Part Two: Captain Charles Warren and Lodge of Research QC

Sporadic concern had been expressed by citizens, who included EFs, about problems ‘at home’ caused by industrialisation, but in 1883-4 working class poverty became a major social question when WT Stead turned the Pall Mall Gazette into a journal of crusade. His was a response to a small, anonymous pamphlet, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London, published in 1883 and credited with awakening the ‘social conscience of the churches’ to a contradiction at the heart of mid-Victorian economic and cultural complacency. [ccclxxv] For England’s middle and upper classes of ‘the late 1860s and early 1870s the liberal utopia had never seemed nearer’ but it was radically undermined ‘by the spectre of the East End “residuum”, their anxiety only increasing when the ‘journalistic depictions of G. R. Sims and Andrew Mearns, and the social research led by Charles Booth, revealed the residuum’s persistence and proliferation in the face of, by then, substantial charitable and State attempts to eradicate it’. [ccclxxvi] ‘Outcast London’, the families of casual labourers caught in a cycle of endemic poverty, was a ‘demoralized’ community ‘cast adrift from the salutary presence and leadership of men of wealth and culture.’ These people were ‘a potential threat to the riches and civilization of London and the Empire’. [ccclxxvii] I have to assume QC members discussed the suffering, strikes and riots on its door-steps, since member No 13 on the QC Register, Riley, authored an 1888 article in the Freemason’s Chronicle arguing ‘Modern Freemasonry’ was by its very nature ‘a social and moral reformer’: ‘…Freemasonry is capable of making us all wiser and better men – better husbands – better fathers and better citizens. There are no good aspirations and no benevolent or charitable tendencies that it does not encourage: hence its capacity to instil into our hearts moral lessons that we must carry home, and…feel present in all the concerns of our daily life…We want…those… members who strive to understand our whole system, practice Freemasonry, and whose lives shine as living exemplars of our true principles…’ [ccclxxviii]

There is no evidence in the published documents that Lodge QC, No. 2076, was even aware it had a domestic context. But at least one founder could not ignore the reality. Walter Besant, was by the 1880’s, like his sister-in-law, Annie, personally involved in attempting practical solutions. And like hers, his concerns pre-dated the 1883 media frenzy over homelessness. Already a successful writer and while continuing to work as PEF Secretary, he wrote a number of utopian novels and involved himself in work to improve the lives of London’s poor. Knighted in 1895, he was the social observer and reformer that QC collectively was not. His 1882 fantasy novel of slum regeneration, All Sorts and Conditions of Men, imagined a ‘Palace of Delight’, a place for working class recreation and education. No mention of this book has ever appeared in AQC, though his conception led directly to the building of London’s People’s Palace, with which he became heavily involved.[ccclxxix] In 1884, the charitable Beaumont Trust began gathering donations to begin construction in Mile-End Road, Whitechapel. Donations dried up in a mid-decade recession and the plans ‘drifted further and further’ from his original ‘Palace of Delight’ towards middle class notions of a makeshift vocational experiment. In 1886, working with the Salvation Army, he proposed a conference on ‘Women’s Labour’ at almost the same time that Annie Besant was lecturing on ‘Slums and the Men Who Made Them’. Their parallel concerns might have generated mutual respect, even collaboration. Their physical paths may have crossed before 1887 when their conceptions of ‘Freemasonry’ clashed in very dramatic circumstances.

This is again ironic as in his many writings there are indications that Walter’s youthful enthusiasm for EF had waned and that, in his maturity, QC was not high on his list of priorities. In the 4th edition of a work he co-authored with Palmer on Jerusalem, he wrote: ‘…(This was first) written in the years 1870 and 1871…(I) was then one of those whom the vexed questions of the Holy City and its topography still held enchained…’ [ccclxxx] In the ‘Preface to the First Edition’ appeared this sceptical disclaimer: ‘…There is nothing sacred about the actors in this long story we have to tell, and we have not thought it necessary to invest them…with an appearance of sanctity because they fought for the City of Sacred Memories, or because they bore the Cross upon their shoulders. We have endeavoured to show them as they were…always men and women, never saints.’ [ccclxxxi] His autobiography has his involvement with Freemasonry as an afterthought: ‘…There were many other societies in which I was interested…On my return to England I joined a lodge. I have never been an enthusiast for the rites and ceremonies of the (Craft), but I have always understood its great capabilities as a social and religious force…(It) has developed a species of doctrine, vague and without a defined creed, which is to some of its members a veritable religion…’ [ccclxxxii] A recent reviewer of his 1882 book has marked his consciousness of Hebrews and their language ‘as the lingua franca of ancient Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Judea (which) is not surprising given Besant’s Christian Zionism (SC, p. 212). [One of his fictional creations] Angela refers to Fagg [perhaps Besant himself] as ‘a Hebrew scholar’ whose research took place in the British Museum.’

The Museum’s Reading Room in 1889 was, apparently, an egalitarian space with ‘wonderful accessibility’ for a wide spectrum of visitors, traversing boundaries of class, nation, gender, and occupation: ‘For some it is a workshop, for others a lounge; there are those who put it to the highest uses, while in many cases it serves as a shelter, — a refuge, in more senses than one, for the destitute.’ The Room, visited much earlier by the likes of brother Matthew Cooke, had become ‘a multipurpose sphere, a knowledge factory, a club, an asylum’, which like the BM as a whole, contrasted with men-only clubs such as QC in its approach to gender and in its openness to current affairs: ‘…(Many of the) women (who) were readers at the British Museum… participated in activist work through publications, speeches, or forms of organizing on behalf of poor East End workers.’ These women included Beatrice Potter (later Webb), Eleanor Marx, and Annie Besant.

Walter wrote very little about his immediate family – his brother Frank is only vaguely recognised – while ‘not even the slightest hint’ is given of his sister-in-law.[ccclxxxiii] Shy, methodical Frank had been ordained by the Bishop of Winchester in 1865, and the next year had met Annie Wood whom he wed in 1867. Almost immediately they had realised their incompatibility. An avid reader of tracts and sermons as a girl, Annie Besant was an early questioner of the Bible, but her increasingly violent husband, she later said, was horrified or ‘sanctimoniously rebukeful’ of her maturing attitudes. She was helped out of physical and emotional depression by a friend’s introduction ‘to the works of humanistic liberals and ‘Broad Churchmen’ such as John Stuart Mill and JFD Maurice’, and by a doctor who brought and discussed books on anatomy, physiology and science: ‘When this physical crisis was over, Annie determined on her future course of action…She decided to take every Christian dogma as taught in the churches, and analyse and examine it for demonstrable truth.’ [ccclxxxiv] In 1871, she ventured into a meeting in London where the recently expelled Reverend Voysey was preaching. He had decided he was a theist rather than an Anglican Christian. That is, he believed in the existence and unity of a God who is both immanent and transcendent in the world and with whom there is the possibility of a personal relationship, but he no longer believed in many of the doctrines and dogmas of the modern church. Annie apparently believed that her brother-in-law would have understood her situation. She has an anecdote in her Autobiography which suggests that he thought ‘all educated persons must hold the views’ she published in 1873, but it seems Walter refused to support her. He provided for his nephew’s education, her son, but appears to have worked behind the scenes to curtail her public progress.[ccclxxxv]

Her collaborator after 1874 in atheism and free thought matters, Charles Bradlaugh, founded the National Secular Society in 1866, was its first President and organised its Hall of Science in 1868. Another determined survivor, in his case, of the military, social ostracism, bankruptcy and an alcoholic wife, he introduced Annie to public speaking on a broad range of reforms, including women’s suffrage. Their meetings were as often broken up by the police as by infuriated opposition groups.[ccclxxxvi] In Bradlaugh’s paper, women’s rights, birth control, European politics and racial discrimination jostled with exchanges over moral and religious issues. He and Annie stood together publically but her views of EF are not known. His membership of the GOF was initially accepted by an EF lodge, and thus by UGLE, but then vehemently repudiated.[ccclxxxvii]

Bradlaugh had eyed a parliamentary seat from at least 1867, but his health was already weakened by years of privation and long working hours when he was ‘permitted’ to take his seat in 1886. Still in debt, he was to die soon after, in 1891, but as ‘Bradlaugh MP’ he abandoned street activism. For this, he was roundly abused by a new generation of socialists, anarchists, free thinkers and self-declared workers’ champions, among whom were many like Annie who had determinedly become highly-educated and were able to make effective use of the newly available information. She was one of the first women admitted into London University, achieving first class honours in Botany, but was then barred from the city’s Botanical Gardens.[ccclxxxviii] Her frenetic routines of speaking and pamphleteering involved her with GB Shaw, William Morris and similarly powerful men but although physically attractive herself and an advocate of birth control, she retained the prudish, even ‘school-marmish’ attitudes of her upbringing towards her more bohemian colleagues. She was a constant provider of amazement and notoriety for ‘the tabloids’, but remained intent on finding personal answers to her original questions – where does truth lie? who can I trust? Among the radicals, class, gender and race-based distrust were rife. Marxist Communism was denigrated as ‘a foreign school’ by English members of the Democratic Federation who thought ’most of the socialists, (Karl Marx, Leibnecht, Engels) were Germans, (and) mostly insolent and intolerant’.[ccclxxxix]




Learned journals show Germans setting the pace in a number of research areas, eg Schliemann in mid-century archaeology. Throughout the 19th century, German Masonic historiographers strenuously objected to EF’s insistence that it knew best. Genteel tussles between them warmed further after the Prussian victory in 1870–71. Diplomatic struggles were reflected in street protests at German immigrants, many of whom were Jewish. When the young Kaiser Wilhelm came to power in 1888, he dismissed Chancellor Bismarck and sought to increase Germany’s influence through an aggressive policy known as ‘Weltpolitik’. The resulting naval ‘arms race’ heightened tensions and generated further waves of unease, some expressed in literary form, eg, in the ‘invasion novel’ such as The Battle of Dorking, in which Britain was threatened by German forces. There was money to be made by stirring this pot, too. In 1894 Alfred Harmsworth, later Viscount Northcliffe, commissioned rabid, anti-German author William Le Queux to write the serial novel The Great War in England in 1897, which featured Germany, France and Russia combining to crush Britain. In 1896, the Kaiser congratulated President Kruger of the Transvaal for resisting the ‘Jameson Raid’, an opportunist intervention by a poorly-organised force, inspired by Cecil Rhodes if not at his direction, to take Johannesburg from the Boers. Penman, writing in 1967, thought that the Jameson Raid ‘blasted…to bits’ the Masonic camaraderie of Rhodes and Dutch members of his Goed Hope Lodge. A British administrator in Africa in the 1890’s wrote: ‘…The Jameson Raid converted the dislike, which was growing up between the British of South Africa and of the United Kingdom on the one hand, and the Boers of the Transvaal on the other, into a positive hatred.’ Among other consequences, ‘Freemasonry’ in South Africa was lumped with secret societies such as the incipient Broederbond and abrogated by the powerful Dutch Reform Church. Nevertheless, the most noticeable national grouping other than English/British among QC’s earliest contributors and participants was that of ‘Germans’.

Anticipating QC’s establishment, an April, 1880 Rev Woodford editorial in The Freemason observed:‘…There are many German writers, and one or two Americans, who might be mentioned, but all have faults of deficient criticism. Bros D Murray Lyon, WJ Hughan, Gould, Woodford and Whytehead may all be cited in England as seeking to establish an English Masonic critical school, which endeavours to demonstrate that English Masons can carefully collate evidences, verify authorities, and write correctly and dispassionately…’ [cccxc] He wrote later in that same year: ‘…One fact is very remarkable for the Masonic student, – the onward and rapid steps of Christian Masonry. It is rapidly assuming a very leading position, and it is possible that this movement, this recurrence to the earlier teaching of Christianised Guilds, without intolerance of other teachings, is destined to be a “mark” of the age in which we live…’ [cccxci] In 1881 he wrote at greater length: ‘It is well known to many Masonic students…how important a part, in the history of the German Steinmetzen, for instance the legend of the ‘Quatuor Coronati’ plays…Bro Findel has based mainly on this fact the derivation of English Freemasonry from German. But a critical analysis of his argument by no means supports so hasty a conclusion…’ [cccxcii] His 1886 Oration in opening QC allowed that it was the Steinmetzen who had had the four martyrs as their ‘earliest patron saints’, but that Findel’s 1870’s assertion that the legend of Quatuor Coronati was ‘proof of the German origin of English Freemasonry’ could not be sustained.[cccxciii]

Famed English historian, Trevelyan, before the 1914 War lamented that ‘the historians of today were trained by the Germanising hierarchy’ to regard “history” not as a ‘story’ but as a ‘science’. In Evan’s words, Trevelyan thought: ‘the Germanising tendencies of the period…were authoritarian and hierarchical, and unsuited to the liberal intellectual traditions of (England).’ [cccxciv] For Lodge QC to have instituted in the 1880’s a fact-based approach to Masonic research, let alone to achieve a wholly ‘scientific’ history of Freemasonry, it would have had to have been decades ahead of most professional English historians. In the context, the name taken by Lodge 2076 in the 1880’s was a raspberry, a finger of provocation at German historians and German Freemasonry.

Speth, QC’s first secretary, was quite adamant in his chapter on the German stonemasons in Volume 1 of Gould’s The History: ‘That the first seeds of architecture in Germany were planted by the Christian missionaries [ie from outside Germany] is indisputable’.[cccxcv] His certainty after only a short study of the material is remarkable. In his first, and QC’s second presentation in 1886, he set out to demolish the Steinmetzen connection and end all thought of an EF debt to German history.[cccxcvi] He believed that he could ‘expose’ the scholars ‘inventing’ the connection: ‘For this purpose I propose to glance at the works of those authors who have contributed to this theory.’ The fact that the well-known Bro Mackey and others in the US had adopted the Steinmetzen theory only showed their gullibility, in his view. Even on the page, Speth’s paper seems melodramatic, and very heated: ‘…(We) may conclude that Fallon’s followers were endowed with all the blind unquestioning faith of little children, but were free from their awkward propensity to ask untimely questions.’(p.23)

In 1889, his translation of an article by Cramer, ‘The Origins of Freemasonry’ followed his unsigned review that year of the German’s larger text. The review asserted a ‘fundamental difference’ between two distinct ‘Freemasonries’, no longer pre- and post-1717, but ‘Germanic’ and ‘British’ and therefore different because of the different natures of the people involved: ‘For (German Masons) it is not sufficient that Freemasonry is. (That being) without definite plans of a comprehensive sort (it only tends) to the amelioration of humanity. They want to know where they are going, why they are going there, and (then) to follow this path…’ [cccxcvii] [My emphasis] Bro Cramer, he paraphrased, thought Freemasonry should be ‘a great world and manners-reforming society’, a band of missionaries trained to execute ‘social science reform’: ‘He gives instruction for testing the candidates, perfect instructions in their way, but which would…(exclude) 99 out of every 100 English masons… Having acquired these members…the lodge must first form them to its purpose. The discipline includes the practice of severe self-examination daily, and, worst of all, the submission of one’s actions to the criticism of the brotherhood.’ Teutonic and by definition therefore, extreme, Cramer’s Masonry was not to be entertained: ‘…We in England are a practical people, providing for each case as it arises, and not much given to analysis or determination of the eternal fitness of things. In this spirit we have grasped Freemasonry. It has grown and developed amongst us – it is not now, in its essence and nature, what it was 150 years ago – but we have never deliberately or consciously given it a tendency this way or the other…’

Cramer’s account of Masonry’s origins detailed English religious and political strife during the 17th and 18th centuries and concluded that: ‘We can now no longer be in doubt that the Freemasons Lodges which arose in 1717 were nothing else but a new sort of Club…’ Initially intent on showing a-political, tolerant sociability in action, ‘(the) young institution…entered upon a lengthened period of decadence and schism.’ Of special note in German eyes was that: ‘… No encouragement, no indications to intellectual pursuits was afforded the new lodges, no support, not even the ritual, a knowledge of which was nevertheless expected of all the members…’ (Schiffman quoted by Cramer)… ‘(Such) it has remained in England to the present day; the first charge has been slightly altered as regards its verbiage, but respecting Freemasonry and its purpose it is not one whit more explicit than in 1723.’ (p.108) In AQC, Speth dismissed Cramer’s central thesis as ‘too visionary and impracticable for Englishmen’: ‘…The theory there expounded is not absolutely new – it has long been held by a large school of German thinkers…(May) we be preserved from following the French train of thought, whilst as regards Germans it is very fine and praiseworthy, but totally unlike anything that Freemasonry ever was, or is, or probably will be.‘ [cccxcviii]

RF Gould, better known than Speth as a Masonic historian, was equivocal. In The History he referred to the Steinmetzen, and to EF’s possible German origins, only to send readers to Chapter 3 (Speth). In Lodge QC’s first paper, ‘On Some Old Scottish Customs’, he treated ‘Scottish Masonry as something distinct and different from the Freemasonry of England’ and sought support for his position in a quotation ‘bearing upon the much-disputed point whether the Masonry of these Islands received at any time a Gallic or a German tinge’: “The conquest of the South [in 1066] of course changed its position towards the North, England became Normandized, while Scotland not only retained her old Teutonic character but became a place of refuge for the Saxon fugitives.” [cccxcix] In his memoirs much later, Gould pointedly praised none of his co-founders, instead celebrating four ‘leading scholars’, the first of which was German: Begemann, Klein, Crawley and D’Alviola. But despite Gould’s saying that he thought Begemann’s work was ‘masterly’, and despite nine of this German brother’s papers being considered suitable for The Transactions between 1886 and 1908, Begemann was never admitted to ‘the Inner Circle’ of QC. Translation of his painstaking work into the origins of Scottish, Irish and English Masonry was continually stalled within QC and at times he was overtly denigrated. Up until 1971, his contributions were often excluded altogether from indexes produced by QC. Bernheim has detailed this sorry tale and concluded that even a ‘belated tribute’ given by Knoop and Jones in the 1943 Transactions and in their 1946 book, The Genesis of Freemasonry, was problematic. His suggestion of the underlying cause seems overly generous to EF: ‘…Begemann transgressed one unwritten law of Quatuor Coronati Lodge – only native historians may exert critics about the masonic history of their own country – which goes so far that a kind of self-censure results in most English members refraining from commenting upon Scottish and Irish masonic history.’ [cd]


Warren as Imperial Policeman


Thoughtful scholars have linked the Home Rule movements in South Africa and Ireland, but not on espionage grounds. Carnarvon’s scheme to protect ‘white civilisation’ in Africa collapsed in 1878, as had been predicted when he proposed it. As British Colonial Secretary in 1874 he had imposed ‘his’ Canadian system of confederation on the various states of Southern Africa to prevent a “general and simultaneous rising of Kaffirdom against white civilization.” No worse than other Whitehall-based schemes to safeguard control of the Cape, his plan was especially badly implemented. [cdi] Whatever the detail of the policy, local knowledge was not considered important, the indigenous networks were not regarded as usable, and the field was left to missionaries who brought a different approach: ‘(In Africa there) was a powerful body of Christian philanthropists who believed that these [indigenous] races could be raised to standards of education and conduct which would place them alongside Europeans.’ [cdii] Theories about native peoples being obstacles to civilisation, or, alternatively, that they were cruelly suppressed by their rulers or by slave traders and needed to be saved, were pushed to Government, in public lectures, to government and in universities where they became new disciplines such as anthropology. [cdiii] Dr Livingstone’s successor at the London Missionary Society, a passionate advocate of indigenous rights, the Reverend John Mackenzie, was made Deputy-Commissioner for the Transvaal by the re-elected but divided Gladstonian Cabinet trying very hard to avoid a costly military intervention. But, ‘his actions pleased no-one.’ [cdiv] Having succeeded in his part of the Egyptian project, Warren, in December, 1884, was made HM’s Special Commissioner to assert British sovereignty over Bechuanaland. Leading 4,000 men in ‘a military expedition’ he achieved his aims, apparently without bloodshed. But since he had employed Mackenzie as his adviser, something which probably shows his own religious loyalties, Rhodes sulked, negotiations broke down and the situation spiralled into further intransigence. Gladstone was put out by the electors, Warren, recalled by Tory leader Salisbury, returned to London at the end of 1885 as Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George and as Liberal Party candidate for Sheffield.

QC Lodge had been given its charter, which allowed it to begin operating, in 1884, but because the other founders chose to wait on Warren’s return from Bechuanaland, it was not ‘consecrated’ until he was back in the country and his parliamentary bid had failed. His installation as Worshipful Master [WM] of QC took place on 12 January, 1886, his appointment ‘to command the troops’ and ‘administer the civil government’ at Suakin [Red Sea port for the Sudan] became known on the 19th January, and he was back in Alexandria, Egypt, on the 29th, two days after the Salisbury Tory Government chose to cede office back to Gladstone and the Liberal Party.

Opposed to Home Rule, Salisbury had been informed that further Fenian bombings were imminent. With almost its dying breath his government removed the roadblock on Bradlaugh taking his seat in the House and allowed itself to be defeated in a minor vote. Salisbury was confident that a Gladstone/Parnell alliance could not hold, and allowing the GOM and the Liberals to wear the consequences of increasing unrest could well result in a Tory return to office with both Irish agitation and the Liberal opposition tarnished beyond repair. ‘…Lord Salisbury’s game was ‘risky and devious’…:‘to lure the Liberal leadership into a trap from which it could not escape, thereby emasculating it whilst protecting the Union [with Ireland] which he always believed Britain had a debt of honour to defend.’ [cdv]

On his party’s brief return to power in mid-1885, Carnarvon had been made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, his time in office remarkable only for a conflict over personal veracity between himself and leading Irish MP, Parnell whom he had met ‘secretly’, supposedly at the request of Howard Vincent, outgoing Director of the CID.[cdvi] The Tory leader, Salisbury thought Carnarvon ‘a Tory magnate of the old school, reliable and, more importantly, amenable.’ [cdvii] The Prime Minister would later loudly ‘deny he had any knowledge of the Mayfair meeting – at the same time binding Carnarvon to silence.’ After that Ministry gave way to Gladstone’s early in 1886, Carnarvon, with no official government position, undertook a world trip ‘for his health’ ostensibly at the behest of his Grand Master, the Prince of Wales. Daniel has disputed Harland-Jacobs’ claims that:

* on his visit to South Africa (in 1887) “his… imperialist and Masonic agendas merged”,

* he travelled as “an official representative of” and “enthusiastic ambassador’ for the Imperial Federation League, and

* at “Every step along the way he rallied Freemasons to the cause of the Imperial Institute.[cdviii]

Daniel has argued that ‘Carnarvon did not exploit Freemasonry while in South Africa for the promotion of specifically colonial or imperial ideas.’ [cdix] The punishing schedule of travel/visits/speeches he undertook there over 13 days, and the substance of the speeches he gave suggests otherwise. Daniel devalued his own case by basing his assertions on rhetoric, not evidence. For example, he baldly asserted: ‘As Freemasons, the members of the ‘Dutch’ and English Constitutions in South Africa had no political, national or imperial agendas…’ The rest of this sentence, asserting that: ‘…(Masons’) mutual desire to promote social morality, and their ability to transcend their ‘racial’ differences, were values and strengths that Carnarvon could play to and support, as a Freemason, and as a statesman.’ is an attempt, among other things, to de-contextualise this ‘statesman’ by removing from consideration the hugely volatile arena in which he was moving. But, having contended that Masons have no agenda, Daniel then asserted that the Masonic ‘strategy’ which Carnarvon was pursuing would strengthen South Africa and thus assist in ‘the maintenance of the empire.’(p.147) A few pages before, Daniel was happy to note that after installing the Prince of Wales as GM in 1874 he had advised that worthy in the following year to uphold a request by two English Masons at the Cape to divide the Province, ‘masonically’, into Districts, in order to: ‘improve local administration, stymie the ‘English’ masons who had begun to think about forming a United Grand Lodge of South Africa, and prevent … control of the Craft in South Africa…(falling)…into Dutch hands.’ (p.139) These are profoundly political motivations.           Neither was there any separation between Carnarvon’s Masonry and his imperial politics when in January, 1887, QC Secretary Speth distributed a ‘Circular No 8 – Confidential’ to all QC members announcing that the GM had approved Carnarvon’s idea of ‘a great representative Meeting of English Freemasons in Masonic clothing’ being called to ‘agree to an “Address of Congratulations to Her Majesty for the Jubilee Celebrations, 1887.’ [cdx] Being ‘…fully confident none are more loyal and devoted to their Sovereign than the Freemasons who owe allegiance to the Grand Lodge of England…’ the author invited a ‘voluntary subscription’ for ‘the erection of the proposed Imperial Institute of the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and India.’ The Circular’s concluding paragraph directed all lodges to consider the Institute proposal. In March, Speth announced that QC members had voted 10-2 against ‘the proposal.’[cdxi] Considering that their loyalty was not in doubt, the vote must reflect the members’ lack of resources.

Warren’s appointment to Suakin came in the wake of the ‘Drummond Wolff Commission’ to Egypt, which is important here only because a report by ‘the Cairo correspondent’ for The Times of a meeting in January 1886 between the Khedive, the Ottoman Sultan Muktar Pasha, and Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, son of the Reverend Joseph Wolff of Bokhara fame, included this comment: ‘…(All) parties having taken solemn vows of secrecy, the results are shrouded in mystery…In fact, each of the distinguished personages being a Freemason it is believed that the proceedings were as important and as impenetrable as those of any “close tyled lodge.” ‘ If this ‘correspondent’ is Moberly Bell, a Mason, the report’s intention is to satirise ‘from the inside’ an unwanted political development. In a second report, Wolff, described as ‘a Freemason of the deepest dye and founder of the Primrose League’, is said to be shrouding the talks in lodge-like secrecy which the correspondent suggests means that what is happening behind the screen is of no account. [cdxii]

On 8 February, rioting around Trafalgar Square caught the authorities off-guard. It was followed by two days of shadow-boxing in a deep fog: ‘…Shops were closed and boarded up, and the police went around warning tradesmen to expect new attacks…The gates of Downing Street were shut and special precautions were taken at government offices…Troops were confined to barracks in the company of magistrates who were to read the Riot Act when the mob approached.’ [cdxiii] Barely unpacked in Suakin, Warren was informed that the Chief Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police had resigned on 26 February and that the position was his. Queen Victoria approved his appointment on 13 March and he arrived back at Dover on the 30th March to begin another totally unexpected, but this time, desk-bound job.

The London Metropolitan Police, formed in 1829, included a designated Detective Branch by 1842, and in 1877, a Criminal Investigation Department. Warren assumed the Commissioner’s role in 1886 when it was generally believed that London’s detective force, 400 men in summer and 700 in winter, mostly pursued ‘embezzlements, forgeries and other similar matters’. Only as an aside was it admitted that: ‘…It also does a great deal of government work, both for the British crown and for the governments of foreign countries…The foreign correspondence is an important item…’ Porter, in 1987, argued that Britain had had no ‘political police’ before they were forced upon a reluctant administration by late-19th century Fenian plots against London and Queen Victoria. His narrow focus explained the origins of what he called ‘the Vigilant State’ by focusing on ‘detectives charged with keeping a watch on potential subversives’ and ‘with preventing or punishing…political crime’.[cdxiv] He claimed that the lack of such a body before 1877 reflected British confidence that its citizens and its governments ‘played fair’ and that its free press was sufficient watchdog against underhand doings. He quoted Charles Dickens who apparently also believed: ‘We have no political police, no police over opinion. The most rabid demagogue can say whatever he chooses…He speaks not under the terror of an organised spy system…It is not so across the Channel. (BP, 1987, p.2) According to Porter, Victorians at mid-century believed the best answer to revolutionary subversion was to have no State surveillance: ‘Britain’s security lay in the fact that her people were contented; the obverse of this was that the Continent’s insecurity was its own fault…’ (p.3)

The 1882 Phoenix Park murders in Dublin, near civil war conditions in Ireland and fatal bombings in 1881, 1883, 1884 and 1885, had signalled a new level of domestic threat. The thought of Jubilee celebrations and the Queen’s well-known refusal to deny her public a chance to see her were further reasons for ‘special police arrangements’ in the metropolis. Living what was the deepest economic depression for decades close by UGLE’s offices, the lot of the London poor had deteriorated to the point where protest should have been expected but it appears attention of the authorities was on incoming Irish not desperate residents. The incomplete evidence appears to show that competing security units impeded one another’s efforts but that during Warren’s term in office various government-paid spies, informants and agent provocateurs managed to derail the plans of genuine plotters by getting them to associate with, among other things, a make-believe assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in 1887.[cdxv] ‘Persons of interest’ include faux bombers who prospered and genuine bombers who blew themselves up, were arrested or died suspicious deaths. As QC began to meet, tensions were high, prejudice was rampant and titillation and fear were so obvious they were exploitable. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde achieved cult status immediately it was published in 1886. Quickly brought to the stage its nightly audiences were happily terrified by ‘(the) transformation of the (lead actor) from Jekyll to Hyde…relying solely on changes in posture, facial expression and gait, (and probably lighting). It is likely that this feat of stagecraft exacerbated the prevailing fear…[cdxvi]

Warren’s appointment to head the police was welcomed by the Home News which thought that it gave ‘general satisfaction’: ‘Nobody but a soldier, trained and accustomed to deal with large bodies of men, could possibly discharge the functions of such a post…(His) varied experience in…administration…afford ample guarantees for the efficiency and success of his approaching reign in Scotland Yard.[cdxvii] Stead, an EF and evangelical Christian, also waxed positive as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette: ‘…We need hardly say how delighted we are with this appointment…From excavating the Temple at Jerusalem he is called to take in hand the restoration of discipline and efficiency in a force which has got sadly out of hand.’ [cdxviii] He expressed his great surprise when he was told of the choice made by Gladstone’s Home Secretary: ‘Mr Childers has, we frankly admit, taken away our breath by his selection of Sir Charles Warren…We never believed it possible that any Home Secretary could have taken so bold, so daring a step as this…’ Stead believed Warren was ‘a stern, just, incorruptible, religious man’ who brought Oliver Cromwell to mind, ‘a kind of belated Ironsides, born in a century which has but scant sympathy with his Puritan ideals’ :‘…What a time there will be at Scotland Yard. Alas, for the drunken superintendents, the superannuated officials and the incompetents everywhere…On all questions of social reform, education, the housing of the poor, etc, he is probably as advanced as any man below the gangway in the House of Commons…’ This last remark is especially ironic. It presumes Warren had been handed an opportunity to intervene in the downward spiral of appalling living conditions, massive unemployment and widespread political unrest. It was being suggested that he had a chance to bring his military experience and his compassion ‘for the natives’ to bear. These hopes were as poorly-grounded as the hopes that Lodge of Research QC would introduce science-based research. His appointment as Police Commissioner was not a result of his politics, his military experience, his religion, because he was next in line of seniority or because of his Masonic connections. It resulted simply from a very unusual set of circumstances, and his short stay in the job showed that the political fates had not finished with him.

With fear and loathing abroad and an orchestrated scandal engulfing Parnell, Gladstone lost office over his Irish policies in July, 1886, and, this time, seemed finished. The Times early in 1887 chose to publish forged material defaming Parnell which it certainly knew was fake since it had been coaching the forger and journalist, the unstable Richard Piggott. Its go-between, another of its journalists, Edward Houston was secretary of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union and had begun mobilising Orange opposition late in 1885 when Gladstone first began seriously entertaining the possibility of Home Rule legislation. Warren, appointed by a Liberal and only months in the job, now faced a triumphant Salisbury, the man who thought him flawed. As his second, part-time job, he had the task of launching an alleged new era in EF history.


Warren and the ‘Ripper Murders’


The crimes labelled ‘the Ripper Murders’ were not isolated incidents, but media focus on them above other attacks on women produced fear and loathing on a world-wide scale – a Kansas City newspaper reporting in October, 1888: ‘London has been more stirred up by the Whitechapel murders than by any crime committed in many years. The fact that so many women could be slaughtered, evidently by the same hand, and the murderer for so long a time elude the London police is a surprise to Londoners, who believe that they have the best police force in the world.’ [cdxix] Resources used in the investigation are unclear, obscured by secrecy around security demands and by the fact of there being two distinct police commands – the City of London and the Metropolitan police. Accounts show that detection methods involved little if any systematic accumulation of evidence, in the manner of the RE’s or of ‘Sherlock Holmes’: ‘…The hope and ambition of every East-End policeman – myself included – was to catch the Ripper red-handed. This seemed the only way. There was small chance of the killer being caught and convicted through circumstantial evidence. Of such evidence there was virtually none..’.(NC p.15) By default, blame for the culprit’s non-apprehension has fallen largely on Warren. US crime-writer, Patricia Cornwall referred to him in 2002, as ‘foolish’, as ‘a brusque, arrogant man who wore elaborate uniforms’ and whose answer to everything ‘was political subterfuge and force.’ She emphasised disguises adopted by the man she believed was the killer, Walter Sickert, and her marshalling of circumstantial evidence is well-managed, but in singling out ‘the Commissioner’ for censure she has ignored the political dynamics, especially the effect of the Fenian troubles which she does not mention at all. [cdxx]

The first murder commonly ascribed to ‘the Ripper’ occurred on 31 August, 1888, with a further four up to 8 November, the same evening Simpson was installed as the third WM of QC. Warren missed that ceremony but was not actively pursuing the killer, either. What evidence there is appears to show that he had been sidelined and kept away from this and other major investigations. He is known to have attended only one ‘Ripper’ scene but from that single event has been fashioned a great deal. At the location of the 30 September murder he erased graffiti referring to ‘Juwes’. When asked why he’d removed this potential clue, he replied that having wished to see the site for himself he had then acted to avoid possible local backlash against Jewish residents. One can only wonder at the motivation behind his desire to protect them. No photograph was taken in the haste to remove the words. They were copied down by hand but don’t appear to have been circulated or the site further examined. Having lost any evidentiary and forensic value it might have had by its removal, the ‘message’ appears to have played no further part, either in CID investigations or in the calls for his dismissal when they came. These are two quite remarkable absences.

Afterwards it was claimed that the police involved had been thorough, and conscientious: [cdxxi]…The efforts of the Metropolitan Police to catch the killer of Elizabeth Stride [30 September] were colossal. The members of the International Working Men’s Club were immediately searched, their clothes examined and statements taken. Some 80,000 leaflets appealing for information were distributed, in addition to house-to-house enquiries. The local common lodging houses were visited and 2,000 lodgers searched. Eighty people were detained at police stations, and enquiries were made into the movements of around 300 more..’ (NC, pp.30-1). None of this ‘circumstantial evidence’ appears to have survived. Neither it nor any other sign of ‘thorough and conscientious’ investigation has surfaced in any known retrospective analysis of the case, of which there have been many. But then, participant police memoirs have disagreed even about the number of ‘Ripper Murders,’ (NC, p.53.) while the broader ‘Ripper literature’ has rarely, if ever, gone beyond clichés to explore, for example, the street gangs of the time, police involvement, or government espionage endeavours gone wrong. The 1910 memoirs of a career ‘counter-intelligence operative’ named Anderson insisted a Polish Jew was responsible [cdxxii] but went no further than to say the police were unable to gather the necessary evidence: ‘…Having regard to the interest in the case, I am almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer…But no public benefit would result from such a course, and the traditions of my old department would suffer…’ (NC, p.48) This Anderson was the official ‘handler’ in Whitehall of the ‘undercover agent’, Thomas Beach, aka ‘Le Caron’ used by government in both the 1880’s counter-terrorist effort against Parnell and the Irish bombers, and in the successful penetration of an earlier Fenian plan to invade Canada, in 1870. In his memoirs, Beach described himself as having been a ‘military spy’ for 25 years.[cdxxiii] A Protestant zealot and an Orangeman, Anderson’s background from 1866, when he was first involved in summarising ‘all confidential reports and secret information’ at Dublin Castle for the then Home Secretary, and what is known of working arrangements within ‘the force’, point to Warren being a frustrated bystander rather than the man in charge.

In probable response to Warren’s intervention on 30 September, four events occurred in quick succession. On 8 October, Stead began a series of critical articles about the police and on 8 November Warren’s reply appeared in Murray’s Magazine. Mathews, Salisbury’s Home Secretary, immediately rebuked him, whereupon he resigned. Stead, fellow Mason and Christian that he was, had reversed his previous, strong advocacy of the benefits of discipline and had charged Warren with having attempted to militarise the force to the detriment of crime detection, and to having centralised control in his hands to the detriment of morale, initiative and community rapport: ‘… Sir Charles Warren is a very able General and a very excellent man, but…presiding over the Criminal Investigation Department is like a hen attempting to suckle kittens…Battalion drill avails nothing when the work to be done is the tracking down of a midnight assassin, and the qualities which are admirable enough in holding a position or dispersing a riot are worse than useless when the work to be done demands secrecy, cunning, and endless resource.’ [cdxxiv] In November, House of Commons debaters dissected his resignation. One sympathetic, fellow military officer thought him ‘a man rigidly careful of his duty’: ‘(I) would ask the House to consider the view such a man would take when a person invaded a province in which he believed that person had no right to interfere. In his letter to the Home Secretary Sir C. Warren said he would not have accepted the post of Chief Commissioner if he had believed someone outside might interfere with his duty.’ Another, less sympathetic, argued that: ‘After the disturbance in February, 1886, a Committee was appointed to consider whether the Metropolitan Police force should be reorganized. That Committee recommended the appointment of four chief constables (and) that the persons selected should be men of good social position who had seen service in the Army or Navy… Sir C. Warren quickly acted upon the recommendation of the Committee…We had a warning against the appointment of a military man as Chief Commissioner because the military profession was clannish, and a soldier would be sure to appoint military men to fill subordinate offices. The appointment of these chief constables (has) been a great mistake.’

Some of the known evidence can be read as proof that he was a stiff, upper-class warrior with little, human interest in, or concern for ‘the lower orders’. This image is most clearly seen in his determination to crush civil dissent in November the previous year, ‘Bloody Sunday’, when he apparently deemed it necessary to bring in the controlling determinants he knew and understood best. Waves of baton-wielding police, some on horseback, followed by massed charges of the Life Guards and the Scots Guards, rolled indiscriminately over peaceful and unarmed people, four of whom subsequently died. His own words a year later and after thirty months in the job can be cited. He wrote in Murray’s that: ‘London has for many years past been subject to the sinister influence of a mob stirred up into spasmodic action by restless demagogues.’ [cdxxv] He seems to have rated the Bantu, who could be educated and protected if not ‘saved’, above the poorer inhabitants of London and to have concluded that military force was more appropriate in a disturbed English city than on the veldt. His reflections on ‘The Police of the Metropolis’ in Murray’s have been described recently as ‘a combination of extreme tedium…and a proper whinge’: ‘The newspaper mockery had clearly driven this former soldier, unused to public oversight, well past breaking point.’ [cdxxvi] This interpretation is not convincing. He had experienced a severe Parliamentary pasting before and had been under public scrutiny for a number of years before 1888. It seems more likely that his life’s education had been too narrow. It seems he did really only see three urban groups – the mob who remained incapable of being improved, the citizens ‘who have the political power’, and ‘the executive’ who have all the decision-making responsibility. His view was that for over a century, it had been ‘the mob’ which, alone, had had the capacity to control the metropolis. The ‘three days’ reign of terror’ in February, 1886 had proved this, he wrote, but November, 1887, when enough citizens – special constables – had ‘rallied round’ the police to successfully clear Trafalgar Square, had been ‘almost…the first time in this century’ that ‘the mob’ had been defeated. In defending the need for efficiency and discipline, he asserted the uniformed police, not detectives, were the key to crime prevention, if they were administered well, knew their duties and carried them out effectively: ‘…The genius of the English race does not lend itself to elaborate detective operations similar to those said to be practised on the Continent…Englishmen learn to trust each other…(On) the Continent…(young) people grow up to distrust and watch each other, and there is a natural detective system thus established….’ (CW, in MM, p.587)

In his hierarchical world, where decision-making power is naturally in the hands of ‘the best and the brightest’, education must be oriented to goals set by ‘the executive’ and any discontent comes from ‘the mob’ and not from ‘real’ citizens. He thought it possible that critics were slandering the police to provoke release of sensitive information, but not only does his account not mention internal police arrangements, it makes no mention of any reason for secrecy beyond generalities. He realised that ‘factual information’ was needed before citizens could make ‘correct choices’ but seems to have assumed that ‘they’ already knew what that was. He has no idea of compromise, of the possibility of negotiating with dissenters, or of the value of sharing opinions. The horrific murders appear to have left him unmoved, and he appears unaware of the brewing industrial conflict. Italian and French anarchists had made London a network centre during the 1880’s and were closely observing the dockers’ agitation which led in 1889 to a major strike.[cdxxvii] His was the view of someone trained to do one job, who lacked curiosity and who knew only what his class knew about the rest of the world.

He appears to have been behind bloodhound trials in October, 1888 while his visit to the 30 September crime scene smacks of a frustrated man attempting to find his place, or perhaps to assert his authority. Immediately after his resignation, The Times recounted the impossible situation Warren believed he had been in as Monro, his ‘Assistant Commissioner’, received preferential treatment: ‘…Since Mr Monro’s transference to the Home Office matters have become worse. Sir Charles complains that, whereas he has been saddled with all the responsibility, he has had no freedom of action, and in consequence his position has become daily more unbearable…’ [cdxxviii] It was against his wishes that the detective force and the beat police were being separated, conceptually as well as physically: ‘…Latterly, in spite of (his) remonstrances…the control of the Criminal Investigation Department has been withdrawn more and more from Whitehall-Place. Every morning for the last few weeks there has been a protracted conference at the Home Office between Mr Monro, Mr Anderson, and the principal detective inspectors, and the information furnished to the Commissioner in regard to these conferences has been, he states, of the scantiest character.’ He may have been side-lined because his superiors thought him blinkered or incompetent but it is more likely that because he was a known ‘Liberal’ he was not trusted by the Salisbury government after Gladstone’s mid-1886 fall. Having been kept out of the inner circle of decision-making, he became in the end a suitable scapegoat. Monro, Jenkinson and (Robert) Anderson – all of whom can be described as ‘spy masters’ – had connections and supportive ‘sponsors’ in higher places, Jenkinson, for example, being Salisbury’s nephew.

In the group of EF’s/RE’s/diplomat spies who had been in Egypt earlier, Warren was the least likely to flout rules, to dress as an Arab and to go into perilous situations. He was not a Wilson, or a Burton or a Kitchener. Neither was he strictly an ‘India man’ favoured for homeland policing. The policy pre-supposed they had already proved themselves adept at gathering information, keeping secrets and in using secret communications, such as cyphers. Experience with Asian ’secret societies’ helped Munro, a ‘dour, sun-burned Scot’ become head of London’s CID in 1884, succeeding Howard Vincent: ‘(An) obscure colonial administrator on leave from Bengal where, so the Home Secretary informed the Queen, much of his work as inspector-general of police was ‘to deal with secret societies.’ He had shown great zeal in pursuing the Wahabi conspiracy. The Irish should be no more vexatious to handle than Muhammadan fanatics.’ [cdxxix] The Daily Telegraph editorialised in very similar fashion on 29 November, 1888 when Monro was promoted to succeed Warren: ‘Mr. Monro, (chosen on the strength of his Indian record)…well justified (his selection) by the skill with which he followed up and brought to justice the Home Rule dynamiters, as he had long ago, in India, detected and defeated the Wahabi conspirators.’ By ‘long ago’ must be meant the 1860’s and 70’s when a series of ‘Wahabi Trials’ resulted in a number of men being exiled to the Andaman Islands. They were accused of anti-British activities, today they are commonly seen as ‘freedom fighters’. The term ‘Wahabi conspiracy’ has latterly been attached to the colonial administration, and very recently to the US government to assert underhand tactics.

Monro’s reputation in India, as far as it can be determined, was that of a strict disciplinarian. The arrangements for public safety during her Majesty’s procession to Westminster Abbey, and in connection with the other celebrations of the Jubilee Year, were his. Working with Warren during 1886-7 had proved frustrating for both men, afterwards, Monro, Jenkinson and Anderson all wrote self-serving memoirs. Warren wrote nothing, or at least nothing has appeared retrospectively from him. Interestingly, Monro and Jenkinson soon followed Warren out of the force, both to follow spiritual paths, while Anderson, the Ulster and Orange Order loyalist and ‘secret service’ careerist, pursued Christian millenarian tomes in his retirement. A fourth figure of interest, the Irish-born Roman Catholic William Melville was also publicity-shy. Part of London’s Special Branch from 1882, and heavily involved with the Yard’s counter-intelligence work throughout the 1880’s, in 1892 he was made head of the Special Branch and a further decade later became M15’s first spymaster and originator of the pseudonym ‘M’. Otherwise, a century and more later, a deep, official secrecy remains over the events of the 1880’s. In seeking records relating to the work of yet another ‘insider’, and another of Salisbury’s nephews, Balfour, a biographer found: ‘The papers relating to secret service activity during Balfour’s term of office as Chief Secretary [1886-1891] were originally classified under the Hundred Year Rule, but have recently been re-classified to keep them secret in perpetuity…’ [cdxxx]

As an exposed woman among men constantly attempting to pull her down and damage her, Annie Besant must have often feared for her life. She achieved heroic status among her fellow-protesters by standing her ground in Trafalgar Square on that Sunday in November but inclusion in the English imperial pantheon was never going to happen, despite Reynold’s Newspaper describing her as ‘the most advanced and perhaps the most brilliant Englishwoman of her day in public life.’ [cdxxxi] In the collision of views in Trafalgar Square, representing the City, the Empire and English Freemasonry, Warren was retribution and reaction, the closed option. Against his stolid officialdom and that of his class, Annie had flung her passionate, but ambiguous dissent. In the day’s aftermath, she had defended those arrested and had urged further effort. She had then briefly pursued educational change, winning a seat in 1888 on the London School Board over a member of a wealthy, conservative Jewish family: ‘Mrs Besant is in the field against Mr Montefiore, and Mr Lewis Lyons has addressed a manifesto in Yiddish to the Jewish working men on her behalf. Mr Lyons has considerable influence with his class in the East-end, and he explains what the School Board is and why they should choose Mrs Besant very plainly in their own plain jargon. The Jewish workmen already know Mrs Besant as an earnest social reformer.’ [cdxxxii] The instance of ‘trade union’ activism for which she is best-known came in this post-Trafalgar period, and even it shows a personal, spiritual quest was uppermost in her mind. Stead joined her in 1888 to establish The Link periodical and to agitate for pay increases and less-dangerous working conditions for the women employed in making phosphorus matches. (AN, Chs 2, 3 of Pt 4) The Link espoused ‘a new Church, dedicated to the service of Man’ and claimed to be a voice for the voiceless. Its organisation was secretive, ultimately hierarchical and non-democratic, ie, it followed the common, 19th century fraternal model with ‘Centres’, ‘Circles’ with ‘captains’, and a member’s pledge. (AN, p.264) That effort ceased in June of 1889 when she declared that without spiritual awakening human activity lacked meaning. She had come to believe her public position was untenable and that short-term political ‘fixes’ were a futile dead-end: ‘Mrs Besant sees no hope for the future of society in anti-sweating laws, nor any possibility of making the world at large happier by the spread of education…(She) is a pessimist where she was formerly an optimist…To cultivate the mind of the oppressed workman is to burden him with a new misery…’

Warren’s belated appointment to Singapore in 1889 added another layer to the conspiracy theories. Where London had serial killers and Irish conspirators, his new posting had Chinese gangs, whose alleged ‘Masonry’ has suggested to some that his combination of military and police experience and secret society expertise was in demand. In fact, the Societies Ordnance of 1888-9 [cdxxxiii], that is, before he was appointed, had already delivered what was considered a decisive blow and it appears he was sent east only to ‘oversight’ the military establishment. Masonically, he was very active and introduced some of the town’s rich and powerful Europeans to a Philosophic Society which, in structure, resembled QC. It did not take long, however, for him to find ‘hot water’ with the Singapore establishment, its nature being a good guide to how he was occupying his time: ‘ It began last year with (his) sudden, and, it was said, rude withdrawal of an officer who was aide-de-camp to the Governor, the officer being ordered to resume his regimental duties…More recently, on the Queen’s birthday no regular troops were allowed to attend a review by the Governor, as is usual…, and the ceremony was attended only by the volunteers.’ [cdxxxiv]



Research Lodge QC at Work


Prescott believed, at least in 2001: ‘The establishment of Quatuor Coronati Lodge… can be seen as an integral part of the late nineteenth-century adoption of a more scientific approach to historical research, based on the critical examination of documentary evidence.’ [cdxxxv] The first ‘Aims and Objects’ for QC were drafted in 1884 and attributed to WH Rylands. [cdxxxvi] They had only 3 clauses, none of which make any reference to a scientific, even a new approach to research:

  1. This lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted masons shall be called the ‘Quatuor Coronati’ in honor and perpetuation of the memory of ‘these holy martyres foure’…“(that) in this craft were of great honoure”.
  2. The following nine brethren as named in the Warrant of Constitution, dated 28 November, 1884, viz Bro Sir Charles Warren, WH Rylands, Walter Besant, JP Rylands, Revd AFA Woodford, RF Gould, SC Pratt, WJ Hughan and JW Speth, shall in future and for all time to be known as the founders of the lodge. They correspond in number to the five sculptors, Claudius, Castorious, Nicostratus, Symphorianus, and Simplicimus, who was by command of the Emperor Diocletian enclosed alive in leaden coffins and thrown into the sea, AD 287 for refusing to sculpture and idol; and to the four martyrs, Severus, Severianus, Carpropherus and Victorinus, who had shortly before been scourged to death with whips armed with lead for refusing to worship at the throne of Aesculapius. These nine saints were collectively known to our mediaeval brethren as the ‘four crowned martyrs.’
  3. The immediate object and purpose of the lodge is declared to be the pursuit and encouragement of archaeological research, more especially as connected with Freemasonry and cognate subjects.[cdxxxvii]

The ‘Four Crowned Ones’ had been regarded since their deaths as the patron saints of European stonemasons. Putting legendary martyrs at the heart of the enterprise invited a critical reaction – just what was the connection between the name and the 3rd bye-law? As an attempt to explain the reasoning behind the choice of name, the second clause succeeded only in further mystifying – how can nine become four? Taken together the three aims summarised recent, conflicted history of EF – the first and second pinned the identity of the Lodge to a myth which for the previous four decades had been associated with the notion that EF did not begin in England. The third represented an attempted ‘escape hatch’ from this implication.

These Aims remained in draft and were never published. In 1887, nine totally new ‘Aims’ displayed the result of three years of concentrated thought on the dilemma. They removed some difficulties but resolved nothing. Because they were made public they have dominated subsequent perceptions.

The first aim was:

  1. To provide a centre and bond of union for Masonic students.

The emphasis is now on an aspiration for ‘brotherhood’. The word ‘centre’ suggests that a physical location was considered to be of equal importance to a symbolic ‘bond of union’.

The second Aim was:

  1. To attract intelligent Masons to its meetings, in order to imbue them with a love for Masonic research.

Aims 3-7 were more outward-looking:

  1. To submit the discoveries or conclusions of students to the judgement and criticism of their fellows by means of papers read in Lodge.
  2. To submit these communications and the discussions arising thereon to the general body of the Craft by publishing, at proper intervals, the Transactions of the Lodge, in their entirety.
  3. To tabulate concisely, in the printed Transactions of the Lodge, the progress of the Craft throughout the world.
  4. To make the English-speaking Craft acquainted with the progress of Masonic study abroad, by translations (in whole or in part) of foreign works.
  5. To reprint scarce and valuable works on Freemasonry, and to publish Manuscripts, etc.

The last two returned to the idea of a strong centre:

  1. To form a Masonic Library and Museum.
  2. To acquire permanent London premises, and open a reading-room for the members.

There is still no reference to a new or a scientific approach, and with explanation of the legend has gone any emphasis on archaeology. A whisper of the previous ‘Aims’ lingered in the decision that each year’s installation meetings would take place on the second Thursday in November, ‘this being the nearest practicable date to that of their martyrdom.’ The new, seemingly precise aims imply that a collective aspiration to objectivity has won out, over, say, personal ambition, religious faith and/or English/British nationalism. But if their main aim in joining forces had been to change the way that Masonic research was done they had no need for an actual physical presence, a lodge room. They could have mailed their findings to one another, or had them published in journals, or if in need of immediate comment, they might have made presentations to any of the historical associations with which they were involved. That they chose to charter a lodge of the EF jurisdiction tells us that their primary allegiances were to that Masonic form and to all that that form stood for.

The published version of the Reverend Woodford’s first address as Immediate Past Master, [IPM] contained his summation of QC’s collective intentions: ‘(It) is proposed…to have papers read on subjects far-off or near, recondite or common place, to invite discussions…and to issue ‘Transactions.’ We trust that by this means we may help forward the important cause of Masonic study and investigation, may induce a more scholarly and critical consideration of our evidences, a greater relish for historical facts, and subserve at the same time the increasing and healthy movement for the extension of libraries and museums in all lodges.’ [cdxxxviii] There is little assertiveness about this – ‘may help forward’ and ‘may induce’. Woodford was not signalling a new approach, either, or even a degree of rigour. Freemasons needed to change their ways, but not because previous research had been flawed but rather:‘…(for) thus it may chance that we shall be enabled to rescue contemporary Freemasonry from the charge frequently brought against it, that it sacrifices an intellectual study of Freemasonry proper to the more pervading requirements of the social circle, and that it is too easily contented with a routine of ritual on the one hand, and the pleasing exercise of hospitality on the other…’ [My emphasis]

Prescott has also described QC in terms redolent of a small, cosy club: ‘The ethos and activities of QC lodge in its early years were reminiscent of the local archaeological and antiquarian societies in which many members of the lodge were also active.’ The involvement of the Society of Antiquaries in EF had begun in the 1720’s (RB, 2012, p.183) and of QC’s founders only two were formally ‘antiquarians’, but Prescott has suggested that: ‘The antiquarian influence on the lodge is evident in the procedure adopted from the earliest days of the lodge whereby members commented on and added to papers presented in lodge.’ Rather, QC was a creature of a specific context, a context dominated by the fact that the majority of its founders had been friends and comrades in uniform and in EF for much of their adult lives. The nine were remarkably similar in social class, ie, middle class, the two knights, Warren and Besant, earning the honour rather than inheriting it. Their youthful enthusiasm for ‘Freemasonry’ – six had been initiated by their 25th year, both Warren and Gould before they were 20 – explains why they chose to institute a new lodge. (The obvious omission from the known biographies of all of these men is their religious affiliation.)

Warren            b. 1840      Mason at 19           Aged 46 in 1886

WH Rylands    b. 1847       Mason at 25                     39 in 1886

Gould                b. 1836       Mason at 19                     50 in 1886

Woodford        b. 1821       Mason at 21                     65 in 1886

Besant              b. 1836       Mason at 26                     50 in 1886

JP Rylands      b. 1846       Mason at 26                     40 in 1886

Pratt                b. 1844       Mason at 32                     42 in 1886

Hughan            b. 1841       Mason at 22                     45 in 1886

Speth                b. 1847       Mason at 25                     39 in 1886


Once QC was established, an intending member had to show ‘a high literary, artistic or scientific qualification’, a somewhat amorphous attribute. ‘Culled from the best material only’, each new applicant was supposed to submit an assessable ‘masterpiece’.[cdxxxix] The founders had among themselves determined that they had already qualified by way of their careers. They felt that they, collectively or individually, were not to be questioned about that decision or about their status as bench-marks against which others would be judged. Adding career summaries shows the strong army representation, the rarity of Warren’s R/E status, the shared interest in biblical research and the Palestine Exploration Fund [PEF].

Warren               b. 1840   Army (R/E), PEF                          d.1927

WH Rylands     b. 1847   Biblical scholar, SoA                  d.1922

Gould               b. 1836   Army, Barrister, Historian,           d.1915

Woodford         b.1821   Army, Chaplain, Author/Editor   d.1887

Besant             b.1836     Teacher, Author, PEF                     d.1901

JP Rylands      b.1846     Barrister, S of Antiquaries            d.1923

Pratt                 b.1844   Army                                              d.1919

Hughan             b. 1841   Author, Mgr, Biblical Scholar        d.1911

Speth               b. 1847   Tobacco executive                         d.1901

The clear exception with regard to shared backgrounds, Speth, does not appear to have had any military, espionage or archaeological experience. The youngest, he was also of German parentage. He was apparently never considered suitable for the post of WM despite, as we shall see, his considerable achievements oversighting QC’s operations. Belatedly, he was given GL rank in 1896 when his extensive Masonic background and that of his father were published.[cdxl] JP Rylands resigned late in 1886 and little of his background is known. [cdxli]

When taking over from Warren as WM of Lodge 2076 at the end of 1887 Gould happily dilated on his predecessor’s ‘untiring perseverance, courage and ability’ in his early explorations of Palestine for the War Office and PEF, his ‘tact, discrimination and zeal’, and his ‘conspicuous bravery and boldness’ when engaged on a string of Government duties in Africa. Gould had had at least a decade under fire himself, though again little is known. When he was made ‘Senior Grand Deacon’ in 1880 it was noted that: ‘…Bro Gould was gazetted to a commission in the Army in 1855, and retired by the sale thereof in 1865…(he served in China against the Taipings) Bro Gould was called to the Bar in 1868, and is a member of the Western Circuit..’ .[cdxlii] Woodford, nearly 30 years older than the youngest founders, was the eldest son of a Field Marshall who had been Governor of Gibraltar, where Woodford Junior had been welcomed into the ‘Inhabitants Lodge’, which as we have seen was a key point of connection. An officer in the Coldstream Guards for a period, he had resigned his commission to become a cleric, and then an editor.[cdxliii]

The nine did not consider themselves the complete founding group. Members 10, 11, and 12 who joined in April 1886, emerged from the same world as the majority, [cdxliv] while in age were all closer to Woodford than Speth:

Simpson b 1823, init 1871,   War Artist & Author       No 10 (given 9)   d.1895

Bywater b.1825, init 1846,   Saddler/UGLE               No 11 (given 10) d.1911

Irwin     b.1829, init 185x ,   Sapper/RE                     No 12 (No 11)     d.1893

As already noted, Irwin was a soldier stationed on Gibraltar where he had prevailed on Gould in 1858 to help him revive the Rock’s ‘Inhabitants Lodge’. Warren arrived on Gibraltar shortly after. From ‘the ranks’ rather than the officer class, Irwin succeeded Gould as WM of that lodge when the latter’s regiment was sent to South Africa. Irwin remained on Gibraltar for the next decade but went with Warren to Bechuanaland in 1883 before returning to work with volunteer regiments in England. Retiring with the rank of Major, he agreed to join QC when Gould urged him to put his name forward in January, 1886: ‘…As I am writing against time, & the whole preparation for the consecration has fallen on my shoulders – perhaps you will agree to be proposed, leaving quite an open question, as to final acceptance, on hearing further details. Sir C Warren, Hughan and myself are all anxious that you should join us…’ [cdxlv] Bywater had been a member of the MAI, above, in 1870, another key point of connection, while Woodford, Simpson and Besant, definitely, and Hughan probably, participated in that body.

Of the first four WM’s – Warren, Gould, Simpson and Pratt – three were, or had spent time as career soldiers. The fourth, Simpson was popularly known as ‘Crimean Simpson’ because his skills as war artist and journalist first came to prominence in that war. He had worked with Warren and Besant from at least 1865 and was apparently so connected with royalty that he was on chatting terms with Queen Victoria. The fifth WM and member No 11, Bywater, was a life-long EF, appears to have had neither military nor archaeological experience but his given career background again seems deliberately vague.[cdxlvi] His role as Grand Sword Standard Bearer at Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations is insufficient explanation for Gould saying in 1888 that: ‘When this Lodge was established Bro Bywater naturally became a member of it, and was the first brother who joined us. I am not forgetting that Bro Simpson is apparently the first joining member, but this brother we have always regarded as a founder, because the petition for a warrant would have borne his signature had he not been absent at the time as a war correspondent.’ [cdxlvii] Bywater had been a member of UGLE’s Board of General Purposes, ie the inner circle, from 1870. He is often listed as ‘saddler’ but in 1855, at age 30 he is recorded as assigning ‘all his personal estate and effects’ to a currier and a ‘bridle cutter and harness maker’ on behalf of creditors. In other words he appears to have been made bankrupt and to have left the horse/leather business. His father was a well-connected horse trainer and gambler and may have financed his son into the building/real estate business. To gain his researcher status, Bywater, Jnr, prepared and had published a history of his lodge, Athelstan, in 1869, and an essay on Laurence Dermott, 18th century Secretary of ‘the Antients’ in 1884. In 1888, he, Warren, Woodford and a contributing non-member, Woodman, were given GL status.

Again with the exception of Speth, the overlaps of past involvement with one another, through the military, biblical archaeology and EF Grand Lodge are so clear that the members up to Irwin, No 12, can be regarded as the de facto founding group. By comparison, military backgrounds and archaeological expertise are almost non-existent among their immediate successors. The clearest example of the abruptness of the change, is that No 14, Hayter-Lewis, stands out in the cohort of successful applicants from 13 to 32 as the only one with a background close to the initial members. He belongs to Woodford’s generation and had strong links to the founding group and to other figures featured in this account. His obituary in 1898 included: ‘…His principal work, The Holy Places of Jerusalem, illustrated by photos taken by Lord Kitchener of Khartoum (then Lieutenant Kitchener) is a most exhaustive study of the subject…He was for long an active supporter of the Palestine Exploration Fund, and with Sir CW Wilson, he annotated Procopius’s account of the buildings of Justinian, and published the results…’ [cdxlviii] The known, brief details of the twenty members after Irwin, all of whom were proposed before the end of 1888, are:

Whytehead     b.1840, init 1872 NZ   (UK by 1874) Solicitor     No 12   d.1907

Hawkins,               (resigned – no reason given – returned later)

Riley,               b.1842, init 1866,                                                   No 13   d.1901

Hayter-Lewis   b.1818, init 1877           Univ Architect, Antiq      No 14   d.1898

Chapman             (elected June, 1886 – did not take up m’ship – no reason given)

Westcott,            b.1848 init 1871,           Coroner,                         No 15   d.1925

Lane                  b.1843 init 1878,           Accountant                   No 16 d.1899

Chetwode-Crawley b 1844 init 1872,       Univ Admin?               No 17 d.1916

Budden              b. 1830 init 1838,             Tailor                           (no No) d.1887

Ball                   b.1850 init 1883             Rev/Assyriologist       No 18   d.1908

Burford-Hancock(Kt) b.1839 init 1876     Army/Col Admin         No 19   d.1895

Kelly                  b.1815 init 1838             Accountant                   No 20   d.1894

Whymper           b.1845 init 1872           Brewery manager        No 21   d.1893

Castle                 b. 1842                                  RE’s/Barrister             No 22   d.1912

Macbean            b. 1845 init 1883                                                   No 23   d.1919

Goldney   (Kt)  b. 1845 init 1868                                                 No 24   d.1921

Williams            b. 1820 init 1846           Chemist/phrenologist     No 25   d.1892

Kupferschmidt    b. 1839 init1875                                                  No 26   d.1901

Finlayson           b. 1836 init 1863                                                   No 27   d.1891

Clarke (Kt)         b. 1846 init 1877             Architect/Curator         No 28   d.1911


Lodge QC was not conceived as a break with the past, rather it was set up to enable its founders to continue doing what they had been doing. They were the seeming proof that they knew best and they laid down a template from their past. But, by the time of QC’s first meetings as a lodge, the ‘johnny-come-lately’, Speth, with help from Gould, was already having to fill a sizable void which had developed, and to use skills which the better-known founders did not possess. Speth was not part of the template. He was not the person to nurture what the older members had derived from their shared experiences, but the background he did bring to the job was what QC needed to survive. The founders had brought what was necessary to get QC established but the world in which their enthusiasms had had currency was passing if not already gone, and the ‘history’ they had learnt was conducive of illusions, not authentic history. Further, their meeting place, in Central London, was not ‘a cosy club’ for sitting quietly and cogitating, it was a tense battle-ground. As they signed their names to the Charter authorising their meetings, perhaps they felt the Empire was strong and would endure despite obvious contests, but they could not have thought the city was a place of joy and open heartedness. For men past their prime, it must have been a trial to even attend meetings. Woodford, QC’s first ‘Past Master’, died in December, 1887, Irwin in 1893, Simpson in 1899, Speth in 1900 and when Walter Besant passed in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died, the flag of Empire and of English glory was well and truly at half-mast.

Further, despite all the shared experiences, internal tensions were apparent at QC’s first meeting. Bro Fenn, attending from the Lodge of Emulation which supplied the jewels and the furniture used at the installation ceremony, said he believed that QC had been formed ‘to settle knotty points in Masonic history’ but noted that: ‘Bro Gould has (concluded) that these four martyrs, or five, or nine martyrs compressed into four had nothing whatever to do with Masonry…I notice from what fell from Brother Woodford before in his address that there is a difference of opinion between himself and Bro Gould…(but let us hope) in a satisfactory solution of some of those doubts which have lately disturbed the Craft’. [cdxlix] Besant, though QC’s Treasurer, was mostly absent, Warren had his other commitments meaning he also missed most meetings, Irwin and Hughan were both disillusioned and in poor health, Woodford was battling bankruptcy and old age, and Gould and his wife were in very straitened circumstances.

Only five of the nine listed as founders attended the lodge consecration in January, 1886. They mingled with just five others. The second meeting, on 7 April, 1886, when the minutes differentiated attendees into ‘Members’ and ‘Visitors’, and the first at which a paper was programmed, was attended by only 4 ‘founders’ and 1 ‘visitor’.[cdl] Woodford, acting WM in Warren’s absence, postponed the paper to June ‘(on) account of the small attendance and the amount of business before the lodge.’ On 3 June, Gould gave the first paper, ‘On Some Old Scottish Masonic Symbols’, to 10 members and 5 visitors. At the 4th meeting, in September, 6 members attended with 9 visitors. In October, 1886, Speth as Secretary, advised all members that the next meeting, in November, was special since: ‘…(the) day in question has been kept by the Church for upwards of one thousand years as the Feast of the Four Crowned Martyrs, the earliest Patron Saints of the Craft and has been appropriately selected as the Annual Festival and Installation day of our Lodge…’ [cdli] It was also intended that the meeting would announce an ‘important and startling discovery’: ‘…(In addition to Grand Lodge officers being in attendance)…a Paper for the occasion is in course of preparation by Prof T Hayter Lewis and though short, as his discovery is only in its initial stage, will be of surpassing interest. He has found in some ancient writings a distinct and unmistakeable allusion to the Hiramic Legend which carries us back several centuries beyond any pre-existing record of it.’ In hindsight, the ‘paper’ by Hayter-Lewis appears an act of desperation by Speth. He later wrote: ‘…The only unsatisfactory feature of our past history is the small number of London Lodge members…if…one or two of (these) fail us, the Lodge is reduced to very small dimensions. Were it not for the attendance of Correspondence Members and visitors the audience assembled would often be most discouraging…’ [cdlii] By this November meeting the total number of ‘members’ stood at 14, but only 8 attended. The audience was augmented with 23 visitors which suggests that it was not outside events or the weather which prevented members from attending.[cdliii] For the December meeting, 8 members and 2 visitors attended.

A ‘Record of Attendance’ drawn up in mid-1887, when the member’s list had reached 17, shows that Gould and Speth were the only founders with 100% record, or 8/8 meetings, while Warren had managed 3/8, and Besant only 1/8.[cdliv] Clearly, cameraderie was not being generated within QC which was close to death. It was Speth who came up with the idea of a research community outside London, indeed anywhere it could be found. His original motion for a ‘Literary Society under the guidance and protection of the Lodge’,[cdlv] became in the hands of the executive committee a new class of members. At the first 1887 meeting, with Westcott having become the 16th ‘full member’, 8 members and 7 visitors elected the first ‘Correspondence Circle’ members, [CC] 37 in all. This second transfusion of new blood, this time via the mailing lists, had a mixed effect on meeting numbers. They continued to show founding members rarely in attendance, a trickle of newly-elected ‘full members’ and an unpredictable number of ‘visitors’ but the improved chances of survival emboldened inner core. In his acceptance speech as the second WM, in January 1888, Gould celebrated the newly-established ‘Outer Circle’ as a home for more distant ‘searchers after Masonic truth’. Since its numbers had rapidly outstripped those of the ‘Inner Circle’ he insisted that ‘students of all nationalities’ must be seeing QC as ‘the centre of Masonic light’. The responsibility ‘voluntarily assumed’ by QC was then, he said, ‘as a general school of instruction’: ‘My ideal of such a lodge as ours is, is that it should represent an educational ladder in Masonry, reaching from the abyss of Masonic ignorance to the zenith to which we all aspire.’ [cdlvi]


Gould’s History of Freemasonry


The sharpest, published disputation during QC’s early years centred on Gould, yet he was the first to deliver a paper and he was elected Worshipful Master when Warren stood down after two terms. After his death in 1915 a colleague claimed: ‘…No member of the Fraternity has ever earned such widespread reputation; no member of the Craft has ever more thoroughly deserved the esteem in which his brethren held him…’ His reputation and continued Masonic fame have rested principally, not on QC, but on the success of The History of Freemasonry, published in a number of volumes from 1882 to 1887 and subsequently revised and re-printed numerous times. The volumes were celebrated as they appeared, but, over time, rumours have gnawed at the issue of its authorship. In 1982 long-archived manuscripts in Speth’s handwriting were found to be identical to chapters in The History on ‘The Steinmetzen’ and ‘The Craft Guilds of France’, whereupon the finder, UGLE Assistant Librarian Hamill, wrote to QC’s Secretary: ‘…From documents I have recently re-discovered it would seem that Gould was guilty of more than mere discourtesy, for evidence has come to light that he was not the author of at least two important early chapters, facts which beg the question of how much of the work was his own original research and writing.’ [cdlvii] Hamill referred back to a partial, 1980 biography of Gould whose author had commented that Gould had seemed tardy in ‘acknowledging the great assistance afforded him by his friends’. Hamill disclosed: ‘…(I) was not aware that Speth had produced any major work apart from his papers to the Lodge. By a process of elimination I was drawn to Gould’s History, and there was the answer…(All) Gould had done was to alter Speth’s style to his own.’ Hamill then asked whether Gould’s actions were the reason The History was not awarded the ‘Peeters-Baertson Prize’ in 1889, an award seemingly tailor-made for it.

When awarding the prize, the Belgian trustees had actually singled out The History for special mention and explained that it was ruled out of contention, with other works of ‘pure history’, by the wording in the prize-giver’s will. This referred to ‘books only which should explain and illustrate Masonic doctrines and principles’ and confined the Prize to the title ‘which…best…spread and (consolidated) the empire of Masonic principles’. Of all the works submitted ‘the most important, without doubt, is the grand History of Freemasonry by RF Gould. But this work…although presenting the most complete picture of the external history of our institution, is dumb, or nearly so, respecting its internal history…We have thus been forced, in spite of well-merited admiration, to leave Bro. Gould’s History to gather the laurels which are its due, in some competition differing from our own.’ [cdlviii]

In the last pages of The History, written perhaps in 1886 or early in 1887, Gould had thanked Hughan, ‘for his judicious counsel’, Rylands, and Woodford, who he described as: ‘the Doyen of British Masonic students, whose wise counsel, so often sought, has never been withheld, and whose ample library was placed freely at my disposal.’ He made particular mention of Speth whose: ‘co-operation…was not circumscribed within these limits [the ‘foreign’ chapters] but extended to other chapters, and to the perusal of the latter half of the proofs. To this friend I stand under a peculiar weight of obligation, from his familiarity with several modern languages…’ The clearest possible statement was made by Hughan in 1887 when reviewing the last volume. After providing background, including the importance of Findel’s earlier account and the invitation from ‘Bro Jack’, the publisher, for a text, he said: ‘Bro (Gould), on the promise of hearty co-operation from his collaborators (especially Bro Speth and myself) undertook the duty, and has now finished his herculean labours, to the great satisfaction of the numerous brethren who have gladly assisted him in searching for information, and to the expressed joy of many Craftsmen, at home and abroad, who now have a History of Freemasonry to consult, far ahead of any hitherto published in England or elsewhere.’ [cdlix] Hughan was very clear: ‘Of course, no one could possibly achieve such labour unassisted, but throughout, Bro Gould has preserved his independence, and has always held the reins. It is emphatically his History, and to him and to him alone is the credit due…’ No-one close to QC could have been unaware of the collaborations or, in spite of the title page’s assertion of a single author, of Gould’s appreciation. In 1901, at Speth’s memorial service, and in a number of obituaries Gould recorded his thanks for the ‘great’ assistance rendered by the Secretary in the writing of The History.[cdlx] Rylands also spoke plainly: ‘(It) is…some slight consolation to us to think that to Speth’s labours Brother Gould was indebted for much of the lengthy chapters devoted to the French Trade Guilds, and Continental Freemasonry, included in…his monumental History.’

Gould had been publishing research results well before Speth came on the scene. His Four Old Lodges, for example, dates from 1879. Retired for some years from Cuba’s plantations, Speth’s first tentative research steps were in 1881:‘When some months back, finding myself master of much spare time, I began to investigate the old Minutes of our Lodge, with a view to writing its history, my intention was merely to jot down a short summary of the principal events connected therewith – such as might perhaps cover a couple of sheets of foolscap, and would form a short paper to be read in Lodge, if deemed worthy of that honour.’ He told how his curiosity had then taken hold: ‘As, however, my interest in our doings gradually increased, so did I find more and more difficulty in rejecting this fact and the other, until my notes alone formed quite a bulky paper. I then determined to make my history as exhaustive as in me lay, and soon discovered that this required the acquisition of more information than could be supplied from our own annals, involving me in researches for which my previous experience had hardly fitted me. The work, however, fascinated me…’

The arrangement of chapters in ‘The History’ appears arbitrary and un-systematic. Even to readers not conversant with the literature the arrangement must appear odd, with the same headings, eg ‘The ‘Old Charges’, in a number of places. To a more knowledgeable reader, many questions would leap to mind – eg, why the separation of ‘Mediaeval Operative Masonry’ from ‘The Old Charges’ and from the mainland European chapters which directly concern ‘mediaeval operatives’? These separations are aligned, not with logic, but with EF predilections. Chapter 1 begins with a personal credo. It seeks support in the approach of a German predecessor who had claimed to have escaped ‘fanciful theories’ by calling on ‘tradition’: ‘(While) carefully discarding the plainly fabulous narrations with which our Masonic system is encumbered, I am of opinion that the view to which Schlegel has given expression is the one we shall do well to adopt. He says:

“I have laid it down as an invariable maxim to follow historical tradition, and to hold fast by that clue, even when many things in the testimony and declarations of tradition appear strange and almost inexplicable, or at least enigmatical; for as soon as, in the investigations of ancient history, we let slip that thread of Ariadne, we can find no outlet from the labyrinth of fanciful theories and the chaos of clashing opinions.” ‘

It is clear that neither Gould’s credo nor his aspiration advocated a scientific approach, indeed that ‘traditional history’ had a higher value in his mind than ‘authentic’. Later on the same page, he indicated: ‘The design of the present work is to embody in a single publication the legendary and the authentic histories of the craft…(My) general conclusions will be as novel as I trust they may prove to be well founded.’ (HF,1, p.2)


Speth – Crisis Manager


In 1860, a brother in the US, Jacob Norton had discussed with Woodford the ignorance of English Masons. He remained frustrated enough in 1880 to base a wholesale criticism of UGLE on the state of its ‘library’: [cdlxi] ‘We have all heard about Masonry being a science, an art, a royal art, etc, but if the Grand Lodge library was an index of our scientific knowledge, we would be pronounced as a body utterly ignorant of the meaning of the word science. The bookcase which holds the Grand Lodge library is about a yard-and-a-half wide, containing about six or seven shelves. These books were not collected by the present generation of Masons…and (in) this century the Grand Lodge (has) donated ten pounds…Such being the case, it is no wonder that English Masons were, and are, woefully ignorant of Masonic history…(To) whom are we indebted for (the) new Masonic light? Not to English Masonic writers, but to the industry and intelligence of our German brethren…’ [Writer’s emphases] Writing from Boston he quoted from The Freemason’s Quarterly Review for March 1846, reporting an even earlier attempt to get UGLE to fund a Library. Previous to that again, GBP100 had been granted for a library and though it had had obvious support, the project had fallen away: ‘…After a lapse of so many years there was nothing but empty shelves, and no prospect of any books; this was discreditable to the Grand Lodge and a disgrace to those to whom the collection was intrusted…’ In 1846 Crucefix had seconded the motion for an annual grant of GBP20 but then, and for years after, implementation of the idea was repeatedly stalled and deflected. In 1880 Norton concluded his reportage with an impassioned plea that UGLE realise how far it was slipping behind. It needed to fund ‘the right men’ and suitable facilities to encourage broad-ranging research. In 1888, Secretary Speth applauded the donation of over six hundred titles to ‘our library’ but noted that ‘this valuable collection’ remained ‘difficult of access’ which was very diplomatic of him since the books were all stored in his house: ‘This Library should be installed in central London premises, open at all times…But London premises are costly, while the Lodge is poor, and will always remain so, because its funds will never be allowed to accumulate…’ [cdlxii] In 1892, Gould ‘celebrated’ the personal sacrifice of a volunteer librarian Sadler who had ‘achieved wonders’ with the GBP25 which had been voted in 1880 to get a QC Library underway. Like Norton, Gould was in a position to compare London’s niggardly attitude with positive examples manifest elsewhere, eg, in Iowa and New York.[cdlxiii] Sadler, incidentally, was another illustrative case of early internal problems. One of the few who attended the January 1886 Lodge consecration and one of the first applicants for the ‘Correspondence Circle’, he published Masonic Facts and Fictions in 1887 which contradicted Gould’s ‘schismatics’ view of the Antient Grand Lodge. He was not admitted a full member of QC until 1903, a delay attributed by some to Gould’s churlishness.[cdlxiv] In hindsight, it’s possible to see that when QC’s founding group came together they had no thought for the possible consequences of their various ambitions. For example, they had not thought of administrative infrastructure. More worryingly, in QC’s first decades there was no serious attempt to put any in place. They had had no ‘business plan’, and they did not recruit anyone who knew anything about educational programs. QC’s birth had forced many practical issues into view but they were left to Speth to solve.

Secretary for QC’s first 15 years, Speth apparently answered every mail enquiry personally and at length. He also instituted what were called ‘St John’s Cards’. Designed by Simpson and akin to Xmas cards, these for a number of years, were sent to all members, and all CC subscribers. Charged to carry out all the one-off efforts the executive group determined upon from time to time as well as all the day-to-day work, Speth’s load was considerable. Commercial book production and associated distribution chains were spurned in favour of the lodge network which left Speth with the task of sorting out the details. With no permanent premises he found he had to store at his house all unsold and any donated publications. ‘The Library’ alone had reached 3,000 volumes before he was able to relinquish it. Dyer has calculated his work load: ‘(The) organisation of meetings, with suitable papers to be presented; the actual running of the lodge as a Masonic lodge; within a short time, the arrangement for the editing, printing and publishing of our Transactions, and the getting together of a group of semi-interested people who would buy and even read (them)…The lodge had no money…all the things I have mentioned cost money. A hundred years ago a lodge Treasurer [initially Besant] took no part in the mundane affairs of raising money and spending it. His duty was the actual custody of the funds…(The) raising and collection of the money, the accounting and book-keeping, and such financial planning as was done, all fell on the lodge secretary…

…And in case he should fiddle, they engaged a professional accountant as auditor, but neglected to take any concrete decisions on important matters, like engaging a room in London for the books, and to act as an office.

From a situation of no involvement with the founders’ circle, Speth became administratively indispensable to QC. His major help in the earliest frantic days came from Gould. These two travelled ‘overseas’ in 1888 on invitations from Dutch and Belgian ‘fans’. Despite continued controversies in those countries over Masonic involvement in social issues, deemed by some to be ‘political’, they were welcomed ‘tumultuously’. They presented the first CC ‘jewel’ to the Belgian scholar, Tempels, a confirmed anti-political Mason. An 1892 US article recorded Speth’s Masonic career and described him as: ‘Originally one of (QC’s) founders, he has, since its institution been its leading spirit, and by his executive ability and untiring energy has built it up to proportions never dreamed of at the outset.’[cdlxv] In 1894 when presented with a handsome watch and chain for his decade of effort, Speth responded: ‘…I have since the first, devoted myself heart and soul, body and mind to the welfare of our lodge; it has become the labour of my prime, the love of my manhood, and, I trust will prove my joy in old age.’ [cdlxvi] A US correspondent in 1897 remarked Speth’s central importance by introducing a pamphlet of ‘formulations’ with the thought: ‘If the new theory of the descent of English Freemasonry propounded by Brother George W. Speth, of Lodge Quatuor Coronati is true…’ [cdlxvii]

Speth’s attitude towards ‘average’ English brethren was damning: ‘…You ask me to give you some idea how American Masonry strikes the average English Craftsman. Well, in the first place, I think the average Englishman, with that insular self-sufficiency which is so truly charming a trait in his character, knows very little about American Masonry, and cares, if possible, still less…(He)has not the faintest suspicion that your organization and arrangements differ from those he is accustomed to, about as much as chalk from cheese. He lives in a delightful state of blissful ignorance, which it were pity to needlessly disturb…’ [My emphasis]…’ In an 1898 review Gould wrote: ‘I shall premise that the excellent paper read by Bro Speth [to QC], has no warmer admirer than myself. It is in every respect an ornament to the columns of [AQC] and one hardly knows whether to pay the greater tribute of respect to the patient industry of the writer, or to the masterly manner in which his arguments are arranged.’ [cdlxviii]

By 1900 Speth was reduced to ironic pleading – that he would be happy if he could get even ‘intelligent discussion’ of the need for permanent premises and adequate staff: ‘…So far we have all been more or less talking at random, without any clear idea before us of what we want or what it will cost. If the Brethren of the Committee care to favour me with written observations on these notes, they could then be digested, collated, and brought before the Committee on some future occasion.’ [cdlxix] It was clearly possible for UGLE to have realised the work being done had value and to have nurtured premises and staff rather than ignore the obvious need. The record shows that in addition to not budgeting for its newest lodge, nor for impecunious members like Woodford[cdlxx], the ‘Authorities of Freemasons Hall’ did not even think it important that QC observe the meeting dates it had chosen, and insisted on either a change of dates or a removal to other premises.[cdlxxi] Neither the possibility of ‘rescuing Freemasonry’ nor ‘a more scholarly and critical consideration of our evidences’ had impressed UGLE. Determined to retain the central London venue for its meetings and its tenuous connections with GL, the ‘Inner Circle’ of QC rationalised absenteeism from lodge meetings by blaming distance and the difficulties of London transport. Its saving grace initially was the international Masonic network in which as a lodge it was embedded. Much later, with its future again on the line, QC was again disappointed by UGLE. Faced in 1952 with having to let a long-time office worker, a ‘Miss Johnson’ go, one brother ‘felt impelled to offer to make myself responsible for her pension when Lodge funds ran out.’ [cdlxxii]

On his death in 1901, Gould credited his colleague with the CC as ‘the cape stone of our present structure’ and ‘the most brilliant inspiration which has ever occurred to any votary of Masonic research’.[cdlxxiii] Speth’s willingness to be the QC work horse may have shortened his life,[cdlxxiv] although his post-mortem in 1901 disclosed a heavily diseased heart, probably from his long involvement with smoking and the tobacco industry. Dyer commented on the consequences of his sudden demise: ‘…His death caused chaos…The life of the lodge depended on finding a paragon as nearly as possible in the mould of Speth…’ [cdlxxv] This at least was an honest statement. Not much else of what has been published about QC’s success has been. Woodford’s successor as editor of The Freemason contended in 1889: ‘…With (its) programme, every particular of which has been strictly adhered to, it is not to be wondered at that Lodge Quatuor Coronati is fast becoming that exponent of true Masonic working which has been so long needed to stay the devastation of the true principles of the Order, of late years almost effaced by innovations and departures from ancient customs. No true Freemason…can fail to rejoice in having so representative a body of what Freemasonry should be…’ [cdlxxvi] (My emphases)

Celebrated Arkansas-born Mason, Albert Pike, agreed in a letter to Gould that ‘blissful ignorance’ was widespread but thought it ‘not strange that so low an estimate should be put upon Masonic authorship, for most Masonic works are irredeemably worthless…’ [cdlxxvii] A polymath and auto-didact, Pike hoped that Gould’s fears for QC in mid-1888 would not be realised: ‘…I regret the failure of any plan or organisation intended to elevate and intellectualize Free-Masonry and shall therefore be very sorry if your forebodings or fears in regard to the future of [QC] are prophetic…(If QC) falls into decay, it will be a grave misfortune befalling the Masonry of the world, and a great pity and shame.’ [cdlxxviii] In his 1890 letter to Freemason’s Chronicle, in which he publicised QC’s success in attracting applicants into its ‘Correspondence Circle’ Gould warned that ‘a continuous supply of papers of a certain standard’ was ‘the rock a-head’ which QC should dread: ‘(Of the twenty four ‘chief features’ of the first Volume of Transactions) the brethren by whom they are written are only fifteen in number, and one of them is neither a member nor an associate…(while) fourteen out of the…twenty four were the work of five contributors only.’ Five were by Speth, and two each by Gould and Woodford, and one each by Warren, WH Rylands and Hughan. A further three ‘articles’ were Speth translations. None are by Besant, Pratt, or JP Rylands. Eight were contributed by independent scholars or from ‘corresponding members’.

It is fair to conclude that by the time of QC’s launch, a number of the founders were very close to the end of their active lives and had little more to contribute. The formative exchanges were behind them, conclusions had been drawn and disputants had agreed to differ, mostly in silence. Their ‘cultural’ attitudes, shaped, buffed and polished during their working careers produced no analysis of the sort Crucefix called ‘current affairs’ half a century earlier, so that there is nothing on London or the colonies. Most intriguingly there is nothing on the religious fundamentalism of the Boers which might well have been interesting grist for QC’s Bible-oriented mill. Given the shared backgrounds of the founders the absence of essays on the work of the PEF is remarkable. The Transactions show at least as many speculative as ‘evidence-driven’ essays, with the speculations being largely esoteric. The founding group appears to have had a common view as to what was to be omitted, but political bias was not excluded. None of the twelve papers by founders are on English history after 1717, and only one on ‘Freemasonry’ after 1717. Speth on the pre-1717 atmosphere wrote: ‘…Dr Sacheverell was a champion of the intolerant High Church Party. A notorious sermon preached by him on the 5th November, 1709, at St Paul’s was, after a tedious trial, condemned to be burned by the common hangman.’ [cdlxxix] There was no formal prohibition on recent history, or on history closer to home. This is shown by three examples by non-founders, as are the only two on comparatively recent European history. The eight papers based on non-English materials, including two on Scotland, were all readings, albeit limited, of political and social history. The major papers in the next three volumes of the Transactions exhibit the same small number of founders as authors and the bulk being contributions from non-founders.

Two other matters generated internal agitation. The first was the politics of membership, the second was what is called today ‘esoteric Freemasonry’.


Membership Politics and its Financial Consequences


Canvassing for candidates for the ‘Inner Circle’, supposedly prohibited, occurred from inauguration. Speth was better-placed than most members to influence developing situations, for example, writing to Irwin in 1889: ‘…I will see that Bro De Ridder [‘Driver’?] is elected on the 3rd January – Will you kindly get him to fill up the enclosed form then everything will be in order.’ [cdlxxx] He appears to have failed on this occasion, as ‘De Ridder’s’ name does not appear subsequently. [‘Driver’ does appear briefly as a CC member] Perhaps refining his lobbying skills, Speth wrote to all members in 1891: ‘Captain AH Markham, RN, CB, is a candidate for the full membership of the Lodge, and his petition is backed by Brothers RF Gould, and the WM. He has been a member of the Correspondence Circle since January 1889, and it must be quite needless to remind you that he was the leader of the last Government Expedition to the North Pole.[cdlxxxi] ‘Captain Markham’ appears in the membership list as ‘No 33 – Sir Albert Hastings Markham’, where it is also noted that he was not initiated into Masonry until 1886. Internally-circulated letters show Speth had also pressed hard in the matter of Warren’s successor as WM. His ‘Circular 12’ explicitly recommended Gould: ‘for whom I personally intend voting…I trust no brother will regard this letter as in the light of a canvas, but there is no other way of eliciting the wishes of our scattered members, and it seems desirable on all grounds that those unable to attend should not be left wholly without voice in so important a matter.’ [cdlxxxii]

Hughan wrote to a membership candidate, Malden, in 1895: ‘Just a line to say you have unanimously passed the Com [Permanent Committee] sub-rosa and will be proposed at the meeting in March…(You) are as good as elected, only all is ‘under the rose’ just now…I lost my last…but Lane & I this time have been successful. [My emphasis] [cdlxxxiii] Irish brother, Chetwode-Crawley, kept Sadler abreast of developments concerning the latter’s situation – in 1895 he wrote: ‘…There is no man alive who so well deserves it. But for your original researches and your independence of thought and word, the views I hold could not have been entertained, much less maintained.’ [cdlxxxiv] – and then in 1903: ‘…You have passed the ballot, but each of the other two received three adverse votes, and it will be intimated to them that they will have to write Essays, just as the operatives had to construct masterpieces, before being raised to the full membership.’

Warren initially hoped that admission into the ‘Correspondence Circle’ would be by election, like QC, and from the ranks of Master Masons, ‘otherwise we may be flooded with persons we do not wish for’.[cdlxxxv] The original proposal was in ‘Circular 6: (19 Nov 1886)…The plan which has suggested itself to us is…as follows. All Master Masons shall be eligible for election as corresponding members on an annual payment of 10/-. They shall be entitled to receive gratis and periodically copies of our Summonses, Circulars and Transactions.’ [cdlxxxvi] Speth had quickly realised the folly of this and insisted that QC had to have as many ‘Associates’ as possible: ‘…The advantages (of the CC) to our lodge will be an increased income, without which we must remain at a standstill, an assured market for our publications, an enlarged circle from which to draw recruits, and enhanced means of keeping in touch with the Masonic universe.’ [cdlxxxvii] [My emphasis] He informed Irwin in 1887: ‘…The fact is we do want the money and unless something is known against an applicant, he is admitted as a matter of course. Our Transactions will cost about GBP35pa to print and the Correspondence Circle was invented chiefly to provide the funds…’ [cdlxxxviii]

He knew that neither UGLE nor QC’s own members were going to supply the shortfall. Gould, Woodford and Hughan all suffered privation in the 1880’s. A ‘Hughan Testimonial’, really a request for donations in 1884, raised GBP250 in six months.[cdlxxxix] Woodford was declared bankrupt in 1885-6 with no known response from QC or from UGLE. Speth organised and drove the attempt to rescue Gould from poverty when The History was pirated by US publishers. ‘The Gould Testimonial Fund’ was introduced to the Lodge in January 1889 and 10-0-0 was immediately voted to it by members. In 1891, a note from Speth recording that Gould: ‘through an unavoidable misfortune, has been reduced to the lowest verge of poverty and distress…Bro Gould is 56 years old, has a wife and is absolutely penniless.’ Contributions noted in August, 1891 included: ‘W Besant 3-3-0; WJ Hughan 1-1-0; Irwin 2-2-0; Speth 10-0-0; Westcott 1-1-0’. A further plea by Circular was made in February 1892, and again in 1894 when Speth commented: ‘unless successful, nothing can save our brother from the last resort of the indigent’. Gould had pointed out in a letter to The Times that the unchanged, pirated version of his work showed: ‘dishonesty in literary matters is unblushingly practised by the members of what is commonly supposed to be a “Society of Brothers”… (The) American publisher as well as the three persons who allow their names to appear as my “assistants” are all of them Freemasons.’ [cdxc]

The total pages in AQC show its internal expansion and convey the level of extra work and extra costs involved:

Vol I       amounted to 217pp. + 30pp of Index etc,

Vol II                         182pp. + 30pp Index, etc

Vol III                       200pp. + 40pp Index, etc.

Vol IV                       248pp. + 50pp of Index


Measured in pages pa, 1886 had 34 pages,

1887 –     52 pp,

1888 –   133 pp, + indexes

1889 –     185 pp, + indexes

1890 –     200 pp, + indexes

1891 –     248 pp, + indexes.

The increase in numbers of ‘index’ pages was due to the expansion of the Correspondence Circle, and Speth’s attempt to list each member by name, number, location and Masonic status. Initial responses to the Correspondence Circle were encouraging. In 1887 Speth reported with delight that 150 applications for membership arrived very soon after the first Transactions had been posted. Initial thoughts for only one hundred copies of the annual volumes quickly expanded to 250 and then to 500, with expectations of further and similar increases.[cdxci] The names and numbers of applicants, who were without exception voted by the ‘Inner Circle’ on his say-so onto the Member’s Register, reached a thousand by 1890 and by 1900 was approaching 3,000.[cdxcii] In 1890 Gould expressed great surprise at the high ‘take-up’ rate into the CC: ‘We thought the numbers might run into three figures – and they did with a rapidity which astonished us…’ [cdxciii] He reported that as of May, 1890, 908 CC ‘memberships’ had been taken out, consisting of: ‘15 Governing bodies, 102 Lodges and Chapters (69 British Isles and 33 Foreign), 5 Libraries or Institutions (non-Masonic) and 886 brethren (537 BI and 349 Foreign).’ He happily listed by name the many ‘eminent’ Freemasons on the list and noted that: ‘Of the professions the medical one is the most largely represented (29)…the clergy (28), military (23), editors of Masonic magazines (7), professors (5).’ Speth in 1892 was justifiably up-beat: ‘It must be very gratifying to every member of our Association to know that our efforts to awaken an enlightened interest in the antiquities and literature of the Craft are producing tangible results throughout the world. The establishment of Literary Lodges and Societies…in the Punjab, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and elsewhere, all avowedly inspired by our example, has been recorded in our Transactions…’ [cdxciv]

These figures are unreliable indicators because the drop-out rate was very high. An application and 1-years subscription were sufficient to trigger copies of the Transactions beyond the first year, but it was only in 1900 that the executive realised the extent of the problem: ‘The dues outstanding are enormous in their total of nearly GBP700…There are over seven hundred brethren who have not paid their subscription for 1900, and over four hundred who have not paid for 1899!’ [cdxcv] The executive did not concede that it might have questions to answer, and they didn’t blame their Secretary. Either the South African war or the apathy of other people was to blame. Speth wrote in 1900: ‘The (falling off in applicant numbers) is probably to be attributed in some measure, to the minds of Englishmen being pre-occupied, during recent times, by matters which have drawn away their attention from Masonic study.. But we feel that, in a lesser degree, it may also be due to a slackness on the part of our members, who have not taken every available opportunity of bringing our society before their Masonic friends…’ Speth’s successor, WH Rylands, in 1905 showed that the number of CC members added for each of the years 1888 to 1899 had been in the hundreds, the highest being 388 in 1888 and 304 in 1895. From 1900 to 1905, however, the numbers had plateaued and actually declined in 1900, 1902 and 1903. As the 1900 Committee had done, the new Secretary blamed the declines on causes outside QC’s control: ‘There have been 6071 names on the CC list since it was first started. The (negative) years were of course due largely to the South African War…It looks as though we are once more on the upward grade but there is a big annual leakage due to deaths and apathy, and although we have had over 300 additions this year the net gain is only 46.’ [cdxcvi] Five years after Speth, Secretary Rylands was harsher in his judgement, but only of others: ‘...Apathetic brethren are of course no use to us, not only because they do not care to read but because they do not pay their subscriptions. It would be kinder if they were to resign…’ He pointed out that the number of active CC members had not increased since 1893, even though GL records showed: ‘…There are 2490 lodges on the register of Grand Lodge of England. Assuming average membership to be 30 would give 74700 Masons… According to latest statistics there are in the United States 12637 lodges with 1,011,547 members and in all Canada 674 lodges with 50,878 members. We have on our CC list 250 in the US, 35 in Canada’.

Out in the colonies, in 1893 Queensland, for example, ‘Local Secretary’ Bro Spiers had sent a circular to all CC members in that State. It included: ‘…It will be within the recollection of most of you that, at the beginning of 1891, ‘The Circle’ in Queensland consisted of only 3 members. During that year the number increased to 41. In the past year [1892] 30 new members have been admitted, bringing our muster roll…up to 71…The membership is made up as follows:- 1 District Grand Lodge, 9 Lodges, 2 Royal Arch Chapters, 1 Literary Society and 58 Brethren.’ He noted that in 1893 ‘Queensland has nearly as many members as the whole of the other Australian Colonies together’,[cdxcvii] but ‘….(Compared) with the number of Freemasons in Queensland, our list of members…is only 1.7 per cent of the active membership.[cdxcviii] He believed that ‘the motto of every Craftsman should be ‘Educate, Educate, Educate’ : ‘…Were every member of the Fraternity a student, even in ever so limited a sense, we should have fewer complaints of leakage in membership, small attendance at Lodge meetings, and luke warmness generally.’

Speth had perceived from the first that subscriptions from distant members might keep QC afloat, but that as a lifeline it had inbuilt dangers – if inflow of subscriptions didn’t keep pace with the totality of costs involved in servicing the increasing membership, QC would run at a loss, and eventually would have to be wound up. But he was scared to impose realistic fees. In April, 1894, he was publicising the fact that: ‘(a) Candidate for membership in the Correspondence Circle is subject to no qualification, literary, artistic or scientific…He is subject to no joining fee…(and the) annual subscription is only half-a-guinea (10/6d)’ In 1913, notices placed around the world in Masonic periodicals showed a revised system was still intended to attract by its cheapness rather than reflect the real cost of the product: ‘The joining fee is 21/- which includes the first year’s subscription…Each member receives the profusely illustrated and handsomely printed Transactions…which are issued in three parts each year…’ [cdxcix] The more candid parts of Dyer’s narrative tell how QC came closest to foundering in the period 1928 to 1951. The 1952 Report of the Permanent and Audit Committee showed that despite the previous 12 months having seen the highest ever annual increase in applicants elected to the CC, 585, the total of active members was only 3,058, and QC’s finances remained in crisis. In January, 1952, the executive circulated a plea for help, fearing that the situation, first acknowledged as dire in 1947, ‘might necessitate the surrender of its Warrant and a consequent cessation of its work.’ [d] Dyer insists that in the face of escalating, post-war cost inflation, industrious secretaries had managed by 1973 to increase CC numbers to over 12,000.[di] The then-Secretary/Editor Carr, needing writers as well as funds to keep QC going, again proposed a separation of ‘complex, perhaps new work’, from ‘scissors and paste’ papers, ie, Woodford’s ‘common place papers’ re-visited. They would be: ‘specially designed for reading in Lodges and Lodges of Instruction, Study Circles, etc, to serve as a basis for discussion, and to promote a lively interest in the Craft.’ [dii] [AQC emphasis] Obscured by its Latin Title, ‘Miscellanea Latomorum’, this initiative failed even its overt aims, and, again, failed to provide a solid basis for lodge education.

Out in the diaspora, QC appeared for a short time as a novel and an appropriately optimistic initiative, especially where the Empire was receiving closest attention, in Africa and Asia. It was not accidental that the second Grand Lodge to join the Correspondence Circle was the District GL of the Punjab at Lahore, the location of Kipling’s ‘mother lodge’. Initially, the example of QC prompted a significant number of similar lodges to form. They have either failed altogether or they have been constipated in delivery. In 1893 Sydney’s recently-combined ‘British’ Masons began planning a Masonic Musical and Literary Society ‘wherein’, it was claimed, ‘all points of interest could be freely and fully discussed.’ This ‘evolved’ into a Masonic Club which provided only accommodation and a venue for social events. It was not until 1913 that a Lodge of Research, No 290, was set up. In his address, the lodge’s first WM, Bro Heighway, was more cautious than celebratory, more narrowly focused than broad-ranging: [diii]In commencing work in such a lodge some doubt might arise in the minds of the members as to the subjects suitable, as to their ability to handle the subject, and as to the length of the papers.’ Because it was necessary, in his view, that ‘we must avoid subjects which will lead to unkind and uncharitable controversy’, he had asked the Secretary ‘to establish a register of subjects suitable for discussion.’ QC’s lack-lustre intentions were being further restricted and sanitised. The example can be multiplied and the consequences measured.

However QC’s efforts are rated, very little enlightenment has been visible amongst the Masonic masses. English-language Masonic literature is filled, not with celebration of ‘a new approach’ to Masonic research but, with defeatist editorials, such as the following from 1912 Western Australia: ‘(It) is indisputable that the intellectual, the intelligent, the cultured thinker, the brainy business man does not come to the front in the Craft to the extent that he should, and that dullness and mediocrity are altogether too frequently prominent.’ [div] Or from The Illinois Freemason: ‘…The curse of our present system is ignorance…One trouble…is that we are not teaching Masons to think, but to remember, and so long as it is possible for a man to stand up and recite ritual by the yard, and receive the plaudits of admiring friends, he has very little desire to search after those things which go to build the fraternity…’ [dv] A 2011 Townsville (Qld) Masonic Study Circle’s Newsletter has only one item as content, a reprint from The Canadian Craftsman and Masonic Record, of February, 1894, called ‘Pre-Historic Freemasonry.’ The earlier author asserted that ‘in this progressive age’, much new information had been brought to light on the past, including that of Freemasonry: ‘(Sufficient) has already been obtained to cause a revision of our old beliefs and a practical rewriting of the history of the Craft.’ [dvi] This amounts to the same call as that made in 2007 by Professor Snoek at an International Conference on the History of Freemasonry – ‘sufficient is available for a re-writing of EF history’. But no-where in the Canadian ‘paper’ is there any sign of an original thought by this 1894 ‘Grand Orator’ or any suggestion that a re-write was underway. That the members of Townsville Study Circle in 2011 had nothing to add, had nothing worth reiterating in their own archives and had no reflections on the Circle’s experience since Bro Spiers’ efforts for Queensland in 1893, speaks volumes.

In 1888, HJ Whymper, Member No 21, had provided QC with the perfect opportunity to tackle the issue. A brewery manager who worked largely in India, he was also a book collector who had married the Reverend Oliver’s daughter. In 1888, his The Religion of Freemasonry aimed ‘to draw attention of Freemasons’ to the presence of non-Christian members in Indian lodges, and to EF’s ‘original religious principles’ which he asserted were based on ‘Christian Catholicity’, [here using ‘catholic’ in the sense of ‘universal’ or ‘broad-based’]: ‘It is believed that, in a well-meant but mistaken effort to let Freemasonry be all things to all men, this principle has been overlooked. Already we find that some Masons deny it altogether, asserting that all distinct profession of Christianity was abandoned in 1717, when the Grand Lodge was founded.’ Speth, in reviewing the book for AQC, believed the author had succeeded in showing ‘in a very complete manner’ that Freemasonry’s connection with the Bible was ‘so intimate as not to admit of its divorce’: ‘(He) has shown in detail that in the first instance Freemasonry was essentially Christian and Trinitarian; that at the period known as the Revival, in 1717, a determined effort was made to give to Freemasonry a tone of universality…and…with only very partial success to eliminate all Christian teachings from the Constitutions and Ritual.’ [dvii] QC publicised the book, but perhaps because Hughan had written a contrary ‘Introduction’, it only just made Speth’s 1890 ‘reading list’.[dviii] Certainly QC chose to otherwise ignore Whymper’s linked challenges, that of non-Christians entering the Craft, and that of the identification of the Craft with Christianity. When the author died in 1893, his research, most of which was little-known, was applauded but never re-printed. An 1890’s author set down equally bluntly the essential fault-line within EF as a whole: ‘…Unfortunately, many members of the Masonic fraternity… endeavour to pervert its Christian character by advocating theories under the cover of science or criticism, to undermine truth. They eagerly seize upon any new discovery, physical or moral, to use against Christianity….’ (Stilson, Concordant Orders, p.743)

Nevertheless, the label, ‘authentic history’ has been repeatedly attached to the corpus of QC’s work, eg, in 1972, Bro Spurr believed that QC had come about because there had been a need for a lodge where: ‘Masonic matters could be discussed and all theories carefully examined, to sift the wheat from the chaff, the fact from the fiction.’ He then claimed: ‘Quatuor Coronati Lodge established itself as the place where bubbles were pricked and if anything was put forward as a fact it had to be proved by independent authorities.[dix] In 1986 Bro Dyer, a member of QC since 1971, wrote: ‘…By (their stated objectives the founders) established a new style of research into Freemasonry. It ignored baseless conclusions…of earlier authors and…became known as the ‘authentic school’ of Masonic students. Through the members’ efforts the work of previous historians came under close scrutiny and much that had formerly been accepted as reliable was rejected.’ [dx] A 1964 ‘insider’ essay appraised QC as having been too strictly ‘factual’: ‘The founders of our QC, who were faced with the task of bringing the inquiries into the past of Masonry within reasonable limits and purging it from the wild speculations in which many of their predecessors indulged…tended to adopt a very rigid attitude. In my opinion, they pressed this healthy reaction too far in the opposite direction, refusing to accept anything which could not be supported by documentary and factual evidence.’ [dxi]

Other 20th century AQC essays repeat the ‘wild and far-fetched theories’ of previous times, most obviously that the Bible is a verified document, or at the very least that it contains sufficient ‘incontrovertible facts’ to be used as a beginner’s guide. The reasons for the persistence of the unscientific approach are clear and encompass every facet of the ‘usual’ EF history. A 1964 essay provided readers with Secretary Carr’s opinions about where eight decades of QC dithering had brought EF. There could only be ‘opinions’, since QC still had no means of determining which ‘facts’ were incontrovertible. He set out ‘three of the important phases in our history’ beginning with what he thought had been fashionable within QC a century before, an idea ‘praiseworthy in intention, but historically unrealistic’:’…The idea…was to trace the beginnings of the Craft right back to the dawn of history…(However) nobody was ever able to find the slightest evidence that might bridge the gap between those ancient societies and ours…Nowadays we begin our story, not with wild and far-fetched theories, but with the details that we can prove, and so we start…in the year 1356, when we have the first evidence – in England – of the beginnings of mason trade organisation…’ [dxii] His exposition is replete with ‘perhaps’, ‘maybes’, ‘it seems certain that’ and numerous unsupported assumptions.


The Issue of Esotericism


Back before QC hove into view, RW Little was so keen on them that he invented, adapted or revived any rite he could find entangled in the stories of ‘Freemasonry’. Attributed to him, KRH Mackenzie and to Hughan in various accounts [dxiii] in the period 1865-67 is what has been described as ‘the British revival of ritual magic’. This was ‘Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia’ [SRIA]. Supposedly not so much a degree but ‘a Masonic study circle’ the: ‘(SRIA) represented…an English Masonic elite gathered for the purpose of studying the cabbala, the hermetic texts, and other arcane wisdom of the ancient and mediaeval world.’ [dxiv] For Woodford, ‘intellectual study of Freemasonry proper’ had to include esotericism. In December of 1886, he expounded on ‘Freemasonry and Hermeticism’ to QC. His conclusion was: ‘…Freemasons especially are bound to be honest seekers after truth, and though the ascent to its great Temple may be difficult and tedious, approached by devious paths or fenced about by serious obstacles, we are bound to persevere…(Our) motto should ever be that of Hermeticism and Freemasonry alike in its high import and abiding obligation – “Let Light and Truth prevail.” Gould’s paper, ‘English Freemasonry Before the Era of Grand Lodges, 1717’, in September 1887, was an attempt at what Woodford had called ‘common place papers’. It was based, he asserted, only on ‘what we know’ and eschewed theory but even it showed up differences within QC over the most basic of ‘facts’. He began with the ‘Oral Traditions’ from the time of St Albans, the first Christian martyr in Britain’,[dxv] which he thought too ‘ancient’ and too speculative. Woodford begged to differ, saying he ‘was a heretic on a great many points laid down by (Gould) as law. He was a freemason who believed in the traditional teachings (and)…the many old legends…’ [dxvi] Gould’s responses then and at the later dinner attempted joviality. He asserted that as the very best of friends, differences with the older man were ‘of the nature that usually occurred between husband and wife’: ‘(My) admiration for Bro Woodford’s ability was now greater than ever because, although (I) endeavoured to keep clear of controversial facts…Bro Woodford had yet managed to disagree with (me).’ However, his despondency about the then current situation was clear: ‘Our London Lodges are, to a great extent, select and expensive dining-clubs; and in the Provinces…though the feasting is on a more reduced scale, the entire instruction communicated to inquiring brethren consists of a smattering of ritual and ceremonial.’ The published German material was troubling him: ‘Of English Masonry, it has been said, and not without great show of reason, that it now only retains the shell of which our German brethren possess the kernel.’ In December, 1887, shortly before his death with only Gould at his bedside, Woodford sent a letter to another close friend and fellow Mason:

Dear Brother Westcott,

With this I send MSS under seal, which I promised, in cipher. It confers upon the possessor who understands the meaning to grant the old Rosicrucian secrets and the grades of Heoos chruse, or Golden Dawn. Try to see old Soror ‘Sapiens dominabitur astris’ in Germany. She did live at Ulm. Hockley now being dead I know of no-one else who could help you.

Yours sincerely,

AFA Woodford.[dxvii]

Westcott first attended QC as full member, No 16, in December, 1886. He argued in 1888 that lectures and discussions should only occur when the Lodge was ‘in the Third Degree’, ie when only Master Masons were present. As a well-known coroner, he might have been an advocate of forward-looking science and of evidence-based expositions but he was another esotericist and scholar of the alleged Hebrew origins of ‘Freemasonry’. His suggestion had implications for published reports of discussions as well as for who could attend QC, but it failed in the face of Speth’s insistence there were more pressing problems.[dxviii] Westcott read his first paper to QC, ‘The Religion of Freemasonry Illuminated by the Kabbalah’ in September, 1887, and, as Secretary General of ‘Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia’ [SRIA] briefed readers of AQC on its work.[dxix] His paper argued that Masonry’s key idea, monotheism, had Jewish antecedents: ‘..Our ritual presents us with ample internal evidence that the mystery of the craft lies deeper than a mere scheme of moral maxims. Our ritual contains distinct prayers, addressed to the clearly defined one God.’ [dxx] For Westcott the SRIA: ‘is not a Masonic degree in any sense, although its members (fratres) are necessarily Master Masons, and a ritual of admission is made use of.’ [dxxi] In his ‘briefing’ he noted that ‘Dr WR Woodman is the present Supreme Magus, and TB Whytehead is head of the York (SRIA) College.’ Whytehead was QC member No 12. Woodman was another early entrant into the “Outer Circle’ in June, 1887.

At that month’s meeting, June 1887, Hughan’s paper, ‘Connecting Links Between Ancient and Modern Freemasonry’ sought to prove evidence-based continuity, and therefore ‘the antiquity of Freemasonry…In other words, the evidence to be submitted may be our warrant for claiming that we belong virtually to the same society.’ [dxxii] As ‘evidence’ for links between pre-and post-1717 ‘Freemasonry’, Hughan asserted ‘numerous resemblances’ between the ‘Old Charges’ and ‘the ordinary usages of the Freemasons of today’. In response, Woodman regretted, perhaps whimsically, that: ‘(No) more can we believe that the Father of the human race held a Grand Lodge in the Garden of Eden; neither that Noah, its second father, performed the rites of the Craft in the Ark, with the lion and the elephant alternately acting as Grand Tyler…’ [dxxiii] But he said, despite Hughan’s reference to the earliest ‘written evidence of the existence of a regular meeting of a Lodge of Freemasons like ourselves…I shall, as the lawyers say, without prejudice, continue to claim the Royal Solomon as one of our early Grand Masters…(Though) written proof is not actually forthcoming of the names of those who formed the several Lodges…there is a considerable amount of incontrovertible evidence that Masonic Lodges of a thoroughly practical character were then in existence. Hughan argued that his claim of continuity was ‘capable of being tested by archaeologists and historians, be they Masons or non-Masons’, an approach lauded in retrospect as objective, which of course it is not. Putting forward a testable hypothesis is part of the scientific method but it is only the first step. Scientists test their own hypotheses and provide their results for others to test, along with the path to their results. Without having tested his own evidence, Hughan’s conclusion is no less an act of faith than Woodman’s, or than Woodford’s was in 1870. On this occasion, founding members spoke up, Rylands agreeing with Hughan, but Gould argued:‘...In no Court of Justice would the evidence [just presented] be admissible, without direct proof of the actual existence at some time of Robert Padgett [in Hughan’s paper], to say nothing of minor legal points which would be freely raised.’ [dxxiv] Hughan remained undeterred ’in spite of Bro Gould’s objections which [he said] were those that naturally arise in the mind of a Brother who had enjoyed a legal training’.

In March 1887, Warren, in his only paper to QC, ‘On the Orientation of Temples’, a repeat of a paper he had given to the Historical Society in 1875, said: ‘…I am of opinion that the arrangements for the Lodge are derived from the worship in the temples which existed in Phoenicia before the building of Solomon’s Temple…Any persons elaborating a Masonic temple in the Middle Ages would never dream of putting the Master in the east…but it so happens that in the older temples the great image or symbol of the sun was placed in the East…’ [dxxv] He acknowledged he had only opinions for many of his claims, but quoted the Bible as a primary, unimpeachable source and proof of Freemasonry’s antiquity: ‘…I put forward…that modern masonry is a combination of the mysteries of the Hebrews, the Phoenicians (including the Greeks) and the Egyptians, that it thus forms the chief of the triads running so remarkably through all Masonic lore…In a word I think there is not a doubt that in our order we are the direct descendants from the Phoenicians, who first moulded Masonry into its present form…If it were not so, I would not be here tonight to speak, for if we cannot trace our descent from the Phoenician craftsmen who worked on the Temple of Solomon, and if it be only an allegory, then our position descends from the sublime to the ridiculous…’ [dxxvi]

The published responses from his fellow-founders are muted but a visitor, Bro SL MacGregor Mathers, is shown declaiming at length, finishing with: ‘…(Surely) our Masonic Ritual is a type and symbol of the progress of each human soul, pressing ever onward, ever upward, till at last it soars aloft, and in that full and glorious Light of the East which shines on it, it finds that long-lost Master’s Word whereby it is united to its God; raised by that Great Grand Master’s Grip to an eternal life with Him.’ [dxxvii] In Howe’s 1972 account of ‘lunatic’ Masonry in the early QC, Mathers stands out: ‘During the (Order of the Golden Dawn’s) early period, (1888-92) it was a perfectly innocent little secret society which worked half a dozen rituals composed by MacGregor Mathers, and whose members studied the elements of so-called occultism. In 1892 Mathers began to teach the theory and practice of Ritual Magic to a carefully selected minority.’ [dxxviii] In March, 1888, with fellow signatories Woodman and Mathers, Westcott issued the first charter for ‘The Esoteric [aka Hermetic] Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer’. Fifty initiates quickly joined, ‘the men heavily outweighing the women and drawn largely from Masonic lodges.’[dxxix] Gilbert, recent Masonic scholar, has this: ‘In Westcott’s day, almost every occultist (if a man) was also a freemason and a member of the Masonic Rosicrucian Society, the (SRIA). [dxxx] Another of the Woodford generation, Woodman had followed a career of police-surgeon. He had joined SRIA in 1867: ‘Almost immediately he was appointed Secretary-General, and when the Society’s journal, The Rosicrucian, appeared in July 1868 he acted as assistant editor under (RW Little)…Westcott later described Woodman as ‘an excellent Hebrew scholar, and one of the few English masters of the Hebrew Kabalah.’ [dxxxi] Gilbert has noted: ‘Benjamin Cox, the Borough Treasurer of…Weston-Super-Mare, had known Westcott in his days as a young pharmacist…in Somerset and had long been associated with him in a number of obscure Masonic Rites and Orders.’ [dxxxii] Cox had ‘six of his local Masonic colleagues’ initiated into the Temple Isis-Urania during March 1888, and in October, Westcott issued the necessary authorisations for a second Golden Dawn Temple, Osiris No 4, in Cox’s home town.      Tobias Churton who has written extensively about hermeticism in EF has speculated that ‘The Order of the Golden Dawn’ was infiltrated by English/British spies who ‘assisted’ it to shatter internally. Aleister Crowley and Mathers were the two suspected members. Churton has pointed to evidence that these two, because of their belief in ‘legitimate royal houses’, were involved in what has been called ‘the Carlist Plot’ in 1898-1899. [dxxxiii] After Crowley’s death in 1947, clear evidence emerged of his espionage background, during the 1914-18 War in mis-information programs for the Allies, and during the 1939-45 War as advisor on the Nazi’s occult beliefs. No better cover story can be imagined than one asserting that he was ‘depraved’, ‘treacherous’, and, all up, ‘the wickedest man in the world.’ [dxxxiv] Yarker, intransigent dabbler in ‘irregular degrees’ was yet another early entrant into QC’s Correspondence Circle, being registered in May 1887. Across 25 years, until just before his death in 1913, he attended QC meetings and contributed 26 papers, the first, early in 1888, being ‘The Unrecognised Lodges and Degrees of Freemasonry Before and After 1717’[dxxxv]. In that year he wrote to Irwin: ‘It is a treat to me and a pleasure to find there are still Masons in existence who are above prejudices and I am very interested in Lodge 2076. It amounts almost to a revolution.’ [dxxxvi]

‘Crimean’ Simpson might have been dismissed by scholars such as Howe for the same reasons that the members of the ‘lunatic fringe’ have been declared ‘lunatic’. When, for example, he succeeded Gould as WM in 1889, his first paper was ‘The Worship of Death’ on ‘pagan’ transition rituals to the next world in which he claimed to see Masonic parallels. Rylands in reply, asserted that the paper had not met what he, Rylands, regarded as criteria for proof, while Gould also expressed his doubts and counselled against jumping to conclusions.[dxxxvii] On the page, Simpson’s paper is no more and no less scientific than any other. He seems to have been a genuine ‘seeker after truth’ but he had spent three decades exploring matters which were not amenable to systematic examination: ‘The library which he left contained a collection, probably unrivalled in private hands, of scarce books on eastern and primeval religions, the catalogue alone of which affords something like an education on occult subjects…’ [dxxxviii] The editor of his autobiography published after his death reasoned: ‘…His original researches and studies in India made him an authority on these subjects, his sane and unprejudiced habit of mind fitted him peculiarly for such work, and in his chosen fields he must be held to have advanced both the knowledge and the wisdom of mankind…’ [dxxxix] Simpson’s curiosity appears to have been unrestricted by notions of what was ‘proper’ and what was not: ‘…At Bombay, along with Mr. Geary, of The Times of India, I called on the party of Theosophists that had lately come from America. This party was composed of Madame Blavatsky, Colonel H. S. Olcott, a Mr. Wimbridge, and a Miss Bates…At that time the sect had not developed into tricksters and jugglers…’ [dxl] Described by the same editor as an ‘ardent’ member of QC, Simpson’s autobiography, nevertheless, provides no information about QC or any other aspect of EF.

Madame Blavatsky, another refugee from the Continent, had, on her arrival in London in 1887, established a ‘Centre for Theosophy’. Her book, read and rejected by Stead and passed on by GBS, was wholly absorbed by Annie Besant. Walter’s sister-in-law, she was to eventually succeed Mme as head of what quickly became an international movement. In effect, Annie eschewed verifiable ‘truth’ and chose to believe in a speculative ‘other’, a position closer to that being followed by EF than that pursued by her activist counterparts in France. By also becoming a leader of what is now called ‘Co-Masonry’ she attempted a compromise with her English heritage. French Masonry had long worked to include women, the GOF from 1774 having allowed Rites of Adoption by which lodges could “adopt” sisters, wives and daughters of Freemasons, imparting to them the mysteries of several degrees. Admitting both men and women, ‘The International Order of Mixed Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain’, was founded in France in 1893, during struggle for control of the GOF, and in which feminist and women’s suffrage campaigners featured. ‘The Order of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain and the British Dependencies’ was founded on September 26, 1902, with the consecration of Lodge Human Duty No. 6 in London. Annie remained its head until her death in 1933. The rites she inspired restored certain ‘Masonic’ practices not required in the French working, notably that its members hold a belief in God or a Supreme Being. The permission received from France to reinstate this in the English workings is known as the “Annie Besant Concord”, and in 1904 a new English ritual was printed, which firmly established this requirement as central to the work. The revised ritual, called the “Dharma Ritual”, also attempted to restore to prominence certain esoteric aspects that its theosophically-minded authors felt were the heart of Freemasonry. Co-Freemasonry has therefore sometimes been called “Occult Freemasonry”. She co-founded the Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross (OTRC) in London, in 1912.

Esoteric influences were noticeable across a broad spectrum. The scourge of Warren at Scotland Yard, Police Commissioner Monro, called upon to continue physical repression of protestors,[dxli] also turned to India for inspiration, while Conan Doyle dreamed of establishing a ‘Church of America’, which he thought could take in ‘all the sects from the Roman Catholic to the Salvation Army’.[dxlii] He remained close to the intelligence-gathering arms of government and was an intimate of spies like William Melville. He regarded Stead as a co-worker in spiritualism and regretted the latter’s pro-Boer stance which divided them politically. His later belief, that the 5th Lord Carnarvon had died from ‘some malign occult influence’, probably from his involvement with the excavation of Tutankhamen’s tomb, overshadowed his fame as a crime novelist.

There are no signs that the EFs who Howe later attempted to sideline as ‘lunatic’ had conspired to capture QC or that they had attempted to undermine it. Rather, Irwin, Woodford, Westcott, Yarker and the other occultists regarded their researches as legitimate grist for QC’s mills, and their views as worthy of discussion as any others. QC’s operations would have been poorer without them, indeed they appear to have been a large part of the reason the Lodge survived its first years.


Intelligence and EF Part Company


The peak of the Empire’s geo-political influence can be located in the decade between Queen Victoria’s two Jubilee celebrations, ‘Golden’ in 1887 and ‘Diamond’ in 1897. It can be measured comparatively easily as can its media image which continued to build in the 20th century. EF’s importance as an adjunct to the Empire, as opposed to its public presence, is much harder to assess. The parallel arcs of the Empire’s rise and fall and that of the hidden EF are clear enough but just how is cause and effect to be assessed? Military accomplishments of individual soldiers have been debated at length and criteria for success or failure have been at least agreed to, but just who among the prominent EFs featured in this account most closely exemplifies the Orders’ geo-politics?

That efficiency of the English/British military machine had greatly declined was often asserted towards the end of Victoria’s reign, but so was the transcending valour of the men involved. It would seem to me to be the case that the reality was the same as it had been for hundreds of years and that only the function of the rhetoric had changed. Whenever they fought, the English/British Army and Navy were successful or not because of their strengths relative to those of their opposition. Across their history, resources invested, techniques used and the quality of application depended on the same dynamic interchange of individuals and social forces. At times they were in the ascendancy and sometimes not. Yet, it is undeniable, that in the 1880’s and ’90’s, power relations beyond the relative size and skill of the protagonists began to shift to the Empire’s disadvantage and that they continued to shift in the 20th century. I leave the ‘foreign relation’ causes of the shift to others. I am concerned here only with the relationship between Britain’s power and influence and English Freemasonry.

The Empire didn’t reach a certain extension and then begin to shrink because UGLE changed policies or because EF suffered from scandal or decay internally. The only change relevant to the relationship was the professionalisation of the armed forces which meant the usefulness of EF was diminished. The public clamour around the Empire and the military took on a life of its own, being no longer tethered directly to the core political process, and allowed EF to continue on as before in public as though nothing had altered. The two processes are distinct and need to be considered separately though they are obviously connected.

It was circumstances, not inherent uniqueness, which had given EF a significance in the task of Empire building – the odd collection of elements of which it was composed gave it a practical value which disappeared once the military moved to professionalise itself. EF’s cloak of secrecy, its capacity for conviviality, its strange and particular disciplines and its location within the higher reaches of the social hierarchy gave it an air of ambiguity and a sense of purpose which made it useful to ambitious men, and especially those who felt they were on a mission. It combined an idealism which could be used to rouse and to exhort, with a capacity to deceive, mislead and bamboozle ‘outsiders’, those not in the secret, whatever the secret might be said to be at any given moment. It remains now a phenomenon of idealism with a capacity to deceive but towards the end of the 19th century it not only lost its practical usefulness for imperial decision-makers, but it thereby lost its most enthusiastic advocates, the movers and shakers of Empire. The ideals could continue after 1900 but EF was no longer needed to implement them.

The loss of use centred on the intelligence-gathering function. Of course, government espionage didn’t slacken. As just one twig in the whole tree, after a hiatus in its work between 1885 and 1890 when it was barred by the Porte, the PEF had resumed its intelligence role but once Walter Besant had given up the Honorary Secretaryship in 1895 it appears to have had no involvement with EF. Elsewhere, John Biddulph (1840-1921) based in Kashmir in the 1870’s and 80’s, organised a spy network to gather up information across an area from Samarkand to the Pathan tribal enclaves. A career soldier, then ostensibly an ornithologist, the official view of his work and that of his numerous colleagues was: ‘It is necessary that researches in those countries [on the northern borders of India] should be conducted by secret Agents’…[dxliii] The English/British spy who in 1916 assisted in the assassination of Rasputin, the holy adviser to the Russian tzarina, had taken ‘the Great Game’ to the Russian heartland.[dxliv] Hopkirk highlighted the continued use of the 19th century model with a 20th century example: ‘In the autumn of 1908…British intelligence chiefs in Simla began to take an interest in the movements of two young Japanese archaeologists who had turned up on the Silk Road…(The) men had been observed from the moment they entered Chinese Turkestan overland from Peking…(They) were shadowed for over a year by a succession of Moslem traders, native servants and others on the pay-roll of the Indian Government…Regular reports on their movements…were compiled in Kashgar…carried across the Karakoram (pass) by runner with the official mail to…Kashmir, for onward transmission to Simla.’ [dxlv] He might have quoted from Wignall’s account of his ‘Welsh Himalayan Expedition’ of 1955 being recruited ‘by a covert faction within Indian Intelligence to report on Chinese military operations in newly-invaded Tibet.’ [dxlvi] Wignall was a Fellow of the RSG.

Loss of imperial momentum and the neutralisation of EF as a vehicle for covert activities did not end its ceremonial nexus with the Army. In 1887, the then Field Marshall Sir Garnett, 1st Viscount Wolseley was installed Junior Grand Warden of UGLE, images of Kitchener were sold widely after 1902 and he was broadly feted, as Empire hero: ‘Imperial troops occupied Bloemfontein in March 1900, and on St George’s Day, 23 April of that year, an historic meeting of Lodge Rising Star was held in the Masonic Hall in that city.’ With a German national, W Bro I H Haarburger, presiding, those attending included Kitchener, Lord Casterton (then the Grand Secretary of the Irish Constitution) and, to quote a contemporary news report, ‘a goodly number of military masons from all parts of the Empire’, including ‘Australians and Tasmanians’. Apologies were received from Field Marshal Lord Roberts, who was by then both Commander-in-Chief for South Africa and a Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England. Late-19th century EF was enthusiastically identifying itself with the ‘superior national traits’ allegedly represented by the best known military figures: ‘…We may think, and not without pardonable pride, of the illustrious names in connection with the war, which are no less illustrious in the annals of Masonry. Among these are LORD ROBERTS, LORD KITCHENER, SIR GEORGE WHITE, GENERAL HUNTER, GENERAL RUNDLE, SIR CHARLES WARREN, VISCOUNT VALENTIA, and LIEUT. NORWOOD who received the Victoria Cross for gallant conduct during the siege of Ladysmith.’ (Emphases in original) So convinced was this writer that military prominence equalled Masonic worth that he urged ‘our Most Worshipful Grand Master, himself a soldier of renown’ [by then Lord Connaught had succeeded the Prince of Wales/Edward IV] to confer ‘some special order of merit or some special jewel or other insignia’ on those brethren ‘who have conferred such lustre on the Order.’ This 20th century jingoism was accompanied by continued opposition to German views of Masonic history and to ‘authentic’ history, as we have seen.

The mystique of ‘Freemasonry’ continued to play a role. With the 1st WW breaking out in Europe, TE Lawrence was held back until his report on The Wilderness of Zinn was completed and made available to Kitchener. He was then sent to Cairo to become part of a new intelligence unit under Lieutenant Newcombe, RE, within the ‘British Egyptian Expeditionary Force’. (LiA, 2013, p.86) where, in Lawrence’s word, Kitchener used the PEF ‘to whitewash’ military surveys in Egypt and surrounding areas. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley were officially employed by the PEF, at Kitchener’s instructions, to survey Sinai ‘under cover of which Captain Newcombe could continue his military work.’ They were pulled out by Kitchener when the Turkish Government became aware of the deception and issued threats. [dxlvii] A recent account put it this way: ‘Although it was technically true that Lawrence and Woolley were in southern Palestine in search of biblical ruins, that project was merely a fig-leaf for a far more sensitive one, an elaborate covert operation being run by the British military.’ The Ottoman government knew of the PEF biblical survey since they had approved it, ‘but they knew nothing of the five British military survey teams operating under the PEF banner…’ (LiA, 2013, p.12)

A note by Lawrence to British Commander Liddell Hart in 1916 included comments on embassy officials: ‘The Ambassadors were Lowther (an utter dud) and Louis Mallet who was pretty good and gave fair warning of the trend of feeling.’ Lowther’s belief that ‘political events had hidden implications and esoteric explanations’ was set out in a letter on ‘the mysteries of the Judeo-masonic and Young Turk conspiracy’ he had sent to his superiors, on 29 May, 1910. Prompted by ‘the rumoured appointment of Mohammed Farid’ as delegate in Egypt of the ‘Constantinople Freemasons’ he wrote on the ‘strain of continental freemasonry’ running through the Young Turk movement: ‘I do so privately and confidentially, as this new Freemasonry in Turkey, unlike that of England and America, is in great part secret and political, and information on the subject is only obtainable in strict confidence, while those who betray its political secrets seem to stand in fear of the hand of the Mafia…’. [dxlviii] Lowther spoke of ‘our Freemasonry’ and of EF as the ‘true Freemasonry’, that is, as though he was a brother. His major concern was that Jews and ‘crypto-Jews’, bent on reforming the Turkish government and on restoring their people to Israel/Palestine, had been working clandestinely and had recruited supporters under false pretences, namely, they had mis-represented ‘Freemasonry’ by taking up with the ‘atheistical’ and ‘political’ continental form.

Six years later, Lawrence linked ‘much of our ineffectiveness’ to a third British official’s rabid hate for ‘Freemasons and Jews’: ‘I blame much of our ineffectiveness upon Fitzmaurice, the Dragoman [adviser and trouble-shooter], an eagle-mind and a personality of iron vigour’. Fitzmaurice was a career ‘intelligence agent’, not in the field but as interpreter, translator and advisor. In Turkey from the 1890’s and in Constantinople from 1907, he was an industrious and efficient spy-master. Lawrence again: ‘Fitzmaurice had lived half a lifetime and was the Embassy’s official go-between and native authority. He knew everything and was feared from end to end of Turkey. Unfortunately, he was a rabid R.C. and hated Freemasons and Jews with a religious hatred. The Young Turk movement was fifty per cent crypto-Jew and ninety-five per cent Freemason. So he regarded it as the devil and threw the whole influence of England over to the unfashionable Sultan and his effete palace clique.’ (Kedourie 1974, p.247).

Kedourie, the scholar, dismissed both Lowther and Fitzmaurice: ‘…The fustian fantasies recorded in this document [of 29 May] are worth noticing for their own sake, for they exhibit the extremes of credulity to which succumbed the two men to whom the foreign secretary looked for the provision of reliable information about an important and sensitive area. The document shows how tenuous was their hold on reality…’. [dxlix]

The vain glorious claims of insiders and the bizarre conspiracy theories of outsiders went on, despite the realities, as they always had. In what Afrikaners called ‘The Second War of Independence’ and Englishmen called ‘The Boer War’, Britain’s military numbers were around seven times greater than their opponents yet they did not prevail. The fighting showed that Boer equipment, tactics and organisation were superior and that the Boers were better mounted and more used to living off the land. The Boer generals were often old and/or incompetent but the rank-and-file were generally superb marksmen, used to rapid fire, flexible enough to use flight as a strategy, and above all, were skilled at bush reconnaissance – espionage in a form not taught at Addiscombe or Sandhurst: ‘The British, with one or two exceptions, underrated their opponents, and held the view that the Boers would never stand up to a cavalry charge. This of course was true but the Boers fled not because they had been defeated but because they preferred to live to fight another day in a position of greater advantage.’

Conan Doyle, doctor-in-charge of the Bloemfontein Military Hospital during the war, wrote of failures of British military thinking: ‘The idea that an infantry soldier is a pikeman has never quite departed in our army. He is still to march in step as the pikemen did, to go steadily shoulder to shoulder, to rush forward with his pike advanced. All this is mediaeval and dangerous…The taking of cover, the most important of all infantry exercises, appears to be even more neglected than our musketry…Lances, swords, and revolvers have only one place, the museum.’ His initiation into EF and his experiences of it had led to his seeking something else. His time in South Africa produced a conclusion similar to that of Baden-Powell’s, as described by Rosenthal: ‘…As the lessons of the Boer War were assimilated…(a) militaristic tone (became) a more regular feature of British life…While (Conan Doyle), with his Liberal instincts, did not believe in any form of compulsion, he had already (in 1902) committed himself to a reformed citizen army …rifle clubs, and he later… identified with…the Legion of Frontiersmen and the Boy Scouts.’ B-P had realised the need for a motivational element beyond EF to ensure fraternal discipline did not become robotic and meaningless. Through observation of the Boer, he had noted their personal attachment to their immediate context. Their skilful use of, and British blindness about bush-craft, illustrated the English/British preference for formalised, organisational discipline. To draw out my theme – Desagulier’s science demonstrations involved problem solving relevant to his time and place – plumbing, steam-generation and the like. Oliver’s concern with a priest’s locale – what he called ‘the manners, habits, propensities and amusements’ of community – was recognition of the same need for relevance. B-P’s experimental trials around Mafeking of what he had in mind were derided by his colleagues as aimless ‘wanderings at night.’ His provocative book, My Adventures as a Spy, was a how-to-do manual of an insight which nearly put him into jail. Between the summer of 1909 and the autumn of 1911 both MI5 and MI6 were set up, an updated Official Secrets Act was passed and the ‘D-Notice’ system to stop newspapers reporting anything on national security was devised.[dl]

Kipling was one who appeared to be in his element, metaphorically confronting the Boer – ‘squat, sturdy, spectacled, with black bushy eyebrows and a brown Boer hat’. He recited ballads at concerts for the troops at Mafeking and contributed to the making of Baden-Powell’s image. Baden-Powell was never initiated into Masonry, yet biographers have asserted both that Kipling was an indifferent Mason and that Baden-Powell borrowed heavily from K’s books and poems for the Masonry he, B-P allegedly put into his faux soldiers. It is known that in Mafeking, a bleak, nondescript town, the Masonic Lodge served variously as jail and concert hall. When ‘relieved’, B-P was promoted to General but not knighted, as Warren and others had been, but he was given a similar task. Where Warren went to London, Kitchener put B-P in charge of the Cape Colony police force, later the South African Constabulary. Rosenthal has noted: ‘Kitchener’s reports to Roberts (B-P’s commanding officer) on the efficiency of Baden-Powell and his (SAC) comprise one long lament:

“Baden-Powell does not appear to do anything with his SAC men beyond dressing

them up… I fear (he) is more outside show than sterling worth…” (5 April 1901)

B-P’s military career is remembered for that one event, ‘the siege of Mafeking’, because he was rescued in time where Gordon at Khartoum was not. In both cases, publicity has obscured the realities. Recent scholars have argued that B-P ruthlessly played favourites within his own staff, and brutalised, starved and exploited the natives in his care: ‘Baden-Powell in the legend is portrayed as a generous, compassionate, fair and wise leader. His lack of compassion toward black people is well-documented. But what is little recorded is his cruelty to those he disliked…Nor was he fair… So blatant was the ungraciousness and dishonesty of Baden-Powell, who owed more to black support than any other British commander, that the outraged white residents of Mafeking took up their cause with the British authorities.’ Regarded as ‘a dangerous eccentric’ by military inner circles, B-P actively prepared for his life beyond Kitchener by utilising ‘the Siege’ to escape what its publicists were claiming it represented. He was turning what was a failure into ‘just the sort of yarn we want for the campfire (as part of) ‘the great work towards the prevention of misery and crime’. The siege was essential to his plan because it gave him the fame needed to attract boys to his scheme for repairing the damage which that old world had produced: ‘…Order, fitness, courage, brotherhood and a refusal to admit defeat were the underbelly of the Boy Scouts movement he launched in 1907′ A decade after the dismal efforts in Africa, and while he, personally, was under-cover in Turkey, sketching forts and the like, his ideas began to gain wide support. Rosenthal again: ‘The Boer War…succeeded in focusing both internal and external threats in a visible and disturbing way, and through the trauma it inflicted on British self-confidence, helped establish the mood of national crisis that was precisely the culture in which the Scouting movement could best grow.’

B-P had been thinking of his place in history in his youth and even of the possibilities of a scouting-type initiative. He had worked out that he could build his fame by seeming to distance himself from the military culture which had produced him, and focus on what he identified as a debilitating weakness at the heart of English society: ‘For Scouting was from the very beginning conceived as a remedy to Britain’s moral, physical and military weakness – conditions that the Boer War seemed to announce – especially to Tory politicians, social imperialists and military leaders – were threatening the Empire…Military ineptitude in the field was matched by domestic and industrial inefficiency at home; both were fostered by the decline of the manly British character previously responsible for the country’s greatness.’ Similar organisations to the Scouts which formed in the 1880’s, such as the Boys’ Brigade, the St John’s Ambulance, the YMCA, and the Salvation Army, grew from a generalised fraternalism coloured by the militarist rhetoric. That many apparent hard-heads, such as Annie Besant, ‘Chinese’ Gordon, the police agents Monro and Anderson, sought solace in mysticism and ancient traditions is not the point. All were seeking group identity, fraternal connections, a common goal which could no longer be satisfied by EF, or by what EF had become.

Conservative Government leader Salisbury has been credited with a sardonic attitude towards ‘soldiers in general and generals in particular’ and to have predicted in 1864 that the British Army, ‘with its poker-like attitudes’ was entirely unfitted ‘for a bush war with savages.’ He was prevented from innovating, he argued, by his generals, headed by the Duke of Cambridge, who believed their own hype – ‘Beaconsfieldism – precipitate flash and valour.’ Salisbury claimed credit for bringing home ‘the over-zealous’ Warren in 1885, and was not surprised when Warren suffered the ignominy of a defeat at Spion Kop, ‘so severe that it led to a six-day debate’ in parliament. Detractors said he should never have been recalled to active service: ‘Perhaps the most incompetent general of the war, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren, a fifty-nine year old on the retired list, the soldier Salisbury had recalled from Bechuanaland and the police commissioner who failed to catch Jack the Ripper or prevent Bloody Sunday, took twenty six hours to cross the Tugela River, allowing the Boers to reinforce their position tenfold.’ There was more to the criticism: ‘He sent his troops forward without machine guns, sandbags or a field-telegraph unit, and with only twenty picks and shovels to entrench 2,000 men. The Lancashire Brigade were ordered to halt on the wrong hill peak in a fog, where they were massacred…’ The meticulous planner of Egypt had, it seems, become a tired, disillusioned refugee from his own past, not able to and perhaps not wanting to bolster his or the Empire’s heroic image any further. The publicity machine was manipulating ‘history’ to suit personal agendas, but most importantly here, it was obscuring a simple reality. This was that he no longer had his brotherhood with him. The peak of EF’s influence and direct involvement with ‘the government’ had passed. It was no longer necessary for a soldier, or even useful for a government agent to be a ‘Freemason’. The career and the beliefs of another ‘Wilson’, this one Sir Arnold Wilson, 1884-1940, closely paralleled that of Sir Robert and Sir Charles, the difference being that he, the last of the three, was not an initiated brother. He held to the same views, however: ‘Before the Great War, my generation served men who believed in the righteousness of the vocation to which they had been called, and we shared their belief. They were the priests, and we were the acolytes of a cult – Pax Britannica – for which we worked happily and if need be died gladly. Curzon, at his best, was our spokesman and Kipling, our inspiration.’ [dli] Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India after Lord Ripon, 1898-1903, was not a ‘Freemason’ either.

In his Autobiography, Walter Besant, like Simpson, made little of QC. He recalled it as: ‘an archaeological lodge consisting of nine persons of which I was one. It was proposed to carry this on as a medium for historical papers on all points connected with the (Craft)…’ He credited ‘the Secretary’ with having developed this lodge, but says that it was only at an 1890’s reception in Albany, New York that he realised ‘the great success and the widespread influence’ of the Lodge. He referred to none of his co-founders by name except in their non-QC roles, eg, that of Warren in Africa. Similarly, his London in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1909 though written in 1898, mentions ‘Masonry’ only once, and that is of Freemasons Hall being available for public use. [dlii] (p.274)

From the perspective of the 21st century, EF’s and QC’s refusal of direct contact with ‘the poor and the outcast’ seems un-remarkable. It is now ‘the norm’, almost the respectable thing, for the benevolent classes to make donations at arm’s length. However, the enormous attention being paid to social issues in the 1880’s and the proximity of QC’s meeting place to the dramatic events in London as it made its debut make EF’s silence and QC’s lack of public engagement notable.