Robert Elliott Steel was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Horus Temple in Bradford, in May 1892, taking the Latin motto ĎTuum cuiqueí.Itís likely that Catherine Elizabeth Spink, Emily Douglas and Charles Herbert Grason were initiated during the same ritual and that he knew at least Miss Spink before that evening.However, Robert Steel never really followed up his initiation and when he moved away from Bradford - if not before - he lost contact with the GD entirely.


The vexed question of spellings: R A Gilbert in the Golden Dawn companion has Robertís surname spelled SteelE but all the sources Iíve come across spell it Steel without the last Ďeí.In my searches for Robert Iíve seen his middle name spelled EllioT and EllioTT; but having researched his motherís family, I think EllioTT is correct.




Both Robert Steel the GD memberís parents told various census officials that were born in Northumberland.They were born in villages quite near each other and probably knew each other - or their families knew each other - from very young.The GD memberís father was also called Robert Steel.He was born in Cowpen, a mining district on the outskirts of the port of Blyth.And Anna Eliza Elliott was born in Hartburn, a small village in the hills behind Blyth.It hasnít been easy to identify either of them from the earliest censuses, but I think Robert Steel may have been the son of a ship-owner, Thomas Steel, who was living with his wife Jane in Blagdon Street Cowpen on the day of the 1841 census.Three of their children were still living at home and not yet married.The eldest son, John, had qualified as a master mariner though he was not at sea on that day.Robert was the second son; he had served an apprenticeship and had gone into business as a linen and woollen draper, employing his younger brother Tindle and an apprentice, John Tulley or possibly Tunney. With so many men in the family in work, Jane Steel was able to employ one servant.††


Anna Eliza Elliott was born around 1830, from what she told census officials.I havenít been able to identify her for certain on any census before she was married.However, researching other people called Elliott who told census officials that they were born in Hartburn, I believe that she had at least two brothers or cousins, John and Henry, who both moved south to act as managers of large estates, one in Bedfordshire and one in Hertfordshire.



I reach safe ground for the first time with these two families in December 1851, when Robert Steel married Anna Eliza Elliott at Stannington, another village near Blyth Northumberland.Whether Robert had already left Northumberland for Lancashire I donít know.The birth of their son (the GD member) Robert Elliott Steel happened early in 1853 in Tynemouth, the registration district which included Blyth, Horton and Cowpen - but a woman about to give birth to her first child might well choose to return to her family even if she usually lived elsewhere.Robertís only sibling, Elizabeth Eleanor Steel, was born in Preston, in 1856.I suppose her parents were living in Preston at the time, but within a few years the family had moved to Manchester


On the day of the 1861 census, Robert and Anna Eliza were living with Robert the younger (now 8) and Elizabeth (4) in semi-rural Levenshulme, at 5 Poplar Cottages on Stockport Road, the turnpike road from Stockport to Manchester.Robert Steel told the census official he worked in a warehouse; but if he is the person from the 1841 census, he wasnít an employee moving stock around, he was the owner of the business.If he was not at the school already in 1861, Robert the GD member was about to delight his parents by winning a place at Manchester Grammar School.So far (July 2014) Robert is the only GD member Iíve come across who had been at one of the old grammar schools; it meant that - possibly even including members whose parents had paid for them to go to public school - he was one of the most thoroughly educated members the GD ever had.There was no chance of Robertís sister getting a grammar school education, of course, even if she had been as clever as her brother; but if I have identified her correctly, her parents had sent Elizabeth to a good school too: on the day of the 1871 census, an Elizabeth Steel aged 15 was one of the pupils at the school in Gateshead run by George and Frances Higginbotham.


By 1871 the Steels had moved to Cheetham, another suburb of Manchester, at this stage still largely a middle-class village.On the day of the 1871 census they were living at 179 Elizabeth Street but by 1872 I think they had moved to 1 Mizpah Terrace Waterloo Road.Robert the GD memberís brilliant career in education was continuing: he had passed the entrance exams to London University and was an undergraduate there in 1871.However (and again, if Iíve found the right man) Robert Steel the elderís wholesale and retail draperís business (at 11 Whittle Street Manchester) was in financial trouble.In the autumn of 1872 one of his creditors could wait no longer and Robert Steel had to agree to liquidation proceedings.I couldnít find any evidence that he actually went bankrupt; so it sounds like he was able to pay his creditors, at least in part, and may have been able to continue in business.However, by 1881 he was dead - probably: I canít pin down a death registration for him, but Anna Eliza told the 1881 census official that she was a widow.



Itís hard to know, of course, whether Robert the GD member would have joined the family business if it and/or his father had survived.I think myself that his parents hoped that he would educate himself out of the stigma (as mid-Victorians saw it) of earning a livelihood from trade.In this respect, perhaps it was a good thing that Robert and Anna Eliza had only two children instead of the large brood that was typical of families at that time.Although they did not have to pay fees for their son, other expenses were inevitable with a son at such a school, and many families, even middle-class ones, could not have managed financially without their sons starting work at the earliest opportunity rather than going to university.For Elizabethís education, Robert and Anna Eliza will have had to pay.Their childrenís education would have been one reason why Robert and Anna Eliza had gone without things that their acquaintances would have considered a necessity - for example, they didnít have a live-in servant in 1861 or in 1871.Even so, Robert the elderís financial troubles meant that Robert the GD member could not continue his course at London University, for which his parents will have had to find both tuition fees and living expenses.Instead, in 1872 he tried for a demyship (a particular kind of scholarship) at Magdalen College Oxford - and got it.He graduated with a first in natural sciences in 1876, and chose teaching as his career.



Robertís first job was at a school similar to the one he had been a pupil in: a grammar school for boys, founded in the 16th century.He was appointed science master at Bradford Grammar School, probably in 1876, and remained in that job until 1894.On the day of the 1881 census he was living at 28 Blenheim Road Manningham and his mother Anna Eliza was keeping house for him, with the help of one servant.Elizabeth Eleanor was working as a teacher too.She was one of two resident teachers employed at Susanna Armytageís boarding school for girls at a house called Ivy Grove in Middleham, Yorkshire.


As Robert gained experience as a teacher he was able to earn a little extra money in the rapidly-expanding world of exam guides and text-books.In 1889 he compiled a set of reference exam papers in inorganic chemistry for the publisher Bell.In 1890 and 1891 he wrote three books for Methuen and Co: a book on practical chemistry to help pupils preparing to sit the Science and Art Departmentís exams; The World of Science; and A Class-Book on Light.In his spare time Robert went walking in the hills of Yorkshire.He joined the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society and itís quite likely that Robert found his way to the GD through his interest in the wonders of Yorkshireís scenery.I havenít found that Robert was a member of the Yorkshire Naturalistsí Union, but itís very likely that he knew people who were; and one who was definitely a member of it was Oliver Firth.


If Robert knew Oliver Firth, a route for him into the GD is clear.In the early 1890s and possibly for a couple of years before that, Firth was one of the lynch-pins of that part of Bradfordís social scene which took an interest in the occult.When the Bradford lodge of the Theosophical Society was set up in the early 1890s Firth was one of its founding members; and for the next three or four years he recruited energetically amongst his acquaintances.In due course, a lot of those Firth had sponsored into the TS went on to be initiated into the GD in Bradford, probably because he recommended them.Amongst the many people he sponsored into the TS were the three Spink sisters - Catherine, Florence and Gertrude - daughters of a local wine merchant. All three Spink sisters were initiated into the GD in due course, Florence in 1891 just before she and Firth were married, and her sisters in 1892, the same year as Robert Steel.


I think itís likely that Robert Steel and Oliver Firth got to know each other in the late 1880s if not sooner, through their interest in geology.So keen was Firth to draw people into the TS and GD that I canít suppose he missed the opportunity to try to recruit Robert to them.However, Robert never joined the TS and although his curiosity was aroused by the GD for a time, it turned out that he didnít share Firthís interest in magic either.Perhaps Robert was too practical and too rational a man; or thought himself to be too modern a man to study magic.It probably didnít help advance the GDís cause with him that although there were several professional chemists and an alchemist amongst its members, they were all based in London: William Crookes was a chemist whose researches had led him to investigate spiritualism and chemistryís borders with physics; the Rev William Alexander Ayton was not a chemist by training but he had decades of experience as an alchemist; Julian Levett Baker and George Cecil Jones worked as chemists, but they also had an interest in the alchemical origins of their profession. Robert might have found conversations with those four men very interesting.However, it seems very unlikely that he ever met any of them.From the mid-1890s Julian Baker and Robert Steel were both members of the Chemical Society (Robert was elected a member in 1885) and the Society of Chemical Industry; so itís likely that they had at least seen each otherís names on membersí lists; but Iím sure neither would have known that the other was in the GD as well.


The Steels had left Manningham by 1885 and had moved to Spring Cliffe House, Heaton Road.This move from a house to rooms in a block possibly happened because Elizabeth Steel was no longer working; I canít believe that it had been any part of Robert the elder and Anna Elizaís plan for their children, that their daughter should have to work.Perhaps by the mid-1880s with ten yearsí teaching behind him, Robertís salary was enough for Elizabeth to give up her job and be the stay-at-home middle-class sister and daughter her parents had meant her to be until she married.By census day 1891 Robert, Elizabeth and Anna Eliza had moved again and were living in an apartment in Hawthorn House at 1 Ladderbanks Lane Baildon.(A few months later the newly-married Oliver and Florence Firth would also rent rooms there.)Robertís wages were enough to cover the wages of one live-in servant.



Robert was known at Bradford Grammar School for his flair as a teacher, and in 1891 had 15 yearsí experience.However, it took another four years for a job to come up that was the right kind of next step in his professional career.In 1894 he was appointed headmaster of the Northampton and County School.It was on the strength of this promotion that he was able to marry Annie Caroline Elliott in 1895.I believe that Annie Caroline and Robert were cousins, possibly even first-cousins.


Annie Caroline Elliott was born in 1856, third child of Henry Elliott and his wife Caroline.She had two older brothers, Robert and William; and a younger sister Emily who died in 1873 aged 14.Annie Caroline was born at Haynes (also called Hawnes) Park near Ampthill in Bedfordshire, but her father told a succession of census officials that he had been born in Hartburn, Northumberland - the same village that Robert Elliott Steelís mother Anna Eliza had been born in.I havenít found conclusive proof to back up my belief, but I do think Henry Elliott and Anna Eliza were related; the relatively rare surname and their place of birth just seem too much of a coincidence.


Henry Elliott had moved south to take a job as an estate manager and he may have been employed by the Haynes Park estate.Its owner, the Rev Lord John Thynne, lived there only when he was able to spare the time from his job as canon and sub-dean of Westminster Abbey.Lord John had inherited Haynes Park from an uncle in 1849; and perhaps Henry Elliott had been appointed to run the estate in that year.Lord John died a few weeks before the day of the 1881 census, but Henry Elliott seems to have continued in his job during the 1880s and early 1890s when Haynes Park was owned by Lord Johnís eldest son.After her mother died in 1875, Annie Caroline kept house for her father, firstly at The Dairy, Haynes, and later at Park Farm Ampthill.


Robert Elliott Steel and Annie Caroline Elliott may have been engaged to be married for several years before Robert got his job in Northampton, and even then they waited another year for the Steels to get settled in the house that came with his job, before getting married.Preparations for the wedding were probably well in-hand in June 1895 when Annie Carolineís father Henry died, presenting everyone with a dilemma.Bereavement usually caused the weddings of the dead personís closest relatives to be put off for about a year while the Victorian mourning rituals were observed.However, as Henry Elliottís house had also gone with his job, his death had left Annie Caroline with no income (she had never worked for wages) and nowhere to live.So the wedding went ahead, perhaps with less celebration than in happier circumstances, on 14 August 1895.


On their wedding day, Robert was 42 and Annie Caroline 39; so itís perhaps not surprising that they only had one child, Caroline Eliza Steel, born in 1896.Annie Caroline however, gained a kind-of extended family at Northampton and County School: on the day of the 1901 census, her household at 37-38 East Parade consisted of Robert and herself and Caroline; plus one of the other teachers at the school, George Charlesworth; a staff of cook, parlourmaid, nurse, laundry maid and housemaid; and 13 boy boarders between the ages of 14 and 18.At Northampton and again at the last job Robert Steel held, Annie Caroline was a surrogate mother to several generations of boys away from home.The arrival of Annie Caroline had freed Anna Eliza from household management and she was not in the UK on census day 1901.Perhaps she was travelling with her daughter and son-in-law: in 1898 Elizabeth Steel had married either John Stuart Woodhall or William Handley (for why I am not sure which, see the Sources section!)



I havenít been able to find out much about Northampton and County School, though I do get the impression that it had been founded relatively recently - since the 1870 Education Act - and specialised in science.In some ways it was an ideal job for Robert Steel but after a few years in the post, he began to get frustrated, both with the control of the curriculum being exercised by the authorities, and the results of that control.The trend that was being dictated by the education authorities was towards ever more specialisation in a narrower range of subjects.Science specialist he may have been, but Robert was a firm believer in the importance of science pupils learning the classics - as he had done at his grammar school.He began to look about him for a job where both disciplines were still taught to all pupils.Eventually a vacancy came up that was in some ways a demotion, but in others a really plum appointment.In 1907, he moved to Sherborne School as science master and curator of the school museum.He almost certainly knew the museum by repute already; it had an excellent geological collection which included specimens found by an ex-pupil, the ammonite expert Sydney Savory Buckman; Sydneyís sister Katherine Julia Buckman was a member of the GD in London.



In 1911 Robert became involved in a curious incident, a kind-of dress rehearsal for the more famous Piltdown Man discovery of 1912.Sherborne School is near what is now known as the Jurassic Coast and one of Robertís duties and pleasures as curator of the school museum was going out into the countryside looking for geological specimens and fossils.A favourite site for investigation was Major Wingfield Digbyís quarry on the outskirts of town, where Robert had found a layer of deposits from the Pleistocene period.He encouraged pupils who seemed keen, to go specimen-hunting on their own and after one such expedition to the quarry, pupils Cortesi and Groves showed Robert a piece of bone which looked like it had a drawing cut into it.How Robert reacted at the time to this possible evidence of ancient art isnít certain any longer: the memory of everyone involved in the incident was coloured by what happened later.However, it is clear that Robert was sufficiently hopeful that the bone and the drawing were genuinely ancient to send the evidence to be examined by Arthur Smith Woodward at the Geological Society of London.Woodward was rather busy at the time assembling the pieces of Piltdown Manís skull: he and Charles Dawson presented the find at the Geological Societyís meeting of December 1912.It wasnít until 1914 that Woodward published an article on the Sherborne Bone, saying that it was a genuine piece of Palaeolithic art.His conclusion generated a lot of discussion in the geological community - not everyone was convinced - but the war then intervened, and it was not until the 1920s that any further investigation of the find was possible.In 1923, Robert and Arthur Smith Woodward revisited the site where the two pupils said they had come across the bone.They didnít find anything of interest, from the Pleistocene or any other period; but whatever doubts Robert had about the bone, he kept to himself for several more years.In 1926, however, articles were published in Nature stating that the bone was a fake, embarrassing Robert, Woodward, Cortesi (Groves had been killed in the war) and even Charles Bayzard, who in 1911 had been working for Robert at Sherborne School museum.But if it was a fake, who created it? - and who was it intended to make a fool of?


A flurry of letters followed from those involved, sent to each other and to the press.Cortesi wrote to Sherborne Schoolís headmaster, asserting that the bone and the art were genuine.Cortesiís school-friend E A Ross Jefferson, wrote to back up Cortesi - it had been he who in 1911 had suggested Cortesi show the find to Robert.Bayzard wrote to Nature saying that heíd suspected a hoax at the time the bone was found, and that the joke had been on Robert.Robert then wrote to Nature saying that if the bone was a hoax, it was intended to deceive Bayzard; and that if it was so obviously a fake, why had no one at the Geological Society said so years before?


Piltdown Man was revealed as a hoax in 1953.Not having got quite that level of publicity, and being rather more difficult to date with any certainty, the Sherborne Bone was not definitively proved to be modern until 1995, but dating techniques not available during Robertís lifetime have confirmed that it was not a piece of Palaeolithic art, it was a hoax.Groves, Cortesi, Ross Jefferson and their fellow pupils have to be the most likely hoaxers; attempting to pull the legs of the staff.When they also fooled several more eminent geologists they must have been delighted.


By 1926 Robert no longer had to face being quizzed about the Sherborne Bone every day in school.He had retired in 1923 and of course that involved leaving Cameron House, The Avenue, Sherborne where he had lived while he had been working.His mother Anna Eliza had died in 1915, at the remarkable age of 89, so it was just Robert, Annie Caroline and daughter Caroline Eliza who moved a few miles out of Sherborne to The Thatch, a house on Gold Street in the village of Stalbridge.Though she was slightly the younger, Annie Caroline died first, in December 1931.Robert Elliott Steel died in October 1933; he had been ill for some time.Caroline Eliza never married.After the death of her parents she moved to Charminster, where she died in 1942.




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 Dawnís administrative records and its Membersí 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 itís now in the Freemasonsí 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; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burkeís Peerage and Baronetage; Burkeís 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; Freemasonsí Library.


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




ROBERT STEEL father of the GD member:

At a short account of Horton and villages close by, using as its source John Marius Wilsonís Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, published 1870-72.

I found very little good evidence about the Steel family of Horton, but I did find a query posted April 2010 at posted April 2010 on John Tunney and John Steel who were 1st cousins whose parents had been born in Horton. Mary Steel had married John Tunney.


That Robert Steel the father may have been in business as a draper in Manchester: London Gazette 30 August 1872 p3874 proceedings under the Bankruptcy Act of 1869.


THE ELLIOTT FAMILY of Harburn Northumberland:

At, an enquiry mentioning a John Elliott born Hartburn 1818, who was living at Bell Bar Hertfordshire by 1851.There was no mention by the enquirer of an Anna Eliza Elliott, just a possible brother Robert.

Website on Brookmanís Park, serialisation of Peter Kingsfordís A Modern History of Brookmanís Park.Chapter 2 covers 1816-80.

1851 census which shows a John Elliott born in Hartburn living at Bell Bar in a house right next to the gates to the Brookmanís Park entrance.He has a visitor, Robert Elliott aged 23. John descs himself as ďbailiffĒ; itís a good guess that heís working at the Brookmanís Park estate.


Familysearch England-ODM GS film numbers 252497 and 252498: marriage of Robert Steel and Anna Eliza Elliott.




Journal of the Chemical Society 1934 part 1 p565 obituary written by E. Hope.



At Robert Elliott (sic) Steel is on a list of examinees June 1870.

MAGDALEN COLLEGE AND ITS DEMYSHIPS: see wikipedia for an explanation.

At, a catalogue of the library at Magdalen College Oxford, their ref MC: P233/3C1 is a scrapbook of letters to (and some from) Edward Chapman, sent/received between 1866 and 1901.The list of correspondents includes Robert Elliot Steel described in the catalogue as holding one of the demyships from 1872 to 1876.



Chemical News and the Journal of Industrial Science volume 51 1885.Itís a weekly journal, published on Fridays, and its founder and current editor is GD member William Crookes.Issue of 27 February 1885 p101 report of the meeting of the Chemical Society held Thursday 19 February 1885: Robert Elliott Steel was amongst those elected a member at that meeting.

Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry volume 11 1892 pxxii membersí list.


British Library catalogue for the textbooks:

1889††† Natural Science Exam Papers; as compiler.In the School Examination Series, editor A M M Stedman. Published Bell.On the web I saw a few references to this book as a Part 1 - Inorganic.But I couldnít find any references at all, at the British Library or via google, to a Part 2 which ought to have been Organic.

1890††† Practical Chemistry for the Elementary Stage of the Science and Art Departmentís Examinations.London: Methuen and Co.

1891††† The World of Science.London: Methuen and Co.

1891††† A Class-Book on Light.London: Methuen and Co.



The marriage of Elizabeth Eleanor Steel was registered at Durham in the autumn of 1898.That much is clear from freebmd.However, it wasnít possible from freebmd to work out who she married.I needed information from elsewhere to see whether her husband was John Stuart M Woodhall or William Handley.When this happens - itís quite common with my GD research - my first port of call is with Elizabeth Steel I couldnít find her, or either of the men she mighthave married, on 1901 or 1911.So I tried google, but nothing came up either for her with either surname, or for either of her supposed husbands.So I have no information about her at all, from the date of the marriage.Stumped!



For the grammar school see and wikipedia.

At Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society volume 11 1890 membersí list pp498-504.

Transactions of the Yorkshire Naturalistsí Union parts 17-22 published by the Union 1892.



Wikipedia: good account of the schoolís history.



FOR PILTDOWN MAN see wikipedia and a lot of other websites.

Definitive proof that the bone was modern not Palaeolithic - see which reproduces Journal of Archaeogical Science volume 25 1998: 777-787: AMS Dating and Microscopic Analysis of the Sherborne Bone by F DíErrico of Franceís Institut de Quaternaire; C T Williams Department of Mineralogy Natural History Museum; and C B Stringer Department of Palaeontology Natural History Museum.On p787 is a reference to an earlier article on the subject, Stringer et al in Nature volume 378 1995 p452.

See some of the letters written in 1926 at, website of Clarkís University.Bayzardís letters appeared in Nature 16 January 1926 and Nature 13 February 1926 p233.Robert Elliott Steelís reply was in Nature 18 February 1926.



For Haynes or Hawnes Park see which uses information from the Victoria County Historyís A History of the County of Bedfordshire volume 2 pp338-344 published 1908.

For the ownership of Haynes Park by the Thynne family: a wiki at wikipedia.

For Lord John Thynne:

Information on him at, and which uses Burkeís Peerage.

While searching with google I saw some references to a W B Greenfield who farmed the Haynes Park estate in the 1900s; but he seems to have been dead by 1912.

At some details about the house and its history after Greenfieldís death.

See, the house is now owned by the Radha Soami Satsang Beas which runs it as a Science of the Soul study centre.The RSSBís headquarters is in India.

Later owner of Haynes Park W B Greenfield: using google I saw several references to him, particularly as a blood-stock breeder; but nothing involving Haynes Park before the 1900s and he seems to be dead by 1912.



Itís listed, see,



29 July 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: