William Rowland Thurnam (who was always called Rowland) was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in London on 20 March 1895. Louisa Florence Wynne ffoulkes was initiated in the same ritual but I don’t think the two new recruits had met before that evening. Rowland Thurnam did get as far as selecting the Latin motto ‘Chairmerinos oneiros’ but he never followed up his initiation in any other way. He was later described in the GD’s administrative papers as ‘demitted’ - meaning that he had not paid his subscription for three successive years.


Though it’s quite long, this is still one of my short biographies: more a list than an assessment of Rowland Thurnam’s life. I found a lot of information, not on Rowland himself so much as on his work, some of his leisure pursuits, and two famous people he was acquainted with. However, there’s a lot missing from the biography: Rowland was one of the GD’s doctors and I don’t feel qualified to do justice to their working lives.

Sally Davis

May 2016



This update is the result of my being contacted by Sarah Kimbell with something of high value to me: references to Rowland Thurnam in a diary written at the time. Private, personal, contemporary accounts of GD members are so thin on the ground! Sarah is helping a cousin to research Caroline Susan Pease, who married Rowland’s friend John Bright Clark in 1904. Huge thanks are due to Sarah for sending me extracts from John Bright Clark’s diary, describing how he and Rowland met at a TB sanatorium in Germany.




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 ROWLAND THURNAM.



Not much to report.


Rowland did know GD member Pamela Colman-Smith. However, she was not initiated until November 1901, so I think they must have met some other way. The evidence that exists about their friendship suggests that they may only have met just before the first World War.



I haven’t found any. Rowland was never in the Theosophical Society and I haven’t found any evidence that he was a freemason. The TS, and freemasonry, were good recruiting grounds for the GD. Although he doesn’t actually strike me as that sort of person, it’s possible that Rowland was interested in spiritualism. Spiritualism is harder to research than theosophy and freemasonry. Unlike them, it did not have one over-arching, bureaucratic central organisation to which all those interested belonged. It was a very locally-, even family-, based pursuit.



Theosophical Society Membership Registers 1889-1901.

Database of the collections at the Freemasons’ Library, accessible online at




There’s one in the Lancet. It’s rather short, though.



Lancet 1941 volume 2 p460 issue of 18 October 1941.



The surname ‘Thurnam’ is a rare one and I suppose that all the people I saw on the 19th-century censuses were related to each other, however remotely. However, proving exactly how they were related is a different matter. It would have been good to find that Rowland Thurnam was a close relation of the mental health pioneer, antiquarian and phrenologist Dr John Thurnam (1810-73), as they were both physicians, but I didn’t find any information to prove it.


Rowland Thurnam was a grandson of Charles Thurnam, bookseller and publisher. In 1816 he founded the firm of Charles Thurnam and Sons of Carlisle. Its publications focused on the local and natural history of Cumbria. It was still in business a hundred years after its birth, but with no member of the family involved with it any longer.



John Thurnam: see ODNB volume 54 p722.

Charles Thurnam and Sons:

The British Library catalogue has plenty of books published by them.

The Publishers’ Circular and Booksellers’ Record volume 105 1916 p653 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the firm’s foundation; with information originally published in the Carlisle Patriot of 15 January 1916.

The Bookseller volume 65 1917 p604 issue of November 1917 also celebrated the firm’s 100th birthday. It mentioned the library built up by the Thurnam family, describing it as “one of the most extensive and valuable [outside] London and Edinburgh”.



Rowland Thurnam’s father, James Graham Thurnam, was a son of Charles Thurnam the publisher, and worked in the family business. In July 1866 he married Elizabeth Irving, at Croglin in Cumberland. Rowland was their only child, born in May 1868. On the day of the 1871 census, Rowland and his parents were living at 41 Lowther Street Carlisle, with three servants. James Thurnam died in April 1872, in his early thirties.


Elizabeth Thurnam, and James’ sister Margaret Dorothy Thurnam, were named executors of James Graham Thurnam’s Will, so Elizabeth was probably still alive then; but she disappears from the usual records after that date. I couldn’t find her on any census after 1871. Censuses are just a snapshot of course: if you always chose to take your holiday outside the UK around Easter, you would not appear on the census even though you normally lived in the UK. However, I couldn’t find a death registration or a probate registry record for Elizabeth Thurnam; and she doesn’t seem to have remarried, at least not between 1872 and 1885. Records local to Carlisle and Cumbria might find her and Rowland continuing to live in the town in which they had both been born; but without searching them, the whereabouts of mother and son are a mystery to me.


Sources: freebmd; census 1871-1911.

Familysearch England-ODM GS film number 252834: marriage of Rowland’s parents; with confirmation that his father’s father was Charles Thurnam of Carlisle.

Familysearch England-ODM GS film number unknown: baptism of William Rowland Thurnam 25 June 1868 at St Mary Carlisle; date of birth 27 May 1868.

Probate Registry: 1872; 1879 for the death of Rowland’s aunt Margaret Dorothy Thurnam.



Like his mother, Rowland Thurnam was not in the UK on the census days of 1881, 1891 and 1901. Some of the pupils’ lists of the larger 19th century boys’ boarding schools are on the web now; but Rowland’s name was not in any of them. He may, of course, have been attending a good school in Carlisle; or his mother may have employed a tutor for him so that he didn’t go to school at all. There are indications from later in his life that he had some education in the classics. He also spoke French, well enough not to be daunted by a congress in Italy where the sessions were in French, German and Italian but not English. He may even have read a paper at that congress, in French. Later he translated plays and poetry from the French. Where he acquired this knowledge I can’t say; but one possibility is that he and his mother lived in France while he was growing up.


Evidence of a classical education:

Notes and Queries New Series volume 7 January-June 1907. On p88 in the issue of 16 February 1907 there was a query from a Mr Le Wett of Teddington about some paintings at the local library, all labelled with the name ‘Silvia’ plus a place in the ancient world. On p136 in the following issue, there was a paragraph from Rowland Thurnam as one of two readers who had written in to say that the word ‘Silvia’ must be a mistake. The correct description of each painting was ‘Sibylla’ plus the place-name, making the subject of the set of pictures some well-known ancient prophetesses.


For Rowland’s proficiency in French and probably Italian: see the ‘Nordrach’ and ‘publications’ sections below.



In 1886 Rowland went to St Thomas’s Hospital medical school to train as a doctor. At the end of his first year, he was awarded one of the school’s lesser prizes for first-year students. The winner of the top prize was Seymour Graves Toller, younger brother of Victor Toller who joined the GD in 1894. Victor’s next brother, Neville, also started at St Thomas’s, a year or two after Rowland, and it’s likely that Rowland knew both brothers at least as student-acquaintances. Both the Toller brothers completed their medical training at St Thomas’s but Rowland finished his at Durham University, graduating MB and BS in 1891. He returned to Durham to take another set of exams in 1898.


There’s a gap in the records covering Rowland’s work as a doctor: I haven’t found out what he was doing between 1892 to 1895.



Lancet 1887 volume 2 July-December p690 issue of 1 October 1887

Times Tuesday 20 September 1887 p10c Medical Colleges and Schools.

Lancet 1891 volume 2 July-December p793 issue of 3 October 1891.

St Thomas’s Reports New Series volume 26. This was a Google snippet and I couldn’t see the year of publication; but the Report states that Rowland was now on the staff at Bristol Asylum, so it must have been issued around 1898: p115 in a list of old students

The Durham University Journal volume 12 numbers 7-15 1896 p251-52 issue of 30 January 1897 The Medical Directory 1892. There’s no entry for Rowland in this year’s issue; so he did not go straight from his exams into work.

The Medical Directory 1900 p1164: Rowland graduated MD at Durham Universtity in 1898.



Not having found any information on the years 1892-94, I’m going to begin this section with evidence of where Rowland was working from the mid- to late-1890s. However, it’s clear from other sources that he was not in England from late 1895 to early 1896; and also from late 1896 for over a year.


In 1894 Rowland was appointed Assistant Medical Officer at Bethnal House Asylum, on Cambridge Road at Bethnal Green in east London. It was a big hospital - it had 410 beds in 1892 - and although it had started out as a private business, by the 1890s it was taking patients who were paid for by their local Poor Law Union. The mid-1890s were a time of great change at Bethnal House: its original house was pulled down and a large new block was built. Rowland was employed at the asylum during the period of the building work, and had been promoted to Senior Medical Officer by 1895. However, for some months during 1894, and again late in 1895, Rowland was unable to work; he had to go abroad for his health.


Rowland was no longer employed by Bethnal House in 1896; he doesn’t appear in the Medical Directory at all in 1896 and 1897. He is listed in the 1898 issue, as 2nd Medical Officer at the Bristol City and County Lunatic Asylum at Fishponds, next door to the workhouse. By this time, however, he was working towards a complete change in medical direction.


Bethnal House.

See the wikipedia entry on Bethnal Green.

At www.british-history.ac.uk some history, using A History of the County of Middlesex volume 11: Stepney and Bethnal Green. Published London: Victoria County History 1998.

At www.historytoday.com/sarah-wise/profits-madness volume 62 number 12 issue of December 2012: a picture of Bethnal House.

At booth.lse.ac.uk the Charles Booth online archive: Notebook B154 records a visit he made to Bethnal House.

The Medical Directory 1894 p1053.

The Medical Directory 1895 p351.

The Medical Directory 1896.


Bristol County Lunatic Asylum.

Wikipedia on what was Bristol Lunatic Asylum, now the Glenside campus of the University of the West of England.

At www.workhouses.org.uk/Bristol there’s a map and plan of the site dated 1901; and a photo from c 1916 when it had been co-opted as a hospital for war wounded.

At www.bristolpost.co.uk article posted 21 September 1010: the Asylum finally closed as a mental hospital in 1994.

The Medical Directory 1898 p375

The Medical Directory 1899 Rowland is listed as per 1898.


1894 to 1897

In 1894 Rowland began to show symptoms (the notorious coughing-up of blood) of what was known at the time as ‘phthisis’. We know it now as pulmonary tuberculosis; as much feared in the 19th century and early 20th as Alzheimer’s Disease is now, and for similar reasons. Professor Koch of Berlin had identified the bacterium that causes TB as early as 1882; but the steps from that discovery to treatment by antibiotics were not made until well into the 20th century; so in the mid-1890s to contract TB was usually to receive a death sentence.


When Rowland was diagnosed, he went first to Bournemouth in the hope that the mild climate there would help; but he was soon so ill his doctors thought he would die before long. Presumably thinking he had nothing to lose, Rowland decided to try a new cure: he went to Dr Walther’s sanatorium at Nordrach in the Black Forest (Nordrach-im-Baden), founded in 1888. Dr Walther’s way of treating TB sufferers used no drugs at all; instead his patients were fed large amounts of food, which they had to eat; they had carefully regulated periods of rest and exercise; and lived and slept in unheated rooms where the windows were open to the fresh air even at night in the winter. No entertainments were organised for the patients: John Bright Clark, who arrived there in April 1894, wrote in his diary shortly after, that he felt “rather dissatisfied, unsettled”, having previously been at a sanatorium in Davos where there was a lively social life. He didn’t like some of the food: “Awful supper – little patties and crayfish boiled with caraway”; or the temperatures in the sanatorium: “Very chilly, several people ill last night”. He spent his mornings walking on his own, often in the rain, and until Rowland arrived had not made any friends.


Presumably because he was too ill to travel alone, Rowland was brought to Nordrach-im-Baden by his mother and aunt. He was put in the room next to John Bright Clark’s and the two young men became friendly. They were both pronounced well enough to leave the sanatorium in November 1894, a few months before he joined the GD; but Rowland, at least, was not as well as he might have appeared: in September 1895 he had to return for more treatment. On this second occasion he was was pronounced cured in March 1896; and probably went back to work. However, he caught typhoid in the autumn of 1896, and the cough it left him with caused him to return to Dr Walther for a third period of treatment. Again, he made a recovery and this one lasted: he lived for another 40 years. This time, however, he didn’t return to England at once; and he resigned from his job at Bethnal House. The traumatic time he had been through - of having to look an early death in the face, of thinking he had recovered only to find himself with the dread symptoms again - had resulted in completely altered career priorities. He and Dr Neville Gwynn decided to open a TB sanatorium in England which would use Dr Walther’s methods. Neville Gwynn had had a similar career to Rowland’s so far: they had been medical students together at Durham University; and then fellow-patients at Nordrach-im-Baden. Rowland’s part in the plan for the business began with his staying on at Nordrach in Germany for a year, first as Dr Walther’s assistant and then as his locum while Dr Walther was on holiday. He returned to England and took the job at Bristol County Asylum, but also went back to Durham University to get some more qualifications. At the same time, he and Gwynn looked for a suitable site for the Nordrach-style sanatorium; and the financial backing to set it up.



A modern history of TB and introduction to the situation in the 1890s and 1900s:

Linda Bryder’s Below the Magic Mountain: A Social History of Tuberculosis in 20th Century Britain. Oxford Clarendon Press 1988 p297

Wikipedia on Phthisis pulmonalis and on Professor Koch and his contribution to the understanding of it.


Rowland’s history as a TB patient; and his training as a TB-specialist doctor:

Consumption and Chronic Diseases, subtitled A Popular Exposition of the Open-Air Treatment. Emmet Densmore MD. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co. No publication date but the copyright is dated 1899. Chapter IV is based on a visit Dr Densmore made to Nordrach-upon-Mendip. He interviewed Rowland as part of that visit, and later corresponded with him.

Diary of John Bright Clark for 1894; details sent by SARAH KIMBELL December 2020.




In 1898 Rowland, his medical partner Dr Neville Gwynn and their financial partner Henry John Trenchard, found a suitable site on the Mendips near Blagdon in Somerset. They bought Willoughby’s Farm in the ex-lead mining village of Charterhouse; using the farmhouse as offices and rooms for resident workers; and having wooden buildings constructed in the grounds for a maximum of 100 paying patients. The first patients took up residence at the Nordrach-upon-Mendip sanatorium in January 1899 and though medical partners came and went, Rowland worked there until he retired in 1931 or 1932; and he continued to be in partnership with Henry Trenchard as the sanatorium’s joint owners at least until Trenchard died in 1938.



A history of Charterhouse village, mentioning Nordrach-upon-Mendip and using the reminiscences of people who worked there: seen at mikek.org.uk/friendsrlm/03_charterhouse.pdf an article on the history of Charterhouse, by Jean Birks; also using books on local history; and articles in Mendip Times and Mendip Society Newsletter. There are photographs of the chalet-like wooden patients’ wards, none of which exist now.

At www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov British Medical Journal issue of of 4 February 1899: a letter from doctors Rowland Thurnam and Neville Gwynn, essentially announcing that Nordrach-upon-Mendip was open for business.

The Medical Directory 1900 p1164.

Nordrach-upon-Mendip continued in operation during World War 1:

Medical Directory issues of 1915 and 1917: Rowland is still listed as only working at Nordrach-upon-Mendip; he has no army rank.

Via genesreunited to Gloucestershire Chronicle 22 August 1914: Rowland was in a list of donors to the Red Cross Society; but there was no suggestion that he had become a member - that he was willing and able to do war work.

The Medical Directory 1930 volume 1 p1144 Rowland still has the job title of Medical Director at Nordrach-upon-Mendip.

The Medical Directory 1931.




By 1906, Neville Gwynn had left Nordrach-upon-Mendip and in 1907 he ceased to be a partner in the business. From this point on, Rowland was always the senior doctor at the sanatorium, with the job title of ‘director’ or ‘superintendent’. A series of less experienced doctors spent time at Nordrach-upon-Mendip as Rowland’s assistants, though I’ve found the names of only two: Charles Edwin Wheeler, who worked there from about 1904 to about 1907; and Daniel Leo Kennedy who was there in the early 1920s. During Kennedy’s time at Nordrach-upon-Mendip, the sanatorium was included in a list of pharmacies. I couldn’t find any evidence for it dispensing medicines except when Kennedy worked there. A listing for the sanatorium from 1922 suggests that by that time, Kennedy was the only medical officer who was resident on-site.


I haven’t been able to discover how many nurses were employed at Nordrach-upon-Mendip at any time; and I’ve only found the name of one nurse who worked there - Elizabeth Victoria Wheeler, who worked at the sanatorium from 1901 to 1903.


Rowland’s financial partner, Henry John Trenchard, was a west countryman, born in Taunton in 1866. In 1891 he was working in Bath, as a bank clerk, but by 1901 he had given up his job in the bank to live on the income from Nordrach-upon-Mendip. By the day of the 1911 census he had moved to Bristol and was living with his brother, with their niece to keep house for them in up-market Clifton.



Like any private sanatorium, Nordrach-upon-Mendip was subject to Government scrutiny and inspection. It’s mentioned in House of Common Debates volume 51 as part of a list covering pp541-44 which seems to be a full set of all TB hospitals currently operating in England and Scotland. The list was compiled as part of a written answer to an MP’s enquiry. Dean Head Sanatorium, Horsforth, Yorks, whose proprietor was GD member Oliver Firth, was also in the list. I saw this information via a google snippet and couldn’t see a date. Attempts to date volume 51 using the British Library catalogue proved baffling!

The Therapeutics of Mineral Springs and Climates. Isaac Burney Yeo 1904 p743: entry for Nordrach-upon-Mendip, at 862' above sea level, with 37 beds. Medical directors Dr Thurnam and Dr Gwynne (sic; I think Gwynn without the ‘e’ is the correct spelling). Nordrach-upon-Mendip also appears in subsequent editions of this reference manual.


Rowland’s partners at Nordrach-upon-Mendip:


General Medical Council Registers: although Neville Claude Gwynn was working as a doctor from the mid-1890s, he’s not listed in the Registers until 1915; he’s last listed in 1943 and seems to have been in private practice throughout that time.

Medical Directory 1905: he wasn’t listed at all in this issue. However, other sources show that he was still a partner in Nordrach-upon-Mendip at this time and was presumably taking an income from it:

London Gazette 23 April 1907 p2762: list of partnerships dissolved includes that of Neville Claude Gwynn, W Roland (sic) Thurnam and Henry John Trenchard, trading at Nordrach-upon-Mendip, Ubley Somerset as a “Sanatorium for the permanent reception of Consumptive patients”. Dissolved by mutual consent with effect from 17 April 1907. Thurnam and Trenchard would continue the business.

Medical Directory 1910 issue volume 1 p677 Neville Claude Gwynn is listed at Tawcroft, Belstone, Okehampton in Devon. There’s no indication of any official appointment; he’s not listed as retired either; so he’s a GP at that address.

Medical Directory 1920: p717 Neville Claude Gwynn has moved to Kingscote, 6 Berkeley Road Bournemouth. MB BS Durham 1895. MRCS LRCP 1893.

Probate Registry: Neville Claude Gwynn died in Eastbourne 2 March 1945.


CHARLES EDWIN WHEELER who had been born in Australia

A good resource website on homoeopathic practitioners has an entry for Charles Edwin Wheeler: sueyounghistories.com. Sue Young says that Wheeler started out practicing orthodox medicine before moving to homoeopathy later in his career.

General Medical Council Registers. Charles Edwin Wheeler is first listed in 1903; first registered to practice in July 1894.

Medical Directory 1904 Provincial list p1023 this is Charles Wheeler’s first listing as working at Nordrach-upon-Mendip.

Medical Directory 1905 p1015; and Medical Directory 1906 volume 2 p1005. Wheeler was listed in both these issues at Nordrach-upon-Mendip.

Medical Directory 1908 issue p339 lists him in practice in London at 5 Devonshire Street Portland Place. B Sc London 1889 MD 1893. BS 1892 MB 1st class with gold medal 1892. MRCS LRCP London 1892. Training as a student at hospitals in Leipzig and at St Bartholomew’s in London. There are details of one publication, as joint author with Harold Meakin in British Medical Journal 1905: The Opsonic Index of Patients Undergoing Sanitorium Treatment for Phthisis.

Medical Directory 1914 part 1 London p375 Charles Edwin Wheeler is now at 35 Queen Anne Street. He’s also assistant physician at the London Homoeopathic Hospital. He is the current editor of Homoeopathic World.

At www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls a very brief mention of Wheeler in World War 1: service number 55466. Embarked as a Private from Sydney July 1918 bound for Europe as part of a group of reinforcements. As author of: An Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Homoeopathy published British Homoeopathic Association 1920.

Probate Registry 1947. True to his beliefs, he died at the London Homoeopathic Hospital.


DANIEL LEO KENNEDY, who was Canadian

Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery volume 39 number 3 1916 p108 has him listed as resident in Portsmouth Ontario.

Medical Directory 1920 p79: Daniel Kennedy MC listed as resident Medical Officer at Nordrach-upon-Mendip which is described as run by “Thurnam and Kennedy”. Kennedy is LRCP LRCS Edinburgh LRFPS Glasgow 1907. Temporary Captain RAMC. Then officer specialising in TB, West Riding, Yorkshire County Council. Honorary Assistant, St Cross Hospital Rugby.

Kelly’s Directory of Chemists and Druggists 1921 p704 lists W R Thurnam and Daniel Kennedy at Nordrach-upon-Mendip Blagdon.

The Medical Annual volume 40 1922 p556 in a list of sanatoria: Thurnam and Kennedy. In this list, Kennedy is the only one of the two who is described as resident at the sanatorium.

London Gazette 12 October 1926 p6376 another list of partnerships dissolved; this time including that of William Rowland Thurnam, Henry John Trenchard and Daniel Kennedy at the Nordrach-upon-Mendip sanatorium, Blagdon. Dissolved by mutual consent as of 30 September 1926. Kennedy would be leaving; the other two partners would carry on the business.

Kennedy returned to Canada:

Medical Register 1957 part 2: Kennedy is in Ontario. First registered 11 August 1920. MCP and MCS Ontario 1919. MB 1915 Ontario; MD 1920 QU Ontario.



Sources: freebmd; census information 1891, 1901 (when he was staying at the Langham Hotel in London); and 1911; probate registry 1938.



At www.kingscollections.org, records of the Royal British Nurses’ Association, held at the King’s College London archives. Wheeler’s record: first registered with the Association 4 December 1907.

September 1898 to September 1901 Central London Sick Asylum

September 1901 to February 1903 Nordrach-upon-Mendip

Miss Wheeler left Nordrach-upon-Mendip for the Northern Nursing Home Aberdeen. After one or two more short-term appointments she went into private nursing in 1907, based in Dulwich.



The Nordrach Treatment of Consumptives in this Country by James Gibson. London: Sampson Low Marston and Co 1901. The book’s subtitle is: How to cure and prevent consumption and other forms of tuberculosis. Gibson was a journalist, and another person cured of TB at Dr Walther’s Nordrach sanatorium in the Black Forest. Gibson was a patient there from late 1895 to spring 1896 and so must have coincided with Rowland. The book brought together articles he’d written over the past two years, promoting the Nordrach TB cure. They had originally been published either in The Nineteenth Century or the Westminster Review. While preparing the book, he’d written to Rowland asking him to comment on allegations that the cure’s frequent large meals, all of which had to be eaten up, left patients’ digestive systems damaged. As you would expect, Rowland replied that he didn’t know of anyone whose digestion had been permanently damaged at a Nordrach sanatorium.


Consumption and Chronic Diseases, subtitled A Popular Exposition of the Open-Air Treatment. Emmet Densmore MD. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co. No publication date but the copyright is dated 1899: pp14-16, p19 in Chapter 3 describes a typical day at the Black Forest Nordrach sanatorium; apparently based on information supplied by James Gibson. The regime included: windows open day and night throughout the year, and no artificial heating in the patients’ rooms; bed rest, often for months at a time; gaining weight; up to 10 hours sleep each night; and fixtures and fittings designed to create and trap as little dust as possible. Chapter 4 was based on a visit Densmore made to Nordrach-upon-Mendip and a series of conversations with Rowland and Neville Gwynn. On p20: the Nordrach diet with its emphasis on milk. Nordrach-upon-Mendip had its own herd of cows. And on p22 the repeated taking of the patient’s temperature, through his or her rectum.



A personal experience of the Nordrach regime (though not at Nordrach-upon-Mendip) by someone who, even at the time, was not thought to have TB:

Pause: A Sketch Book by Emily Carr. Toronto: Clarke Irwin and Co Ltd 1953. In this small book, the artist and writer Emily Carr recorded her time at the East Anglia Sanatorium, owned and managed by Dr Jane Walker. It followed the Nordrach regime while not using the name. She was a patient from January 1903 to March 1904; just missing GD member Edith Grace Collett, who had been the resident medical officer there until a few months before. Emily was discharged in the end, and went back to Canada.


Two members of the Clark shoe-making family of Street in Somerset were patients at Nordrach-upon-Mendip at different times. They were relations of Rowland’s friend John Bright Clark and perhaps had gone there at his suggestion. See below for more on the Clark family.

Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis by Helen Bynum. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012: p141 mentions Alice Clark (1874-1934) who had originally had treatment in 1897 at the German Nordrach. She was thought to be cured but had a recurrence of the symptoms in 1900. This time she chose to go to Nordrach-upon-Mendip. She didn’t like it there, though - felt that there was too much pressure being put on patients, to be cured.

See below for John Bright Clark’s description of Rowland as “egoistical”: I daresay he wouldn’t have thought of it that way but perhaps Rowland had a tendency to drive his patients too hard – for their own good, of course.

Another account of Alice Clark: Quaker Women: Personal Life, Memory and Radicalisation by Sandra Stanley Holton. London: Routledge 2007.

Quaker Inheritance 1871-1961: A Portrait of Roger Clark of Street. Percy Lovell. London: Bannisdale Press 1970: p77.




In its first few years, Rowland went to quite a lot of trouble to publicise the Nordrach treatment system and Nordrach-upon-Mendip as an agent of it. He read papers to relevant societies, encouraged visitors to the sanatorium, gave interviews, replied to queries by letter, attended medical meetings, and wrote several articles, usually statistically-based.


In 1900 Rowland went to a big TB congress in Naples, where he was one of the few English-speaking doctors out of 1200 delegates. He read a paper - I’m not sure whether he did so in English or French - which was later published, in French, in the Congress’s ‘transactions’ volume. He probably also networked a great deal at the congress, and took part in some of its social events, which included a trip to Capri, an at-home given by the city of Naples, lunch in the ruins of Pompeii, and several banquets.


The following year there was a TB congress in London, with sessions held at Queen’s Hall Langham Place. Rowland went to this as well and as with all such events there was plenty of opportunity to meet and greet: a reception by the Lord Mayor of London; and garden parties at Kew Gardens and in the grounds of the Duke of Northumberland’s London home at Sion House.


After the 1901 congress, Rowland seems to have cut back on his own efforts at publicity. Perhaps he and Dr Gwynn had as many patients as they had room for, by this time. Over the next few years, Rowland concentrated on publishing articles detailing the results of the Nordrach treatment. I couldn’t find any articles on TB by Rowland after a short letter published in 1911, though this may just be a function of what you can access using Google.



Lancet 1899 volume 1 January-June p31 issue of 7 January 1899 had a brief report on a meeting of the Newport Medical Society (of Monmouthshire). Rowland had read a paper on the open-air treatment of phthisis, which had caused a great deal of interest amongst the members present.


The Practitioner volume LXIII July-December 1899 pp50-56: Rowland’s article First Results of Nordrach Treatment in England, published as an addendum to a much longer article by Dr Jane Walker on the East Anglia Sanatorium (the one Emily Carr went to - see above). Rowland’s article included statistics and a photograph of the main building at Nordrach-upon-Mendip. The article emphasised the necessity of the patient putting him or herself entirely in the hands of the medical staff, who would dictate every aspect of their lives while they were at the sanatorium, down to the most trivial daily details.


Consumption and Chronic Diseases, subtitled A Popular Exposition of the Open-Air Treatment. Emmet Densmore MD. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co. No publication date but the copyright is dated 1899. Chapter 3 gave Nordrach-upon-Mendip a whole chapter’s worth of free publicity. Though Densmore was worried about the level of medical attention given to the patients in a Nordrach regime; thinking that such very close supervision might be counter-productive. And he noted, too, that Nordrach sanatoria were all privately-run: they were no use to TB sufferers without the means to pay for what might be up to a year of in-house treatment.


An article based on Densmore’s book appeared in the The Medico-Legal Journal published by the Medico-Legal Society of New York; editor Clark Bell; offices 39 Broadway. The journal got Densmore’s name wrong - calling him Helen! Volume 18 1900 pp282-291 article by Dr Helen Densmore of Brooklyn: The Cure of Consumption.


Other accounts of visits to Nordrach-upon-Mendip:

The Philadelphia Medical Journal volume 6 1900 p1040.

Australasian Medicalette volume 19 1900 p269, emphasising that Nordrach-upon-Mendip had been set up in a building that already existed. Perhaps there was a debate in Australia as to whether such sanatoria had to have their buildings purpose-built - which would, of course, increase the cost of setting them up.

Scottish Medical and Surgical Journal volume 12 1903.


The Congress in Naples April 1900:

Lancet 1900 volume 1 January-June p661 issue of 3 March 1900; p1329 issue of 5 May 1900; p1388 issue of 12 May 1900. All the reports were compiled by the Lancet’s Rome correspondent. The correspondent was very sorry, perhaps even rather disgusted, to have to note how few English doctors had bothered to attend.

Atti del Congresso contro la Tubercolosi Napoli 25-28 Aprile 1900 published 1901 pxxxix on the list of those who attended: Dr Rowland Thurnam of Nordrach-upon-Mendip. On p580 text of Rowland’s talk on L’éducation du phthisique.


The congress in London July 1901; which got a lot more coverage in the Lancet than the larger event in Naples the previous year.

Lancet 1901 volume 1 January-June p48 issue of 5 January 1901; p647 issue of 2 March 1901; p1703 issue of 15 June 1901; p1770, focusing on Professor Koch, who gave a keynote speech; p1845 issue of 29 June 1901.

Lancet 1901 volume 2 July-December: a lot of coverage of the congress, which included an entire section on the effects of climate on TB. The index named nearly everyone who read a paper or responded to one; but Rowland was not amongst those listed.

Transactions of the British Congress on Tuberculosis for the Prevention of Consumption. In 4 volumes. The congress ran from 22-26 July 1901. Volume 1 included the list of delegates: p144 re Gwynn; and p152, p224 re Rowland - both of them attended; and also p195 GD member Robert William Felkin. Volume 2: keynote speeches. Volumes 3 and 4: the work of the congress. There was a section on sanatoria but no one from Nordrach-upon-Mendip either read a paper at it, or took enough of a part in subsequent discussion to be mentioned in those volumes.


At www.jstor.org British Medical Journal issue of 14 March 1903, an article not by Rowland but focusing on the Nordrach treatment: Sanatorium Treatment of Pulmonary TB.


A set of two articles from 1905, by Rowland and his new assistant Charles Edwin Wheeler:

At www.bmj.com British Medical Journal 1905 volume 1 p65 issue of 14 January 1905. Article by Rowland and Charles E Wheeler MD: The Results of Four Years’ Sanatorium Work in the Treatment of Pthisis. You can see this article at jstor as well.

And at www.bmj.gci.reprint British Medical Journal 1905 volume 1 pp65-67 issue of 14 January 1905, article by doctors Rowland and Wheeler: Treatment of Pthisis by Iodoform Infusion.


At www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov British Medical Journal 1911 volume 2; I couldn’t see the page number this time but it was the issue of 30 September 1911. Article by Rowland: Tuberculin in Pulmonary TB. Tuberculin was Professor Koch’s attempt to use the MTB to treat TB (see wikipedia for more information).


The British Journal of Tuberculosis editor T N Kelynack MD. Published London: Baillière Tindall and Cox of 8 Henrietta Street Covent Garden. In volume 5 number 4, issue October 1911: p255 began a series of letters giving “representative opinions” on the future of TB treatment in sanatoria. Rowland’s letter (p274) was the last of the opinions, and the shortest. He argued that there would be more cures at sanatoria if the GP’s of people diagnosed with the illness would send them to a sanatorium while the disease was still in its early stages. Perhaps here is the place to say that the Wikipedia page for TB notes that 50% of people who went to a sanatorium for TB treatment had died within five years; that sanatoria were no worse than other attempts at treatment; but they were no better, either. On p1 of volume 5, 1911, the journal’s editor described the problem of TB as “a national calamity”. Of course, it was an international one.


Moving on to Rowland’s life outside his working hours:


I’ve mentioned Clark a couple of times in my account of Rowland as a TB patient and then a TB doctor. He and John Bright Clark met in 1894 as fellow inmates at Dr Walther’s original Nordrach sanatorium. Rather relieved, I think, to encounter another young English man at the sanatorium, John Bright Clark wrote down his first impressions of Rowland in his diary – one of the few contemporary accounts of the personality and interests of any of the GD members. John Bright Clark described Rowland as “a clever interesting fellow, musical, literary, artistic tastes” with an “active mind”. Though he thought Rowland “Perhaps a trifle egoistical”, that reservation proved no handicap to a friendship between the two men. They left Nordrach-im-Baden together in November 1894, driving to Heidelberg and then taking a boat down the Rhine to Cologne (Kõln). At that point they parted, John Bright Clark travelling to Brussels while Rowland went back to London via Hook of Holland, and possibly back to his work at Bethnal House asylum.


Unlike so many people diagnosed with TB in the 1890s, both Rowland and John survived. Their friendship was able to continue and I presume Rowland also came to know other members of this crusading family as friends. John Bright Clark (born 1867) was a member of the Clark family of Street in Somerset, Quaker shoe manufacturers and social campaigners. He had joined the family firm as soon as he had left school, and was its managing director from 1904 to his death, while at the office, in 1933. He became president of the Shoe Manufacturers’ Association. John Bright Clark’s mother, Helen Clark née Priestman Bright, was an early advocate of votes and rights for women, amongst other causes, and two of her children – both patients of Rowland at one time or another - were also active workers in that field. Roger Clark, next in age to John Bright Clark, ran the Friends’ League for Women’s Suffrage. Alice, John Bright Clark’s second sister, became secretary of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The youngest sister, Hilda, followed earlier women in the family by qualifying as a doctor – I wonder what Rowland made of that?


Sources for the friendship:

Diary of John Bright Clark; quotes sent me December 2020 by Sarah Kimbell. The papers of John Bright Clark, and many other sources for the Clarks of Street in Somerset, including the papers of Alice and Hilda Clark, are now housed at the Alfred Gillett Trust: //alfredgilletttrust.org.

Helen Clark merits a wikipedia page which shows the wide range of her campaigning on social issues, some of which were very unpopular subjects at the time.

For John Bright Clark in the family firm: www.gracesguide.co.uk. John’s son John Anthony Clark (born 1908) followed him into the business in due course.



The British Library catalogue has a piece of music by Rowland: Tricotrin, published c 1885 by Swann and Co. It was a polka. This is the only evidence I’ve found for Rowland as a musician; though there’s other evidence for him as a drama enthusiast and opera-lover.


The only other item by Rowland in the British Library is his booklet Parsifal. The Story of Wagner’s Opera published in 1914 by the Catholic Truth Society as their volume 99. See below, the section on ‘religion’ for more information on this and the circumstances of its publication.


One piece of poetry by Rowland has been published:


Master, across the sea there comes thy song,

A flame of singing fire, of love for man,

That has not diminished its flame since first it ran

To spreak its glow the minds of men among.

We know that some have said that thou wert wrong

To sing so boldly when thou first began;

Opposing thus, they only did but fan

This flame more pure than fire, than death more strong.


And men and women who have grown half tired

Of love that runs not smooth, and of the pain

Of love that’s unrequited or expired,

Tho’ vowed eternal, like sick flowers in rain,

Raise up their drooping heads, and so inspired

By thy sweet song, take heart and love again.

Rowland Thurnam.


The ‘Master’ to whom the poem was addressed was Walt Whitman. At the eighth annual meeting of the Walt Whitman Fellowship, held in Philadelphia USA on 31 May 1895, the poem was read aloud; though not by Rowland himself who (I imagine) wasn’t there. It was then published in a Whitman commemorative issue of The Conservator magazine.



The Conservator volumes 5-8 March 1894-February 1898, published Innes and Son of Philadelphia though with an editorial address in Camden New Jersey. The editor was Horace L Traubel, who also had poems in this issue; from evidence on p49 it’s clear that Traubel was a leader in the world of Whitman fan-dom. Issue of June 1895 volume 6 number 4 was a special one, commemorating the anniversary of Whitman’s birth. On p55 To Walt Whitman, a sonnet by Rowland Thurnam.

I’m not quite sure why, but Rowland’s poem is mentioned in The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman: The Complete Prose Works published 1902 p231.

Just in case Rowland had more poems published, I checked out two useful reference works: Late Victorian Poetry 1880-99: An Annotated Biobibliography by Catherine W Reilly p473. And Oxford Companion to 20th Century Poetry in England editor Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1994 has p542. There was no entry for Rowland Thurnam in either of these works; which makes his sonnet to Walt Whitman even more special.


See wikipedia for Walt Whitman and his huge influence on other poets. No doubt Rowland was very familiar with Whitman’s great collection, Leaves of Grass, self-published in 1855 but going through seven editions in his lifetime. Just noting that Whitman’s sexuality was the subject of speculation even during his lifetime.


There were branches of the Walt Whitman Fellowship in several American cities; and in Bolton Lancashire. Some interesting stuff has been published on the Bolton branch; though I haven’t found any mention of Thurnam’s name so it’s not possible to say whether he was a member.

Walt Whitman’s Birthplace Bulletin 1957 p18 article by Verne Dyson on the Bolton branch. Social Capital, Trust and the Industrial Revolution 1780-1880 David Sutherland 2007. On p221 a reference to an article in Gender and History volume 13 number 2 2001 pp191-223: Calamus in Bolton. Spirituality and Homosexual Desire in Late Victorian England, by H Cocks. Cocks argues that the Walt Whitman Fellowship International group formed in Bolton c 1885 involved a group of men with an interest in the homoeroticism of Whitman’s poetry. The members formed passionate friendships. Cocks’ source for this is the Diaries of one of the members, a Dr Johnston; particularly an entry for July 1894.

Walt Whitman’s Mystical Ethics of Comradeship by Juán A Herrero Brasas. Albany New York: SUNY Press 2010: p9 on the history of the Walt Whitman Fellowship International. It was founded in 1894 but folded after Traubel’s death in 1919.

A more general book on Whitman worshippers: Worshipping Walt: the Whitman Disciples by Michael Robertson. Princeton New Jersey and Oxford: Princeton University Press 2008.



Some members of the wider Thurnam family were Quakers. Rowland was baptised in the local Anglican church and one of his first cousins was a Church of England vicar. Careful thought about religious belief does, therefore, seem to have been a feature of his family. Rowland seems to have thought particularly carefully. Perhaps you can think of his initiation into the GD as part of his spiritual quest. The quest ended when he became a convert to Roman Catholicism, in 1908. Either from before this time, or as a result of his conversion, he was a friend of James Britten, a Catholic convert and tireless worker for the cause of Catholicism in England. Britten founded The Catholic Truth Society as a Catholic riposte to the tracts published by Anglicans, particularly high church Anglicans.


It was the Catholic Truth Society that published Rowland’s version of the Parsifal plot. I think it might have been a commission given to Rowland by James Britten. Parsifal’s first performance had taken place at Bayreuth in July 1882 but the Wagner family had always refused to allow it to be played anywhere else. When they finally changed their minds, allowing performances elsewhere in 1914, there was great excitement throughout Europe. Britten was anxious to have a Catholic view of Parsifal available to go with the first performances in England, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in February 1914. Most tickets for this short run were sold out well in advance. I wonder if Rowland got one? There were still a few going at 1 guinea a throw, a few days before the run began. Or he could - if he could have spared the time - have queued on the night and got in for 4 shillings, though he might have had to stand.


In March 1914, Rowland went to the Bristol Museum theatre to give a talk on Parsifal to an audience including members of the Bristol Choral Society.


Rowland’s booklet has been described since as a specifically Catholic reading of the opera, in contrast to some other works which take a more Anglican view.


On James Britten:

At archive.thetablet.co.uk, The Tablet issue of 18 October 1924 p12: an appreciation of James Britten who had just died, aged 79. Like Rowland, he was a convert to Catholicism. Just noting here that Britten’s day job was as a botanist at the Natural History Museum, where he will have been a colleague of GD member William Forsell Kirby. From 1880 Britten was editor of the Journal of Botany.

Wikipedia for the first ever performance of Parsifal.

Times 16 October 1913 p15: short report giving dates of the performances of Parsifal due at the Royal Opera House; and listing the cast and production team.

Times Friday 2 January 1914 p6 reports from Berlin and Paris on performances of Parsifal due there; and a note of performances due within the next few weeks in several Italian cities.

Times Monday 26 January 1914 p6 announcement on ticket availability for the Covent Garden run of Parsifal.


Rowland as a prominent English Roman Catholic:

The Catholic Who’s Who volumes 6-9, volume 11, volume 15, published together 1913: p494.

The Catholic Who’s Who and Yearbook volume 34 1924 p489.

The Catholic Who’s Who and Yearbook volume 32 1939 p493, this time with some brief biographical notes and the year of his conversion.

Rowland’s talk in Bristol:

Via genesreunited to Western Daily Press of 19 March 1914.


The academic assessment of Rowland’s Parsifal:

At www.researchgate.net the University of Toronto Quarterly volume 49 (2) issue of January 1979: 117-38 article by William Blissett: The Liturgy of Parsifal.



Plenty, though most of it is from Rowland’s later years, when perhaps he had more time to spend on his many non-medical interests.



Rowland was the owner of a copy of Oscar Wilde’s Poems, copy number 197 of the fifth reprint of a limited edition of 220 printed for the author. Rowland had sold this copy on, by the early 1920s, and it’s now in the collections of the William Andrews Clark Library in California. Perhaps when he decided to become a Roman Catholic, Rowland felt embarrassed by owning it. I’d like to know when he originally bought it: was it before Oscar Wilde’s trials (mid-1895) or after?


The Library of William Andrews Clark Junior issued by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. Compiler/editor Robert Ernest Cowan. San Francisco: published by the Library and printed by John Henry Nash 1922. Library is part of the collections of the University of California. Volume 1: Poems, Plays and Wildeiana: p10-11.



I haven’t found any information on when Rowland met Pamela Colman Smith; though I’ve said above that I’d suppose the meeting happened after the GD and happened quite apart from them both being GD members. The earliest evidence for them knowing each other is from long after the GD: a reference in 1916 to a forthcoming book on which they were cooperating. It was going to be called ‘music drawings’; withdrawings by Pamela and “Notes by Rowland Thurnam” - possibly musical notes, seeing he’d had a piece of music published years before. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the book and I wonder if it was never published.


Also in 1916, Pamela contributed a drawing of The Passion for a book in which Rowland was also involved - see immediately below for a bit more on that.



The Dublin Review Part 1 1916 p63.

The Living Age volume 288 1916 p722.




As a new convert to Roman Catholicism with a good command of French, Rowland read a lot of publications by French Catholic writers. He translated some of those works into English. The earliest that I know of is Exchange, Rowland’s translation of the three-act play Echange by Paul Claudel, about a struggle between two women who should know better, over the beautiful young man married to one of them; who chooses death rather than live with either. Rowland’s English version was given one performance at the Little Theatre in London by the Pioneer Players, in May 1915. Claudel had undergone a ‘conversion’ experience as a young man after several years as an unbeliever - clearly Rowland identified with this.


After Echange, Rowland did a translation of Claudel’s set of 14 poems on the stations of the cross. The Way of the Cross was prepared for publication as an artwork by calligrapher and designer Beatrice Waldram, with one black and white illustration by Pamela Colman Smith, of The Passion.


Wikipedia has some information on Paul Claudel (1868-1955).

I found mention of Claudel at www.theguardian.com, item posted 13 August 2004: describing him as a misogynist with anti-semitic and anti-muslim views. However, views like those were typical of his and Rowland’s time.


Sources for Rowland’s translations of Claudel:

The Academy and Literature published for the proprietor by William Dawson and Sons Ltd of Rolls House, Breams Bldgs EC; it’s weekly, classed as a newspaper; price 3d. Volume 88 1915 number 2244 p300 issue of 8 May 1915.

Exchange’s one performance was listed in The London Stage 1900-09: A Calendar of Plays and Players. Volume 2 1917-19. J P Wearing. NJ and London: The Scarecrow Press Inc 1981: p545. The performance was reviewed in The Era 5 May 1915 p13; and The Stage 6 May 1915 p23.

Downside Review volumes 35-36 1916 p100: review of The Way of the Cross, translated by Rowland with calligraphy by Beatrice Waldram and a b&w illustration by Pamela Colman Smith. Published Westminster: Art and Book Co 1917 28pp. Looking for it on Worldcat I couldn’t see any copies in England; though there is one in the Dublin National College of Art and Design.

I found mention on the web of another translation of Claudel’s set of poems: Stations of the Cross translated by Rev John J Burke. CSP 1927.

For Beatrice Waldram:

English Mechanic and World of Science volume 63 1896 p540 Waldram is mentioned as a ex-student at Stamford Hill School of Art. Resident in Clapton, doing flower designs.

Via google books I found quite a few mentions of her in art and design magazines, eg Decorative Art in Modern Interiors volume 4 1909 p96, an advert for Beatrice Waldram as a designer of textiles and wallpaper; and as a calligrapher and illuminator. Now resident at 105 Great Russell Street.

Seen online, several copies of her biography of Greuze published Cassell and Co and in New York by Funk and Wagnalls 1923.



Parsifal was not quite the only opera that Rowland had some involvement with. On 14 December 1923 he gave a talk on BBC Radio as part of a broadcast on Julius Benedict’s opera Lily of Killarney.



At genome.ch.bbc.co.uk an extract from the Radio Times of 7 December 1923.

Western Daily Press 14 December 1923, specifically announcing Rowland’s talk.

See wikipedia for Julius Benedict 1804-85; friend of Weber and Beethoven. Composer, conductor and author. First opera produced 1827. Arrived in England 1836 and remained in the UK until his death. Lily of Killarney was based on Dion Boucicault’s play The Colleen Bawn; music by Benedict, libretto by John Oxenford. First production, Royal Opera House 1862.



In January 1926, for one night only as far as I can see, Rowland moved from translating drama to acting in it. He was one of several men acting the role of chorus in a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos at the Scala Theatre.



Seen at //theatricalia.com, a page from the Radio Times mentioning the performance on 10 January 1926. As it was in the RT, perhaps it was broadcast on radio.



In 1928 Rowland moved from French to Italian to work with the actress and theatre producer Nancy Price. They were adapting for its first English production, Giovacchino Forzano’s 1926 play Ginevra degli Almieri. Described (I think in a publicity handout) as a “grotesque comedy with paradoxical situations”, it was set in the 14th century with a plot revolving around whether a woman pronounced legally dead - though still alive - could still be guilty of adultery. The opera was staged at the Everyman Theatre in September 1928 and was widely reviewed though without much mention of the translator. It was a comedy, but it didn’t make the Times’ reviewer laugh much; he (or she) thought its wit had worn itself out by Act 3.



Wikipedia on Giovacchino Forzano 1884-1970: director at La Scala 1920-30. Playwright and opera librettist. Film maker. Supporter of Mussolini; which blighted his post-war career.

The London Stage 1920-29: A Calendar of Productions by J P Wearing. P617 in the list for 1928, item 28.322. Everyman Theatre 17 September to 29 September 1928, with reviews in Era 19 September; The Nation and The Athenaeum on 29 September; The Observer 23 September; and The Stage 20 September 1928.

Times Monday 10 September 1928 p10 in its Theatres column: forthcoming productions.

Times Tuesday 28 September 1928 p12 review: and that’s where the ‘grotesque comedy’ quote comes from.

Wikipedia on Lilian Nancy Bache Price, stage name Nancy Price (1880-1970).



The weather being an important feature of the Nordrach system, it’s not surprising to find Rowland as a member of the Royal Meteorological Society in 1902; perhaps doing regular recording of temperature and rainfall and sending his results to Society headquarters.


Although he doesn’t seem to have taken part himself, in 1910 Rowland allowed archaeologists and palaeontologists to search Nordrach-upon-Mendip’s land. In 1910 he lent the diggers a tent as they continued their work in particularly bad weather. A flint scraper found in the grounds of Nordrach-upon-Mendip in 1921 by Rev F H Carr is now in the Pitt Rivers Museum.


Finally, Rowland was a great lover of Cornwall, especially Kynance Cove on the Lizard. He died in Cornwall.



Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society volume 28 1902 p234.

Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society 1910 p137.

At england.prm.ox.ac.uk, a catalogue of the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. The flint scraper found by Rev Carr is one of 127 such items from the Blagdon area.

Via genesreunited to Cornishman 16 October 1941.



In the mid-1890s, Rowland met Aubrey Beardsley. They had an illness in common; and also an acquaintance - Frederick Evans, who ran a bookshop on Cheapside in the City of London; and they probably met in his shop. Rowland and Beardsley don’t seem to have known each other more than distantly, but Beardsley did enquire after him, in a letter to Evans written from Malvern in November 1894: “By the way, how is Thurnam? I suppose he’s in the same boat as I, only further out to sea”. The editors of Beardsley’s letters assumed that the enigmatic ‘same boat’ reference indicated that Rowland shared Beardsley’s enthusiasm for Wagner. Of course, Beardsley was meaning something quite different.


At some point, Rowland either bought, or was given, a couple of drawings by Beardsley, which he still owned in the 1920s: an illustration of Tannhauser; and ‘Withered Spring’.



The Letters of Aubrey Beardsley by Aubrey Beardsley, Henry Maas, John Duncan and W G Good. London: Cassell 1970: p47 for who Frederick H Evans was; the earliest letter to Evans is from mid-1893. The mention of Rowland: p78 letter from Beardsley to F H Evans, sent from c/o Dr Grindrod of Wyche Side Malvern; undated but assigned to November 1894 by the editors. On p79 the editors’ footnote 2 describes Rowland as the author of Parsifal, the Story of Wagner’s Opera, which was not published for another 20 years. There’s no other information about Rowland; they probably didn’t look for any more. There are no letters from Beardsley to Rowland in the book. That could be because none have survived; but I think it’s more likely that none were ever written. The reference to Rowland in the letter of November 1894 is the only mention of him in the book. On p237 the editors note that Beardsley was baptised a Roman Catholic on 31 March 1897, a few years before Rowland. On P440 is a short letter from Mabel Beardsley, Aubrey’s sister, telling Robert Baldwin Ross of her brother’s death earlier that day. Written from Menton; undated apart from “Wednesday”; the editors date it to 16 March 1898. Unlike Rowland, Beardsley died of TB.


About the Beardsley works that Rowland owned:

Aubrey Beardsley by Robert Baldwin Ross. London and New York: John Lane; first edition published 1909 but I got my information from Ross’s revised edition of 1921. 112 pages including a list of his works. On p69 item “27. Tannhauser, first published in Later Work”. This is a pen and ink study dated 1891, described as “(Property of Dr Rowland Thurnam)”. And p69 item “28. Withered Spring” again a pen and ink study. Its central motif was used later by Beardsley as one of the illustrations to the Morte D’Arthur Book 1 chapter xii. Item 28 was also published in Later Work; however, it was first catalogued in Fifty Drawings, in which it was given the title Lament of the Dying Year. No date given for the drawing which was also “(Property of Dr Rowland Thurnam)”.


Some further identification of the works mentioned in Ross’ book, from the British Library catalogue:

Later Work is probably The Later Work of Aubrey Beardsley. London: John Lane The Bodley Head and New York: Dover. 1901.

The Fifty Drawings is probably A Book of Fifty Drawings...with an Iconography by Aymer Vallance. London: Leonard Smithers 1897.



In April 1902, on his way back from a trip to Sicily, Rowland met Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon, quite by chance in the dining room of the Victoria Hotel in Rome. Butler was travelling the other way, wanting to get as far as Sicily but so ill he doubted whether he was strong enough to do so. Having discovered that he had a fellow guest who was an experienced physician, Butler asked Rowland for an impromptu medical check-up. To his delight, Rowland said that he thought Butler was fit enough to make it to Sicily. Rowland told him that he had read Butler’s book The Authoress of the Odyssey (published 1897) in which Butler argued that the Odyssey had been written by a woman poet residing in a Greek community in Sicily; in fact, that might have been the reason why Rowland had been in Sicily in the first place. Rowland and Butler stayed up chatting about the Odyssey until the small hours. Butler wrote of this meeting - though without naming the doctor - in a letter to his friend Henry Festing Jones. Within three months, he was dead - of TB.


In July 1912 Festing Jones and Rowland met in their turn, at the 5th annual Erewhon Dinner, at which Rowland made one of the after-dinner speeches, presumably on this 1902 meeting with the great man.



Wikipedia for Samuel Butler (1835-1902) and for Henry Festing Jones, Butler’s personal assistant, travelling companion and biographer. Erewhon, or Over the Range, Butler’s utopian novel, was published anonymously in 1872; though its author’s name was soon known. Rowland might also have read Butler’s The Odyssey of Homer (1900) and The Iliad of Homer, Rendered into English Prose (1898).

Samuel Butler: A Memoir Part Two. By Henry Festing Jones. In two volumes; published in 1919. On p89, p428. The other speakers at the 5th Erewhon dinner were Edmund Gosse; Phipson Beale; Desmond MacCarthy; and Sir Charles Holroyd. There were 90 guests; all men, as women weren’t allowed to attend until 1914.

Samuel Butler: A Biography by Peter Raby. London: Hogarth 1991 p288, identifying the hotel and stating that Rowland was on his way back from Sicily.



By 1916, Rowland and his aunt Anne Harriet Thurnam were the only two descendants of Charles Thurnam, founder of the publishing firm, who had his surname. Anne Harriet Thurnam died in Carlisle in 1917. Charles Thurnam did have other descendants, children of his daughter Catherine and her husband Henry Edmund Ford. Henry and Catherine Ford lived in Carlisle, where Henry was an organist and music teacher. Perhaps Rowland got his own interest in music from his uncle. Catherine and Henry’s two youngest sons, Harold and Herbert, were around Rowland’s age. Harold Dodsworth Ford (born 1864) became a Church of England clergyman with a parish in Carlisle. In 1895 he married Gertrude Emma Bennett. Rowland kept in touch with their only child, Edmund Brisco Ford (born 1901).


Edmund Brisco Ford spent all his adult life at Oxford University, as a student and then as an academic, an ecological geneticist. He became more widely known, at least to other specialists, when his Mendelism and Evolution was published in 1931 (its 8th edition was published in 1965). It was Rowland who suggested to Edmund Brisco Ford that he write a book explaining genetics to student doctors. Rowland died while Ford was still working on the text, robbing Ford of the change to have him read and comment on each chapter. Rowland was quite right about the need for such a book: Genetics for Medical Students came out originally in 1942, went through two more editions in the 1940s despite the War being on, and was still an important reference work in 1973, when its 7th edition was published.


Source: probate registry 1917.

The Bookseller volume 65 1917 p604 November issue.

The Ford cousins:

Familysearch England-EASy GS film number 90585: marriage of Henry Edmund Ford to Catherine Thurnam, daughter of Charles Thurnam; 15 September 1846 at St Mary’s Carlisle.

Familysearch England-EASy GS film number 252809: Harold Dodsworth Ford baptised 30 October 1864 at St Mary’s Carlisle.

Edmund Brisco Ford:

Wikipedia has a very short entry on him; he seems to have been a very self-contained, private man.

There are quite a few works by him in the British Library catalogue. I list the two I’ve mentioned:

Genetics for Medical Students Edmund Brisco Ford. London: Methuen and Co 1942. 2nd revised edition 1946; 3rd 1948; 4th 1956; 5th 1961; 6th edition 1967; 7th edition Chapman and Hall 1973.. On pvii of the 6th edition in the foreword, Brisco Ford describes Thurnam as “my cousin...the well-known authority on tuberculosis”.

Mendelism and Evolution London 1931; the catalogue entry didn’t give the name of the publishing firm. Its 8th edition came out 1965.



From 1899 to the early 1930s, Rowland had been the senior physician at Nordrach-upon-Mendip. In 1931 or early 1932, however, he retired from daily work there; although he and Henry John Trenchard were still financial partners in the business, drawing an income from it. The sanatorium did continue, at least until January 1938 when Henry Trenchard died; I haven’t been able to find out what happened to it at that point.


Rowland moved right away from Somerset, living in Henfield in Sussex for a few years before moving to Bournemouth, probably at the outset of World War 2.



The Medical Directory 1932 volume 2 p1183.

The Medical Directory 1933 volume 1 p1211.

The Medical Directory 1936 volume 1 p1253.

The Catholic Who’s Who and Yearbook volume 32 1939 p493.



Though his permanent address was in Bournemouth, Rowland died in Cornwall, on 8 October 1941. Perhaps he was taken ill while on a holiday, because he had a major operation and died shortly afterwards.


Sources: probate registry 1942.

Times 13 October 1941 p1a death notice.

The Lancet 1941 volume 2 p473 issue of 18 October 1941, death announcement; and p460, issue of 18 October 1941, a paragraph of obituary, focusing on Nordrach-upon-Mendip.




Rowland never married and so there are no acknowledged descendants.


The Bristol Children’s Hospital was evacuated to Nordrach-upon-Mendip’s buildings at the outset of World War 2 and remained there throughout the war. In the reorganisation that went with the formation of the NHS, the sanatorium’s buildings were incorporated into Ham Green Hospital, taking women patients only. Nordrach-upon-Mendip is no longer a sanatorium. Its wooden buildings have fallen down, though the main building - which pre-dated Rowland’s arrival - does still exist.



Jean Birk’s article on the history of Charterhouse village; seen at mikek.org.uk/friendsrlm/03_charterhouse.pdf




BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden. Please note, though, that the records of the Amen-Ra Temple in Edinburgh were destroyed in 1900/01. I have recently (July 2014) discovered that some records of the Horus Temple at Bradford have survived, though most have not; however those that have survived are not yet accessible to the public.


For the history of the GD during the 1890s I usually use Ellic Howe’s The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887-1923. Published Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972. Foreword by Gerald Yorke. Howe is a historian of printing rather than of magic; he also makes no claims to be a magician himself, or even an occultist. He has no axe to grind.


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


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


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


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.





18 May 2016

14 December 2020


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