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Masonic Temple

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 10 OCTOBER

10 October 1873, Cecil Rhodes begins studying at Oxford University.
10 October 1888, Foundation stone for the Masonic Temple (pictured) on Dutoitspan Road laid.
10 October 1904, Kimberley Regiment awarded the King’s Colours.
10 October 1961, Mrs R Goble shoots the first hole-in-one at the new golf course.

DID YOU KNOW

The Masonic Temple on Dutoitspan Road is one of the more handsome double storeyed buildings in Kimberley, the exterior being quite imposing, the interior beautifully decorated with elaborate furnishings.

Stained Glass Window inside Masonic Temple

There were several Masonic Lodges operating in the city in the 1880s, some having their own premises, others meeting in buildings not conducive to Lodge matters. At a general meeting called by the Brotherhood, all Kimberley-based Lodges decided to erect a Temple that all Lodges could utilise for their services, and on 10 October 1888 the foundation stone was laid by Past Master George Richards of the Richard Giddy Lodge.

Ready for meetings in 1889, the architect was Arthur Henry Reid of Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, the building contractors the local firm Beckitt and Porter. Reid was a leading South African freemason and started the first British Lodge in Johannesburg.

An oak staircase leads from the entrance hall to the rooms above, all rooms upstairs being used for the higher degrees. The Great Hall on the ground floor leads from the entrance and is used for the normal meeting requirements. Behind the altar is one of the finest stained glass windows in Kimberley, presented to the Temple by Cecil John Rhodes, also a Freemason. Originally placed at the top of the staircase it was moved to its present position in 1930 to commemorate the 7th year in office of District Grand Master of South Africa (Central Division) Joseph van Praagh.

Those first years for the Temple were not without difficulties. Business in Kimberley was stagnant, this because of the amalgamation in 1888 of many of the mining companies into De Beers Consolidated Mines. The Lodge committee had some serious financial complications, not only being in arrears with their landlord, but also owing large sums of money to many creditors. Making matters worse, the roof was leaking and needed urgent repair.

Despite misgivings, desperate measures were called for and the Great Hall on the ground floor was rented out for various functions. This did sort out the financial problems, but after many complaints from the Lodges utilising the Temple, a decision was taken to only use the facility for Masonic purposes.

However, the Great Hall was used in February and March 1900 as a temporary hospital for the British army, casualties from the battle of Paardeberg (17 -27 February 1900) being more than the local hospitals could handle.

The Temple was restored and extended in 1954 as a tribute to Hubert Lancaster, District Grand Master for South Africa Central Division 1946 – 1952 “…by contributions from the Lodges, Chapters and Brethren as a memorial of his great service to the Craft.”

Declared a National Monument in 1990.

10 October 1873, Cecil Rhodes (pictured) begins studying at Oxford University.
10 October 1888, Foundation stone for the Masonic Temple on Dutoitspan Road laid.
10 October 1904, Kimberley Regiment awarded the King’s Colours.
10 October 1961, Mrs R Goble shoots the first hole-in-one at the new golf course.

DID YOU KNOW

When Cecil Rhodes first went to Oxford in 1873 it was with a view to entering as an undergraduate at University College, but entry there was refused because he was only doing a degree, not honours, but he was granted entry at Oriel College – to whom he left £100 000 in his will. His studying was over several years as he had to return to Kimberley to attend to business, and only completed his degree in 1881 when a Member of the Cape Legislative Assembly.

He matriculated on 13 October 1873 and was there from 10 October until 17 December, but kept only the one term. It was at Oxford that he received his first real fright with his health as he caught a chill while out rowing. A visit to the doctor made up his mind to return for the time being to Kimberley, but it was only many years later that he saw the entry in the doctor’s casebook. It read “only six months to live.” On that first trip back to England he paid a visit to his old grammar school at Bishop’s Stortford and told his former tutor, Reverend George Porter, that when school was over at noon, and the boys all gone, he would show him some rough diamonds from Kimberley. Rumour around the school was that their ex-schoolfellow had made immense wealth on the diamond fields, and juts after school, two of the pupils hid to see Rhodes show Porter the diamonds. Porter was fingering the diamonds when the two youngsters showed themselves, as they too were eager to see and hold the gems. Both were astounded that Rhodes let them do so, and in the one’s words, “…he ought to have kicked us.”

He was at College from 24 April until 6 July 1876, and again from 10 October until 17 December. Two terms were kept. During the winter he was Master of the Oxford Drag Hunt, well remembered by fellow students as Rhodes practising on the horn kept his neighbours awake at night.

In 1877 he was there for all four terms, but returned to Kimberley for the mid-year vacation.

1878 saw him keep three terms from 14 January, returning before the Michaelmas Term in October.

He kept the October to December term in 1881, and took his degree.

The long gap of 1874 and 1875 he did not attend according to Lewis Michell due to lack of funds, while the other long gap between 1879 and 1880 was certainly because of the formation of the De Beers Mining Company and his involvement in politics.

“We were contemporaries and (I am proud to say) friends at Oriel from 1875 to 1878,” wrote C.W. Middleton Kemp, “I well remember how we used to chaff him about his Long Vacation trips to South Africa, when he always cheerily replied that we would be surprised one day at developments there…he was a big man, with a big heart and a big mind, and always a real good friend.” At University, he was considered popular, although “reserved as to his private affairs, and with a coldness of speech and manner which betokened an unconventional attitude towards things in general…His manner was quiet and unassuming…” said the Reverend A.L. Barnes Lawrence, a fellow student. One of his tutors at Oriel College commented to George Green, the editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser: “I have always held that Rhodes would have been an even greater man if he hadn’t had reddish hair. It made him too impatient.”

That he enjoyed his time at Oxford cannot be argued, and did not study too hard, being remonstrated with on several occasions for non-attendance at lectures. His reply to criticism was simple: “I shall pass, which is all I wish to do!” Returning to Oxford many years after his studies, a few Dons and undergraduates invited him to a function which was dull in the extreme until Rhodes, striking a table with his fist, called out, “Let’s have a drink!” which immediately broke the ice and made the evening enjoyable. He also became friendly with Rochefort Maguire (who would sit out the siege of Kimberley with him), and with Charles Metcalfe, later a Prime Minister of the country that would bear Rhodes’ name. Both friendships lasted until his death.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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