Wilfred George Frederick Praeger was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 28 May 1892, taking the Latin motto ‘Perficit qui mavult’. There was some confusion in 1894 as to whether he’d resigned; but he hadn’t and in fact he was initiated into the GD’s inner, 2nd Order on 3 March 1897.
R A Gilbert believed that Lilian Grace Mary Blyth was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus temple in Bradford in 1893; though as the Bradford records have been lost, he couldn’t be sure. Later, Lilian was a member of the Isis-Urania temple in London, where she used the motto ‘Deo volante’. It was in London that she was initiated into the 2nd Order, on 6 April 1897; though she was excused the yearly subscription on grounds of poverty (the GD hierarchy was very generous about this sort of thing, with a member they thought was good).
UPDATE MARCH 2023
After several years in which I hadn’t been looking for anything new on Wilfred or Lilian, Paul Frecker contacted me. Paul is an authority on the photographer Camille Silvy, who was working in London photographing the great and good from 1859 to 1868. He sent me news of Wilfred Praeger’s older brother Richard, who had his photograph taken by Silvy on two occasions. Many thanks to Paul for the information and copies of a couple of contemporary documents; and for causing me to discover that there is now a wikipedia page on Wilfred’s father.
WILFRED AND LILIAN
Wilfred Praeger and Lilian Blyth were married in 1898. They may be one of several couples who married after first meeting at the Golden Dawn; but I think they might have known each other before they were initiated, because of this man - a third person in their marriage, you could say he was - William John Manners Tollemache (1859-1935), 9th Earl of Dysart.
I’m going to start this Blyth-Praeger biography with the Earl, a generous benefactor of both the Blyth and the Praeger families.
The Dysart earldom was created in the 17th century and is a very rare bird - it can be inherited by a woman and has been so inherited many times in its history. In September 1878 the 9th earl succeeded to the title in the more time-honoured way when his grandfather died, his father having been dead several years by this time. Along with the earldom went 27000 acres of land in Surrey, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire and two houses: Buckminster Park near Grantham, built in the 1790s and with grounds landscaped by Repton; and the 17th-century Ham House on the Thames near Richmond, built by the first earl of Dysart and his daughter Elizabeth the 2nd Countess, who married the Duke of Lauderdale. His grandfather’s Will prevented the 9th Earl having sole control of these estates until September 1899, but with the consent of the his trustees he had already begun to spend money making much-needed repairs to Ham House before this time. He travelled widely, farmed, bred shorthorns and Shire horses, and took an interest in the history of the counties in which the family lands were situated.
However, his life had a tragic side to it, because he went blind at quite a young age. Music became his solace - that’s where the Praeger family comes in. And although he came to need secretarial and other help to make his way through his days, he was a wealthy man - even in the 1920s and 1930s he could still afford to employ 20 servants and keep four fancy cars. And he could still make all the decisions that went with wealth and the power of patronage - that too involves the Praegers and is also where the Blyth family comes in.
In 1885 the 9th Earl married Cecilia Florence Newton, daughter of George Newton of Croxton Park Cambridgeshire; but relations between them deteriorated so that she left him at some time during the 1900s. The 9th Earl and his wife had no children, so on the earl’s death, the title was inherited by Wenefryde Greaves, daughter of his sister Agnes Lindsay-Tollemache-Scott; the lands were divided between members of the Tollemache family.
9TH EARL OF DYSART AND THE BLYTH FAMILY
One of the duties of the earls of Dysart was to appoint and to pay suitable men to work as Church of England priests in the churches situated on their lands. When a vacancy arose in 1881 at the church in Buckminster, the 9th Earl remembered a clergyman who had been curate at Kew-with-Petersham, and appointed him - Lilian Blyth’s father the Rev Frederic Cavan Blyth - to the job.
The Blythe or Blyth family claimed to be able to trace itself back through 40 generations to a Duke Altorf of Bavaria who was alive in AD820. Lilian Blyth was descended from the Yorkshire branch of the family, which had begun with the purchase (in 1367) of land at Norton Lees, near Sheffield by a man called John de Blida in the Latin of the time. John Blythe’s descendants married over the next several hundred years into similar families in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire - Sir Isaac Newton’s grandmother was Margaret Blythe. Lilian’s great-grandfather Joseph Blythe was the man who dropped the ‘e’ and became Blyth. He lived at an estate that he had bought from the Duke of Kingston, at Cotness on the River Ouse. Lilian’s grandfather, Joseph’s son George Blanshard Blyth, was the vicar of a parish near Brough in Yorkshire. He married Mary Popham, the daughter of an army officer, who had grown up in Paris and the West Indies where her father had been stationed. George and Mary had a large family including five sons, two of whom joined the army and three of whom joined the church.
Frederic Cavan Blyth was the youngest of the three sons who joined the church. After following his older brothers to St Paul’s School in London, he went to Oriel College Oxford. In 1860 he was ordained by the bishop of Lincoln, who also found him his first job, as curate of Kirkby-with-Asgarby in Lincolnshire. Frederic Blyth went from there to two more short-lived appointments (at Wimbledon and at Frittenden in Kent) before becoming curate at Kew-with-Petersham in 1867, where he stayed for ten years. During 1873 he was also chaplain to the Richmond Poor Law Union, but this seems to have been a temporary appointment. The job at Kew-with-Petersham brought him to the attention of some very influential people, including the Dysarts and John, Earl Russell, who lived with his large family at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park.
In 1863 Frederic Blyth had married Eliza Ann Holder Christie, the daughter of Robert Christie (a surgeon) and his wife Matilda. Lilian Grace Mary was their eldest child, born in Sleaford Lincolnshire in 1864. Frederic and Eliza had five more children: Edith born in 1866; twins Gertrude and Frederick William born in 1868; Mary Agatha born in 1869; and William born in 1873. Frederick William was either born dead or died shortly after his birth, but all the other children grew to adulthood. The curate of Kew-with-Petersham didn’t have a vicarage to live in, so on the day of the 1871 census, Frederic and Eliza Blyth and their children were living at 8 Cambridge Gardens Richmond. Also in the household were Frederic’s unmarried sister Alice, and two young boys, Frederic Blyth’s pupils, whose fees were helping the Blyths afford a cook, as well as a nurse and a housemaid.
In 1877, Frederic Blyth moved to his next job, as vicar of Quatford in Shropshire and chaplain to the Bridgenorth Poor Law Union. On the day of the 1881 census the Blyths were living in the Vicarage at Eardington just outside Bridgenorth. Alice Blyth was no longer living with them; and Frederic had no pupils at the time, but he was still able to employ a cook as well as a housemaid. He could not afford a governess, I should imagine; certainly the Blyths didn’t employ a resident governess in 1881. However, Frederic Blyth told the census official that Lilian (now 16) and Edith (now 15) were still in education, so either he had found the money to send them away to school, or he was teaching them himself; I haven’t been able to find out which. What Lilian was being taught will become clear.
The Blyths’ time in Shropshire was short. The offer to Frederic of an appointment in a county they knew, with an employer they were acquainted with and perhaps a better salary, was too good to be turned down. In 1882 Frederic Blyth became vicar at Buckminster - a village more or less entirely owned by the Tollemache family. He remained there until 1896, when he moved to another of the Earl of Dysart’s vicarages, at Silk Willoughby, near Sleaford where he and Eliza had lived just after their marriage 30 years before.
On the day of the 1891 census, Frederic and Eliza Blyth were well settled at the Vicarage in Buckminster. I cannot find their daughter Gertrude on any census after 1881; and Edith wasn’t in the UK on 1891 census day; but Mary Agatha, William, and Lilian were all at home. Mary Agatha’s occupation or source of income was left blank; as it usually was with unmarried middle-class women, whatever they spent their lives doing. William’s was as well although it’s obvious from later information that he was still at school or about to go to university. However, Lilian (now 26) told the census official that she did have a profession: she was a musician, and a member of the National Society of Professional Musicians (NSPM). She could also have told him that she was a composer: in 1890, the German music publishing firm of Schott and Co had published a Prelude for organ by “L G M Blyth”.
I know it’s only one, probably quite short work, but Lilian’s Prelude does show how much effort she put in to her music and how much she wanted to be taken seriously as a professional. I think she didn’t tell her contacts at Schott and Co that she was a woman, so that her work would be considered on its merits, not on her gender: no one took women seriously as composers. Although I haven’t found any evidence that she went to music college, she must - surely - have studied composition somewhere. Perhaps with Ferdinand Praeger who might also have had the contacts in Germany to put her in touch with Schotts. But then again, perhaps not: my modern source for late 19th century musicians says that Praeger was one of the many who believed that women were intellectually inferior to men. I hope Lilian found someone more sympathetic to teach her. If she did study with Praeger despite his attitude, she may not have been his only woman pupil: Ethel Smyth might also have studied with him.
You couldn’t just pay a yearly subscription and get to be a member of the NSPM. The Society had been founded in 1885 with the specific aim of raising standards of musicianship amongst players in Britain and getting in was meant to be a challenge: you had to be recommended by a proposer and a seconder who were already members; then your musical competence was assessed; your social status was scrutinised (this was still Victorian England after all); and if you survived all that investigation, your name was put forward to an election process. It’s no wonder Lilian Blyth was so proud of being a member that she insisted the census official make a note of it. Getting in to the Order of the Golden Dawn was peanuts in comparison!
That I haven’t been able to find out much about Lilian Blyth’s career in music is one of my greatest disappointments in all my work on the members of the Golden Dawn. Her prelude for organ is the only information I’ve found. I haven’t come across a single reference to her playing in concerts either as a soloist or with other musicians; though it’s possible that most of her engagements - if she had them (see below) - were at private functions in people’s houses where there was a portable organ or harmonium. I’ve had to fall back on more general histories of women musicians in the late 19th century to get a feel of how her life in music might have gone.
Of course, plenty of vicars’ daughters were proficient enough on the organ or harmonium to play in church services; as volunteers. But in 1891 Lilian was claiming a proficiency and a seriousness about her music that were on an altogether different level. My best general source says she would have found the going tough, forging a professional career. There was an assumption that instruments like the violin were too technically demanding for women; and that the way you have to move your mouth to play a wind instrument was unladylike. By the 1890s women were proving these prejudices outdated. However, there were also too many professionals (male and female) chasing too few engagements; and if Lilian had chosen the organ as her main instrument, she might have found it difficult to get paid work even in the women’s orchestras that were being founded, which focused on music for strings.
Put simply: unless you were brilliant, very very determined, and knew the right people, you would struggle as a female musician. The lack of information I’ve found on Lilian’s career suggests she struggled. That doesn’t mean she was only an adequate musician - obviously not, as she was a member of the NSPM; but you had to be SO good, so outstanding, as a woman, to get any work at all.
If you were not able to make ends meet through being paid as a performer, there was one other way to make music your profession. Lilian didn’t take it, but her sister Edith did. Edith told the 1901 census official that she was a musician but she also said she gave singing lessons. When the family broke up after Frederic Blyth’s death, she got a job teaching music at the Girls’ Grammar School run by Charlotte M Hopkirk at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
If you were determined to be a professional musician in the 1890s it would help you to live in London, at least during the ‘season’ (roughly April to July), and that was no less true for a woman than for a man. R A Gilbert’s evidence about where Lilian joined the Golden Dawn suggests that she wasn’t living in London before 1893. Although times were changing, the proper place for an unmarried woman was still thought to be ‘living with her parents’. But then, I can’t explain how she came to be initiated in Bradford - if R A Gilbert’s correct about that (I’m sure he is). Perhaps she played in concerts or a church there sometimes and got to know people. I don’t know who she knew there - that bit of her life is a mystery. By the end of the 1890s, though, Lilian does seem to have been living in London at least some of the year and - I hope - doing her best to be a professional organist. In 1894 she had reached the age of 30, regarded as a watershed after which the chances of a woman’s marrying were assumed (erroneously, if members of the GD are typical) to be in steep decline. In some families, when an unmarried woman reached 30, control over what she did was relaxed. Frederic and Eliza Blyth seem to have let Lilian go to London on her own, at least sometimes. It was not as though she had no friends there, after all - she knew the Russell family, the Earl of Dysart and his wife, and - probably - the Praegers.
Lilian and Frances, Countess Russell kept in touch after the Blyths had moved away from west London - a letter from the Countess to Lilian written in 1883 still exists. And Lilian also knew Countess Russell’s grandson Bertrand, though probably not very well; Bertrand was much younger than her, and he and his siblings had only come to live with their grandmother the Countess after their father’s death in 1876. Lilian’s acquaintance with the Earl and Countess of Dysart was probably more formal, but the Earl took the concept of noblesse oblige seriously and I’m sure he would have helped Lilian out if she needed it while living in London, as the daughter of a man who was one of his dependants. As for Lilian knowing the Praegers, that’s a bit speculative for the years before the 1890s. It depends on whether the Praegers attended the parish church in Hammersmith. The Praegers were living in Hammersmith by 1871, and from 1871 to 1878, Lilian’s uncle, Rev Edward Hamilton Blyth, was vicar of Hammersmith. However, even if the Blyths and the Praegers hadn’t met then, I do think Lilian will have met the Praegers in the early 1890s if not sooner, especially if she admired Wagner.
Wilfred Praeger was a son and a grandson of composers. Wilfred’s grandfather was Heinrich Aloys Praeger (1783-1854), a Dutch composer and conductor; he married an English woman, Elizabeth Wilhelmina Davis or Davison. According to Ferdinand Praeger’s wikipedia page, both families had been Jewish, though perhaps Heinrich and Elizabeth were not by the time Wilfred’s father was born and named Ferdinand Christian Wilhelm Praeger. Taught by Hummel, Ferdinand became a professional pianist, composer, teacher and writer. He came to England in 1834 and lived in London - with trips abroad - for the rest of his life. In 1849 he married Léonie Eugenie Alexandrine Bazile. Although Léonie had been born in Paris, she and Ferdinand married in London. They had the typical mid-Victorian large family, although three of their children died as infants; and one, Richard, when he was 22. Wilfred George Ferdinand Praeger the GD member was the youngest son, born in 1869. Surviving with him were the eldest child Henry John (Heinrich Johann, born 1850); and two sisters – Léonie (born 1866) and the youngest child, Brunhilde (born 1871).
Ferdinand Preager’s obituary in the Times says that he wrote 36 sonatas, 25 quartets, some orchestral works, a sacred cantata called Magdalene, a large number of songs and many short pieces for the piano. During his lifetime these were better known, because played more often, in Europe than in Britain. He had many contacts amongst musicians in Europe and played host to many who visited London. He was the London correspondent of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, the journal founded by Robert Schumann, and was acquainted with Hector Berlioz, Louis Spohr, Antonin Dvorak and Ethel Smyth. However, he’s best known now for his relationship with Richard Wagner, though it turns out to be a moot point exactly how well Ferdinand Praeger knew him.
Ferdinand Praeger met Wagner through a mutual friend, in Dresden in about 1843. In the years that followed they corresponded, and met occasionally. When Richard Wagner paid his first visit to London in 1855, he stayed with the Praegers on his first night in town and Ferdinand (whom Wagner described as “uncommonly good-natured”) took him out and about, introducing him to important figures in the London music world. In turn, Wagner stood as godfather to the Praegers’ latest child, Richard Wagner Charles Henry, born that year. The relationship with the Praeger family was something for Wagner to be thankful for in 1855, as he endured several miserable months as the much-criticised conductor of the Philharmonic and Sacred Harmonic Societies’ concerts. The friendship continued after Wagner left England and the Praegers stayed with him in Switzerland in 1857 and 1871. It’s possible that in 1876, Wagner sent Praeger a copy of the first edition of the score of Der Ring des Nibelungen; certainly, a first edition of it was later owned by Lilian’s daughter-in-law Sheila, presumably inherited from Lilian and Wilfred. But it’s also possible that Praeger had had to buy a copy; perhaps while at Bayreuth to see the first production of all four operas that year. Because...
As early as 1859, a concerned friend had warned Wagner that Praeger was developing a tendency to claim more friendship with him than actually existed. Praeger was also not doing as much as a friend might have, to get Wagner’s music played more often in England. However, by 1890 it was generally accepted in musical circles in London that Ferdinand Praeger was someone who had known Wagner well; and by this time, being understood to have known Wagner well counted for something. A big milestone in the process of establishing Wagner as The Great Composer had been passed in May 1882 when the complete Ring cycle received its first performances in London. Even the Times, though rather reserved about the increasing influence in Britain of German culture, described Wagner as the composer who “at present above all others occupies the attention of the musical world”; and looked forward to the London performances as an event whose importance “can scarcely be over-rated”.
I think Praeger encouraged people to bracket his name with Wagner’s, because as Wagner-fever began to grip English musical circles, the relationship got him noticed. In April 1888, for example, the Royal Musical Association was due to hear a talk by J S Shedlock on the correspondence between Wagner and Liszt, and Praeger was asked to chair the meeting: if you couldn’t get Wagner (and you couldn’t - he’d died in 1883) Praeger was the next best thing. Praeger was finding, too, that the great and good, who otherwise would not have known his name, were seeking him out: people like the 9th Earl of Dysart wanted to know him.
Praeger seems to have seized the opportunities offered by a very rich man, a great admirer of Wagner, making his acquaintance: by 1890 he had persuaded the Earl to pay him to compose music. In an exhibition of some works by Ferdinand Praeger at the University of Buffalo music library in 2012, one of the exhibits was a contract dated March 1890 in which the 9th Earl promised to pay Praeger £2400, in instalments of £200 per quarter, for new works composed by Praeger. Provided he produced music, Praeger would earn £800 a year (an enormous sum in the money of the day, though one the Earl could well afford) for the next three years. On the day the contract was signed, Praeger delivered to the Earl the first two compositions, his fourth and fourteenth string quartets. I don’t quite understand why - if the Earl was such a Wagner fan - he should commission works from someone else. Perhaps the idea was that the works would show the influence of Wagner - Praeger once more being the next best thing.
It may have been in his capacity as president of the Wagner Society that the Earl commissioned another work from Ferdinand Praeger: he asked Praeger to write a book on his friendship with the great man.
Which was a bit of a problem...
Ferdinand Praeger’s Wagner as I Knew Him was published on 17 February 1892. A one-paragraph review in the Times a few days later gave no hint of what was to come, but within a very short time there was gossip about the content of the book. Praeger had included a set of letters written to him by Wagner; and if he had wanted to keep his status as Wagner’s great friend he had made a very great mistake, because he published them in the original German and with his own translation into English. Anyone with sufficient knowledge of German - and there were plenty of those amongst Wagner lovers - could compare the two versions. The Germanophile Houston Stewart Chamberlain gained access to 34 of the original letters which were by then owned by the Earl of Dysart (yet another thing he had paid Praeger for, I suppose) and published his own translation of them in 1894. Stewart Chamberlain’s work showed all-too-clearly that Praeger’s translations were not accurate, and in particular had greatly exaggerated not only the closeness of the two men but also Praeger’s influence over Wagner (which seems in reality to have been non-existent). Stewart Chamberlain had not found all the letters in Wagner as I Knew Him amongst those now owned by the Earl of Dysart. He speculated that the missing ones had been invented by Praeger.
Ferdinand Praeger was not around to defend himself. He had died on 2 September 1891. His sons Henry and Wilfred and the rest of the family, had pressed on with the publication of the book perhaps in ignorance - maybe they too believed Ferdinand’s version of his friendship with Wagner and wanted to have it honoured; perhaps for the money it would bring in, especially to help Léonie Praeger in her widowhood; and of course to fulfil the contract. They took no active part in the uproar; I suppose there was nothing much they could say. After Stewart Chamberlain’s translations were published, Wagner as I Knew Him’s publisher - not the Praeger family - withdrew the book from sale and issued a public apology. However, that wasn’t the end of it. The feathers began to fly in the Wagner Society: Wagner as I Knew Him was attacked by prominent members like William Ashton Ellis, while other members took great offence, on Praeger’s behalf, at the accusations Stewart Chamberlain was making. When the different factions took to airing their views in the newspapers, the Earl of Dysart - unwitting instigator of the disaster - decided that he had to resign as the Society’s president.
The Earl chose not to visit the sins of the father upon the sons: he offered Wilfred Praeger a job.
I know very little about Wilfred Praeger’s early life, except one piece of what you could call negative information: he and his siblings grew up in a household full of music, but none of them became musicians or composers. Perhaps they didn’t inherit any musical talent from their father; if they did, they remained well-taught amateurs.
Wilfred and Ferdinand had an interest in poetry that Wilfred’s siblings didn’t share, though neither of them ever published any poetry and they probably never wrote any. In 1890, it was to Wilfred that Ferdinand Praeger handed on his copy of Joseph and his Brethren: A Dramatic Poem by Charles Wells. Ferdinand’s copy had been given him by George Ernest John Powell, the poet and friend of Algernon Swinburne. Powell had contributed to the Wagner-fuelled English interest in ancient Germanic culture by translating some of the Icelandic sagas. I would guess that Powell was a friend of both Ferdinand and Wilfred.
Wilfred’s youthful ambitions were to have a career in art: he told the 1891 census official that he was an artist and art critic. However, I couldn’t find any evidence that he was able to work as a professional artist, and I could only find three short pieces of writing on art published by him. They appeared in the magazine Atalanta, in 1891 and 1892, and were all profiles of well-known artists: Frederick Leighton; William Blake Richmond; and Louise Jopling. They don’t seem to have led to more regular art-critical work and in the end Wilfred followed his siblings in opting for occupations with regular, predictable wages: Henry John went into the offices of a City business; Richard joined the merchant navy; sister Léonie married a civil servant; and even while he was hoping to be an artist Wilfred, in 1890, was not working at his painting, but was probably employed in the office of one of the local committees of the Charity Organisation Society (I’ve had trouble following up my one reference to this so I’m not clear whether he was being paid).
Moving in artistic circles in west London, Wilfred Praeger got to know W B Yeats; or perhaps it was their two families that knew each other. In 1891-92 Wilfred was a regular guest at the Yeats family’s house in Bedford Park, where they were all ‘at home’ on Monday evenings, and it must have been during those evenings that he found out about the existence of the GD and probably met other members, like Annie Horniman, Florence Farr and the Pagets - Henry and Henrietta - who were all friends of W B. W B Yeats recommended Wilfred to the GD hierarchy as a suitable member, and meant to facilitate Wilfred’s application by getting the necessary forms sent to him; but then he forgot and Wilfred seems to have had to prompt him about it. In the end, Yeats just gave Wilfred Annie Horniman’s telephone number, and Wilfred organised the sending of the pledge form himself.
LILIAN AND WILFRED
How did Wilfred and Lilian meet?
Although I’ve suggested that the Blyths and the Praegers may have known each other since the 1870s, Wilfred and Lilian may not have met as adults until they were both in the Order of the Golden Dawn. They could, however, have met through Ferdinand Praeger and Wagner and they had at least has two chances to do this. The first chance, I’ve mentioned already: Lilian taking lessons with Ferdinand Praeger in musical composition. The second is if Lilian was thrilled by the operas of Wagner. I hope I’ve illustrated that if you liked Wagner in the 1880s in London, you would have been bound to come across Ferdinand Praeger sooner or later: the Great Composer’s friend. I take it that Wilfred Praeger, too, would have been curious at least, to know more about Wagner and his music - I think he may have been too young ever to have met him.
Hoped-for careers in the arts, that never really materialised, were something that Wilfred and Lilian had in common; although perhaps they never talked of it in quite that way. (It was something they also shared with Annie Horniman, who had wanted to be an artist but soon realised she didn’t have the talent.) Whenever it finally was that Wilfred and Lilian met, their backgrounds and interests were enough to form the basis of a marriage. They needed enough money to get married on, of course; and this once again is where the 9th Earl of Dysart comes in.
I haven’t been able to find, from the documents I’ve been able to consult, exactly when Wilfred Praeger went to work for the 9th Earl of Dysart. All I can say for certain is that Wilfred was a member of the Earl’s staff by the day of the 1901 census. He was working as assistant to the Earl’s private secretary, and I’m going to speculate that he’d been on the Earl’s payroll for a few years by 1901 - though I may be quite wrong about this. I also don’t know what salary the Earl was willing to pay Wilfred, but the job did come with perks as well as money, in the shape of a house on the Buckminster Park estate for when the Earl was in residence there; and he possibly contributed to the rent of the flat in Putney that Lilian and Wilfred lived in when the Earl was at Ham House. Definitely the sort of job you could get married on.
Lilian and Wilfred were married at All Saints Marylebone on 19 July 1898, with Lilian’s father, Frederic Cavan Blyth taking the service; and Wilfred’s mother Léonie and Lilian’s sister Edith amongst the witnesses. On the day of the 1901 census, the Praegers were one of three households living at 21 Chelverton Road Putney; from the way the census entry was laid out, I’d say they were occupying the top floor.
Lilian was 34 when she married. By the mid-1900s she and Wilfred might have resigned themselves to being childless; but in the autumn of 1906, while they were living at Buckminster Park, Lilian (now 42) gave birth to John Frederic Blyth Ferdinand Praeger. John Praeger - later Blyth-Praeger - turned out to be not only Lilian and Wilfred’s only child, but probably the only child born to any of the children of Frederic and Eliza Blyth. Lilian’s sisters Edith and Mary Agatha never married; Lilian’s brother William married Constance Norah McDermott in 1905 but by 1911 they hadn’t had any children. William had succeeded his father as vicar of Silk Willoughby: another instance of the 9th Earl of Dysart’s continuing support of the Blyth and Praeger families.
Frederic Cavan Blyth had died very suddenly in August 1904. In the years after, the health of Eliza Blyth began to deteriorate. It’s likely that Mary Agatha cared for her at first but by 1911 she needed professional and perhaps constant attention, and her children had installed her in a house in Westcliff-on-Sea, with a full-time nurse-companion, who filled in the census form as head of the household, and described Eliza as her “patient”. Mary Agatha had gone to live with William and Norah at Silk Willoughby. On census day 1911, Lilian and Wilfred were once again in the flat at 21 Chelverton Road. I think Wilfred had been promoted (or perhaps he was exaggerating a little - his family did have a track record of that, after all): he described himself as “private secretary to peer”: no mention this time of being an assistant. Their son John was now five and at school, and Lilian was working on the Blyth family history that was published in 1912. Between 1911 and 1914 Eliza Blyth was moved either to live with Lilian and Wilfred or near them; her death was registered in Wandsworth in 1914.
I’ve made it fairly clear, I hope, that Lilian was the daughter of a Church of England vicar; and that Wilfred’s religious background was possibly Jewish, though not overtly. However, Lilian and Wilfred sent their son to the co-ed Roman Catholic school Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire. The choice of Stonyhurst College is one of two pieces of evidence I have that Lilian at least had became a Roman Catholic convert; several Golden Dawn members did so, though not (I think) while they were still active in the GD. The second piece of evidence for Lilian’s conversion is the church where her funeral took place.
Although the wikipedia page on Ham House describes the 9th Earl of Dysart as “eccentric and difficult”, Wilfred Praeger was still working as his private secretary in the 1930s. The first world war had not interrupted this because by 1916 Wilfred was too old to be called up; but he did join the London volunteer militia. By the 1930s, as a senior and long-serving member of the Earl’s staff, Wilfred and Lilian had a status with the Tollemaches which was more than just employee and employee’s wife - occasionally they got invited to family marriages. The Earl had a flair for investment, he’d made a great deal of money that way. In 1934 Wilfred had acted for him in the negotiations when he had bought some bearer certificates from Howie Gold Mines (which in due course caused his heirs a great deal of trouble). In November of that year, Wilfred represented him at Howie Gold Mines’ AGM. Perhaps taking the Earl’s advice, Wilfred also invested some money on his own account. He bought shares in the British Empire Academy Club Limited, of 19 Dover Street, and as one of its directors, suffered all the embarrassment of being charged with selling alcohol without a licence and after hours, when the Club’s ballroom in New Burlington Galleries was raided twice by the police. All the directors, and the Club’s secretary, had to appear before the magistrates at Marlborough Street Police Court in May 1931; I wish I knew what happened afterwards but I can’t find any coverage of a trial. Perhaps they all just admitted they were guilty - though they probably hadn’t been in the ballroom on the nights in question - paid the fines and hoped that was the end of it.
The 9th Earl of Dysart died on 22 November 1935. He was 76. With heavy death duties to pay and the estates being broken up, there was no chance that the the large number of staff employed by the Earl could all continue in their jobs. Within a few weeks, the Earl’s valet was advertising for work; and I imagine Wilfred - who was nearly 70 himself - was encouraged to retire.
Lilian Blyth died on 16 April 1942. I don’t know where she is buried but her funeral service was held at the convent of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton. The convent was an English branch of a Roman Catholic women’s teaching order founded in France by Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865); and is my second piece of evidence for Lilian having become a Roman Catholic convert. I’ve found some evidence that the Blyths were high church Anglicans, so Lilian would have grown up familiar with the emphasis on ritual and perhaps even with the idea of the use of ritual as an aid to mystical experience. That upbringing would have served her well in the Golden Dawn; and the move to Catholicism perhaps wouldn’t have been as far for her as for other people. But actually taking that final step and becoming a Catholic was still a controversial move, in the early part of the 20th century.
Whether Wilfred also converted to Roman Catholicism I haven’t been able to discover. He lived for many years after Lilian’s death; and died in a mental hospital. Holloway Sanatorium at Virginia Water was founded by Thomas Holloway, who also sponsored and funded Royal Holloway College. From when it opened in the 1880s, until 1948 when it was incorporated into the new NHS, it was a mental hospital for the middle-classes, with a suitably splendid building, high-quality facilities and - I would suppose - fees to match. Wilfred may already have been an inmate there at the time of Lilian’s death: their daughter-in-law was Lilian’s executor. Wilfred died at Holloway Sanatorium on 10 October 1955.
Lilian and Wilfred’s son John became a civil servant. He inherited his parents’ interest in alternative ways of understanding how the world works - he became a well-known dowser and served as vice-president of the British Society of Dowsers.
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. Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01. As far as I know, the records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have not survived either.
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.
SOURCES FOR LILIAN BLYTH, WILFRED PRAEGER and 9TH EARL OF DYSART
THE BLYTH FAMILY
Lilian’s contribution to the family genealogies is:
Notes on the Yorkshire Branch of the Family of Blyth of Norton Lees published by The Pan Press 1912, by L G M Praeger. On pp47 and 50 Lilian mentions the Descent of the Family of Blyth from the Royal Houses of Guelph and Este, also published by the Pan Press. P50: the descent is through 40 generations beginning with Altorf D of Bavaria fl AD820 and ending with John Frederic Blyth Ferdinand Praeger, born 1906, son of Wilfred and Lilian. The gist of Lilian’s book is that the Yorkshire branch of the Blythe/Blyth family has been excluded from earlier genealogies despite plenty of evidence establishing the fact that they are family members. The exclusion has resulted from an assumption made by previous family histories that William Blythe, and Elizabeth Stapleton, who married in the first half of the 16th century, did not have any male descendants. Lilian is actually a descendant of these two people and she proves it.
Lilian mentions the sources she used to put the Yorkshire Blyths and Blythes back into the family: details from tombs of Blyth/Blythe ancestors in the Sheffield, York and Lincolnshire areas; Harleian Mss 4630 and 1468 in the British Library; Wills written in the 17th and 18th centuries; and information compiled by a distant cousin of hers, John Blythe-Robinson, from parish records in the Beverley and York area. It sounds like a very good piece of genealogy. At the end of the work is a family tree, details of the careers and marriages of her uncles and father, and a list of Yorkshire Blyths alive in 1912.
Lilian’s is a great-grand-daughter of Joseph Blythe later Blyth is through his son the Rev George Blanshard Blyth. George Blanshard Blyth’s sons are:
- Rev George Francis Popham Blyth, 1st bishop of Rangoon and then 4th Church of England bishop of Jerusalem, who will have known Golden Dawn member Frank Tate Ellis
- Rev Edward Hamilton Blyth, the one with the possible Praeger connection as he was vicar of Hammersmith from 1871 to 1878
- Joseph Harry Franklyn Blyth who joined the Connaught Rangers and fought in the Crimean War
[Frederic Cavan Blyth fits here]
- Cheslyn Abney Blyth, who also went into the army.
Frederic Cavan Blyth, 5th child, 4th son. Like all the boys, he went to St Paul’s School; he was School Captain. Oriel College Oxford. Ordained priest 1860. His work as a clergyman, as listed by Lilian:
curate Kirkby-la-Thorpe Lincs
vicar Quatford Salop 1877-81
Buckminster Leics 1881-96
rector Silk Willoughby Lincs from 1896 to his death on 14 August 1904 from what sounds to me like a stroke or brain haemmorhage.
MORE INFORMATION ON FREDERIC CAVAN BLYTH, Lilian’s father:
Crockford’s Clerical Directory issues of 1880 p 101 and 1895 p134 confirm Lilian’s details.
At www.familysearch.org some information on the parish of Kirkby Laythorpe with Asgarby.
This website quotes A Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England volume 2 by Frederic A Youngs, published by the Royal Historical Society 1991: the parish was created in 1737 by an amalgamation of the 2 original parishes, its parish church is St Denis. The website also quotes A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel A Lewis published 1848: the amalgamated parish had a rector (rather than a vicar). The parish’s patron was the Marquess of Bristol; and its income at 1848 was £287 pa.
The parish of Kew-with-Petersham: London Gazette 27 March 1866 published the full text of a plea submitted to Queen Victoria by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners dated 24 March 1866 to do a swap deal in patronage. Currently the Provost and scholars of King’s College Cambridge owned the advowson of the vicarage of Kew-w-Petersham; and the Crown was currently patron of the rectory of Great Munden Herts. Subject to Queen Victoria’s approval, the swap would see King’s College Cambridge taking over the patronage of Gt Munden; and the Crown taking over Kew-with-Petersham. John, Earl Russell is mentioned in the plea as bringing the request of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the Crown’s attention. The attached schedule showed Kew-with-Petersham didn’t have a vicarage building; the parish currently had a population of 1736; and the yearly income of the vicar was £485. The plea, and thus the swap, was agreed by the Queen and its details were issued on 24 March 1866 by Buckingham Palace. Frederic Cavan Blyth was therefore appointed to the vicarage of Kew-with-Petersham by the Provost of King’s College Cambridge; which was odd, seeing he was an Oxford man.
The British Library catalogue had a few pubications by Frederic Cavan Blyth:
Thoughts on the Seven Last Words of Christ Crucified
Thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer published 1882
Invitation to Confirmation; and several other works addressed to people preparing for their confirmation.
LILIAN AND THE RUSSELLS
At www.archive.org you can read the full text of a copy of Lady John Russell: A Memoir now in Cornell University Library; published in 1910 or shortly after, editor Desmond McCarthy. On a website at www.munseys.com I found a letter dated 16 November 1883 from Countess Russell (now a widow) to Miss Lilian Blyth, written from Dunrozel Haslemere; number 104 in a collection of her letters. The text begins: “Your letter is just like you, and that means all that is dear and good and loving”; it goes on to say that Lady Russell feels even this late in her life it’s better to look forward than back.
Via the web to snippet of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell edited by Kenneth Blackwell Volume 1 published 1983 p383 Annotations to Paper 9, footnote 44:5 is a brief note on Lilian Blyth, called “Lilly”. The footnote describes her as a “close friend of the Russell family”. However, the footnote is the only mention of anyone called Blyth in this Volume and Lilian’s only other appearance in any of the Collected Papers is in Volume 14, edited K Blackwell published 1988. I think I’m safe in saying that Lilian’s closest friend amongst the Russells was Countess Russell. See wikipedia for Bertrand Russell’s childhood.
LILIAN’S ONE MUSICAL COMPOSITION
Bibliography of Organ Music by W B Henshaw. The 2nd edition, published 2002 by Bardon Enterprises of Portsmouth. The main text is composers for organ, with lists of their organ works. On p120 ONE piece of music by “L G M” Blyth. It’s a prelude for organ, published in 1890 by Schott. On p1316 in a list of the main music publishers: Schott and Co of Mainz Germany www.schott-music.com.
NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS
A precis of the coverage by Times of National Society of Professional Musicians. The Times’ earliest coverage of the Society was 1886, the latest 1892; so I’m not sure whether it continued after this date. The Times covered the Society’s annual conference, and reported its keynote speech at some length. The general gist of these was the poor quality of musical education in Britain, leading to a lack of sufficiently trained musicians for orchestras etc. Every person mentioned in the Times’ coverage was male; in most years the Times only noted the names of the important speakers. These items seemed more relevant to Lilian Blyth:
Times 9 January 1886 p10 report on the Society’s first ever annual conference, at the Charing Cross Hotel. An effort had been made to encourage musicians based in London to attend it; the Society was actively canvassing for new members. Mr Chadfield was its secretary; his speech was about the need for potential concert audiences to be sure that the musicians they might hear had been properly trained. This report described the organisation of the Society in some detail, including the vetting process. The Society was divided into two sets of sections: one with reference to the instruments the members might play; and one based on regions within Britain. In each instrumental section, there would be a secretary and a ruling Council with 15 elected members.
My modern source: Musical Women in England 1870-1914: Encroaching on all Man’s Privileges, by Paula Gillett. Macmillan 2000. Lilian Blyth is not in the index.
Books; Ltd Editions... 22pp catalogue issued by Phillips, Son and Neale of New Bond Street 1973 for an auction due Tuesday 26 June 1973. The items for sale included a “presentation” copy first edition of Wagner’s Der Ring; plus maps and other Mss previously owned by Mrs Blyth-Praeger.
FERDINAND CHRISTIAN WILHELM PRAEGER and the family
For update March 2023: Ferdinand’s wikipedia page.
Times 3 September 1891 p7: obituary.
The University of Buffalo’s Music Library has the largest set of pieces composed by Ferdinand Praeger. The University’s websites were a good source for Praeger. The University’s catalogue Mus.Arc.46 lists 480 scores, the majority of which are works for piano. See //digital.lib.buffalo.edu: Ferdinand Praeger Collection of Scores.
Musical Women in England 1870-1914 by Paula Gillett, see above for its publication details. Just noting that on p25 Gillett describes Ferdinand Praeger as agreeing with the widely-held belief that women were intellectually inferior to men.
At www.jstor.org a copy of the Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association’s 14th session 1887-88. The Association’s meeting of 2 April 1888 was chaired by Ferdinand Praeger. J S Shedlock read a paper on the correspondence between Wagner and Liszt.
Richard Wagner and the English by Anne Dzamba Sessa 1979 p43 says that the Royal Musical Association was founded in 1874; for the study of music rather than the performing of it. See the web - it still exists.
WAGNER AND PRAEGER
Wagner’s first trip to London and the friendship in the 1870s: Ferdinand Praeger’s wikipedia page, quoting Wagner’s memoirs, Mein Leben.
A modern assessment of Wagner and Praeger:
Wagner: A Biography by Curt von Westernhagen 1981 in the Chapter Der Ring des Nibelungen on p208 von Westernhagen says that Wagner mentioned Ferdinand Praeger in his Mein Leben as having helped Wagner when Wagner was visiting London. Von Westernhagen quotes Wagner’s description of Praeger: “uncommonly good-natured...too touchy about his educational qualifications”. According to this biography, Wagner visited Ferdinand Praeger occasionally, but in Europe not in London. I used Von Westernhagen as my main source for the controversy over Wagner as I Knew Him; he covers it on pp 208-09.
THE BOOK WAGNER AS I KNEW HIM a reprint of the original 1892 edition, published 2003 by the University Press of the Pacific in Honolulu Hawaii is on the web via googlebooks.
Times Wed 17 February 1892 p11 Publications To-Day includes Wagner as I knew him.
In Times Thursday 25 February 1892 p4 Books of the Week, Wagner as I knew him gets a paragraph.
See wikipedia on Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
Richard Wagner and the English by Anne Dzamba Sessa 1979 also covers the uproar, pp42-44.
Despite being discredited Wagner as I Knew Him was often used as a source in early biographies of Wagner, eg Wagner and His Works: the Story of his Life with Critical Comments by Henry T Finck.
WAGNER’S OPERAS IN LONDON
Times 2 Jan 1882 p4 reported the details of Carl Rosa’s opera season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which had just been released.
Times Wed 26 April 1882 German opera season gave full details of the coming Ring cycles.
Annie Horniman: A Pioneer in the Theatre by Sheila Gooddie. London: Methuen 1990. On p23 Gooddie says that the Ring cycle of 1882 used the scenery from original 1876 performances at Bayreuth. Annie and her brother Emslie went and became (quoting Gooddie) “disciples of Wagner”. Annie was Wagner’s “devoted pilgrim” going to Bayreuth every year but one in the next 30. She also became a Germanophile, particularly liking Munich’s cleanliness and its beer. Her interest in Wagner led to a friendship p24 with William Ashton Ellis, editor of Meister magazine and translator of Wagner’s prose works and his journal. Annie helped Ellis with those translations.
FERDINAND PRAEGER’S OTHER INTERESTS
Via google to A Bookman’s Catalogue Volume 2, its section on Swinburne. One of the books listed there is a copy of Charles Wells’ Joseph and his Brethren: A Dramatic Poem, published by Chatto and Windus 1876; to which Swinburne had written the introduction. The book is inscribed “Dr Ferdinand Praeger with George E J Powell’s friendly regards”; and it’s also signed Wilfred G F Praeger 5 January 1890.
At www.archiveswales.org.uk: the George Powell archive. George Ernest John Powell 1842-1882. Son of a landowner; estate is Nanteos nr Aberystwyth. Eton. Brasenose College. Traveller. Collector. 3 volumes poetry. Translated some Icelandic sagas. Knew Swinburne and Longfellow. Inherited the Nanteos estate 1878. Married 1881 Dinah T Harries of Goodwick Pembrokeshire. No child.
FERDINAND PRAEGER: MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN
Marriage of Ferdinand Wilhelm Christian Praeger to Léonie Eugenie Alexandrina Bazile registered Marylebone January-March quarter 1849.
Birth Henry Johann (John) Ferdinand Praeger registered Marylebone October-December 1850.
Birth Adele Mary Franciska Praeger registered Marylebone April-June 1852; her death registered Marylebone Apr-June 1853.
Birth Richard Wagner Charles Henry Praeger registered Marylebone July-September 1855.
Birth Edward Paul Réné Praeger registered Kensington January-March 1858; his death registered Kensington October-December 1858
Birth Ferdinand Ernest Frederick Praeger registered Kensington April-June 1861; his death registered Kensington Apr-June 1863.
I found no further death registrations in this Praeger family before end 1881.
Birth Léonie E C Praeger registered Kensington January-March 1866
Birth Wilfred George F Praeger registered Kensington January-March 1869
Birth Brunhilde Claire M Praeger registered Kensington January-March 1871
I found no further birth registrations in this Praeger family after 1871.
Richard Wagner Charles Henry Praeger. Though he was at home with the family on the day of the 1861 census, aged 5, writers on Praeger and on Wagner assume that he died in childhood. However, Paul Frecker found that that was not the case - Richard joined the merchant navy (which is why he’s not on the census in 1871) and had reached the rank of 2nd Mate by 1878, when he and the rest of the crew were drowned in the wreck of the Corinna.
That Richard was photographed by Camille Silvy in 1865: Paul Frecker, by email, March 2023.
Death at sea of Richard Wagner Charles Henry Praeger: two items by email from Paul Frecker March 2023:
- photo of ‘deaths at sea’ register, list of those missing presumed drowned in the Corinna 28 March 1878.
- Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette 6 May 1878: Overdue. The Corinna had left Cardiff on 28 March 1878 with a cargo of coal; bound for Malta. Nothing had been heard or seen of her since and she was now 37 days out on a voyage that usually took 25 days.
There’s a photograph of Richard in the Buffalo University collection (access details above).
Wilfred’s mother Léonie died in 1901.
WILFRED PRAEGER’S SURVIVING SIBLINGS, none of whom joined the GD.
Henry was a businessman. He was also involved in local government; and was a keen volunteer soldier, rising to the rank of Colonel. He was married three times:
1 = 1872 to Jane Clemence Adams. Probate Registry entries for 1898 and 1902 show that she died on 22 May 1898.
2 = 1902 to Kate Lucy Houtchen; wrongly (I think) registered as Houchen.
Times 24 June 1902 p1a: marriage notice with the bride as Kate Lucy Houtchen. Probate Registry entry for 1906 shows that Kate died on 10 September 1906.
3 = 1907 to Lucy Anna Dawes; who survived him.
There are very few points at which my work on the members of the GD touches my first project, the Life and Times of Henry George Norris. But Wilfred’s brother Henry is the Colonel Praeger Henry Norris knew when he was mayor of Fulham:
Times 18 October 1909 p12 Col H J F Praeger as chair of the board of management of Kensington and Fulham General Hospital.
Henry J F Praeger died on 1 January 1914: probate registry entry 1914. At the time of his death he and Lucy were living at Sefton House, Parsons Green West London. I think Henry had no children.
Birth of John Andrew Edwards registered Swansea April-July 1863.
London Gazette 2 July 1880 p3761 transfer of John Andrew Edwards, clerk of the lower division; from Post Office to the War Office.
Marriage of Léonie Elise C Praeger to John Andrew Edwards registered Fulham July-September 1887.
I couldn’t see her on the 1911 census.
John Andrew died in January 1921 aged only 58. Probate Registry entry 1921 indicates that he and Léonie had moved out of London by that time; they were living at Tintagel, Claremont Avenue Woking.
Times Saturday 7 April 1951 p1a death notices: Léonie Edwards had died on 5 April 1951; widow of John A Edwards of the War Office. Mother of Dick [Richard Edwards] and of Muriel Monier-Williams.
Brunhilde was not on the censuses of 1901 or 1911; so I’ve no idea how or where she was living.
Seen via Ancestry: marriage of Brunhilde Claire Myria Praeger to Frederick James Harriman, 1919 in Winnipeg.
Frederick was 21 years younger than Brunhilde: born 1892 in West Hartlepool. He emigrated to Canada in 1911 and lived in Winnipeg until 1914. He served from 1915 to 1919 with the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Demobbed in May 1919, he married Brunhilde shortly afterwards – so they must have known each other already, perhaps from before the war.
Source for Frederick: www.durhamatwar.org.uk which also found evidence that Frederick at least was still living in Winnipeg in 1925.
What happened to Brunhilde and Frederick after 1925 is unknown. In March 2023 I couldn’t find any trace of either of them on the web. As Brunhilde was nearly 50 when she married, I think we can take it that she and Frederick had no children.
A possible first job for him: via google to a snippet from a Charities Digest issued by the Charities Organisation Society (now known as the Family Welfare Association) in 1890; on p271 Wilfred Praeger is described as Assistant Secretary, working for an elected Management Committee and with an Honorary Lady Superintendent. I’ve tried to follow up this snippet, to find out exactly where Wilfred was employed, but I can’t track down a paper version of this book. It’s most likely that he was working for one of the COS’s local committees - the COS had one for each Poor Law Board.
ARTISTIC INTERESTS and the GD
Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume IV covering 1905-1907 but also containing an Addenda section of newly-discovered letters from earlier, which would have been published in volumes I-III if they had been known then. Editors John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard. Published Oxford University Press 2005. On p935 in the Addenda section; letter to W Praeger, apologising for the delay in sending Annie Horniman’s telephone number so that Praeger can ask her to send a GD Pledge Form; and inviting him to next Monday’s ‘at home’. From W B Yeats to W Praeger at 23 Brackenbury Road; no date but postmarked “AP 1 92". The biographical details attached to this letter are not good: they call Wilfred ‘William’ and suppose that he was related to an Irish family of Praegers, which as far as I could discover, he wasn’t.
The Musical World 1866-91 by Richard Kitson and Liesbeth Hoedemaeker 2006 p2057 mentions a letter written by Wilfred Praeger to the magazine Musical World, in response to an article by Cave Thomas about beauty in art. I couldn’t see a date on this for Wilfred’s letter on this snippet and I couldn’t find a copy of the book at the British Library.
The website www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/1854.htm is The Fiction Magazines Index. There are three entries only from Wilfred Praeger, all in the magazine Atalanta:
March 1891: Sir Frederick Leighton PRA
May 1891: W B Richmond ARA
March 1892: Women in Contemporary Art Part I: Mrs Jopling.
See wikipedia for more on Atalanta magazine which ran from 1887 to 1898.
World War 1: London Gazette Supplement issued 3 July 1917 p6642 in the middle of a very long list of temporary promotions and appointments: Wilfred George Ferdinand Praeger is promoted as of 15 June 1917 to be a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 20th battalion, County of London Volunteer Regiment.
LILIAN AND WILFRED ARE MARRIED
Times 21 July 1898 p1a: the marriage of Lilian Blyth and Wilfred Praeger had taken place “on the 19th inst” [19 July 1898]. Rev Blyth had conducted the marriage service.
Via Ancestry’s London marriages to the entry for Wilfred and Lilian. As you don’t seem to be able to access these any more I give the details: the marriage of Wilfred George Frederick Praeger to Lilian Grace Mary Blyth took place on 19 July 1898 at All Saints Marylebone.
Wilfred: 29; bachelor; “Gentleman”; of All Saints Margaret St; father Ferdinand, professor of music.
Lilian: 34; spinster; rank/profession crossed through as it usually was with brides; I couldn’t read Lilian’s address which was a pity; father Frederic Cavan Blyth, clerk in holy orders.
Witnesses included: Léonie Praeger; Edith Douglas Popham Blyth; Frank ?Ainley; Frank Edward P[surname]
THE PRAEGERS IN THE 1930s
Times 15 April 1931 p17 a “Mr and Mrs Praeger” attended the marriage of Lieutenant-Commander D H Tollemache RN son of Mr H G Tollemache of Ham House Richmond, and his late wife. The bride was Alys K Bebbington daughter of Canon J H Bebbington of Slinfold Sussex. The Times printed only a short list of guests; no one else called Blyth or Praeger was mentioned.
BRITISH EMPIRE ACADEMY CLUB
Times 1 June 1931 p11 reported two police raids, on 3 December  and again in January  on the British Empire Academy Club, during which they caught the club infringing the licensing laws. An initial hearing in the case had tkn pl “on Saturday” at Marlborough Police Court. The accused was the British Empire Academy Club Ltd of 19 Dover St which had a place for dancing etc like a nightclub at the BEA Club in the New Burlington Galleries; it was there that the offences and the raids took place. The BEA Club was now being accused of selling alcohol without a licence and selling it after hours. In the dock were: W G F Praeger, one of BEA Ltd’s directors, of Werter Road Putney; Charles Pears of Bedford Park, Thomas Henry Dey of New Bond Street, and the BEA Club’s secretary Ursula Dimsdale. Other named people were accused of aiding and abetting them. The court heard that BEA Ltd had first been registered on 24 December 1927; and that its Club had been registered on 5 February 1930. They were both private limited companies; Lord Howard de Walden had originally been a director. The case was adjourned and I couldn’t find any other repots on it in the Times.
Times 18 April 1942 p1a death notice for Lilian Grace Mary wife of Wilfred Praeger late of Buckminster and Putney; eldest daughter of the late Rev F C Blyth rector of Silk Willoughby. She had died on 16 April 1942 in London. Times 20 Apr 1942 p1b repeated the information given in the notice of the 18th, and added that the funeral would be at 12 noon “to-day (Mon)” at Sacred Heart Convent Roehampton.
Further information on Sacred Heart Convent from Roehampton University’s website as the Convent’s teacher training college is now part of the university. There is still a Society of the Sacred Heart at 83 Roehampton Lane.
For an account of a father-in-law who gained custody of his grandchild in 1915 on the grounds that the child’s father was a Roman Catholic convert, see Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas by Douglas Murray. Published Hodder and Stoughton 2000.
Probate Registry: Wilfred George Frederick Praeger of Holloway Sanatorium Virginia Water died on 10 October 1955. See wikipedia for Holloway Sanatorium including an engraving of the hospital as originally built.
LILIAN AND WILFRED’S SON JOHN BLYTH-PRAEGER
Times 4 July 1932 p15 report on the Stonyhurst Association dinner held at Claridge’s “on Saturday”. Mr J Praeger was at the dinner; and he was in the list of people who were not guests, so I assume he’s an old-boy of the school. See wikipedia for further information on Stonyhurst College, first founded in 1593.
Times 14 June 1933 p17 engagement announcements: John Frederic Blyth Praeger only son of Mr and Mrs W Praeger, to Sheila daughter of the late Mr and the late Mrs W Rice Healy. The marriage would take place in July.
Times 3 July 1934 p1a birth notices: John Blyth Praeger and Sheila née Healy had had a daughter, born 1 July 1934 at Wimbledon.
This is probably the daughter: Ampleforth Journal volumes 65-66 1960 p54 reported the wedding of Ann Blyth-Praeger to John Peter Harvest.
John Blyth-Praeger’s interests:
1) Aylesford Mss now in the Lilly Library Indiana University: covering the period 1941-68, material (letters notes etc) collected by Father Brocard Sewell when he was editor of the Aylesford Review, a literary quarterly magazine sponsored by the British Carmelites and which ran 1955-68. John Blyth-Praeger has some material in the collection; so has Gerald Yorke. Not all of the writers are Roman Catholics.
2) the Radionic Journal 1954-2003, magazine of the Radionic Society, has articles and lectures by John Blyth-Praeger covering 1958, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1972 (2 pieces), 1974, 1978 but not later. In 1963 Blyth-Praeger was vice-president of the British Society of Dowsers. Website www.radionic.co.uk descs radionics as a method of “sending precisely defined healing energy” over distances; based on a belief that every living body has an energy field arnd it which is weakened by stress or pollution, making it vulnerable to illness. This is definitely Golden Dawn territory! At //homepage.ntlworld.com, information that the Radionic Association was founded in 1943 for professionals and interested lay-people.
At www.britishdowsers.org: the British Society of Dowsers was founded in 1933 and is still in existence.
THE 9TH EARL OF DYSART
Descent of the earldom to the Manners and Tollemache families: see www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk
Wikipedia on the earldom of Dysart: it’s a Scottish peerage, created 1643 for William Murray. The 8th Earl is Lionel William John Tollemache 1794-1878. It’s the 9th Earl who knows the Blyth and Praeger families: William John Manners Tollemache 1859-1935. The 9th Earl was President of the London Wagner Society from 1884 to 1895. As earl of Dysart he owned these houses: Ham House, Petersham Surrey; and Buckminster Park Grantham. At his death his sister’s daughter, Wynefryde succeeded him as the 10th Countess; and the house and land at Ham went to relations called Tollemache.
9TH EARL OF DYSART AND THE PRAEGER FAMILY
Rediscovering Pieces of the Past: Ferdinand Praeger is the catalogue, now online, of an exhibition in the University of Buffalo Music Library during 2012, curated by Jessica Nay. On p2: the British Library has 93 of Ferdinand Praeger’s works. On p8 there’s a reproduction of an Impromptu by Ferdinand Praeger composed in June 1889 and dedicated to Ethel Smyth (1858-1944). On p12 is the reproduction of the contract between the Earl of Dysart and Ferdinand Praeger, dated 1 March 1890. A note on p12 says it was also the Earl who commissioned from Praeger the book that became Wagner as I knew him. On p14 there’s a reproduction of Praeger’s last composition, with a note to that effect written on it by his wife Léonie; it’s the Volkslied of 7 June 1891.
OTHER INFORMATION ON 9TH EARL OF DYSART
Reports and papers of the Architectural and Archaeological Societies of the Counties of Lincoln and Northamptonshire volume 18 1885 pli has the Earl of Dysart in a list, probably of current members.
Transactions of the Leicestershire Architectural and Archaeological Society volume 6 1888 pxiii the Earl of Dysart in another list, again probably of current members.
Coates’s Herd Book volume 41 issued 1895 by the Shorthorn Society of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; p684 refers to an animal bred at Buckminster Park.
Notice of the death of the 9th Earl’s mother, I couldn’t see the month on the snippet: Annual Register volume 138 1896 p192 list of death notices includess one for Lady Huntingtower - Katharine Elizabeth Camilla, daughter of Sir Joseph Burke 11th Baronet of Glinsk; who’d died “on the 20th, at Buckminster Park, Grantham”.
Bristol and West and Southern Counties Society  pviii and pix lists 2 separate horses bred by the 9th Earl of Dysart at Buckminster Park.
Shire Horse Stud Book volume 26 1905 issued by the Shire Horse Society; p891 the 9th Earl of Dysart has been a member since July 1885. He’s a registered breeder with 2 horses in this year’s book, both foaled in 1903.
Armstrong Siddeley Motors: The Cars, the Company and the People by Bill Smith 2006; has a list of all cars sold, with details of their purchasers. On p199 in section The Roaring Twenties car number 6070, a Grasmere 34 Landaulette was sold on 17 February 1928 to William Tollemache 9th Earl of Dysart. A note says that the 9th Earl owned 27000 acres, in Surrey and around Grantham.
There don’t seem to be similar books listing who bought which Rolls Royce! Still a company secret I guess.
THE 9TH EARL’S DEATH
Times Saturday 23 November 1935 p16 obituary of the 9th Earl of Dysart who had died “yesterday” at Buckminster Park.
Times Tuesday 26 November 1935 p17 a very short report on the 9th Earl’s funeral; the only mourners mentioned by name are members of the Tollemache family.
9TH EARL AND HAM HOUSE is from the wikipedia page on the HOUSE not on the Dysarts. Source for the information is probably articles in Ham House and its Owners through Five Centuries editor Evelyn Pritchard, published Richmond Local History Society; though wikipedia page had no footnote indications on the paragraph on the 9th Earl.
At //lh.matthewbeckett.com/houses/lh_leicestershire_buckminsterpark_info_gallery.html the Lost Heritage site, there are some pictures of the Buckminster Park, the house the 9th Earl knew and lived in. It’s a pity they are only of the outside and don’t include the top-lit staircase mentioned in Pevsner.
Leicestershire and Rutland by N Pevsner, E Williamson and Geoffrey K Brandwood 1985; on p37 Buckminster Park house is described as the “grandest” classical-style building in Leicestershire; designed by Samuel Saxon built 1793-98 with a spectacular staircase. P37 says this house was knocked down “in 1950" but on p117 in the section on the villages of Buckminster and Burbage, the date of the demolition is given as 1952. The big house was replaced by a smaller neo-Georgian building. Landscaping of the estate was to a design by Repton c 1793; some of it is still there. P116 St John the Baptist church has the Dysart mausoleum. The church was restored 1883-84 by C Kirk of Sleaford; Pevsner describes it as “dull”. A footnote on p117: the 1790s big house was built for Sir William Manners. It had a “spectacular top-lit staircase hall”. Its architect Samuel Saxon had been a pupil of Sir William Chambers.
It’s clear from various websites including nationalarchives etc that records for the Ham House estate and Buckminster Park, and records of the Tollemache family, are still kept at Buckminster; and that various historians have been allowed to look at them. I haven’t tried to gain access to them myself.
THE 9th EARL’S EXECUTORS SUE HOWIE GOLD MINES
At www.bonhams.com an advert dated 25 October 2005 for a forthcoming sale which would include 20 bearer certificates issued by Howie Gold Mines Ltd in 1934. I think it was bearer certificates issued at around this time that became the subject of the court case.
Times 29 November 1934 p23 in the business news: a news:long report of a meeting of Howie Gold Mines “yesterday” at Winchester House Old Broad Street. This is the meeting Wilfred Praeger attended. The report said of Praeger, not that he was a shareholder himself but that he “represented a very substantial holding in the company and its allied interests”.
[THE 9TH EARL OF DYSART DIED AT THIS POINT, November 1935]
Times Wednesday 30 December 1936 p17: a report on the AGM of Howie Gold Mines Ltd which had been held “yesterday”. Three of the firm’s directors had died during the past 12 months, and as a result A Garner Stevens (see below, he’s the company secretary) had joined the board. The meeting had been dominated by the mine the Company owned in Sumatra. The company had used up all its cash reserves trying to develop it, and had had to take out a loan. An action being brought against the board of directors by an unnamed person or persons had held up the company’s attempts to raise money. The action was about “transactions in the Bearer shares”.
London Gazette 8 February 1938 p857: notices under the Companies Act 1929 included one issued 5 February 1938 by A Garner Stevens, as company secretary of Howie Gold Mines. A meeting of the company’s creditors would be held at Winchester House Old Broad Street.
Times Fri 21 April 1939 p4 Shares Sold to the Late Earl of Dysart: announcing that a date of 6 June 1939 had been set for this case in which the executors of the Earl were the plaintiffs; and the defendants had all been directors of Howie Gold Mines when the Earl had bought shares in the company. The hearing was having to wait until Edward Lionel Fletcher, one of the defendants, had returned from Australia. The Earl’s executors were alleging that the directors had made false claims to induce the Earl to buy shares. The defendants were countering that there had been no fraud, that they had been acting on “information on which they were entitled to rely”. At the time he had bought the shares the Earl had been “very old and unable to do business properly by himself”. His private secretary (that’s Wilfred Praeger) had represented him in the negotiations; he (Praeger) was now described as “also an old man, about to undergo a serious operation”.
Times Friday 9 June 1939 p4 Law Notices: actions today has “Dysart and anr” v Howie Gold Mines and Others at the top of the waiting list.
There was no more coverage of the case in the Times or on the web. However, the outcome of the trial didn’t benefit Howie Gold Mines:
London Gazette 28 February 1941 p1238 Companies Act 1929, voluntary liquidations. Notice issued 28 February 1941 announcing that a final meeting of creditors of Howie Gold Mines would take place on 31 March 1941.
Howie Gold Mines did continue to exist after the liquidation:
At www.geology.ontario.mndmf.gov.on.ca is a list issued by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Dvpt and Mines; a list of possible and actual mining sites in the province. They include Hutchison Lake Mine; Howie Gold Mines had held an option on mining at the Lake, but dropped it in 1946.
Canadian National Magazine volumes 41-42 1955 p15 a reference to what I suppose is the same firm but now it’s called Consolidated Howie Gold Mines.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
26 February 2012
27 March 2023
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