Augustus Montague COOPER who was initiated into the Golden Dawn in May 1891 and took the motto ‘Cassiel’.  At the time of his initiation he was living at 11 Upper Spring Street, near Portman Square London.  In 1903, as a result of an update of GD’s administration, he was assumed to have resigned.


This young man is one of the most elusive of all the GD members and I’ve found out virtually nothing about him or his family.


I had one piece of luck: on the day of the 1891 census, Augustus Cooper had been living at the address he gave the GD.  The house was divided into three, and Augustus Cooper was a member of the third household on the census list, presumably the one on the top floor, headed by Mary Gotts, or possibly Notts, an unmarried woman.  Augustus Cooper said he was married. A Marion Cooper, a married woman, was the third member of Mary Gotts’ household and I suppose the two Coopers were married to each other.  I say ‘I suppose’ because I could not find a registration of their marriage in England and Wales, at least not between 1886 and 1891 and it could hardly have taken place any earlier.  They must have married outside England and Wales.


Augustus Cooper told the census official that he was 28 and that he had been born in Bangalore.  


When asked his occupation, Augustus Cooper’s reply was such as to cause the census official to write down “professor of music” on the form.  That might mean that Augustus taught music in a conservatoire, but he seemed to me to be rather young to have been given such a post.  I think it is more likely that he was a professional musician; but I haven’t had much luck, on the web or in the Times, finding any evidence of this.


I attempted to find Augustus Montague Cooper a family, based on his having been born to English people living in India, in the Madras presidency, around 1863-64.  I couldn’t find a baptism notice in the Madras Presidency files in the British Library India Office collection; though I wasn’t sure I was expecting to, as Bangalore was outside the full jurisdiction of the British government, being in the domains of the ruling family of Mysore.  By looking at the army and other directories for India in the second half of the 19th century I did find two possible fathers for him. 


The first of them shares the GD member’s name, in full: Augustus Montague Cooper, born in 1820 to a family from Lewes in Sussex.  This man had gone to Tonbridge School before joining the army in 1838 and being sent to India as an officer in the 52nd Madras Native Infantry.  In 1846 he married Elizabeth Borthwick, a daughter of another army officer.  This Augustus Montague Cooper was obliged to cut short his military career through injury or illness in 1852 and seems to have returned to England.  He died in 1892 in Brighton.


It might seem a bit strange for me to say that I don’t think a man who even had the same name is the GD member’s father.  My main reason for deciding that he wasn’t was that he was no longer living in India when the GD member was born there.  I prefer my second candidate.


He is William Wright Gilbert Cooper, born 1823 into a family that had been of the Nottinghamshire landed gentry but had had to sell their estate.  William W G Cooper went to Westminster School, and then Oxford University before becoming a vicar.  From 1845 to 1855 he acted as a curate at St Mary’s Dover but then he took a job with the East India Company and spent the next 20 years or so in a series of posts in the Madras presidency including two spells as chaplain at Bangalore.  In 1877 he returned to England and was appointed vicar of Burwash in Sussex.  He retired in 1887.  I couldn’t find a death registration for him in England and Wales; he was probably still alive in 1891.


There are two problems with Rev William W G Cooper as father of Augustus Montague Cooper. The first is that I can’t tie him down to being in Bangalore in 1863/1864 when Augustus Montague Cooper was born there.  And the second is, I can’t find father and son on the census together.  Of course, I didn’t actually have many opportunities to find them in the same household.  But the one time William W G Cooper appears on a census between 1861 and 1901, Augustus Montague Cooper is not living at the same address.  On the day of the 1881 census, William W G Cooper was living at the vicarage in Burwash with his wife Catharine, daughter Edith (aged 22), three domestic staff and two visitors.  Augustus Montague Cooper was not living anywhere in the UK.


And I couldn’t find any information about Marion, either.


How did Augustus Montague Cooper meet someone or several someones who were in the GD?  Especially if he spent so little time in England in his life.  Well, he was too young to be a freemason, I don’t think he took that route.  And though I didn’t find his name in the Theosophical Society’s membership books (I may just have missed it) someone called Montague Cooper (not Augustus) is listed in the first volume of Theosophical Society’s members’ journal The Vahan.  The TS seems to me to be a more likely way in; though his work as a musician may also have brought him into contact with people who turned out to be members.  Without knowing more about him, it’s impossible to tell.


It was clear from the 1891 census entry that 11 Upper Spring Street was a lodging house.  It is in the nature of lodging houses that no one stays very long and I’m sure the Coopers were soon on the move.  I haven’t been able to find out where they went - abroad, possibly, as neither of them appears on the censuses of 1901 or 1911. 


Very much a bird of passage!




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; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; 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.


Membership of the Theosophical Society: TS membership books, held at the TS headquarters building on Gloucester Place in London.


Data for possible father number 1: Augustus Montague Cooper.


The Town Book of Lewes 1702-1837 published by the Sussex Record Society 1973 p77 a Robert Chester Cooper described as owning The Castle Yard in Lewes.

County Genealogies: Pedigrees of the Families in the County of Sussex by  William Berry.  Published 1830.  P377 re the Cooper family of Icklesham.  Augustus Montague Cooper was born 2 March 1820 at Adur Lodge; son of Robert Chester Cooper of Lewes and his wife Caroline daughter of George Shum.  He was their second son and his baptism was registered in Old Shoreham Church.


Register of Tonbridge School 1826-1910 editor H A Steed, published 1911.  I couldn’t see the page number on the snippet: Augustus Montague Cooper son of Robert Chester Cooper was a pupil at the school 1830-31.  Born 1820.  He joined the 52nd Madras Native Infantry in 1838, retiring from the army in 1855 with the rank of captain.  There was no entry in this book for anyone with that name who might have been a son of the 1820 Augustus Montague Cooper.


Annual Register vol 87 1846 p216 Lieutenant Augustus M Cooper of the 32nd Madras Native Infantry had married Elizabeth daughter of the late Major-General Borthwick of the Royal Artillery.  The marriage had taken place at St James Colchester; p215 I couldn’t read the exact date but it was April 1845.


Indian News and Chronicle of Eastern Affairs 1852 p281 news section on the Madras military establishment.  Augustus Montague Cooper was in a short list of people who had been “invalided”.  At the time this happened, Cooper was a Captain in the 52nd Madras Native Infantry.

The last army list in which Augustus Montague Cooper appears is the India Register 1855 p103 and he’s no longer on the list of active officers in the the 52nd Madras Native Infantry; he’s on p108, in the invalid establishment list where he’s described as “on furlough”.  Just confirming his army career details: joined 1838 as a lieutenant; was made captain 17 September 1850; and was invalided out 30 November 1852.

India Register 1856 doesn’t have Augustus Montague Cooper anywhere in it, either as military personnel or as a civilian.

A likely death registration for him: Augustus Montague Cooper registered Brighton July-September 1892.


Data for possible father number 2: William Wright (army sources say WrightE) Gilbert Cooper.

Family history website at

// is a list of Church of England personnel who served in the Madras presidency.  I couldn’t find any indication on the website for the source of the information but it is laid out as if it was originally published in Crockford’s Clerical Directory.  The details: William Wright (sic) Gilbert Cooper.  Born 1823, no date of death known but assumed to be post-1887.  Magdalen Oxford BA 1845 MA 1853.  Curate of St Mary’s Dover 1845-55, then went to work for the East India Company in the Madras Presidency: Trichinopoly 1855-58; Mysore 1858-65; Black Town ((Madras)) 1865-66; Bangalore twice 1866-69 and 1871-73; Ootacamund 1869-71; chaplain to bishop of Madras 1873-75; St Thomas Mount 1875-77.  He then returned to the UK and was appointed vicar of Burwash Sussex; he kept that job from 1877 to 1887. 


William Wright Gilber Cooper is somewhere in The Record of Old Westminsters: Biographical list...[of pupils] to 1927 Volume 1 published by Westminster School 1928; I couldn’t see the page number or any further details from the googlebooks’ snippet.


Confirmation of much of the spuddybike website’s information, from India Office library reference works:

Papers of the House of Commons 1859 (that is, in the wake of the Indian Mutiny when the British Government was preparing to take over the East India Company) p155 is p3 of a set of papers describing Troops at Stations in India; William Wright (sic) Gilbert Cooper is at Mysore; p154/p2 in a list of assistant chaplains currently working in the Madras diocese, compiled 1 October 1857.

Indian Army and Civil Service List for Jan 1867 p279 Rev W W G Cooper MA is a chaplain based at Bangalore.

The Army Lists all have Wright spelled with an E - Wrighte.  Army List 1870 p507 gives the current personnel in the Madras ecclesiastical establishment: Rev W W G Cooper is in its list of senior chaplains; appointed 1855; currently based at Ootacamund

Indian Army and Civil Service List for 1871 p261 says the Rev W W G Cooper is now back at Bangalore.

India Army and Civil Service List 1874 and again 1875 both on p261 the Rev W W G Cooper is now chaplain to the bishop, the Rt Rev F Gell.

India List 1877 p131 the Rev W W G Cooper is now second from the top of the list of senior chaplains in the diocese of Madras; he’s now based at St Thomas’ Mount and Palaveram.

India List Jan 1878 p131 the Rev W W G Cooper has now reached the top of the list of senior chaplains diocese of Madras; but he’s on leave at the moment.

India List 1881 p131 the Rev W W G Cooper is now on the retired list, with date 19 July 1879.

India List for Jan 1891 Rev W W G Cooper is still on the list of retired officers.

One website suggesting that the family is from Nottinghamshire:

Website about Thurgarton village in Notts quotes from a letter by Lt Cecil Gilbert-Cooper (sic) who visited it in 1869.  Lt Gilbert-Cooper was a member of the family that had owned the village’s Priory estate from 1538 to 1820.  The letter was to Rev William W G Cooper.  However, the website does describe Cecil Gilbert-Cooper as Rev William W G Cooper’s son, which I don’t think can be right, he’s too old; they might be brothers.





17 June 2012