Robert Roy was one of the first people to be initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  His initiation took place at the GD’s Isis Urania temple in London, in June 1888.  He gave the GD his address and chose a Latin motto, ‘Nil desperandum’, but was never an active member.


This biography is short, for two reasons.  Firstly, there’s a note in a GD address book that describes Robert’s membership as “nominal”.  Secondly, I haven’t been able to find out much about him, on the web or elsewhere, except for his involvement in freemasonry; for reasons which might become clear if you read the biography through. 

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 ROBERT ROY.


As well as calling Robert’s membership of the GD “nominal”, there are also notes on its membership roll saying “no papers left” and “portal only”.  I think he was initiated in order to bind him to silence about the GD’s existence.  He may have offered the GD’s founders some advice on ritual or legal matters; but that was as far as his membership ever went.




GD founders William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers knew Robert as a fellow freemason, more particularly as a member of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).  For more on SRIA see the end of this ‘freemasonry’ section.   SRIA was an exception in Robert’s life as a freemason: the freemasons’ lodges he joined had connections either with his university, or with his profession.



Robert’s first initiation, in 1874, was into Isaac Newton University Lodge 859, the first lodge to be founded at Cambridge University.


In 1876, he joined two more lodges, most of whose members were Oxbridge students or graduates:



Initiation into a craft lodge was the basic way into freemasonry.  Robert joined the Oxford and Cambridge Lodge 1118, which had a rule that at any time, two-thirds of the members had to be graduates of Oxford or Cambridge.  The lodge was founded in 1866 and met, not in Oxford or in Cambridge, but at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Covent Garden.  The lodge always had a problem with members leaving London or even England and letting their membership lapse - all its founding members had moved on by 1880.  So Robert served a year as its Worshipful Master (WM) almost as soon as he became a member, in 1876.  There was a thread running through the membership of the lodge, of members whose wives joining the GD.  Robert may have known Rev Hugh Reginald Haweis (WM in 1867) whose wife Mary Eliza was a GD member; Henry William Wynn ffoulkes (WM in 1882) whose wife Florence became a member; and Hugh Elliot (WM in 1891) who joined the GD himself and then arranged for his wife Blanche to do so.


If you were interested in the ritual and esoteric side of freemasonry, a Royal Arch initiation was your next step.   Oxford and Cambridge Lodge 1118 set up a Royal Arch chapter in 1874 and Robert became a member of that too. 



Issac Newton University Lodge 859 had become a victim of its own popularity by the 1870s and had more members than it could easily cope with.  Alma Mater Lodge 1492 which was founded in 1874 to help cope with the overflow.  Robert joined 1492 in May 1876.  Although membership was restricted to Cambridge University graduates, 1492's founders had always intended that the lodge would meet somewhere convenient for members living in London.  Lodge meetings during Robert’s lifetime were held at the Railway Hotel Bletchley.  Again, Robert was not a particularly active member of the lodge and didn’t serve as its WM. 



Quatuor Coronati 2076 was founded in 1886 as a forum for the study of the history and symbolism of freemasonry.  Meetings were based around a paper or papers read by members and then published in the lodge’s magazine Ars Quatuor Coronati.  The lodge had relatively few full members but a very large number of corresponding members living all over the world.  Robert became one of these in November 1888, a few months after his GD initiation and was probably urged to do so by William Wynn Westcott, who was a full member.  Corresponding members could attend lodge meetings although they couldn’t vote or hold office.  Robert went to three meetings, in June 1889, October and November 1889 but thereafter hardly ever went to any although he did keep up his corresponding membership. 



You didn’t have to be a barrister to be a member of this lodge; but it was set up for barristers who worked on the Midland and Oxford court circuits, or who had done so in the past.  It met not in the Midlands or in Oxford, but at the Café Royal on Regent Street in central London.  It was set up in 1898 and Robert was one of the founders.  Founder-members usually served as a new lodge’s officers in its first year, but that didn’t happen in Robert’s case and he never did a year as the lodge’s WM.  All members of bar lodges were eligible to join the Royal Arch chapter which held its meetings at the Inns of Court.  I haven’t found any records of this chapter so I don’t know whether Robert did take up the option to join it.




In 1905, Robert helped to found a new craft lodge with a particular purpose: Aldwych Lodge 3096 was founded as a temperance lodge.  Although it later relaxed its rules, during Robert’s lifetime only freemasons who never drank alcohol under any circumstances could join it.  As with the Midland and Oxford bar lodge, Robert never served the lodge as an officer.  He might have joined its chapter, though - founded in 1907 - and might have helped members of Aldwych 3096 set up the Federation of Temperance Masonic Lodges, founded in 1912.  Named after the road called The Aldwych, which came into being in 1905, and most of its members in its early years were business and professional men with offices in the streets around it.  The lodge met nearby, at the Mark Masons’ Hall on Great Queen Street. 



I’ve found one reference to Robert’s being a Past Principal Grand PT WHAT’S THAT? In the province of Cambridgeshire; an office he must have held while he was still at Cambridge University.



Mark Masonry was set up in England in the mid- to late-19th century: its first Grand Master was not appointed until 1856.  It is separate from craft masonry, with its own Grand Lodge and offices in St James, but all prospective members must already be a member of a craft lodge. 


Mark Masonry’s Metropolitan Council was formed so early in mark masonry’s history that it was deemed not to need a number or a warrant.  Robert joined this Council, probably in the early 1880s, and served as its WM in 1885-86. 


Mark Masonry lodge KING SOLOMON 385 was founded in October 1887 and I think it’s quite likely that Robert was a founding member of it.  In a Mark Masonry yearbook from 1887 he’s listed as due to take office as the lodge’s WM at its next installation meeting. 


The two yearbooks I looked at for information on Mark Masonry show how much it expanded in the 1870s and 1880s.  Not only were a large number of new lodges founded; but its national organisation grew rapidly so that by 1898 a full list of national offices and office-holders could be published.  However, the list showed that Robert had kept his involvement in it to lodge level only. 




The AAR is an independent form of craft freemasonry.  It has its own hierarchy; its own freemasonry degrees from 4 to 33; and its own masonic hall at 33 Golden Square.  There’s evidence of some form of its Rite being worked in England in the mid-18th century but a Supreme Council to govern those using it was not set up in England until 1845.  Membership of the AAR is by invitation and only those who have been craft masons for a year are considered.  The modern AAR also expects prospective members to believe in the Christian trinity; such belief was probably taken as read in Robert’s time.  The AAR’s equivalent to a craft lodge is called a rose croix chapter. 


Once again, Robert chose a university-based group to become a member of: he was in Oxford and Cambridge Chapter 45, which had been founded in 1873 and held its meetings at the AAR headquarters.  Hugh Elliot, who later joined the GD; Henry Wynn ffoulkes, whose wife joined the GD; and the Earl of Euston whose sister joined the GD; were also members of this chapter.  By 1880 Robert had reached the AAR’s 30º level of initiation, the highest level you could achieve easily - you had to have served as a chapter’s Most Worshipful Sovereign (MWS, its equivalent to a craft lodge’s WM) to get there.  However, in 1891 Robert achieved something which required more patience: he made it to the 31º level.  Only 81 members were allowed at this level at any time, so there was a certain amount of waiting for dead men’s shoes to be done.  The initiation fees for it were high, as well, and only one other GD member achieved it, Rev Thomas William Lemon.  Robert was still in the AAR in 1900, the last year whose records I looked at.


RED CROSS OF CONSTANTINE (RCC) whose full name is much longer.

There’s some evidence of a degree called RCC being worked in early 19th century England but the Order that Robert joined was not set up until the 1860s; after which it went worldwide with great speed.  Candidates for initiation have to be Royal Arch masons already.  I haven’t found out which Royal Arch chapter Robert belonged to but I presume it must have been Oxford and Cambridge Lodge 1118's and that he could have been considered for RCC membership from the mid-1870s.


Robert was a member of the RCC’s University Conclave 128.  It had been founded in 1875 and Robert might have been a founding member.  However, the earliest details I could find of it were from 1895; it might have been dormant by then as there was no information on it in the list of current conclaves.  It was meant to hold its meetings in Cambridge. 


Robert is in a list of RCC members from 1899 but his involvement in RCC was at a very low level: there’s no mention of him in lists of the RCC’s national officers. 



The RSM arrived in England from the USA during the 1860s or early 1870s and a Grand Council to rule it in England was set up in July 1873.  Those wishing to join it had to be Royal Arch masons and Mark Master masons already.  The RSM’s equivalent to a craft lodge was called a council and the equivalent to a craft WM was called a Thrice Illustrious Master (TIM).


When Robert joined the RSM, it didn’t have its own headquarters building.  Its meetings were held in the masonic hall in Red Lion Square until the early 1890s, when they moved to the Mark Masons’ new hall in Great Queen Street.  Robert was initiated into the RSM’s Grand Masters Council 1 in 1879, the same year that future GD member Rev Thomas William Lemon joined it.  Grand Masters Council 1 was - as its number implies - one of the first RSM councils to be founded in England.  Despite its title, it had relatively few members, so that the same man (not Robert) served as its TIM from 1871 to 1882.  In 1886 future GD member Nelson Prower joined Grand Masters Council 1.  In 1896 Otto Heinemann joined it; he wasn’t in the GD but one of the senior employees at his publishing firm was - Hugh Elliot.


The RSM was the one freemasons’ organisation in which Robert did serve as a national officer.  In 1880, very shortly after he joined it, he spent a year as the RSM’s Steward; though he never got any further up its hierarchy.   


In 1896, Robert, Rev Lemon and Nelson Prower were all still members of Grand Masters Council 1.  Rev Lemon was still a member of it in 1899 but by that time, both Robert and Prower had left it; though they were still members of the RSM as a whole. 




Members of Quatuor Coronati 2076 were initiated into the GD in its early years; and so were members of the Theosophical Society (see below for more on that).  However, the most likely route for Robert to take to the GD - however nominally - was via SRIA.  Only freemasons could join the SRIA though it maintained its independence from the UGLE.  Organised in colleges (usually one per town or city) it was a forum for the study of the history of freemasonry and the meaning of its symbolism.  The two main founders of the GD - William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers - were both very active members of SRIA’s Metropolitan College, and they recruited other members of it to their new Order.


My source for Robert’s time in the SRIA is the Transactions of its Metropolitan College.  Robert was already a member of the Metropolitan College by the time the first set of Transactions were issued, in 1885; and was still a member though rather less active, in 1913, its last issue before a gap covering World War 1.  In that period he attended virtually all the College’s April meetings, at which the officers for the coming 12 months took up their posts.  Despite working out of town he managed to get to most of its other meetings, and to serve on some of its sub-committees.  In 1885 he was already one of the two auditors of the College’s accounts and from 1892 until at least 1905 he was its Treasurer.  For some years from 1892 he was also the College’s honorary secretary.  From 1891 to 1905 he was one of the College’s two representatives on the SRIA’s governing body, its High Council.  He probably stood down in order to have the time to be a member of a committee set up to revise the College’s rules.  By 1910 he was less involved in the running of the College but had joined its study group, which met twice a month between October and July and went on outings to places of historical interest in the summer.


One reason why Westcott and Mathers might have been keen to have Robert in their GD is indicated by a remark Westcott made in 1889 about Robert’s ritual work.  He called it “facile and accurate”.  Of course Westcott was not using the word ‘facile’ in its modern, derogatory sense but in its original sense of being easy and perhaps flowing, looking effortless.  This was probably a reference to Robert’s work during his twelve months as the Metropolitan College’s Magister Templi, in 1887-88.  The College’s equivalent to a craft lodge WM was its Celebrant.  Robert never served in that capacity, though he was its President (a more administrative role) in 1887.  As President, he was chosen with Westcott and SRIA’s Supreme Magus Dr William Woodman (but no one else) to be given a rank in the SRIA’s equivalent in the USA, in October 1887. 


As with Quatuor Coronati 2076, SRIA meetings were organised around a talk given by one of the members, with discussion afterwards.  Most talks at the Metropolitan College were then published in its Transactions.  Robert was obviously more of an administrator than a researcher and lecturer; and he was also a busy professional man: during his long association with the College he only gave two talks.  The first was in January 1889, on The Numbers and Mystic Knowledge.  The second is rather mysterious: he gave it in July 1899 but the title was not printed in that year’s Transactions and its text was not printed in any of the volumes, either.




My research into the GD members has shown that very few were both freemasons and theosophists.  Robert Roy is one of the few; so were GD founders William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell Mathers.  It’s difficult to say from the Theosophical Society records how active he was, but he joined it in November 1889.  The TS was organised very like freemasonry, into locally-based groups which were called lodges and held their own meetings, with speakers either from amongst the members or from amongst the TS hierarchy.  Robert was a member of Blavatsky Lodge, which met at TS headquarters, a house in Regent’s Park which was owned by TS member Countess Wachtmeister.  Helena Petrovna Blavatsky lived in the house from May 1887 to her death in May 1891, so if Robert went to lodge meetings regularly, he will have been well acquainted with her.  He remained a member of the TS through the divisions and bitterness of the 1890s when theosophy struggled to focus itself after Blavatsky’s death.  1904 was the last time he paid his annual subscription and he was judged no longer to be a member, in 1907. 




I haven’t found any, although it is hard to tell whether people were spiritualists as 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.




Database of the collections at the Freemasons’ Library: 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 online copies, digitised as far as 1900, of the main freemasons’ magazines, a very useful resource for some - but not all - freemasons’ organisations. 


Oxford and Cambridge Lodge 1118 and R A Chapter: Notes from the Minute Books compiled by Horace Nelson.  No publication details; nor a date but [p6] the Preface is dated December 1925: passim.

The History of Oxford and Cambridge University Lodge number 1118 1866-1966 by E W R Peterson MA.  Especially pp31-39 - full list of members and the date they joined; pp40-49 list of officers.

A Hundred Years of the Isaac Newton University Lodge 859 1861-1961.  No indication of the author and it’s really only a small brochure.  Passim for a lodge history very much focused on the great and good who’d been its members; pp16-17 list of WM’s so far which doesn’t include Robert Roy. 

Isaac Newton University Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons 859 Cambridge 1861-2011.  Foreword by J M Whitehead especially p54 WM’s so far; and p55 secretaries and treasurers.


Some Personal Impressions of the First Hundred Years of Alma Mater Lodge 1118.  Author is G Walker of Emmanuel College.  No publication details but the Foreword by Jeremy Pemberton is dated August 1983.  Passim but especially Appendix E: list of WM’s.  Robert Roy is in this list, but as a student at Peterhouse College, which contradicts the evidence from later legal sources.


Ars Quatuor Coronati 2076 Volume I 1886-89.  Unnumbered pages at the end of the volume list current officers and members.  On [p16] of this list, Robert Roy as corresponding member number 372; of 83 Kensington Gardens Square, with joining date November 1888. 

Ars Quatuor Coronati 2076 Volume II 1889 p109; p140; p144.  It might be pure coincidence but at the second of these meetings GD member Sydney Turner Klein was proposed as a full member of the lodge; and at the third, he was admitted.  Perhaps Robert and Sydney were acquaintances though I’m not quite sure how they might have met. 

Ars Quatuor Coronati 2076 volumes from 1890 to volume XIII 1900 p53 when he was still a corresponding member.



MIDLAND AND OXFORD BAR LODGE 2716 from 1972 known as Midland, Oxford and South Eastern Bar Lodge.

Freemasons’ Library Lodge File for 2716: invitation to the consecration of the lodge: p7 for the list of founders.

Bye-Laws and List of Members of the Midland and Oxford Bar Lodge 2716 published London 1920: p2, p4.

The Midland, Oxford and South Eastern Bar Lodge 1898-1998 by its current WM, Leslie Wise.  It’s a small pamphlet, with no publication details on it: p2 with Robert Roy sixth on its list of named founder members.  There’s a typesetting error: he’s listed as a member of 559; they mean 859 - the Isaac Newton lodge.  Pp3-4 for list of officers serving in its first year; p5; p8.



Aldwych Lodge 1905-80.  The first 20 pages is a reissue of an earlier booklet: Aldwych Lodge 3096: An Outline of Events During the First Fifty Years by Victor T Farrant.  London: CPS 1955.  P3 for the process of founding it; p6 for officers serving in its first year - not including Robert Roy.  On p7 a list of founders includes a “Robt Ray” which must be the GD member; p8; p19 - list of officers so far; p24.


For aspects of freemasonry other than craft I have been thankful to be able to consult these two books, recommended to me by my friends at the Freemasons’ Library:

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



Masonic Calendar for 1888 which was only the third time one had been published: p15 for its current Grand Lodge and Grand Masters since 1856, when the first was appointed; p52 for its lodges, the first only having been set up in 1881; p75 for King Solomon Lodge 385; p70 for the Metropolitan Council. 

Masonic Calendar for 1898, mostly full of lists of officials at national and provincial levels.  There was no section on the current MM lodges. 



Rules and Regulations for the Government 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.  I looked at:

Issue correct to June 1880: pp35-41; membership list pp43-46; list of current chapters p77.

Issue correct to June 1888, the one published around the time the GD was being set up.  Passim for its rules, and current hierarchy.

And lastly Issue correct to July 1900: p55 for members at level 31º; p74; p264.


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 in London by George Kenning, who was a member of it.  I looked at a volume covering 1868 to 1899.  However, if any reports were issued between 1874 and 1887 they are missing from the volume.  Robert’s name doesn’t appear in any issue before that of 1895, which had the first list of members to be published so far: p21, p42, p51.

The last in the volume is Issue of 1899: p46.


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

Annual Report of Proceedings of the Grand Council of RSM of England and Wales etc. 

Issue of 1887 printed in London 1888 by freemason and publisher George Kenning.  Just noting here that on p4 the annual report described the last year as one of “slow but steady extension” of the RSM in England; with 51 new recruits.  15 councils were named, though 5 were currently dormant; 4 out of the 15 were based in London. 

Issue of 1888 printed 1889 pp10-11: following the death of the RSM’s founder in England, Canon Portal, the Earl of Euston was elected the RSM’s new Grand Master.

Issue of 1889 printed 1890; and Issue of 1890 printed 1891: no mention of any GD members.

Issue of 1891 p3.  Beginning p20 the earliest list of current members that I could find: pp22-23.

Issue of 1896 pp23-24; p28; p29.

Issue of 1899 was the last one in the volume: p24 TWL still in Grand Masters Council 1; p26.



Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana Metropolitan College make it clear he’s a regular attender at meetings from the first issue as far as the last before his death: 1885 to 1913. 

Particularly issues of:

1885 inside front cover - list of senior members of the College.

1886 pp2-3.

1887 p3, p8.

1888/89 p7.

1891/92 inside front cover. 

1892/93 p3.

1895/96 p6.

1899/1900 p1, p4.

1905 p3, p7, p15.

1910 p69.

1911 was the year in which - after a quarter of a century of pretty regular attendance at Metropolitan College meetings - Robert began to send in apologies for absence.

1912 p43 the meeting of October 1912 was the last I know he attended though I daresay he continued to go to some at least, until his death.  No volumes of Transactions were printed during the years 1913 to 1917.


History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia by the MW Supreme Magus Dr William Wynn Westcott.  Privately printed London 1900: p14.



Theosophical Society Membership Register January 1889-September 1891 p130.

For Blavatsky in London:





I haven’t found any.  Quite the reverse in fact: he continued to be listed in the Law Lists until the late 1930s, over 20 years after his death.



Piecing together information from different sources, I think that the GD member’s father and his grandfather were both called Robert Roy; and that they compounded the confusion that was likely to cause, by both - in their day - running the school known in its last years as Burlington House Academy in Fulham.  The process began with GD member’s grandfather Robert Roy founding or taking over a school situated in Old Burlington Street behind Piccadilly.  Around 1807 he moved that school out of town, to the village of Fulham.  As part of this move, he took over Fulham Academy, a well-known school that was already in the village.  He moved Fulham Academy and his own school into a new building, Burlington House, and renamed the school Burlington House Academy.  Burlington House still exists, as flats, in the road now named Burlington Road but originally called Back Lane. 


Robert Roy the GD member’s father was his father’s second son, born in 1791.  He was sent to Cambridge University to prepare him to take over the running of Burlington House Academy in due course.  Robert Roy the GD member’s father graduated in 1815.  He was ordained in the Church of England but doesn’t seem to have ever worked as a parish priest, so the ordination was probably to enhance Burlington House Academy in the eyes of devout parents looking for a suitable school for their sons. 


Rev Robert Roy - the GD member’s father - was still running Burlington House Academy in 1835.  He was probably still at the school when he married in 1845.  But by 1853 Burlington House Academy had shut down. 


In August 1845, Rev Robert Roy married Caroline, daughter of Thomas and Ann (or Anne) Bignold.  Caroline had been born in Clapham in 1818.  Although I don’t have definitive proof, I believe Caroline’s father was a son of businessman Thomas Bignold of Norwich and London, founder (in 1808) of Norwich Union Fire Insurance Company and Norwich Union Life Assurance Society.  Robert Roy the GD member was the son of Rev Robert and Caroline.  He was born in 1847 and was an only child in a mid-Victorian England full of huge families. 

On the day of the 1851 census, the three-year-old Robert Roy was with his parents, visiting Roy relations in Skirbeck Lincolnshire.  The head of the household was away from home that day, but other sources indicate that he was Rev William Roy, formerly head chaplain at Madras, but now Rector of Skirbeck.  From the information I’ve found, I haven’t been able to work out whether the Rev William was an uncle or the elder brother of Rev Robert.  At home at Skirbeck Rectory on census day 1851 were three of Rev William’s daughters, two in their teens and one in her twenties, keeping house with a cook/housekeeper, a housemaid, a kitchen maid and a laundress. 


Perhaps Rev Robert Roy had gone to Skirbeck to do parish duties for his relation while he was away.  Rev Robert’s occupation was written down by the 1851 census official as ‘clergyman’ (not as a teacher or headmaster) so he had already left Burlington House Academy, or closed it down.  

In 1861, Rev Robert Roy, Caroline and GD member Robert (now aged 13) were living at 9 Drayton Terrace in Kensington.  Caroline’s nephew Alfred Bignold, aged 10, was staying with them and Caroline was managing the small household without a cook, with the help of one housemaid.


Sources: censuses 1841, 1851, 1861, probate registry 1863. 

Burlington House Academy: at, a document whose first page I cldn’t see but which is connected with a process under Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conserv Areas) Act 1990, probably helping to lay the groundwork for Fulham Conservation Area: p5 section 4.6: Burlington Road.

Supplement to Captain Sir John Ross’s Narrative... by John Braithwaite.  Published 1835: pxciv lists the Rev Robert Roy of Burlington House Fulham as one of the book’s subscribers.

At Burlington House in Fulham, with information reproduced from

Old and New London volume 6 Chapter 37.  No author gvn but published Cassell Petter and Galpin London 1878.


Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 585471-72: baptism 1 July 1791 at St Luke Chelsea of Robert Roy son of Robert Roy and Mary.

Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 307716 et seq: baptisms at Holy Trinity Clapham.  On 18 May 1818, Caroline daughter of Thomas Bignold and wife Ann née Puxley.  Familysearch also had baptism details for two brothers: Alfred and Alexander.

At a hist of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Company and the Norwich Union Life Assurance Society, both of which were founded 1808 by Norwich businessman Thomas Bignold.  In the list of company secretaries:

1808-1815       Thomas Bignold the founder; who therefore can’t be Caroline Roy’s father.

1815-75           Samuel Bignold, the last Bignold to hold that office. 

There’s a wiki on Samuel Bignold: 1791-1875, third son of Thomas Bignold and his wife Sarah.


On Familysearch I noticed a burial of a Thomas Bignold in 1835 in Norfolk; perhaps this was Caroline Roy’s father.

Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 598186 et seq: marriages at the old church of St Pancras: 29 August 1845, Robert Roy to Caroline Bignold. 

Gentleman’s Magazine volume 24 1845 marriages in November: p522 29 [November] at St Pancras New Church: Rev Robert Roy of Camden Town to Caroline, daughter of the late Thomas Bignold of Norwich and Philipines in Kent.


Rev William Roy:

Seen via google: announcement of a birth of a daughter in Gentleman’s Magazine 1837 is already describing him as a former chaplain at Madras.  Also on google I noticed later mentions of a son of his, another Robert.

Via to The Spectator 16 October 1862 p19 death announcement for Rev William Roy DD, Rector of Skirbeck Lincolnshire.




Rev Robert Roy died in January 1863.  Until his father’s death I think Robert Roy the GD member had been educated at home.  His name hasn’t come up on any of the pupils’ lists that are on the web, and the entries for him in Alumni Cantabrigiensis and the Middle Temple pupils’ list don’t list any school for him.  Robert the GD member followed his father to Cambridge University; but not until 1873 so ten years need to be accounted for that might have been occupied by Robert going to school; or by him having a tutor.  Information from the census isn’t helpful. 


The sources I’ve found don’t agree about which Cambridge college Robert went to.  The legal sources give Downing College but a freemasonry source says it was Peterhouse.  He left the university - probably in 1876 - before taking his degree. 


In January 1876 he began to study for the Bar exams, at the Middle Temple.  He was called to the Bar in June 1881.



Alumni Cantabrigiensis Part 2 No 5 p375.   



The Law Lists show that, once he was qualified to practice, Robert Roy became a barrister on the Oxford circuit, working at the Gloucester sessions.  For nearly twenty years, he didn’t have chambers in London, but in 1900 he moved into the Temple, into rooms at 2 Garden Court.  In 1911 he moved to 2 Brick Court but this was temporary and at his death in 1916 his professional address was back in Garden Court again. 



Website, men admitted to the Middle Temple: p599 in the admissions’ list for 1876.

Alumni Cantabrigiensis Part 2 No 5 p375.

Men at the Bar 2nd edition published 1885: p275, p405.

Law lists: 1893 p196; 1900 p222; 1911 p258.  And 1925 p242; 1835 p237; 1940 p238 all apparently unaware that he had died; perhaps his chambers carried on without him.  He’s not listed in the issue of 1941 p292.



Not that I am aware of.


ANY PUBLIC LIFE/EVIDENCE FOR LEISURE TIME?  Bearing in mind, of course, that most leisure activities leave no trace behind them. 

Freemasonry and theosophy are the only ones I’ve come across, though he was a member of the New University Club, whose premises were in St James’s Street. 



Men at the Bar 2nd edition published 1885: p275 p405.




Census evidence indicates that Robert continued to live with his widowed mother until her death; though after he started work on the Oxford courts circuit in 1881, he will have spent a lot of time out of town.  They probably moved back to Fulham soon after Rev Robert’s death and were certainly there on census day 1871, at 4 Munster Road very near where Burlington House Academy had been.  Caroline was living off an annuity.  Robert told the census official he was a landowner. Perhaps he had inherited some land from his father; however, he never mentioned having income from property in any subsequent census, so the income from it can’t have been large.  He and his mother were certainly living modestly enough, with just the one general servant.  Census day 1881 came about three months before Robert’s final Bar exams.  Caroline Roy still had just the one servant but they had moved to what sounds like a nicer part of Fulham: 1 Fulham Park Gardens.


By 1888, Robert had been in practice as a barrister for several years and they could afford to pay more rent and employ more servants.  They had moved to 83 Kensington Gardens Square, where they were on census day 1891 with a cook and a housemaid. 


Caroline Roy died early in 1894 and Robert, as a bachelor, gave up the house in Kensington Gardens Square.  I couldn’t find Robert on the censuses of 1901 and 1911 - census day always fell during the law courts’ Easter vacation and Robert was probably abroad on holiday both times.  Other evidence shows that by 1900 he had taken business premises at 2 Garden Court, in the Temple precinct, and was living, when in London, in a flat - 6m Hyde Park Mansions, just off Marylebone Road near Edgware Road station.  I don’t know when he first became a tenant there but the huge block doesn’t appear in the PO Directory until 1885.  GD member Dora de Blaquière lived at 1 Hyde Park Mansions from 1884 until 1899. 


At some point, Robert retired, or at least reduced the amount of legal work he did, and moved to the south coast.  At his death, he was living at 29 St Saviour’s Road, St Leonard’s-on-Sea.  He died in June 1916.  He had never married.


Sources: censuses 1871-1911; freebmd; probate registry 1916; Law Lists which confused my by having entries for him up to 1941.

Date at GD Initiation - see Basic Sources section immediately below.

Hyde Park Mansions: PO Directory of London 1883 has no entry for Hyde Park Mansions. 

PO Directory of London street directory 1885 p486 Hyde Park Mansions, Marylebone Road. 

Ars Quatuor Coronati 2076 Volume XIII 1900 p53.

London Gazette 3 November 1916 p10683.



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.


For the freemasons who were in the GD;

Generally for initiations into craft lodges: United Grand Lodge of England membership registers to 1921.  See them at Ancestry by taking the ‘schools directories and church histories’ options. 

See also the various resources at the Freemasons’ Library: see the website at //  Its catalogue has very detailed entries and the website has all sorts of other resources.  You can get from it to a database of freemasons’ newspapers and magazines, digitised to 1900.  You can also reach that directly at 


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.




3 November 2016


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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: