Reading Old Boys’ Lodge No. 3545
The history of the first 75 years was written by W Bro Len Cheyney in two parts. The first, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lodge, in 1961, and the second, in 1986, to celebrate the 75th. Rather than rewrite the history from scratch it seemed to me much better to have a record of the lodge’s history seen through contemporary eyes. I have very fond memories of W Bro Len Cheyney as he initiated me, in Big School, in 1980. He was far too modest in his history of the lodge to mention the very considerable contribution he made to Freemasonry in general and our lodge in particular. I deal with his career towards the end of this history. The following history is in W Bro Len's words. The only alterations I have made to it (usually indicated thus […]) are, I hope to make things clearer or to add information that may be of interest. However, before turning to the history of the lodge, brethren might be interested in a brief history of the school.
Reading School is certainly not the oldest school in the country – at a mere 880 years it is a baby compared with the King’s School Canterbury or St Peter's York: it is, however, regarded as the tenth oldest in the country. Rea-ding Old Boys Lodge is not the oldest school lodge: Old Westminsters’ Lodge, for instance, has been in existence since 1877. The school was established as a part of Reading Abbey, founded in 1121 by King Henry I, in memory of his son and heir who drowned at sea. The abbey was, from its inception, one of the most important Benedictine houses in the country. During its time Parliament was summoned to meet there and King Henry I was buried there.
A Short History of Reading School
(taken from Reading School website)
On June 18th 1121 a delegation of eight monks from Cluny, France, arrived in Reading to begin preparations for the foundation of a new Abbey. On April 15th 1123, the first Abbot was appointed to oversee its construction, and the Foundation Charter was signed at Rouen two years later. It is the date of this Charter, 29 March 1125, that has been taken as the date for the foundation of Reading School. The School is proud to find its roots in the educational activities of the Abbey, which make Reading School the 10th oldest school in England.
Reading Old Boys Lodge (3545) celebrated its centenary on 29th October 2011.
Not of itself a startling piece of information. Old Boys Lodge used to meet at Reading School until November 1990 when, as a result of reduced support from the Head Master, it moved to Sindlesham. However, the centenary meeting will take place at school meaning that it will be the only lodge to meet in Reading for a number of years.
What is perhaps not well known is that the Masonic links at Reading School date back to 1870. On 1stJuly 1870 the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) laid the foundation stone in a fully Masonic (and public) ceremony. An article about the laying of a foundation stone may not be of great interest except, perhaps, to former pupils of the school but my researches discovered that the event was possibly the largest public Masonic event in Reading (if not the county), involved all of the seven oldest lodges in the Province and shows the marked change in attitude to Masonry that has occurred in the last 130 years. The Reading Mercury in its report on the event stated that the “whole demonstration was, without doubt, one of the grandest viewed in a Masonic light which has ever been witnessed in the country”.