Freemasonry started hundreds of years before the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717. It’s been operating in Oxfordshire for hundreds of years too, although the earliest lodges have disappeared without trace. The oldest still in existence is Alfred Lodge, No. 340 based in Woodstock. The next oldest in Oxfordshire is Apollo Lodge No. 357, the Oxford University Lodge. Past members of which you will have read about in the history books from across the World.
Coming closer to home though, Freemasonry in Henley began in 1881 with the formation of Thames Lodge No. 1895. It was a very popular lodge in its time, and many familiar names figure in its history, Hobbs, Brakspear etc. In the mid 1960s there was room for another lodge, and Temple Island Lodge No. 8031 was formed in October 1965. You can see by the lodge numbers how Freemasonry was growing. It has now topped the 10000 mark, and Oxfordshire’s latest lodge is Sir William Morris Lodge No. 10003, and that’s named after a person who was very local to Henley – Lord Nuffield. Did you know that he was also a Freemason for over 60 years? He was a generous benefactor and gave the equivalent of almost 2 billion pounds to charity. The new lodge is unsurprisingly aimed at people who are interested in cars.
Henley’s largest masonic lodge
Although Temple Island lodge is now the largest lodge in Henley there are still plenty of other lodges to choose from – it just depends on what days suit you the best, what your interests are, and what you want from your Freemasonry.
There’s Shiplake Lodge, with very enthusiastic members that it would be fair to say have a leaning toward those enthusiastic about motorcycles.
Danesfield Lodge, which is the daughter lodge of Temple Island, and originally set up by members of RAF Danesfield – famous for it’s aircraft reconnaissance during WW2. Sadly, since RAF Danesfield was decommissioned, the lodge has lost it’s ties with the Royal Air Force.
Upper Thames Lodge is another vibrant lodge that shares the Henley Masonic Centre, and was originally formed by Freemasons who were interested in motor boating on the Thames, and it’s still acceptable to wear a reefer jacket to a meeting although I don’t think anyone has for years.
Again, linked to the river, there’s Regattas Lodge. This is one of 3 rower’s lodges in the country, the other 2 being in London. It’s pretty self explanatory really, but if you visit one of their meetings you’ll have to expect the unexpected!
And finally, we have Round Table Thames Valley Lodge – which is a small but happy lodge, not unsurprisingly formed by those associated with the Round Tablers.
The beautiful thing about Freemasonry is that once you are a member of a lodge, you are able to visit other lodges pretty much wherever you are… not just Henley, but Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire – all over Britain and the World. And each and every time you visit, you’ll be welcomed in as if they’ve known you for years. Try it! It’s fantastic!
To find out more about joining a Freemasons’ lodge in Henley on Thames, get in touch here.