Conservator Eimear O'Connell applies her art history and
building conservation expertise on the newly rediscovered
wall paintings in the Arrowtown Masonic Lodge. Photo by
Rare wall paintings rediscovered in the Arrowtown Masonic
Lodge after 60 years have been restored in time for a public
viewing tomorrow as part of the Autumn Festival.
Mason Blair Rodger, builder Martyn Smith, Creation Design
Studio owner Jocelyn Morrison and architect and historic
buildings specialist Jackie Gillies were amazed to find a
100-year-old stencilled frieze beneath the painted Pinex
walls for the Lodge Rooms when renovations began in January.
A dado-level stencilled frieze that repeats
square-and-compass motifs between single stars in dark
reddish brown paint with gold highlights was uncovered for
the first time in decades.
At cornice level, hand-painted swags of drapery were found,
with additional Masonic motifs meeting at each corner of the
room in large painted tassels.
A large gold painted square-and-compass insignia was
uncovered on the chimney breast on the south wall and a
silver moon and stars to the east wall were also found.
A black and white tessellated pavement, painted on to a floor
canvas with painted symbolic objects, was uncovered in the
centre of the room a few weeks later.
"The paintings were considerably damaged in places by the
crude cutting-in of timber battens along the top and bottom
of the wall and the historic limewash basecoat had suffered
from its long enclosure," Ms Gillies said.
Historically faithful replastering and retouching began, with
the only intact wall in the room used as a guide.
"I thought it was extraordinary and such amazing timing that
we uncovered the wall paintings in the same month Eimear
[O'Connell] started working for me, having arrived from
Ireland with expertise and experience in restoring wall
paintings in Syria and Italy.
"Those kind of skills are extremely rare in New Zealand, so
we are very lucky to have Eimear on the spot at the right
Conservator Eimear O'Connell finished four weeks of
repainting the motifs, symbols and decorations this week.
"There's not a lot of this decorative scheme remaining in New
Zealand, so it is significant," she said.
"From a social history point of view, it was the churches and
the lodges that provided a form of community support for
early settlers and all this work would have been done by the
lodge workers themselves."
The building officially designated as "Lodge Arrow Kilwinning
No. 86" was completed and consecrated on January 23, 1888.
However, Masonic meetings were held 10 years earlier.