WILLIAM WYNN WESTCOTT – freemasonry, fringe masonry and SRIA 1871-1925
This is one of two files I’ve put together on Westcott’s busy life in the late 19th century occult world. I spent ages deciding how to divide up the information I had and eventually I went for one file on activity based on freemasonry; and one file on activity outside freemasonry. However, in terms of time, the two files run in parallel: in the spring of 1889, for example, Westcott went to SRIA’s main meeting of the year in April; and the GD’s main meeting at Whitsun; with meetings of craft lodge QC2076; and meetings of his TS lodge once a month at least.
This is the ‘based on freemasonry’ file, in which I am not going to get into the occult, symbolic and mythological side of it because it’s been well-covered already by researchers like R A Gilbert and Ellic Howe. I’m going to draw my readers’ attention to some aspects that I spotted because I do like to get things in date order.
SOME SHORT FORMS in case I’ve missed making them clear further down the file:
AAR Ancient and Accepted Rite
GD Order (sometimes referred to as a ‘Hermetic’ order) of the Golden Dawn
HS Hermetic Society
MM Mark Masonry
QC2076 London-based craft lodge Quatuor Coronati 2076
SRIA Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia
TS Theosophical Society
UGLE United Grand Lodge of England
It’s important to note that as far as I’m aware, the archives of Mark Masonry and the Ancient and Accepted Rite are not open to the public.
Freemasonry as practised in its major organisations was and is a very conservative world. Discipline within it is maintained by careful choice of men to be offered initiation; by strict hierarchy; and by deference by junior ranks to senior. I think it was a world where Westcott felt very comfortable.
Below are two online sources giving full details of Westcott’s progress in most aspects of the freemasonry of his time:
- craft and other masonry groups overseen by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE);
- Mark Masonry and the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the two other, independent freemasonries of England;
- and other known orders where only freemasons were members - Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) and beyond.
The sources are both modern, but I think they can be relied on more than some of the sources I read that were published during Westcott’s lifetime. They are: a detailed introduction to Westcott in the catalogue of the Freemasons’ Library; and research done by R A Gilbert in 1986/87.
That will take you to the front page of the Freemasons’ Library online. From the choices at the top right, take ‘research’; then ‘catalogue’. Scroll down till you get to ‘search the collections’. You can either look for:
William Wynn Westcott cabinet print
or its call number: GBR 1991 P 10/16/85.
And open the response that appears.
Those wanting to investigate further into Westcott’s thinking as a freemason can do no better than to read R A Gilbert on the subject, particularly a talk he gave to members of Westcott’s old lodge, Quatuor Coronati 2076, in 1987: William Wynn Westcott and the Esoteric School of Masonic Research. The talk was printed in QC2076’s journal, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 100 1987 actually published November1988: pp6-32. It’s also online (March 2022) at
The talk’s Appendix A, Gilbert’s compilation of Westcott’s involvement in freemasonry and beyond, is at
In addition to listing the masonry and beyond-masonry orders Westcott was a member of, Gilbert also gives a very useful list of orders he was NOT a member of. His lists contradict several sources published in Westcott’s lifetime; but he is more to be relied on than they, I think.
Now for what I’ve noticed:
SOMERSET where in the 1870s Westcott was living in Martock, just north of Yeovil, and working as a GP.
I put in date order Westcott’s progress as a freemason from his initiation into the Crewkerne-based Parrett and Axe craft lodge 814 in 1871. It soon became clear that he was a very busy man in Somerset freemasonry until 1878, around the end of his 12 months as 814’s WM. He joined a Yeovil-based craft lodge in 1873 – Brotherly Love 329 - and also went into its Royal Arch chapter. He went a little further beyond the craft by joining a chapter of the order the Red Cross of Constantine, its Rose and Lily Chapter 10, which met in Weston-super-Mare. While not neglecting those groups already mentioned, in 1873 he also went into Mark Masonry, at William de Irwin lodge 162 which also met in Yeovil; and in 1875 he moved into the AAR, joining its Alfred Chapter 13 which met in Taunton. He was prepared to be an officer in the various lodges he was a member of, and worked his way up to the top job (worshipful master or first principal) in several of them. His zeal and enthusiasm led to several appointments at county level in craft and Mark masonry. All between 1871 and 1877. After that, however, his busy-ness in these ordinary Somerset freemasonries was notably less and in 1879 he and his family moved to London.
Westcott resigned from Brotherly Love 329’s craft lodge in 1880 but stayed active in its Royal Arch chapter, eventually spending his 12 months as its First Principal in 1889-90. This must have involved him in a lot of travelling from London to attend meetings, and during his year as First Principal he seems to have decided that enough was enough. He couldn’t spare the time to go to Somerset for the installation of his successor, so it was done in London instead; and that was the end of his regular trips to Somerset for masonic meetings. He went back for one ceremonial occasion, in 1910, as representative of the UGLE at the 100th anniversary of Brotherly Love craft lodge 329. It was also the end of any big commitment to Royal Arch, though in 1902 Westcott was given a national appointment.
After 1880, craft masonry definitely took a back-seat in Westcott’s masonic life; and it’s no coincidence that the 1880s and 1890s were Westcott’s most active years in those aspects of the occult which exist outside freemasonry. His commitment to craft freemasonry hung by the thread of Parrett and Axe 814 for six years, until in 1886 he was elected a member of the London-based Quatuor Coronati lodge 2076. I haven’t been able to find out when he resigned or was deemed no longer to be a member of Parrett and Axe 814, but from 1886 to 1920, QC2076 was the only craft lodge where Westcott was active. He was committed to it – WM in 1893-94, writing for its magazine, and attending meetings regularly – but QC2076 is not a typical craft lodge. It is a forum for the study of freemasonry’s history, symbolism and mythology; otherwise, I think Westcott would not have wanted to join it.
Westcott seems to have neglected the two other English freemasonries as well in the years after 1877. He was not active in Mark Masonry between 1878 and 1887, during which time William de Irwin lodge 162 was in abeyance, according to information at the FML (so he wasn’t the only one to have given up on it). He did make an attempt to revive the lodge in 1887, but that effort was his last in Mark masonry. There was also a gap of 20 years when he wasn’t busy in the AAR, from 1878 when he was given 30º status (the highest level he reached), to 1898 when he joined a London-based AAR lodge.
As early as the mid-1870s Westcott began to move quite a long distance from the basic craft, joining orders whose members were mostly freemasons, but that most freemasons would not have wanted to join even if they had been offered the opportunity. In a letter-cum-statement written in 1875 he said, “I prefer the ceremonies and try to limit the banqueting” – that is, he wasn’t interested in the side of freemasonry for which most members had joined it: furthering civic and business relationships. In the 19th century it was a continual moan of those freemasons who were interested in the origins and meaning of freemasonry, that most freemasons made no enquiries about either of them.
As it happened, in the 1870s Westcott was living in one of the best places in England for someone wanting to go further into occultism – that knowledge which is hidden from public view - inside and even outside freemasonry.
COX and IRWIN
If you were busy in Somerset freemasonry in the 1870s and 1880s you were bound to encounter Benjamin Cox (1828-95); and in fact Westcott will have encountered him at his initiation into Parrett and Axe 814 at the latest, as Cox was a member. Cox lived in Weston-super-Mare, where he worked in the accounts office of the town council. He was a willing and hard-working promoter and organiser of freemasonry as well as some orders beyond the basic craft, setting up lodges, temples and other masonic groups; and bringing together freemasons from all over Somerset and beyond, for meetings and celebrations.
If you had encountered Benjamin Cox and showed an interest in the occult side of the craft, it would not have been long before you met Francis George Irwin (1828-93); and Westcott had certainly done so by early 1875, if not a couple of years before. Major Irwin lived in Brislington near Bristol and worked as a civilian administrator for the army volunteer forces in Gloucestershire. He was a member – usually a senior one – of many masonic groups on the outskirts of freemasonry, including ones based in the USA and Ireland; and he also represented the UGLE and Mark Masonry in Somerset. Cox acted as a kind of unpaid private secretary for Irwin’s esoteric commitments, setting up meetings of freemasons where Irwin would be the principal guest; and copying documents for him, particularly rituals. To my mind it was an unhealthy relationship, with too much deference, verging on hero-worship, on Cox’s side; and condescension and a complete lack of appreciation of the long hours involved, on Irwin’s; though it’s clear from contemporary documents that neither man saw it that way.
AN OCCULT NETWORK IN ENGLAND
At the FML website you can use the ‘search the collections’ facility to reach a thorough account of Irwin; the FML has a large archive of documents and letters previously owned by him. Many of the letters are from Cox and are my sources for his work. There’s plenty of evidence in the documents that Irwin was an important figure in a network of men (I use the word ‘men’ advisedly though perhaps it hardly needs saying) who shared an interest in freemasonry’s symbolic and ritualistic side. Most lived in England, though between them they had contacts in Scotland; in the USA and Canada; in Ireland; and in France, with Irwin making regular trips to Paris. The network included occultists such as Frederick Hockley, Kenneth Mackenzie (1833-86); and John Yarker who also had contacts in Paris. Future GD member Rev William Alexander Ayton was in it. Benjamin Cox was on the fringes of it; as was Robert Fryar of Bath, who like Cox worked as an accounts clerk, but had a sideline printing occult books, publishing some of Westcott’s early occult works. Most of the men in the network lived too far apart to meet face-to-face regularly; so they exchanged ideas and quite a bit of gossip by letter.
Members of the network had a passion for creating occult orders. They were also great joiners of other people’s orders, when invited; though it seems from the Irwin Letters that they may not have done more than lend their names. The late 1870s into the early 1880s was a particularly active period of order creation; and Kenneth Mackenzie was the prime mover in most of them. The process would start with a core piece of occultism – a supposedly old document, say, or some esoteric writings just published in English. Network members – particularly Mackenzie – would set to work to form an order based on the core piece of occultism. Rituals would be written; the hierarchy of the order-to-be would be worked out and the titles of its officers would be chosen; regalia and vestments would be designed and sometimes commissioned and made; a list of suitable prospective members would be compiled and some of the men on it would be approached with details of what the order would be about. It was of importance to the network’s members that the order, however new in itself, should be seen as the legitimate inheritor of the wisdom of the past, so evidence would be put together (like Westcott was to put together some for the GD), as proof that the order had a long line of descent. So far, so good, and there was often great enthusiasm for the order-in-making amongst Irwin and Mackenzie’s correspondents. However, the Irwin Letters show that the enthusiasm often tailed off at the point where the network’s letter writers were asked to pay a membership fee, to cover expenses such as the making of regalia, the printing of rules, and the hire of venues for meetings. Even if the new order got over that financial hurdle, the difficulty of holding regular meetings of people who lived all over the country, and the way they didn’t pay their subscriptions after the first year, often ended with the order stuttering to a halt a year or two after it was launched.
When Westcott wrote that he preferred the ceremonial and ritual side of a freemasons’ meeting to the wining and dining side, it was Francis George Irwin he was trying to impress with his gravitas. Younger than most of its members, in the 1870s he had little to offer the men in the occult/masonic network, being still a seeker after knowledge. However, Irwin seems to have taken him on, rather like Cox, as another of his acolytes though without expecting him to do clerical or copying work for him. Through Irwin’s agency, Westcott was initiated into some of the orders being promoted by various members of the network; and came across some of the problems of life on the occult fringe.
Westcott joined the Swedenborgian Rite in 1876, at its Emanuel Lodge 1. Membership had a personal meaning for him in a way that membership of other orders may not have done: in his library he had a copy of an English-language version of a work by Swedenborg, his Conjugal Love, published in England in 1876. Mostly because Emanuel Lodge 1 was based in Weston-super-Mare and was administered by the indefatigable Benjamin Cox, it continued to meet at least until 1879 when Westcott was its Senior Warden. Then, though Westcott held various impressive county offices in it, there seems to have been a gap of six or so years when nothing much went on in the Rite, at least in Somerset, before Westcott was listed as the lodge’s WM in 1886; and joined one, perhaps two, lodges in London. It all sounds impressive enough, but on looking further into the Rite’s history R A Gilbert decided that it was moribund from around 1886 at least up to 1901, when Westcott made an attempt to get it going again. This much-later effort included giving Theodor Reuss a charter to set up the Rite in Germany; so I suppose that Westcott must have regarded himself by then as the head of the Rite in England.
In 1878 Westcott sent someone some money to join the Rite of Apex, and received “2 little pamphlets”. Reading in The Freemason magazine some time later that the Rite had held some meetings, he wrote to Irwin to ask why he hadn’t been notified of them. He was then obliged to eat humble pie to Irwin, apologising for having given Irwin the mistaken impression that he was blaming Irwin personally for the failings of those who administered the Rite. That exchange of letters seems to have been that, for Westcott in the Rite of Apex.
The early history of the Order of Eri shows that these orders were less impressive in practice than they sounded in theory: a typescript from 1919 of the order’s history so far indicates that Irwin was its only member on the European side of the Atlantic from the 1850s to 1880, when he allowed Westcott into it and gave permission for John Yarker to found a lodge in Manchester. Yarker’s lodge attracted a few more members to the Order but after Irwin’s death in 1893, nothing much happened in it until after the first World War when, as he had with the Swedenborgian Rite, Westcott tried to revive it, with an official status within the Order that he may have awarded himself.
The Irwin Letters show the Rite of Ishmael preoccupying Kenneth Mackenzie and other members of the occult/masonic network around 1877-79, as if it was being set up at that time.
I didn’t see any specific mention of Westcott as a member of it, and he may not have even known about it until some of Mackenzie’s papers fell into his hands after Mackenzie’s death in 1886. Westcott and John Yarker used those papers to prepare a set of regulations for the Rite; which suggests that Mackenzie hadn’t got as far as finalising them himself. It isn’t clear from the regulations whether the Rite continued to be active.
On settling into a house in Hendon in 1880 Westcott embarked on two years of very concentrated occult study, focusing on the Kabbalah, alchemy and the symbolism of numbers. Making new contacts in the world of esotericism was part of this effort. Though they had exchanged letters, I think Westcott and Kenneth Mackenzie may not have met in person until April 1880. When they met, Westcott handed Mackenzie some manuscripts in cypher – I’d love to know what they were and where they went! - but there was no meeting of minds, at least, not from Mackenzie’s side.
Westcott seems to have fared better with Frederick Holland, who had a reputation in the occult world as an authority on metallurgy. In 1881 Westcott went to Bournemouth to meet him. The consequences of this trip were very great though Westcott won’t have realised it at the time: Holland introduced him to Samuel Mathers. Holland and Westcott were still in touch in 1910.
Another acquaintance Westcott may have made at this time was Rev Adolphus Frederick Alexander Woodford (1821-87). Woodford was a senior freemason and historian of freemasonry. He had been the compiler of Kenning’s Cyclopaedia of Freemasonry. In 1886 he was one of the group who petitioned the UGLE for permission to set up Quatuor Coronati lodge 2076. In his volume on freemasonry and the Essenes, Westcott described Woodford as “My old personal friend”. In the FML collections is a manuscript on Royal Arch, dated 1804 and by William Finch (1772-1818) that Woodford gave to Westcott in 1886.
In 1880 Westcott annoyed Kenneth Mackenzie by becoming a member of a Rosicrucian society Mackenzie despised, Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. By doing so, and quite unwittingly, he came up against another snag of life in occult circles – disputes about authenticity; about whose documents, and/or whose contacts, were nearer to the source of the information on which an occult order was based. There’s a section on Westcott in SRIA further down this file but here I’ll say that SRIA was set up in 1865 by Robert Wentworth Little, using documents he claimed to have found in the offices of the UGLE, where he worked. Mackenzie was not a member of SRIA and had fallen out with Little for reasons he made very plain to Westcott in March 1881: “I possess the real degrees [which are] different to anything known to the Rosi. Society of England...those few who have these degrees dare not communicate them”. He went on to say that he was forbidden from initiating into those degrees anyone who had not undertaken “a long and severe probation to which few would consent to submit”. He snubbed Westcott by not offering him the chance to give the long and severe probation a try. Westcott was left with a choice of SRIA or nothing. He chose SRIA and Mackenzie was offended.
Offending Mackenzie was a handicap to anyone wanting to be more active in the network. In 1883 Mackenzie was deciding who he would allow into his latest order, the Society of Eight. He wrote to Irwin that he was going to exclude anyone who was a member of SRIA, specifically naming Westcott and the spiritualist freemason William Stainton Moses. With so few places to fill, he was being choosy – he also opted against inviting Frederick Hockley, on the grounds that he was too old to be useful. But by 1883 Mackenzie’s attitude towards Westcott seems to have been one of personal dislike – he told Irwin that if Westcott did manage to become a member of the Eight, he would leave it.
That an occult friendship with Kenneth Mackenzie didn’t seem possible might have been a blow to Westcott, but he was prepared to live with it rather than give up his interest in Rosicrucianism. In a speech in November 1893, he said he believed all modern masonic philosophy was based on Rosicrucianism. As early as 1876 Westcott had been asking Irwin if he knew of a group of Rosicrucians meeting in Somerset. It was probably around this time that he started buying the books that ended up as his Hermetic Library. By the time it was catalogued, in 1897, Westcott had acquired a 1681 edition of Fama Fraternitatis (originally published 1614), the tract that had started off the whole Rosicrucian adventure.
Nothing seems to have come of Westcott’s search for a Rosicrucian group that met in Somerset. Perhaps there wasn’t one at the time he asked, and the lack of such a thing probably helped Westcott decide that he really needed to live in London. In London there was such a group. Early in 1880 he wrote, probably to Irwin (the addressee’s name has been lost) to ask for an introduction to one of two men whose names he had discovered. Neither of them were active in the occult network, though they were known to some of those involved in it, at least by repute. They were Henry Charles Levander and William Robert Woodman, leading members of SRIA. Irwin must have provided an introduction as requested, because Westcott was initiated at SRIA’s zelator grade in April 1880.
SRIA - SOCIETAS ROSICRUCIANA IN ANGLIA
March 2022: I had written a long section on Westcott and SRIA but I’ve decided to delete most of it. Recently the SRIA has donated much of its archive to the Freemasons’ Library, with money to employ an archivist to catalogue them. It seems better, and less prone to error – especially as I’m not a freemason (obviously) – to wait for someone to do a much more detailed piece of work on the subject. So below, I shall just try to explain why SRIA is different; give dates for Westcott’s involvement in it; and describe the links between SRIA and the Order of the Golden Dawn.
SRIA is an anomaly: only freemasons who are members of a craft lodge affiliated to UGLE can join it; but it is self-governing, independent of all bodies of freemasonry. Members are required to believe in the basic doctrines of Christianity and to show an appreciation of what the organisation stands for. SRIA is headed by a ‘supreme magus’ (SM) who is elected by the members. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, the SM’s during the time that Westcott was involved with SRIA were all carefully manoeuvered by their predecessor into the position of being the obvious candidate; sometimes serving for several years as stand-in during his unavoidable absences from meetings and rituals, though that was not the way that Westcott reached the top. All the elected members were required to do was rubber-stamp the process with their votes. Once elected, the SM rules for life, with the advice of a High Council of senior members.
An SRIA college is its equivalent of a craft lodge. Even in Westcott’s day there was usually only one per town – or in the Empire, one per country. The daily organisation of a college is like that of a craft lodge, based around a series of official posts, progressing in 12-monthly stages upwards to that of Celebrant in the college, the equivalent of a craft lodge’s WM. SRIA’s London-based Metropolitan College is its senior college; being the first to be founded, in 1865.
Westcott in the SRIA; by date:
April 1880 Westcott initiated into SRIA at zelator grade, its entry level for new members. He joined its Metropolitan College.
December 1881 Westcott became a member of SRIA’s inner, second order
1881-1925 Westcott missed very few meetings of SRIA’s Metropolitan College.
1883 Westcott appointed secretary to SRIA’s Metropolitan College.
1886 SRIA Metropolitan College began to publish Transactions volumes; Westcott was their first editor and had editorial veto during his time as Supreme Magus.
?1886*-1919 Westcott gave many talks at SRIA Metropolitan College meetings; probably the majority during that period. He encouraged other SRIA members to do research and give talks, which were published in the Transactions.
The ‘?’ and ‘*’ are to indicate that he may have begun his talks earlier, but published evidence is lacking before 1886.
1887 Westcott appointed secretary-general to SRIA.
April 1889-1890 Westcott Celebrant of SRIA’s Metropolitan College.
1889 Westcott persuaded the SRIA’s High Council to have a library. The library now contains some volumes from Westcott’s own library; probably donated by him.
25 February 1892 Westcott elected SRIA’s Supreme Magus after the death of his predecessor, Dr William Robert Woodman. He was SM until his death in 1925 even though he lived in South Africa from 1920.
1892-1918 Five sets of SRIA’s ordinances published.
1893-1902 Collectanea Hermetica volumes 1 to 9 published, a joint venture by SRIA and GD; with Westcott as series editor and contributor to most volumes.
1900 Westcott as author of an official history of SRIA.
1902 Westcott founded the SRIA Metropolitan College study group, which met regularly in London and made trips out of London until 1917.
1902 Westcott’s son-in-law Albert Frederick Gee initiated into SRIA’s Metropolitan College. He lived in Durban, KwaZulu Natal but remained a nominal member until 1919.
1903 Westcott’s son-in-law Fergus Edward Hamel initiated into SRIA’s Metropolitan College. He lived in London and was more active than Gee was able to be: Metropolitan College Celebrant April 1914-April 1915. Remained a member until 1935.
1909-?1915 The study group made annual visits to University College London to see artefacts brought back from Egypt by Professor Flinders Petrie and his team.
1920 Westcott moved to Durban KwaZulu Natal to live with his daughter Lilian and her husband Albert Gee. He was in England for a few months in 1921.
April 1921 Westcott attended his last installation meeting at SRIA Metropolitan College.
14 July 1921 Westcott attended his last ever SRIA meeting.
30 July 1925 Westcott died in Durban and was succeeded as SRIA’s SM by W J Songhurst.
Links between SRIA and GD
When the idea of founding the Order of the Golden Dawn was first mooted, Westcott was careful to set it in what he always considered to be its proper contexts: as a kind of non-masonic offshoot of SRIA; and as an Order descended from much older societies, preferably Rosicrucian ones. To deal with the first context, he applied to William Woodman, as SRIA’s SM, for permission to set it up; and Woodman was considered by Westcott and considered himself the new Order’s leader until Woodman died in December 1891. To cover the second context for an order that was in fact completely new, Westcott also forged or had forged some documents issued by a supposed group in Germany descended from a long line of predecessors, giving its permission for the GD to be founded as a daughter order of that group. It was important – perhaps more to his fellow-founder Samuel Mathers than Westcott – that the supposed group in Germany should be led by a woman. It established the right of women to be in the new group, which otherwise might have been challenged by members of SRIA.
Members of both
Three separate groups of men were in both SRIA and GD. All the first group were senior members of SRIA and joined the GD as part of Westcott’s activites in setting it up; at least in theory. They were some of SRIA’s earliest members: Robert Roy, for example, had joined as soon as it was founded, in 1876; and Thomas Walker Coffin, Eugène Thiellay and John Collinson had been initiated in 1877. However, questions have been raised about how much this first group were active in GD. Ellic Howe was able to look at the GD Members’ Roll for its inner, Second Order, and suggested that many entries were forged by Westcott; including the mottos of the non-human secret chiefs (an equivalent to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s mahatmas); the name, motto and date of initiation (1840!) of the non-existent German woman who led the fictitious order in Germany; and Robert Roy’s signature. And if Robert Roy never knew his luck in being chosen to join the GD and make progress into its inner group, some of the other GD members from SRIA might have been in similar ignorance. Certainly, accounts of the history of the GD don’t mention this early SRIA group a great deal, so that all they may have been required to do is give the new Order their blessing and not raise any awkward questions about it.
The second group were initiated into the GD during the 1890s; and joined SRIA as well. This group includes (I’m naming just those active in London) Robert Palmer Thomas, who joined SRIA as early as 1879 but must then have dropped out as he joined again in 1895; George Frederick Rogers who was helping run the SRIA in the 1920s; Charles Lloyd Tuckey who joined in 1894 but didn’t stay long, leaving in 1896; Francis William Wright; and Frederick Leigh Gardner who finally joined SRIA in 1898. Gardner and Wright joined as protégés of Westcott and Westcott also sponsored Wright into the Theosophical Society.
As the GD began to unravel in the early 1900s, two more GD members joined SRIA, again probably encouraged to do so by Westcott: Marcus Worsley Blackden; and A E Waite. That Waite was allowed in must have involved a great deal of persuasion on someone’s part; I suppose it must have been Westcott. In 1887, Waite’s book The Real History of the Rosicrucians had made SRIA members so angry they wondered if SRIA could sue. They realised they couldn’t, but as SRIA’s secretary-general, Westcott had been ordered to write to Waite demanding an apology for gross breach of copyright: he had published SRIA’s rules issued in 1868 without permission, which he certainly wouldn’t have got if he had asked for it. Waite had apologised – he knew he was in the wrong – but these things rankle.
One late addition to the gentle flow of GD members into SRIA was Robert William Felkin; he was initiated in 1907. He was the last, I think: GD had ceased to exist in 1903, allowing the formation of several other orders independent of each other. Waite and Felkin were heads of the two main daughter orders of the GD– Felkin of Stella Matutina; and Waite head of the Independent and Rectified Rite.
One man links all three groups together: Samuel Mathers, who was initiated into SRIA in 1882 and is number 1 on the list of GD members, 1888. Westcott’s most important protégé, he had become an SRIA High Council member by 1886 and made his way up the ladder of offices in the Metropolitan College, reaching the top and serving as Celebrant from April 1891 to April 1892. During Westcott’s own 12 months as Celebrant (April 1889 to April 1890) Mathers had stepped in to do Westcott’s administrative work at the College and his editing of the Transactions. After his own year as Celebrant, however, Mathers went to live in Paris. Although still a very senior member, he no longer played an active part in SRIA’s affairs. After 1900, he would not have been welcome at its meetings in any case; certainly not by Westcott. In 1900 Mathers had written to the GD telling them that its founding documents had been forged.
AFTER THE GD
ORDER OF ILLUMINATI
Order of Illuminati
I wasn’t quite sure where to put information on this order; I suppose it was a masonic order. It was a foreign occult group; at least, I think so because of the connection with the German occultist Theodor Reuss. Reuss’ wikipedia page says that he and Westcott met when Reuss was (briefly) living in England in the 1880s. However, the evidence held at the Freemasons’ Library is only from around 1901 - a constitution and set of regulations for the order’s Minerva lodges, given by Reuss to Westcott; it names Westcott as Regent of Britain within the order.
FREEMASONRY - General
To start with, some contemporary sources for Westcott as a freemason which turned out to be less accurate than I had supposed; so use with caution.
Representative British Freemasons: A Series of Biographies and Portraits of Early 20th Century Freemasons published London 1915 by Dod’s Peerage Ltd of Temple EC: p159. It is the only contemporary source I came across that mentions Westcott’s involvement in two foreign occult groups: as a “Docteur en Kabale” Paris; and as a member, a Brother of the Illuminati of Germany.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume VI 1893 p206 Robert Freke Gould’s speech on Westcott who had just been installed as WM of QC2076. This is the source for Westcott as WM of Parrett and Axe 814 in 1874; the correct year is 1877-78.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 38 1925 p225 obituary of William Wynn Westcott; unsigned but probably by the editor, W J Songhurst.
A modern reference work: Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980. SRIA and the Order of Eri are covered in it, as they still exist.
Westcott’s thinking, early 1890s:
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 6 1893 pp202-05: Westcott’s address at the banquet held immediately after his installation as the lodge’s WM for the 12-month November 1893 to November 1894. The speech gives a detailed account of Westcott’s thinking at the time on the connections between Rosicrucianism and freemasonry; the possibility that the gathering of too much historical truth would result in a loss of ritual mystery; and his intention of focusing on “the mystical rather than the material” and “the allegorical rather than the historic” during his year in charge. He paid tribute to several lodge members who had died in the past year, including Francis George Irwin whom he described as one of QC2076’s founding petitioners.
A note from Sally Davis: Westcott was not correct about Irwin: UGLE membership records show Irwin being elected a member in 1886, two years after the lodge was founded.
FREEMASONRY – United Grand Lodge of England
Now at Ancestry: UGLE membership records to 1921:
1871 Parrett and Axe 814 24 October 1871; as William “Winn” Westcott, transcribed for Ancestry as ‘wune’.
1873 Brotherly Love 329; full date of joining not given [3 December 1873]; resigned 1880. As William W Westcott.
1886 Quatuor Coronati 2076; 2 December 1886 as member of 814.
Further information on those three lodges:
PARRETT AND AXE 814
There’s no lodge history of 814 in the Freemasons’ Library (FML) collections. However in February 2022 I came across one being written online at crewkerne-freemasons.org/history. There was a brief note confirming Westcott’s year of initiation and stating that he was WM 1877-78. The page has a picture from the contemporary lodge Minute Book so the information can be relied on. The web page’s author promises more information in due course.
Lane’s Masonic Records: Parrett and Axe 814 warrant 1860. In 1871 it was meeting at the George Hotel in Crewkerne, information confirmed by the crewkerne-freemasons’ web page above.
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/4/3/7: Westcott to Benjamin Cox 30 January 1877 as WM-elect of lodge 814. This letter has a reference in it to Westcott as a member of the Knights Templar. However, R A Gilbert couldn’t find any other evidence of his belonging to the KnT; a bit of an anomaly then.
Still a member in 1886 when he used it as part of his application to join QC2076.
BROTHERLY LOVE 329
Centenary History of the Lodge of Brotherly Love 329 Yeovil 1810-1910. FML’s copy presented to UGLE by one of its authors. Authors are W J Nosworthy, H F Raymond; and Buchanan, as PM and Provincial Grand Senior Warden Somerset. No publication date but the Introduction was dated Yeovil April 1910. Passim but particularly pp65-66 a section devoted to Westcott; joining date 3 December 1873, resigned 1880. Covers the lodge’s Royal Arch chapter and Somerset Mark Masonry too. Pp231 list of members since its warrant; p242 list of officers since 1810 confirming Westcott was never its WM.
QUATUOR CORONATI 2076
At Ancestry UGLE membership records to 1921. Lodge’s warrant dated 28 November 1884. List of the original petitioners. F G Irwin in a list of new members elected April 1886. Westcott elected as a member of 814, 2 December 1886.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum is QC2076’s magazine. Its volume 1 1886-88 pp25-27 minutes of the meeting of 8 November 1886: Westcott proposed as a new member by Charles Warren, one of the lodge’s founders. On p27 minutes of the meeting of 2 December 1886 include Westcott being “admitted to membership”.
Subsequent volumes show that Westcott attended most of its meetings over the next 30 years; it met at the Freemasons’ Hall in central London. On p54 minutes of the meeting of 2 June 1887: Westcott read his first paper to the lodge at that meeting: A Short Essay on Rosicrucian Topics.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 38 1925 p225 Westcott’s obituary confirms that he did all the officer’s jobs including two sets of 12 months as Senior Warden; installed as WM 8 November 1893. He was an active member of the lodge until he went to live in South Africa .
There’s a list of Westcott’s articles in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum in my file on his occult publications.
1920s - freemasonry in South Africa. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 38 1925 p225 obituary of Westcott states that he was going to lodge meetings in Durban in the 1920s; while not actually saying that he was a member of a lodge there. R A Gilbert was able to confirm that in 1922, Westcott joined the Durban AAR Chapter. He gave his last ever talk at a craft lodge in Verulam near Durban in April 1925.
Higher office in the craft:
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 38 1925 p225: obituary of Westcott.
The UGLE masonic schools:
The Masonic Illustrated issue of 1 July 1902 p191: a short profile of Westcott confirms that he was a life governor of the boys’ and girls’ masonic schools by this time.
The Freemason and Masonic Illustrated 3 July 1875 p278: report on a meeting of Brotherly Love Chapter 329; Westcott was there as “N”.
The Freemason’s Chronicle volume 28 issue of 15 December 1888 p373: report on a meeting of Brotherly Love Chapter 329; Westcott was there as “H”.
Both meetings were held at the Choughs (or Three Choughs) Hotel in Yeovil, a popular place for masonic meetings.
Centenary History of the Lodge of Brotherly Love 329 Yeovil 1810-1910 by W J Nosworthy, H F Raymond, and Buchanan. Introduction written Yeovil April 1910: p66.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 38 1925 p225: obituary of Westcott.
The Chapter of Brotherly Love 329 1822-2012 by David Perkins. Published 2012. Passim but especially pp47-48 section on Westcott with a photograph of Bridge House, Martock, where Westcott grew up.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp9-12.
RED CROSS OF CONSTANTINE
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 100 1987. R A Gilbert’s list of Westcott’s freemasonry: pp31-32. As a member of its Rose and Lily Conclave 10, based Weston-super-Mare; but Gilbert doesn’t give dates.
Conclave 10 was in existence by 1869 though Westcott won’t have been a member this early: The Freemason 30 October 1869 p195 report on its annual meeting, at Weston-super-Mare on 18 October 1869; with Francis George Irwin as Red Cross of Constantine’s Inspector General of Bristol and Gloucester. Benjamin Cox was Conclave 10’s Recorder and Treasurer.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp42-44 and it gives its full title: the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St John the Evangelist. Candidates must have had the Royal Arch initiation.
FREEMASONRY – the other masonries. I should say here that as far as I’m aware, the archives of the Mark masons and the Ancient and Accepted Rite (AAR) are not open to non members.
FREEMASONRY – the Mark masons
WILLIAM DE IRWIN MM LODGE 162
FML’s call number GBR 1991 P 10/16/85 (see start of this file) gives some information on Westcott in MM lodge 162 including the year of his advancement; the two 12-months he was WM of it; and the fact that there was no activity in the lodge between 1878 and 1887.
The Freemason and Masonic Illustrated 13 March 1875 p102 Mark Masonry: report of installation meeting at William de Irwin Lodge 162 held 3 March 1875. Francis George Irwin attended it, as MM Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Somerset. Westcott also attended, as “Reg. Marks”.
Freemason’s Chronicle 14 April 1888 p231 Mark Masonry: report of an installation meeting at William de Irwin Lodge 162 3 April 1888; at the Three Choughs in Yeovil. At the end of his second set of 12 months as WM, Westcott installed his successor.
Centenary History of the Lodge of Brotherly Love 329 Yeovil 1810-1910 by W J Nosworthy, H F Raymond, and Buchanan: p66 indicating Westcott was PGSW of Mark masonry in Somerset (no date given); and PGD of England, 1897.
No source I’ve seen and no source R A Gilbert saw, suggested that Westcott had belonged to any London-based Mark masons’ lodge.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp13-16.
FREEMASONRY – Ancient and Accepted Rite, the Scottish Rite in England
That it’s the Scottish Rite they do: via a google snippet to AAR’s Rules and Regulations… issued by its Supreme Council 1891; front page. On p57 Westcott in a list of members at 30º level. He’s still in that list in the issue of 1903, the latest google had.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp35-40.
COX, IRWIN, MACKENZIE and the FREEMASON/OCCULT NETWORK
General source for this section: Irwin Letters collection now at the FML. As at February 2022 they have been catalogued and are being added to the online search engine. The collection is mostly letters to Irwin, with a few from him; and a number of other documents sent to him by various correspondents. It is obvious from the contents of the letters that Irwin’s papers originally included copies of rituals which are no longer with the collection.
Just noting here that neither Frederick Holland nor A F A Woodford were active in the freemason/occult network.
Westcott and Holland:
On meeting in 1881: Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn, by Ithell Colquhoun. Published London: Neville Spearman 1975: pp71-72.
Still knowing each other in 1910:
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: letter Holland to Westcott 19 April 1910.
Westcott and Woodford:
Woodford’s work on Kenning’s Cyclopaedia: Howe p3.
I found some family history information on Woodford at www.woodforde.co.uk including his dates 1821-87.
He was ordained in 1846: Ecclesiastical Gazette July 1846 p12. However, he was financially independent and during the last years of his life did not work in a parish. On the day of the 1881 census he was living at 25a Norfolk Crescent Paddington though his probate registry entry shows that he had moved to Clapham by the time he died in December 1887.
Westcott and Mackenzie:
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/3/1/116 Mackenzie to Westcott 1 April 1880; with pencil note. The letter gives various days and times for the two men to meet. It is short and couched in very formal terms suggesting that the two men didn’t know each other.
Mackenzie died in July 1886 and his widow Alexandrina (known as May and sometimes by the motto that she used in the GD – Cryptonoma) – approached Samuel Mathers, rather than Westcott, for help in sorting the French-language papers in her husband’s possession. FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/3/1/136: May Mackenzie to Westcott 6 April 1887, in which she mostly worries about her financial situation, which was pretty desperate.
Westcott, Holland and Mathers:
Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn, by Ithell Colquhoun. London: Neville Spearman 1975: p72.
Society of Eight:
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/3/1/122 Mackenzie to Irwin 24 August 1883 in which Mackenzie describes SRIA as “poor Little’s foolish Rosic. Society” and suggests that it offers degrees rather than learning.
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/3/1/123 Mackenzie to Irwin 28 August 1883.
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/4/3/5 Westcott to Irwin 6 December 1876.
The subscription was paid to John Yarker.
For Westcott’s efforts to revive the order: Ars Quatuor Coronatorum volume 100 1987 actually published November 1988: pp6-32.
On Theodor Reuss: his wikipedia page; however I’m not sure how much it can be trusted as there’s a notice at the top of it about a lack of citations. Reuss (1855-1923; born and died in Germany) is one of those impossible-to-pursue occultists, flitting from country to country and having many ways of earning a living. The wikipedia page says that he was living in England in the mid-1880s and met Westcott then.
Ancient Order of Ishmael
It being set up around 1877: FML’s Irwin letters collection GBR 1991 Mss 39/3/1/.
FML BE 699 (ISH) ANC: history, laws etc. 2 volumes assembled by Westcott and John Yarker.
Rite of Apex
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/4/3/9.
FML’s Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/4/3/10.
[Royal] Order of Eri
Typescript c 1919 in the FML Irwin Letters collection but not given a call number as yet (February 2022).
See also R A Gilbert’s 1987 talk.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp82-84. There are still very few members of this select group. At the time Jackson was compiling his book there was only one Faslairt (its equivalent of a lodge), meeting in London. Membership was by invitation only; candidates had to be in SRIA at a level of 5th grade or higher (I think this was a rule devised by Westcott).
SRIA – SOCIETAS ROSICRUCIANA IN ANGLIA
Scholarly account of the history of Rosicrucianism: The Rosicrucians by Christopher McIntosh. Originally Crucible Press 1980. I read the revised edition of 1987 and there has been at least one more revision since then. I found Colin Wilson’s Foreword very helpful, although he describes Fama Fraternitatis, the book that started it all off in 1614 (in German, 1616 in Latin), as a fraud. I think that’s rather unkind. The group of German acquaintances behind Fama Fraternitatis were voicing a sense of despair at the filth and corruption of the world they were living in, and advocating a life spent in doing good, based on the supposed life of the mysterious, long dead and entirely fictional Christian Rosenkreuz. However, it does seem to be true that none of the readers who contacted the authors wanting to join their “Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross” ever received any response.
Beyond the Craft by Keith B Jackson. London: Lewis Masonic 1980: pp73-78.
Mackenzie and Rosicrucianism
Westcott’s copy of Fama Fraternitatis:
Johann Valentin, Nicolai, F., & Rosenkreuzer
Allgemeine und General Reformation der gantzen weiten Welt: Beneben der Fama Fraternitatis, Dess Löblichen Ordens des Rosencreutzes, an alle Gelehrte und Häupter Europä geschrieben,
Published 1681  Regensburg. Westcott Hermetic Library Catalogue number: 10.
Mackenzie’s advice as to where Westcott could learn some Rosicrucianism, which made Howe wonder if Mackenzie really knew anything at all about the subject: 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. My quote is from a letter by Mackenzie to Westcott 24 March 1881: Howe pp30-31. Mackenzie advises Westcott to go away and read again two particular works: Hargrave Jennings’ The Rosicrucians, Their Rites and Mysteries, which Howe describes as “nonsense from start to finish”; and Bulwer Lytton’s supposedly Rosicrucian novel Zanoni.
Westcott’s motto as a member of SRIA Transactions of SRIA Metropolitan College 1888-89 p19-20: Quod Scis Nescis.
FML Irwin Letters collection GBR 1991 MSS 39/4/3/12: Westcott to unknown correspondent 7 January1880 from Sunny Gardens Hendon.
Westcott in SRIA:
Ars Quatuor Coronati volume 100 1987: p9. As a good administrator: p11. The High Council library: p10.
History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia by the MW Supreme Magus Dr William Wynn Westcott. Privately printed London 1900.
Transactions of Societas Rosicruciana Metropolitan College.
For example 1909; and up to ?1915: the Metropolitan College meetings were held at the Café Monico restaurant which had large rooms for hire. It was a popular venue with freemasons.
Minutes of meetings 1886-1900 show Westcott attended virtually every meeting during that period.
For his powers of veto: Transactions: 1919 p5.
For his talks: see virtually every issue of the Transactions from 1886 to 1919.
He rises through the ranks: 1885 front page. 1887 p7 meeting of 22 July 1887. 1888-89 p3 meeting 12 July 1888, which Westcott attended despite having a serious injury to his eye, which prevented him preparing any papers for it. 1889-90 pp1-2 meeting of 11 April 1889 installation as Celebrant; Samuel Mathers standing in as College secretary and editor of the Transactions.
1890-92 p1, p6 there were problems with the customary jewel presented to the retiring Celebrant; Westcott received his six months late.
1891-92 p6 meeting of 25 February 1892: confirmed as SM. That he had been nominated by Woodman: History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia by the MW Supreme Magus Dr William Wynn Westcott. Privately printed London 1900 p10.
1893-94 p4 meeting of 12 October 1893: announcement of the Collectanea Hermetica publishing venture. For it being a response to the problems of SRIA members: Westcott’s preface to Collectanea Hermetica volume 1: An English translation of the Hermetic Arcanum of Penes Nos Unda Tagi first published in 1623. Author given as Jean d’Espagnet. As Sapere Aude, Westcott provided a Preface and Notes to the translation.
Study Group: the most informative details are in Transactions 1906 p6 meeting of 4 October 1906. Then, a report of the Group by its secretary, every year until 1917 when it’s only one paragraph long. Also 1911 p65 first meeting 22 March 1901. Last report: 1917 p41.
Westcott’s last meetings at SRIA Metropolitan College: Transactions:
1920 p17 and passim: Westcott not present at any meeting from April onwards.
1921 p17 and p32.
Transactions 1925 p24 short obituary of Westcott who had died 30 July 1925 at Durban and been buried in South Africa; p36 meeting of 8 October 1925 was held in official mourning for him; and Songhurst was elected SM.
Date of Mathers’ initiation into SRIA:
Ellic Howe 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. p38 footnote 1.
SRIA and GD:
Westcott’s ‘three no-shows/non-payments and you’re out’ rule in SRIA used also in GD: Transactions 1890-91 p6; 1894-95 p1.
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. Westcott’s forgeries on the 2nd Order Members’ Roll, which Howe believes was not even set up until 1891 when the GD had been in existence for three years: pp292-93.
The fury in SRIA over Waite’s book: SRIA Metropolitan College Transactions 1887-88 pp8-9 meeting of 13 October 1887.
History of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia by the MW Supreme Magus Dr William Wynn Westcott. Privately printed London 1900 p31 lists the members of SRIA’s High Council as at 1900: Westcott is first on the list; Mathers is third.
ORDER OF ILLUMINATI
Item Freemasons’ Library call number BE 699 ILL dated c 1901. It’s a manuscript, a translation by Westcott from the German. It’s a constitution and set of rules for the Order’s Minerva lodges; apparently given to Westcott by Reuss. Westcott is described as the Order’s “Regent of Britain”.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
8 April 2022
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