Luther Hill was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus Temple in Bradford on 19 November 1891.  He chose the Latin motto ‘Sequor’.  He was never an active member and resigned, probably quite soon after his initiation.



This is one of my short biographies.  They mostly cover GD members who lived in Bradford, Liverpool and Edinburgh.  I’ve done what I can with those people, using the web and sources in London.  I’m sure there’s far more information on them out there, but it will be in record offices, the local papers...I’d need to be on the spot to look at them, and I’ve had to admit that life’s too short! 

Sally Davis

March 2016


This is what I have found on LUTHER HILL.



Luther didn’t follow up his initiation.



Yes.  Like most members of the GD in Bradford, he was a member of the Theosophical Society.

He’d applied to join the TS in April 1891.  At that time, all applications had to be sponsored by two people who were TS members already.  Luther’s sponsors were Thomas Pattinson and William Hall Grason.  I haven’t found out much about Grason, but Thomas Pattinson was an important member of the TS in Bradford and a founder of the GD’s Horus Temple; he and GD founder William Wynn Westcott had known each other since the mid-1880s if not earlier. 


Luther Hill remained a TS member from 1891 to 1897.  Whereas the GD was organised into temples, the TS was organised into lodges, with the major English towns having at least one lodge in the early 1890s.  There were two lodges in Bradford but for some reason, Luther chose to be a member of the lodge in Liverpool; I suppose he had friends there, or business acquaintances. 


Luther kept a low profile and did not take sides in a dispute which all-but-destroyed the TS in England in the mid-1890s.  However, in 1897 he let his membership of the TS lapse. 


Source: Theosophical Society Membership Register volume covering January 1889-September 1891 p212.

Just noting that Luther’s wife Lucy Hannah was never in the TS or the GD.       






Luther Hill was born in Bradford Yorkshire in 1864.  He was the youngest child of Walker Hill and his wife Susannah (née Cook).  He was given the same name as a child of Walker and Susannah who had been born in 1858 and died aged only a few months.  Luther Hill born 1864 had three older sisters.

The Hill family were involved in the cloth trade in Bradford.  In 1861, Walker Hill was a stuff-finisher and foreman in a wool mill.  By 1871 he had left the mill and started his own business as a draper and cloth dealer, probably at 118 Westgate in Bradford, where the family were living on census day 1871.  All Luther’s older sisters were working by 1871.  Eliza (aged 20) was a French-polisher, Clara (18) and Miranda (13) were both working as factory hands in a worsted mill.  Susannah told the 1871 census official that she was a “draper’s wife”; which I take to mean she worked in the shop.


By 1881 the Hill family had moved to 51 Sedgewick Street, though I don’t know whether the shop was elsewhere or they were still living above it at the new address.  Clara and Eliza were still living with their parents; they both said they were married, but their husbands were not living with them.  They were both working: Clara Roper was a worsted weaver now; and Eliza Dunn was a cook.  Clara Roper’s son, aged 5 months, was also in the household.  Luther Hill, now 17, was also still living at home.  He was working as a warehouseman in a stuff-making mill.   



Sources: census 1861, 1871, 1881; freebmd; and

Family history web page, which has good sources for its information: Walker Hill (born 1826) married Susan (sic) Cook, at St Peter Bradford on 29 October 1853.  There are some details of Luther Hill’s elder sister Clara (born 1853) on this web page; but nothing on his other sisters, Eliza and Miranda.

Just noting that ‘susan’ isn’t right, for Luther’s mother: freebmd and various census forms have ‘susannah’.



On the 1871 census Luther was described as “scholar”; so he was at school.  Probably he went to the local National School.



On the 1891 census, Luther described himself as a stuff cloth dealer.  There’s some evidence from later (see below) of a firm trading as ‘Luther Hill’.  On the 1901 census there’s a bit more detail about Luther’s business; or perhaps he had expanded its range.  He’s described as a stuff and cloth seller, and skirt manufacturer.  The skirt-making may have been done by his wife. 


Sources: census 1891, 1901.



Before the day of the 1891 census, Luther and his wife had moved to 70 Beamsley Road, between Frizinghall and Shipley, to the north of the Bradford city centre.  It was still being given as his home address in 1909 but the TS knew of a different address for him in the mid-1890s, 4 Manor Street.  Not sure what’s going on with the second address.  It doesn’t sound like the address of his business.


Sources: census 1891, 1901, 1911; Probate Registry 1909; Edinburgh Gazette 23 May 1913 p555.



Luther Hill married Lucy Hannah Brown in 1888.  Lucy was a daughter of John Brown and his wife Hannah.  She had been born in 1868 in Cleckheaton, south of Bradford but by 1881 the family had moved to Manningham, another Bradford suburb.  In 1881 John Brown was working as a salesman for a drapery firm.  It sounds as though he might have known Luther Hill as a customer of his employer.


The marriage would probably have taken place anyway; but it might have been hastened by the fact of the bride being pregnant.  Luther and Lucy’s first child, Winifred Annie Hill, was born early in 1889, about six months after the wedding.  Not a good start.  They had two more daughters: Elsie Veda, born 1892; and Constance Marion, born 1895.  Luther and Lucy did not have any live-in servants in 1891; but by 1901 they were employing the basic, one general servant.



Of course, there was boom and bust, but for most of the 19th century Bradford was one of the richest cities on earth.  However, protectionist legislation enacted in the USA in 1890 began its long decline.

A source from the time:

Times Wed 29 October 1890 p5 article discussing the consequences of the recently-passed McKinley Tariff Act in the USA.  Included a report from a correspondent in Philadelphia where two representatives of Messrs Lister and Co, one of Bradford’s biggest mill owners, were in the town looking for a site on which to build a new mill.

And two more recent accounts:

Technology and Culture vol 51 no 4 2010: article The Yankee Yorkshireman by Mary Blewett 2009 .  Published by Johns Hopkins University Press 2010.  On p36-37 there’s an account of a relative decline in the Bradford woollen industry in the 1870s; with mills diversifying from cloth-making to making women’s dresses and suiting for men’s suits and outdoor wear.

Connecting Seas and Connected Ocean Rims...Migrations from the 1830s to the 1930s, ed Donna R Gabaccia and Dirk Hoerder.  Leiden and Boston Mass: Brill 2011 p346-48, describing the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 as a disaster for Bradford’s woollen industry.

See also my biography of Joseph Leach Atherton, whom Luther Hill will have known.  I haven’t been able to prove it but I believe Atherton may have worked for Lister and Co.



Luther Hill went to Canada in 1907, travelling on the Lucania from Liverpool to New York, and then overland.  His wife and daughters did not go with him.  I can think of three reasons why he might have done that; perhaps there are more, but here are my three:

1) it was a business trip.  This seems the least likely: Luther’s business seems to have been a very local one, not on an international scale.

2) he was the advanced guard, going to Canada to find work and raise some money so that his wife and daughters could join him.

3) he had abandoned his business and family.  I have to say that this seems the most likely of the three.


Luther Hill didn’t return to England.  He died in April 1909, somewhere in northern Alberta.   


Sources: via Ancestry to Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935; Probate Registry 1909 which gave the date of Luther Hill’s death but only “northern Alberta” as the place.  Northern Alberta has hardly any settlements of any size, unless you count Edmonton; but if Luther Hill had died there I think the Probate Registry would have noted it down.



Luther’s wife Lucy attempted to carry on his business, trading as “Luther Hill” from a stall in Kirkgate Market.  In 1911 Lucy, Winifred, Elsie and Constance were still living at 70 Beamsley Road.  Lucy’s younger brother William was living with them; he was working in a factory warehouse.  The ‘Luther Hill’ business went into receivership in 1913.  I haven’t been able to find out what happened to Lucy and her children after that year.  Too many people called Hill!


Sources: census 1911; Edinburgh Gazette 23 May 1913 p555 reprinting a list originally in London Gazette; and London Gazette 3 June 1913 p3973.

Searching google with Luther Hill’s daughters full names, I didn’t get any responses that I was convinced by.  I looked in freebmd for a death registration for Lucy Hannah Hill; again I didn’t get anything that convinced me though there was one in 1929 in Eccleshall and one in the city of Leicester in 1950 that might have been her.



BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.  Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.  Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.  The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.  All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.  Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01.  I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


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


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


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


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


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


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





28 March 2016


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