was the first Lodge in the locality to open outside of Ballarat proper. During this early period Victorian Lodges were controlled by three Grand Lodges.They were The Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In Ballarat the first four lodges which were later to amalgamate, were operating under warrants from the Grand Lodge of England. Buninyong, however, decided to form their Lodge under the auspices of The Grand Lodge of Ireland.The first meeting was held on the 22nd April, 1858 at the Nugget Hotel with Charles J. Kenworthy as the Master, and the other two principal officers were James B. Cusack and Henry A. Corinaldi. Kenworthy and Corinaldi had been members of the Victoria Lodge in Ballarat, prior to being appointed the Master and deputy of the new Buninyong Lodge. Meetings at the Nugget did not last very long, for on the 19th November, 1858 the lodge changed its place of meeting to the Buninyong Hotel. The formal warrant arrived from the Grand Lodge of Ireland on 7th February, 1859, nominating the Buninyong Lodge as No. 413 in the Irish Constitution.
Dr Charles Kenworthy was an American who was later to figure prominently in the separation of Sebastopol from Buninyong. He was elected to the Road Board in 1860 and probably figured in the formation of the Sebastopol Masonic Lodge in 1869. I know nothing of Messrs Cusack and Corinaldi. Soon after the Eureka Affair at Ballarat, Henry Cuthbert the most prominent district Freemason at the time condemned the violence, and whilst Charles Kenworthy was a figure mentioned at Eureka, his part still allowed Cuthbert to proudly announce that no Freemason was involved in the Eureka rebellion.Those early records of Freemasonry in Ballarat give a rare insight to political and anti-government feelings by some people at the time of Eureka.
Meetings at the Buninyong Hotel lasted until 23rd March, 1864 when allegiance was changed to the Crown Hotel for the next twenty-one years.Perhaps because of the fire at the Crown Hotel meetings were changed to the Shire Hall at Mt. Clear on the 11th March, 1885, but six months later – on the 23rd September 1885 – they were back at the Crown Hotel. Newspaper reports talk of saving equipment belonging to the Buninyong Lodge when the Crown Hotel burnt down.In 1889 moves were made to amalgamate lodges from the three constitutions – English, Irish and Scottish, – into one body, and on the 20th March, 1889, a total of 138 lodges throughout Victoria joined together as the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. Because Buninyong was formed so very early, it was designated No.23 under the Victorian Constitution.
Thus,to this day, Buninyong is still the third oldest Lodge in the greater Ballarat area with Yarrowee as No. 10 in Ballarat and the Daylesford Lodge as No. 12, being the only two that are older. Freemasonry became popular in Victoria with actual lodges growing to over 800 in recent years. Membership grew from about 18,000 in the early days to over 100,000 in the 1960's.On the 20th December, 1898 the meeting place of the Buninyong Lodge was moved to the Buninyong Town Hall and finally, on the 27th December 1906 the Buninyong Lodge moved into its own home in Warrenheip Street where it continues to this day. Additional building and renovations have been made since that time, resulting in the facilities for members being one of the better Masonic Lodges in the district.
Just as Buninyong township took its name from the aboriginal name for the mount, the Buninyong Lodge used the word Boonanara [Love/Charity in Plenty] as their catch phrase; and over the years with the charity that is conducive of Freemasonry, many have been assisted by the lodge and its members. Freemasonry is a society that practices charity, with homes, hospitals and community fund raising to support that aim.
A Masonic Lodge should not be confused with other beneficial orders such as the Oddfellows who also called their meetings – lodges, but were not Masonic. Additionally it should be clearly understood that freemasonry is not a religion and welcomes members of all faiths and belief systems. In the past the Buninyong Lodge has held open days and this web-site is a further means by which we open the doors to alleviate the mystique that has in the past been associated with freemasonry and shows our residents the good they do.
Authored by: Robert Bell (now deceased Freemason RIP)
More recent developments saw Peniel Lodge close in 1983 and members of that lodge join Buninyong. In 1998 the Sturt Lodge amalgamated with Buninyong Masonic Lodge which has now adopted the name Sturt Buninyong United Lodge and retains the number 23 on the Victorian Grand Lodge register.
Please visit the Sturt-Buninyong Lodge website for more information at www.buninyongfreemasons.com