Marion Cunningham was initiated into the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn, at its Isis-Urania temple in London, on 7 November 1896. Several other people were initiated during the same ritual: Robert Palmer Thomas; Colonel Henry Edward Colvile and his wife Zélie; and Sarah Ann Rowe, known as Sissie, sister-in-law of GD member Kate Broomhead Rowe. I think it’s unlikely that Marion had met any of them beforehand. Marion chose the Latin motto ‘Mors janua vita’. She doesn’t seem to have been a very keen GD member but evidence from 1904 suggests that it was not the only magical order she was a member of.


This biography is dedicated to Robert Coleman of Ontario, who contacted me about something else entirely, and was persuaded to see if he could find any evidence of someone I thought was a convenient figment of Marion’s imagination. Thanks, Robert, for proving me wrong by sending me copies of records detailing John Strange Cunningham’s less-than-illustrious career in the North West Mounted Police.




I always hope to find out who recommended GD initiates for possible membership: it was a secret society so potential members could only find out about it through those who were members already. In most cases, I never do find that information, but in Marion’s case it’s very clear: Marion said that it was Dr Edward Berridge who recommended her to the GD’s rulers, Samuel Liddell Mathers and William Wynn Westcott. When she was initiated, Berridge had been acquainted with Marion and her family for several years; and Marion was one of his patients - he was a doctor and homoeopath.



At least, I think so! I think that it’s not the GD that is being talked about, in a case in the High Court in 1904. It’s certainly a secret society dedicated to magic. But it was in existence several months after the GD had disintegrated into two daughter orders, the Independent and Rectified Rite, and Stella Matutina. On the evidence I’ve found, it wasn’t either of those orders; when people gave it a name at all during the case, they called it The Hermetic Society.


The case in the High Court was Cunningam v Berridge. It was heard in March 1904 and concerned events that took place between September and November 1903. Marion was suing Edward Berridge for £1000, which she claimed he had agreed to pay for an antique with a colourful history: a clasp, supposedly given by Count Cagliostro to Marie Antoinette. Marion had been given the clasp by a Mrs Rowlie; and had handed it over to Berridge, in the presence of a Mr Witte, in exchange for his signature on a promissory note stating that Berridge would pay her the £1000 at a later date. According to evidence heard during the case Marion, Berridge, Mrs Rowlie and Mr Witte were all members of the Hermetic Society.


I’m not going to go in detail into the details of Cunningham v Berridge here. It’s so complicated and the arguments on both sides are full of inconsistencies. When I sent Robert Coleman the gist of it, it filled five A4 pages! And even the judge said he didn’t know how to sum up the evidence. Anyone with access to Timesonline can read what the Times’ court reporter made of it – see the Times on Friday 25 March 1904 and Saturday 26 March 1904. Though I should say here that the reporter defiinitely misheard or mis-spelled the surname of Marion’s sister; and I did wonder whether the surname ‘Witte’ might not be correct either.


I need to say a little about Berridge in the GD and I had better begin by saying that readers should be aware that I think he is a nasty piece of work. Berridge was initiated into the GD in May 1889. He became a member of its inner, 2nd Order, in February 1891 – GD members weren’t allowed to do any practical magic until they had attained this level. He held two important administrative/ritual posts in the Isis-Urania temple: as sub-imperator to Westcott’s Imperator, from 1892 to 1896; and as praemonstrator – the officer in charge of initiates’ education – for a few months in 1892. Complaints were made against him in 1896 – today we would call them claims of sexual harrassment – and he was replaced as sub-imperator.


In 1900 Berridge and many others were caught up in a struggle for control of the GD between Samuel Liddell Mathers and those loyal to him, on one side; and senior Isis-Urania members, led by Florence Farr, on the other. Berridge sided with Mathers, and was expelled from the GD along with several others, including Aleister Crowley, in April 1900. Berridge then set up another temple with Mathers as its imperator and himself as sub-imperator. Not much is known about this temple – its records have not survived – but many years later, A E Waite recorded that it had continued to meet, in Portland Road, Notting Hill, until the outbreak of World War 1, and was known as the Alpha and Omega temple. At one time the occultist Francis King owned one of its record books, from 1913, which showed that at that time it had 23 members – though the record book didn’t contain any of their names, alas!


Perhaps the society Waite called the Alpha and Omega temple, was the court case’s Hermetic Society. If it was not, then the Hermetic Society was a magical order unknown to modern historians. The picture is confused further by the existence of an occult talking-shop called the Hermetic Society in the mid-1880s; founded and dominated by Dr Anna Bonus Kingsford. But that Hermetic Society never met after Kingsford’s death early in 1888.


Giving evidence in Cunningham v Berridge, Marion said that she had understood Berridge to be the “chief” of the GD. That wasn’t true, though he was one of the more senior figures and one of its more experienced occultists. She also gave the court to understand that Berridge had claimed to have magical powers, which included being able to make people ill and to foretell the future. When he was giving evidence, Berridge only admitted to trying to predict the future using tarot and astrology. However, he knew enough, I think, for Marion to want to acquire some of his skills; and so she joined first the GD and then this later secret society. At least in the GD she didn’t get as far as having the 2nd Order initiation and learning some practical magic. How much in the way of occult knowledge and skills she gained the later secret society is unknown.


Though the proof is lacking I think it’s safe to say that Marion and Mr Witte ceased to be members of Berridge’s secret society in March 1904, if not before.



Marion joined London’s Theosophical Society at around the same time she was initiated into the GD. Her TS membership record notes that she had been a member of the wider TS while living in the USA; as a result, she wasn’t asked to supply the names of two TS members who would act as her sponsors. What a pity! I would have liked to know if she knew any English-based members already. Marion joined Blavatsky Lodge, whose members included some people who had been in Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s inner circle, but only paid her yearly subscriptions from 1896 to 1898. She was declared no longer a member in 1901 and didn’t ever rejoin.



The GD:

The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert and based on original documents. Published Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. It includes a list of GD initiates to 1901; initiates into Stella Matutina up to 1910, possibly to 1914; and the first members of the Independent and Rectified Rite. Marion (p156) and Berridge (p141) are both in the GD list but not in either of the others; Mrs Rowlie and Mr Witte are not in any of the lists – I checked other possible spellings as well. On p40 Gilbert sums up what little is known about the temple founded by Berridge in 1900. GD founder William Wynn Westcott, the artist Gerald Kelly, Kelly’s friend and future brother-in-law Aleister Crowley and Alice Isabel Simpson and her daughter Elaine were members of this temple at the outset.

Giving evidence in Cunningham v Berridge Mr Witte said he had only come to live and work in London early in 1903; so he could not have been a member of the GD.

See his wikipedia page for an introduction to Giuseppe Balsamo, alias Count Alessandro Cagliostro: early freemason, magician, and adventurer. At least in theory it’s possible that Cagliostro gave Marion’s clasp to Marie Antoinette: his dates are 1743-95, hers are 1755-93 and he was known at the French court. However, in Cunningham v Berridge a jeweller valued the clasp at 2 shillings and 6 pence and said that it had been made in Britain within the last 25 years.

The secret society named in court as The Hermetic Society:

Cunningham v Berridge: Times Fri 25 Mar 1904 p13 and Times Sat 26 Mar 1904 p5.

Theosophical Society:

Theosophical Society Membership Register March 1895 to June 1898 p95 entry for Mrs J Strange Cunningham.



If I hadn’t followed a feeling in my bones that I should trawl through the Times, I wouldn’t have come across Cunningham v Berridge and I would still not know Marion’s original surname. Marion’s sister gave me my big break. She was one of the witnesses – Mrs Sanguinetti, who told the Court she was the widow of an artist.


In fact, the Times’ court reporter mis-heard Gertrude’s surname: he wrote it down as Sanquinetti (with a ‘q’). Thanks to Google it was fairly easy to establish that there was no such artist. There was an artist called Edward (or Edward Phineas) Sanguinetti (with a ‘g’) who had died in England in 1895. In 1890, in Sussex, he had married a woman called Gertrude Ellis. A rummage through Ancestry and freebmd produced a Gertrude Ellis, born 1867 on the Isle of Wight. She had an older sister called Marion… Later I came across other proof but having found out this much, I was happy that the GD’s Marion Cunningham had been born Marion Ellis.


Marion Ellis was the eldest of the three daughters of Edward Ellis and his wife Rebecca Glode Ellis, née Stapleton. She was born in Oxford in 1859, where her father was working as a private tutor. On the day of the 1861 census the three were living in a house in Park Town, with Rebecca’s parents, James and Rebecca Stapleton. James Stapleton claimed to have “private means”; meaning, money invested in shares and/or government stocks and providing income from dividends. The extended family employed two servants, a housemaid and a general servant. Marion’s next sister, Emily Glode Ellis, was born in Oxford in 1865 but then Edward and his family moved to the Isle of Wight; where Gertrude Ellis, the youngest child, was born in 1867.


Census information suggests Edward Ellis didn’t do any paid work after he left Oxford; in 1881 he was described by the census official as having “no occupation”. I don’t think the family was rich, but it was leisured. On the day of the 1871 census the Ellises were living in Binsted, near Alton in Hampshire, at a house called Paddington House; they employed just the one general servant. By census day 1881 they had moved to Hove and were living at 16 Selbourne Park. I couldn’t find Rebecca, Emily or Gertrude in England on census day 1881 but Edward Ellis and Marion were at home. Two of Marion’s first cousins had come to stay: sisters Dymphna Ellis (20) and Eliza Ellis (18), both of whom had been born in Scotland. Maybe there was more money coming into the family by this time: the Ellises had two general servants on census day.


Although young women of Marion’s class were very inadequately educated in the 19th-century, by the standards of the time Marion seems to have done quite well. In her 30s, and at a moment of crisis, Marion was optimistic that she was well-enough trained in music to teach others. Her French was good enough for her to give talks in it even to French-speaking audiences, and in wartime she did war work as an interpreter or translator. She attempted to earn money from art, and possibly as a public speaker. However, what she had learned as a girl could only get her so far. In 1899 she inherited some money but by 1904 she was taking in copying work and sub-letting one of the rooms she was renting, to make her income go further. Part of her problems in 1904 were down to Mr J Strange Cunningham; but more of that below.


In 1890, Gertrude Ellis married the artist Edward Phineas Sanguinetti. There’s very little information on Edward’s career but he seems to have been English, and specialised in painting animals, issuing some at least of his paintings as prints. He may have spent some years in the Middle East – one notice of his death describes him as living as an Arab amongst the Arabs – and he definitely spent the early 1880s in the USA. He was a widower when Gertrude Ellis married him: I found a first marriage in 1870.


On the day of the 1891 census Gertrude and Edward Sanguinetti were lodging with Mrs Ellen Parker at 59 Waterloo Street, Hove. Edward and Rebecca Ellis were still living at 16 Selbourne Park, where they were keeping house with a cook and a housemaid. Emily was at home. I can’t find Marion anywhere in the UK and I think she was in Canada.


Family background sources: census and freebmd.

Marion’s French and her public speaking: The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who 1913 p219 entry for Marion Cunningham.

Edward Sanguinetti:

The Art Journal 1882 p224.

National Academy Notes volume 1 1881 issued by the National Academy of Design USA. Number 555 p62 ref to a work A Vidette, USA; by Edward Sanguinetti.

Two short death notices:

The Magazine of Art volume 18 1895 p200.

The British Architect volume 43 1895 p2.

Modern references are lacking:

The Black and White Exhibitions of the Salmagundi Sketch Club 1878-87 compiled by Alexander W Katlan and published 2007: p217 entry for Edward Sanguinetti.

RA Exhibitors 1769-1904 volume 4 p19. The only Sanguinetti listed is a sculptor, Edgardo Sanguinetti, who’s probably someone else. 2 exhibits, neither of them animals,1880 and 1889. In 1880 based Florence. In 1889 c/o 175 Bond St.

Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 p446 also has only Edgardo Sanguinetti.

One work by Edward Sanguinetti appeared on two modern art-sales websites: Mare and Foal in a Field, with a picture. Sanguinetti. also has the Mare and Foal in a Field saying it was painted in 1874. Last sold 2012.



Marion Ellis married John Strange Cunningham in October , probably the October of 1891; somewhere in Canada. They had one child, Christine, who was born in Canada, probably in 1892. Such evidence as there is indicates they didn’t live together after 1893, though who abandoned whom is open to debate. That’s about all I can say for certain and I wouldn’t be able to say even that much without Robert Coleman’s research, using Canadian data which he could access but I couldn’t.


Marion was very little help to me when I tried to work out what had happened. Giving evidence in Cunningham v Berridge, she told the court that her husband had died in 1897. But her father’s probate registry entry from 1899, and census data from 1901 and 1911 describe her as married – not widowed. My own view is that she probably never knew when her husband died. He does seem to have been that kind of man.



John Strange Cunningham’s parents were Albert Berwick Cunningham, of the Royal Artillery; and his wife Georgiana. Particularly on his mother’s side, the family was well-connected: Georgiana’s father, Charles Steer, was a judge in Calcutta and John’s sister Lucy married Arthur Markham, who was later created a baronet.


John Strange Cunningham was Albert and Georgiana’s third child; born in 1868 when his father was stationed at Woolwich. Following in father’s footsteps, he joined the Royal Artillery in August 1885, but unlike his father, he didn’t remain in the RA long. Instead, he went to Canada, cutting himself off from his family. Robert Coleman found him on the 1891 census for Canada in the small ranching settlement of Namaka, south-east of Calgary. He was the only other person in the household of the ranch-owner Alan or Alen W Strange. Alan Strange might have been a relation; or a family friend from Indian days – his father had been born in India. He was 24, born in England, and unmarried. John Strange Cunningham, unmarried and 22, was described as a “cowboy”. The next household in Namaka was a group of farm labourers; and the next two after that were occupied by more cowboys. Perhaps members of all four households worked for Alan Strange.


This is where I feel things get tricky: if Marion is correct about the date of her marriage and I’ve got the place right, within a few months of census day 1891, John Strange Cunningham got married, in Canada, to Marion Ellis, a woman eight years his senior. How come? How did he meet Marion? Had they known each other for years and been engaged for some time? Or was this a whirlwind romance? - and if so, what was Marion doing in Canada? I suppose we’ll never know.


John Strange Cunningham (and Marion, if I’m right about the year of the marriage) left the ranch at Namaka in April 1892, when he signed on for a five-year tour of duty with the North West Mounted Police. A large part of his service record with the NWMP is the recording of continued breaches of discipline by Cunningham. The indiscipline started with petty things – late-for-duty, asleep on duty, not keeping his kit tidy – but reached a watershed in October 1893, when he was stationed at Regina in what’s now Saskatchewan: he was caught making false statements to an officer (apparently he wasn’t an officer himself) and sentenced to 14 days hard labour. Before his five years were up, Cunningham served another such sentence; so that in 1897, when he applied to continue in the NWMP’s employment for another three years, his commanding officer sent a very strong note to the NWMP’s headquarters saying on no account should his term be extended. Cunningham left the NWMP in May 1897 – and completely disappeared from view. Robert Coleman has hunted for him in Canada, I’ve looked for him back in England, and we can’t find him anywhere. How easy it was for a man to vanish!


In October 1893 John Strange Cunningham was sent to serve his 14-day sentence at Lethbridge. Marion and their baby were left behind in lodgings in Regina with only a few dollars to live off. John promised to send more, but didn’t, so that Marion had to write to the officer in command at Lethbridge asking him to make her husband do so. What happened after the 14 days were up I don’t quite understand: it seems that John Strange Cunningham didn’t return to Saskatchewan, he was still stationed in Lethbridge in 1897. I presume Lethbridge was the place Marion was meaning when she said (in Cunningham v Berridge) that she had returned to England when her husband “was stationed in a part of the country where it was impossible for her to live” (I quote the Times’ court reporter).


John Strange Cunningham’s 14 days in Lethbridge were the de facto end of the marriage: he and Marion never lived as a couple after that. However, a letter from Marion suggests that at least for a while, she hoped to be treated as if they might get back together one day. She wrote to the NWMP asking to have part of her husband’s wages paid to her directly, an arrangement commonly made for wives of English soldiers who had opted to stay in England while their husbands were stationed abroad. The NWMP didn’t do so - perhaps had no mechanism for such an arrangement - leaving her in a very difficult position: unable to trust her husband to send money for her and their child at all, let alone regularly; and with no other source of income. She wondered if she could earn some money by giving music lessons; but the number of likely pupils in Regina was going to be small.


When did Marion start to think of the marriage as over? - perhaps when her husband got his 14-day sentence; perhaps when she realised the financial mess she and her daughter had been left in and probably would always be in, with such a husband. I think she had made up her mind by the end of 1893. She wrote her request for direct payment of part of her husband’s wage in April 1894, from East 33rd Street, New York. She was still at the stage of thinking it worth asking her husband directly to send her money, and wrote to him as well; but instead of doing sending her money to live off, he had sent a reply demanding that she send him some. Marion made one more appeal to her husband’s commanding officer, asking him to persuade her husband to send her some money. The officer replied that he hoped that Cunningham would actually send her the $2 he had promised to; but he sounded very doubtful that he would. The situation was hopeless and Marion gave up on it: she and Christine sailed from New York to Liverpool on the Cunard Line’s Aurania in July 1894.


John Strange Cunningham sources: 1871, 1881 censuses for England; 1891 census for Alberta Canada. family history website.

Thacker’s Bengal Directory 1867 p404 in list of officers in the Bengal Artillery: Lt A B Cunningham, number 2 battery 25th brigade currently at Maidstone.

Army List 1870 p603 entry for Albert Berwick Cunningham; in the Royal Artillery with 11 years’ service.

Indian Army and Civil Service List January 1871 p161 entry for Albert Berwick Cunningham describing him as “late” of the Bengal Artillery.

Army List 1885 p613 has no entry for Albert Berwick Cunningham so he must be retired by then.

Via findmypast to Chelsea Pensioners British Army Records 1760-1913 now in National Archives; though there was no Chelsea Pension record there, only one document, the photo of John S Cunningham’s application to join the Royal Artillery. Service Number 50083. Joining date 18 August 1885.

Copy sent by Robert Coleman of John Strange Cunningham’s service record, 2799, North West Mounted Police 1892-97: items 0001-0060, compiled 29 April 1897 at Lethbridge. Some pages hadn’t copied well and I couldn’t read them; alas, they included the copies of Marion’s letters and possibly copies of replies.

Item 0002 is Cunningham’s application form, dated 20 April 1892. Items 0006 and 0007 are his medical report and background information, noting that he had been in the Royal Artillery but that his previous occupation was as a rancher.

Item 0011 is a letter from John Strange Cunningham’s father, written in London 20 July 1892 after several previous letters had been returned to sender.

Items 0017-0019 27 October 1893: breach of discipline offence – telling untruths to a senior officer; and punishment given.

Items 0034-41 – more breaches of discipline.

Items 0061-62 John Strange Cunningham’s certificate of discharge, signed at Regina [Saskatchewan] 16 June 1897. He’d served 30 April 1892 to 29 April 1897. His last posting was at Lethbridge in Alberta.

Item 0019-20 letter from Marion Cunningham to an unnamed NWMP official; written ?8 ?October 1893 on the headed paper of the Palmer House at Regina North West Territories (now Saskatchewan).

Item 0023 letter dated 10 April 1894 from the NWMP Superintendant at Lethbridge, to Marion at 20?8 East 33rd Street New York City; in reply to a letter from Marion, possibly Item 0019-20.

Item 0025 letter dated 15 June [no year] from Marion at 154 East 30th St New York City about payment of the wife’s allowance.

End NWMP service record.

Also sent by Robert Coleman: page from immigration records at Liverpool, July 1894 and details of the ship Marion and Christine Cunningham had arrived on. There’s a wikipedia page on RMS Aurania, built in Glasgow for Cunard; first voyage 1883. A photograph shows her rather unusual design – with two masts as well as two funnels. New York/Queenstown/Liverpool was her regular run but she wasn’t a popular ship – she had a reputation for rolling in heavy seas. I imagine Marion and Christine had a rough time of it!


I did find the death registration of a John S Cunningham, in Southwark during 1926; the age at death looked about right but I couldn’t really believe he would have come back to England. There was no one on the 1939 Register who looked convincing. Robert Coleman searched the available Canadian records for signs of him but didn’t find any that were convincing.




If Marion contacted her parents-in-law when she returned to England, they might have got quite a surprise – if John Strange Cunningham hadn’t been answering their letters it’s likely they didn’t know he was married. Marion’s later troubles suggest that even if she did make contact with them, they were not able to help her financially. She went to live with her parents and sister Emily, in Sussex, and stayed for about a year. Then she struck out independently and took Christine to live in London. Marion rented a flat at 2 Newton Mansions, a purpose-built block at 6 Queen’s Club Gardens (now W14). Joining the GD and TS late in 1896 was part of her efforts to begin a new life.


In 1899, two deaths in the family should have improved Marion’s financial situation somewhat, though that’s a horrible way of looking at it. Her sister Emily died early in the year; meaning that there was one less person to share whatever Edward Ellis had to leave. Edward himself died in July 1899. Marion – described as the wife (not the widow) of John Strange Cunningham - was one of his three executors and in Cunningham v Berridge she told the court that her father had left her most of the money on which she was now living.


Queen’s Club Gardens was a fashionable address so rents for flats there were priced accordingly. To help with the bills, Marion sub-let her flat at least once. In October 1900, she rented it out, furnished, for a few weeks to Alfred John Child. But there was trouble: he didn’t pay for the gas he used and left leaving no forwarding address so she couldn’t pursue him for the money she was owed. Several items were also missing from the flat when Marion returned to it. These details all came out because in 1901, Child and two other men were prosecuted for attempts to defraud several City solicitors; and Marion was called to give evidence.


By late 1903, when the events which led to Cunningham v Berridge took place, Marion had left Queen’s Club Gardens for a less fashionable but cheaper address. She and Christine were living in two rooms and a dressing-room, in a house in Gratton Road near Olympia. In a neat piece of finance, she was paying 8 shillings and 6 pence a week for the three rooms, while letting one of them as a bed-sitting room for 10 shillings a week; so she was 1/6 up each week. Her sub-letting tenant was a young Dutchman, Mr Witte, who had arrived in London earlier that year to work in the City. Marion told the court in Cunningham v Berridge that she also had some money coming in from painting. I’ve found no evidence of Marion as a painter of works shown in any of the major yearly art exhibitions. However, there was other art work around and Marion might have been hand-painting porcelain or colouring photographs and prints. See my files on Sissie Rowe and Kate Broomhead (for Kate’s husband Cosmo Rowe) for more information on this kind of work and the difficulties of researching it. A few years later Marion was designing posters; another kind of work for which evidence tends to be lacking. One thing she was not doing to earn money was teaching music, as she had thought she might do when she was in Canada.


The possibility that arose in September 1903 that she might sell for £1000 a piece of jewellery given her by an acquaintance must have seemed to Marion like manna from heaven – if you assume that Marion’s tale in Cunningham v Berridge was the truth. But it all went wrong and instead of getting £1000, at the end of Cunningham v Berridge, in March 1904, she was left having to pay two sets of legal fees. If in November 1903 she had lost all common sense and forged someone else’s signature on a promissory note for £1000, only the fact that the promissory note was destroyed (not by her) saved her from being prosecuted for attempted fraud.


Like the Judge in the case, I believe the true story behind Cunningham v Berridge never saw the light of day. All sorts of insinuations about Marion’s current reputation were made by Berridge’s barrister – I presume Berridge had told him that Marion’s husband didn’t seem to be living with her. Marion’s barrister thought it wise to get her to say in Court that she believed her husband had died in 1897; that is, that she was a widow, not a woman who lived separately from her husband. There was still Mr Witte, though: the Judge had his doubts about Marion’s relationship with her sub-tenant. He called the arrangement a “ménage” - French being a language often used at the time to describe morally debatable events and people – and “a peculiar one”. Though he didn’t say so, he clearly felt the arrangement was not one a respectable woman would enter into.


The Judge may have been right to wonder about Mr Witte as Marion’s sub-tenant: I think Marion and Mr Witte were still living in the same household in 1911 and possibly as late as 1913.


Sources: probate registry entries 1899; freebmd

At their reference t19010204-182.

Cunningham v Berridge Times Fri 25 March 1904 p13 and Sat 26 March 1904 p5.

The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors...1769-1904 compiled by Algernon Graves. S R Publishers 1970. There’s no entry for Marion Cunningham.

Royal Academy Exhibitors 1905-70. Volume 2 p113 no entry for Marion Cunningham.

Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 p131: no entry for Marion Cunningham.



After Edward Ellis’s death, Rebecca Ellis had moved in with Gertrude Sanguinetti. They were living together in Cranleigh on census day 1901, and their joint incomes enabled them to manage comfortably, employing two servants. However, in 1906 Rebecca moved in with Marion, Christine and Mr Witte, and – in default of any definite information – I think that was when Marion moved to Oakdene, at Hayes End in what is now the borough of Hillingdon. Going so far out of town, and pooling their resources, Marion and her entourage could afford somewhere bigger – Oakdene was a two-storey detached house, albeit on the main Uxbridge Road. Rebecca Ellis died at Oakdene, in January 1909.


At least in 1911 Marion had enough income to require her to pay some income tax. She didn’t pay it, though: she was boycotting the Inland Revenue because she didn’t have the Vote.


Sources: probate registry entries 1909.

Oakdene, or Oakdene House, still exists and is now a guest house: see zoopla-like websites and also // planning application 57783/APP/2010/2590 for an extension on the house next door, 549 Uxbridge Road, which describes 547 as well.

Middlesex and Buckinghams Advertiser DATE p5 rpt on inquest into the death of Rebecca Glode Ellis. The report didn’t say when the Ellises had moved to Hayes; but it did say exactly when Rebecca had gone to live with Marion. Rebecca had drowned in her bath; perhaps as a result of a heart attack or stroke.




After the traumas of her marriage and Cunningham v Berridge, it’s not very surprising that by January 1911 Marion was a committed campaigner for women’s suffrage. Committed, but not very much in the public eye, at least not on the national stage: I couldn’t find her name in accounts of what activists in either the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) or the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) were doing to advance the cause and I don’t think she went to prison. There was plenty going on which didn’t reach the national press, however, and Marion was involved in that. She was designing posters for women to take on marches. She was also active in and around Hayes, campaigning and organising events. She gave talks, and she wrote and produced plays on suffrage and gender themes.


There’s most evidence for Marion’s varied activities during 1911, though a letter she wrote on 2 January indicates she had been busy promoting women’s suffrage for quite a while: she was worn out by it, she wrote, what with having had no holiday for several years as well. She was sending new year greetings to Hugh Franklin, one of the few men to be sent to prison for actions taken while promoting votes for women: he and Elsie Diederichs Duval, whom he married in 1915, were the first and second prisoners to be given a temporary release from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act. Having sent Hugh her “womanly thanks and admiration” for all that he was doing, Marion then asked him a favour: would he take one of the roles in a play called Men’s Methods? It was being put on to raise funds for the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement.


The census of April 1911 was the one boycotted by many women’s suffrage campaigners. Marion did her best to take part in that boycott, but reckoned without the diligence of the local census official. He called at Oakdene with the census form several times on census Sunday, and again on the Monday and the Tuesday. When no one would answer the door, he wrote some basic information on the form himself; perhaps having asked the neighbours who it was, who was supposedly never at home. The census form for “Oak Lane” [properly, Oakdene], High Road Hayes names two people as residents: Marion Cunningham, aged 50 and “probably” married. And her lodger, a man whose name the official wrote twice – the neighbours not being able to agree? - as Witten, and as Witter; aged 35 and born “probably Germany”. The official didn’t write an entry for Christine Cunningham; nor for any live-in servants Marion may have been employing.


Maybe Marion was genuinely not at home on census day and the two days after it: around census day she will have been busy preparing for productions of two plays that she had written. I couldn’t find any references to Men’s Methods having been performed anywhere but perhaps its title was changed and it is one of the two that were performed. They were both one act long, and appeared in a matinee at the Court Theatre on 28 April 1911; together with two more short plays, Lady Gregory’s The Gaol Gate; and George Bernard Shaw’s How He Lied to Her Husband which seems to have been a cut-down version of Candida. The Laugh Against the Lawyer was a comedy that Marion must have enjoyed writing. Out of the Storm was a drama.


The Stage sent a reviewer to what was described as “Mrs Cunningham’s matinée”; I’m not clear from the report whether the Mrs Cunningham is Marion herself or someone else entirely – Marion is referred to as ‘Marion Cunningham’ (not ‘Mrs’) throughout. While giving some plaudits to the Shaw play, which was performed last, The Stage’s reviewer did not enjoy the afternoon. He or she described Marion’s Out of the Storm as “a feeble réchauffé of one of the motives (sic) in Rigoletto” - that is, two people swapping places so the murderer kills the wrong victim by mistake. And The Laugh against The Lawyer was “a crude farce” and a “foolish piece”. Some cross-dressing was involved in it: actress Elsie Chapin was pretending to be a man to work as a shorthand-typist (shorthand-typists were men, then) in the office of a solicitor on the swindle. Apparently Marion took a curtain call at some stage, but the The Stage’s reviewer attributed that to her having friends in the audience; he or she thought the neither of her plays merited it.


In July 1911 a third play by Marion was performed at Holy Trinity Mall Southall: another comedy, called Christmas Geese. Though not directly about suffrage, gender roles definitely were a feature of it. Its jokes were a bit too bawdy for one reviewer but the Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser thought it was “a most amusing farce” and audiences enjoyed it. Christmas Geese was put on again in March 1913 as part of a day of fund-raising for the Uxbridge Young Helpers’ League. “Mr Wittee” had the audience roaring with laughter in the scene where he tried to make a Christmas pudding. Mr Wittee was playing Stanley Denton; to Christine Cunningham’s Mrs Laura Denton.


Though by 1911 Marion knew the Pankhursts and Charlotte Despard, her activities were more in line with membership of Despard’s Women’s Freedom League than the Pankhursts’ WSPU. The WFL had been formed in 1907 when a large number of WSPU members left it in protest at the increasingly authoritarian way in which it was being run; and in increasing alarm at its tactics. In addition, while the WSPU was a single-issue organisation, the WFL viewed votes for women in a wider context. I think that was what appealed to Marion. She was the secretary of the WFL’s Hayes and Southall District, in 1911 and 1913. Members met at a local pub, The Pump in Uxbridge.


Marion was involved in the WFL’s Women’s Tax Resistance League which agreed with 18th-century propertied Americans that there should be no taxation without representation. Members of the WTRL refused to pay not only their income tax but also other taxes. Like the small amounts levied on buying a dog licence, for example - that was actually quite a popular choice and led to some elderly WFL members spending a day or two in prison for non-payment. In the case of unpaid income tax, the inland revenue would go to the non-payer’s house and take away goods to the value of the unpaid tax. The goods would be put up for sale locally. If the timing of the sale was suitable, the WTRL would hold a meeting outside the venue; and in any case, WTRL members would buy up the seized goods and hand them back to the non-payer.


The WFL’s magazine The Vote followed the tax resistance campaign in detail. Marion’s name only comes up once only in it, when Oakdene was searched by the inland revenue on 13 July 1912 and several pieces of silverware taken in lieu of unpaid tax. The silver was sold, and presumably bought back, at a sale in Uxbridge on 25 July and the following Sunday, a meeting of the local WTRL was held so that Marion could “preach a sermon on tax resistance”.


In March 1912, Marion’s house was searched again, this time by police looking for Christabel Pankhurst. And in 1913 a letter from Marion to Christabel was read out in court as evidence when WSPU members Flora Drummond, Annie Kenney, Beatrice H Sanders and others were being tried for conspiracy to commit malicious damage. The letter had been found on 30 April 1913 when police raided 19 Mecklenburgh Square, where Annie Kenney and other WSPU members were then living. I think Marion was lucky to escape being prosecuted herself, because in her letter she had written that only “militancy” was going to succeed in persuading the government to give women the vote. She urged the WSPU to think of something that didn’t involve any threat to its members, though it should be “something big and terrible”. She suggested stuffing pillar boxes with bags of sulphureted hydrogen (the stuff that gives off the ‘bad eggs’ smell); and she volunteered to do it herself. The WSPU took up her suggestion – a campaign of setting the contents of pillar boxes alight began in November 1912; but I haven’t found any evidence that Marion was one of the arsonists.


I haven’t been able to date The Women’s Marching Song of Freedom, a copy of which is now in the Fawcett Library: Marion wrote its words and arranged someone else’s music, dedicating the results to Charlotte Despard and Emmeline Pankhurst, so I suppose it must have been prepared for use after 1907; but I can’t find any references to it.


By 1913 Marion’s friendships in the suffrage movement had got her elected as a member of the Lyceum Club, founded in 1904 by Constance Smedley as a club for women with artistic and literary, scientific and medical interests. It had premises at 128 Piccadilly and Lady Frances Balfour was its first chairman. During March 1913, Marion had a strange collapse while sitting in the Club’s silent room; starting with her feeling ill and asking for a glass of restorative brandy; and ending with her coming round on the silent room floor, on her back but with bruises to her left arm and leg and the left side of her face. She was able to take a taxi home but was laid up for a fortnight. She spoke to a reporter from the local paper about the incident, which still puzzled her very much, particularly as she wasn’t suggesting that she’d been attacked or in a fight – no one else had been involved in it.


Did she have a black-out? Perhaps the result of a panic attack? Or was it more serious, a slight stroke? She did have a lot to be anxious about at the time of her collapse. She was involved in another theatre production, and the case against the WSPU members was due in a few weeks. Marion doesn’t seem to have been called as a witness but she must have been worried that she might be; and the thought of a letter by her being used against the accused must have distressed her.


Or was the collapse just a good publicity stunt? Marion seems to have been quick to alert the local press about it. If it was a stunt, Marion ended up with a few more injuries than she had intended; and the theatre performances had to be put back by two weeks.


The theatre production was another double-bill. The Hour and the Woman; and Luigi’s Wife, were performed by the Advance Players, one of a number of drama groups formed in the years before 1914 and whose demise was made inevitable when World War 1 broke out. The plays were being staged at Cosmopolis, a small theatre at 201 High Holborn which was available for hire from the Foreign Drama Society. Marion told the reporter from the local paper that she was directing Luigi’s Wife, a play by Mrs de la Pasture. Marion doesn’t seem to have told the reporter that she’d written The Hour and the Woman herself; and when the two plays were advertised in the Times, The Hour and the Woman was described as being “by an unnamed author”. It wasn’t until The Stage’s Year-Book for 1913 was issued that Marion was confirmed as its author. With the trial of the WSPU members imminent, I expect Marion could see it wasn’t the best time to be taking the credit herself. There seems to have been a cast change as late as between the details being sent to the Times, and the actual performance: enough to stress out any director.


Although Marion was pre-occupied with suffrage work in the years before World War 1, she did also give a talk offering her solution to the servants’ problem; a talk which was subsequently published in the Daily News. Just noting here that Marion was firmly putting herself in the middle-classes by feeling that there was a servants’ problem.


Sources for Marion’s suffrage work: 1911 census for Oakdene, High Road Hayes.

There’s a detailed timeline of the suffrage campaign in England at

For Hugh Franklin 1889-1962, see his wikipedia page. Marion’s letter is in the Hugh Franklin Papers, Folder 4. I confess to not having read it there. I found it quoted in a thesis at, the website of the University of Greenwich. PhD thesis 1998 by June Marion Balshaw: Suffrage, Solidarity and Strife: Political Partnerships and the Women’s Movement 1880-1930: p337.


Theatre in 1911:

Times Mon 3 April 1911 p11 The Theatres: currently on at the Court Theatre; a prod of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Times Mon 19 April 1911 p8 in set of adverts for the main theatres. Just confirming that what’s referred to in the Times as the Court Theatre is known now as the Royal Court Theatre; at Sloane Sq.

Times Mon 24 April 1911 p12 The Theatres column. The Times didn’t send a reviewer to the performances.

The Stage Issue number 1571 27 April 1911 p19.

The Stage issue number 1572 4 May 1911 p18: short reviews of all four plays. Lady Gregory’s Gaol Gate didn’t fare any better than Marion’s two plays at the reviewer’s hands. He or she disliked its Irish nationalist tone and also its “sepulchral” lighting which made it difficult to see the actors.

The London Stage 1900-09: A Calendar of Plays and Players. Volume 1 1900-07. J P Wearing. NJ and London: The Scarecrow Press Inc 1981: p128.

At a copy of The Stage Year Book issued 1912: p149 in section covering Apr-May, productions 27 and 28; and on p162 in the section covering July-August 1911.

Seen via google: The Referee Sun 16 July 1911 with the reviewer describing Marion’s Christmas Geese as “humour of a rather crude type”. It was a one-act farce.

The WFL’s Women’s Tax Resistance League.


At // there are issues of WFL’s The Vote magazine covering WTRL’s campaign of civil disobedience in detail. Marion only appears once in all the coverage: The Vote 20 July 1912.

The WTRL’s campaign wound down after World War1 broke out BUT it didn’t stop altogether. Having achieved its object of getting women – at least some women – the vote, the WTRL disbanded on 19 July 1918.



Website // abt is abt newsworthy events in Hayes and Uxbridge area. It says that the police searching Marion’s house were looking for Emmeline Pankhurst but that’s contradicted by a short news item on the search, in the Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser 23 Mar 1912 p5, which names Christabel. The police didn’t find anyone called Pankhurst in Marion’s house when they looked.

Women’s Freedom League Hayes and Southall Branch:

The Vote Sat 24 August 1912 p316; Sat 9 Nov 1912 p36 had lists of WFL branch and group secretaries. Mrs Cunningham of Oakdene, Hayes, as secretary of the Hayes and Southall Branch. An editor’s note from issue of 19 November 1912 said that last week’s cartoon had been sent in by Marion Cunningham.

The talk on Marie Curie:

Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser 5 October 1912 p4.


The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland. Elizabeth Crawford 2006: p181, p202.


The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who 1913 p219: Marion’s entry said that she had won gold and bronze medals for her design work; but it didn’t say what designs had been rewarded or which organisation was giving the prizes.

Uxbridge and Buckinghamshire Advertiser 22 March 1913 p3 for the report of Marion’s collapse at the Lyceum Club.

Christmas Geese staged again:

Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser 29 March 1913 p5.


Theatre 1913 - The Hour and the Woman:

Times Mon 21 April 1913 p10 The Theatres.

Times Fri 25 April 1913 p9 Arrangements for To-day.

Via to The Stage Year Book issued 1914 p182: The Hour and the Woman was named as by Marion Cunningham; a play in three acts. The cast for the performance on 25 April [1913] is given and doesn’t include Kate Cutler, who was listed in the Times.

A modern source:

Votes for Women and Other Plays Susan Croft 2009 p231and p587. Croft says that the play was never published.

Some information on the Advance Players and Cosmopolis is in English Drama 1900-1930: the Beginnings of the Modern Period by Allardyce Nicoll.: pp85-86.

On Cosmopolis: plenty of coverage of its theatre productions, and 2 adverts for its wider remit in Times during 1913. Productions staged there in 1913 included plays translated from Italian and from French; plays based on Indian myths; a set of short new plays written by women. There was no further mention of any productions by the Advance Players at Cosmopolis, however; and no mention at all of Marion, by name, at Cosmopolis during 1913.

Times Wed 1 October 1913 p1 one of the adverts said that Cosmopolis was in its 2nd year. It was in a building opposite the tube entrance on High Holborn, on the west side of Kingsway.

Times Sat 22 November 1913 p6 advertised a performance in Spanish of Jacinto Benavente’s Sacrificios; by the Foreign Theatre Society who owned the building.

Times Sat 29 November 1913 p6 advance notice of production by the Drama Society of Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken, in its English translation by William Archer.

Era Dramatic and Musical Almanack 1915 p37 entry for Cosmoplis.

Adverts for Cosmopolis as a place to study foreign languages: London Standard 19 February 1913 p11 and 16 October 1913 p1; and also in Observer 23 November 1913 p12.

T P’s Weekly volume 21 1913 p684 gave details of how to hire Cosmopolis. The Drama Society was its resident theatre group.

It was small:

Times Tue 11 March 1913 p14 gives its address and describes it as “little”.

The Era Almanack 1913 p28 calls it “cosy little”.

Stephen Phillips: A Biography by Richard Whittington-Egan. Rivendale Press 2006 p148 says it was a “sort of miniature, semi-private theatre”.


Closer to home: Marion promoting suffrage in Hayes and round about:

Suffrage efforts in Hayes and Uxbridge are very well covered at the

// website.

However they do seem to have got Emmeline and Christabel mixed up. The Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser of 23 March 1912 p4 reported that the police were looking for Christabel Pankhurst – not Emmeline – when they searched Marion’s house. They didn’t find any of the Pankhurst family within.

And at // you can read the relevant issues of the WFL’s The Vote magazine. For Marion see the issue 20 July 1912.

Women’s Leader volume 4 issue of 25 July 1912 p275 article The Common Cause is apparently by Marion.

In Crawford on women’s suffrage:

The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland. Elizabeth Crawford 2006: p181.

The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who 1913 p219 entry for Marion Cunningham.

The trial of Kenney, Drummond and others:


Times 9 May 1913 p7 and London Standard 11 June 1913 p9.

Lyceum Club, now part of the International Association of Lyceum Clubs. See its wikipedia page and that of Constance Smedley 1876-1941, whose efforts got it founded in 1904; as a club for women with literary/scientific and medical/artistic interests. Its address was 128 Piccadilly.

See wikipedia for Lady Frances Balfour. As the daughter of a duke she was one of the highest-ranking women to campaign for women’s suffrage.


Marion’s marching song:

It’s referred to in a dissertation which google found at // Women Composers During the British Musical Renaissance 1880-1918; by Sophie Fuller: p40 and footnote 92 p40.

There was a published edition so I suppose Marion’s song must have been used. There’s a copy at the Fawcett Library; it isn’t dated and Fuller wasn’t able to date it herself. Fuller drew a blank on Marion Cunningham, too, and declared that “Nothing appears to be known” about her. I think I’ve done a bit better with Marion but I have two great assets that were denied Sophie Fuller: google; and Robert Coleman.




I think Marion – and presumably Christine and Mr Witte – moved away from Hayes late in 1913: the only coverage of Marion’s activities I could find in Uxbridge’s local press after that was one short report from April 1918, in which she’s described as “formerly” a resident of Hayes. Perhaps they all went to Barnes, where Marion was living in 1930. The report of April 1918 said that Marion had been doing war work using her “colloquial French”. It also noted that Marion was beginning to look ahead to a period when normal politics would resume: she had been seen recently at a meeting in the Royal Albert Hall, sharing the platform with Labour leader Harry Gosling, who was intending to stand in Uxbridge as a Labour Party candidate in the 1918 General Election.


Whether Mr Witte or Witter or Witten stayed in England after World War 1 broke out I really don’t know: though the Netherlands were neutral in the war, as a person with a German-sounding name he might still have felt it better to leave London and return home when war was declared between the UK and Germany.



Uxbridge Advertiser and Gazette Fri 26 April 1918 p4. Of course, it wasn’t possible for the paper to print any details of Marion’s war work. What a pity!

See wikipedia for Harry Gosling (1861-1930), who began his working life as a waterman on the Thames but since 1892 had worked in the trades’ union movement. He was a member of the London County Council – in 1918 still as a Progressive – but was trying to get into Parliament. After three failed attempts he succeeded in 1923 and became Labour Party MP for Whitechapel and St Georges. In 1922 he became President of the newly-formed TGWU.

I looked in the Times to see if the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall had been mentioned; but it hadn’t so I don’t know its date or what the occasion was.



In 1912 Marion was asked by Charlotte Despard of the WFL to give a talk on Marie Curie. I think this must have been the talk Marion gave at a big meeting of the WFL held at Caxton Hall late in September 1912. The talk set off a process which lasted five years and ended with Marion writing one of the first biographies in English of the great scientist. Very soon, Marion discovered how little information there was on Marie Curie – as opposed to how much there was on Pierre – and her preparation for the talk turned into a crusade to give Marie Curie her due as the discoverer of radium. Marion wrote for information to the Society of Chemical Industry and the Royal Institution. She went on a tour of London’s Radium Institute. She corresponded with scientists such as Hertha Ayrton about Marie Curie’s research; Ayrton and Curie were friends, colleagues, and fellow-sufferers from the dismissive attitudes of the male scientific establishment. And she took the trouble to go to Paris to interview not only Marie Curie herself, but also her students, some friends, and collaborators such as André Debierne.


The purpose of that first talk was two-fold: to give the WFL members some information on radium including the dangers of working with it; and to tie its discoverer firmly to the women’s movement. When writing the book, in 1917, Marion was lacking some of her notes, which she had left in Paris and now couldn’t retrieve. However, she was able to expand on the issues she covered in her talk; and to add more detail about Marie Curie’s Polish background, and why she had chosen to study in France rather than England. And she couldn’t help telling her readers that Marie Curie was in favour of votes for women – which of course, hadn’t been granted yet in Britain.


Marion asked a younger friend, Brenda Muir-Mackenzie, to write the biography’s foreword. Mrs (later Lady) Muir-Mackenzie felt it necessary to assure readers that Marie Curie was a wife and mother as well as a scientist. She complimented Marion, saying she had “the art of telling a story” and that Britain owed her a debt for painting a “vivid picture” of Curie as “a woman who has caused a revolution in scientific thought”.



Madame Curie-Sklodowska and the Story of Radium by Marion Cunningham with Foreword by Lady Muir-Mackenzie. London: St Catherine Press Stamford Street. Passim.

The Original Talks:

Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser 5 October 1912 p4 short item on the recent meeting, at Caxton Hall, of the Women’s Freedom League; at which Marion had given a talk called Marie Curie: Her Relation to the Woman Movement and the Story of Radium.

The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who 1913 p219 entry for Marion Cunningham indicating that she had divided her initial talk into two: on Marie Curie and the women’s movement; and on radium. She had given both talks in English and in French, in England, Belgium and France.

The book’s publication and success:

Looks like the book was actually published in December 1917. Marion gave some more talks around that time:


Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette Fri 7 December 1917 p5.

Uxbridge Advertiser and Gazette Fri 14 Dec 1917 p4 reports a talk by Marion in Uxbridge’s Brookfield’s Restaurant at a meeting of Uxbridge Women’s Suffrage Society.


The Vote Fri 14 December 1917 thought it was “bright and vivid”. Copies could be bought direct from the WFL offices.

Uxbridge Advertiser and Gazette Fri 26 April 1918 p4 mentioned the “good reception” the book had had from both press and public.

Lady Muir-Mackenzie:

The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland. Elizabeth Crawford 2006: on p182 Brenda Jones, the future Lady Muir Mackenzie is listed as chair of the Westminster and Chelsea branch of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1913.

There’s a photograph of Brenda Muir-Mackenzie in the National Portrait Gallery collection; taken by Bassano in June 1929.

A quick search with Ancestry and freebmd showed that Brenda Jones was much younger than Marion; born Kate Brenda Blodwen Jones, in Penarth, south Wales, in 1891. Her father had died by 1901 and her eldest brother William Henry Jones had become head of the household. William Henry was a shipowner and ship-broker. Brenda was still living with him in 1911 at 47 Plymouth Road Penarth.

Brenda Jones’ first marriage:

See In 1914 she married Captain Robert Muir-Mackenzie of Delvine Perthshire.

Times Fri 25 September 1914 p11f.

The death of Brenda’s father-in-law and the death of her husband occurred in the same fortnight:

Times Mon 4 April 1918 p9e death of Sir Robert Smythe Muir-Mackenzie, 4th Baronet.

Times Sat 20 April 1918 p1b a list of soldiers killed in action included Sir Robert Cecil Muir-Mackenzie, killed on 12 April.

After over a decade as a war widow, in August 1929 Brenda Muir-Mackenzie married Major John Campbell Holberton. She had several novels published during the 1920s, and was made a Dame of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. She died in November 1958.

Times Fri 7 June 1929 p17c: announcement of her engagement to Major Holberton.


There’s lots of information on the web about Hertha Ayrton 1854-1923, born Phoebe Sarah Marks to a Jewish couple who had fled Poland.


André Debierne is an important figure in the process of discovering and isolating radium. See the short biography of Marie Curie at and some basic details, in French, at Using google I found the full text of N C Datta’s The Story of Chemistry 2005; beginning p310 there’s an account of Debierne’s role in the difficult work of separating radium salts.

There’s a wiki on the London Radium Institute, founded as a result of an initiative led by Edward VII to investigate the use of radium in medicine. The Institute was first housed in a purpose-built block at 1-3 Riding House Street; it began moving in in 1911. Sir Frederick Treves was its first chairman.



The Representation of the People Act 1917 allowed women over 30 to vote in local government elections. If they owned landed property with a rateable value of over £5, or were married to a man who did, they could also vote in a general election. So if Marion passed the Act’s property test, she could have cast her first general election vote on 14 December 1918. She may not have owned property to that value, however; in that case she will have had to wait until 1928.



In many ways it’s more difficult to find information on people living in the 20th century than it is on their 19th century predecessors: sources are more scattered and not digitised; and of course there are access restrictions. All I know about Marion after 1917 is that by 1930 she had moved to 15 Lonsdale Road in Barnes (now London SW13).


Marion Cunningham died on 23 March 1930. Her probate registry entry describes her as a “widow”: had she received certain knowledge of the death of John Strange Cunningham by this time? Her personal estate amounted to £5519.



CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM disappeared rather like her father! Her appearance in 1913 at the age of 19 or 20, acting in her mother’s play Christmas Geese, is my last certain sighting of her. There are some hints that she may have married, and that she survived her mother, and that she didn’t live in England.


Christine was probably still living with Marion in 1911, but the tenacious census official who did his best to fill in Marion’s census form didn’t list Christine amongst the house’s residents. Using Ancestry, I couldn’t see her anywhere else in England or Wales on that day. Making her Will, probably years later, Marion named Barclays Bank Ltd as her executor, as if by that time Christine was living where she would not be able to carry out the executor’s work herself.


Neither Christine nor Gertrude Sanguinetti are on the 1939 Register, whose details were collected in September, just after World War 2 had been declared. But when Gertrude died, in November 1948, she named a woman called Christine Heath as one of her executors. Would this be Christine Cunningham, married a man called Heath? The form of words on the probate registry entry is that used when a woman executor is divorced.


If Christine Cunningham did marry a man called Heath, the marriage must have taken place outside England and Wales. Searching to 1935 I couldn’t find such a marriage using freebmd. I also couldn’t find a death registration for Christine, or a probate registry entry, up to the mid-1970s.


Sources: freebmd; probate registry entries 1930, 1949; 1939 Register.


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.


For the GD members who were freemasons, the membership database of the United Grand Lodge of England is now available via Ancestry: it gives the date of the freemason’s first initiation; and the craft lodges he was a member of.

To take careers in craft freemasonry further, the website of the the Freemasons’ Library is a good resource: // Its catalogue has very detailed entries and the website has all sorts of other resources.

You can get from the pages to a database of freemasons’ newspapers and magazines, digitised to 1900. You can also reach that directly at


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.


To put contemporary prices and incomes into perspective, I have used which Roger Wright found for me. To help you interpret the ‘today’ figure, measuringworth gives several options. I pick the ‘historic standard of living’ option which is usually the lowest, often by a considerable margin!




10 November 2018



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: