Helen Priscilla Little, known to her friends as Reena, was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London in March 1893, and took the Latin motto ‘Silentio’. She raced through the study initiates needed to complete to reach the GD’s 2nd, inner order and was initiated into it in May 1894. She was an important member of the GD during the next decade and after the GD’s collapse in 1903, joined one of its daughter orders. She married for a second time in 1896 and was known in the GD from then on as Reena Fulham Hughes.
I think ‘Silentio’ was rather a good motto for Reena to pick. Her life has been one of the hardest to research of all my GD members - I’ve found very little information on her parents and where she grew up; and virtually none on her second husband though there was plenty on her first.
On her second wedding day, Reena told the verger who was preparing her marriage lines that her father’s name had been Job Hamlin. The surname was my first stumbling block. There are a number of ways in which it can be spelled - HamlYn, HamlEn, HamblEn are just a few of them - and I can’t really be sure I haven’t just missed information on her childhood that just wrongly spells her name. Job was a more unusual name, but even with that in my favour, I couldn’t find Reena’s father on any census; not for certain.
Reena herself told census officials in 1881 and in 1891 that she had been born near Taunton in Somerset, around 1851. This turned out to be less helpful information than I’d hoped: there was no registration on freebmd of a child called Helen Hamlin (I checked some of the other spellings as well) born in or near Taunton around that date; and in fact for some time I chased the family of a Helen Hamlin born in 1851 in Sidbury, Devon, who turned out to be quite the wrong person.
Around 1872, Reena married a man called Archie Little; again, there was no registration of such a marriage in England or Wales. I think the marriage took place abroad, and I’ve come up with a tale of Reena’s early life that takes all those absences of information into account; though on various grounds I’m not at all happy with it.
The tale is this: Reena’s father took her and the rest of his family to New Zealand shortly after she was born. There he went into business as a carter, until 1863 when he and a travelling companion were attacked, and Job Hamlin was killed, in the Hauraki district near Auckland by Maoris resisting British rule. There are several accounts of the death of a Job Hamlin in histories of New Zealand. And the proceedings of the New Zealand House of Representatives record the granting of pensions to several widows of men who had been killed by Maoris at this time, including £50 per year to a Mrs Job Hamlin. If this Job Hamlin was Reena’s father, she will have been about 12 years old when he died. Mrs Hamlin and her family continued to live in New Zealand, probably in or near Auckland; where her daughter Reena met and married Archibald Little, an officer in the Royal Navy. So that’s the tale.
New Zealand is the most likely venue for Reena’s marriage to Archie Little, and 1872 the most likely date for it.
It was much easier to trace Archibald Little than it was to trace Reena Hamlin; but he was never a member of the GD. It is always easier to find out about the wealthy: and Archibald Little’s grandfather - after whom Reena’s husband was named - was a landowner and investor in railways in the 1820s and 1830s. The elder Archibald Little and his wife Agnes bought the estate of Shabden Park at Chipstead in Surrey in 1816. Archibald and Agnes’ elder son William married in 1840 and brought his new wife Emily Ann to live at Shabden Park; that’s where Reena’s husband Archibald - usually called Archie - was born, in 1843. Under normal 19th century conditions, William would have inherited the estate on his father’s death; but when Archibald Little the elder died in 1844, the estate was sold, instead. The widow Agnes, William, Emily Ann and their growing family all moved in to 21 Park Square Portland Place, where the pooling of their financial resources meant that they were very comfortably off: on census day 1861 they were able to afford a butler, two lady’s maids, a cook, a housemaid and a kitchenmaid. The family all lived at that address until Agnes died in 1869, so that was where Archie grew up.
Archie Little joined the navy, probably straight from school. By 1861 he was a midshipman, serving on HMS Neptune which was in harbour at Malta on census day that year. In 1868, promoted to lieutenant, he joined the crew of the sloop HMS Virago which was about to depart for Australasia on surveying and other duties. At some time during that tour of duty, he and Helen Hamlin met.
Archie and Reena married on the strength of Archie’s promotion to Commander, which happened in 1872. They remained in Auckland for at least four more years; because a child is buried in St Stephen’s churchyard there that I think is their elder son - Archibald Claude Hamlin Little. Reena Little wrote on the 1911 census form that one of the four children she had given birth to had since died; I think this child, buried in March 1874 at the age of 14 months, is the dead child. Archie and Reena’s elder daughter, Hilda, also told census officials that she was born in New Zealand; in about 1876.
By 1881 Archie Little had retired from the navy, at quite a young age. He and Reena came back to England - a country which Reena couldn’t possibly have remembered, if I’m right about her history - and settled in west London. On the day of the 1881 census, Reena, Hilda and nine-month-old Audrey were living at 3 Coningham Villas, Boscombe Road (off Uxbridge Road near to Shepherd’s Bush); I couldn’t find Archie in the UK, perhaps he was visiting friends or relatives abroad. Reena’s in-laws, William and Emily Ann Little, were living not far away, at 57 Courtfield Gardens South Kensington but if my tale of Reena’s childhood is correct, I wonder how much contact the two families were having: William and Emily Ann may not have thought much of Archie’s decision to marry the daughter of a man who drove a bullock cart. William and Emily Ann were still able to afford a butler, a cook and two housemaids to run the house for them. Reena was managing with the basic general servant; but this may not have been due a lack of money to employ more than one. I’ve noticed from my research on other GD members that even in the 1880s the younger generation were making do with fewer servants than their parents had employed; and if I’m right about Reena, she will have grown up in a society where there was a shortage of servants. I suppose it’s even possible that she might have been a servant herself before her marriage - but in that case, how did she gain the education that made her such a good student of the GD’s esotericism?
William Little died in 1884 and perhaps Archie inherited some money from him; but Emily Ann lived until after Reena’s second marriage - which won’t have pleased her either if she knew about it - dying in 1899.
In 1886, Archie and Reena had their last child, Adrian. On census day 1891 Archie, Reena, Audrey and Adrian were living at 64 Netherwood Road Hammersmith, still with just the one general servant. Hilda wasn’t in the UK on census day - she was probably visiting or at school abroad. Just over 18 months later, in November 1892, Archie died, aged only 48. Reena’s decision to join the GD came four months after his death: perhaps she had decided she needed something to occupy and challenge her mind in the first few months of her widowhood; and a chance to make new friends when her mourning period was over.
REENA IN THE GOLDEN DAWN
I don’t know who she knew in the GD who had recommended her as a likely initiate, but Reena very soon became one of group of women initiates who did a lot of the GD’s housekeeping and office work and were also good friends, having tea and biscuits and a chat together (for example) after cleaning the GD’s rooms (non-members weren’t allowed in them so the GD couldn’t employ a cleaner). Accounts of the GD’s history during the late 1890s mention Reena and Helen Rand working together quite often. A good example of this happened in September 1897 as part of the 2nd Order’s move to into rooms in 36 Blythe Road Hammersmith: Reena and Helen unpacked the GD’s library, arranged the items on a bookshelf donated by Frederick Leigh Gardner; and catalogued them all. Netherwood Road, where Archie and Reena had been living in 1891, was only a few streets away from Blythe Road - Reena was probably the GD member who lived closest to 2nd Order rooms. Perhaps she had even suggested Blythe Road as a cheap and easy-to-reach address, when the 2nd Order needed to find a new headquarters.
The GD’s central core of active women members also included Florence Farr and her sister Henrietta Paget, Florence Kennedy, Cecilia MacRae, Dorothea Butler (later Hunter) and Annie Horniman. In December 1896 all of them (and many others) signed the petition which asked Samuel Liddell Mathers to reinstate Annie Horniman as a GD member: he had just ejected her for reasons which had nothing to do with magic and did him no credit. They all submitted to Mathers’ dictat that initiates accept his orders without argument, and Annie was not allowed back into the GD for three years; however, Annie’s GD friends continued in close touch with her, regardless, during her exile.
I haven’t found any evidence of Helen and Reena doing magical work together beyond the formal rituals that every initiate had to attend if they could. However, there is evidence of Reena’s involvement in one of the magical sub-groups that grew up within the GD after 1897. In early 1897 she, Cecilia Macrae and occasionally Florence Kennedy, went to the Monday afternoon meetings of a small ritual group formed and led by William Wynn Westcott. Presumably they had joined the group at Westcott’s request, but by the beginning of 1898 they had dropped out of it, probably because of a certain undercurrent within the group that they had detected. I’ve found plenty of evidence in my GD researches to justify my belief that while Westcott may have approved the involvment of women in the occult in theory (he was an admirer of Anna Bonus Kingsford, for example), in practice, he really didn’t like it and couldn’t handle it. His was a very male world.
The latest evidence I found for Reena doing magic beyond the formal rituals is from around 1901: she and Florence Farr were getting together to go astral travelling, noting down (as was customary) what they saw and where they thought they had gone while they were on the astral plane.
There’s evidence that Annie Horniman’s women friends in the GD felt particularly strongly about Mathers’ increasingly militaristic, arbitrary and just plain bizarre behaviour during the late 1890s. Many of them took a prominent role in the decision made in April 1900 to replace his one-magician rule of the GD with an executive council elected by the members of the 2nd Order. Reena was one of those who supported this process. I don’t know whether she stood for election to the executive council (my hunch is that she didn’t - I don’t see her as a committee woman) but if she did, she wasn’t elected. She was given a role that was probably more to her taste, being made one of the Adepti Litterati appointed by the executive council to teach new initiates. For the next three years she taught tarot and Enochian chess to new initiates; they must have been the subjects that she was particularly keen on as well as good at herself. The game of Enochian chess was invented by William Wynn Westcott, although Samuel Liddell Mathers codified its rules. It needed four players as there were four sets of pieces, representing the four classical elements earth air fire and water. Both Enochian chess and tarot were used in the GD for divination; though you could just play a game of Enochian chess without the divinatory element.
By the mid-1890s Reena was not only playing Enochian chess, she had also learned the conventional kind. Or is that the wrong way round? - perhaps she took to the complexities of Enochian chess because she was already playing the conventional kind. I wonder who taught her? Chess-playing by women was virtually invisible in the UK until the 1880s but in 1895 it received a big boost with the founding in London of the Ladies’ Chess Club. Rhoda Bowles was one of its keenest members, doing the work of organising tournaments and also writing a regular column on chess (not just women’s chess) in the short-lived magazine Womanhood. Reena was probably not one of the Ladies’ Chess Club’s original members but she had joined by 1900. By that year, enough women players were known to Mrs Bowles for her to organise a league of women’s teams. Reena doesn’t seem to have been in the Ladies’ Chess Club’s team that year and when she played in tournaments she lost more matches than she won; but that was quite common even amongst the Ladies’ Chess Club members, with so many women still quite new to the game. Early in 1902 (the last year for which I found any information on Reena and chess) Reena was one of the Ladies’ Chess Club members who went to Ada Ballin’s house at 18 Somerset Street to see a tournament between the Club’s team and representatives of Cambridge University Chess Club; however, she did only watch the games, she didn’t play in any of the games.
Events in the GD were probably distracting Reena from any wish she might have had to improve her chess game by getting more practice. As part of the separating of the GD from Mathers, Annie Horniman was reinstated as a member; but within a few months, her return had led to a breach between Annie and most of her friends in the order, including Reena. Annie felt that the sub-groups that were now flourishing in the Order broke the magical rule that forbade people at different levels of initiation to do magic together - and of course they did break that rule, but their members were getting so much out of them that they wanted them kept.
Very little information on these sub-groups has survived and the membership of each sub-group is not known for certain; they were very informal affairs. However, Reena had moved on to another of them after her rather disappointing experience with Westcott’s ritual group. When Annie Horniman, backed up by William Butler Yeats, started pushing for a meeting to discuss sub-groups (and Annie had the fixed intention of getting rid of them), Reena was one of those who signed a counter-statement declaring that they would leave the GD if the sub-groups were banned. Reena’s friends Florence Farr, Helen Rand and Henrietta Paget also signed the statement; and Dorothea Butler (now Hunter) didn’t actually sign it but fully agreed with what was in it.
The meeting about sub-groups took place on 26 February 1901 and so many members wanted to have their say that Reena had to wait over two hours for hers; Helen Rand and Henrietta Paget had already had to leave by that time. Reena seems to have said few words, but what she did say inadvertently put the cat properly among the pigeons. As a result of Reena’s speech, Annie Horniman and Yeats found out for the first time that there was more than one sub-group - the only one they had been aware of up until then was Florence Farr’s Sphere Group (which Reena wasn’t a member of, as far as I know). Uproar ensued, and on behalf of the members who wanted them kept, Marcus Worsley Blackden was obliged to confess that yes, there was more than one; and Reena was obliged to confirm that unbeknown to Annie Horniman, she was a member of one of them.
Those who wanted the sub-groups to continue won the day but in the next two years several of their strongest supporters left the GD for other reasons, including Florence Farr, Henrietta Paget and Dorothea Hunter. Reena and Helen Rand stayed on through a period of increasing fracture within the GD until finally, at the annual meeting of 1903, it became clear to everyone that the order really couldn’t continue as it had done; leaving those who were still members having to decide what they would do next. Both Reena and Helen Rand were amongst the 14 2nd Order members who chose to go with A E Waite to found the Independent and Rectified Rite (or Order): they signed the document announcing that intention, in July 1903; and presumably were present when the IRR/O was consecrated on 7 November 1903. The IRR/O continued until 1915, but I don’t think Reena continued to be an active member as long as that: few records of the IRR/O survive but those I’ve seen don’t seem to be aware that by 1911, Reena had gone back to calling herself Mrs Little, and describing herself as a widow.
On 8 October 1896 at St Matthew’s Hammersmith, Reena married Alfred Joseph Fulham Hughes, a relationship which even now would cause raised eyebrows as her new husband was so much younger than she was. She was obviously conscious that she had thrown the normal rule-book of marriage out of the window: the marriage was by licence rather than by banns, so that it wouldn’t be made public three weeks beforehand to all St Matthew’s regular church-goers; and she told the clergyman who took charge of the service that she was 38 when in fact she was 45. Her new husband was 29. Even today, such a disparity of age between marriage partners is viewed as fine if the man’s the old one, but shocking if the woman is.
Alfred Fulham Hughes may also have been telling untruths to the vicar: he gave his occupation as ‘electrical engineer’ but his name didn’t come up on google as a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (listed amongst its members were several men with friends in the GD and one with a wife who was a member). I’m restraining myself from the thought that Alfred Fulham Hughges may have been a chancer, on the lookout for a woman who seemed to be in comfortable financial circumstances. I’d find that a lot easier to do that if I’d been able to pick him out on any census, or via any other of my usual family history sources. He arrives at the marriage out of nowhere; and by 1911 he’s disappeared again and I can’t trace him any later either, via any legal or probate records surrounding his death.
What on earth did her GD women friends make of Reena’s second marriage? Did they know? - how old she was, and how old he was? Were any of them invited to the wedding? Neither of the witnesses to the marriage was a GD member. Perhaps they never met him - he never was a GD member. The other big question is: what did Reena’s children make of acquiring a step-father who was not so many years older than Hilda?
I believe that in 1901 the marriage was still going well: I haven’t found Alfred Joseph on the census for that year; but then I haven’t found him on any of the others either, and Reena, Hilda and Audrey are missing from it too. I’m assuming that they were all away somewhere together. Term hadn’t quite finished on census day so Reena’s son Adrian was still at school at Christ’s Hospital. In 1903 Reena was still known to GD members as Mrs Fulham Hughes; so if anything was going wrong, Reena hadn’t told those members who kept the records of the GD and the newly-formed IRR/O. However, by census day 1911 Alfred Joseph was gone and Reena had gone back to calling herself Mrs Little. At the very least, the disparity of ages had proved too much for her and her husband. I haven’t found any evidence that they were ever divorced - that was still a very expensive business and usually resulted in social death. Instead, Alfred Joseph probably left the UK and Reena reverted to being a widow. She, Hilda and Audrey drew a line under the affair and escaped the curiosity of their neighbours by moving away from Hammersmith, although they didn’t go far, only to 23 Fairlawn Avenue in Chiswick. Reena was still living there when she died in January 1916.
BRIEF NOTE ON REENA’S CHILDREN
It is always harder to find out what happened to people after the 1911 census: the years after that event aren’t so well covered by web-based sources. So I’ve found out relatively little about what happened to Reena’s children. Hilda is the child I’ve found out least about. That may be because she got married: there are several marriage registrations on freebmd between 1911 and 1915 of women called ‘hilda little’ and her’s may be one of them. Audrey never married. She moved to Kendal in the Lake District and died in December 1960. Though I don’t know what profession Adrian took up after he left school, I’ve found that he married and (I think) had children. He died in Broadstairs in December 1948.
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.
SOURCES FOR REENA LITTLE/FULHAM HUGHES
This is my Place: Hauraki Contested 1769-1875 by Paul Monin. Wellington New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books 2001. In Chapter Gold and War 1860-65 p195. The Hauraki Gulf is to the north-east of Auckland.
The New Zealand Wars: 1845-64 by James Cowan. AMS Press 1969 p291.
Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives New Zealand Parliament 1864: Further Papers relative to the amnesty to rebel natives.
New Zealand Parliament House of Representatives business from 1866 p246 .
New Zealand Parliament House of Representatives accounts for year ending 30 June 1868 p3.
At some details on the owners of Shabden Park.
Reports from Committees (that is, Parliamentary committees) 1837 railway subscription lists p19.
The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblée 1840 p81 and also in Gentleman’s Magazine 1840 p91: marriage of Emily Ann Bishop to William Little.
Familysearch England EAS-y GS film number 580884: baptism of Archibald Little 27 November 1843.
Times Wednesday 28 August 1844 p6 death announcements includes one for Archibald Little esquire of Shabden Park, on “25th inst” [Aug 1844].
Navy List April 1870 p406.
Navy List October 1870 p478, p184, p20.
Navy List January 1881 p336, p471.
Navy List October 1890 p338, p382.
REENA AND ARCHIE’S SON
See Website has a few more details. for a list of headstones in St Stephen’s churchyard, Parnell Auckland.
ALFRED JOSEPH FULHAM HUGHES
Full details of marriage registration seen via Ancestry.co.uk.
REENA AND THE GD
The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923 by Ellic Howe. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972: p135, p139, p143, p169, p182-183, p197, p228, p238.
ITEMS HELD IN THE GOLDEN DAWN ARCHIVE, FREEMASON’S LIBRARY all from the period 1900-02:
- GBR 1991 GD 2/4/3/32: letter Reena to Florence Farr 26 April 1900.
- GBR 1991 2/4/3/51 undated but catalogue suggests April 1901 which sounds a year too late to me: letter Reena to Florence Farr
- GBR 1991 2/4/6/1: statement of the majority of 2nd Order members to the 3 current chiefs (that is JWBI, Felkin and Percy Bullock) issued February 1901 before 26 February.
Confirmation of the 1897 group: Warburg Institute Gerald Yorke Collection catalogue number NS73 - letters mostly to but occasionally copies of letters from Frederick Leigh Gardner. Letter from William Wynn Westcott to Gardner, 17 May 1897.
Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume III 1901-04 p32 note 4, p33.
Yeats’s Golden Dawn by George Mills Harper. Wellingborough Northants: The Aquarian Press 1974: p44.
Florence Farr: Bernard Shaw’s New Woman by Josephine Johnson. Gerrard’s Cross: Colin Smythe 1975 p89-90 though Johnson doesn’t give the Source of the description she prints of Florence Farr and Reena’s astral travelling session.
There are plenty of books on tarot out there but rather fewer on Enochian chess. Wikipedia has a short introduction, based mostly on Ellic Howe (see above) and these two works:
- The Golden Dawn: A Complete Course in Practical Ceremonial Magic but Israel Regardie with input from Cris Monnastre and Carl Llewellyn Weschke, eds. Woodbury Minnesota: Lewellyn Publications. Originally 1989 but the 6th edition of 2002 seems to be around more.
- Enochian Magic for Beginners by Donald Tyson. Woodbury Minnesota: Lewellyn Publications 1997. I found a pdf file of this at www.scribd.com 6 July 2014.
AFTER THE GOLDEN DAWN
A E Waite: A Magician of Many Parts by R A Gilbert. Wellingborough Northants 1987 p178 Appendix C.
Women, Clubs and Associations in Britain by David Doughan and Peter Gordon. London: Routledge 20006 p81 in section Sporting Clubs.
Dictionary of British Women’s Organisations 1825-1960 by David Doughan and Peter Gordon. London: Woburn Press 2006 p70 although it’s probably referring to 1911.
At Unfortunately, the writer doesn’t give her sources. there is a very thorough account of the early years of the Ladies’ Chess Club.
Womanhood: the Magazine of Women’s Progress and Interests, political, legal, social and intellectual; and of health and beauty culture editor Ada S Ballin. This is from volume 3 1899-1900 issue 16 which is probably spring 1900 but I couldn’t see the exact date.
British Chess Magazine volume 22 1902; p198-199. Published London: Trübner and Co.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
11 August 2015
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