Nelson Prower was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London in October 1888.  He chose the Latin motto ‘Tuteger vitae’ but never followed up his initiation in any other way.  At some point, he resigned from the Order; but the exact date he did so is not known now. 



This is one of my short biographies.  While there’s a genealogy of his family, and massive coverage of his years as an active freemason, I’ve not found much information on the rest of Nelson Prower’s life. 

Sally Davis

November 2016


My basic sources for any GD member are in a section at the end of the file.  Supplementary sources for this particular member are listed at the end of each section.



This is what I have found on NELSON PROWER.



Nelson was one of the first people to be initiated into the GD.  William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers had only started to recruit people in March 1888.  Nelson was one of a group of men who were freemasons and members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (see the Freemasonry section below for more on SRIA).  I think Westcott and Mathers hoped that they could give advice on the rituals they would be using in the Order.  They were probably not expected to be active Order members.



Particularly in the late 1880s and early 1890s, Nelson was a very active freemason.  Indeed, that might be one reason for his not wanting to continue as a member.  The freemasonry activities he was already committed to when he was initiated are likely to have taken up most of his leisure time.


Evidence for before Nelson’s involvement in freemasonry before the mid-1880s and after 1898 has proved less easy to come by.



In the years that Nelson was most active as a freemason, he will have been constantly meeting Webster Glynes and William George Lemon.  Both Glynes and Lemon were in that group of freemasons initiated into the GD in 1888; only to drop out quite soon afterwards.  Nelson was slightly the odd one out of the three; not working in the legal and local government circles that Glynes and Lemon did.  But they were all less interested in craft masonry than they were in the other, newer types that sprang up during the second half of the 19th century, a boom time for freemasonry of all kinds. 



I’m not quite sure of my identifications here, but I think I’ve found evidence from the early 1860s that Nelson’s father - John E M Prower - was a freemason.  I think it was him who was a member of a military lodge in Gloucestershire; he had certainly been stationed when on active service.  And someone called Prower - I presume it’s John E M - served as an officer in the Wiltshire Provincial Grand Lodge.  Nelson himself doesn’t seem to have belonged to any Wiltshire-based freemasonry, but as a guest he attended at least two important Wiltshire occasions: the consecration of Swindon Keystone Mark Masonry Lodge 401; and the installation of the Earl of Radnor as the county’s new Provincial Grand Master, an occasion at which he may have met the Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, for the first time.  In 1901 Prince Arthur succeeded the Prince of Wales as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.



Despite the explosion of other types of freemasonry in the 19th-century, most freemasons’ first initiation was still into a craft lodge; and membership of a craft lodge was a requirement of all candidates for some of the newer freemasonries.  Probably in 1886, Nelson was initiated into Farringdon Without Lodge 1745, a recently founded one which met at the Holborn Viaduct Hotel and was part of a closely-knit group of lodges whose members worked in the City, in the law or in business.  I’m not quite sure how Nelson was recruited as he never worked in either, though he was studying for the Bar at that time.  I couldn’t find the exact date of Nelson’s initiation either; but by June 1888 he had been a member long enough to be chosen to act as steward at that year’s installation meeting, which had a particularly large number of guests.  He was making his way up the lodge’s hierarchy of officers by that year and in May 1891 he was installed as Worshipful Master for 1891-92.  He continued to attend meetings after that year, but not as often as he attended meetings of the lodge’s Chapter; and he had resigned from the lodge by 1897.


One source I found said that Nelson was also a member of the Friars’ Lodge 1349, which met at the London Tavern Fenchurch Street until 1886 and then at the Ship and Turtle Leadenhall Street.  There is no mention of him in the lodge history I found at the FML; so I can’t offer proof of this.  If he was a member, his initiation must have taken place before February 1886.



Farringdon Without Lodge 1745's royal arch chapter was consecrated in 1886.  It met at Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet Street, a popular venue for freemasonry meetings.  You were eligible to join a royal arch chapter if you had been a Master Mason for one month, and Nelson went to his first Chapter meeting in May 1886.  Over the next 10 years he attended far more chapter meetings than lodge ones; suggesting a greater commitment to that kind of freemasonry.  He served as MEZ (Most Excellent Zerubabel) from July 1892-93.  Nelson seems to have let his hair down a bit more at chapter meetings than at lodge ones.  Maybe they were more relaxed occasions.  In July 1893 as he stood down as MEZ and was presented with a jewel to mark the occasion, he joined in the singing with piano accompaniment.  The last meeting before 1900 that I found him attending was in 1897. 


Perhaps meetings of royal arch chapters were more fun: Nelson was a regular visitor at two of them in the early 1890s.  The first was Mozart Chapter 1929 which met at the Greyhound Hotel in Croydon.  Nelson was a visitor at meetings every summer from 1890 to 1895.  The second was Albion Chapter 9, which met at another popular freemasonry venue, the Ship and Turtle in Leadenhall Street.  After attending the odd meeting as a guest over several years, he went with the members, their guests and their wives on their August 1896 summer outing, taking a train with them from Paddington to Reading and then a trip on the Thames in the launch Marion. 



If Nelson preferred royal arch masonry to craft masonry, he was more committed to Mark Masonry than to either.  Nelson’s initiation into the Prince Leopold Mark Masonry and Royal Ark Mariners Lodge 238, in March 1885, was the earliest for which I’ve got evidence.  From that date until 1897, Prince Leopold 238 was the lodge he attended most regularly.  Like Farringdon Without Lodge 1745, it met at Anderton’s Hotel Fleet Street.  Once again, Nelson showed himself very willing to serve as a lodge officer.  He was as its WM twice: once in March 1889-90 and again - when none of the current wardens would do the job - in March 1890-91.  And on at least one occasion (December 1892) he stood in as WM when the serving one was unable to get to a meeting.  He acted as treasurer of the lodge from 1892 to 1896, when he resigned.  It looks like it took a year for the lodge to accept his resignation - resignations letters from him were read out at two separate meetings.


I couldn’t find any references to Prince Leopold 238's Council before 1894 so perhaps it was founded in that year. As treasurer of the lodge, Nelson attended a couple of the Council’s meetings in 1894 and 1895. 


Nelson didn’t attend meetings of the Lodge so regularly between late 1894 and spring 1897; but I’m fairly sure Nelson was not spending all of the year in England between those dates.  His commitment to Prince Leopold Lodge 238 probably continued after 1900, at least for a few years.  However, my sources for his involvement - the freemasons’ magazines - have only been digitised as far as 1900.  I’ve looked at some issues of The Freemason from the 1910s and haven’t found the lodge meetings in its news columns quite so often; so I can’t tell whether Nelson went to the meetings as often as he had done. 


Unlike with craft masonry, Nelson got involved with the higher echelons of Mark Masonry.  In 1890 he was chosen to represent Prince Leopold Lodge 238 at the Mark Masonry annual benevolent fund dinner.  In 1889 he went to another fund-raising event, the annual festival of Mark Masonry’s Grand Master’s Lodge of Instruction, at the Holborn Restaurant; William George Lemon was a fellow guest.  In 1890 and again in 1893, he went to meetings of the Mark Master Masons’ Grand Lodge of Middlesex and Surrey; at the Ship and Turtle Leadenhall Street.  And in the mid-1890s, as PPSGO he went to some (but not all that many) of the quarterly meetings of Mark Masonry’s Grand Master’s Lodge. 




Nelson was also pretty active in the Mount Calvary Chapter 3 of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, which met in the AAR’s masonic hall at 33 Golden Square in Soho.  It wasn’t easy to get into the AAR.  Membership was by invitation only; you had to have been a master mason for at least a year; and you had to be willing to state your belief in the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Nelson was elected a member of Mount Calvary Chapter 3 and underwent the AAR rite of perfection in February 1886.  Thomas Walker Coffin, who was initiated into the GD, was a member of this Chapter though he doesn’t seem to have gone to many of its meetings during the period Nelson was active in it.  Nelson went to its meetings regularly for the next eight years, making steady progress upwards through the AAR’s ranks.  In 1890 he reached the AAR’s 30º level; though he never got any higher.  That year he served as Raphael.  From December 1892 to 1893 he was Grand Master (GM).  By February 1894 he was at Second General level; in May 1895 he became First General; and in March 1896 he reached the top of the AAR hierarchy and served his year as MWS (Most Wise Sovereign).  By 1900 however, he was no longer a member of Mount Calvary 3; though he was still in the AAR.


As well as becoming involved in Mark Masonry and the Ancient and Accepted Rite, both of which are independent of freemasonry’s United Grand Lodge of England, Nelson also joined several other independent orders of freemasonry, some of which were very new to England.



Nelson went to his first meeting at the AMD’s Metropolitan Council in November 1887.  The Allied Masonic Degrees was a new institution - its hierarchy was only fully set up in 1879.  Like Mark Masonry and the AAR, it was not affiliated to the UGLE.  It had its own Grand Council, headed by a Grand Master who in Nelson’s time was the Earl of Euston, brother to Lady Eleanor Harbord who joined the GD.  Having no premises of its own at the time, the AMD met at the Mark Masonry Hall in Great Queen Street.  Only freemasons who were master masons, Mark master masons and royal arch masons were eligible.  William George Lemon was already a member of the Metropolitan Council, which was the equivalent of a craft masonry lodge, when Nelson joined it; he might have been the man to recommend Nelson as a suitable recruit.  Nelson served as the Metropolitan Council’s secretary from 1890-91; and as its Organist from July 1892 to 1893; but in his first few years as a member he went to very few meetings.  Probably he had just been too busy with other freemasonry commitments.  As the Council’s organist he began to go to meetings more often and over the next three years he began to climb the Council’s ladder towards serving as its WM.  However, he never reached the the top: he didn’t attend any meetings after that of July 1895 and in 1897, sent in his resignation. 


KNIGHTS TEMPLAR ie Order of the Temple; and the ORDER OF ST JOHN OF...MALTA

Like the Ancient and Accepted Rite, no one would be considered for installation as a knight of either order who was not a believer in Christianity.  At the time Nelson became a knight of the Temple, candidates also had to have been a master mason for two years and be a member of a royal arch chapter; and requirements of candidates for the Order of St John of Malta were even more strict.  Though I haven’t found the exact date he joined, Nelson must have been a member of Mount Calvary D Encampmant or Preceptory well before 1887. Perhaps the Order’s combination of the religious and the militaristic appealed to him more than the ideas behind the AAR, because for the next few years, he went to the Mount Calvary D Encampment’s meetings more often than the AAR’s Mount Calvary Chapter 3.  Mount Calvary D met for most of the year at the Inns of Court Hotel in Lincoln’s Inn Fields; but for the summer meeting the members went out of town, to the Mitre Hotel at Hampton Court.  He was elected auditor in October 1887 at the same meeting he became preceptor for the first time, that of October 1887.  After his first year as preceptor was over, in October 1888, there was a pause of 12 months and then Nelson became Second Standard Bearer in 1889; first Standard Bearer in 1890; and Captain of the Guards in 1891.  In 1892 he began to go to more meetings than previously, though in this year, as for the past four, he had a lot of other freemasonry commitments.  He went for a second time up the ladder of the preceptory’s hierarchy, being Second Captain in 1892; First Captain in 1893; and served a second year as preceptor from October 1893 to 1894, being given a jewel on his second  retirement from the post. 


The orders of the Temple and of St John of Malta were administered together; though relatively few men were members of both.  Nelson was amongst seven new members of the Order of Malta “admitted” during the annual meeting of both orders in May 1887 at the City Terminus Hotel, Cannon Street.  GD members W G Lemon and T W Lemon were also members of both orders.  Nelson attended the annual meetings of the orders the following year and acted as “Guard to the Banner of R” at the meeting of the Order of Malta. 


There were big changes in the next few years in the ways both orders were governed, as their national officers tried to prevent the continuation of a period of serious decline.  The venue of the annual meetings, and the Order’s administrative offices were both moved to what were thought to be more accessible locations; a systematic attempt was begun to take control of the Orders’ accounts; preceptories that hadn’t paid their annual subscription to the knghts templar national hq were struck off.  And in particular, it was made easier to become a knight templar: the Royal Arch chapter requirement was kept but the two years as a master mason was dropped to one year and the fee was lowered.  Not every man who was already a member agreed with the changes and perhaps Nelson didn’t: he remained in the Order but he didn’t go to any joint annual meetings between 1889 and the end of 1900.  I haven’t been able to find out whether he continued as a knight of Malta, but I would suppose that he did.  He was still going to meetings of Mount Calvary D Encampment/Preceptory in 1901, after his return from a possible period abroad; but he continued to hold aloof from the Order’s national management and never rose to national prominence.




The Order of the Secret Monitor (OSM) was so new to England that Nelson was able to become a member while it was actually being set up here.  Its rituals emphasised brotherly love, drawing on the biblical story of David and Jonathan, and it arrived in England from the USA due to the enthusiasm of Issachar Zacharie, an English doctor who had worked in America during and immediately after the Civil War.  Once again, William George Lemon got into the order before Nelson and may have encouraged him to think of being a member: Lemon was at the first official meeting of the OSM, in July 1887, when its Grand Council was formed (with Zacharie as its Supreme Ruler) and its first sub-group, Alfred Meadows Conclave 1, was founded.


Nelson was one of 21 men who were inducted into Alfred Meadows Conclave 1 at a meeting of the OSM at the Victoria Hotel, on 15 July 1887; also in that group were Nelson’s freemasonry acquaintance Captain T C Walls; and William Robert Woodman, Supreme Magus of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).  It’s possible that Webster Glynes was one of the 21 as well.  He was definitely a member of the Conclave by 1889. 


Nelson doesn’t seem to have been all that impressed with the OSM; or perhaps he was just too busy to commit himself too much to it.  He didn’t go to Conclave meetings very often; though by April 1889 he had got himself onto the lower rungs of its ladder of hierarchy, as Alfred Meadows Conclave 1's WJ.  In November 1890 he was serving as the Conclave’s Guarder; but that seems to have been as far up the ladder as he went.  He didn’t go to any meetings of the Conclave at all between 1890 and late 1896, as far as I can tell.  He went to one in June 1896; but that was the last one he bothered with.  He will have met William George Lemon at that meeting, one of the last Lemon will have gone to, as he died a few months later.  




Although its name clearly refers to the first Christian convert to rule the Roman empire, freemasons wanting to join the Order of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine did not have to be convinced Christians; though they did have to be royal arch masons.  Like many other freemasonry organisations that weren’t craft-based, it used the Mark Masonry Hall at Great Queen Street for its meetings.  Nelson joined the order in 1886 and was PJ Warden in the Order’s Premier Conclave by October 1887.  He became Prefect in 1888.  He was Junior General in 1889, a year in which a man called Edwin Prower attended the January meeting.  I haven’t found any other references to Edwin Prower in all my freemasonry researches; but as the surname ‘Prower’ is so rare, he must have been some relation of Nelson’s, and perhaps his guest at the meeting.  By November 1890 Nelson was Venerable and Eminent Viceroy (VE) and in March 1891 he reached the top of the ladder, being installed as the Conclave’s Most Puissant Sovereign (MPS).  He was so conscious of the honour his fellow-members had bestowed on him by electing him as MPS that at the end of his year, he marked the occasion by giving the Conclave a banner.


Nelson went to the annual assemblies of the Order’s Grand Imperial Conclave regularly between March 1888 and March 1893, by which time - using the Premier Conclave as his springboard - he was its Grand Vice-chancellor.  However, he doesn’t seem to have gone to any subsequent ones and over the next year his commitment to the Premier Conclave lessened dramatically.  I couldn’t find any evidence of Nelson at a meeting of the Premier Conclave after March 1895 though he was still nominally a member of the Order in 1899.



Another freemasons’ organisation that Nelson was eligible for by 1886 was the Royal and Select Masters: candidates had to be Mark master masons and royal arch masons.  Like many smaller freemasons’ groupings it had no premises of its own when Nelson was a member; it met at the Masonic Hall in Red Lion Square, the headquarters of Mark Masonry and then moved with MM moved into its new hall in Great Queen Street.


Nelson was admitted into the RSM’s Grand Master’s Council number 1 in May 1886.  One of the officers carrying out the ceremony was Rev T W Lemon, who in due course became another of the freemasons invited to join the GD in its first year.  Robert Roy, who also joined the GD in due course, was already a member of Grand Master’s Council 1 when Nelson joined it.  As the RSM was new to England, having only arrived from the USA in the early 1870s, movement up its national hierarchy could be quite quick: as early as 1888, Nelson Prower attended the RSM’s annual meeting to be elected one of its two Grand Marshalls for the coming year.  That level was as far up as Nelson chose to go, however.


Nelson went to a couple of meetings of the GM’s Council number 1 most years between his admittance and 1896 but at its meeting of July 1897 his resignation from the it was acknowledged.  In 1899 he was still in the RSM but was not a member of any of its councils. 




Just once, in November 1891, Nelson went to a meeting of craft freemasonry’s Board of Benevolence.  I think I would have come across him at more of its meetings if he had been a member of the board.  Again just once, in July 1889, he was Prince Leopold Lodge 238's steward at the Mark Benevolent Fund festival; he managed to collect £5/5-worth of donations that evening.  In June 1894 and again in May 1895 he made a donation to a freemasons’ charity I haven’t been able to identify; perhaps it was the Mark Benevolent Fund again.  On each occasion he gave £10/10; a substantial sum for one man. 



WM’s, PM’s and other high ranking freemasons were often invited to take part in important occasions.  Despite having so many freemasonry commitments already, Nelson did accept some invitations.  I’ve already mentioned two lodges whose meetings he went to quite often, though he was not a member of either.  He also visited other lodges.   


He went to an ordinary meeting of the Peace and Harmony craft Lodge 60 in February 1888; and to its installation meeting in February 1893.  Perhaps tempted by the scale of the post-meeting banquet, he went along to the Greyhound Hotel Hampton Court for a meeting of Hemming Lodge 1512 in February 1892; The Freemason magazine described this lodge as “influential and prosperous”.   In May 1892 he went to that year’s installation meeting of the Pegasus Lodge 2205 at the New Falcon Hotel in Gravesend; in 1901 he was actually working in Gravesend, perhaps as a result of meeting some influential local people.  In June 1894 he attended a meeting of the Earl of Carnarvon Lodge 211, another lodge which met at Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street.  In April 1895 he was back at Anderton’s Hotel as one of the guests and possibly one of the organisers, of a testimonial dinner for his freemason friend Captain T C Walls.  And in May 1896 he went to the installation of Paxton Lodge 1686, at the Surrey Masonic Hall in Camberwell New Road.  



And he also forged a visiting relationship with two freemasons’ organisations in Larnaca on Cyprus.  This began in December 1891 when he went to the consecration of St George’s Lodge 2402.  Then there was a gap of three years until December 1894, when he was at that lodge’s installation meeting and also went to a meeting of St Paul’s Chapter 2277.  A source that I spotted using Google but wasn’t able to find in the online freemasons’ magazines, mentioned Nelson giving a speech in 1894 - presumably after one of the two freemasons’ meetings he’d just attended - praising the hospitality his hosts had shown him.  After that month there was another gap between visits, until January 1897 when - although a visitor - he stood in as Senior Warden during St George’s Lodge 2402's installation meeting.  There are both Greek and Turkish surnames in a contemporary list of members of this lodge. 




As so many early members of the GD were freemasons, Nelson could have been recommended as a good recruit by any number of the freemasons he knew.  However, it’s most likely that he was initiated as a member of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA); which was not a freemasons’ lodge or chapter although only freemasons could join it.  As its name suggests, it was founded to focus on the myths and symbolism of Christian Rosenkreuz; and the GD was founded to put some of the SRIA’s research into ritual practice. 


The SRIA was sub-divided into colleges.  In 1886, Nelson was admitted into its Metropolitan College, which met in central London.  William Robert Woodman was SRIA’s Supreme Magus, its highest office, held for life; he was a member of the Metropolitan College.  GD founder William Wynn Westcott was its secretary and he succeeded Woodman as the SRIA’s Supreme Magus in 1892.  GD founder Samuel Liddell Mathers went to the Metropolitan College’s meetings from time to time.  T R Coffin, William George Lemon and Rev T W Lemon were members before Nelson joined.  The centrepiece of each meeting of the various colleges was a paper read by one of the members and then commented on by his audience.  Papers read at the Metropolitan College’s meetings were subsequently published in its Transactions. 


Nelson contributed papers to Metropolitan College meetings on three occasions.  That was a lot - most SRIA initiates remained members for years without reading a paper at all.  In 1890 Nelson’s topic was the “present revival of mystic study”.  Then, for four years, he was just too busy and it was not until 1894 that he was able to do the research-work necessary to prepare a paper for such a well-informed audience.  In October 1894, Nelson’s topic was The Influence of Temperament on the Reception of Evidences of Things Unseen.  In January 1896 it was The Relative and the Absolute. 


As was usual with him, in the 1890s Nelson also began to make his way up the SRIA hierarchy towards serving a year as Celebrant, its equivalent to WM.  He got as far as taking office as deputy celebrant in April 1897, but then - in January 1898 - he sent in his resignation.  I’ve shown above that this was a time when he was resigning from quite a few other freemasonry commitments.  



I hope I’ve managed to give the impression of Nelson Prower as - at least between 1886 and 1896 - a freemason committed to it, to the extent of being willing to take on a lot of official roles, often several at the same time.  His initiation into the GD came in the middle of that decade; just as he was starting his busiest five years as a freemason.


I couldn’t find evidence of any involvement by Nelson in English freemasonry in the early 1880s. Evidence from another source suggests he was in Canada.  And after 10 hectic years in English freemasonry, his involvement does tail off around 1895-96 and I’m not sure of the reason for this.  He may have been out of the country again; and perhaps found it difficult to get back into the swing of it once he returned.  Perhaps there was too much else going on in his life.  The digitised freemasons’ magazine issues on which I’ve relied, end at 1900.  I have been through the issues of The Freemason for 1905, 1910 and 1915.  I didn’t find any evidence of Nelson still being active in freemasonry in those years. 


And to end the section on freemasonry, an apology:

This has been a difficult section for me to write.  I don’t suppose I’ve done a very good job.  But I wouldn’t have even been able to begin, without the information and explanations of two experts at the Freemasons’ Library - Susan Snell the archivist; and Peter Aitkenhead, the assistant librarian and expert on freemasonry degrees.  They recommended these books, which I have drawn on very heavily:


Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson.  Original edition 1980.  I used the 6th edition, 2012, to which Jackson has added details of several orders left out of the 1st edition.  Hersham Surrey: Lewis Masonic, an imprint of Ian Allan Publishing Ltd.  See

A good introduction. 


A Reference Book for Freemasons.  Compiled by Frederick Smyth.  Published London: Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle Ltd 1998.  Recommended by Peter Aitkenhead.


If, as an experienced freemason, you have spotted some glaring errors, please email me at the address at the bottom of this file and tell me what I should have said!




Some spiritualists did join the GD, but not that many; and even fewer stayed for very long after their initiation.  I haven’t found any evidence that Nelson was interested in spiritualism.  However, this is a tricky area to research: spiritualism was a very locally, even family-based pursuit and there was no over-arching organisation with a membership list that can be consulted now.


Nelson’s earliest encounter with the world of esotericism was with spiritualism.  However, he approached it in a way that suggested he had reservations: during 1884 he  joined the Society for Pyschical Research, which had been founded to see whether there was any scientific basis for the claims spiritualists were making.  His name doesn’t appear in any membership lists after 1884 so he must have not renewed it. 



More GD members were recruited from the Theosophical Society than from freemasonry.  However, Nelson was definitely not one of them - he was never a TS member. 



Given the kind of religious beliefs Nelson held, he may have regarded both theosophy and spiritualism as not being suitable subjects of enquiry for the devout. 


Sources for the Esoterics section:


Database of the collections at the Freemasons’ Library (FML): go to


and take the option ‘Explore’.  You don’t have to have a reader’s ticket to search the catalogue; or to use the other online resources, which include searchable online copies up to 1900, of the main freemasons’ magazines.

The FML is the headquarters and archive of craft masonry; not of the other kinds, which have their own hq buildings and archives.  The FML is the only freemasons’ library I have an introit into.  If there are histories of the other organisations Nelson was a member of; I can’t get at them.


For the freemasonry involvement of the Prince of Wales and then Prince Arthur Duke of Connaught, see the FML’s website for its Information Leaflet 1: English Royal Freemasons. 



The Freemason November 1860 p14.

The Freemason May 1862 p12.

The Freemason June 1889 p4.

The Freemason November 1891 p3.



Farringdon Without Lodge 1745; 1878-1978.  By P D Colton, PZ.  No publication details and the pages were unnumbered.  No list of all members with dates of initiation, unfortunately.  However, it’s clear from the lodge’s history and its WM lists how close it was to lots of other City-based lodges - many men were members of several of them at the same time, making a very tightly-bound community.

The Freemason June 1888 p11; December 1888 p11.

The Freemason June 1889 p11; December 1889 p11.

The Freemason February 1890 p7; April 1890 p9.

The Freemason April 1891 p8; June 1891 p8.

The Freemason June 1892 p6; October 1892 p8.

The Freemason February 1893 p10; June 1893 p10.

The Freemason September 1894 p6.

The Freemason April 1895 p7; December 1895 p10.

The Freemason February 1896 p8; July 1896.

On one occasion only, Nelson was a guest at a meeting of St Dunstan’s Chapter 1589.  It had even closer than usual links with Farringdon Without Lodge and Chapter 1745:The Freemason March 1895 p7.




The Freemason May 1887 p13, in which Nelson was described as a member of the Royal Sussex Chapter.  The Freemasons’ Library had this book: A Sketch History of the Royal Sussex Chapter 342 AD 1905 compiled by G F Lancaster, a PZ of the Chapter.  Portsmouth: Holbrook and Son Ltd of 154-155 Queen Street.   On pp22-23, its members so far were listed; Nelson’s name was not on the list.  The Chapter’s Roll of members covering 1870-1895 was one of the sources for the list; so I don’t think Nelson was ever a member.

Back to Farringdon Without Chapter 1745:

The Freemason March 1888 p11; May 1888 p13; July 1888 p12.

The Freemason March 1889 p14; July 1889 p13.

The Freemason March 1890 p12; May 1890 p12; July 1890 p15, this was the installation meeting and he was made SN for the coming year.

The Freemason Mar 1891 p10; July 1891 p10.

The Freemason May 1891 p9.

The Freemason March 1892 p9; May 1892 p10.

The Freemason March 1893 p10; May 1893 p12-13; July 1893 p8.

The Freemason July 1893 p8.

The Freemason March 1894 p3; May 1894 p8.

The Freemason March 1895 p11; May 1895 p12; July 1895.

The Freemason March 1896 p10; May 1896 p12.

The Freemason May 1897 p10.



The Freemason June 1890 p12; June 1891 p9; July 1893 p14; September 1892 p9; September 1893 p7; September 1894 p8; June 1895 p12.



The Freemason December 1890 p9.

The Freemason December 1891 p8.

The Freemason Mar 1892 p1.

The Freemason April 1892 p6.

The Freemason August 1896 p11.




PRINCE LEOPOLD LODGE 238 for which I couldn’t find a history.

The Freemason March 1885 p9; this meeting was such an important one for Nelson, leading to many opportunities, most of which he took up.  It was the one in which he was “advanced” to the mark master mason degree.

The Freemason June 1885 p11.

The Freemason February 1886 p15; November 1886 p10.

The Freemason January 1887 p10; May 1887 p14; November 1887 p12.

The Freemason March 1888 p13; December 1888 p13.

The Freemason March 1889 p10, p14; May 1889 p13; November 1889 pp13-14.

The Freemason March 1890 p16, p18; May 1890 p12, p13; December 1890 p10.

The Freemason March 1890 p16.

The Freemason March 1891 p11; May 1891 p10, p12; August 1891 p11; November 1891 p13; December 1891 p13.

The Freemason February 1892 p5, p11; May 1892 p10; December 1892 pp10-11.

The Freemason March 1893 p10; May 1893 pp10-11; December 1893 p5, p12.

The Freemason March 1894 p7; May 1894 p9; December 1894 p11.

The Freemason March 1895 p13, p16; May 1895 p13; December 1895 p14.

The Freemason March 1896 p5, p10; July 1896 p5; Dec 1896 p10.

The Freemason February 1897 p16; March 1897 p7.

Prince Leopold Lodge’s Council which is definitely a separate thing from its lodge:

The Freemason May 1894 p5.

The Freemason December 1895 p15.



The Freemason April 1889 p10 with another account of the same meeting in The Freemason’s Chronicle April 1889 p11.

The Freemason March 1895 p3.

The Freemason March 1896 p4.



The Freemason February 1890 p7.

The Freemason Jan 1893 p6.


The Freemason February 1886 p12.  This report described Nelson as a member of lodge 1349. 

Friars’ Lodge 1349: the First 125 Years 1871-1996 compiled by David Taylor PM using the lodge records including its attendance records.  No publication details.  From 1886 to 1919 the lodge met at the Ship and Turtle Leadenhall Street, a venue Nelson would have been very familiar with.  However, there was no mention of him in the history of the lodge; nor as a WM or as doing any of the administrative work of the lodge.  He might have been an ordinary member; but there’s no evidence of that in this book, alas.



Rules and Regulns for the Govt of the Degrees from the 4º to 32º Inclusive under the Supreme Council 33º of the Ancient and Accepted Rite [in the British Empire etc etc]; plus a List of Members. 

Rules and Regulns... as correct to 30 June 1888 is the first one Prower is in; issued by the Office of the Sec Genl, 33 Golden Sq.  On p57 a list of the current AAR lodge equivs, called Rose Croix chapters; in order of founding; w p58 the latest being founded earlier 1888, chapter number 108 bsd Jersey CI.  Beginning p59 fur dtls on ea indiv chapter, also in order of founding:

On p57 Mount Calvary 3 meets 33 Golden Sq.  Warrant 6 June 1848.  P62 T W Coffin is a member though he hasn’t sent in this year’s sub yet.  Nelson Prower and T C Walls are members.

Rules and Regulations... to 31 July 1900.  On p59 list of members at level 30º: p69 Nelson Prower 1890.  On p260 Prower is still an AAR member but he isn’t in any of the chapters.


The Freemason March 1886 p9; July 1886 p12; May 1886 p13.

The Freemason January 1887 p14; March 1887 p10; April 1887 p10; July 1887 p9; November 1887 p13.

The Freemason February 1888 p12; Mar 1888 p13; April 1888 p14; July 1888 p13; November 1888 p15.

The Freemason March 1889 p14; July 1889 p13; November 1889 p13.

The Freemason March 1890 p18; April 1890 p5; July 1890 p17; November 1890 p10.

The Freemason April 1891 p11; June 1891 p10; Aug 1891 p12; November 1891 p13.

The Freemason Feb 1892 p11; April 1892 p10; July 1892 p10; December 1892 p11. 

The Freemason March 1893 p11; May 1893; July 1893 p11 GM.

The Freemason February 1894 p10; April 1894; August 1894 p8; November 1894 p10.

The Freemason February 1895 p12; May 1895 p13; Nov 1895 p7.

The Freemason March 1896 p9; May 1896 p15; November 1896 p10.

The Freemason March 1897 p14.




The Freemason November 1887 p5.

The Freemason February 1888 p13.

The Freemason May 1890 pp12-13.

The Freemason August 1890 p11.

The Freemason May 1891 p10.

The Freemason August 1892 p11; September 1892 p10.

The Freemason July 1892 p11.

The Freemason July 1893 p16; August 1893 p10; September 1893 p10.

The Freemason July 1894 p8; August 1894 p8; September 1894 p9.

The Freemason July 1895 p13.

The Freemason July 1896 p12.

The Freemason July 1897 p15.



History of the Order of the Secret Monitor 1887-1963 by R J Wilkinson.  Published by the Grand Council of the OSM London: 1964. 

The Freemason July 1887 p9.

The Freemason November 1887 p15.

The Freemason April 1889 p11.

The Freemason November 1890 p11.

The Freemason June 1896 p4.

Once, he went to the meeting of another OSM Conclave, as a visitor:

The Freemason October 1890 p13 report of a meeting of Horatio Shirley Conclave number 5.


KNIGHTS TEMPLAR ie Order of the Temple

Calendar of the Great Priory wh changes its name to Liber Ordinis Templi in 1896.  Published yearly for the Orders members.  Each issue contains brief accounts of the annual meetings of the Orders of the Temple and of St John of Malta and the names of those who attended the annual meetings.  For the Order of the Temple only, there is also a list of national officers; a list of the preceptories including those in suspension; and the Order’s yearly accounts. 


I looked at all issues of the Calendar from the early 1870s to 1900.  Nelson first appeared in 1887 pp39-40; p12 for brief details of Mount Calvary D Preceptory - where it meets and how regularly; date of its warrant (1842); current preceptor.  The preceptories which have letters rather than numbers are the oldest. 

Calendar 1888 pp30-32.

Calendar 1894 p12: as preceptor of Mount Calvary D for the second time in only a few years; which suggests there was a shortage of members willing to take on the role.

Liber Ordinis Templi volume 1; issued 1900 for members of the Order and including the annual reports of 1896 to 1900.  The issues of 1897 and 1898 had full lists of Order members.  I saw 1898 first so the page numbers are for that year: p266 Nelson Prower is still a member; initiated into Mount Calvary D but not the member of any particular preceptory at present.  GD members T W Coffin (p252) and Eugene E Street (p269) were still in the Order but Webster Glynes (p256) and T W Lemon (p261) had left it, and W G Lemon had died.


MOUNT CALVARY D as an Encampment:

The Freemason March 1887 p10; July 1887 p12; October 1887 p10.

The Freemason February 1888 p7.

The Freemason January 1889 p15; July 1889 p13; Oct 1889 p12.

The Freemason January 1890 p14; June 1890 p13; October 1890 p10.

The Freemason January 1891 p13; March 1891 p10; July 1891 p14; October 1891 p12.

The Freemason January 1892 p15; March 1892 p10; July 1892 p11; Octover 1892 p11.

The Freemason March 1893 p9; July 1893 p16; October 1893 p11.

The Freemason January 1894 p3; March 1894 p3; July 1894 p17.

The Freemason October 1894 p13.

The Freemason January 1895 p10; March 1895 p11; July 1895 p13; Novemver 1895 p10; December 1895 p10.

The Freemason February 1896 p13; March 1896 p5; July 1896 p5.  That was the last time it was referred to as an Encampment.

MOUNT CALVARY as a Preceptory:

The Freemason October 1896 p11.

The Freemason February 1900 p12 although he was at this meeting, Nelson was listed as a visitor, not as a member of the Preceptory.

The Freemason and Masonic Illustrated seen using Google, not as one of the digitised freemasons’ magazines: Volume 39 1901 p74. 



RED CROSS OF CONSTANTINE properly the Imperial, Ecclesiastical and Military Order of Knights of the Red Cross of Rome and Constantine. 

Statement of Accounts, Annual Report and List of Officers and Conclaves published for the Order in London by George Kenning, who was a member of it.  I looked at a volume at the Freemasons’ Library which purported to cover 1868 to 1899.  However, it did not contain any annual reports between 1874 and 1887, if any were published.  

The first list of past grand officers that I found in the volume was published with the Issue of 1893; Prower appeared on p20 as, Grand Vice-Chancellor and member of the Order’s Grand Senate 1893.

The first issue in which Prower was mentioned was that of 1889 for which there was a name-change of the Red Cross of Constantine to include two newly-recruited orders, those of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre (KHS)  and of St John the Evangelist: p3 and just noting here that future GD member Eugène Henri Thiellay was in the same Council as Nelson.  

Issue of 1891 p3. 

Issue of 1893 p3 with Nelson not on the list of those at the annual meeting of March 1893.

Issue of 1895 p3 Prower at the last meeting of his spell as Grand Marshall.  Beginning on p24, the first full list I came across, of members of the Red Cross of Constantine; p41, p49 and just noting here that Nelson’s current address was c/o the St Stephen’s Club, suggesting he wasn’t living in London, at least not all the year.

The last in the volume was the Issue of 1899 re mtg p3 of March 1899: p45 confirming that Grand Marshall level was as high as Nelson had got. 

Grand Imperial Conclave meetings, which were held quarterly.

The Freemason March 1888 p3.

The Freemason March 1889 p3.

The Freemason March 1890 p4.

The Freemason March 1893 p3.

Meetings of its Premier Conclave:

The Freemason October 1887 p10.

The Freemason June 1888 p10.

The Freemason Jan 1889 p13; March 1889 p10; June 1889 p10; November 1889 p13.

The Freemason January 1890 p3; March 1890 p13; June 1890 p10; November 1890 p5.

The Freemason January 1891 p13; March 1891 p11; June 1891 p15; November 1891 p5.

The Freemason January 1892 p10; June 1892 p10; July 1892 p11; November 1892 p10.

The Freemason March 1892 p10.

The Freemason January 1893 p10; July 1893 p16; July 1893 p16; October 1893 p11.

The Freemason January 1894 p11; March 1894 p3; November 1894 p6.

The Freemason January 1895 p10; November 1895 p10; March 1895 p11.



ROYAL AND SELECT MASTERS also known as the Cryptic Rite, a reference to the basic layout of one of its rituals.

Annual Report of Proceedings of the Grand Council of RSM of Engl and Wales etc. Published each year by George Kenning.  I read the reports of 1887 to 1899; in a volume at the Freemasons’ Library.  

Issue of 1887: p3, pp8-9.

Issue of 1888 p3. 


Nelson was not mentioned again until the Issue of 1891 in which there was a list of senior officers since 1871: p19.  There was also the first list I’d come across of current RSM members and details of which council they belonged to: p23.  Grand Master’s Council 1 was one of the four original RSM councils and thus was not thought to need a warrant.  It met in London.

Issue of 1896 p3 with annual meetings now at the Mark Masons’ hall.  P24. 

Issue of 1899: p26. 

RSM meetings Nelson went to:

The Freemason May 1886 p12.

The Freemason October 1886 p13; December 1886 p11.

The Freemason June 1887 p12; October 1887 p11.

The Freemason March 1888 p16; April 1888 p14; May 1888 p13.

The Freemason May 1889 p15; December 1889 p15;

The Freemason October 1889 p14.

The Freemason March 1890 p12, p14; May 1890 p13.

The Freemason March 1891 p12; June 1891 p10; December 1891 p13.

The Freemason March 1892 p9.

The Freemason February 1893 p11; March 1893 p10; June 1893 p11; December 1893 p9.

The Freemason June 1894 p9; October 1894 p13.

The Freemason March 1895 p11; June 1895 p7; Dec 1895 p7.

The Freemason March 1896 p10.

The Freemason July 1897 p13.



The Freemason November 1891 p10.

The Freemason July 1889 p5.

The Freemason’s Chronicle June 1894 p8 and May 1895 p1.



The Freemason February 1888 p8.  

The Freemason June 1889 p4.

The Freemason November 1891 p3.


The Freemason February 1892 p8.

The Freemason May 1892 p8.

The Freemason November 1893 p7.

The Freemason June 1894 p8.

The Freemason April 1895 p15

The Freemason May 1896 p11.




The Freemason December 1894 p5.


The Freemason December 1891 p14.

The Freemason December 1894 p11.

The Freemason Jan 1897 p12.

The reference I saw using Google was supposedly The Freemason and Masonic Illustrated volumes 32-33 1894 p231, p248.  This should have turned up in the digitised online freemasons’ magazine database; but it didn’t.




The Metropolitan College began to publish its Transactions in 1885.

Transactions of the Metropolitan College secretary and editor, William Wynn Westbrook.  Privately printed, for the SRIA

1885 issue with membership details as at 1 January 1885: p1-3.

1886 issue p3

1890-91 issue p1.

1897-98 issue p1, p6.

For a general history of SRIA so far; Nelson’s not mentioned in it:

History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia by its Supreme Magus Dr William Wynn Westcott.  Privately printed London 1900.  Especially pp14-15 for its Metropolitan College.



Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume II 1884.  London: Trübner and Co of Ludgate Hill.  P317 begins the list of members at December 1884; p321 Nelson Prower MA of 12 Cambridge Terrace Hyde Park.  Because several GD members were also in the Society for Psychical Research, I went through the Proceedings volumes for the 1890s, and also the Journal issues.  Nelson’s name didn’t appear in any of them.

In the course of my research into other GD members, I’ve read quite a few magazines which feature spiritualism.  I’ve not seen Nelson Prower’s name in any of them.



Theosophical Society Membership Registers 1889-1901.



Now for the rest of Nelson’s life!



Prower is a very rare surname.  On the day of the 1871 census (for example) there were only 28 people called Prower living in the UK.


The Prower family were rather proud of their descent from the much older Mervyn family of Wiltshire and Dorset; through the marriage of heiress Frances Mervyn of Sturminster Newton to Dr Robert Prower of Cranborne, around 1745.  From the 18th century until 1869 members of the Prower family were vicars of Purton, a couple of miles north-west of Swindon in Wiltshire; starting with Frances and Robert’s son Rev John Prower (1747-1827); and going on with Nelson’s grandfather Rev John Mervin Prower (1784-1869) who was still vicar there when Nelson was a child.  Rev John married Susannah Coles of Neath in Glamorgan.  She died giving birth in 1811 to their only child, Nelson’s father John Elton Mervin Prower.


John Elton Mervin Prower continued the connection with Purton, but didn’t become a clergyman.  He went to Charterhouse School and then spent a period travelling in Europe with William Makepeace Thackeray, a schoolfriend.  After his return to England, he joined the army for a short time, serving a captain in the 67th Regiment.  Later he was a major in the Royal Wiltshire Militia but the RWM was a voluntary regiment; Captain John Prower retired from the professional army around the time of his marriage.  In July 1844 he married a woman of similar social background - Harriet Payn, a daughter of William Payn of Kidwells, Maidenhead, who had worked for the Thames Commissioners.  Her brother William Payn was a writer; he also worked as editor of Chambers’s Journal and then Cornhill Magazine; his daughter Alicia married George Earle Buckle, editor of The Times, in 1885.


After their marriage, John and Harriet Prower moved into Purton House, next door to the Rev John’s vicarage; and that was where Nelson grew up.  Nelson was born on 2 July 1856; the birth doesn’t seem to have been registered.  The name ‘Nelson’ hadn’t been used in the family before; so I think he was named after the hero of Trafalgar.  He had two elder brothers: Mervyn (sic, born 1847) and John Elton (born 1852); and three sisters - Maude (born 1854), Marion (born 1859) and Beatrice (born 1860).


On the day of the 1861 census, John Elton Mervin Prower and Harriet were at home at Purton House.  Eldest son Mervyn was away at school, but the younger children were all at home and Harriet’s young niece Blanche Payn had come to stay.  They also had an aristocratic visitor, Lord Ashley MP, the eldest son of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, the great reformer and campaigner.  Six servants lived in: a footman, a cook, two nurse-maids, a governess for the daughters, and one housemaid; and I would suppose that a coachman and grooms and some gardeners were also employed by the Prowers in this rural village, while living separately.  A very comfortably-off family.


I didn’t find Nelson living at home with his parents and siblings on any census after 1861.  On census day 1871, Nelson was the only member of his family in the UK - as it was still term-time, he was at Rugby School.  His grandfather and his brother Mervyn were dead (see below for how Mervyn met his end); and Nelson’s parents and siblings were abroad.  In 1881, it was Nelson’s turn to be travelling.  John and Harriet had left Purton House and moved into London, to 9 Ashburn Place, South Kensington; Maude and Marion were with them on census day though Beatrice was elsewhere. 


John Elton Mervin Prower died in 1882, while staying in Ramsgate.  His personal estate was valued at £45,000.  I haven’t seen his Will but much of how Nelson spent the following years would be explained if Nelson had inherited from John Elton Mervin Prower enough money to live on without needing to work. When Nelson reappears on a census, in 1891, he doesn’t admit to having a private income, so perhaps he had spent his and had nothing left; but census information and probate registry entries for his siblings show that Maude and Marion at least were living off inherited money. 


Although they never lived in Purton House after the 1880s, members of the Prower family did continue to live in the village of Purton at least until the 1940s, at the house called Sissells.




Notes Historical, Generalogical and Heraldic of the Family of Mervyn was compiled by family member Sir William Richard Drake FSA, and privately printed in 1873:on pvii is printed Nelson’s date of birth.  Nelson’s father was one of the people who had helped Drake in his researches. 



Via to The County Families of the United Kingdom published London 1868: p441.

Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 425423: baptism of John Elton Mervyn Prower, son of John and Susannah; at St Michael Gloucester 20 October 1811.

Times Monday 1 January 1912 p13 a reference to the first publication of a youthful poem by Thackeray this month’s Cornhill Magazine.  It was a drinking song written in Weimar in the notebook of his “schoolfellow J.E.M. Prower”. 

See wikipedia for William Makepeace Thackeray, born 1811 so an exact contemporary of John Elton Mervyn Prower.  Thackeray did not enjoy his time at Charterhouse School.

At there’s a short history of the house, which still exists and is available for hire.  The history was written by its current owner, using Ethel Richardson’s A History of Purton.  Unfortunately there’s no mention of the Prower family on the website.  They must, however, have left Purton House by 1908: Ethel Richardson lived in it from 1908 to 1922.  The house was built 1810 in Regency style; with alterations to the building and a great deal of planting in the garden done around 1840, perhaps by John Elton Mervin Prower and Harriet.  At some point it was rented for three years by James Brooke, rajah of Sarawak.



For Harriet’s brother James Payn see his wiki. 

Times Saturday 26 March 1898 p5 Death of Mr James Payn.  This is the source for his father’s employment by the Thames Commissioners; he found time to run a pack of harriers as well.

Times 31 March 1898 p6 coverage of William Payn’s funeral.  Nelson’s mother, his brother and one of his sisters went to it; though Nelson himself did not.  I think he was working in Kent; if it was still term-time he may not have been able to get away.  It’s a pity, because amongst those attending the church service he would have encountered Henry James; Conan Doyle; Rider Haggard; members of the Ingram family who owned the Illustrated London News; representatives of Smith Elder and Co; and George Earle Buckle.

See wikipedia for George Earle Buckle (1854-1935) who married Alicia Isobel Payn in 1885.  Buckle became editor of the Times in 1884 when still only 29.  He stayed in post until ousted by its new owner, Lord Northcliffe, in 1911.

Gentleman’s Magazine 1844 p201: marriage of John E M Prower to Harriet Payn.




Nelson’s brother Mervyn Prower was the last person to die as a result of fighting between young townsmen and undergraduates in the streets of Oxford.  He went to Rugby School; and then to Oxford University, to Brasenose College, in October 1866.  On 9 November 1867 he was attacked in the street, hit on the head, and then kicked as he lay on the ground.  He died three weeks later, in his rooms in college, having only regained consciousness for a few minutes after the assault. 



Times Saturday 30 November 1867 p12: Death of an Undergraduate.  

Times Monday 2 December 1867 p1: death notice for Mervyn Prower.

Brasenose: the Biography of an Oxford College by Joseph Mordaunt Crook.  Oxford University Press 2008 p206.

None of the sources give details of exactly what happened; nor whether anyone was ever arrested.



JOHN ELTON joined the Royal Engineers and ended his career as a Major.  He was serving in Quebec with the Canadian Militia from 1881 if not earlier, until 1893; and then spent nearly a decade based at Falmouth in Cornwall, with the Royal Engineers’ Submarine Branch. 


In 1881 John Elton married Adèle Thérèse Kimber, daughter of René Édouard Kimber, the second man to hold the post of Usher of the Black Rod (Canada).  He was in post from 1875 to 1901, succeeding his father, René Kimber, who had been appointed in 1867.  John Elton and Adèle had three daughters - Cecile, Phyllis and Harline - and one son, John Mervyn Prower.  Through their children their links with Canada were kept up: Phyllis married a man who had emigrated to Canada; and John Mervyn served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War 1. 


In the 1900s John Elton and Adèle had 9 Ashburn Place South Kensington as their London address; and Sissells, in Purton village, as their country residence. 


John Elton Prower’s politics were Conservative: he was a member of the Constitutional Club.  He died, in Bath, in 1915. 



At, a copy of Armorial Families which might date from 1905: p1220 At JEP is in Canada on census day 1881.

Evidence for John Elton Prower in Canada: Canadian census 1881, seen at

Times 16 May 1883 p1 announcement of the death of John Elton and Adele’s daughter Harline; in Quebec; aged three weeks.

A wiki on those who have been Usher of the Black Rod (Canada).

Times 16 November 1886 p1 birth announcement: a son to John Elton Prower and his wife; on 1st inst [1 November 1886] in Quebec.  Though the child wasn’t named, other evidence indicates this was John Mervyn Prower.

Canada Census 1891 seen at Familysearch: John Elton Prower - but not the rest of the family - is a lodger in a household in the St Louis Ward of Quebec City.

Times 24 April 1893 p13 originally published in London Gazette: John Elton Prower’s appointment as Captain Royal Engineers Submarine Branch.

Times Tuesday 30 May 1893 p11 John Elton Prower of the Falmouth Division Royal Engineers at a levee given by the Prince of Wales was present. 

Without taking down the details, I saw several other references to John Elton Prower in his job at Falmouth; in the Times between 1893 and 1898.  Not afterwards, though, and I wonder if he had been sent to South Africa.

Familysearch British Columbia Marriage Registrations 1859-1932 GS film number 1983977: marriage of Phyllis Prower to Cyril W Hoske, 6 January 1912 at Kamloops BC.

Probate Registry 1915 for death of John Elton Prower.  His brother-in-law Henry Phillipson Spottiswoode was one of his executors.  Immediately below it in the list for that year was an entry for Una Catherine Prower whose normal address 166 Church Road Norwood, Henry Spottiswoode’s home.  She was the wife of John Elton’s son John Mervyn Prower, at that time serving as Captain in H M Army.

At, pages of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group: John Mervyn Prower fought for the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion.  DSO and bar. 


MAUDE and MARION PROWER both died unmarried.  They lived with their mother Harriet until her death in 1903; then in Chelsea, until Marion’s death in 1908.  Maude then returned to Purton, to Sissells, now owned by the Prower family.  She died in 1941.


BEATRICE PROWER was the only sister of Nelson to marry:

Times 10 June 1891 p1 marriage announcements: marriage of Beatrice Prower of 9 Ashburn Place South Kensington; to Henry Phillipson Spottiswoode who’s the son of a General.  At St Peter’s Cranley Gardens; by Rev Elton Lee who is a cousin of the bride.

Henry Spottiswoode was a solicitor.  In 1911 he and Beatrice were living in Norwood, south London.  Three of their five children were at home with them: Arthur, working as an articled clerk; and John and Henry who were still at school.




Nelson followed his two elder brothers to Rugby School (in 1869) and then followed Mervyn to Brasenose College (in 1875).  Unlike Mervyn, he survived his years at Oxford University and graduated in 1878, with a third-class degree in history.  In 1882 he became an MA; but I think you could pay for those, then.


The records of the Middle Temple suggest that Nelson began the process of qualifying as a barrister: he registered in October 1883 and passed the Roman Law examination in April 1885.  On the day of the 1891 census he was still a law student - or so he told the census official - but I can’t find any evidence that he passed any more of the exams; and he never practised law. 



Sources: 1891 census

Rugby School Register 1675-1874 compiled by A J Lawrence.   Published 1886 p176 Nelson arrived at the school aged 13 (1869). 

Brasenose College Register 1509-1909 volume 55.  Published by the Oxford Historical Society at the Clarendon Press 1909; p307. 

Times 6 December 1878 p5 and Times Friday 13 December 1878 p10.

Oxford Historical Register 1220-1900 p816.

Times Saturday 10 June 1882 p10 University Intelligence: Nelson in a group getting their MA degree. 


At the Register of Admissions 1850-85 published by the Middle Temple: p640 entry for Nelson Prower of 10 Clifford’s Inn Fleet Street; registered 31 October [1883].

Times Wednesday 15 April 1885 p10 The Inns of Court.  List of those who had passed the recent Council of Legal Education exams. 




While he was at university, Nelson joined the Oxfordshire Rifle Volunteers.  Joining a volunteer regiment was not an unusual thing for a young man to do; especially if his father was already an officer in one.  It didn’t necessarily lead to a life as an army professional - in fact, usually not - and it looks from the lack of records that Nelson’s involvement in the regiment ceased when he graduated.  However, in 1886 he was actually presented to the Prince of Wales at a levee in London, as an officer in the Central London Rangers.  He was presented by Major Florence, who was probably his immediate superior in the regiment.  I haven’t come across any other GD members who were presented to royalty on the grounds of being a member of a voluntary militia; and my other subject of research, Henry George Norris of Arsenal Plc, never was; so I’m wondering whether Nelson was considering following his brother into the army as a full-time career.  If he was considering it, the plan came to nothing: for a couple of years, when he is mentioned in issues of The Freemason, it’s always as a ‘Lieutenant’; but from then on, he’s just plain ‘Mr’. 


There wasn’t much on web on the Oxfordshire Rifle Volunteers.

See Wikipedia for the Central London Rangers, a nickname for the 22nd Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps.



On census day 1891, Nelson was one of the three lodgers and one boarder at 5 Doughty Street Bloomsbury.  As well as being a law student, Nelson also told the census official that he was an editor.  I haven’t been able to find out where he was working as an editor; though he did have a relation by marriage, in George Earle Buckle, who could probably have found him that kind of employment.  This was the time, though, of Nelson’s greatest involvement in freemasonry.  Perhaps he edited a freemasons’ magazine - it would certainly explain the amount of coverage his freemasonry activities were getting.  The Freemason’s Chronicle is one magazine Nelson could have edited, and it happens that in 1891 its offices were very near where he was living.  Freemason William Wray Morgan ran the Chronicle from his premises at the Belvidere Works, Hermes Hill, Pentonville; between King’s Cross and The Angel.  There’s no clue in the weekly issues as to who the editor was and it’s most likely that Morgan did the work himself; but Nelson could have been the editor.


Wherever he was working, and for however long he did the work, it would not necessarily have been a paid post. 



Nelson did not tell the 1901 census official that he was an editor.  Either he forgot that part of his working life; or he was no longer employed that way.  By 1901 he was a teacher at Clarence College in Gravesend.  The college was a boarding school, with 13 boarders that census day.  It was run by Charles Wimpress and his wife Elizabeth.  They both taught at the school and Nelson was one of four teachers working for them and living on its premises at 72 Windmill Street in Milton.  By 1905, the Wimpresses had gone and been replaced by a Mr Bishop who was a member of the Society for Psychical Research; but evidence from the Electoral Rolls shows Nelson living in St Pancras from 1903, perhaps teaching in that borough.  He was still doing some teaching on the day of the 1911 census; but this time he described himself as a “tutor” - that is, he was teaching private pupils, rather than in a school. 


The two census references are the only evidence I’ve been able to find about Nelson’s work as a teacher. Even in the preface of a novel which was set in a boys’ public school, Nelson didn’t give any details of which schools he had worked in.  I’m afraid his lack of willingness leads me to suppose that the schools were not particularly well-known or highly regarded.


Sources: census 1891, 1901, 1911

Army List 1878 Nelson Prower is in the Oxfordshire Rifle Volunteers.  No details were given about his rank. 

Times Monday 28 June 1886 p9 errata: Nelson’s name had been omitted from the list of those presented at the levee “on Friday last” [25 June 1886].  Presented by Major Florence; as a member of the Central London Rangers. 

Via to a few items on Clarence College ((see 1901 census)):

Journal of the Society of Psychical Research volume XII 1905-06 p159 the current principal of the College was Mr M S W Bishop BA; he had sent in one of the issue’s curious incidents.

In Whitaker’s Almanack 1909 p831 there’s a reference to Clarence College merging with Cumberland House School, to form the Gravesend Boys’ Grammar School. 

Familysearch: Electoral Rolls St Pancras 1893-1895; 1901; 1903, 1904; 1906; 1908

Freddy Barton’s Schooldays by Nelson Prower MA.  London: John Ouseley Ltd of 6 Fleet Lane Farrington Street.  Published early 1911.  Preface, on an unnumbered page. 



Nelson’s first long published work was written and printed in Canada.  Its date of publication is uncertain; the British Library catalogue - which only has a microfiche copy without its title page - has “?1885".  It’s hard to keep up with Nelson’s whereabouts between 1878 and 1885.  He’s not on the census in 1881, but must have been in London in October 1883 and April 1885 to start at the Middle Temple and take his first (what turned out to be his only) exam there.  So 1881-82; or 1884-1885 are possible dates for a trip to Canada.  He may have been working: the published work is about the religious attitudes of young Canadian men, whom Nelson might have met through work as a teacher.  But it’s just as likely, to my mind, that he went on a visit to John Elton Prower and his wife, while his brother was stationed in Quebec.  Teaching does seem to have been somewhat of a last resort for him!


Though he didn’t publish a book about his Canadian trip, Nelson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1887.  Canada may not have been the only place he travelled to: his first novel (see below) takes place in Sweden, Poland, Constantinople and the Greek Islands; though I have to say that none of those places is described, so he could just as easily have written the book without spending a day in any of them. 


In 1889-90, Nelson definitely did go to the Holy Land, a journey he clearly thought of as a pilgrimage.  If the poems he published in 1894 are a guide, he travelled to the east coast of Italy by train; took a boat from Brindisi to Jaffa; and then went to Jerusalem, where being able to see the sites Jesus visited in His last days moved him to write his long narrative poem Gethsemane.  On his way back to England, he visited Greece.


In the winter of 1891 he went back to the eastern Mediterranean, to Cyprus.  Using his apologies for absence from freemasonry meetings to try to work out where he was, it looks as though he stayed on the island over the winter of 1894-95; possibly for part of the summer in 1896; and for the winter of 1896-97.  During these long stays on the island he might have been based at Larnaca - he went to some freemasonry meetings in the town.  He may have continued to go back to Cyprus after 1897 but the evidence from the freemasonry magazines isn’t so good for the late 1890s.



Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society seen online; volume 9 1887 p254.

Royal Geographical Society Year-Book and Record issuse of 1898 seen online; p152.


The Freemason December 1891 p14.

The Freemason December 1894 p5, p11.

The Freemason January 1897 p12.

And a lot of ‘apologies for absence’: see the FREEMASONRY section above. 


Familysearch electoral rolls data for Nelson Prower:

St Pancras        1893-1895; 1901; 1903, 1904; 1906; 1908

Clapham           1912 only.




Despite what was thought at the time, Nelson was NOT the author of BOY-WORSHIP

A pamphlet called Boy-Worship was printed in Oxford in 1880.  It’s not clear now how many copies there were of it, as it was meant for circulation within the University.  Few copies have survived and I haven’t been able to see any of them.  However, the pamphlet is mentioned in several modern studies of homosexuality in 19th century England.  According to one of those modern studies, it was a ‘how-to’ book for the seduction of fellow students.  


Although homosexual acts between consenting adults weren’t illegal in England until the Labouchere Amendment of 1885, the pamphlet’s author may still have feared the wrath of the University authorities.  He wasn’t taking any chances and published it anonymously.  It’s now known to have been the work of Charles Edward Hutchinson (born 1854), a graduate of Brasenose College whom Nelson must have known; but at the time, with nobody sure who had written it, Nelson Prower was amongst the men being rumoured to have done so.  It’s interesting that Nelson’s name was bandied about in University circles until Boy-Worship’s author owned up, and I have wondered myself about the sexuality of some of the GD members.  The pamphlet was written on the understanding that homosexual relationships were very common at Oxford University, between staff and students, as well as between students.  However, I think that Nelson’s devout Christianity might have prevented him from acting on any homosexual tendencies he did feel.



There’s a full text of the pamphlet on the website of the Hathi Trust; but you can only read it if you are resident in the USA.  The British Library doesn’t have a copy, which isn’t surprising.

At its catalogue entry is: Boy-Worship author Charles Edward Hutchinson born 1854; with Nelson Prower as a contributor to it.  Published Oxford 1880.

However at //, the Digital Public Library of America, the catalogue entry for the copy at Cornell University notes that it was “unjustly ascribed to Prower” of Brasenose. 

The modern references to it:

Aestheticism and Sexual Parody 1840-1940 by Dennis Dennisof.  New York: Cambridge University Press 2006 p39.

Secreted Desires - The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater, Wilde by Michael Matthew Kaylor.  Published Masaryk University Press and originally a D Phil thesis: pxvii.

Mapping Male Sexuality: the Nineteenth Century by Jay Losey and William Dean Brewer.  Madison New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press p262 in Part Two: Victorian.



This 60-page booklet was printed - presumably at Nelson’s expense - by the Gazette Printing Company of Montreal; probably in 1884 or 1885.  In it, Nelson addressed the older generation of immigrants from the UK to Canada.  He voiced his anxiety about the decline of Christian belief he had found in the immigrants’ sons, and worried about where it might lead - possibly as far as the younger generation demanding independence from Great Britain.  Nelson’s own beliefs are stated very clearly in the booklet: he is an unquestioning Christian.  He sees belief in Christianity as the bedrock of the Empire; is sure that other religions (past and present) offer no basis for ethical behaviour or social cohesion; and demonstrates over 20 pages or so that the decline of religious belief has always led to a collapse in moral values in the past.  He urges the older generation to lead the country’s youth away from rationalism and back to Christianity.




Reggie Abbott or the Adventures of a Swedish Officer by Nelson Prower was the first of two novels Nelson wrote.  Published London: George Redway 1890 with the British Library date stamp “13/2/90".  Quotes: p2, p311. 


The British Library’s copy had its pages still uncut so it was quite difficult for me to get the gist of the plot.  However, it was about religious differences between Reggie Abbott and his mother; with a reconcilation of sorts at the end (I think).  It was set in the early 19th century, when Reggie was born, the son of an Englishman with a “natural taste for travel” and the widow he married when he reaches Sweden.  It ended with Reggie declaring (in a manner rather removed from Nelson’s views from only a few years before) that “that there is about as much probability of truth in one creed as in another”.  Perhaps a few years as a freemason had altered Nelson’s religious opinions somewhat, though he was still a convinced Christian. 


Even the reviewer in The Freemason was not very complimentary about the book, saying that its three main female characters were not well drawn; and suggesting that the author would be better off writing essays, than novels. 


Source for the review:

The Freemason March 1890 p6


VARIOUS VERSES published London: Hayman Christy Lilly Ltd of 20-22 Bride Street EC.

Times 3 January 1894 p10 Various Verses is in the Publications To-day column.


There are works by three authors (all men) in it: W F Harvey; Nelson; and the Rev R C Fillingham.  There doesn’t seem to be any over-arching theme to the book as a whole; so maybe the three poets just got together to lower the costs of each of them publishing a very small book on their own. 


Poetry is a closed book to me so I’ll just list the titles of Nelson’s poems with comments on what some of them are about; and say that most are sonnets and only a page long, though the last, Gethesemane, is a long narrative work, begun by Nelson in 1889 during his time in the Holy Land, completed the following year, and then altered slightly for this book.  Gethsemane had been published already, but anonymously.  The comments of Nelson’s friends had been “kind” so this time, it was published with his name attached.  Though the poems are all probably from around the time Gethsemane was written, the only one that’s dated is Gethsemane.


Nelson’s poems:

p25      Charles the Second. 

P26      Non Angli Sed Angeli. 

This describes modern male Christian youth as a realisation of the Pope’s comment - fighting for Christianity, in Christian brotherhood.

P27      On Landing at Jaffa. 

            The thrill of reaching the Holy Land.

P28      The Stoic and the Epicurean Conceptions of Death.

P29      On Seeing the Old Ships in Portsmouth Harbour. 

            Celebrating the young men of the Empire, joining the navy to free the world from tyranny.

P30      To the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As the poems are not dated, it’s a bit difficult to suggest which archbishop Nelson is writing about.  The most likely is probably William Thomson, who was installed in 1862 and died in 1890.  He had previously been bishop of Gloucester and was perhaps known to the Prower family.

P31      On the Starting of Dr Nansen. 

Describing the explorer as a “gallant Viking”; he’s off not to the South Pole but to the source of the Nile.

p32      Toulon and Spezia. 

P33      Ad Matthaeum Arnold.  A tribute to the poet.

P34      On a First View of the Acropolis. 

            As a “Homage to the slain!”

P35      The White Chalk Cliffs. 

            With the poet glad to be home after travel in the South.

P36      On Passing Loretto in the Train.

P37      The “Victoria”.

p38      Imperium et Libertas.  On the Opening of the Imperial Institute.

This poem is another reference to anti-Imperialist tendencies Nelson had come across in Canada.  He describes those who are agitating for greater independence as equivalents of King Lear’s Goneril and Regan.

P39      The Muezzin. 

This is an interesting one - it equates the Muslim call to prayer with the bells of a Christian church; both announcing that God is good.

P40      Abide With Me.  In Latin.

P41      Translation from Newman.       

            That is, a translation into Latin.

‘Newman’ is Cardinal Newman, who wrote ‘Abide with Me’.  Theologian and academic John Henry Newman (born 1801) was racing up the Church of England hierarchy in 1845 when he converted to Roman Catholicism and began to race up that hierarchy instead.  Nelson’s two translations were perhaps written to commemorate Newman’s death, in August 1890. 

Pp42-67 Gethsemane. 

In which Nelson criticises those brought up as Christians only to lose their faith; and those who call themselves Christian while not following its doctrine.


The Freemason found Nelson’s poems more to its liking than his earlier novel. 


Source for the review:

The Freemason January 1894 p6



Nelson’s talks at meetings of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, in 1894 and 1896, were published in the SRIA’s Transactions volumes; but you could also buy them as free-standing leaflets, at least in the USA and as late as 1907. 

Seen at, a list of talks given at SRIA.  The list was published in The Rosicrucian Brotherhood volume 1; published by S C Gould of Manchester New Hampshire 1907 p35.



Freddy Barton’s Schooldays by Nelson Prower MA.  London: John Ouseley Ltd of 6 Fleet Lane Farrington Street.  No year of publication in the book; and the stamp on the British Library’s copy doesn’t have the date on it.  However, The Westminster Review published a review of it in its April 1911 edition.  Nelson wrote a very short preface to the novel, in which he referred to another novel in this genre, Charles Turley’s Maitland Major and Minor.  Nelson implies that though “a delightful story” Turley’s work lacks an extra dimension which Nelson has put into his new work, “a study of conditions of life in a private school”; including “the abuses that disfigure the prefect system”, and the inevitable problems that arise in a school where power is divided between two men.

Maitland Major and Minor by Charles Turley (professional name of Charles Turley Smith).  Published London: William Heinemann 1905.  This work was in its 3rd edition by 1926; Nelson’s own novel was never reprinted.

The Westminster Review volume 75 January-June 1911P p475.  London: E Marlborough and Co of 51 Old Bailey EC. 



Perhaps this is as good a place as any to mention Nelson’s politics.  If you have read this far you’ll have a pretty good idea of them.  When he was initiated into the GD in 1888, the address he gave for correspondence was the St Stephen’s Club of Westminster. The St Stephen’s Club had been founded in 1870.  In 1879, Charles Dickens’ son (another Charles Dickens) remarked on its very close relations with the Conservative Party, so that if you didn’t have “Constitutional and Conservative Principles” you would never get in.  The club’s premises until the 1960s were at the corner of Embankment and Bridge Street, where Portcullis House is now.  The club still exists and its connection with the Conservative Party continues.


Source for the club: wikipedia, which has the quote from Charles Dickens’ son. 




Nelson’s mother Harriet died in June 1903.  She had moved out of the Prowers’ house in 9 Ashburn Place; probably so that John Elton, Adele and their family could move in.  On the day of her death she and her daughters Maude and Marion were living at 110 Elm Park Gardens in Chelsea. 


In 1909, at the age of 53, Nelson Prower married a widow, Maria Bowles.  Their marriage was registered in the densely-populated St Pancras area of north London, where Nelson had been living for a few years; and I suggest that they had met there, a maximum of two years before the marriage.  I don’t know how they would have come across each other earlier in their lives - they moved in very different social circles.


Maria Coleman had been born in Reading in 1859.  In 1884, she married Henry James Bowles, who worked for a railway company.  In 1891, Maria and Henry were living at the station house at Hoo, near Maidstone in Kent, where Henry was the station manager.  Three sons were with them on that day: Henry junior, William, and Alfred.  Servants of any sort were not an option for a family on a railway wage, and Maria was doing the housework and looking after her children without paid help.  I would have liked to know whether Henry and Maria had any more children, as a son called ‘Ben’ had an influence on Nelson and Maria’s lives; but I couldn’t find the family on census day 1901; perhaps one of the three sons I’ve found out about was usually called Ben.  They were still living in north Kent at that time, I think, because Henry Bowles died there in 1907. 


Nelson and Maria Prower moved south of the Thames after their marriage: Nelson was on the Electoral Roll for Clapham in 1912.  Unfortunately, on census day 1911 they were visiting William Owston and his wife Ada, at 28 Crescent Lane Clapham Park; so I don’t know where they set up home.  When William Owston filled in the census form, he described Nelson as “Author and Tutor” - presumably because Nelson had asked him to.  Freddy Barton’s Schooldays had probably just been published.  In addition to whatever royalties the novel was earning, Nelson was doing some tutoring to help pay the bills.  It’s most unlikely that Maria had more than a small amount of money of her own. 


I don’t know how long Nelson and Maria continued to think of England as their home, but records indicate they may have been living in Canada by 1921.  I presume that all the anxiety Nelson expressed in the early 1880s, about Canada’s future, had been set aside or overcome. Nelson may have carried on teaching in Canada for some years, but by 1937 he had retired.  The various passenger lists at show Nelson Prower making several trips from Canada to England: one arriving in England May 1921 and then departing in May 1922; one arriving in June 1928 and I couldn’t find a return journey for that; and a last one in March 1937, returning in June. 


In the 1920s Nelson and Maria were probably living on the eastern side of Canada but in the end they went to Vancouver, following Maria’s son Ben.  Nelson Prower died in Vancouver in October 1943.  Maria died at Burnaby, BC, in 1947.


Sources: freebmd, census entries 1891-1911, probate registry entries.

Familysearch Electoral Rolls for Clapham 1912.

Seen at Familysearch: Canada Passenger Lists 1881-1922 show Maria Prower but apparently not Nelson, arriving at Halifax Nova Scotia on the Aquitaine, June 1919. 

Passenger Lists UK to Canada, seen at though without paying an extra amount in subscription I couldn’t see the full details of most of the voyages. 


UK Incoming Passenger Lists seen at

Seen at, transcriptions of the details of deaths in British Columbia Deaths 1943; LDS microfilm 1953640, item number 7348.

Seen at Familysearch: British Columbia Death Registrations 1872-1986, GS film number 2032471.  The entry for Maria Prower gives her date and place of birth, and her original surname.                             



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.






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: