Thomas Henry BEASLEY who was initiated into the Golden Dawn in October 1888 - one of its earliest members - and took the Latin motto ‘Excelsus’. At that time he was living at 131 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town in north London. He didn’t remain a member for long, though; he died very young.
I’ve found out very little about Thomas Henry Beasley which is a pity as - if I have identified him correctly - he’s one of the more interesting GD members, as he seems to have made his way up (the Victorians would definitely consider this progress) during a short working lifetime from manual labour to an office job (albeit a very particular one). IF I have identified him correctly; and I’m pretty sure I have, for reasons that will become very clear.
Beasley is a rather unusual surname but despite this, I haven’t been able to find out anything, really, about Thomas Henry Beasley’s early life. Between 1861 and 1881 he gave census officials data consistent with his having been born in or near Reading, about 1838 so this birth registration might be him: a male baby surname Beasley, forenames not recorded, registered in Reading in the quarter July-September 1838. I couldn’t find a Thomas Beasley of the right age, still less a Thomas Henry Beasley, on the censuses of 1841 or 1851 so I have no information about his family.
This is probably him, though, on the 1861 census, living at 3 Rose Court in the St Giles parish of Reading, with his wife Sarah, née Langworthy; they had only just got married. Thomas Henry told the census official that he was a bricklayer. I’d love to know what happened in the next ten years: on the day of the 1871 census he had moved to 152 North Street Westminster. He and Sarah had had two daughters, Theodosia and Sarah, who’d both been born in Woolwich. And he was working - so he told the census official - as a police inspector. In 1881 he was still in the same job but had moved out of overcrowded Westminster to 109 Brixton Road Lambeth. He and Sarah had had three more children - Thomas Henry junior, born in Westminster, and Richard and Amy both born in Lambeth. Theodosia was still living at home; she was working as a dressmaker. Daughter Sarah was not at home on the day of the 1881 census; possibly she was working away from home although it’s also possible that she had died in her early teens. The family had a lodger, a Miss Ann Wood. And Thomas Henry had achieved what Victorians understood to be the basis of middle-class-ness - he was earning enough for the family to employ one live-in servant. They were doing very nicely.
Senior officers of the Metropolitan Police were listed in the Post Office Directory for London. So I went to search the directories with reasonably high hopes of finding out a bit more about where Thomas Henry Beasley was working and how high in the Met he had got. I couldn’t understand it when I couldn’t find his name. However, in my searches for members of the GD I’ve got rather used to not being able to find people who ought to be easy to spot, and after going through several issues several times, I gave it up as a bad job. Several months later and looking for something else entirely, I found Thomas Henry Beasley in the Times; and realised that either there had been some confusion between him and the census officials, or that he had misled them a little: Thomas Henry Beasley worked for the coroner’s office. Specifically for the County of Middlesex Central District coroner’s office, where Dr George Danford Thomas was the senior official and Dr William Westcott was Danford Thomas’ deputy. So Westcott is WHO BEASLEY KNEW IN THE GOLDEN DAWN.
The Times didn’t normally cover inquests; but one in February 1884 was of more than local interest. It concerned the corpse of Thomas Baldwin of Litcham Street Kentish Town, who had died the previous week, allegedly of injuries inflicted by a police constable while the PC was taking him to the police station. Dr Danford Thomas was in charge of this inquest (I couldn’t find any instance in the Times of Westcott and Beasley working at the same inquest). Mr Beasley, described in Times’ report as “the coroner’s officer”, took the witness stand briefly at the end of the session to report that some new witnesses had come forward, other than those heard that day; so the inquest was adjourned. If the Times covered the subsequent hearings, Mr Beasley’s part in them was not mentioned.
The following month the Times was back again in north London, for Dr Danford Thomas’ inquest on a body that had taken some time to identify; and the report went into a bit more detail of what Thomas Henry Beasley’s duties were as coroner’s officer. In this case, it had been his task to get the corpse identified, and it had proved to be no easy task. Beasley had interviewed a man called Amos Parsons who had come to see the body in case it had turned out to be his cousin Mary Marshall, who had gone missing. However, on seeing the corpse and again at the inquest Parsons had stated it wasn’t his missing relative, so Beasley had had to pursue other possibilities and it had taken him a while to establish that the corpse was Mary Ann Yates. I’m not quite sure why the case of Mary Ann Yates should appear in one of the many journals that (still!) follow Jack the Ripper, as the authors are quite sure the Ripper didn’t kill her; but an article in Ripper Notes in 2005 gave more information on the inquest and Thomas Henry Beasley’s part in the investigation of the death. Mary Ann Yates was strangled, in her room at 12 Burton Crescent, probably during the night of Saturday 8 March to Sunday 9 March 1884. In this account Beasley’s job is described as Summoning Officer, meaning that the basis of his job was delivering summonses to court to anyone whose evidence would be needed during an inquest. However, as the Times’ description of his job indicates, Beasley had a more active role than just issuing bits of paper. In the case of Mary Ann Yates he’d carried out a search of her room, including having to rummage through the bed-clothes on which her body had lain. He’d found a half-sovereign amongst the sheets - payment for her services, perhaps?
Those were the only two occasions on which Thomas Henry Beasley appeared in the Times in the course of his duties. He died aged only 54, in Reading, early in 1889.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
Specific to Beasley:
Times Monday 4 Feb 1884 p10e report on an inquest which had opened “On Saturday afternoon” [2 Feb 1884] at Crowndale Hall Camden.
Times Thursday 27 March 1884 p11f rpt the inquest on Mary Ann Yates which had resumed “yesterday” [Wed 26 March 1884] at Crowndale Hall, with coroner Dr G Danford Thomas in charge.
Ripper Notes issue of 22 April 2005: Murder by Numbers by Dan Norder, Wolf Vanderlinden and Jeffrey Bloomfield; pp41-42. The inquest on Mary Ann Yates opened on Wednesday 12 March 1884 at the St Pancras Coroner’s Court and the coroner in charge was Dr Danford Thomas. Thomas Henry Beasley was the last person to give evidence that day, after which the inquest was adjourned for one week.
Post Office London Directory 1884 Law directory p2011 London and Middlesex coroners’ offices. A Dr Danford Thomas is listed as the coroner for the County of Middlesex Central District. Its offices are at 68 St Mary’s Terrace Paddington. Only two other people who worked in that office are listed: Westcott, and the Secretary Walter Schröder. Alas same story in PO London Dir 1886 law directory p2036; and PO London Dir 1888 law directory p2086. Beasley just wasn’t senior enough to appear.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
30 April 2012