Friday, October 13, 2023

William Wynn Westcott

Born on December 17, 1848, in Leamington, Warwickshire, England, William Wynn Westcott was the only child of Dr. Peter Westcott, but would be raised by his half-uncle (who was also a doctor) after his parents died before William was 10 years old. William was educated and attended University College in London where he earned a Bachelor of Medicine. After his education left London and worked with his half-uncle at his medical practice.

William was involved with his community and served in many capacities and appointments such as Factory Surgeon, Public Vaccinator, Medical Officer of Health, and Quartermaster to a Battalion of Volunteers.

On February 18, 1873, he was married to Elizabeth Burnett. Together they had four children and moved back to London in 1879. From 1879 to 1881, he seemed to have taken a sabbatical where he studied Kabalistic, Hermetic, Alchemical, and Rosicrucian philosophy and teachings.

In 1881, he was appointed Deputy Coroner for Central Middlesex and Central London. In 1894, he was appointed Coroner for Northeast London; he served in this position until 1918. In 1918, he moved to South Africa.

William Wynn Westcott was initiated into Parret and Axe Lodge No. 814 in Crewkerne (England) on October 24, 1871. Little is known about his advancement, but he served as the Lodge's Master in 1877. He was also a member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the premier Lodge of Research in the world, and served as its Worshipful Master in 1893. He would also serve as Provincial Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies in Somerset and be awarded the rank of Past Junior Grand Deacon by the United Grand Lodge of England. 

In Capitular Masonry, he was exalted into the Chapter of Brotherly Love No. 329 on April 30, 1873, and served as the First Principal (equivalent to Excellent High Priest in the United States) in 1889. He would go on to be a Past Grand Standard Bearer of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England.

Unlike the US, Mark Masonry is a separate body in England. Westcott was advanced to Mark Masonry in William de Irwin Lodge No. 162 and served as its Master in 1887. He would serve as the Provincial Grand Senior Warden of the Mark Province of Somerset.

He is said to have joined the Order of the Temple or Knights Templar, but the dates are not known nor what offices he held, if any. This claim is disputed.

He joined the Ancient & Accepted Rite in 1875 and was promoted to the 30° in 1878.

He was a member of Rose and Lily Conclave No. 10 of the Red Cross of Constantine.

He was a member of the Royal Order of the Red Branch of Eri where he was instrumental in reviving and reorganizing the order, and served as its Grand Master and its senior Knight Grand Cross.

He was admitted to the Swedenborg Rite in 1876 where he served as Worshipful Master of Emanuel Lodge No. 1 and Junior Warden of Hermes Lodge No. 8 in 1886, District Senior Grand Warden and Supreme Grand Senior Deacon in 1877, Worshipful Master of Pythagorean Lodge of Instruction in 1887, and Supreme Grand Junior Warden and Supreme Grand Secretary in 1891.

Westcott joined the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) on April 15, 1880, at Metropolitan College. He was admitted to the Grades of the Second Order on December 12, 1881. In 1883 he served as Secretary General of the Society. In 1889, he served as Celebrant of Metropolitan College, and in 1891 he was enthroned as Most Worthy Supreme Magus of the SRIA.

Westcott was targeted by anti-Masons of the age. In 1896, he was listed as the “Chief of English Luciferians” in a French anti-Mason publication called “Mémoires d'une Ex-Palladiste”. This was supposedly written by Ms. Diana Vaughan which of course was a pseudonym used by the hoaxer Leo Taxil.

Westcott was also a member of several non-Masonic esoteric societies like the Hermetic Society and Theosophical Society. The latter organization he advanced to the “inner circle.” But it was with another group that Westcott is highly remembered, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In 1887 Westcott acquired a ciphered manuscript that proved to be a series of initiatory rituals. In working with his fellow Rosicrucian Frater, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers worked the rituals into a workable form. He, Mathers, and Dr. William Robert Woodman (the then Supreme Magus of the SRIA) established the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in February 1888.

Being a public official (the Coroner), he was pressured into retiring from his public life as a member of the Golden Dawn and stepped down from his officer roles. There also seems to have been an internal dispute between him and Mathers who accused Westcott of being a forger and liar. Some speculate that it was Mathers who had informed Westcott's superiors of his involvement in the Golden Dawn to force him out of power. Mathers accuses Westcott of fabricating the documents authenticating the origins of the Golden Dawn. 

William Westcott died of Brights Disease (a kidney disease) on July 30, 1925, in Durban, South Africa. He was predeceased by his wife in 1921, both of his sons (1906 and 1907), and both of his daughters (1918 and 1924). While some of his life may be left in controversy, he was clearly a revered and respected Mason in his time and left a legacy with the Golden Dawn as well. While unknown to most Masons in the US, he was a contemporary of men like AE Waite, John Yarker, Theodore Reuss, and Albert Pike.


1. Dr. William Wynn Westcott. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: 

2. Gilbert, R. A. (1987, February 19). William Wynn Westcott and the Esoteric School of Masonic Research. Retrieved from ARS QUATUOR CORONATORUM: 

3. Parsell, H. V. (n.d.). Dr. William Wynn Westcott: An Appreciation. Retrieved from Societas Rosicruciana in America: 

4. Westcott, William Wynn. (n.d.). Retrieved from Occult World: 

5. William Wynn Westcott. (2016, August 14). Retrieved from Geni: 

6. William Wynn Westcott and the Esoteric School of Masonic Research: Appendix A. (n.d.). Retrieved from MasterMason:

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