by Neill Rhodes

Freemasonry in Newbury is first reliably recorded in 1815, when Royal Sussex Lodge (at that time No. 672) met at the Kings Arms hotel in the Marketplace. The landlord was Henry Haskins, who was the Founding Junior Warden of the Lodge.

Loyal Berkshire Lodge of Hope No. 574 was consecrated in 1850. The Lodge number is lower than that of Royal Sussex Lodge as in the intervening period Lodges had been renumbered to ‘use up’ numbers left by Lodges which had closed. Hope Lodge met at the White Hart Tavern, moving to the Three Tuns Hotel (which subsequently became the Queens Hotel ) in 1857 and the Municipal Buildings in 1865.

In 1858 Porchester Mark Lodge was consecrated.

Hope Lodge purchased the Tracing Boards, which are still in use, in 1879. In 1880 the Lodges moved to the Temperance Hall – still standing near the canal in West Mills. In 1896 Hope Royal Arch Chapter was consecrated.

In 1901 there was another move to new premises ‘near Stradling’s Garage, off Northbrook Street’ – no trace remains of this. Plans of the Masonic Hall, a two-storey purpose-built building, are on display in the current Centre.

Various items were purchased during the first decade of the 1900’s – the principal officers’ pedestals, the pedestal for the Working Tools, and gavels – all still in use in 2016.

Victory Lodge was consecrated in 1919. In 1925 Hungerford Lodge was consecrated, meeting in Hungerford Town Hall until moving to the Newbury centre in 2015. St Bartholomew Lodge was consecrated in 1947, followed by Thatcham Lodge in 1966 and Theale-on-Holybrook Lodge in 1975.

In 1954 Hope Lodge acquired the site of the present Centre. They donated the proceeds of the sale of the previous meeting place to a body of trustees, appointed to administer the property and contents for the benefit of all meeting at Newbury. This arrangements continues to this day, with a Management Committee running the Centre day-to-day. The new centre was opened by the provincial Grand Master, RWBro Lt. Col. R H Ingham Clark on the 14th of December 1961.

During the 200 years of Freemasonry in Newbury, many local luminaries have been members of Lodges. Notable local names to be seen on the boards listing Past Masters include Camp, Hopson, Stradling, Plenty, Ricardo, Gardner Leader, Strickland and Neate. Many Mayors of Newbury were Freemasons, and there are a number of publications and Masonic items in the small Library and Museum in the Centre.

Lodge meeting days are detailed in the individual Lodge pages on this website. In addition to the Craft Lodges listed, also meeting at the Centre are:

  • two Royal Arch Chapters (Hope and Hungerford);
  • two Mark Lodges (Porchester and Hungerford);
  • Porchester Royal Ark Mariners Lodge;
  • Donnington Castle Chapter of the Ancient & Accepted Right (Rose Croix);
  • and Outremer Preceptory (Knights Templar).

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