Egyptian Room Scottish Temple | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Egyptian Room Scottish Temple

Item details

Name of item: Egyptian Room Scottish Temple
Other name/s: The Egyptian Room within the Scottish Royal Arch Temple, Masonic Temple
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: Hall Masonic
Location: Lat: -33.8958171758 Long: 151.1549914680
Primary address: 23-35 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, NSW 2049
Parish: Petersham
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Marrickville
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOTB DP300647
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
23-35 New Canterbury RoadPetershamMarrickvillePetershamCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Capitular Investments LtdPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The Egyptian Room of the Royal Arch Temple at Petersham is unique for its superb decorative frieze which faithfully reproduces illustrations from the text of the Papyrus of Ani, an Egyptian Funerary text dating from about 1450 B.C. The decorations are finely sculptered in low relief plaster and picked out in rich authentic colours, while lotus headed columns support decorative bands of stylised Egyptian motifs and ornaments.

The Egyptian Room decorative theme has some precedent in Masonic memorial chambers but the scale and level of elaboration is unique in Australia. The survival of such rich and extensive decoration is rare, not only in Masonic Temples but in large scale interiors generally. (Heritage Branch files)
Date significance updated: 15 Feb 13
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: A Phipps Coles
Builder/Maker: Sculptor: G Raynor Hoff; Decoration: Charles Everett; Plaster Modelling: G R Lumb and Sons
Construction years: 1927-1927
Physical description: Located within the Scottish Royal Arch Masonic Temple is the 'Egyptian Room' that is decorated in the style of Ancient Egypt, with a magnificent frieze reproducing illustrations from the Papyrus of Ani, an Egyptian funerary text of about 1450 BC. The decorations are sculpted in low relief plaster and painted in rich colours carefully chosen for their authenticity.

The major feature of the Egyptian Room is the frieze which depicts the funeral procession and burial rites of the scribe, Ani, together with the after-death trials of his soul before the gods. These scenes come from a version of what is popularly known as 'The Book of the Dead', but which, in fact is entitled 'The Book of Coming Forth By Day' - that is, the day of the after-life. Such papyri were intended as 'guide books' for the soul in its after-death condition so that it could negotiate the perils which it would be encountering in the world beyond the grave. The Egyptian texts, which have been found in tombs from around 1600 to 1300 BC assume that the dead person's ka (or spirit body) will encounter various trials (including demons of various forms), before facing judgement and (hopefully) resurrection into a new life.

The Papyrus of Ani, from which the vignettes around the Room have been accuratley reproduced, was acquired by the British Museum about 1935 and had been written in the 18th Dynasty (about 1450 BC) for Ani, 'Veritable royal scribe, scribe and accountant of the offerings of all the gods, governor of the granary of the Lords of Abydos, scribe of the offerings of the Lords of Thebes'. His wife Tutu a member of the royal college of singers in the temple of Amen-Ra at Thebes had died some yeards before him, but she appears in some of the vignettes.

Selections from the papyrus, which measures some seventy-eight feet - were made for reproduction around the Egyptian Room. They trace the experience of the soul of Ani from his funeral (represented on the left hand wall) to his judgement in the entrance of the Hall of Truth (represented in the east).

That section of the frieze in the east, over the throne for the Master of the Lodge, shows the judgement in which the dead man's soul, represented by his heart, was placed on a balance and weighed against truth and righteusness (Maat), represented by a feather.

The balance is held by the jackal-headed god, Anubis. If Ani's heart is heavier than the feather he is condemned. Howevere , if he is found righteous 'His heart is found righteous coming forth from the balance' and he is taken before Osiris in the Hall of Truth.

The decoration throughout the rest of the Room is also based on Egyptian sources. For example over the Junior Warden's Chair (in the centre of the right-hand wall) is a relief reproducding a Stele (or tomb-tablet) of the 20th Dynasty (about 1200 BC) which shows a worshipper making an offering to Osiris as god of the underworld.

Around the room stand pillars in classical Egyptian design. Gold-leaf features prominently in the decorations. (Tillett 1987)
Date condition updated:22 Jan 13
Modifications and dates: 1927 - original construction at 22-24 College Street, Sydney
1969 - placed in storage
1977 - re-erected in the Royal Arch Masonic Temple, Petersham
Current use: Masonic Lodge meeting room
Former use: Masonic Lodge meeting room


Historical notes: The Egyptian Room was originally built within the Scottish Royal Arch Temple at 22-24 College Street Sydney (now replaced by Anzac House) in 1927, on the basis of a design by the architect Mr A. Phipps Coles. The sculptor was Mr G Rayner Hoff, best known for his work on the Sydney War Memorial. The decorator was Charles Everett and the plaster modelling was undertaken by G.R. Lumb and Sons. Painters from Lumb and Sons painted the original vignettes.

When the original Masonic Temple in College Street was to be demolished in 1969 the plaster work was carefuly removed and placed in storage. The Grand Superintendent, Dr F.J. Radcliff, planned the relocation of the Egyption Room and eventually a suitable space was found in the Royal Arch Temple in Petersham. The Egyptian Room was re-erected in 1977 by craftesmen from G.R. Lumb and Sons, the firm which had originally constructed it.

The Egyptian Room was Classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) in August 1979. (Tillett 1987)

Following its Classification the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Freemasons of Scotland nominated the interior of the Egyptian Room for a Permanent Conservation Order in October 1979. Following consideration by the Heritage Council of NSW a Permanent Conservation Order was placed over it on 12 December 1980. It was transferred to the State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities (none)-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0011802 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0011812 Dec 80 1896427

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenGregory Tillett1987A Hidden Treasure
TourismMark and Royal Arch Masons in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Homepage for Mark and Royal Arch Masons View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045657
File number: S90/07265 & HC 30304

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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