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Transvaal Lodge No. 1747

Consecrated 13th June 1878

Meeting at: Pretoria - Masonic Centre, Jukskei Ave., The Willows

Meeting Dates: 1st Tuesday (ex Jan, July) Inst May

Contact 082 572 9790

Lodge History

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One of the twelve lodges constituting the District in 1895.

In 1877 the Burgher Republic of the Transvaal had difficulty in protecting its borders from Zulu raiding parties, and reluctantly agreed to the Governor of Natal (Sir Theophilus Shepstone) 'annexing' the Transvaal in the name of Great Britain and bringing in forces to aid in its defence. Early in the following year 7 masons, including one past Master, met in Pretoria and within a week, had forwarded a petition to Grand Lodge for the establishment of the Transvaal Lodge; the petition was granted but with the nearest District in Natal, no formal consecration could be carried out. So on 13 June 1878 a past Master of the Aurora Lodge (Netherlandic), W Bro Peter Kirsten, installed John Keith as the first Master of Transvaal Lodge. Sir Theophilus Shepstone was among those present.

Within a year the membership had increased from 9 to 42, and the lodge had its own premises on the comer of St Andries and Vermeulen Streets. But in 1880, as the result of dissatisfaction of the Boer community with the British administration, the Burghers sought the restoration of the Republic and, inter alia, besieged the garrison in Pretoria. So the military took possession of the lodge building and turned it into a fort. But Masonry did not come to a complete standstill, as the Commanding Officer agreed to a daytime meeting being held, provided that all attending were fully armed and carried 70 rounds of ammunition! (The meeting is more fully described in Chapter 19). After the 104 day siege, the Transvaal was given self government and the administration was handed over to Paul Kruger.

The involvement of the lodge in the events leading up to the formation of the District Grand Lodge is recorded in Chapter 1.

The lodge was in recess from late 1899 to March 1901, when the British military governor permitted work to be resumed. From 1901 to 1905 the lodge admitted 112 initiates and 93 joining members and its premises became inadequate, leading to the leasing of temporary rooms and the building of a new 'home' in St Andries Street, formally dedicated in March 1906.

John Keith, who has been fairly described as the father of English Freemasonry in the Transvaal, died in 1907.

The lodge premises were a constant cause of financial concern, and in 1918 they were sold and the lodge became a tenant at Freemasons' Hall in van der Walt Street, and ten years later, celebrated its Golden Jubilee by the opening of its new premises in Beatrix Street. Largely because of parking problems, these were sold in 1981 and the proceeds invested in the erection of the Masonic Centre at the Willows, on a site immediately adjoining the Masonic Haven. The complex was planned to accommodate all the lodges, chapters etc meeting in Pretoria but in the event only about half of these moved to the Willows, and the saga of Transvaal Lodge's financial problems over premises continued.

The Masonic Haven itself received especial support from two members of Transvaal Lodge, Peter van Heerden and George Harrop Allin Senior.

Distinguished members of the lodge have included Mr Justice R Gregorowski, (who had earlier been the presiding judge at the Reform Committee trial), the Rt. Rev M B Furse, the Bishop of Pretoria and J H L Finlay, Deputy District Grand Master from 1925 to 1927. One of the original members, Bro T W Beckett (WM 1881/82), a very active mason, and first President of the District Board of General Purposes, founded what was to become South Africa's leading tea business: hence 'Five Roses'.

Reference: 'A Century of Brotherhood' by A A Cooper & D E G Vieler