As far as can be ascertained, there were individual members of the Theosophical Society (TS) living in Wales long before any distinct organization came into being. Henry S. OLCOTT, in Old Diary Leaves, (4th Series, p. 193) records having lectured in Wales at Merthyr Tydfil and Tenby at the end of the nineteenth century, and it would appear that the lectures were arranged, in each case, by Edward Morgan whose Diploma of membership in the British Section of the TS was issued in 1889.
The earliest organizational records are the Minutes of the meetings of Cardiff Center — later Cardiff Lodge — dated March 1911, with twenty-one members recorded as present. It was “decided to take a room and furnish it simply for the purpose of holding meetings,” the chair being taken by Basil P. Howell, who was later to become secretary to Annie Besant. Also present was Peter B. W. Freeman, later to become General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Wales.
At that stage the Lodge was affiliated with the Southern Federation of the British Section, and it was decided that a weekly study group and fortnightly public lectures be held. A suitable room was rented and furnished in Duke Street, (opposite Cardiff Castle). The funds were insufficient to pay the total sum necessary, and members were requested to pay more than the dues of one shilling per month. Propaganda meetings were continued in South Wales, and in June 1911 it was decided to apply for a Charter as a Lodge. This was granted by Annie Besant and dated June 10, 1911. At the same time it was decided to try to acquire as permanent premises the room mentioned above. By the end of the year eleven public lectures had been given in various parts of South Wales, and Annie Besant had agreed to visit Cardiff in the Spring of 1912.
The work thus begun was expanded during the following year with thirty-three public lectures reported as having been given in various parts of the area, whilst the membership of Cardiff Lodge had risen to 39. It is not possible to record details of efforts made in other parts of Wales, since membership of Cardiff Lodge included people living in towns as much as fifty miles away where it had not been possible to form Lodges.
On May 25, 1914, Besant visited Cardiff and lectured, but there is no record of the venue or result. Members were preparing for war work in various fields, and it had become necessary to find new premises due to road widening. This was reasonably quickly done and the work continued during the period of the war. By mid-1915, it seems that the British Section had become The Theosophical Society in England and Wales. It is worth recording also that the philosopher and poet Edward Carpenter, Clara CODD, and Marie Corelli, the famous author of occult novels, lectured at Cardiff Lodge.
In 1918, just prior to the ending of the war, Peter Freeman purchased 10 Park Place, Cardiff, a prestigious building in the city center “for the work of the Master.” By 1922, the membership and lodges had reached the stage where the formation of a Section was possible. A National Council was formed, and the first meeting was held on October 28, 1922, with Peter Freeman in the chair as General Secretary. The Charter of the Theosophical Society in Wales was signed by Annie Besant and dated June 28, 1922. At that date the membership in Wales was 209.
A curiosity was that the Council had written to Curuppumullage JINARĀJADĀSA suggesting that Wales use “The Druid’s Motto” (but what this is was not recorded) in place of the Society’s Sanskrit Motto. The reply is not recorded, but it was decided to continue with the Society’s existing motto. A member donated five golden sovereigns for the use by the National Library, and a Miss Banks and Miss Harry were appointed custodians of the library in October 1923. It is of interest that Miss Harry died in January 1991 in her 103rd year.
In 1925 it was decided to incorporate the Society in Wales. The Section membership was now 307, but echoes of the Coulomb conspiracy still caused concern, with some members hiding their occult interests, and the Society becoming “more exoteric.” At the same time the projected “Coming of the World Teacher” called for the Society “to be the cornerstone of the religions of the future.”
On October 24, 1925, The Welsh Theosophical Trust Ltd was incorporated and in July 1926, No. 10 Park Place was purchased by the Company for £2500. In November 1929, Peter Freeman the General Secretary was elected to Parliament as Labor Member for, it is believed, Brecon, thus requiring the election of a new General Secretary.
Over the following years, the work thus begun continued with ups and downs. Great gaps must be left in such a brief history, but by 1972 the membership in Wales had fallen greatly, and only two Lodges, Cardiff and Colwyn Bay were fully active. The headquarters building was in a bad state and the rates (city taxes) almost more than the income. It was therefore decided to sell the building and purchase somewhere outside the city center. Accordingly, the house was put on the market and sold just before the authorities blocked development of the area. A suitable building was fairly quickly found and purchased, and in July 1973 the headquarters moved to 206, Newport Road, Cardiff.
Numerically, Wales has fallen below the number of Lodges and members required for a Section and is now identified as a “Regional Association.”
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