The earliest Spiritualist Church group in Reading seems to have started in 1906 when five people, lead by Mr. Percy Street, met regularly in the basement room of the Edwards Hotel, Belgrave Street, Reading. The hotel manager, also showed great interest in Spiritualism. This ‘Spiritualist Mission’ was the forerunner of the Reading Spiritualist Church.
From 1923, the church rented a number of halls for public meetings and services. After a while a regular meeting place was found, called the Foresters’ Hall, and they stayed there for nine years.
Afterwards, a more permanent property was found in Crown Street, Reading, that had a fourteen year lease. The Mayoress of Reading, Mrs E.G. Holden, opened the, Crown Street, church building in September 1935. A large number of people witnessed the ceremony, presided over by Mrs S. Jackson, the church President. A great deal of work was necessary on this century-old building. It had been a school, but soon the interior was transformed, refurbished and well lighted into a church with seating for 200. The church was well attended, but in 1966, we had to vacate the building due to proposed ‘IDR’ road works in the area.
In 1966, a property known as York Lodge, Baker Street, Reading was found. The property had been neglected and vandalised with the garden badly overgrown. The church did not have sufficient money to buy it so they decided to borrowed £18,000 from the Spiritualists’ National Union. In today’s figures this equates to £240,000, some thought that it would be impossible to repay and many volunteers were needed to do the plastering, paper hanging, carpentry, electrics, decorating, roofing, clearing the garden, and helping out etc. Another small committee was formed to raise money and appeal for members’ to provide the furnishings. New material was bought and made into heavy velvet curtains for the window at the back of the rostrum. The rostrum rail of anodised aluminium was made and given by the church secretary. The main group of helpers consisted of :-
Mr & Mrs Lawrence Mr & Mrs Parish Mr & Mrs Selway Mr & Mrs Thompson & children
Mr & Mrs Tyler Mr & Mrs J. Hunt Mr E. Sinnett Mr & Mrs Blower
Mr & Mrs Williams Mr & Mrs B. Hunt Mr F. Pope Mr B. Foe
Mrs T. Gould Mr J. Lines Mr H. Means Mr G. Wyer
On 8th October 1966, Dr. John Winning, President of the SNU, performed the dedication ceremony and opened the Reading National Spiritualist Church. At 6.45 pm, Member of Parliament for Reading, John Lee, declared the building open for public worship.
Soon after the opening of the church, a lawn was laid, and a hundred rose bushes, given by members in memory of their loved ones, were planted. The years following were busy fundraising times for the members to ensure the SNU loan could be repaid. Jumble sales, coffee mornings, social evenings, garden parties, and the Christmas bazaar. The debt of £18,000 plus interest, amounting to £26,000 was finally paid off after 11 years.
(Original wording for this history was by Mrs Doris Rose)