Catalogue ReferenceR/D137
TitleReading Philanthropic Institution
RepositoryBerkshire Record Office (code: GB 005)
Extent21 vols, 30 bdls, 29 docs
Admin HistoryThe Reading Philanthropic Institution was founded in June 1822 by John Watts as an offshoot of its sister organisation in London, the Western Union Philanthropic Institution, founded in 1811, which had decided to expand to the surrounding area. The Reading 'Phil', as it was labelled by its members, was the ninth of over thirty supplementary lodges to be created, and first met in the Old Peacock Inn, Broad Street. Arguing that the support of the Welfare State [after 1948] still left large numbers of people in need, the Institution pledged to work 'for others, not ourselves'. Popular activities included assisting the infirm and elderly, providing relief for the poor and needy, and endeavouring to reform criminals so that they could rejoin society.

The Institution swiftly expanded its influence in Reading Borough and gained three hundred members in its first year, receiving much publicity for mass campaigns such as distributing food parcels among the poor during the winter months. These activities continued for many years; notably, the Corn Exchange in Newbury was filled with 1800 parcels to be given to the poor in December 1935.

The Institution maintained a strong connection with the royal family throughout its existence, and letters were often posted to Buckingham Palace regarding the Phil's achievements and aspirations. This royal connection was reflected in the high calibre of the institution's members - the Dukes of Kent and Cambridge were both early patrons of the original London lodge, and the Reading branch maintained amicable relations with the mayor, who often attended events. Whilst the institution never had its own headquarters, its members usually met in local hotels and inns using, amongst others, Reading's George Hotel in the late nineteenth century and the Elephant Hotel in Pangbourne in the 1960s as meeting places.

The Institution balanced its activities with a heavy emphasis on social activity, and organised many dances, dinners, and celebrations for its members. The Institution and its larger London organisation hosted each other once a year, allowing members to meet like-minded individuals from other areas.

Faced with dwindling membership and rising maintenance cost, the Reading Philanthropic Institution was dissolved in 1980.
ArrangementArrrangement of catalogue

1. Minutes
2. Membership
3. Rules
4. Reports
5. Annual dinner programmes
6. Miscellaneous
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