Frederick Joseph William Crowe was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in August 1893; and chose the Latin motto ‘Virtute non verbis’.  Herbert Coryn was probably initiated as part of the same ritual though I don’t think the two men knew each other before that evening and they didn’t have much in common.  One thing they did have in common, though, was that they never really followed up the initiation - they decided that the GD, with its focus on the western magical tradition, was not for them.



This is one of my short biographies and in Frederick Crowe’s case I’m focusing very much on his professional life.  I’ve found a lot of information on it and it definitely gives a flavour of the man.  As with all the subjects of my short biographies, there will be more information on him out there, but it will be in county record offices, the local papers in Wells, Torquay and Chichester...I’d need to be on the spot to look at them, and I’ve had to admit that life’s too short! 

Sally Davis

March 2016



This is what I have found on FREDERICK JOSEPH WILLIAM CROWE, who was known as Fred to his friends.



Not much information, I’m afraid!



Heavens yes!  Frederick Crowe was an active and very knowledgeable freemason and he was almost certainly offered the chance of GD initiation by his equally active freemason acquaintance, William Wynn Westcott, one of the GD’s founders.


I’ve decided that I won’t go into the details of Frederick’s life in freemasonry here: he was a member of so many lodges, chapters, other orders and other types of freemasonry; and held so many senior positions in freemasonry both local and national; that it would just turn into a list.  I shall instead refer those who are interested in the full details to the Freemason’s Library catalogue.  Find it at and follow ‘search the collections’.  Search for Frederick and you’ll see a photograph of him come up in the responses: the full list of everything he was involved in, is in its catalogue entry, together with some of the more interesting pieces of freemasons’ regalia that belonged to Frederick and are now at the Library.  Below, I’m just going to pick out a few important stops along the way and list his freemasonry publications, which got him so widely known amongst freemasons both in the UK and abroad.


Crowe’s first initiation into freemasonry came while he was still quite young.  In 1887 he joined Ashburton Lodge number 2189.  The following year he joined the Royal Arch Masonry Pleiades Chapter number 710, which was based in Totnes.  I’ve mentioned William Wynn Westcott already as an acquaintance Frederick made through freemasonry.  I’ll just add here, two freemasons Frederick knew in Devon, because they helped him in the initial stages of his career as a writer:


William Eliot Thomas (1866-1929) of Jordan Lodge 1402 in Torquay worked for the Western Morning News.  Crowe wrote reports on musical events in Devon for the WMN.  For more on W E Thomas, see my biography.  He was initiated into the GD in 1898.




William James Hughan (1841-1911) was a very senior mason and historian of freemasonry.  By 1891 had retired from his work managing a cloth warehouse in Truro and was living in Torquay, but Frederick had met him a couple of years earlier.  Frederick’s profile of Hughan, which appeared in The Freemason magazine in 1888, is his earliest published work on freemasonry.  Hughan repaid the compliment by writing introductions to Crowe’s first set of books on freemasonry.   Hughan was a founder member of Quatuor Coronati 2076 - for more on that lodge, see below.


When Frederick moved to Torquay himself, he joined Jordan Lodge 1402, but also the much older lodge St John’s number 328.


The other lodge that I’m going to mention here is Quatuor Coronati 2076, which was founded in

1886 as a forum for the study of the history and rituals of freemasonry.  Its founders wanted to reach as many interested freemasons as possible, so the lodge had a two-tier membership: correspondents; and full members. QC2076's corresponding members lived all over the world; they received its magazine, Ars Quatuor Coronati, and were entitled to attend its meetings if they were in London.  Frederick joined as a corresponding member in November 1888.  More importantly, in October 1888 he made a Will leaving to QC2076 his papers on freemasonry and a collection of autographs of well-known freemasons.  They are now part of the collection at the Freemasons’ Library.  He had also begun to collect masonic certificates almost as soon as he had become a freemason.  By 1913 he had over 1700, a collection the United Grand Lodge of England thought so important that in that year, they spent £2000 acquiring it. 


Meetings of QC2076 always featured a talk and subsequent discussion; talks were then printed in the magazine to reach the lodge’s wider public.  In 1893 and 1894 Frederick went to London to give three of these talks, based on pieces that he had collected: on Hungarian lodge medals; on Hungarian lodge jewels; and a more general one, on Continental Jewels and Medals.  The offer of an initiation into the GD was made around this time: although not one of its founders, William Wynn Westcott was a senior member of QC2076.  In November 1895, a conversazione evening held by QC2076 featured some of Frederick’s memorabilia. 


Becoming a full member of QC2076 was not a privilege given to many, as the number of full members at any time was restricted; but at some point between 1895 and 1900, Frederick had that privilege, which conferred voting rights and the opportunity to act as one of the lodge’s officials.  Now living much nearer to London, Frederick made his way up the hierarchy of lodge officialdom in the early 1900s, and served as the lodge’s WM for the 12 months from November 1909 to November 1910.  Each summer, QC2076 organised a weekend away for its members: in 1910 they all went to Chichester, a visit largely organised by Frederick.  On the Sunday morning, they went to hear the Cathedral service, with Frederick playing the organ and conducting the choir as usual.


See the Freemasonry Publications section below for the many articles by Frederick that were published in Ars Quatuor Coronati; they cover the period 1890 to 1914.


Frederick served as Grand Organist at different times in the county of Devon; for Mark Masonry in England; for the Supreme Grand Chapter of England; and for the United Grand Lodge of England.


For Frederick’s many publications on freemasonry, see the Work/Profession sections below.


Sources for this section on Frederick and freemasonry:

History of Jordan Lodge number 1402 Torquay 1872-1922 by Stanley H N Lane.  Printed Torquay 1923. 

The History of St John’s Lodge number 328 Torquay of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons by John Chapman, a PM of the lodge.  Printed by J S Virtue and Co Ltd of City Road London.  No printed date but “1894" is written by hand on the front page. 

Ars Quatuor Coronati... printed in London for the Lodge and edited by a lodge member.  Please note that I didn’t do a full sweep, I looked at these volumes:

1          1886-88; its p1 has a list of the lodge’s founders including Hughan and Gould; but not including any GD members

7          1894

8          1895

13        1900

23        1910

25        1912.

On the collection of masonic certificates: see the details attached to Frederick’s photo in the Freemasons’ Library.  Though there isn’t a list of all 1700 of them there.



There were obituaries of Frederick in The Times and Who Was Who; but not in DNB or ODNB.  There’s not as much detail in the obituaries that do exist as I would like.   Particularly, there’s a lack of firm dates - I do like there to be dates. 



I’ve seen three different dates for Frederick’s year of birth, but they’re not far apart: 1862 to 1864.  Registrations at freebmd don’t really solve the problem.  I give my favourite candidate in the ‘sources’ section below, but here I’ll leave the exact date open.  His census responses are fairly consistent about where he was born: in Somerset, somewhere between Weston-super-Mare and Bridgwater.


I also can’t find Frederick on a census with his parents; so I have no idea who they were or exactly where they lived; or whether he had any brothers and sisters.  The future course of Frederick’s life was dictated by an event that took place when he was seven - he was chosen as one of the boy choristers at Wells Cathedral - so on the day of the 1871 census he had already left home.  He was living in Wells, at 77 High Street, with his unmarried aunts, Eliza and Lucy Crowe.  Eliza ran a tobacconist’s shop and an umbrella-making business; and Lucy kept house for her sister and nephew.


Lucy Crowe had left the household, or was away, on the day of the 1881 census; and Eliza Crowe had moved her home and businesses to 1 Market Street.  Frederick Crowe was still living with his aunt, and was still involved with music at the cathedral.  Although they don’t seem to have been in the UK in 1871, by 1881 a couple who became friends of Fred had moved to Wells: Robert Mills and his wife Elizabeth.  On the day of the 1881 census, Robert was running his own monumental masonry business; but he was also working as a singer, most probably in the cathedral choir.   In the next 15 years Robert Mills added to his surname, to become Robert Watkin-Mills, gave up his business, and made a career for himself as a baritone, specialising in oratorio.  He and Elizabeth moved to London but Fred kept in touch with them for many years: Elizabeth was initiated into the GD in 1898, probably because Fred recommended her; and Robert was visiting Fred on the day of the 1901 census while  Elizabeth and their niece (another Elizabeth Mills) were staying elsewhere in Torquay.



Sources: freebmd; census 1871, 1881, 1901 and see also the Education section below and my biography of Elizabeth Watkin-Mills.




On the day of the 1871 census Frederick, like all the choristers, was a pupil at the Wells Cathedral Grammar School.  By 1881 he had left the choir but was employed as the cathedral’s assistant organist.  He was studying music - probably including composition and arrangement - with the chief organist Charles Williams Lavington; and was (again probably) getting his first experience as a conductor of music in a church.


The references that I found to Frederick’s career in music say that he spent two periods studying singing: in London; and then in Milan where he had lessons with the opera singer and teacher Vittorio Carpi.  None of my sources are able to say when this important period of study took place but the late 1870s or early 1880s seems more likely than later dates.  Robert Watkin-Mills had studied singing in Milan, probably in the early 1870s: perhaps it was Robert who suggested Fred should do the same.


Sources for Frederick’s education:

For the cathedral grammar school: 

Frederick’s schooling at Wells Cathedral grammar school is confirmed by details supplied with a photograph of him, to freemasons’ lodge Quatuor Coronati 2076's archive, now in the Freemasons’ Library.  I’m not sure where the information originally came from: Frederick himself, probably.


The earliest reference I could find to Frederick’s musical education was an article on in The Musical Times volume 46 January-December 1905.  Published London: Novello and Co Ltd; New York: Novello, Ewer and Co.  In its issue of 1 February 1905: Chichester Cathedral pp81-88, written by its reporter “Dotted Crotchet” who had been to Chichester and interviewed several of the administrative staff as well as Frederick.  I suppose this must be the source for the information which all later references are using, for example The Succession of Organists of the Chapel Royal by Watkins Shaw.  Clarendon Press 1991 p81.

I couldn’t find much information on Charles Williams Lavington but Wikipedia has comprehensive list of organists and assistant organists at Wells Cathedral.  Lavington was born in 1819.  He only ever worked at Wells Cathedral: as assistant organist from 1842 to 1859, then as senior organist until his death in 1895.

I could find even less information on the baritone Vittorio Carpi: he isn’t very well known in the UK, which suggests he never sang here.

At Carpi is mentioned in passing as the teacher of the soprano Luisa Garibaldi (born 1878). 

Werner’s Magazine volume 17 1895 p149 and p708, noting that Carpi had come to the end of a teaching contract at the Chicago Conservatory.


WORK/PROFESSION (1) Organist, conductor, composer

Frederick left Wells Cathedral in 1882 for a job as organist and choirmaster of the parish church at Ashburton in Devon.  At the end of his time at Ashburton his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in E Flat was published in London and New York by Novello and Co: the first item in a long association between Frederick and Novello’s.


In 1890 Frederick moved on to a similar job at a more prominent church - St Mary Magdalene Torquay.  Perhaps his friends amongst the Torquay freemasons had helped him get the job. 

The job was considered a lucky one: three holders of the post had gone on to jobs in cathedrals, and in due course, Frederick became the fourth.


During his time at St Mary Magdalene Frederick worked with local clergymen on a series of works for use by parish churches; all published by Weekes and Co of London.  Two were single carols in Weekes’ Carols for Christmastide series, but two were on a much bigger scale: full choral services, one for Easter and one for harvest thanksgiving.  They both comprised a set of hymns interspersed with recitatives; with the clergymen choosing the Biblical texts and writing the words of the hymns, and Frederick setting it all to music.  Both were on a fairly large scale, requiring soloists as well as a choir.  Frederick also did the first of two adaptations for parish choirs of works by Dvorak: an anthem for Lent, published by Novello’s as number 742 in its Octavo Anthems collection.  And lastly, from this period comes the only non-church work by Frederick that was ever published: a duet for violin and piano from 1892.


Frederick remained at St Mary Magdalene until the dean and chapter of Chichester Cathedral offered him the post of organist and choirmaster.  It was a big step up in his career, obviously, but there were other reasons why Frederick might have been looking for a new job.  He started work at the cathedral on Trinity Sunday 1902.  He worked for there until he retired, due to ill-health, in 1921.  During his years in Chichester he hugely expanded the range and amount of music done in the cathedral and played a very active role in the musical life of the city and of the cathedrals of Wessex:


-           as instructor in music at Bishop Otter College and conductor of its women’s choir

-           as music teacher at Chichester Girls’ High School and Chichester School

and as extensions of his main job:

-           as instigator of the Southern Cathedrals’ Festival

-           as founder of the Chichester Cathedral Oratorio Society and Chichester Cathedral Orchestral Society.


One of the first tasks that faced Frederick when he took up his post at Chichester Cathedral was the need to overhaul the cathedral’s main organ, built originally by Renatus Harris in 1677-78 and much restored and moved about the building since then.  The firm appointed to do the work was one whose work Frederick recommended to his new employers: George Hele and Company of Plymouth.  The idea which became the Southern Cathedrals’ Festival arose from the concert on 28 September 1904 which celebrated the end of the restoration: choirs from Salisbury and Winchester joined Frederick’s own cathedral choir at that concert.


Frederick was so busy at the cathedral and elsewhere that he only published one more piece of music, and that not an original composition.  In 1905, the second of his Dvorak adapations appeared, the Stabat Mater. 


It’s possible that Frederick was a member of the Chough Musical Society at this time.  Information is lacking on the Society but it seems to have been founded around 1880 to give a series of concerts in London each winter.  At least in the years immediately after the first World War, the concerts were held in the Great Hall of Cannon Street Hotel. 


I couldn’t find dates for this, but while he was at Chichester Cathedral Frederick also acted as internal examiner at Reading University department of music, and was on its board of studies.


And lastly (where he find the time?) Frederick wrote a series of articles for The Musical Courier, on well-known cathedral organists.


Sources for Frederick’s later career:

Who Was Who volume 3 p312.

The Musical Times volume 46 January- December 1905.  Published London: Novello and Co Ltd; New York: Novello, Ewer and Co.  In its issue of 1 February 1905, the article: Chichester Cathedral: pp81-88.  As it’s based on an interview with Frederick, I give the date of birth included in it as probably the right one: 31 December 1862.  There is a registration on freebmd for a Frederick William (no Joseph) Crowe, in the quarter January-March 1863; but it was in the St Luke’s district of Middlesex; not what I’d expected.  On p88 there’s a photograph of Frederick taken in Devon.  No beard! - very unusual for the time; but a full set of moustaches.


Cathedral Organists Past and Present by John Ebenezer West.  Published by Novello and Co 1925: p25.


See wikipedia for a short page on Hele of Plymouth aka Hele and Co and Hele and Sons, based on information in The Freeman-Edmonds Directory of British Organ Builders by Bernard Edmonds published 2002.


Southern Cathedrals Festival, comprising the cathedrals of Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury: see wikipedia again for its career, which took rather a dive after Frederick retired.  It was resurrected in the 1960s and is still going.

Chichester Cathedral Oratorio Society.  Not much information on this but there’s a reference in The Musical Herald numbers 766-777 1912 p13: at its advent concert the Chichester Cathedral Oratorio Society had sung Gounod’s Redemption (definitely outside the normal repertoire).


Chichester Orchestral Society.  Again, not much information on the web - there will be more locally - but I found a reference to it in Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular but it was from 1929 when I would suppose Frederick had retired as its conductor.


Bishop Otter College:

See wikipedia.

Via to The Musical Times volume 54 number 843, issue of 1 May 1913 pp1-4 a special Supplement on the annual meeting of the Association of Competition Festivals, held at the University Hall Leeds.  Bishop Otter College’s all-women choir, conducted by Frederick, gave a concert.


The Chough Musical Society:

The Freemasons’ Library has an item listed under Frederick Crowe referring to Chough Lodge number 2264.  I read through a history of the lodge, which said that it had grown out of the Chough Musical Society.  However, the book made no mention of Frederick ever being a lodge member.  Perhaps he was just a member of the Society and - knowing so many freemasons - knew some of Chough Lodge number 2264's founders.


At amazon you can buy lots of different lists of the Chough Musical Society’s yearly sets of concerts.  Though the Society was founded around 1880, I couldn’t see lists of concerts from earlier than 1898. The concerts were still going in 1924.

The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular volume 38 no 648, issue of 1 February 1897 p73-80 the Chough Musical Society is in a list of current music societies.

At a reproduction of William Purdie Treloar’s A Lord Mayor’s Diary 1906-07 originally published in 1920: in January 1907 Lord Mayor Treloar went to a Chough Musical Society concert at the Cannon St Hotel.

At Haydn Wood played violin at a Chough Musical Society concert in the Great Hall of Cannon St Hotel on 10 October 1919.


ANY MUSICAL PUBLICATIONS? See also the ‘profession’ section above.

I listen to some Radio 3 but have never heard a work by Frederick being played.


The British Library catalogue has these works:

1888    Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in E Flat.  London and New York: Novello, Ewer and Co.

1892    Romanza.  Duet for Violin and Pianoforte.  London: Ransford and Son.

1896    Angels from the Realms of Glory.  Crowe as composer with words by J Montgomery etc.  London: Weekes and Co; Number 2 in its Carols for Christmastide Series.

1896    Shepherds Leave Your Flocks All Sleeping.  Crowe as writer and composer.  London: Weekes and Co; Number 3 in its Carols for Christmastide Series.

1897    The Story of the Passion, with the “Seven Words” of Jesus Christ.  Set to simple music for the use of parish church choirs.  Scripture selections and hymns by Rev H J Warner MA vicar of Brixton.  “Fred J W Crowe” as composer; organist and choirmaster of Upton Church Torquay, St Mary Magdalene.  Price 1 shilling if you buy the music; 1d for words only.  Published London: Weekes and Co; Chicago USA: Clayton F Summy Co.  A set of recitatives and hymns making 17 pieces in all and needing tenor and bass soloists.

1897    A Song of Harvest Thanksgiving for the use of parish church choirs.  Hymns written and texts selected by Rev H B Clark MA curate of Tor Mohun Torquay.  Music by “Fred J W Crowe” organist and choirmaster of Upton Church Torquay.  Dedicated to Rev E P Gregg MA rector of Upton Church, and rural dean.  Published London: Weekes and Co; and Chicago USA: Clayton F Summy Co.  It’s a set of recitatives and hymns, making 17 pieces in all; needing tenor, bass and soprano soloists.  Same price as the Passion set.

1902    By Thy Glorious Death and Passion.  Anthem for Lent.  Music by Dvorak; Crowe as producing a version for parish church choirs.  London: Novello and Co as number 742 in its Octavo Anthems Collection (which had been running since 1876).  NB there’s a wiki listing Dvorak’s compositions but I couldn’t identify this particular anthem in it; it must have been one item in a larger work.

Just noting that Musical Times volume 46 1905 unnumbered page has an advertisement for Novello’s Octavo Anthems.  Number 742 is still available. Crowe’s name doesn’t appear on it, only Dvorak’s.

1905    At the Foot of the Cross, an adaptation of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater.  Crowe’s English-language version for church choirs published London: Novello and Co.  A wiki on Dvorak’s compositions says that the Stabat Mater was written 1876-77 for large forces: 4 soloists, chorus and orchestra.

1910    The Training College Song Book.  Crowe as editor.  London and New York: Boosey and Co.


This isn’t strictly a musical publication, but does arise from Frederick’s time as an employee of Chichester Cathedral: at a reference to his The Authorised Guide to Chichester Cathedral published by R J Acford 1925.




I’ve decided to include Frederick’s publications on freemasonry as ‘work’ rather than ‘leisure’.  I’m sure Frederick was not paid to write them, so they’re not ‘professional’ works in that sense; though some at least were for sale.  Even a short article does require a lot of effort, though, if it’s going to be good and something you can be proud of: something I’ve learned all too well since I started doing these GD biographies!



Plenty.  Most publications on freemasonry were written by freemasons for freemasons.  They tended to be published privately, with a small print-run, and copies were not usually sent to the statutory libraries so most of Frederick’s work is in the Freemasons’ Library only.  His set of ‘master masons handbooks’ is an exception, with copies sent to the British Library.  As you can see, some of the handbooks went into a second or third edition.  They formed the basis of Frederick’s reputation as an authority on the paraphernalia of freemasonry, and also on the duties of a senior freemason.


List of publications in the British Library:

Firstly there’s the ‘basic’ set of three ‘master mason handbooks’, all with an introduction by W J Hughan:         

The Master Mason’s Handbook.  1st edition 1890 2nd edition 1894 3rd edition 1915.  All London: George Kenning.     

The Scottish Master Mason’s Handbook.  1st edition 1894 2nd edition 1910.  Both London: George Kenning and Son.

The Irish Master Freemason’s Handbook.  1st edition 1895; 2nd edition 1909.  Both London: George Kenning and Son.


Then there’s one based on items in Frederick’s collection:

1897    Masonic Clothing and Regalia, British and Continental.  This was a high-quality production with  36 color plates.  Edinburgh: T C and E C Jack.


Then a couple reflecting on the duties of a freemason: 

1909    Things a Freemason Should Know.  With some plates.  London: George Kenning and Son.

1920    What is Freemasonry?  A Word of Advice to Masters and Candidates.  1st edition 1920 2nd edition 1935.  Both London: Gale and Polden.


Then one of several works printed as a booklet after originally being a magazine article:

1910    The Caledonian Lodge number 134.  Number 3 in the Masonic Tracts Series which was published 1906-26. London 1910; originally published in The Freemason 1910.  Lodge histories are one of the most popular freemason publications; but this was the only one Frederick wrote.


The second edition of a book in which Frederick prepared for publication the work of a very well-known historian of freemasonry, one of the founders of Quatuor Coronati lodge 2076:

1951    Robert Freke Gould’s The Concise History of Freemasonry.  Its first edition was published in 1920 but the British Library doesn’t have a copy of that.


The Freemasons’ Library has copies of all the books listed above.  It also has:


Some more instances of articles being published as booklets:

1888    originally in The Freemason of 3 November 1888: Brother Hughan at Home.

1914    originally in Ars Quatuor Coronati 1914: The Free Carpenters.

Undated           originally published in Windsor Magazine: Freemasonry.


At various times Frederick had produced catalogues of his freemasonry collection:

-           Catalogue of Masonic Certificates numbers 515-1584.  Collected by Frederick around 1890.

-           A second Catalogue of 500 Masonic Certificates Frederick.  Published 1894 in the Masonic Catalogues series and later re-issued in the Masonic Pamphlets series.

-           Some Rare Certificates.  London: 1900


And finally, the 1924 edition of A Concise History of Freemasonry, by Robert Freke Gould (1836-1915), prepared for publication by Frederick.  First edition: New York: 1924.  2nd edition: London: 1951


Frederick was also a regular contributor to QC2076's magazine, whose full title is: Ars Quatuor Coronati: A Concise Index to the Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge Number 2076.  AQC’s Catalogue of Volumes 1-80 compiled for the Lodge by A R Hewitt and H G Massey 1971  lists these articles:

page     vol        year      title

21        3          1890    Freemasonry in Holland

21        5          1892    Masonic clothing/1 of 3

21        6          1893    Masonic clothing/2 of 3

21        7          1894    Continental lodge jewels and medals

21        7          1894    Masonic clothing/3 of 3

21        8          1895    Freemasonry in Brixham Devon 1781-1840

21        14        1901    A curious certificate

21        16        1903    A curious Carbonari certificate

21                    1903    A French prisoners’ lodge

21        17        1903    Masonic certificates of the Netherlands

21        17        1904    Colours in freemasonry

21                    1904    An interesting engraving

21        18        1905    A forgotten Masonic charity

21        19        1906    King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

20        20        1907    Another French prisoners’ lodge

21                    1907    The Scottish lodge at Namur

21        22        1909    The Fendeurs

21                    1909    Giorgione’s Three Wise Men

20        24        1911    The Charta transmissions of Larmenius

21        27        1914    The free carpenters.


In addition, Frederick appears as the subject of two articles:

21        22        1909    a profile of him, on his installation as the lodge’s WM

21        44        1931    an obituary.


I don’t think it was in Frederick’s nature to be a controversialist, but occasionally he felt he shouldn’t resist the desire to correct poor work on freemasonry published by others.  In The Co-Mason volume IV issue of April 1912 p82 a letter from Frederick appeared.  A recent co-masonry publication, The Knights Templars, had argued in favour of a connection in the middle ages between the Knights Templar and medieval freemasonry.  Frederick’s letter said that there was no proof at all of such a thing.  He also disagreed with the book’s assertion that mysticism had been an important feature of freemasonry as early as the 17th century, saying that in his opinion pre-17th century ceremonies were “of the simplest description, and the ‘secrets’ confined to modes of recognition, and perhaps one or two ‘trade secrets’.”  These are still hotly debated issues, of course”!



Frederick was married twice. 


Census information from 1891 says that Frederick’s first wife, Sara Elizabeth Stevens, was born around 1860 on Alderney in the Channel Islands.  I haven’t been able to find a birth registration for her; I also haven’t been able to identify her on any census before her marriage.  So like Frederick’s, Sara’s social and family background is a mystery. 


Frederick and Sara Elizabeth were married in Newton Abbot in 1886 and began their married life in Ashburton.  By the day of the 1891 census, Frederick had changed jobs and they had moved to  a house called Marsden, on Thurlow Road in the Upton district of Torquay.  They had a visitor that day - Mary Bond, from Alburgh in Norfolk; perhaps a friend of Sara’s as they were the same age.  The Crowes’ income was enough for them to employ the basic one general servant. 


Frederick and Sara didn’t have any children.  The problem was with her rather than him.  Perhaps she was ill: she died early in 1899, aged only 40.


Frederick’s second wife, Faith Tombleson, was born in Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, a daughter of Thomas Tombleson and his wife Margaret.  Thomas farmed 512 acres and was a JP.  There was enough money in the family for Thomas and Margaret to employ a governess on census day in 1881, for Faith and her two older sisters.  Two general servants and the farm shepherd were living with the family on that day.  The Tomblesons, particularly Thomas, were prominent members of the congregation at the Wesleyan Chapel on Chapel Lane Barton-on-Humber.


Frederick Crowe and Faith Tombleson would not normally have come across each other, I suppose.  But on the day of the 1901 census Faith and her sister Hetty were staying at a boarding house in Upton, Torquay.  Perhaps Hetty had been ill and Faith was not just there as her sister: Faith told the census official that she was a trained sick-nurse.  Frederick was still living in Upton, at the house he’d shared with wife Sara; his friend the bass-baritone Robert Watkin-Mills was visiting him.  


So Faith and Frederick met in Torquay.  There was still the religious question to be resolved.  A Methodist marrying someone who worked for the Church of England - that could still be a big issue, around 1900.  But they resolved it, and were married in the summer of 1901.  They had two children: Geoffrey Gilbert Crowe, born 1905; and Margaret Faith Muriel Crowe (later Canton), born 1910.  On the day of the 1911 census they were all living at  St Peter’s House, 64 North Street Chichester; with a cook, and a nurse/housemaid.


Sources for the family section: freebmd; census 1861-1911

An interesting side-light on Faith Tombleson: in the Lincolnshire Archives as their reference: Meth/C/Barton on Humber, Chapel Lane /A/4/1.  It’s a Seat Rent Book, originally in use at the Wesleyan Chapel, Chapel Lane Barton-on-Humber between 1833 and 1842.  It was re-used c 1883 by Hetty Tombleson as a ‘commonplace’ book - as a diary, for notes and for pressing flowers.  A second such ‘commonplace’ book, reference /A/4/2 originally the Seat Rent book for 1842-57 was re-used for similar jottings, by Faith Tombleson.



Frederick did manage to squeeze some leisure time into his busy life.  He was the Hon Sec to the West Sussex branch of the NSPCC.  He was a Captain of the First Devon and Somerset Royal Engineers; a voluntary regiment; and later served as Captain of the Chichester Division of the National Reserve.  He enjoyed astronomy, and a game of billiards.



Times 11 April 1931 p12.



Frederick enjoyed a decade of retirement before dying very suddenly, while on a train to Cosham, on 9 April 1931.  Faith died in January 1962, in the house she and Frederick had been living in, in 1911.


Times 11 April 1931 p12.

Probate Registry entries 1931, 1962.




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.  I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923.  Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972.  Foreword by Gerald Yorke.  Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist.  He has no axe to grind.


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.


Useful source for business and legal information: London Gazette and its Scottish counterpart Edinburgh Gazette.  Now easy to find (with the right search information) on the web.


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.





13 March 2016
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Find the web pages of Roger Wright and Sally Davis, including my list of people initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn between 1888 and 1901, at: