Joseph Dunckley, known as Joe, was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus Temple in Bradford Yorkshire in July 1891.  He chose the Latin motto ‘virtute et fide’.  He did begin the work that initiates were expected to undertake, but then he seems to have dropped out.





Bear in mind that spellings of surnames were not consistent before the 18th century; and that in the 19th century, census officials didn’t always ask people how their surnames were spelled - they just wrote down what they thought they’d heard, and you do get some very strange results.   Joe’s surname was spelled in a variety of ways during his lifetime, even by the officers at the registration office of births, marriages and deaths.  R A Gilbert spells it with the ‘c’ in his book on the members of the Golden Dawn; and I think this must be the correct spelling in Joe’s case, though Dunkley without the ‘c’ is the more common spelling.


While I was trying to identify Joe Dunckley on the mid-19th century censuses I got the impression that most people with the name Dunckley or Dunkley lived in the east Midlands, especially Northamptonshire but also Leicestershire and Hertfordshire, so that’s probably where the tribe originated.  However, a group of Dunckleys and Dunkleys had been living around Warwick since the late 17th century; and when helping the census official complete the forms, Joe Dunckley was very consistent in saying that Warwick was where he had been born.  


Joe Dunckley was also consistent about his age, which gave me a year of birth around 1832.  Despite this, I haven’t been able to identify the right Joseph Dunckley on the 1841 census, which means that I don’t know who his parents were.  On wikipedia I found a few details of a Henry Dunckley, born in Warwick in 1823.  I was hopeful that Henry might turn out to be an older brother of Joe, but I now think that he probably wasn’t.  Henry Dunckley was from a family of Baptists and trained as a baptists minister before becoming a journalist with an interest in social issues.  Seeing that Henry and Joe do have the same spelling of that tricky surname, they may be related in some way; and Joe’s branch of the family may also have been Baptists.  At there’s a comprehensive family tree of Dunkley’s (that is, without the ‘c’) and a series of postings from 1999 to 2010 about Dunkleys who were born in Warwick but who lived in Bradford Yorkshire before emigrating to Australia.  From looking at the forenames of this group of Dunkleys, I don’t think Joe Dunckley was related to them either.


I have to admit failure with Joe Dunckley on the 1851 census as well.  In fact, the first certain information I have on him is the registration of his marriage to Hannah Stephenson, in Bradford Yorkshire in 1853 (in which he’s spelled Dunkley without the ‘c’).  By the time he was 21, then, Joe had already left his home town to work in the industrial West Riding.  Joe and Hannah had at least three children: Rebecca, born in 1855 (and registered as Dunckley with the ‘c’); George born 1861 (and registered as Dunkley without the ‘c’); and Joseph born 1864 (and also registered as Dunkley without the ‘c’).  However, I think that at least one other child was born to them, possibly several - for example in the five-or-so years between Rebecca and George - only to die in their infancy.


The 1861 census was my first certain sighting of Joe Dunckley: he, Hannah and Rebecca were living at 25 Park Road, in the Little Horton district of Bradford, near Hannah’s family.  Joe was working as a boot and shoe maker and Hannah was also working, as a worsted weaver.  Bradford was the centre of the English woollen industry and women, even married women, were employed in large numbers in its mills.  Women working in factories was a tradition by the 1860s; and of course for most of the women so employed, it was a financial necessity - their contribution to the family budget was important, and relied on.  In due course, Hannah’s daughter, one of her sons, and at least two of her grand-daughters, also worked as worsted weavers.


Joe Dunkley was a very unusual member of the Order of the Golden Dawn: a man with a trade, who worked with his hands; and with a wife who also worked, at a machine-loom in a factory.  They were a working-class couple.  Even most members of the GD in Bradford worked in offices or as tradesmen, and their wives either helped with the family business or didn’t work at all. 


Something went wrong for the Dunckleys during the 1860s, and according to the information he gave subsequent censuses, Joe never worked as a shoemaker again.  In 1871 he told the census official he was a porter: that is, he was doing heavy lifting work, unskilled manual labour, possibly even as casual rather than regular employment.  He didn’t say where he worked.  Hannah told the census official that she worked at “domestic duties” - that is, she was no longer working for money but housekeeping at home (which was hard enough, of course).  This might have been because Rebecca and George were working as worsted weavers and able to help out with the family finances (they were both still living at home).  However, I noticed an error about George on the 1871 census: the census official wrote down his age as 14, when in fact he was only 10.  That people’s ages are written down wrongly is a commonplace of 19th century censuses; but supposing the Dunckleys deliberately said that George was older than he was, because they needed him working rather than at school?  George’s handwriting on the 1911 census is very shaky, and someone else completed the form for him; perhaps he was taken out of school early and sent to work, and never was very good at writing.  If his age on the 1871 census is not a mistake but a deliberate piece of  misinformation, he might have been needed to go out to work because Hannah was ill and no longer able to work as a weaver herself.  Working in a woollen mill was a health risk: the ceaseless noise of the machinery made you deaf; and the fluff in the air killed many employees slowly, by choking their lungs.  Hannah Dunckley was dead by 1878.


It’s possible that Joe Dunckley and Hannah left Bradford, at least for a few years during the 1870s: I can’t find a death registration for Hannah in Bradford; and Joe’s second marriage, to Mary Ann Abbott in 1878, took place in Lambeth.  Mary Ann Abbott was from Cornwall; Joe could have met her in Bradford, but it’s more likely that he met her where he married her.  I can’t find Joe and Mary Ann anywhere in the UK on the day of the 1881 census, either.  I wonder where they had gone?  Rebecca was still living in Bradford.  She had had her share of tragedy during the 1870s: she married William Asquith in 1877 but her husband died shortly afterwards aged only 24.  On the day of the 1881 census she was living with her aunts, the Stephenson sisters (spelled Stevenson with a ‘v’ by the census official - surnames with more than one spelling seem to be a feature of this biography!), at 31 Park Lane Horton.  There were four aunts: Mary Ann, Martha, Priscilla and Elizabeth and this was a working woman’s household: Elizabeth, who may have been an invalid, was keeping house for the others, and all the others were worsted weavers.  A couple of months after census day Rebecca married again, a man called William Lowe; I haven’t been able to find her or him on any census afterwards so perhaps they emigrated.


By 1891 Joe Dunckley was back in Bradford and he didn’t move away again.  He and Mary Ann were living at 19 Greaves Street, Little Horton.  Joe was working as a warehouseman; and Mary Ann was keeping house - of course, she had no weaving skills.  George Dunckley had married Ada Wood in 1883; so that only Joe’s son Joseph was still living at home.  Joseph junior had been able to finish school: he was working as a clerk in the office of a cabinet maker - more work with the brain than work with the hands, and considered by the Victorians as definitely a middle-class occupation.  Later that year, Joseph married another office worker, Ellen Rawson.


On the day of the 1901 census, Joe Dunckley was still working at the age of 69.  He had changed his job and I think the change meant a step up for him, or at least a recognition that he was getting too old for the heavy-lifting stuff: he told the 1901 census official that he was a wool-combing machine minder.  He and Mary were living at 20 Little Horton Green by this time; and they were still at that address in 1911.  Someone (not Joe) wrote on the 1911 census form the words “Old Age Pension”: which means that Joe had at last been able to retire, courtesy of the Liberal government’s Old Age Pensions Act which came into force in January 1909.  In being eligible to receive this first ever British governmental pension Joe was one of half a million people who had met some strict conditions: they had to be over 70, of good character (who was supposed to decide that?) and be earning less than £21 per year (which even then was a very low wage).


Now I am going to speculate: based on the details written on the 1911 census form by George Dunckley’s children; and information I subsequently found on the web, I’m going to suggest that three generations of Dunckleys, and their relations-by-marriage the Stephensons (or Stevensons), all worked at the same woollen mill.  I may be quite wrong about this, but here is my argument:


George and Ada Dunckley had six children but only three were still living at home on the day of the 1911 census: Bertram, who was working as a “stuff warehouseman”; and Alice and Annie who were weavers, proud to be specialising in a kind of weaving work known as “Italian lining”.  I looked up “Italian lining” on the web and found several articles from the late 1890s describing it as if it were a new product, and saying that it was only made in two places: Saltaire; and the mill run by Alfred Priestman and Co.  Both are in the Bradford area but Saltaire is on the northern edge of the city on the way to Bingley; while Alfred Priestman and Co’s premises were at Brick Lane Mills on Thornton Road, within a short walk of Little Horton.  I don’t think it’s stretching belief, for me to suggest that Alfred Priestman and Co was where the Dunckleys and the Stephensons were working.  The tradition of working for Alfred Priestman and Co was begun by the Stephenson sisters, took in Rebecca and George Dunckley, and then Joe Dunckley though he never worked a machine in the factory - he had joined the firm too late to have the skills.


I’ve already said that Joe Dunckley was an unusual man.  He could definitely write and read but his education as a child was likely to have been basic, and biblical.  He had a spirit of enquiry, however, that was not satisfied by being educated within such limits, and later in his life his reading, the talks he attended and one person that he met, ended with his joining the Theosophical Society - which will have given him some intellectual challenges.


When I was working through the Membership Registers of the Theosophical Society it quickly became obvious that the TS was a good source recruitment for likely members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, particularly in the early 1890s.   This was particularly true of the Bradford, where members of the TS joined the GD in such numbers it almost looked as though they had decided to do it altogether, as a group.  Reading through R A Gilbert’s book (see below) and issues of the TS magazine Lucifer, which was published for most of the 1890s, it was clear that the members of the Bradford TS knew each other well.  The Clayton, Pattinson, Midgley, Firth and Spink families were the lynchpins of the group in the early 1890s; but most of the people who joined the TS and/or the GD in Bradford had ties outside the common interest in theosophy: one of the Spink sisters married one of the Firth family; Joseph Clayton’s daughter, two sisters of Joseph Dunckley junior’s wife, and Robert Steel were all teachers working for the Bradford School Board; several members were local doctors; several more were freemasons; several members worked in the woollen mills, possibly the same woollen goes on.  Joe Dunckley was an important member of the group, because - along with Thomas Pattinson and William Williams - he had been (to quote an article from 1896 in Lucifer) an “old and loyal” friend of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.  When the Bradford Lodge of the Theosophical Society was formed, in 1891, even the group of friends that had founded it had to go through a formal process of application, with two sponsors: Joe’s sponsors were Thomas Pattinson and William Williams.  And it was natural that a theosophist with such a pedigree should be elected to its governing council.


Although members of the TS in Bradford seemed so keen to join the Golden Dawn as well, most of them don’t seem to have stayed members for long.  I think there were two main reasons for this, both connected with the work required of GD members who were serious enough about their initiation to want to reach the stage of actually doing some practical magic.  The work was intellectually demanding; there was a lot of it to get through; and there were exams.  A lot of people who were initiated had never done that level of intellectual work.  They had no idea how to set about it, and no training in the concentrated attention required.  It was not his fault, but Joe Dunckley will have been one of them.  The magical work of the GD was also all in the western occult tradition: that was what the Order had been founded to do.  If your preference was for eastern esotericism, the GD was not the right place for you; and most of Bradford’s group of theosophists soon realised that.


A group led by Pattinson, Williams and Joe Dunckley split off from Bradford Lodge to form Athene Lodge in 1893.  Then the TS worldwide was torn apart by a dispute about who if anyone should have access to Blavatsky’s Mahatmas now that she was dead.  The dispute and its outcomes led to many theosophists not renewing their membership of the TS in London.  If he had any views on this bitter debate-cum-power-struggle, which led to the American lodges breaking away from the rest of the world, Dunckley was able to be broad-minded in its aftermath: in 1896 a group from the independent American TS, led by Katherine Tingley toured Europe as part of a new theosophical crusade (they even called themselves The Crusaders).  Some English theosophists refused to meet them, but when the group arrived in Bradford, Joe Dunckley was among those who went to the Pattinsons’ house to have tea with them.


It might have been possible for Bradford to support two theosophical lodges had it not been for the wider dispute, which became very public late in 1895.  As it was, both lodges struggled for members and direction.  They amalgamated in 1902 and the lodge set up in that year still exists.

Joe Dunckley doesn’t seem to have been an active member of the reconstituted Bradford Lodge, though he continued to be a member of the TS in London until 1909.  1909 was another year in which a lot of TS members dropped out following the election of Annie Besant as the TS’s president, a post she was going to hold for life.  She had never made any secret of her preference for Hindu mysticism rather than Buddhism.  Many members didn’t want the TS to go in that direction and Joe Dunckley may have been one of them - he sent in a formal resignation from the TS in February 1909.  However, he might just have decided to call it a day because of his age: he was now 77 and perhaps not in good health.


Joe Dunckley died in 1912; despite a life of physical labour and with its share of grief, he had managed to make it until he was almost 80.



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 don’t think the records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived either, but there’s a history of the TS in Bradford on the web now (though originally written in 1941) at in which people who also joined the GD are mentioned and the relationships between them brought out very well.  The History was last updated in April 2012 with a full list of members, at least up until 1941.  


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.


Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.  I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.





The Great Fire of Warwick 1691 by Michael Farr, published by the Dugdale Society 1992 p456 refers to a Samuel Dunckley.

Deep Roots, Living Branches: A History of Baptists... by Alan Betteridge published 2010 p66 has a reference to people called Dunckley living in Warwick in 1698.


The Dunkley family at, postings 1999-2010 about the Warwick/ Bradford branch who went to Australia.  Mention is made in one of the postings to members of this family working in the woollen mills in Bradford.  The forenames mentioned in the postings at genforum are Henry, James and John.  A Henry Dunkley baptised 1818 in Warwick married Emma Hill in Bradford Yorkshire in 1839; they had a large family, all of whom emigrated to Victoria.  A John Dunkley and his family went to Australia in 1856.



The Art Journal volume 47 1895 p25 a snippet that was part of an article on new textiles.  Italian lining is nothing to do with Italy, despite its name.  It was made at the Saltaire Mills; and also by Alfred Priestman and Co of Brick Lane Mills Bradford.

America’s Textile Reporter volume 12 1898 p879 snippet saying that Italian lining was used to line worsted coating.

The Annual Monitor...Obituary of the Members of the Society of Friends in Great Britain and Ireland issue of 1911 p134 obituary of Alfred Priestman.  He’d been born in Malton Yorkshire in 1831, a son of Joshua and Jane Priestman, of a noted Quaker family.  He had founded Alfred Priestman and Co with his brother John, in Bradford in 1851 and been active in it until retiring in 1889.   He’d been a life-long Liberal, peace and temperance campaigner.  He’d been chairman of Bradford’s local School Board from its formation.


By 1900 the Priestmans were running several woollen mills in Bradford; and Alfred’s brother John had a separate business:

Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry volume 22 1903 p852 mentions a current firm H B Priestman and Co of Brick Lane Mills.

Labour Gazette volume 25 issued by the Ministry of Labour 1917 p549 lists A Priestman and Co Ltd of Brick Lane Mills Bradford. 

Who Owns Whom 1979 p354 Brick Lane Mills were still operative but as I R A Ickringill and Co Ltd.

Stationary Steam Engines of GB: Volume 10 The National Photographic Collection, by George Watkins.  Landmark Publications 2005.  This book gives the location of Brick Lane Mills as Thornton Road Bradford; there are a lot of other industrial companies in that road.


John Priestman seems to be more well-known than Alfred, eg at a website on British Industrial History, which has an entry for John Priestman and Co (Bradford), registered as a company in 1892, but nothing for Alfred. 


Histories of Manningham, Heaton and Allerton by William Cudsworth.  Published Bradford: W Cudworth 1896 by which time John Priestman is dead.  p59 John Priestman had owned the Ashfield Mills, also in Brick Lane.  They are now run by his son Edward.  P2 John Priestman had in his later years lived in a house called Whetley, in Manningham.   I noticed streetmap has a Whetley Road near Thornton Road which is the B6145 out of Bradford town centre.


The records of John Priestman and Co are now in West Yorkshire Archive; they cover up to 1971.


Wikipedia on the Old Age Pensions Act 1908.  Asquith as prime minister; Lloyd George as chancellor of the exchequer.




I went through the Theosophical Society Membership Registers for the years from 1888 to 1901.  They are held at the TS headquarters building in Gloucester Place London W1.


Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine volume X March-August 1892, edited by Annie Besant.  Volume X no 55 issue of 15 March 1892 p80 news section has a report sent in by John Midgley on the annual meeting of Bradford Lodge which had been held on Wednesday 10 February [1892].  Midgley named the Lodge’s officers for the coming year: Oliver Firth would be president with Thomas H Pattinson as his vice-president and John Midgley himself doing both treasurer and secretary.  The other council members included these people who all joined the Golden Dawn at one time: Frank Harrison, Joe Dunckley, Thomas Wilson, Mrs Pattinson (Eliza) and Mrs Firth (Florence).  The lodge’s official contact at TS head office was Isabel Cooper-Oakley.


Found on the web, and purporting to be Lucifer volume XI no 1 but issued in April 1896 and so cannot be that volume number: I’m confused about this but the content seems genuine enough: coverage of the visit to England of a group of American theosophists led by Katherine Tingley; p132-33     





11 December 2012