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The Masonic Centre in Caversham

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAVERSHAM & THE CENTRE

with grateful thanks to W.Bro. Douglas Clare PPrJGW.

Over the centuries Caversham has a history of change, due to its strategic location on the banks of the River Thames.
The original Parish of Caversham contained 5,100 acres and extended to a distance of nearly six miles from the River Thames. The total population only amounted to 1,642 at the census of 1841, since that date there have been so many changes to the area that its historic interest is seldom recognised.
The name Caversham has been generally used for almost three centuries, but in the Doomsday Survey it was "Caversha", the origin being to some extent a debatable matter. That prehistoric man dwelt here has been proved time and again, and pottery fragments and tiles found on Priest Hill clearly indicate that the Roman occupation extended in this locality to the north of the Thames. The mention of a mill at the date of Doomsday points presumably to a Saxon population, and the Parish Church dates back to Norman times.
In the Middle Ages successive Lords of the Manor held high office in the Councils of the State. Whilst the siege of Reading and the subsequent detention of King Charles I at the Old Manor House (now Caversham Park) are matters more generally known.
In the Dictionary of National Biography there are notices of at least twenty-five individuals who by birth, residence or ownership were closely associated with the Parish. To mention one of these would be particularly appropriate in this account. The Rev. Edward Barry MD and DD (1759-1822) was a distinguished Divine and Physician whose name appears regularly in the Parish Register during nine years as Assistant Minister of Caversham Church. The Biography also tells us that he was Grand Chaplain to the Freemasons. About the same time, HRH the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, was a frequent visitor to Caversham Park.
Over the years Caversham has become swallowed up by its larger neighbour Reading. In a Local Government sense Caversham has become a part of the Royal County of Berkshire, but Masonically has remained the most southerly centre in the Province of Oxfordshire, although the Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Degrees operate under the jurisdiction of the Province of Berkshire.

Lodge meetings were regularly held at one of two venues, prior to the building of the present Temple on a site in the grounds of The Traveller's Rest Inn on the Henley Road, in Caversham. The two temporary venues were Balmore Hall in Hemdean Road, Caversham (now rebuilt as a doctor's surgery) and more surprisingly, The Masonic Temple in Greyfriars Road, Reading, in the neighbouring Province of Berkshire(now demolished with the opening of the Berkshire Masonic Centre at Sindlesham).

In 1957 the Caversham Masonic Building Fund was opened, and in 1959 the Caversham Masonic Building Association came into being, to co-ordinate the efforts of Caversham and Old Rectory Lodges towards forming a permanent home of their own.
The Brethren of Caversham Lodge, together with their Daughter Lodge "Old Rectory", and its Chapter, responded generously to an appeal for loans to make the building of the new Temple possible. In recognition of the handsome contribution received from Bro. B.J. Morley for the building fund, the committee room was to be called the "The Bernard Morley Committee Room" . Many of the Brethren worked long and hard hours as operative Masons to fit out the Temple we are all so proud of today. Traditional skills were employed in its building and indeed some of our Past Masters today, can point to parts of the Temple with pride, and say that they helped in its construction. This must be truly, the most satisfying of all Masonic accomplishments.
Finally, on Monday 5th September 1966 the newly completed Masonic Temple was dedicated by The Right Worshipful The Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire, The Right Honourable the Lord Rathcreedan TD. Who was then to be presented with the Ceremonial Trowel, which he had used to lay the Foundation Stone of the Lodge at a meeting on the 5th February 1966. On the evening of the consecration ceremony no less than 156 Brethren dined right royally, at a cost of £2 per head.

Many of the furniture items and ceremonial fittings in use today have fortunately survived from that earlier nomadic period. Messrs Samuel Elliott & Sons manufactured most of the ceremonial furniture and donated several items, whilst two of their Directors subsequently became Members of Caversham Lodge. W.Bro. F.W. Allwright donated the Outer Guard's sword, and the poignard; the former having been used by an officer during the Franco-German War of 1870.
Nine of the oak Lodge chairs situated in the east of the Lodge were donated to the Caversham Lodge Masonic Building Association, by the Tuscan Lodge No 14, then resident at Great Queen Street, which were part of their old period Lodge furniture that was no longer in use at their new Grand Lodge Temple location. During the following year a number of oak chairs to complete the set were made, matching the previous chairs donated by Tuscan Lodge, and were graciously presented to the Lodge by the widow of the late W.Bro. R. Armitage.
In 1969, a W.Bro. W. Barnard PPrGW of the Province of Cornwall kindly donated a complete set of Officer's gavels and blocks, still in use today, which were made from selected complementary hardwoods from his native land, New Zealand.

The Temple was later extended to accommodate the furnishings of the various lodges and degrees. Much of the fitting of cupboards and shelves being carried out by W.Bro. Ken Harvey from Cadogan Lodge. A Library was also opened in this much needed space to store books of Masonic interest for the enjoyment and reference of all Masons using the Temple. It has also allowed a showcase for items of local and general Masonic antiquity including a collection of Masonic medals, many donated by local brethren. It is now known as The Ken Harvey Room in recognition of his many years of work in providing this much appreciated addition to the facilities of the Centre.

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