John Valentine Lacy (known as Valentine, I think, rather than John) was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London, on 22 March 1898. The motto he chose was ‘Main teyar Mun’; I’m not sure what language that is though it’s likely to be a transliteration of an Indian one. It’s not clear from the GD’s administrative records how keen a member of the Order he was; he was certainly never initiated into its second, inner order. Marian Charlotte Vibart was initiated on the same day. The Vibart family had known Valentine Lacy for many years. See Marian’s biography for more details of her life although her investment in Biltor Ltd is in this file as Valentine Lacy was involved in the firm too.
JOHN CLEMENT LACY
It has been difficult to find out about Valentine Lacy’s family, for reasons that make them almost unique. Valentine’s father was a very rare bird indeed - a Hindu from the Brahmin caste, who became a Christian convert. As such, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel thought he merited a memoir after he died; but I haven’t been able to find a copy of it, only a review of it in the SPG’s journal, so my understanding of this remarkable man’s life is a sketchy.
As far as I can make out, John Clement Lacy was born in 1825 and at that point his name was Chandi Deen. He started to train as a priest, but against his family’s wishes abandoned it to become a doctor. An East India Company surgeon, Thomas Saumarez Lacy, was important to Chandi Deen at this point in his life: probably by taking Chandi Deen on as an apprentice, in Agra (where he was stationed) in the 1850s. Agra was certainly the place where Chandi Deen changed religions for the first time, and as a convert to Islam he played a prominent part for several years in Muslim agitation against the power Christianity was getting with the East India Company in charge in north India. So the next step is all the more baffling: Chandi Deen was baptised as a Christian in Agra in 1859, and took the name John Clement Lacy. Thomas Saumarez Lacy stood as John Clement’s god-father and it was at T S Lacy’s suggestion that the new Christian took the ‘lacy’ surname.
John Clement Lacy married and had a family, some of whose Christian baptisms can be seen via familysearch. I’d love to know more about his wife - was she a woman he had married while he was still a Hindu, a suitable woman chosen by his family? Was she another Indian convert to Christianity - probably, in that case, from a lower caste. Was she Anglo-Indian? - one parent British (usually the father) one parent Indian? Or was she? - I have to say I find this very difficult to believe - an Englishwoman? I haven’t been able to find out anything about Valentine’s mother - I’m not even sure what her name as a Christian was, because it’s given differently in each baptism record. However, it is certain that John Clement Lacy’s son John Valentine Lacy was born at Agra on 28 April 1867 and for this particular baptism, the name of the child’s mother was recorded as Katherine Evelyn Lacy. Valentine was a middle child in a large family, mostly of boys but there was at least one daughter.
Dr John Clement Lacy practised medicine in Agra and from the 1870s also ran a pharmacy and dispensary called Lacy’s Medical Hall. The memoir of his life is, of course, anxious to show him as a model Christian - a devoted family man, hard-working and humble - and as never regretting his conversion. There are hints that he didn’t have an easy time: he had financial troubles and was also - inevitably, I think - the subject of open hostility from people who were not identified but were probably members of Agra’s Hindu and Muslim communities.
In the mid-1880s, John Clement Lacy took one of his sons into partnership, probably Joseph (see below for a bit more on him) was in partnership with him and the business continued for some years after John Clement’s death in 1902. John Clement’s eldest son, Benjamin, became a Church of England clergyman and spent part of his career working for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Cawnpore (now usually rendered as Kanpur though I have also seen Khanpur), a name of dread memory for the 19th-century British and particularly for the Vibarts.
Two of John Clement Lacy’s sons were sent to be educated in Britain. Given the mention in the memoir that he had financial troubles, the funding for this must have come either from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, or as a result of a more personal effort by British residents of Agra and their friends, who saw him as somewhat of a martyr as well as a convert. By 1881, John Clement’s sons Joseph and Valentine Lacy were at school in Edinburgh, and were boarding with George Forbes Vibart and his wife Annie.
The men of the Vibart family had been working for the East India Company in India for several generations by the late 19th-century. Although none of those I have traced spent time stationed in Agra, it’s likely that they had all heard of the cause célèbre John Clement Lacy. George Forbes Vibart never worked for the East India Company. He chose to live off investments inherited from his father, John Vibart, instead. Shortly after his marriage, George Forbes Vibart and his wife Annie lived for a time on Jersey. Thomas Saumarez Lacy had been born on Guernsey and had many Saumarez relations living in the Channel Islands, some of whom George and Annie probably met while they were on Jersey. One way or another, George Forbes and Annie had heard of John Clement Lacy and they probably regarded it as their Christian duty to take in his sons when they reached Britain; though they may also have been glad of the extra income. As well as the two Lacy boys, two other boys were boarding with George Forbes and Annie on census day in 1881. George Forbes’ and Annie’s own two sons were only a few years older than the Lacy boys. George was training to be an engineer, and James Henry (known as Henry) was working for Scottish Widows (where, however, he would not remain for long - see below). Valentine Lacy and Henry Vibart became close, perhaps as much like brothers as was possible in the circumstances.
In due course, Joseph Lacy went back to India and was, I think, the son who went into John Clement Lacy’s business. Valentine Lacy, however, never lived in India again. He was still in Edinburgh on the day of the 1891 census, lodging with Thomas Wight and family at 25 Tarvit Street. He told the census official he was a medical student. I suppose he must have been at Edinburgh University, where he would have listened to lectures by GD member Robert William Felkin, who was a lecturer in tropical medicine.
I couldn’t find any evidence that Valentine Lacy qualified as a doctor, let alone practised as one, so I think he must have dropped out of university or - worse from his father’s point of view - failed his exams. If he had been destined by his father to join the family medical practice, perhaps that’s why he didn’t go home - if he still thought of India as home. Elder son George having gone to work in India, George Forbes Vibart and Annie had moved south to be near their younger son Henry. Valentine Lacy followed them to London and got a job working in the office of a firm called Biltor Ltd.
As the company called Biltor Ltd that Valentine Lacy worked for no longer exists, I haven’t found much information on it. It’s also been difficult to find much about its founder, Emil Alexander Wüterich. It seems, though, that Valentine Lacy may have got the job with Biltor Ltd through George Forbes Vibart, as Marian Charlotte Vibart - who was George Forbes Vibart’s first-cousin - was persuaded to buy shares in the company.
I found two patent applications made in England by Wüterich. One for a parlour game and its equipment seems to have been refused, but the other was granted, in February 1889, for a “device...for tobacco pipes or cigar or cigarette holders to prevent nicotine reaching the mouth of the smoker”. There’s a cutaway picture of a pipe with the device inside it, on the web - it looks like an inner tube. Following the grant of the patent, Wüterich decided to set up a limited company to exploit his patented device. He founded Biltor Ltd, with capital of at least £15,000, and Marian Charlotte Vibart and a woman called Anna Wüterich - Emil Alexander’s wife, perhaps - as its other major investors. Wüterich may already have owned the tobacconist’s shop at 93 Oxford Street (on the corner with Dean Street) that appears in some adverts for Biltor Ltd. Either that, or the shop was opened to sell pipes fitted with the patented device as well as all the other paraphernalia of smoking.
The patent of 1889 had been granted for a fixed number of years, and in 1902 as the time drew near for it to expire, Biltor Ltd and Marian Charlotte Vibart applied to the Patent Office to have it renewed. As was usual in such cases, the Patent Office sent an employee to look at Biltor Ltd’s accounts. However, the accounts had been made up in such a way that you couldn’t tell what income the company drew specifically from sales of the patented device, and what was from other items sold in the shop. So the renewal of the patent was refused. Someone - several someones - had been rather careless in doing office admin. On the 1901 census, Valentine Lacy had described his occupation as “Secretary to Biltor Ltd”. If he meant that he was acting as the firm’s company secretary, he must bear a share of the blame for what happened and for the shareholders’ loss of future income; although Wüterich, too, had been lackadaisical, as the company’s most active director. Nor did either of them get very good advice from their solicitors.
Biltor Ltd’s shareholders had made efforts to make the patented device more widely known: they had exhibited it at the Paris International Exhibition during 1900, and it had won an award. After the blow of losing the renewal application, they decided to expand the business in England and by 1908 had opened a second shop, at 88 Queen Street Cheapside, in the City of London. The company was still going at both addresses in 1913 and continued, at least at 93 Oxford Street, until Emil Alexander Wüterich died in November 1927. Valentine Lacy acted as administrator of Wüterich’s estate and was probably kept busy in 1928 as Wüterich had left no Will. How he earned a living after that - whether he took on the business himself, or just wound it up, sold the shop and retired - I don’t know. He was 60, and - provided he and Biltor Ltd had paid his national insurance contributions - was entitled to a pension.
George Forbes Vibart and Annie had settled in Barnes and on the day of the 1891 census were living at 2 Carshalton Villas on Cambridge Road. I haven’t been able to establish when Valentine Lacy moved to London. He was probably still living in Edinburgh in June 1894 when he joined the Theosophical Society’s Scottish Lodge. The lodge met at 14 Royal Circus, Edinburgh, the home of John and Frances Brodie-Innes. John Brodie-Innes had been in the Order of the Golden Dawn since 1890. However, Valentine Lacy also knew other GD members. At the time he joined the TS, all applicants needed two sponsors who were already members. Valentine Lacy’s two were Hugh Elliot and Florence ffoulkes; Hugh Elliot was initiated into the GD later in 1894 and Florence ffoulkes became a member in 1895. Florence ffoulkes’ husband Henry was related to the Vibarts: his uncle Henry had married one daughter of Edward and Frances Lloyd and Marian Charlotte’s mother was another daughter of the Lloyds. It’s not at all difficult to see how Valentine Lacy might have been picked out as a suitable person to be initiated into the GD.
What Valentine made of the TS and the texts by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky that were its main source of spiritual ideas I can’t imagine: amongst the many influences on her work was the Hinduism that his father had rejected for Christianity. However, once he had converted, John Clement Lacy had been (according to the memoir) an “earnest” Christian; and I would suppose that included banning his children from any reading of the texts of Hinduism. In that case, Blavatsky’s work would be as new to Valentine as to any English born and bred member. He remained a member of the TS after he left Edinburgh, only giving up paying his subscription in 1902. He may have been a regular at TS meetings in London but I think probably not, because he never told the TS his new London address. Perhaps he tried the GD because theosophy didn’t satisfy him and that brings me to wondering - how devoted a Christian was he, the son of a man who had all the zeal of the new convert and who had rejected his Brahmin family for religious reasons? Although the teachings of the TS had Hindu influences they had plenty of other sources, too; and the basis of the GD’s teachings, although mostly Christian, was similarly wide-ranging. What did Valentine Lacy make of it all? Seeing that he was not a committed member of either organisation, perhaps he found their eclecticism unconvincing; or even alarming.
The Vibart family seem to have been one certainty in Valentine Lacy’s life; perhaps the only certainty. If ever someone was a stranger in a strange land, it was him. I’ve spoken of him above as uprooted from his cultural past; but - especially if both his parents were Indian as I believe they were - he was also a black man living surrounded by white people.
George Forbes Vibart died in August 1893. By 1901, Annie and Valentine had moved, but only down the road, to 1 Napier Villas Cambridge Road. Perhaps they had a relationship, by now, that was more mother and son than landlady and lodger. Their household was a modest one, with no servants living-in. Annie hadn’t wanted to move too far from her son Henry and his family; they were living just round the corner, at 29 Cleveland Road, Barnes although Henry himself was often working away or abroad.
Annie’s son James Henry Vibart was the actor Henry Vibart (born 1863, died 1939 or 1943): see wikipedia and imdb for details of his career which began around 1886 in the theatre and continued for 40 years, taking in silent films (he was in 70) and even the first years of the talkies. Although he was never a great theatrical star in the manner of Henry Irving, Henry Vibart was continually in work and established a reputation for being a reliable professional.
Henry met the actress Taigi Keene in 1886 or 1887 while they were working for the theatrical impresario F R Benson. Taigi was the eldest daughter of the artist and illustrator Charles Joseph Keene and his wife Annie, a professional artist’s model. Taigi’s three sisters also worked as artists’ models but from 1883 until her marriage Taigi was a professional actress. The family were devout Catholics and Taigi was named after the Italian Maria Taigi, known for her charity work and her visions, which came to her when she fell into trance-like states while at prayer. Taigi and Henry Vibart had eight children (three had died by 1911), so she was kept pretty busy and was probably glad to live near her mother-in-law, with Henry abroad so often working with British companies touring in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. And after Annie Vibart died, in 1910, it seems to have been natural for Valentine Lacy to move in with Taigi, Henry and their children. On the day of the 1911 census they were all living in the same household, still in Barnes but a few doors down from Henry and Taigi’s 1901 address, at 24 Cleveland Road.
And that’s it! More or less all I know about Valentine Lacy. It’s harder to find the GD members after World War 1: no census information; google books hasn’t ventured that far as yet because of problems with copyright; and I decided not to pursue even London-based GD members through the electoral registers as it would involve too much work.
Valentine Lacy outlived almost all the people he knew that I have found out about. Taigi Vibart died in 1938; and Henry Vibart in 1939 or 1943 (see below for the discrepancy) perhaps his closest ‘relations’. Marian Charlotte Vibart died in 1932; Florence ffoulkes in 1936; and Hugh Elliot’s wife Blanche in 1947. Perhaps he kept in touch with Hugh Elliot, who lived until late 1948. Valentine Lacy died in the summer of 1947. I don’t think he ever married.
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 JOHN VALENTINE LACY
JOHN CLEMENT LACY, originally CHANDI DEEN
All I know about the conversion of Chandi Deen, his original name, and his subsequent career as a Christian physician, was published in A Brahman Convert: A Memoir of Dr Lacy of Agra, by Rev Benjamin J Lacy, John Clement’s eldest son. It was published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1905, and reprinted in 1907; but the Society didn’t send a copy to the British Library. The review I used, which reprinted the memoir’s highlights, was in the Society’s The East and West: A Quarterly Rvw of the Study of Missions volume 3 number 11 1905: pp357-58. Published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, at 19 Delahay St W/m. On pp357-8 short rvw of A Brahman Convert: A Memoir of Dr Lacy of Agra, by Rev B J Lacy of Cawnpore. Rvw is anon, so prob by the editor; however, cldn’t find any mention of the editor’s name.
P357 It’s abt a Hindu Brahman orig named Chandi Deen who was bapt Chr 1859 and took the name John Clement Lacy. B 1825 d 1902 in Agra. Educ as a brahmin pundit but abandoned that to train as a doctor ag his family’s wishes; a Dr T S Lacy an imp help during his time training. Chandi Deen then went into Govt serv. Was stationed 1855 in Agra wh he conv to Islam and campaigned ag the bldg of Rev French’s CofE college in Agra (Rev French later bp of Lahore). However by the time the Mutiny broke out ((May 1857)) he was on the point of being capt Chr. Mutiny delayed this; as the fighting contd he was v helpful ((no dtls)) to E India Co. Batp finally took place 1859 w T S Lacy as godfather; it was T S Lacy’s suggn that the new convert take his surname. From then on, J C Lacy’s exist was “the record of the family life of one who was at once a skilful doctor and an earnest Christian”; he remained in Agra and had a priv medical practice there. P358 ((however)) rvwr notes that later in his life, JCL got into fnnl trouble; he was also persecuted by “some of his enemies” ((no fur dtls of who and f what)). Rvw ends w a tale tkn from the book of JCL clearing up the mud in ch left by a careless yng male convert who didn’t wipe his boots.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was founded by royal charter in 1701 and still exists, though its name and its purpose have changed. Its early records are at Lambeth Palace Library and at the website www.mundus.ac.uk there is a short overview of the SPG until the end of the 19th century.
I did find one other reference to a man called Chandi Deen but it can’t be to the man who became John Clement Lacy: Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany volume 14 1822 issued by the East India Co. On p247 there was a report on the 2nd Annual Disputation, held at the Hindu College at Benares. P249 mentions a student called Chandi Deen. Perhaps he was John Clement Lacy’s brahmin father.
Baptism of (the adult) Chandi Deen as John Clement Lacy is at familysearch. Baptisms of some but not all of his children are there too. The marriage of Alexander Clement Lacy, a child of John Clement Lacy whose baptism record I didn’t find is also recorded at familysearch.
I checked the General Medical Council Registers for John Clement Lacy: no one on the registers with that name and that address in India was registered between the 1860s and the 1900s. There was also no one called John Valentine Lacy.
Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930 Index p684 lists only one man with the surname Lacy: Thomas Saumarez Lacy. His career details p1840: born St Peter Port Guernsey 1816. MRCS 1838. LSA 1838. Retired 1 January 1866 and died on Guernsey.
What details I could find on John Clement Lacy between 1859 and 1902, were all in issues of
Thacker’s Bengal Directory between 1864 and 1908 which was the last year in which Lacy’s Medical Hall appeared in it.
John Clement Lacy’s eldest son Benjamin John Lacy became a clergyman.
Indian Law Reports: Allahabad Series 1899 has Mr B J Lacy, son of Dr J C Lacy, living at Agra.
The death of John Clement Lacy is in records at familysearch.
Thacker’s Indian Directory issue of 1908 Part 2 p2010 B J Lacy is manager of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s mission school in Cawnpore.
Pioneer Mail and Indian Weekly News volume p 47: death notice for Rev Canon Benjamin Lacy of Allahabad; he’d died on 27 March 1920 from TB at the age of 57.
Familysearch burial records have one for a Joseph Lacy, at Agra in 1920; he was of an age to have been Valentine Lacy’s elder brother.
Companies’ House keeps records of some limited companies. But it throws away the records of those whose turnover was below a certain level, after they have been wound up. I saw via google some modern companies called Biltor Ltd but they are not the one Valentine Lacy worked for.
Cosmopolis volume 8 1897 p923 has The Biltor Ltd at 93 Oxford St.
Sessional Papers House of Commons volume 31 issued HMSO 1901 p302.
London Gazette 19 December 1902 p8773: date of the hearing about the renewal of the patent.
Reports of Patent, Design and Trade Mark Cases volume 20 issued by the Patent Office p285 gave the start of the story of the renewal of the patent, and The Electrical Review volume 52 1903 p646 reported its outcome.
The cutaway picture of Wüteric’s device is in Review of Reviews volume 29 1904 pviii as part of an advert. The design had been an award winner at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900. At 93 Oxford St only.
The expansion into a second shop: Spectator volume 100 1908 p756 had an ad f Biltor Ltd at 93 Oxford St ((wh is on the corner w Dean St)) and at 88 Queen St Cheapside.
The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers and Allied Traders 1838-1914 volume 2 based on the London Assay Office Registers. Published by the Antique Collectors’ Club 2000: p45.
London Gazette 10 April 1928 p2660-2661 notice issue 5 April 1928 in connection with the
estate of Emil Alexander Wüterich.
[JAMES] HENRY VIBART
See imdb and wikipedia and The London Stage 1890-1899: A Calendar of Productions by J P Wearing.
Who’s Who in the Theatre issue of 1914 p592 for the year of his first professional performance.
For some information on the plays Henry Vibart and Taigi Keene appeared in while working for F R Benson, see theatricalia.com though the website doesn’t give the sources of its information.
About Henry Vibart’s death. All the sources I found on him gave 1939 at Chessington as the year and place of his death; they must all be quoting the same source, a source I haven’t traced so far. However, when I checked through freebmd, the only person called ‘henry vibart’ whose death was registered between 1930 and 1943 was a Henry James Vibart, also called Henry Vibart, who died at the Royal Hospital Richmond Surrey on 30 August 1943, although his normal address was in Devon. This man was the correct age at death to be the actor Henry Vibart. Either the actor Henry Vibart died in 1939 but his death wasn’t registered - which happens sometimes though more usually at the death of an infant; or the usually quoted year and place of death is wrong.
TAIGI KEENE AND HER FAMILY
The National Museum of Wales at www.museumwales.ac.uk http://www.musuemwales.ac.uk,Has a nice illustration of Burne-Jones’ Study of a Head (catologue number NMW A 244). On 25 February 2014 the compiler of this web page, Henry Sire, contacted me by email to point me at the blog of Mercedes Blanco, who has reconstructed the career as artists’ models of Taigi Keene’s mother and her three sisters. The blog is at
To give you the gist of a website that’s in Spanish, Taigi Keene’s mother Annie was Edward Burne-Jones’ favourite model and was also photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. Taigi’s sisters also became artists’ models - youngest daughter Bessie was another Burne-Jones favourite - but Taigi herself only modelled for Louise Jopling (see below) as far as Mercedes Blanco could discover. I’ve used information about Charles Joseph Keene from Mercedes Blanco’s blog; and also information about Taigi’s career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was sent as a comment to the blog by a grand-daughter of Taigi and Henry Vibart, the actress Anne Wall. You do not need to read Spanish to appreciate the illustrations on this blog - plenty of pictures featuring Annie and her daughters, and a photograph of Henry Vibart in which I think he is dressed for a particular part (though I couldn’t figure out which).
Henry Sire is a descendant of Charles Joseph Keene’s first cousin Adelaide Keene. He told me that Charles Joseph Keene was a devout Catholic; and that Annie had become a Catholic after her marriage. They named Maria Taigi (born 1866) after a particularly devout Italian woman - see en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Ven_Anna_Maria_Gesualda_Antonia_Taigi for some information on her life. She was beatified in 1920 but hasn’t been made a saint.
For the portrait of Taigi by Louise Jopling, see: www.louisejopling.arts.gla.ac.uk Glasgow University’s Jopling Research Project.
VALENTINE LACY IN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Theosophical Society Membership Register June 1893 to March 1895 p154.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
6 March 2014