Kate Eleanor Broomhead was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn in June 1890 at its Horus temple in Bradford, as Bradford’s second woman member.  She chose the Latin motto ‘Persevera’.  Later she moved to London and became a member of the GD’s Isis-Urania temple.  Although it took her a decade to do the study, she was finally initiated into the GD’s 2nd, inner order in 1900.  By this time she was married to the artist Cosmo Rowe.  When the GD split into two daughter orders in 1903, Kate Rowe went into the Independent and Rectified Order or Rite.


Sissie Rowe (properly, Sarah Ann Rowe) was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn on 7 November 1896 at its Isis-Urania temple in London.  Initiated as part of the same ritual were Robert Palmer Thomas; Henry Edward Colvile and his French wife Zélie; and Marion Cunningham; though I imagine Sissie didn’t know any of them before that day.  Sissie chose the Latin motto ‘Veritas sin timore’.  Early on in her membership she was excused paying the annual member’s subscription on grounds of poverty (William Wynn Westcott was very understanding towards GD members who couldn’t afford to pay); and she never made it into the inner, 2nd Order.  But she does seem to have continued as a GD member until 1903 before joining one of its daughter orders.  I’m certain that Sissie Rowe was recommended to the GD’s senior members (William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers) by Kate Broomhead: Cosmo Rowe was Sissie’s brother.




Both Kate’s parents had the surname ‘broomhead’.  A surname database on the web traces the name back to 13th century West Yorkshire, though by the mid-19th century people called ‘broomhead’ had spread into Lancashire and Derbyshire as well.  How closely related Kate’s parents were to each other I haven’t been able to discover.  I think that probably they were not closely related.



Kate’s mother Martha was the daughter of a Henry Broomhead who was a member of a family whose men were solicitors, with offices in Sheffield and possibly Rotherham as well.  Unfortunately, several of the solicitors in the family were called Henry, and I’ve found it difficult to figure out which one was which and how - if it all - they were related to each other.  


I shall start somewhere in the middle of Martha’s story with the day of the 1851 census.  On that day, Martha was living with her father Henry and her mother or possibly step-mother Harriott at an address I couldn’t read very well but which I think was 32 Paradise Square Sheffield.  Certainly there was a solicitor’s practice at that address around that time, I found other evidence of that.  Harriott had been married before and Martha had a much older step-sister, Harriet Knowles.  Martha was 22 (born around 1829).  Her father was 61 (born about 1790).  I have found Henry, Harriott (this time spelled Harriett) and Harriet on the 1841 census, this time at North Church Street Sheffield; but I couldn’t find Martha. 


Martha’s father was dead by 1861; he died either in 1852 or 1857 with 1857 looking the more likely to me.  Census evidence from later on in the century suggests that Martha inherited some money from her father, which was invested in an annuity to give her an income. 



Kate’s father, John Broomhead, was probably the wealthier of her parents and he too inherited money tied up in an annuity.  On the day of the 1851 census John’s father, William Broomhead, described himself to the census official as a farmer; but he was also the owner of a brickworks.  At this time of rapid expansion of cities in industrial Yorkshire and Derbyshire, the brick-making business was far more important as a source of income than the farm, employing 58 men to the farm’s eight.  John Broomhead had been born in 1822 when his parents were still living in Worksop.  William Broomhead and his wife Hannah had moved away from Worksop by 1851; but despite the income the brickworks must have been bringing in, they were living modestly, next to the brickyard in Styrrup, Nottinghamshire; and they were only employing one servant to work in the house.  William and Hannah had two sons.  John’s brother George had left home by this time but he lived nearby, at Harworth.



Kate’s parents John Broomhead and Martha Broomhead married each other in 1858.  The marriage was registered in Worksop but may have taken place in York.  John and Martha had two children: Kate Eleanor, born 1859, and Henry Broomhead (full name Henry Broomhead Broomhead) born 1862.  John and Martha set up home close to John’s relatives and the brickworks, and on the day of the 1861 census were living just south of Styrrup, in Blyth, Nottinghamshire at 9 Main Street.  At some point in the next decade William Broomhead retired from active participation in the brick-making business and moved away from the brick-yard.  His decision to retire may have been influenced by the death of Kate’s grandmother Hannah; I’m not sure of the date of her death but it was between 1861 and 1871.  It’s not clear to me who took charge of the family business, but I think it’s more likely to have been George than John, I think George is the older brother.  On the day of the 1871 census William Broomhead was living alone in Blyth, looked after by a housekeeper.  John, Martha, Kate and Henry were still living in Blyth, at 20 Main Street.


William Broomhead died in 1874.  It’s likely to have been after his death and as a result of it, that John and Martha moved to Bridlington in Yorkshire.  They lived there in a house called Zetland Villa, which doesn’t seem to exist any more, on a street called Humber Road which also doesn’t show on modern streetmaps.  Kate was in her mid-teens when this big change probably took place.  One of the benefits of it might have been a rather better education for her.   Unlike with most of the GD’s women members, I do have some clue as to what subjects Kate was taught: later in her life, she thought of herself as a professional musician.  The basis of a middle-class girl’s musical education at that time (if she had one) was piano and singing.  However, Kate showed more aptitude and enthusiasm than most girls, and learned the violin.


John, Martha and Kate’s brother Henry Broomhead were all at home at Zetland Villa Bridlington on the day of the 1881 census.  Kate was away visiting an Eliza Whitfield, at 17 Fountain Street, North Myton near Hull.  I haven’t been able to discover what the relationship between Kate and Eliza Whitfield was.  Mrs Whitfield seems to be rather too old and not of the right social class to have been a schoolfriend of Kate’s.  Her husband had been a ship’s chandler, so perhaps Eliza had married him after working for John and Martha Broomhead as a servant.  She was a widow by 1881, with young children.


Kate’s mother Martha died in 1882.  Henry had started work by this time and had probably moved away from Bridlington.  He trained as a solicitor and worked in Beverley.  In 1888 he married Mary Robinson Oakes of Bridlington. 


On her mother’s death and because she was still unmarried herself, Kate will have been required to take over the duties of keeping house and caring for her father, who was now in his late 60s.  On the day of the 1891 census, though Martha’s income from her annuity had died with her, John Broomhead was still able to employ a cook and a housemaid, so Kate will have been free of some household chores.  During the 1880s she may have been attempting to build a career for herself as a musician: she was described on the 1891 census form as “violinist music”, which must be based on what she or her father told the census official.   John and Kate had two visitors staying with them on census day, whom I think were Kate’s friends rather than her father’s. Both the visitors told the census official that they were working.  Hannah Helen Whitworth was a teacher of music and piano, Eliza Wilton was an artist.  They were both a little younger than Kate - Hannah was 26 and Eliza 28 to Kate’s 31 or 32 - and both had been born in Yorkshire; perhaps they were ex-schoolfriends. 


By census day 1891 Kate was already a member of the GD.  As Kate had never lived in or near Bradford, how Kate got to be a member of the GD there has puzzled me. Hannah Whitworth may be the connection - she had been born in Bradford and though she was not a GD member herself, she may have introduced Kate to people who were. 


In July 1890 - a month after joining the GD - Kate also joined the Theosophical Society.  Most applicants for membership of the TS had to be sponsored by two people who were already  members but in Kate’s case, one sponsor was enough because of the regard in which he was held. Kate’s sole sponsor was Walter Old, known as W R Old and as W Gorm Old, but also by a motto he used when publishing anonymously - Sepharial.  It’s a mystery, how Kate and Walter Old got acquainted but I suppose they must have met in London, where Walter Old was one of the select group of people who were personal friends of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.  At this time he was a very active theosophist and TS member.  He edited the TS’s members’ magazine, The Vahan.  He was a founder member of the TS’s esoteric group; GD founders William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers were also members.  And he published books on theosophy, astrology and the Kabbalah. 


Despite Kate knowing one of the TS’s inner circle, she was rather an outsider in the TS during her time as a member.   There was a very active TS group in Bradford and Kate certainly knew some members of it - in the early 1890s nearly every member of the GD in Bradford was also in the TS.  It would have been very easy for her to join the Bradford lodge; she would have made been very welcome, especially by its women members who organised all its meetings, usually holding them in one of their houses.  But she didn’t join it; in fact, she didn’t join any of the lodges of which the TS was comprised.  Not so odd is her decision to let her membership of the TS lapse in 1895.  A dispute about who should lead the TS after Blavatsky’s death was tearing the TS apart at that time; many of its most active and previously-loyal members left - including (I think) Walter Old.  Kate may not have been one of the TS’s active members, but she did decide to quit. From 1895 on, she stuck with the GD; even through several similar disputes.


Although Kate was initiated into the GD in Bradford, she may have had the same ‘arms-length’ relationship with the Horus temple there, as she had with Bradford’s TS.  She had GD contacts in London, at least from 1892 when she borrowed some manuscripts on geomancy from William Wynn Westcott’s extensive library.  Westcott was very willing to lend books and papers from his collection to GD initiates, but they did have to go to London to collect them and sign for them, and to return them.  When she called in at the GD offices to borrow the manuscripts, Kate have have been staying in London with friends she had made through the GD.  If she was serious about working as a musician, London was definitely the best place to pursue this ambition; but there was no possibility of her taking up permanent residence there while her father was alive.  However, John Broomhead died in April 1893.  Kate inherited an income from him - perhaps not a great deal but enough to inspire her to follow her hopes.  She moved to London soon afterwards.


Kate’s first address in London was South Kensington but she soon migrated slightly westwards to the cheaper and newer district of Hammersmith, where many artistic and musical people lived, including several members of the GD.  The focus for much of Hammersmith’s social life was William Morris and his family.  It wouldn’t have been difficult for Kate to get involved with the more public side of the Morris family’s social life - there were regular talks and debates and musical entertainments at their house, Kelmscott House.  But she could also have been introduced to the Morrises through mutual acquaintances like the GD’s Florence Farr, who was a friend of William Morris’ daughter May.  Florence was living in Dalling Road Hammersmith in 1890; a few years later she moved number 67 The Grove Hammersmith at a time when Kate was living at number 112. 


Florence probably also got to know another social group in Hammersmith with GD connections.  This group was built around the composer and music teacher Ferdinand Praeger who lived with his family in Brackenbury Road Hammersmith, a few streets away from The Grove.  Ferdinand’s son Wilfred became a GD member and later married another GD member, organist and composer Lilian Blyth, who joined the GD in Bradford in 1893 and moved to London a few years later.  Lilian and Kate didn’t coincide as members of the GD in Bradford but there was another way in which they might have got to know each other: Lilian had cousins living in Beverley Yorkshire where Kate’s brother Henry was working by the 1890s.


Lilian Blyth and Kate Broomhead had difficulties in common if they were trying to be professional musicians.  In the 1890s there were more women musicians than there had been for centuries and some of the old prejudices against women playing certain instruments were dying away.  The violin, which Kate played, had been seen earlier in the century as too technically demanding for a woman to master, but by the 1890s it was - with voice, and piano - their favourite choice of musical study.  Women also now had two places where they could study music to college level: the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music.  So those women who wanted to, were good enough and could find the money for the fees could at least reach professional standards of musicianship. (I’m not sure that Kate’s family finances would have run to paying for her to study music at college.)  However, even those women who had graduated from one of music colleges had the odds stacked against them as professional musicians, and the very fact that the music colleges took women students meant that there were more and more well-trained women chasing not very many good, professional, regular jobs.  The big urban orchestras were male preserves, and women were often forced to earn their money as teachers or by playing in restaurants and department stores - not what they had hoped for at all, I would imagine.  Women were fighting back, however: there were a lot of all-women orchestras in 1890s London organising their own concerts.


I wish I could say that I had found evidence that Kate was in regular employment in London as a violinist.  I haven’t found any evidence along those lines.  That’s not to say she wasn’t a professional musician at all; though the lack of evidence means that she was never a soloist with a national reputation, she would have shown up in the Times or on the web if she had been.  She could have had several years in the violin section of one of the women’s orchestras - the Orchestra of Young Ladies, the English Ladies’ Orchestral Society and the Aeolian Ladies’ Orchestra were the best known.  As I couldn’t find a list of any of those orchestras’ members (I realise it was rather a big ask) I simply don’t know whether Kate played in them.  She could have settled for something much less, just to keep playing, to earn money and be able to call herself a professional; and been a member of an ensemble which played in a West End restaurant.  In the 1890s women musicians had some difficult choices to make and some of the options were pretty humiliating.



Four years or so after moving to London, Kate married the painter and illustrator Cosmo Rowe.  Her husband has turned out to be a most elusive man: even the name ‘cosmo’ is not the one he was given by his parents, nor the one he used when exhibiting paintings in the 1880s and 1890s; though it is the name that is used now by art sale websites.  He was known as ‘cosmo’ during his lifetime, but just to his friends and his wife.


The art sale websites and even the National Portrait Gallery website give these dates for the man they know as Cosmo Rowe: 1877 to 1952.  They can’t be right.  The information some websites give, that he was American, may not be correct either; but he may have grown up in America as he doesn’t seem to have spent much of his childhood in the UK. 


Legal documents I’ve found all agree that Kate Broomhead’s husband, the man also known by the name of Cosmo Rowe, was William John Monkhouse Rowe; and my own research has found that his dates were 1860 to 1947.


I shall call William J M Rowe born 1860 by the name ‘cosmo’ in order to prevent myself from confusing him with his father, who was also called William.  It has been hard to find out much about either of Cosmo’s parents.  The only information I’m certain of is that they were William Rowe and Elizabeth Monkhouse who married each other at Chorlton-upon-Medlock in January 1855.  Chorlton-upon-Medlock is just south of Manchester city centre; it was then a middle-class suburb.  William Rowe was 28 when he was married; I haven’t been able to find out where he was born.  Elizabeth Monkhouse was 34 or 35 and had been born in Wakefield.  William and Elizabeth had remarkably few children for a mid-Victorian couple, presumably because of Elizabeth’s age at the time she was married - 35 was a lot older then, in terms of fertility, even than it is now.  William and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah Ann Rowe was born in Manchester in 1856; she was known as Sissie - she even appears on the census as Sissie rather than Sarah.  William and Elizabeth’s son William John Monkhouse Rowe was born, also in Manchester, in 1860.  He wasn’t baptisted until 1871, perhaps because his parents left England fairly shortly after his birth - they were not in the UK on census day 1861.  I wish I knew where they went, but I don’t - the USA is as likely a destination as any. 


William Rowe and his family had returned to Manchester by 1867 and were living at 173 Tamworth Street in Hulme when William Rowe died there in July 1867, at the age of 39. 


On the probate registry record for William Rowe who died in 1867, his occupation is given as “Artist”.  Finding out anything about his career has been tough: I couldn’t find any paintings that were by him, exhibited or otherwise; there were no references to him in the artists’ dictionaries that I looked at.  He could have begun to train his children in drawing and painting, but he won’t have been able to teach them a great deal, because they were both so young when he died: Sissie was 11, Cosmo only seven.  Later, however, both Sissie and Cosmo earned money from art.  Cosmo got some professional-standard training in the end; but I haven’t found any evidence that Sissie did and the evidence I did find shows that her education in art and other subjects was inadequate to the task she later had of contributing very necessary income to the family budget. 


Elizabeth Rowe and her children were not in the UK on the day of the 1871 census and they may have spent many years living abroad; though again I don’t know where.  They were back in England by 1881, but were no longer in Manchester.  They were living at 8 Store Street, St Giles in the Fields, in the Finsbury district just north of the City of London.  On census day 1881 Elizabeth told the census official that she was living off an annuity.  Sissie was not living with Elizabeth and Cosmo on census day 1881 and I haven’t found a likely candidate for her anywhere else in the UK - though I may just have missed her, living with other relatives, perhaps. 


This is where there gets to be a bit more information about what Cosmo Rowe was doing with his life in his early twenties: in the mid-1880s he became a friend of H G Wells; and according to books on Wells, the two of them met at the Normal School of Science in South Kensington.  During H G Wells’ years as a student at the Normal School, he met the woman who became his second wife and made several male friends who remained friends for life.  Cosmo Rowe was one of those friends, and I think that it was at this time that Cosmo acquired the name: it began as the name his college friends called him.


While they had all been at the Normal School, H G Wells, Cosmo Rowe and their friends got out and about visiting museums and galleries; to talk a great deal about the future and their future; to take part in debates at the Talking Club; and to found a college magazine, the Science Schools’ Journal.  H G Wells was the journal’s first editor.  The books on Wells don’t mention who else worked on preparation of the journal or what they did; but I think it’s a reasonable guess that Cosmo Rowe worked on it, perhaps doing layout and illustrations.  H G Wells didn’t know London well; he wanted to get involved in left-wing politics but didn’t know where to go looking for them.  It seems to have been Cosmo Rowe who did know and took H G Wells about: to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, to hear William Morris and George Bernard Shaw; and to meetings of the Fabian Society.



In the late 1880s when H G Wells’ friends had left the Normal School, he and they were still meeting regularly.  Cosmo was living on Euston Road at that time and they all used to go round to his rooms every Sunday evening.  By this time, Cosmo Rowe was one of the socialist group that gravitated around William Morris in west London in the late 1880s and early 1890s.  Morris’ Hammersmith Socialist Society was founded in November 1890, and Cosmo was a very hard-working member of it.  He was its literature secretary, in charge of producing the Society’s political pamphlets.  He painted the Society’s sign, which hung outside the room where it met.  And he did speak at some meetings himself, sharing the job with William Morris’ son-in-law Henry Halliday Sparling (May Morris’s husband), who was secretary of the Socialist League; as a result of which, Cosmo became one of the Morris family’s supper-party circle.


Many socialists - including H G Wells - got impatient with the Hammersmith Socialist Society’s lack of drive and its focus on debate rather than on-the-street activism, but through the Society Cosmo will have met some very well-known names in the world of contemporary English intellectual socialism.  I’ve already mentioned George Bernard Shaw but there was also Prince Kropotkin - more an anarchist than a socialist; Sidney and Beatrice Webb - more two social democrats than two socialists; Annie Besant - who would leave politics for theosophy; Thomas J Cobden-Sanderson, the bookbinder and founder of the Doves Press; and socialists-to-the-end like Ramsay MacDonald; J S Middleton who in the 1930s was the Secretary of the Labour Party; and Keir Hardie - Cosmo’s drawing of Keir Hardie is now in the National Portrait Gallery.  If these people were acquaintances of Kate Broomhead and Cosmo’s sister Sissie, they must have spent some interesting evenings.  Some evidence from the mid-1930s suggests that Cosmo Rowe was another of the group’s socialists-to-the-end, although he never became an out-and-out politician; and perhaps some of the people in the list above were still his friends in 1930s.  If Kate Broomhead was a socialist-to-the-end, she will have had no chance to do much about it in the 1890s of course; the idea that women might vote in general elections wasn’t on the agenda even of socialists at that time, as far as I know.  However, I would suppose - I may be wrong - that even in such a situation, it would be difficult for a woman to marry a man whose politics she didn’t share; so I’m cautiously assuming that Kate did have socialist sympathies. 


Or maybe not.  The Hammersmith Socialist Society wasn’t all heavy political argument.  A woman might want to get involved in the group’s musical evenings, even if politics were something she didn’t bother with.  At one concert Cosmo Rowe sang duets with Emily Isobel Harrison who was a soprano in the Hammersmith Socialist Choir.  In 1901 she married Gustav Holst, who was the choir’s conductor.  Perhaps Kate and Sissie sang in the choir and there will have been chances for Kate to play her violin.  Cosmo also had musical friends outside the Hammersmith Socialist Society.  A drawing by Cosmo of the piano teacher James Kwast still exists.  Kwast lived in Frankfurt where perhaps Cosmo went to visit him; in 1895 Percy Grainger was one of Kwast’s pupils so there’s a possibility that Cosmo, Kate and Sissie knew Grainger.


I’ve gone on a bit about Cosmo Rowe’s social/political life because it’s the only handle I’ve got for the kind of friends Sissie Rowe and Kate Broomhead must have had in the early-to-mid 1890s.  As usual, the available information is on the men not on the women; and even with the men it tends to focus on those who got more famous later, so that teasing out the part Cosmo Rowe played in it all has been quite hard work.  There’s no mention of Sissie Rowe playing any part in William Morris’ circle.  That doesn’t mean she never went to any of these social events, it just means that she was not a well-known person either at the time or later, so historians haven’t noted her name.  Exactly the same is true of Kate Broomhead; but the Hammersmith Socialist Society was a very likely venue for a first meeting between the two women.  They had got to know each other by late 1896; by which time Kate probably knew Cosmo as well.  Just in time, in a way, because late in 1896 William Morris died, and the group of which he was the centre began to drift apart. 


As well as his banner for the Hammersmith Socialist Society, Cosmo Rowe did art work and illustrations for other socialist organisations, including the Land Nationalisation Movement.  He also did a drawing of William Morris which he later made up into a full-scale portrait in oils.  But all that work was certainly unpaid, so how was he earning his daily bread?


The books on H G Wells say that Cosmo Rowe trained as an artist at the National Art Training School, which was renamed the Royal College of Art in 1896.  They don’t give dates for when he was a student there.  That he was a student there around 1880 seems likely, given the dates of three out of his four exhibited works; on the other hand, a reference to him in connection with a students’ magazine from the late 1890s might mean he’d left it as late as his mid-30s to complete his art training.  I suppose he must have gone to the Normal School as a kind of insurance policy in case he couldn’t earn enough from his art; a training in zoology would also have enhanced his employability as an artist and illustrator.  I couldn’t find any evidence that he ever worked as a teacher and I think he never intended to unless things were desperate. 


I believe Cosmo Rowe was already working as an artist when he started at the Normal School of Science.  I think he is the William Rowe who in 1883 began working as a painter of porcelain for Doulton (now Royal Doulton), using the identification mark ‘WR’.  This person continued to work for Doulton until 1939 - giving Cosmo, if my identification is correct, a regular (though possibly not very great) income from work that he could do at home and combine firstly with his teacher-training and later with his unpaid work for the Hammersmith socialists.  Working for Doulton, with consignments of pottery to be painted and possibly deadlines to meet, might explain why Cosmo exhibited so few large-scale oil paintings: two, possibly three, in the mid-1880s; one in 1891; and one in 1900. I’ve found mention on the web of two more paintings that he painted but never exhibited (at least I don’t think he did); but that seems to be it, for large-scale works.  No portraits of Kate or Sissie, alas!


One of the artists’ dictionaries I consulted while on the trace of Cosmo Rowe described him as an printer and etcher, but I couldn’t find any information about that side of his work and I only found evidence for two sets of illustrations.  Professor Conwy Lloyd Morgan’s Animal Sketches, published in 1891, contained 60 pictures by Cosmo in which he made good use of his Normal School lessons in zoology (which was taught until 1885 by T H Huxley).  And in 1897 Cosmo’s drawings illustrated H G Wells’ War of the Worlds when it was first published, in episodes, in Pearson’s Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan in the USA.  H G Wells was quite a cartoonist himself though he never did professional work as an illustrator; perhaps Cosmo had helped him improve his technique and confidence.  Many years later, when Wells was very famous, Cosmo started to bring together a collection of his friend’s drawings, some of which have since been published.


In the 1880s and 1890s Sissie Rowe was also doing work that could be described as artistic but her working life illustrates harshly the difference in outcome between two 19th-century siblings possibly with equal talent, one of which was male and the other female.  Sissie was working at home, which by this time was rooms at 9 Amor Road (off The Grove Hammersmith) where the householder was Edwin James Neville.  Sissie was employed as a retoucher of photographs - adding colour and fine detail with paint, and covering up blemishes, particularly on portraits (no colour photography yet, of course).  Valeria Coulter, the grandmother of my husband Roger Wright, did the same job as Sissie did at about the same time, though she worked in her employer’s studio, not at home.



Kate Broomhead and Cosmo Rowe married in the summer of 1897, during the period Cosmo Rowe’s illustrations to The War of the Worlds were appearing in Pearson’s Magazine.  She was 38, he was 37; so perhaps it was not surprising that they didn’t have any children.  On the other hand, perhaps it was their choice: in the advanced social circles in which they moved, it wouldn’t have been difficult to find out how to have sex without babies.  On the day of the 1901 census they were living in rooms at 18 Beauclerc Road Hammersmith.  They didn’t stay in them much longer, however, before moving out of west London to Wealdstone, possibly to 71 Masons Avenue near Harrow and Wealdstone station, where Cosmo was still living almost 50 years later.  Perhaps, now that William Morris was dead, they felt they had nothing in Hammersmith to stay for. 


On the day of the 1901 census, Sissie Rowe and her mother were living at 14 Weltje Road south of Ravenscourt Park tube station.  Mr Neville had given up his tenancy of 9 Amor Road but the move to Weltje Road also suggests that - without Cosmo Rowe’s contribution to the budget - finances were getting uncomfortably tight for Elizabeth and Sissie.  They were renting rooms from William Stevens, a retired engine fitter who - after a life working for a railway company - was probably a lot more comfortably off than they were.  Elizabeth was now 81.  Sissie (now 41 herself) had taken on more paid work - work of the sort that a relatively poorly trained and educated middle-class woman could do at home while looking after an increasingly frail relation.  As well as her photograph retouching she was now sewing ribbons.  She was self-employed and might have had to spend precious time doing the rounds of the local drapers to sell her ribbons, as well as sewing them up.  To me, her life seems grim - and it’s at this depressing point that Sissie Rowe passes out of the family history records that I am able to access at the moment.  I believe that by the day of the 1911 census, Elizabeth Rowe was dead; though I can’t find a death registration for her up to that date so perhaps she lived on beyond 91.  On her death, whenever it was, Elizabeth’s income from the annuity would no longer be available to Sissie.  Sissie isn’t on the 1911 census.  The 1921 census might tell me more and perhaps confirm my guess that she was living and keeping house for Cosmo later in her life.  I haven’t found any information about her death - when or where - as it’s been hard to identify her.



Cosmo Rowe never joined the GD or its daughter orders; but Kate continued to be a member after her marriage, studying for her 2nd Order initiation.  By the time she became a member of the 2nd Order, in July 1900, she was one of the GD’s longest serving members; though she chose not to play an active part in its gradual disintegration until the very end of that process, in the spring of 1903.  Neither did Sissie Rowe - a much less senior member - presume to take any sides in the disputes of the years 1900 to 1903.  However, after the annual meeting of the GD’s 2nd Order members in the spring of 1903 it was clear that the Order was not going to continue.  Sissie wasn’t in the 2nd Order and won’t have been allowed to attend the meeting; but I’m sure Kate would have told her what happened - there wasn’t much point in keeping quiet about 2nd Order business to non-2nd Order members any longer.  The two women probably mulled it over together, trying to decide what if anything to do. 


Kate found it easier to make up her mind.  She was one of a group of 14 2nd Order members (led by A E Waite) who signed a declaration on 24 July 1903 announcing their independence from the original GD.  This was the first statement of intent of what became the Independent and Rectified Order or Rite.  Eight more erstwhile GD members joined this group before the IRRO/R was constituted on 7 November 1903.  Sissie Rowe took longer to move on from the GD.  She didn’t sign the declaration in July and she wasn’t at the ritual of November.  However, she was one of seven other ex-GD members who joined the new order after its official founding-date, though the exact dates on which any of them did so are not known.  The records of the IRRO/R aren’t in the public domain if they exist at all, so I don’t know how active a member of it Sissie Rowe was; or whether she dropped out of it or continued her membership of the order until A E Waite wound it up in 1914.


Kate clearly intended to continue her involvement in magic by becoming a member of the IRRO/R.  Having signed the declaration of intent, she then went off to Paris with her husband to combine a holiday with getting up-to-date with modern art trends.  And there, on 2 August 1903, Kate died, aged 43.  It was sudden and unexpected, and Cosmo Rowe was devastated: a sad little death notice appeared in the London Daily Mail.  So devastated was he that he didn’t cope well with the legal and financial aftermath.  Kate had made a Will - probably on the occasion of her marriage - and had appointed her brother Henry as her executor.  However, chancery court proceedings about the Will and its provisions were still going on in 1917 and it looks as though, in mourning his “dear wife”, Cosmo Rowe had forgotten to pay some of her creditors.  


Cosmo Rowe - if I’ve identified him correctly - continued to work for Doulton for many years but I couldn’t find any mention of any large-scale art works by him after Kate’s death; or any illustration work.  That absence of information may just be a feature of the sources I’ve looked at; but I do get an impression of a man whose life stuck at the point of his wife’s death.  I’ve said I don’t know when Sissie died, nor where she was living or how she was supporting herself after 1901; but it looks as though she might have died before her younger brother.  Cosmo died in November 1947 and a few weeks later, a firm of solicitors in Sheffield put a notice in the Times asking if anyone knew whether he had made a will.  The notice was probably inserted at the request of Henry Roland Broomhead, son of Kate’s brother Henry.  It took two years to sort out Cosmo’s estate; if Sissie had still been alive perhaps it wouldn’t have taken so long.  A Will did turn up eventually: Henry Roland was its executor and perhaps its main beneficiary.




BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


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


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


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


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


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


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





See www.surnamedb.com for information on the Broomheads from medieval to modern.

At ancestry.co.uk a map of surname distribution 1891 census.


THE HENRY BROOMHEADS solicitors in Sheffield and it’s clear even contemporary sources have a hard time telling one Henry from another.

Via google to Sheffield Directory and Guide issue of 1828 p14.

The Legal Observer or Journal of Jurisprudence volume 17 1839: list of those who had passed their solicitors’ exams in 1838.


I’m fairly sure (though not absolutely convinced) that the Henry Broomhead whose behaviour caused these two court cases can’t be closely related to Kate: the dates are wrong.  But I found the cases so hilarious I thought I’d include details of the website which has the longest coverage of the gory details. Law Times volume 33-303 issue of 23 July 1859.


MARTHA BROOMHEAD, Kate’s mother:

I couldn’t find any information on Martha’s birth: not the date and not her mother’s name.

This might be the marriage of Henry and Harriet though if it is, Harriet is Martha’s step-mother not her birth mother.  Sheffield Independent 2 August 1839 recent marriages.

JOHN BROOMHEAD Kate’s father

Familysearch England-ODM GS film numbers 504068, 504070, 504543.



For it’s having taken place in York before being registered in Worksop: familysearch England-EASy GS film number 1655794.


Via google to www.genuki.org.uk, to a transcription of Bulmer’s Directory for Bridlington issue of 1892: Mr John Broomhead is in the alphabetical list of prominent residents, at Zetland Villa.  No further information on the address was given so perhaps none was needed in what was a small town.  And there was no information on John Broomhead’s occupation (he didn’t have one) or his sources of income.



Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p172.



For Florence Farr’s friendship with May Morris:

Women of the Golden Dawn by Mary K Greer.  Rochester Vermont: Park Street Press 1995


Sources for Lilian Blyth and Wilfred Praeger: see their combined biography on my web pages.


Sources are lacking for what exactly happened in the GD between 1901 and 1903.  Ellic Howe in his history of the GD uses A E Waite’s account of the events, but says that it definitely isn’t a full or accurate account.  The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923 by Ellic Howe.  London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972: P251-52.  The full list of those GD members who joined A E Waite’s Independent and Rectified Order or Rite is in R A Gilbert’s Golden Dawn Companion pp169-170 and in A E Waite: A Magician of Many Parts by R A Gilbert.  Wellingborough Northants 1987 p178.



I drew my information on the general picture from

Musical Women in England 1870-1914: Encroaching on all Man’s Privileges.  Paula Gillett.  Macmillan 2000.

There was no entry for Kate, as Broomhead or as Rowe in the New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition.  I didn’t really expect one as this is a very new edition, but I rather think Kate wasn’t in the original edition either.



Marriage of William Rowe and Elizabeth Monkhouse: Familysearch England-EASy GS film number 2112985.

Baptism of Sarah Ann Rowe: familysearch England-ODM GS film numbers 438179 and 438178.

Birth and baptism of Cosmo Rowe: familysearch England-EASy GS film number = 438182 though badly transcribed as William John “Menbhens” Rowe.  Both the 1860 birth date and the 1871 baptism date are given.



PO Directory 1894 Northern Suburbs Hammersmith street directory p204 Amor Road.

PO Directory 1896 Northern Suburbs Hammersmith street directory p178 Amor Road. 

PO Directory 1898 Northern Suburbs Hammersmith street directory p192 Amor Road. 


If you mean: did she paint large or even medium-sized works and exhibit them in public in an art gallery? I think the answer is no.  I haven’t been able to find a shred of evidence for any such works by her.  So it’s likely that she didn’t paint such works on private commission either.


Again, I haven’t found a likely death registration for her; and there doesn’t seem to be an entry for her in the Probate Registry.  At Cosmo’s death, the call for people to come forward who could say whether he ever wrote a Will suggests that Sissie was either dead by then; but she may just have been mentally incapacitated or very ill and not able to give the information.



The most informative source was:

The Picshuas of H G Wells: A Burlesque Diary Gene K Rinkel and Margaret E Rinkel.  Urbana and Chicago: Univeristy of Illinois Press 2006 pp50-51.  On p51, Figure 2.9 is a cartoon invitation card sent by Wells to Cosmo Rowe and kept by Cosmo so that it’s still extant.  There’s no date, but evidence on p49 establishes it as sent during 1896.

Good on Wells’ life in general during his period at the Normal Schools:

H G Wells: Desperately Mortal by David C Smith.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1986.  Particularly pp11-21.

Other information on the Normal School of Science:

Imperial College’s website at www.imperial.ac.uk

At www.british-history.ac.uk, British History Online, funded by English Heritage.  Information reproduced from Survey of London volume 38: South Kensington Museums Area.  Editor F H W Sheppard published 1975 pp233-47

A brief mention in an official History of Imperial College 1907-2007 by Hannah Gay.  London: Imperial College Press 2007. 



If Cosmo did any paintings of his wife Kate, they have not survived.


His education.  The mid-1890s date for him as a student comes from his name coming up when I was searching google scholar.  The reference was to a magazine The Beam published by students at the National Art Training School South Kensington.  It ran for numbers 1-3 only, in 1896.  I haven’t been able to find a copy of it to check out the reference to Cosmo.

Victorian Tiles by Hans van Lemmen.  Princes Risborough: Shire 2000 p23.

International Dictionary of Miniature Painters, Porcelain Painters and Silhouettists editor Harry Blättel.  Munich: Arts and Antiques 1992 p782 there is an entry for one William Rowe and no Cosmo Rowe.  The source for his entry is J P Cushion Handbook of Pottery and Porcelain Marks London: 1980. 

The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 compiled J Johnson, A Greutzner.  Antique Collectors’ Club 1976.  P439 which has an entry for “William J Monkhouse” Rowe, exhibiting 1883-91 and described as “Printer and etcher”, bsd London.  There’s no entry for Cosmo Rowe and no entry for any man called William Rowe who might have been Cosmo Rowe’s father. 

Dictionary of British Art volume IV: Victorian Painters volume 1: The Text by Christopher Wood.  Antique Collectors’ Club 1995.  On p453 there’s no entry for Cosmo Rowe.  There are entries for a William J Monkhouse Rowe; and a William Rowe “Junior”.  On the Occam’s Razor principle and given the dates of the works exhibited, I am assuming that the two entries are the same artist.  The second entry acknowledges the existence at some time of a William Rowe senior who is also an artist; but there’s no separate entry for such a person.


The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors...1769-1904 volumes 5 and 6 compiled by Algernon Graves.  S R Publishers 1970 p383 and again I’m using Occam’s Razor to assume two entries are in fact the same artist.  A William Rowe exhibiting 1883 and 1886; and a William M Rowe exhibiting 1891.  The William M Rowe at least is definitely Cosmo: the address is the one he, Elizabeth and Sissie were living at on the day of the 1891 census; in Frithville Gardens off Uxbridge Road.  There’s no entry for a William Rowe who might have been Cosmo and Sissie’s father.

Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950 by Grant M Waters.  Eastbourne Fine Art 1975 p287 has no entry for Cosmo Rowe, under any name.



Animal Sketches by Professor Conwy Lloyd Morgan of Bristol University.  London: E Arnold ?1891 with 60 illustrations by “W Monkhouse Rowe”.


At www.1st-art-gallery.com a portrait of William Morris in oils by Cosmo Rowe, possibly 1895.  This is one of the websites that says that Cosmo Rowe is American and gives dates of 1877-1952.  This portrait - the only one in oils that I’ve found - might be the one also covered by website bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings, as now owned by National Trust and housed at Wightwick Manor.


Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger editors Malcolm Gillies, David Pear and Mark Carroll.  New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006: illustration pxiii and dates that Grainger was Kwast’s pupil pxv.


War of the Worlds:

Information from wikipedia: War of the Worlds was first published in serial form during 1897, in different magazines in the UK and the USA: Cosmopolitan magazine in USA; and Pearson’s Magazine from April to December 1897 in the UK.  It was published in book form in 1898 by William Heinemann and has never been out of print.  I came across Cosmopolitan volume 23 1897 on the web.  On p478 Cosmo Rowe is credited with some of the illustrations to War of the Worlds, but not all of them.

Arnold Bennett and H G Wells: A Record of a Personal and Literary Friendship by Arnold Bennett, H G Wells; edited and with introduction by Harris Wilson.  London: Rupert Hart-Davis 1960: p42 footnote 2.

Fire in the Stone: Prehistoric Fiction from Charles Darwin to Jean M Auel by Nicholas Ruddick.  Middletown Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press 2010.  Figure 1.6, p216 footnote 26.


Two drawings of James Keir Hardie by Cosmo Rowe are now in National Portrait Gallery, because of their famous sitter, not because of Cosmo’s fame as an artist because he had none.  Perhaps that’s the reason why even the NPG identifies him as American, 1877-1952.  The NPG website www.npg.org.uk says both are drawings done a photograph taken by G C Beresford, not from life. Catalogued as NPG 2542 and NPG D42979 and dated 1905 making them the only works (other than the works for Doulton) known to exist by Cosmo Rowe which were likely to be done after Kate’s death.


At www.findartinfo.com were details of 2 works by Cosmo Rowe in their recently sold list.

1 = another portrait of Keir Hardie; pencil; sold 2012. 

2 = one of the illustrations Cosmo Rowe did for Wells’ War of the Worlds; gouache; sold 2009. 


An oil painting apparently signed by “Cosmo Rowe” was sold on ebay in April 2014: Gypsy Dancers, 18½” x 27".  Oil on board; signed; undated.



H G Wells: Desperately Mortal by David C Smith.  See above in the Cosmo’s Education section.

The War of the Worlds: A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition H G Wells and Leon E Stover.  Jefferson North Carolina: McFarland and Co Inc Publishers 2001 in the Annotated H G Wells Series; number 4.  Introduction p9; p28.



William Morris, Prophet of England’s New Order by Lloyd Eric Grey.  London: Cassell and Co Ltd 1949: p307-13; p332-335; p344-345.  In the 1930s L E Grey had written to Cosmo Rowe while researching the book: his account of the Hammersmith socialists in the early and mid-1890s is based on Cosmo’s replies.

William Morris the Marxist Dreamer by Paul Meier, translated from the original French by Frank Gubb. 2 volumes, Sussex: The Harvester Press; New Jersey: Humanities Press 1978.  Volume 1 p210; also quoting a letter written by Cosmo Rowe in the 1930s.



Via newspaperarchive.com to London Daily Mail of 7 August 1903 p1 death notices.

The Law Times, the Journal and Record of the Law and Lawyers volumes 143, 144 1917 p32 list under the heading “Creditors under estates in Chancery”.

London Gazette 23 October 1917 a legal notice following on a decision in the Chancery Court in the matter of the estate of Kate Eleanor Rowe deceased.



Times 17 December 1947 p1 legal notices, repeated Times 24 December 1947 p1.




19 June 2014


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: