The History of Pangbourne Masonic Centre
In the early 1900's, Bro. Allan Ambrose Banyard came with his family to live in Pangbourne. Being a very keen Freemason, he soon realized that there were no Masonic Lodges in the immediate area between Reading, Newbury and Wallingford. He therefore conceived the idea of a Craft Lodge being formed in Pangbourne.
Bro. Banyard, a Commercial Traveller with social attributes, contacted various local brethren to form a nucleus of possible founder members; then went further afield and obtained the assistance of other interested brethren, including that of W.Bro. The Rev. A.E. Brisco Owen M.A. F.R.A.S., PAGChap, PPGChap (Berks), PPGChap (Staffs and Wilts), P.M. 2487 and 3129 – a very prominent Freemason.
With the support of 28 petitioners and the sponsorship of The Reading Lodge of Union No. 414, together with the recommendation of the then Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire, R.W. Bro. John Thornhill Morland, M.A., a Charter was granted by Grand Lodge on the 6th December 1921. The Lodge was Consecrated on the 4th February 1922 at the New Hall, Pangbourne; the Ceremony being performed by R.W. Bro. John Thornhill Morland, M.A., Provincial Grand Master along with the Grand Officers from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Berkshire.
During the Ceremony, an Oration on The Nature of Freemasonry was given by the Provincial Grand Chaplain, W.Bro. The Rev. Everett G. Turner, M.A. A copy of this wonderful lecture is inserted in the first Minute Book. The first Master of Pangbourne Lodge was W.Bro. The Rev. A.E. Brisco Owen and its Secretary, Bro. Allan A. Banyard.
Meetings of the Lodge were at first held at a number of venues in and around Pangbourne, principally at the Elephant Hotel. However, with the membership increasing steadily and to such an extent that it was proving difficult to provide comfortable accommodation for the members, and further, the Ceremonies could not be performed efficiently, the Permanent Committee decided to start a fund to purchase a suitable building to meet their current needs and to provide for the future.
By great good fortune, Shooters Hill House came onto the market in early 1928; it was a large property, the original house having been built in the late 1800’s, and had been extended over the intervening years. It was situated on the Reading to Oxford Road, Pangbourne (A329) on high ground, close to and overlooking one of the most lovely reaches of the River Thames.
extended over the intervening years. It was situated on the Reading to Oxford Road, Pangbourne (A329) on high ground, close to and overlooking one of the loveliest reaches of the River Thames. The property was formerly the home of Mr Dan Harries Evans, the founder of the famous London department store DH Evans, The Lodge decided to purchase the eastern section for the sum of £1,100; the purchase was completed in September 1928.
The portion purchased by the Lodge was the Billiard and Picture room, which was added in 1898. Beautifully built of red brick, of imposing appearance and ideally suited for Masonic purposes. The original entrance was through an ornate stone porchway over which is carved the Coat of Arms of the Evans family with the inscription, in Welsh, ‘Goreu arv Gwirionedd’ which, literally translated, means, ‘The greatest weapon is truth’.
This entrance led into a large hall paved in black and white squared marble. From this hall, access was gained to the first and second floors (initially via a twelve rung stepladder!).
From the hallway, entrance was gained to an ante-room, now the present Committee Room, and then to the magnificent Billiard and Picture Room. This room is between some thirty to forty feet high, facing directly east, panelled with solid polished mahogany to a height of four feet and from there to the ceiling the walls are covered with royal blue cloth with satin stripe. The curved ceiling is beautifully moulded with ornamental figures; at each end of the curved section is a moulded frieze, which carries the inscription, “Then care away and wend along with me.” The doors are of solid polished mahogany, to match the panelling, with brass fittings. A Minstrels’ Gallery, fitted with stained glass windows, overlooks and completes this magnificent room. This then was to be the Lodge Room. A certain amount of modification to the building was necessary to enable it to fulfil its new role as a Masonic Temple. This was tastefully and sympathetically carried out by one of the Lodge’s founders, Bro. John Smallbone.
The Temple was dedicated on the 6th October 1928, by the Right Worshipful Bro. H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught, K.G., at that time, Provincial Grand Master, assisted by the V.W.Bro. The Rev. Canon F.J.C. Gillmer, M.A., T.D., DepPGM and the Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge with great ceremony.
The Worshipful Master for 1928 was W.Bro. Percy Stone, a well-respected local businessman and a Founder Member of the Lodge: it was reported that he performed his part in the Ceremony with great dignity and assurance.
In the later part of 1942 approaches were made by the Welfare Department of the Berkshire County Council for the rooms on the first and second floors of the Temple to be converted into a wartime nursery. After some protracted negotiations, the Lodge agreed to the proposal. The conversion meant that the original entrance could no longer be used by the Lodge and that part of the entrance hall had to be given up. This apart, there was very little disruption to the well being of the Lodge, and the nursery was to provide a small income. This part of the property continues to be used for commercial purposes. The new entrance to the Lodge was on the road side of the property.
It was at the Lodge meeting in October 1943 that the Worshipful Master, W.Bro. W.H. Bale, to mark the coming of age of the Lodge, propounded a scheme to relieve the Lodge of its indebtedness to the Bank for the loan procured to purchase the Temple. This was for a financial loan to be made by the brethren, free of interest, so that the Bank liability could be cleared. Such was the success of the scheme that the Deeds were returned to the newly installed Worshipful Master at the 1944 Installation Meeting.
One of the features which makes Pangbourne Temple different from the general run of Lodge Rooms is the established custom that every Worshipful Master of the Lodge shall have his photograph taken, in his regalia, the photograph and mount to be of standard size and framing. These photographs are hung above the mahogany panelling, commencing at the south-east corner of the Lodge.
and framing. These photographs are hung above the mahogany panelling, commencing at the south-east corner of the Lodge. The Lodge Room is further enhanced by the chairs of office for the Treasurer and Secretary. The chairs of polished oak, with the insignia of office hand carved in satin wood, are replicas of those occupied by the Worshipful Master and the Wardens. They were donated by the brethren of the Lodge in 1965 as a token of their appreciation for the many years of dedication and service to the Lodge by W.Bro. P. Stone as Treasurer and W.Bro. W.H. Webster as Secretary; the chairs are suitably inscribed. In May 1966, the Lodge was presented with a beautifully made solid oak table for use by the Treasurer and the Secretary, by the brethren of the Enborne Lodge as a tangible expression of appreciation for the facilities afforded to them by the Pangbourne Lodge.
In more recent times, the organ has been replaced; this new instrument was generously donated by W.Bro’s Percy and Richard Stone to mark the Stone family’s 70 years long membership of the Lodge.
In 1945, Pangbourne Royal Arch Chapter was formed and in 1948, Pangbourne Mark Lodge was founded. Two 'Daughter' Lodges have been sponsored and founded: Enborne in 1963 and Goring Gap in 1971. All these bodies now use the Pangbourne Masonic Centre for their meetings.