SALON NO.106: London's Secret Societies
Capital Cults

7.00pm Thursday 28th September 2023

The Horse Hospital

Admission: Tickets £8.00/ £10.00 in advance only HERE

Join writers Alan Walker and David V. Barrett as they explore the strange underworld of the city’s covert organisations

Throughout London’s history there have been secret societies: some criminal, some political, some religious, some social. Of all these, Freemasonry with its supposed links to the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians or the mediaeval stonemasons is the best known - but why did it become organised in London 300 years ago? 

DAVID V. BARRETT examines  the myths and the real history behind the United Grand Lodge of England and other capital cults including the Hell Fire Club and The Order of the Golden Dawn.


In 1934 Elliott O'Donnell, the world-famed prince of ghost hunters, published a book on the 'Strange Cults and Secret Societies of Modern London' in which he describes many covert organisations such as the Black Brothers, the Tree cults, the Suicide Society and the Cult of Cruelty. 

REVEREND ALAN WALKER revisits O’Donnell’s classic book in the light of modern thinking about religious cults, moral panics and enthusiasm for the esoteric. Is O’Donnell’s work fiction masquerading as fact, or should it be read more critically as a picture of contemporary fears and social experiments?


DAVID V. BARRETT is the author of The New Believers, A Brief History of Secret Societies, A Brief Guide to Secret Religions and The Fragmentation of a Sect, and edited the SF alternative history anthology Tales from the Vatican Vaults. He is the book reviews editor for and regularly contributes to Fortean Times magazine.

ALAN WALKER teaches (about) Religion at Florida State University.  He is a member of the governing body of INFORM, an independent educational charity providing information about minority religions and sects. He was for many years an Anglican priest and has written a few books, none of which are about cults.

Our home, THE HORSE HOSPITAL, is a unique Grade II listed not for profit, independent arts venue within the only existing unspoilt example of a two-floor, purpose-built stable with public access in London. 

Built in 1797 by James Burton. the shell is constructed with London Stocks whilst the interior features a mock cobbled re-inforced concrete floor and ramps with slats to prevent the horses from slipping. Each floor has 5 cast iron pillars and several original iron tethering rings.