William Muir Farquhar was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London, in October 1891, taking the Latin motto ‘Vitam peto’.  He thought better of the idea very quickly, and sent in a letter of resignation in February 1892.




In 1860 Thomas Farquhar married Charlotte Fisher, uniting (probably not for the first time) two of Aberdeen’s prominent families.  For at least a couple of generations the men in both families had worked in the professions - the church, the army, medicine and the law.  Thomas Farquhar’s father Alexander was a Church of Scotland clergyman and schoolmaster; Charlotte’s father, Andrew Sandilands Fisher, had died by 1860 having reached the rank of captain in the 72nd Regiment, the Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders.  Charlotte’s mother Mary Ann, had been born a Davidson so it’s quite likely that William Muir Farquhar was a distant cousin of GD member Alexander Gordon Davidson, who had been born in Aberdeen; although I haven’t been able to find proof of any relationship between them.


Thomas and Charlotte married in Hampshire but it’s likely that they had grown up round the corner from each other in Scotland: by 1851 Thomas was in India, but his family were living in Rubislaw Terrace in the Old Macher district of Aberdeen; Charlotte’s family were living in Albyn Place.


Thomas Farquhar had studied medicine at King’s College Aberdeen and passed his MD exams in 1846.  He had joined the East India Company’s medical service in 1847 after a year at Edinburgh University gaining his LRCS.  Arriving in India in 1848 he was sent to the Punjab, where he met and became friendly with the Company’s most senior administrators there, the brothers Henry and John Lawrence.  He spent short times serving with the 1st Brigade Bengal Artillery and the 3rd Regiment of Infantry before being sent to Agra in the mid-1850s to take charge of the vaccination programme there.  He distinguished himself during the city’s cholera outbreak in 1856 and also during its siege in 1857.  During his time in Agra, Thomas Farquhar was working alongside an assistant surgeon he had known during the Sikh or Punjab war of 1848-49: Thomas Saumarez Lacy.  Through Dr Lacy he must have met a remarkable man known to the British as John Clement Lacy.  J C Lacy was baptised in Agra in 1859, but he was over 30 by then and was a convert - he had been born a Hindu Brahmin.  J C Lacy was the particular protégé of one of Thomas Saumarez Lacy.  J C Lacy’s son John Valentine Lacy grew up in Edinburgh and became a member of the GD, though not until long after William Farquhar had left it. 


Once the Mutiny had been quelled, Thomas Farquhar was able to take a long leave in Britain, during which he married Charlotte Fisher.  He also gained promotion from assistant-surgeon to surgeon. 


William Muir Farquhar, the elder of their two sons, was born in Amritsar,early in 1863, while his father was stationed with the 1st Regiment Native Infantry.  However, a few months after William’s birth, Thomas Farquhar’s friend Sir John Lawrence became viceroy of India and appointed him his full-time physician, one of the select band (less than 20 men) who formed the viceroy’s personal staff.  It was inevitable, under those circumstances, that Thomas should be asked to contribute to a commission of inquiry into the health of the British army in India.  When the inquiry’s findings were published, his views were challenged at length and in detail by Florence Nightingale.  However, Nightingale’s attempts to establish a Crimean War-style nursing service in Indian hospitals came to nothing when her plan was vetoed by Lawrence, a decision Thomas Farquhar’s opinions must have influenced.


William Farquhar’s early childhood was thus spent around the viceregal household (Lawrence and his wife had 10 children) in Calcutta, but when John Lawrence retired as viceroy in 1869, Thomas Farquhar retired too.  The Farquhar family returned to Scotland in time for William’s sister Mabel to be born in Aberdeen in 1870; Herbert was also born there, in 1876.  On his retirement, Thomas bought a small estate at Auchronie in rural Aberdeenshire, but he and his family lived for most of the time in Aberdeen.  They were living at 16 Rubislaw Terrace Aberdeen on the day of the 1881 census.  William, now 18, was still at school and at home on census day but later that year he went to Cambridge University where he was a student at Pembroke College.


William Farquhar had been educated for a career in one of the professions; once he had graduated, in 1884, it just remained to choose which one.  Perhaps his choice had been made already: he become a clergyman, like his grandfather Alexander Farquhar.  From the little evidence that I’ve found, I’d say that William’s decision was based on strong and perhaps rather conservative religious convictions.  He was ordained as a Church of England priest in 1887 under the auspices of Frederick Temple, bishop of London.  As a churchman Frederick Temple was rather difficult to pigeonhole: he held the view that science and religion could co-exist in the modern world; and was neither Evangelical nor High Church.  A former teacher at Rugby School, he held Liberal political opinions and believed in the benefits of educating the working classes.  He was a temperance campaigner and a passionate advocate of missionary work.  If Temple chose William Muir Farquhar for ordination out of what was probably a long list of applicants, perhaps we can think of William as sharing those views at least to some extent.  However, William won’t have had an easy ride as he trained for the priesthood: Temple’s zeal, and his long working hours (15-hour days - sounds almost modern) set very high standards for new priests to follow. 


Part of the reason for Frederick Temple’s long working hours was the almost impossible task facing any contemporary bishop of London, of trying to keep up with the relentless expansion of London into all the surrounding counties.  Housing was being built over the diocese at an incredible speed and its parishes - many of them unchanged from the one-church-per-village organisation of the Middle Ages - couldn’t accommodate the vast numbers of new parishioners.  A programme of subdividing parishes and building new churches was under way.  It was a mammoth task of finance and organisation, but for the right men there were jobs on offer in very crowded and busy parishes, each of them full of newcomers to the district and needing a whole infrastructure of church activities to help create some kind of community feeling.  Marylebone was a fine example of how things had had to change: a process that ended in 1890 had divided the medieval parish of St Mary le Bourne into 26 new ones, several of which William Farquhar worked in.


Once ordained, William’s whole career in the Church of England was spent in or near west London, with several years as a curate, moving from parish to parish fairly rapidly, being followed by a permanent appointment.  He began work in 1886 at St Stephen’s Paddington, on Westbourne Park Road, and stayed there until 1890.  As curate, he had no right to live in the vicarage and so rented rooms at 23 Sutherland Place, a couple of streets from the church.  Then he was moved on to St Philip’s Buckingham Palace Road, a church building only completed in 1888 to serve a parish that was created in 1890 out of part of the older parish of St George’s Hanover Square.  St Philip’s church had been built with money supplied by the Duke of Westminster on land owned by the Grosvenor family and it’s possible that the Duke had some say in William’s appointment.  William lived elsewhere on the Grosvenor estate, at 107 Eaton Terrace where Mrs Amelia Kibblewhite rented out rooms; and was living there during his short period as a GD member.


After about 18 months at St Philip’s, William was moved again in 1891, to St Paul’s Lisson Grove, possibly the oldest building he’d worked in so far - it had been built in 1836.  Then in 1895 he made a big step-up to spend three years as chaplain of St Marylebone, the original church of the old St Mary le Bourne parish.  For two of those years he had a second job, as organising secretary of the Church of England Young Men’s Society.  The extra income may have been welcome just then as in 1894 he had got married, to Jane Layland.


The parish of St Marylebone may have been carved up into 26 daughter parishes by 1890 but the original parish - now confined to the area between Oxford Street and Euston Road - still had more influence in the Church of England than any of them, having more wealthy and socially- and politically-important residents.  Perhaps one or several of those residents brought William to the attention of a new bishop of London, when in 1898 the parish of Hanwell in Middlesex needed a new rector.  The Rev Mandell Creighton had taken the post of bishop of London in 1897 following Frederick Temple’s appointment as archbishop of Canterbury.  The bishop of London had been the patron of Hanwell since the Reformation.  Creighton offered William Farquhar the job there.  In doing so, he would have taken account of the fact that it was a parish known for its Evangelical traditions.


I’ve gone a bit over time before stopping to consider the question: why did William drop out of the GD?  Why was he a member for such a short time?  I think the answer lies with his work; or, rather, with the beliefs he almost certainly held that had made him choose that particular line of work. 


I do wish I knew more about the circumstances that led to William Farquhar being offered membership of the GD: who suggested it and under what circumstances.  Some of the circumstances were that the chance to join the GD came during a year of more than usual uncertainty in his life: he had had to change jobs again, and at the beginning of the year his father had died.  But as to who invited him into the GD, I don’t know.  He certainly didn’t come to the GD from either of its two main areas of recruitment at the time: theosophy, and the freemasons.  That being so, I’ve no idea who recommended him to the GD’s two powers-that-be, Samuel Liddell Mathers and William Wynn Westcott; or why William decided to accept the offer of initiation that they made him.  He may have had the GD described to him as a Rosicrucian organisation - that is, a society of followers or admirers of Christian Rosenkreuz who (if he existed at all) lived an exemplary Christian life in 17th century Germany.  Reading the Pledge Form which all members had to sign when they joined, he will also have been pleased to find it saying, “Belief in a Supreme Being, or Beings, is indispensable.  In addition, the Candidate, if not a Christian, should be at least prepared to take an interest in Christian symbolism”.  However, he may soon have become alarmed by the rituals he was expected to take a part in and the subjects he was expected to study as a new initiate. 


I’ve suggested that William Farquhar’s views were on the Evangelical side of the Church of England.  To Evangelicals, ritual in a church service was akin to the the worship of idols; instead of concentrating on the word of God, ritual expressed belief through drama - something even primitive tribes could manage.  In addition, by 1890 the original, Rosicrucian-influenced rituals of the GD as envisaged by Westcott and his friends were being taken in new directions, with symbolism coming in from Ancient Egyptian religion in particular and invocations of beings that were not Christian.  And then there was the tarot and astrology and alchemy and the Qabalah, subjects all initiates were supposed to study if they wanted to reach a level of learning where they could do practical magic.  All of those subjects had been studied in past centuries by devout Christians who had considered them as ways of gaining greater understanding of the Divine; as alternatives to the Bible.  However, the origins of one of them were unquestionably Jewish and the rest might have been rather too pagan-sounding for a Church of England curate with Evangelical leanings.  In any case, for Evangelicals there was no alternative to the Bible: they believed that all the answers they would ever need would be found in it; to look for answers anywhere else was to doubt God’s word.


I suggest, too, that William began to worry what bishop Frederick Temple would say if he got to hear what was expected of members of the GD.  Temple doesn’t sound like a man who would be tolerant in those circumstances, and William owed him his current job and future prospects.  So he sent William Westcott a letter of resignation and he was probably right to do so.


The death of Thomas Farquhar led to the cutting of his family’s ties with Aberdeen.  At some point during the 1890s, probably quite soon after Thomas’ death, William’s mother Charlotte and his sisters moved to England.  By 1901 they had settled in Petersfield.  His brother Herbert probably emigrated: I haven’t found any evidence of his being in the UK after 1891.  For a few years, William kept up an interest in Aberdeen’s local history by being a member of the New Spalding Club, an antiquarian group that his father had also been a member of.  However, he seems to have let his membership lapse after 1898.  And unlike his father, he didn’t marry into another Aberdeen family: his wife had no Scottish connections.


Jane Layland (usually known as Jennie) was a daughter of Thomas and Jane Layland. She was born in 1868, in Liverpool, where her father was in business as an architect and surveyor.  For a few years in the 1870s the Laylands lived at Stone House in Wallasey, but in 1879 Thomas Layland died, aged only 45, leaving his wife with six daughters and two sons all under 14; and having to manage on a restricted income.  Jane Layland elected to move back into Liverpool; on the day of the 1881 census she and her children were living at 28 Great George Street. 


In 1884 Jennie’s eldest sister Frances made what her contemporaries would have considered to be an excellent marriage; and the family’s focus moved from Liverpool to London.   Fanny married Francis Barratt, a member of a wealthy Cornish family.  In 1895 her husband added her surname to his own and became Layland-Barratt.  He served as Liberal MP for Torquay from 1900 to 1910, during which time (1908) he was made a baronet; and under war-time conditions as MP for St Austell from 1915-18.  He retired from Parliament at the 1918 general election but was an important figure in the National Liberal Federation until his death in 1933.  Once married, Frances embarked on a career as a novelist and poet; and during World War One she worked for the Order of St John of Jerusalem (which runs St John Ambulance) earning a CBE.  On census day 1891 Jennie and her younger sister were visiting the Barratts at their London home in Sussex Gardens Chelsea; while their mother was staying in Clacton. 


I’m not sure how William met Jennie Layland but Jennie and her mother were living in Highbury, north London, by 1894.  William and Jennie were married at St Mary’s Islington in June of that year, spending four years of married life in Marylebone before the move to Hanwell.


The earliest evidence for the existence of the village of Hanwell is from the 10th century.  In the centuries that followed, its main importance had been as a stop on the main route from Westminster to Oxford.  By the 19th century, however, the westward march of London was beginning to engulf it: the Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum was built in the parish in 1831 and there were also two private mental hospitals in the area when the Farquhars moved there.  Several London boroughs had their out-of-town cemeteries near the village.  And a group of Poor Law Boards had built a boarding school for paupers there, the Central London District School; if the Farquhars had arrived in Hanwell a few months earlier than they did, they might have encountered Charlie Chaplin, who was at the school from 1896 to January 1898.  


As early as the first decades of the 19th century, the land around the village was being built on and in 1841 the parish had enough wealthy parishioners to employ George Gilbert Scott to rebuild St Mary’s church, giving Scott one of his earliest commissions.  But by the end of the century the parish was overflowing - literally, as there was not enough room in St Mary’s for all the new residents of the village who wanted to attend its services.  St Mark’s chapel was built as a temporary solution, but it was clear that the old Hanwell parish would have to be subdivided.  It’s possible that Rev William was sent in as someone who knew how to cope with the ecclesiastical and social results of that process, which culminated in the formation of the parish of St Mellitus in 1908 and the reduction of the original parish to more manageable numbers of parishioners.  The process finally ended in 1922, when the Church of England sold the old rectory and provided William and Jennie with a smaller house.  There had been calamities along the way: William’s mother Charlotte had died in 1919; and in 1912 St Mary’s church was badly damaged by fire.


Regulations had been in place since the 1890s for Church of England clergymen to retire; but William Farquhar took his religious vocation so seriously that he was still working as rector of Hanwell in his early 70s.  He may have thought it his duty to die in harness, but he did eventually retire, in 1938, possibly on health grounds.  He and Jennie moved away from Hanwell, to a house called Waysland, on Banbury Road in Blewbury near Didcot.  William died in October 1939, at the Acland Nursing Home, a private hospital in Oxford.  He had no children.




BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.  Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.  Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.  The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.  All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.  Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01.  As far as I know, the records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have not survived either.


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


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


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.




Seen at histfam.familysearch.org June 2014, a part family tree of Surgeon-Major Thomas Farquhar of Auchronie based on information published in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: the Succn of Ministers in the Ch of Scotl from the Reformation by Hew Scot.  Published in 9 volumes Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1915.  Data on the Farquhar family is in volume 6 p235-236 and p253. 

Via www.mocavo.co.uk to Genealogies of an Aberdeen Family 1540-1913 p97.

Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930 compiled by Lt-Col D G Crawford.  London: W Thacker and Co 1930; p133 and for Thomas Saumarez Lacy the same volume p684.

India Register 1849 2nd edition p197.

India Register 1851 2nd edition p74.

India Register 1854 2nd edition p173.

India Register 1857 p214.

India Register 1859 2nd edition p213.

India Army and Civil Service List.  1861 issue p221

India Army and Civil Service List 1862 p233g.

India Army and Civil Service List 1864 p233k.

India Army and Civil Service List July 1865 p62.

India Army and Civil Service List January 1870 p241.

India Army and Civil Service List July 1871 p63.

Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Sanitary State of the Army in India Volume 1 HMSO 1863.

Florence Nightingale on Social Change in India, part of The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, edited by Lynn McDonald.  Waterloo Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press 2001-12; 2007.  Section on British Library additional Manuscripts 45752 f222, Notes on Sir Bartle Frere and Thomas Farquhar for John Sutherland, compiled by Nightingale around 27-28 August 1867. 

Florence Nightingale and the Health of the Raj by Jharna Gourlay.  Aldershot and Burlington Vermont: Ashgate 2003.

Dr Farquhar’s Notes on Miss Nightingale’s Questions Relative to Sanitation in Algeria and India.

36-page pamphlet published London India Office: 1872 with co-authors William Tilbury Fox and Thomas Farquhar: Scheme for Obtaining a Better Knowl of the Skin Diseases of India.  There was also a revised edition, published London: 1877, now with co-authors W Tilbury Fox, Thomas Farquhar and Thomas Colcott Fox: Epitome of Skin Diseases with Formulae etc.  And a 3rd edition, published London: H Renshaw 1883.


Via archive.org to Aberdeenshire Epitaphs and Inscriptions by John A Henderson FSA Scot.  Printed by subscription in Aberdeen 1907; p15.

Via archive.org to Cartularium Ecclesiae Sancti Nicholai Aberdonensis which is a guidebook to St Nicholas Church Aberdeen; published 1888 by the Spalding Club. 


Seen via genesunited, Aberdeen Evening Express 6 January 1891: an obituary of Thomas Farquhar.

British Medical Journal of 17 January 1891 p152 obituary of Thomas Farquhar.

Wikipedia on John Lawrence, first Baron Lawrence, more familiar as Sir John Lawrence.

Via google to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online: John Laird Mair Lawrence. 



The East and West: A Quarterly Review of the Study of Missions volume 3 number 11 1905.  Published by Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, at 19 Delahay St Westminster.  On pp357-8 a short review of A Brahman Convert: A Memoir of Dr Lacy of Agra, by (his son) Rev B J Lacy of Cawnpore.



Hart’s New Army List 1839 p124 Andrew S Fisher.

Familysearch Scotland-ODM GS film number 991250.  Marriage of Andrew Sandilands Fisher to May (properly Mary) Ann DAVIDSON 26 October 1837. 

Via genesunited to Aberdeen Journal of 11 July 1860: marriage notice of Charlotte’s brother Charles Basil Fisher to Anne daughter of Thomas Hogarth Esq.



Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1889 p423.

Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1891 p436.

Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1910 p487.

Crockford’s Clerical Directory 1939 p435.

Wikipedia for Frederick Temple and Mandell Creighton.

Via www.newspapers.com to Guardian 20 May 1896 p6: recent ecclesiastical appointments.

St Stephen’s Paddington 1886-90 see www.ststephenschurch.info.

St Philip’s Buckingham Palace Road 1890-91; St Paul’s Lisson Grove 1891-95: and St Marylebone parish church: see www.homepages.gold.ac.uk prepared by John Henley an expert on Middlesex parish records: a list of Anglican churches in Westminster and Middlesex covering 1890-1905.

See also for St Philip’s church’s later history: www.russianchurchlondon.org.

Belgravia and Knightsbridge Through Time by Brian Girling 2013 for pictures of Eaton Terrace in the late 19th century: it’s a lot more down-market than you’d think!

The name of William’s landlady: PO Directory 1891 street directory p314.  Unfortunately, Mrs Kibblewhite wasn’t at home on the day of the 1891 census; so I haven’t been able to find out who William’s fellow tenants were.

At booth.lse.ac.uk the Charles Booth online archive: B256 pp66-79 is record of an interview given by an employee at the Mission 16 March 1899; the Mission’s offices were at 109 Eaton Terrace.

On Hanwell and St Mary’s Hanwell: wikipedia.

And www.british-history.ac.uk with information from the Victoria County History project’s A Hist of the County of Middlesex volume 3 published 1962; editor Susan Reynolds: 230-33. 



The Golden Dawn Scrapbook: The Rise and Fall of a Magical Order by R A Gilbert.  York Beach Maine: Samuel Weiser Inc 1997 p23.



Via archive.org to University of Aberdeen Marischal College.  Selections from the Records volume III which is an index to volume II; compiled James F K Johnstone.  Published by the New Spalding Club Aberdeen 1898.  On p6 in a list of the Club’s members between 1894 and 1898.

Some information on Marischal College is at www.abdn.ac.uk.


The three Spalding Clubs: a short article on wikipedia.

There’s a list of all three clubs’ publications at www.royalhistoricalsociety.org/spaldingclub.pdf.



Via archive.org to Hectoris Boetii Murthlacensium at Aberdonensium Episcoporum Vitae Volume 12, a life of William Elphinstone, bishop of Aberdeen 1431 to 1514.  Printed in Aberdeen by the New Spalding Club 1894.  Author is James Moir.  William Farquhar is in a list, probably of members of the Club but possibly of subscribers to the set of volumes as well.

Via www.mocavo.co.uk to Memoir of Thomas Thomson, Advocate p5 “List of Members” for 1903.



Via google to www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk University of Glasgow website for their Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler project.  Letters from Thomas Layland are in the collection.


Francis Barratt, later Layland-Barrattt: via www.mocavo.com to Armorial Families p810.

Marriage of William Farquhar and Jane Layland via newspaperarchive.com to The Standard of London, issue of 6 July 1894 p1 marriage announcements.  And see also wikipedia.


Frances Layland-Barratt’s publications.  British Library catalogue has

1886    The Shadow of the Church (which is fiction)

1889    Doubts are Traitors: the Story of a Cornish Family

1892    Beatrix Cadell: An Episode in the Life of a Man of the World

1900    The Queen and the Magicians, and Other Stories

1914    Poems

1934    Ann Kembal.  A Novel

1935    Lycanthia

1936    Joy Court.  A Novel


There’s a portrait of Frances see www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings: done c 1900 by Valentine Cameron Prinsep and now at Torre Abbey Historic House and Gallery.



27 June 2014


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: