Henry Marriott Paget – a short file on his design work


This file is goes with the other files on Henry Paget’s life as a painter and illustrator.


The Pagets and their friends were really keen on amateur dramatics. Henry and Henrietta had even chosen to rent a house where one of the rooms had a small daïs that could be used like a stage. While I was researching Henry Paget as a painter and illustrator I came across some references to him designing and making stage scenery and costumes. Some was for his children’s entertainment – Etta would adapt fairy stories as little plays, and Henry would improvise a stage-set on the daïs. On a rather larger scale, scenery was commissioned by his sister-in-law, the GD’s Florence Farr (married name Emery) from the 1880s to 1905, for the various theatrical productions she was involved in. I don’t think Henry was ever paid for any of it. Nor did it ever lead to his getting paid commissions for work on productions in the West End or for the famous touring companies. But I thought I’d list the references I found in this file; because Henry’s experience in set design led to his being called up to do war work, in 1916, as part of a special design unit.


As early as 1882, Henry designed an allegory of painting which was meant to be part of the decoration of a public building. He won a prize for it.


On occasion, Henry was also willing to do a spot of acting. In 1885 he played the part of the architect Ictinus – though I don’t think he spoke any lines – in a tableaux on the details of the Parthenon, one of the series of such tableaux on classical themes. This was for a costume ball held at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours to open its new galleries in Piccadilly, an event attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales. I couldn’t find out whether Henry had designed the costume he wore in the tableaux or whether he had had any hand in designing its scenery.


While living in Bedford Park, the Pagets were involved in a number of theatre productions. In the Bedford Park Club’s staging of John Todhunter’s A Sicilian Idyll, Henry played the leading male role of Aleander to Florence Farr’s Amaryllis. Though this was definitely an amateur production, someone persuaded the Times to send a reporter to see it. The reporter thought the scenery and costumes were “excellent”. It’s likely Henry designed them, or helped to, but unfortunately the Times didn’t publish the designer’s name.


In June 1899 the Art Workers’ Guild staged a masque, Beauty’s Awakening, for the Lord Mayor members of the Corporation of London at the Guildhall. The idea and organisation for it came from Walter Crane. As a Guild member, Henry contributed the design for the costume of Dante; though someone else wore it – Henry didn’t take any part in the masque itself.


In 1905, Florence Farr asked Henry to design the scenery for a production of W B Yeats’ play Shadowy Waters, which she was producing for a Theosophical Society congress. Henry designed some scenery and made a mock-up model of what the stage would look like; though the actual production used designs by someone else.


Henry was also known amongst the Pagets’ friends for his fascination with mechanical gadgets. In his autobiography (from many years later) W B Yeats even suggested that Henry found these more interesting than painting. Yeats described how Henry’s artist’s studio in Bedford Park in the 1880s and early 1890s was “half-filled...with mechanical toys of his own invention”. Taken by Florence Farr to call on the Pagets in 1894, George Bernard Shaw played with “[Henry] Paget’s toy cannons and soldiers for a while” before afternoon tea.


WAR WORK World War 1

Henry’s combination of the artistic and the practical/mechanical was what Lieutenant-Colonel Solomon J Solomon was looking for when he was ordered to bring together a group to design camouflage. Solomon’s first recruit was the theatre designer Lyndsay Symington. Henry Paget was called up to join the group in 1916 and became a specialist in camouflage for tanks, in different shades of brown and green. On the battlefield, attempts were also made to conceal them with smoke but I don’t know whether that was Henry’s idea.


The camouflage group, known as the Special Works Park, worked at an abandoned factory at Wimereux, near Boulogne. Staying at the Officers’ Rest Club, Solomon toured the Works in July 1918 and wasn’t very happy with what he saw. He and Symington agreed that most camouflage was too standardised to be convincing; but they put the blame on the Royal Engineers who were making the camouflage rather than Henry and the others recruited to design it. When Solomon suddenly found he had to return to England, Henry drove him to Boulogne to catch the ferry to Folkestone.




Florence Farr: Bernard Shaw’s New Woman by Josephine Johnson. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1975 p60, p90, p103, p107, p126.

The Artist volume 3 p10 issue of 1 January 1882. Acads and Institutions. Henry won £40 – a nice sum.

Times 20 May 1885 p6 for the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours.

Times 10 May 1890 p17 for A Sicilian Idyll.

The Studio in its issue of Summer 1899. Long article on the Masque including the entire script, reproductions of the costume designs and a list of the AWG members who were involved. Especially p3, pp12-13. Henry’s costume design is in a set of black and white illustrations; with Dante meditatively holding a rose.

Collected Letters of W B Yeats Volume IV 1905-1907. Editors John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard. Published Oxford University Press 2005: p93; p95, p151, p191, p302 re Shadowy Waters.

Bernard Shaw: The Diaries 1885-1897 in 2 vols, annotated and ed by Stanley Weintraub. University Park Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press 1986: p1008 entry for 23 January 1894.

World War 1:

The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia compiled by Richard A Voeltz. Seen via google: p161.

A Genius for Deception by Nicholas Rankin 2009: pp165-67.



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; 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.


For the GD members who were freemasons, the membership database of the United Grand Lodge of England is now available via Ancestry: it gives the date of the freemason’s first initiation; and the craft lodges he was a member of.

To take careers in craft freemasonry further, the website of the the Freemasons’ Library is a good resource: //freemasonry.london.museum. Its catalogue has very detailed entries and the website has all sorts of other resources.

You can get from the pages to a database of freemasons’ newspapers and magazines, digitised to 1900. You can also reach that directly at www.masonicperiodicals.org.


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.


To put contemporary prices and incomes into perspective, I have used www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare which Roger Wright found for me. To help you interpret the ‘today’ figure, measuringworth gives several options. I pick the ‘historic standard of living’ option which is usually the lowest, often by a considerable margin!




22 January 2019

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: