33 Belgrave Square, Belgravia, London SW1X 8PH
the original home of The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain
Above: main reception at the original SAGB premises, 1960s
Below: the chapel at the SAGB, with book of remembrance & an oak chair dedicated to William Cooper
Vintage booklet entitled:
'A Tour of 33 Belgrave Square'
through the pages of this scanned copy
or read the full transcript below.
Then watch the short film below:
'Is There Anybody There?'
recorded at the SAGB, 33 Belgrave Square, in 1966.
A TOUR OF
THE SPIRITUALIST ASSOCIATION OF GREAT BRITAIN
A TOUR OF 33, BELGRAVE SQUARE.
Belgrave Square. Belgrave Square (according to the “Penguin Guide to London”) is the most notable of London's many Squares and has on each side an exceptionally fine range of buildings in a classical style, designed in 1825 by George Basevi, nephew of Benjamin Disraeli. Thomas Cubitt who, next to Nash, has the best claim to be regarded as the 'Napoleon' amongst London town-planners, planned Belgrave Square and built it in 1827-28. The Square covers 10 acres and is 740 yards in circuit.
Belgravia itself derives its name from the village of Belgrave in Leicestershire, where the Grosvenor family have one of their estates. There are many Embassies in the Square, including Belgium, Spain, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Turkey, Ghana, Italy, Argentine, Mexico, Norway and Malaysia, and among the well-known organizations to have their headquarters here are 'The Nature Conservancy', 'The Royal Agricultural Society' and 'The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons'. Among the well-known people who have lived in the Square are the statesman, Lord John Russell (1841-1870), the Duke of Norfolk, (No.14), the Duke of Bedford (Nos. 15 & 16), the Duke of Kent (No.3), and the philanthropic Earl of Shaftesbury, who died at No.5.
Although looking alike from the outside, the houses in Belgrave Square are, in fact, all different inside. It is said that we have the finest entrance hall in Belgrave Square and one of the loveliest staircases. The building is scheduled by the Greater London Council as being of historic and architectural interest and we are not permitted to alter it in any way.
These rooms are used for classes, séances and private appointments. Room 25 contains some excellent examples of 'auragraphs'; the work of our medium, Harold Sharp. From the fire-escape outside No. 25 a fine view of the roofs of London is obtained and one can see Battersea Power Station, the television mast at Crystal Palace, the famous Church at Eaton Square, Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Station, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben, and St. Paul's Cathedral. Also some of London's latest skyscrapers. Note. Not more than 4 persons should be allowed on the fire-escape at any one time, except in an emergency.
This, in addition to the 'Diagnosis Room', contains 10 healing cubicles, all of which are fitted with special lighting and furnished with healing couches and blankets. We treat approximately 500 patients each week. The Diagnosis Room contains its own hot and cold water, and there is a wash-room provided for healers, also with hot and cold water. There is a receptionist on duty during all Healing Clinics, which are held every day of the week, including Sundays.
This quiet room contains our Book of Remembrance which comprises the names of those who have served the Association in many capacities since it was founded in 1872. A list of the names inscribed is also exhibited in the case. A page is turned every day.
A lovely picture of “The Light of the World” (by William Holman Hunt) has two beautiful small plaques of Vienna Porcelain on either side.
A large oak chair carries a brass plate inscribed “Dedicated to the Memory of William Thomas Cooper, our beloved President 1905- 1920”.
This is the room in which the Council of the Association meet. It is also used for classes and séances. From the windows of this room, which contains so much history, a fine view of Belgrave Square is obtained.
The [following] pictures [displayed on the Chamber walls] are of particular interest :-
Belgrave Square 1828. A small engraving by S. Lacy hanging over the fireplace, shows the Square as it was when it was built in 1828 - it shows this side of the Square and looks almost the same as it does today.
The Old Fox Cottage Hydesville, New York State. This was the cradle of Modern Spiritualism and the home of the Fox sisters, where the now famous rappings took place in 1848. The growth of [Modern] Spiritualism stems from this tiny cottage.
Reverend Vale Owen (1869-1931 ) was an outstanding religious teacher of Spiritualism. He previously held curacies at Seaforth, Fairfield and Liverpool, and was for 20 years Vicar of Orford, near Warrington. He developed automatic writing and received an account of life after death which was published in the 'Weekly Dispatch'. The result was persecution from his Church superiors, whereupon he resigned. His [series of] books 'The Life Beyond the Veil' are still obtainable,
and have helped countless people.
Sir Oliver Lodge F.R.S., D.Sc., LL.D., MA., (1851 - 1940) was the world-famous physicist and a fearless champion of survival. He missed no opportunity to affirm his belief in public that death is not the end. His first experiences were in 1883. The widest publicity to his belief in survival was given by his famous book 'Raymond' which is the story of the return of his son. Speaking from the Presidential Chair of the British Association in 1913, he boldly declared that personality persists beyond bodily death.
George Craze President of the Association many times from 1922 until his passing in 1946. He joined the Council of the Association in 1917. Had it not been for the wonderful work and loyalty of George Craze the Association would have closed during the Second World War.
A memorial window is fitted in the George Graze lecture hall, on the first floor. Mrs Lily Craze, his second wife, also played a great part in the activities cf the association, particularly in its healing work.
Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding G.C.B., G.C.V.O., C.M.G. The famous leader of 'The Few' in the Battle of Britain whose work for Spiritualism is well known. He is the author of many books and dedicated our present headquarters in August 1955 and the new extension to our building, now named after him, in October 1962, thus celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the Association.
Mr & Mrs, Thomas Everitt. Mr. Thomas Everitt was President of the Association for 16 years in the early days, from 1890 to 1906, and the work he and his wife did during those years, in spite of persecution, was tremendous. Mrs, Everitt was a very fine medium with whom many eminent people sat; including Sir William Crookes. An 'Illuminated Address' presented to Mr and Mrs Everitt on April 29th 1872 is on exhibition. This is of great historical interest and was presented in the first year of the formation of our Association.
Mrs, Champion de Crespigny. A prolific writer of psychic books and & fine lecturer. She was a Vice-President of the Association, and a daughter of the Right Honourable Sir Astley Cooper-Key; the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty.
Alfred Russell Wallace O.M, (1823-1903) The famous naturalist and co-discoverer with Darwin of the principles of evolution. He was a confirmed materialist [who was] so adamant that, before he became acquainted with Spiritualism, there was no place in his mind for a spiritual existence. The facts, however, beat him. His earliest experiences were in 1844 and he afterwards wrote many books. He remained true to his Spiritualist convictions up to the end of his busy life. An autographed letter from him is in our museum.
Professor William James (1842-1910) of Harvard University, U.S.A. One of the founders of the 'American Society for Psychical Research'. He had amazing experiences through the mediumship of Mrs Piper in America.
William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) Editor, publicist and a great champion of Spiritualism. He was a Vice-President of the Association and a marble bust of him stands in our lounge. He founded the 'Review of Reviews' in 1890 and wrote his 'Real Ghost Stories' in 1891. He discovered his gift of receiving communications by automatic writing, and in 1893 he began the publication 'Borderland'; a quarterly psychic magazine. He was drowned in the Titanic disaster in 1912, after having had many premonitions that this would happen.
Sir William Crookes F.R.S., O.M. (1832-1919). One of the greatest physicists of the last century. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1863, was knighted in 1897 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1910. President at different times of the Royal Society and the British Association, he was the inventor of many scientific instruments and the editor of the 'Quarterly Journal of Science'. He investigated Spiritualism with the idea of exposing it and the Press received the announcement with jubilation. He began in 1871 and afterwards scientific publications refused to print his findings. He had amazing experiences through the mediumship of D.D. Home and also
Frank Hawken He became the first full-time Secretary of the Association in 1930, remaining until he passed on in 1943. His hard and loyal work built the Association into a powerful organization. He was responsible for the organization of the services at the Queens Hall and the Royal Albert Hall prior to the war.
Mrs, M.A, St. Clair Stobart. She spent a great deal of her time trying to link the orthodox Church with Spiritualism and was the founder of 'The Confraternity'. She obtained the help of many clergymen in her work. She was a leader of the suffragette movement and a very progressive personage.
Shaw Desmond. Well-known Irishman who spent many years speaking on behalf of Spiritualism. He wrote more than 60 books and travelled in many parts of the world, having the experience of sailing around Cape Horn. He was also a musician and athlete, and was a Vice-President of the Association. He passed on in 1961.
John S. Hodges President of the Association on two occasions, the last being 1946-47. Architect and writer, he lived in South Africa for some years before his passing in 1961.
H. Ernest Hunt A great worker on behalf of the Association and a splendid speaker. He became President in 1936-37 and frequently spoke at the Queens Hall and Royal Albert Hall. He wrote many books and was a teacher at St. Paul's School, London. He passed on in 1946.
Percy J. Hitchcock One of the finest speakers on behalf of Spiritualism and a dynamic leader. He became President of the Association from 1947-50 and did much to further its influence. He was the author of many articles and books. He passed on in 1953.
Alfred Vout Peters One of the Association's most outstanding mediums after the First World War and until the middle 1930s. He was known all over the country for his amazing demonstrations.
Robert James Lees Born in 1849 he was one of the greatest mediums and [the] author of many books which have brought comfort to thousands. His best known book is 'Through the Mists' and others 'The Life Elysian', 'The Gate of Heaven', 'The Heretic', etc, are still available. He frequently gave sittings to Queen Victoria.
Evan J, Powell J.P. Famous medium and brilliant speaker. His direct voice séances brought evidence to countless people and it was largely through his mediumship that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became interested in Spiritualism. He was an Honorary Vice-President of the Association and passed on in 1958.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). Celebrated writer of the famous Sherlock Holmes books and a great many books on Spiritualism. He toured many parts of the world to talk of his knowledge of life after death. One of the greatest exponents that Spiritualism has ever had. He was an Honorary Vice-President of the Association.
Sydney Richardson A great worker on behalf of the Association. He became President from 1956-59 and afterwards took up the position of Healing Secretary, a work to which he devoted his life. He passed on in 1964.
Harry Edwards Famous healer, author and speaker. Widely known for his wonderful gift of bringing help to suffering humanity.
Coming down the staircase from the second floor, we notice the statue 'Medium and Spirit Guide', which was presented to the Association by the sculptor G.H. Paulin, after it had been exhibited in the Royal Academy.
The Oliver Lodge Lecture Hall.
An Italian marble plaque and picture of the great scientist and Spiritualist (see 'Council Chamber') is in a prominent position over the fireplace. One is immediately attracted by the beautiful Adam fireplace, said to be one of the finest in the Square. This and the one in the George Craze Lecture Hall were photographed by the GLC [Greater London Council] shortly after we moved to No.33, as they desired to have a record of them. Both [of] these fireplaces were valued 10 years ago at £5,000 each. The mouldings over the doors and the doors themselves are worthy of notice and are very beautiful.
The lectern was presented by the members of the congregation in memory of Thomas Everitt in 1906 after 16 years as President. A brass plate is affixed to the foot of it.
The Bechstein Grand Pianoforte is a beautiful instrument and is used for our monthly recitals and the Selmar electronic organ on the platform is very efficient.
The Chinese Tapestry was presented to the Association by a member who lived at The Hall in Lavenham, Suffolk. It is a beautiful piece of work, all hand-stitched, and we are told that all the writing is in ancient classical Chinese and all mean the same thing, “Long Life”.
The three chairs on the platform are a memorial to H.F. Bendall, who served on the Council of the Association for some years.
The George Craze Lecture Hall.
Again, the Adam fireplace stands out (see 'The Oliver Lodge Lecture Hall' above). The George Craze Memorial Window (see 'Council Chamber') was presented by the members at the time of the Coronation of our present Queen and is indirectly lighted. The large fancy bowl in the fireplace was said to have come from the home of Lord Nelson.
An Italian marble plaque to the memory of Sir William Crookes F.R.S. (See 'Council Chamber') is exhibited in the library, which contains approximately 5,000 books. Books are posted to all parts of the country.
The plaque on the staircase was unveiled by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding at the dedication service at the time of the opening of the building in August, 1955. Notice is drawn to the ornate brass electric lanterns and also some of the mouldings. The fireplace is genuine Adam (valued at £3,000) and the doves hanging from the staircase were exhibited in the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in 1951. Attention is drawn to the beautiful staircase. The entrance hall itself is one of the finest in Belgrave Square.
The Conan Doyle Hall.
An Italian marble plaque and picture of the famous writer (see 'Council Chamber') are in a prominent position over the fireplace. The chair in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote many of his books at Windlesham is also exhibited. The Adam fireplace (valued at £3,000 ten years ago) is a thing of beauty. The crystal chandelier was presented by an almost unknown lady in memory of her husband. She came in one day, saying that she would like to give something to the Association, and a few days later the chandelier arrived (it is valued at £300) and we have not seen her since.
The Italian marble plaque in memory of Abraham Lincoln, together with the picture of the great American President is the outstanding feature of this lovely room. The plaque and picture are between torch wall-lights and two murals, depicting the American countryside at the time of Abraham Lincoln, and are worthy of notice. The story of the guidance from the Spirit World which was given to the President in relation to his decision to free the slaves, is framed and stands on the mantlepiece.
The Adam fireplace, valued ten years ago at £3,000, is also worthy of attention.
The bust of W.T. Stead (see 'Council Chamber') stands in the corner of the lounge and was presented to the Association by his daughter. An exact replica of this beautiful statue is exhibited in the 'People's Palace of Peace' at The Hague, in Holland.
The Museum is worthy of attention. There are many items of interest here, including some valuable autographed letters. Attention particularly should be drawn to the small painting 'Sunset', which was done through the mediumship of David Duguid in complete darkness in four minutes (about 1900) and was presented by Dr. Abraham Wallace. The plaster casts of pixie hands and feet were also produced in complete darkness through the mediumship of Charles Bailey, of New South Wales, Australia, and were presented by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, to the Association.
The Dowding Wing.
These six séance rooms on the ground floor were built in 1962 to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Association. They were dedicated by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (see 'Council Chamber') in October 1962. The rooms are tastefully furnished and each has a red and a white light.
Situated in a pleasant position on the mezzanine floor, this room is panelled from floor to ceiling and the fireplace is beautifully carved. A genuine [Venetian] Doge's Chair is worthy of attention, and the badge of St. Mark's Cathedral carved at the head.
Restaurant. The restaurant has accommodation for approximately 50 persons and is a busy meeting place for members and their friends. A varied menu is available.
Situated at the rear of the restaurant, the kitchen is very well equipped, having three gas and one electric cooker, refrigerator and a deep-freeze for ice-cream, a dishwashing machine and an electric mixer.
The three rooms at the front of the basement are used for administrative work and one is a rest room for the mediums. A public telephone is also available.
The central heating boilers are in the basement and we use about 90 tons of coke every year to keep the building warm and the water hot. The motor room for the lift is also in the basement.
NOTE The positions of the pictures are sometimes changed. The Elisabeth Bruce Adams pictures are now owned by the Association. Miss Adams, a Scot, had deeply religious roots. There came a time when, engaged on homely duties, visions in which spiritual events became dramatised. She was without any technical training and was crippled from arthritis, with hands so deformed that it was with the utmost difficulty that she held a brush.
In her garden at Wembley Park, she had a sanctuary built, into which was gathered about sixty of her paintings, and hundreds of people came to see these 'Vision Pictures' and to meditate in the sanctuary, where the atmosphere was “not of this world”. Elisabeth Bruce Adams died in 1936 and the Association were asked by the Trustees to house the pictures. Reproductions, size 1l'' x 8'' of many of the pictures, in full colour, are obtainable from reception.
Two large oil paintings are also worthy of attention. They are by William Longstaff, entitled 'Freedom' and 'Attainment', the former was reproduced in full colour during the war by a national weekly magazine as an inspirational picture. William Longstaff was the artist who painted the historic picture of the Menin Gate which hangs in the Canadian Houses of Parliament. [Correction: the Australian War Memorial]
Below: 'The Menin Gate at Midnight', as painted by William Longstaff
Below: extract from the Whicker's World television episode 'Is There Anybody There?'
recorded at the SAGB in 1966
Click below for the official SAGB website
or visit their new premises at 341 Queenstown Road, Battersea, London SW8 4LH