Royals’ plea to fix founder's graveBy Paul Robins
May 14, 2010
getreading is calling on fans to do their bit to help preserve a piece of Reading Football Club’s history.
The gravestone of Joseph Sydenham – who founded the club in 1871 – has run into disrepair and needs to be restored to its former glory.
Loyal Royal Geoff Jerome stumbled upon the broken monument, which has lost part of its headstone – while tending to family members’ graves at Reading Old Cemetery in Cemetery Junction.
He said he contacted the club to ask Sir John Madejski if he could pay for the restoration, but got no reply. However, the club told getreading yesterday it was looking into the costs of repairing the resting place.
Mr Jerome is hoping kind-hearted fans will support plans to help protect the memory of the “first father of Reading”.
Geoff, 62, from Didcot, said: “It is so sad to see the grave in such a poor state. This is the first father of Reading FC we are talking about.
“Without him the club wouldn’t be what it is today.”
“Other clubs have statues and memorials outside the ground but at Reading there is nothing to commemorate these figures.”
Geoff – whose dad Ron worked as a steward at Elm Park during the 1970s and 80s – believed the grave was damaged several years ago.
“I reckon a tree branch has fallen down and knocked it off. I hope Reading fans and the club can come together to restore it,” he said.
Mr Sydenham, a local jeweller, was just 27 when he chaired the inaugural meeting of the club at the Bridge Street Rooms in 1871, and became the club’s first Honorary Secretary.
Reading FC spokesman Craig Mortimer-Zhika said: “Mr Sydenham is hugely important to the club and we want his memory to be respected in the right manner.
“We are working closely with STAR [Supporters’ Trust At Reading] and are in the process of accessing the finances.”
Jon Keen, STAR vice chairman, said they had been in touch with a stonemaker but this had been delayed because they were unable to track down the well-hidden grave.
“This is something we are very keen to contribute to,” he said.
“There is not much to show the history of Reading FC before John Madejski, and we are looking at how we can help.”
He added volunteers would be needed to help maintain the grave in the future.
Julian Walker, managing director of Reading funeral firm A B Walker & Son, estimated a repair bill in excess of £3,000.
He added the cemetery authority would have to grant permission for repairs and could only do so with the owner of the grave’s consent.