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The Grand United Order of Oddfellows established two lodges, in Perth and Fremantle, in June 1865. The Order in 1905 established an orphanage in Railway Street Cottesloe to accommodate the orphaned children of deceased members. It was closed by 1940. The building was later known as 'Wanslea'.

The New Swan Lodge Manchester Union Independent Order of Oddfellows had been formed in 1851 and was a popular institution in Fremantle. Its annual procession on 18 August, followed by a banquet, was regarded as an event of some importance in the town. Its hall was used for entertainments, both professional and amateur. Spelling bees, literary readings and the propounding of conundrums amused the audiences, when other diversions failed. (50)

The Oddfellows Hall was at 13-17? William Street, Fremantle, lot 380? Where was the Perth Lodge building?

The Oddfellows (or Odd Fellows) Lodge is what is known as a Friendly Society. Friendly societies were voluntary associations of workers, established with the purpose of providing financial and social services to members, often according to their religious, political, or trade associations. Among other things, they preceded medical benefit funds like HBF, in providing medical insurance. In Australia the organisation is called the IOOF, the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

The Oddfellows Hall/Gaiety/Bijou, William Street opp. Town Hall, opened July 1867. Harper's Biograph Vaudeville Company showed a season of films 8-13 November 1897, as one of the earliest screenings in Fremantle. (The very first was in the Town Hall.) Demolished 1925 (or 1919).


This photograph 'copyright Nixon' was reproduced in Hitchcock's History: 30, but can't have been taken in 1866 by Charles Millington Nixon, as he wasn't born until 1870, and did not arrive in WA in 1892. What it means is that the copyright was bought by Nixon from the former owner.


The Grand United Order of Oddfellows established two lodges, in Perth and Fremantle, in June 1865. The Oddfellows Hall in William Street dates from 1866. Meetings of various kinds were held there. The building was also used as a theatre and as a cinema, before being demolished in 1925. I have not as yet been able to find an image of the exterior, only this one of the interior, on the WA cinemaweb site, where it's accompanied by the following text.

WA cinemaweb:
The Oddfellows Hall in William St was described in 1889 as 'a miserable place without convenience of any kind and for which extortionate terms were asked' (Lt M.Rose, Inquirer and Commercial News, 21 August 1889). It was renovated in 1890 and became known first as the Gaiety Theatre and then from 1898 to 1910 as the Bijou. The building was demolished around 1925 and the site was not again used as a theatre.
As the Oddfellows Hall, it was a multi-purpose building, and as the Gaiety or the Bijou usually a live theatre, but occasionally films were screened there. It is significant for this database because it was the site for a season of Harper's Biograph Vaudeville Co, from 8 - 13 November 1897, that is, one of the earliest film screenings in Fremantle.
Fremantle City Council rate books 1867 - 1925
Inquirer and Commercial News, 21 August 1889
West Australian, 13 November 1897
Photo: John Corrick?
WA cinemaweb

In the same year [1899] the New Swan Lodge M.U.I.O. of Oddfellows was formed. The hall built by that institution in William-street was erected in the early sixties [actually 1866], but was demolished a few years ago [c. 1919-25] , having outlived its usefulness as well as its stability. Until the erection of the present Town Hall the Oddfellows' Hall was used for all civic purposes. The Oddfellows were an extremely popular and influential institution in the old days, and their annual procession on August 18, which was followed by a banquet in the evening, was always looked forward to as an event of some importance.
At that time amusements were few and in the long intervals between the visits of professional entertainers, some good amateur dramatic performances were given in the old hall. One of the devices for relieving the monotony of the community was the holding of spelling bees with prizes for the winners. Those orthographical contests were as much in vogue as crossword puzzles are to-day, and it was rather humiliating for a competitor who misspelled a word to have to suffer the indignity of being ordered before a large audience to ”Stand Down!” Another form of amusement was the propounding of conundrums on local topics, prizes being awarded for those which were adjudged the best. Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia, 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council: 37.

There was an Oddfellows Hotel from 1897 on the corner of Norfolk Street and South Terrace. Cut in half after 'renovations' in 1985, at the time of the Americas Cup defence, it is now called the Norfolk Hotel. The connexion between hotel and lodge may be that the Davies family were involved in both.

There is an Oddfellows Lodge building (1897) on the corner of Oxford and Richmond Streets Leederville, which may or may not give some idea of what the Fremantle Oddfellows Hall might have looked like.


Newspaper Reports

Western Mail, 18 August 1888, p. 36:
At the usual half-yearly meeting of the "New Swan" Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (Fremantle) held recently, a report upon the financial condition of the Society was presented. According to the balance-sheet we find that the sick and funeral fund the income for the post half year, including previous balances, was £459 11s 3d, while the expenditure included £42 for sick benefits, and cash lent out on mortgage £300, leaving a balance at the National Bank of £117 11s 3d. In the management and expenses fund, the income was £84 8s 11d. the expenditure being £80, leaving a balance of £4 8s 11d. The Letting Committee's account showed that £63 13s 4d. had been received in rent from the Oddfellows Hall, while the expenses had amounted to over £35, leaving a balance of £36 16s 3d. The cost value of property belonging to the lodge amounted to £1895 6s 6d, cash out on mortgage £1304 8s, balance at the National Bank £121 11s 2d, thus showing the value of the funds of the society to be £3321 5s 8d, a creditable state of affairs and one which the members ought to be proud of. The auditors. Messrs. G. F. Gallop and W. A. Payne, reported the result of their examination and congratulated the members on the success which had attended th lodge. They stated that the books were ably kept and reflected credit on the secretary, Mr. E. W. Davies. The report and balance sheet gave every satisfaction to the members. The following are the new officers for the ensuing half-year : Noble Grand, Bro. W. E. Wray ; Vice Grand, Bro. A. A. Davies ; Grand Master, Bro. W. Mews ; assistant secretary, Bro. W. A. Payne. Tho lodge room will be renovated and decorated for the anniversary which takes place next Wednesday, and will be celebrated by a procession, church parade, and a ball in the evening.Western Mail, 18 August 1888, p. 36. The identical report was published in the West Australian for 13 August, p. 3

West Australian, 17 August 1888, p. 3:
ODDFELLOWS' ANNIVERSARY AT FREMANTLE. The members of the Fremantle Lodge of Oddfellows celebrated their 36th anniversary on Wednesday, but the weather was not at all suitable for an outside display. There was a large muster of members, considerably more than has been the attendance at previous celebrations, and but, for the bad weather, the procession through the town would have been a most successful one. The church parade was held at 3.30, when nearly 100 members were present, including Bro. J. Harwood, P.P.G.M. ; W. S. Pearse, P.P.G.M.; E. F. Duffield, P.P.G.M.; F. Jones, L. Sinclair, J. Storey, R. Cook, W. Brown; Past Grands; T. Sherwood of Perth, corresponding secretary of the West Australian district ; T. Glaskin, Salkeld, and R. Birch, Past Grands of the Perth Lodge, the Rev. J. Thorburn, a member of the Loyal St. Margaret's Lodge, Leicester, England; W. Mews, G.M.; W. E. Wray, N.G.; A. E. Davies, V.G.; E. W. Davies, Secretary; J. Back, Treasurer ; D. Canning warden etc. The procession was headed by the band of the Fremantle Rifle Volunteers, under the direction of Bandmaster Fay, and proceeded to St. John's Church. The Rev. D. G. Watkins officiated, while an excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev. J. Thorburn, the recently appointed clergyman for the Gascoyne, who preached from the text Corinthians 16, verse 13, " Quit you like men and be strong." ' After the church service, the members marched down High street, Cliff-street, along the South Beach, up Essex-street and Henderson-street to the hall.
The Oddfellows Hall presented a handsome appearance, the walls being covered with flags, while festoons were stretched across the room. Conspicuous on the banners was the motto of the society, " Friendship, love and truth;" and when the members, donned in their respective regalia, were seated, the scene was indeed a pretty one. Bro. W. E. Wray as Noble Grand presided, while Bro. H. E. Davies as vice Grand occupied the vice chair.
The Chairman briefly announced the reason that they had assembled together, viz., to present Bro. E. W. Davies, secretary of the lodge, with a small token of the regard in which he was held by the members of the lodge, as a recognition of tbe services he had rendered during his connection with the society.
Bro. J. Harwood in a few well chosen words then presented Bro. Davies with a massive gold ornament representing an emblem of the order and bearing a suitable inscription. The speaker referred to the zeal and impartiality that Bro. Davies had displayed, and hoped that he would long continue to act as secretary to the flourishing lodge of Fremantle.
Bro. Duffield spoke of the work done by Bro. Davies and on behalf of the members presented him with an artistically illuminated address bearing the following words :
Bro. P.P.G.M. Davies, Secretary of The Loyal New Swan Lodge, No. 4406, I.O.O.F.M.N.
Dear Sir and Brother,-The brethren of the above lodge, having viewed with much satisfaction the efficient manner in which you have for eight years discharged the duties of the office of secretary, and knowing your deep and heartfelt interest in all matters concerning the welfare of the lodge take the opportunity of this their 36th anniversary to present you with a small token and an address, as a mark of their appreciation of your services, and of the respect and esteem in whichf your are held by the brethren. We consider the great success we have achieved as a lodge is largely attributable to your untiring and indefatigable efforts in our interest. Trusting that you may long be spared to the lodge, and that the token will always be a source, of pleasure to yourself and family, and that yon may in the future, as in the past, command the affections of the brethren of the lodge. We, in friendship, love and truth, remain yours fraternally, Joshua J. Harwood, P.P.G.M. ; W. S. Pearse, R.P.G.M. ; T. Haley, B.P.G.M. ; E. Duffield, P P.G.M. ; W. Brown, D.G.M.; James Snook, P G. ; Walter Mews, G.M. ; W. E. Wray, N.G.
Bro. Davies expressed his surprise at the appreciation of his services that had been shown that day, and he assured them that it gave him great pleasure to hear from Bros. Harwood and Duffield, that the work done in the lodge had been of so useful a nature. What he had done had been for the welfare of the lodge, and with a view to making it a financial and numerical success. When he assumed the duties of seoretary, the lodge then comprised 80 members, and at the time they suffered from the differences that usually arose in lodges similar to theirs. However, he laboured to bring their lodge to a successful issue, and the satisfaction of having done so successfully was greatly enhanced by the recognition of his services shown that afternoon. At the present time they possessed over £3,000, while their numerical strength was about 165, and that was a state of affairs they ought to be proud of. He again thanked the members for their testimonials.
Bro. SHERWOOD, of Perth, corresponding secretary on behalf of the Perth lodge, tendered their congratulations to Brother Davies for the hononrs, conferred, upon him, and referred to the fact that Brother Davies, in addition to being secretary of the "New Swan" lodge was Grand Master of the West Australian district, the highest position that could be attained by any member in the colony.
Bros. S. Pearse, M.L.C., and F. Jones spoke in praise, of the secretary.
The Chairman introduced the Rev. J. Thorburn as an Oddfellow, and he was accorded lodge honours.
The Rev. J. Thorburn expressed his pleasure at having had an opportunity of preaching to them that day, as. he had been connected with Oddfellowship for a great many years. He joined the Oddfellows because it was instrumental to him in his church work. St. Margaret's Parish in Leicester was a large one, comprising nearly 15,000 souls, and by means of the Oddfellows he found that he could reach nearly every member of his flock. They commenced by initiating the children at school into the juvenile branch, and, when, they were 16 years of age passed them into the senior lodges. They had had them in the bonds of "Friendship, love and truth" as it were, from their baptism up to the time when they left the world for more loving hands than theirs. He spoke of the various parts of the world in which be had travelled and no matter where he was he had always seen the influence of Oddfellowship. He concluded by proposing "Success to the.New Swan Lodge." (Applause.)
The toast was given with lodge honours as was also the health of the secretary, Bro. Davies, who, having suitably responded, the pleasant gathering terminated with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne." West Australian, 17 August 1888, p. 3.

West Australian, 3 March 1898, p, 3.
The West Australian District of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity, held its annual meeting at Guildford on Friday last, when the following officers of the District were present:-Bro. W. J. Nugent, Grand Master; J. Wellman, Deputy Grand Master; W. E. Wray, Provincial Corresponding Secretary; and the following delegates : H. A. Herbert, F. Jones, W. A. Mews, A. Polglaze, W. Brown, S. Chester, W. H. Mead, J. Jones, T. Bath, J. C. Chipper, F. L. Glaskin, and F. Bowra, Past-Grands.
The Lodge of Past-Grands having been duly opened, the C.S. read the balance sheets of the various lodges, which disclosed a very satisfactory state of affairs. Three lodges were shown to have a substantial surplus at their disposal, viz., New Swan Lodge (Fremantle), with a capital of £5,433 11s. 2d., including a surplus of £975; John Shipton Lodge (Geraldton), with a capital of of £2,262 1s. 10d., including a surplus of £1,079 7s. 5d. ; and Guildford Lodge, with a capital of £2,093 2s. 5d., including a surplus of £562. Two new districts had been formed during the year, viz.. The Murchison and The Albany District, each having jurisdiction over the lodges within its boundaries. The lodges opened during the year were : True Friendship, Coolgardie ; Diamond Jubilee, Katanning, Yalgoo, and Mount Magnet, whilst others were in course of formation at Menzies and The Boulder. The District officers elected for the ensuing year Bro. John Wellman, Grand Master, Bro. W. A. Mews, Deputy Grand Master, were duly installed. The next District meeting was ordered to be held at Geraldton. West Australian, 3 March 1898, p, 3.

The Davies family and the Oddfellows Lodge

The Western Australian Times for 29 August 1876 reports the presence of E. Davies, tho only as responding to a toast, and not by the title of any office.

The Western Mail, 18 August 1888, p. 36, reports that the secretary was E.W. Davies and that A.A. Davies was Vice Grand.
The West Australian, 17 August 1888, p. 3, confirms E.W. Davies as secretary: most of the article is concerned with his praise. But it also names A.E. Davies as Vice Grand, although further down in the same article writes that it was H.E. Davies occupying the vice chair.
There was an Alfred Alexander Davies, who would have been 35 in 1888. There was also an A.E. Davies, Arthur Elvin, who would have only been 21, but I don't know of an H.E. Davies, and suggest the H is a typo for A. But that still doesn't settle whether the Vice Grand in 1888 was Alfred Alexander or Arthur Elvin.

In 1889, the Western Mail for 24 August names E.W. Davies as PPGM (Past Provincial Grand Master), and A.E. Davies as NG.

E.W. Davies is named as PPGM at the annual dinner (and 40th anniversary) in 1892 in the West Australian, 19 August , p. 2.

In the report of the 1894 dinner in the West Australian for 20 August, E.W. Davies is mentioned as Past-Secretary.

A 'special assembly' in 1894 is mentioned in the West Australian for 12 December, reporting that the Hon. E.W. Davies was presented with a Past Provincial Grand Master's jewel:
Bro. S. NUGENT proposed the toast of Bro. E. W. Davies, who, he said, had been for 20 years a member of the lodge, and whose sound judgment and ever willing efforts had given that impetus to the progress of the lodge which had caused it to be at the present time the strongest in the colony. (Applause.) When Bro. Davies took the office of secretary the lodge numbered 75 members, and when he relinquished that office there were 196 on the roll. (Applause.) These were facts which spoke volumes for the energy and well directed efforts of their late secretary. (Applause.) He had great pleasure in investing Bro. Davies with a Past Prov. Grand Master's jewel, the first that had come to the colony, in recognition of his valued work. (Applause).

References and Links

WA cinemaweb

Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia, 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

James, Ruth Marchant 1977, Heritage of Pines: A History of Cottesloe, Town of Cottesloe Council, © Ruth Marchant James 1977 (re 'Wanslea').

James, Ruth Marchant 2007, Cottesloe: A Town of Distinction, Town of Cottesloe, © Ruth Marchant James 2007 (re 'Wanslea').

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