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Neuwemeester’s Laan

Just outside the de Goede Hoop complex, on the corner of Plein and Roeland Streets, stands one of the older buildings in Cape Town, being St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral. Almost directly opposite, in Roeland Street, is Neuwemeester’s Laan or New Master’s Lane. Thousands of people drive or walk down Roeland Street every day, but how many wonder about the origins of what is, one must admit, a most unusual name for a street, and what connection it might have with Freemasonry?

The lane itself is one block long and extends between Roeland and Commercial (previously Boom) Streets. Exactly when it acquired its name is a little unclear, but, according to contemporary maps it was definitely before 1830 and it seems reasonable to believe that it was probably prior to 1800. Certainly, the oldest map including the name of the lane also shows the garden Domberg, which was sold to the Lodge de Goede Hoop in 1800. The lane was originally called Neumeijster Lang with Hoppe owning the property on the Plein Street side and Neumeijster the property at the other end. In 1856, the Neumeijster property, by this stage called Roeland Lodge and in the possession of a Mr JWJ Herman, was purchased by the British Lodge (EC) for the sum of £1160-9s.

In 1811, a number of English speaking Masonic Brethren, most of whom had been initiated in the Dutch speaking Lodge de Goede Hoop, decided that they would like to have a Lodge of their own. This would be under the Grand Lodge of England and they were given a warrant dated 9 August 1811. When the Lodge held its Installation on 24 June 1813 it invited the members of the Lodge de Goede Hoop to attend and this would have been the first official visit between the two Lodges.

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As time progressed, the Lodges developed a comfortable, mutually supportive relationship and it became an established routine that, each year, the Brethren of Lodge De Goede Hoop would formally introduce their Master elect to the British Lodge and vice versa, with both Lodges then attending each other’s Installation ceremonies. At the time of the construction of the British temple in Boom Street, a gate was erected at the lower end of Neuwemeester’s Laan and tradition has it that, immediately after the election of their new Master, the Brethren of Lodge de Goede Hoop would assemble and then, in full Regalia, march in procession to the gate outside the British Lodge. Here they would be met by the members of British Lodge and the introductions of the Masters elect would take place. While the temple itself is, of course, long gone, the gate itself has been retained and now forms part of the Masonic museum in the Pinelands temple.

Just exactly when this part of the proceedings was introduced is, unfortunately, hard to determine. Bate, in his History of the Lodge de Goede Hoop (1972), seems to think it started in 1910 but Cranstoun Day in “The British Lodge and Freemasonry in the Cape of Good Hope (1936)” notes that “It is a very old custom”. This comment seems to indicate that the origins were beyond the memory of anyone in The British Lodge at the time he was writing, and surely beyond 1910.

The British Lodge subsequently moved to the area where the Gardens Shopping Centre now stands and later to the Pinelands Masonic Centre. Sadly, the formal procession on foot from the one Lodge to the other would no longer have been practical but, nonetheless, the tradition has been preserved by the two Lodges involved and, every year, the introduction of the Masters elect still takes place and the Lodges attend each others Installations.

While it has been pleasing to assume that Neuwe Meijsters Steeg (or Neuwemeester’s Laan) was called New Master’s Lane because of the Masonic traditions attached, this seems improbable in the light of the cartographic evidence surrounding the name of the owner of one side of the lane prior to 1800 and the date the British Lodge moved to the Boom / Commercial Street site. Perhaps we will just have to accept that this very fortunate coincidence will help to serve as a permanent reminder of the origins of one of the longest standing traditions attached to our local Freemasonry.

Wor Bro Mike Darwin