Bracken House, London is home to a stunning astrological clock, which most visitors discover by accident, after seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral. Both buildings have Sun or Moon decorations, which might surprise Anglicans, but this is a mysterious part of the city with quite a few secrets.
Walk across the road from St. Paul’s Cathedral and you will soon see people staring up at a dazzling, horoscope-based clock, with Winston Churchill’s face at the centre.
This photograph, above, from Flickr, clearly shows Winston as the face of the Sun. But why the Sun, and why the zodiac signs around the clock? Over the road at St. Paul’s Cathedral, visitors can find another ancient symbol in the Crypt. This mosaic has a Moon image which is common in Freemasonry. Upstairs, there is another more prominent Freemasonry symbol embedded in the ceiling mosaic – the compass – as if churchgoers needed any more coded information about the men who built St. Pauls!
The Grand Historian at the Grand Lodge of Vermont, James P.W. Goss sheds light on the moon in masonic history here:
“To the Alchemists, the moon was a symbol of the metal silver and was used to depict that substance in the obscure writings which transmitted their secret formulae. One of the most prevalent images used by the Alchemists was the stylized drawing of the sun and the moon with human faces. These images are now associated with the Masonic tracing boards of England and monitors of such American Masonic ritualists as Jeremy Cross, who lectured in the lodges of Vermont in 1815.”
Of course, the sun clock on Bracken House also has a human face – that of Winston Churchill, the most famous Freemason in history. Here he is on the cover of Masonic Quarterly magazine, the official publication of the United Grand Lodge of England.
From the magazine: “At the time of his (Churchill’s) initiation into Studholme Lodge 1591 on 24 May 1901, Freemasonry was a fashionable social pursuit. The Lodge records give the date of Churchill’s initiation as 24 May 1901 with his address as 105 Mount Street, his age as 26, and his occupation as a Member of Parliament.”
Freemasons have a history of using the signs of the zodiac. Here is an engraving of The Royal Arch from Freemasonry archives, and a detail of the famous Bracken House clock, below (Flickr). Note the Moon symbol in the top right-hand corner, echoing the Moon mosaic in St. Paul’s Cathedral over the road.
CHURCHILL’S FRIEND – BRENDAN BRACKEN
Brendan Bracken, Churchill’s friend and supporter, was the man behind Bracken House. He was a private person whose papers were destroyed upon his death, for the most part. History Today has an excellent story about Viscount Bracken and his relationship with Churchill.
“One of the most important services he (Bracken) rendered the extravagant Churchill was to keep him solvent when he was out of office in the 1930s. Bracken sold Churchill’s articles to newspapers at home and abroad for good money and found in the Jewish financier Sir Henry Strakosch a backer without whose assistance Churchill, who had gambled unwisely on American stocks, might have gone bankrupt in 1937. In the years immediately preceding the Second World War, Bracken’s house, 8 Lord North Street, where Churchill often stayed, became the centre of the fight against appeasement.
Gordon Newton, the great Editor of the Financial Times, wrote a few years ago of the vision of independence and integrity Bracken implanted and said that for that reason he ‘must be placed in the forefront of the major figures in the paper’s history’. The former headquarters of the Financial Times near St Paul’s, designed to his directions by his friend Sir Albert Richardson, was named Bracken House after his death from cancer of the throat in 1958 at the early age of fifty-seven.”
Winston Churchill’s official website records:
“When Churchill’s morale was sagging or the dreaded “Black Dog” assailed him, Bracken was uniquely able to revive him with his vitality and outrageous ebullience. Churchill always called him “dear Brendan.” “They quarrelled and argued incessantly,” Harold Macmillan recalled, “just like a happily married couple.”
This letter, written by Churchill at Chartwell in October 1958, after Bracken’s passing, shows his affection for his former Minister of Information – it comes from the archives of the school he loved most, Sedbergh.
THE AQUARIAN WHO MADE AN ART OF FRIENDSHIP
February-born Bracken was a classic Aquarian, who made an art of friendship. As his papers were destroyed, it is impossible to know if he was a Freemason, like Churchill, but belonging to a ‘brotherhood’ or group would also fit his astrological profile, if so.
Bracken was essentially the founding father of the modern Financial Times, Great Britain’s highest quality daily newspaper – which prompts another astrological observation.
On February 19th 2016, just after the Solar Return of Bracken (who was born on February 15th 1901) The Financial Times announced it would be returning to its former home at Bracken House (the newspaper had uprooted to Southwark almost 20 years before). In astrology terms, that’s extraordinary timing.
Here is another extract from the Churchill website on the mysterious Bracken, who commissioned the astrological clock and was the power behind The Ministry of Information during the war:
“He became a ubiquitous and noisy socialite. This is where Evelyn Waugh would have met him. Hence Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited, a fast talking, social-climbing colonial bounder who knows everyone and can fix anything.
Like Mottram there was an air of mystery about Bracken. His apparent wealth was unexplained. So were his origins. They did not feature in his conversation except to mislead.”
THE HISTORY OF THE HOROSCOPE CLOCK
This intriguing website gives a little more clock history –
“It was designed in 1959 in gilt metal and enamel and shows Roman numerals, the months, and the signs of the zodiac, with the sun in the centre. The original design was even more elaborate and framed by Atlas figures, but they were lost in the final execution. A drawing of the first design was shown at the 1955 Royal Academy Exhibition by Albert Richardson himself, who was at the time President to the Academy. The zodiac signs have been ascribed to Frank Dobson and the face (as well as the oak-leaf mouldings around the door) is the work of Phillip Bentham. And yes, the face in the sun does resemble Winston Churchill, a tribute to him as Bracken‘s personal friend.”
CHURCHILL AND ASTROLOGY
It is well known that at least one astrologer, Louis de Wohl, was used in Winston Churchill’s war effort. Churchill was a sceptic but nevertheless, stargazing became an approved part of the battle to save Britain. Is that the secret joke behind Bracken’s clock? Or was it a hint at Churchill’s Freemasonry?
The full story about Britain’s use of astrology in the Second World War, came out in 2008, reported by NBC. ” Desperate for a glimpse into Adolf Hitler’s unpredictable mind, British spies hired an astrologer during World War II to write horoscopes for him and other Nazi leaders, documents declassified Tuesday show. They soon regretted it. The file released to Britain’s National Archives catalogs the frustrations of MI5 handlers as they tried to prevent the astrologer, Louis de Wohl, from publicly embarrassing high-ranking intelligence and military officers.
“I have never liked Louis de Wohl — he strikes me as a charlatan and an imposter,” reads the first line in the astrologer’s file. The letter is typical and appeared to be signed by Dick White, who went on to become the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency, MI5, in the 1950s.
That view didn’t keep de Wohl from winning a temporary rank as a British army captain. He was sent by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who did not believe in astrology, to the U.S. to persuade Americans that the Nazis would lose within months if they entered the war.
When de Wohl’s services were no longer needed, intelligence agents puzzled over how to get rid of the man who called himself Britain’s state seer, the declassified documents show.”
THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BRACKEN
Britain’s wartime propaganda ministry, overseen by Bracken (later made a Viscount for his efforts) made good use of astrology in the 1940’s. Perhaps it will take more declassified information to reveal just what his interest in the horoscope actually was and why he went to such great lengths to pay for a zodiac-studded clock. Private joke? Freemasonry? Serious astrological statement?
In his book, Hidden Treasures of London, Michael McNay takes a closer look at the building, beginning with a profile of its architect, Albert Richardson, who was hired by Bracken to create the famous Financial Times headquarters.
“Richardson stood up against the modernist rejection of ornament by incorporating a bronze and blue, gold and red, enamel zodiacal clock, at the centre of which appears the sun god himself, Winston Churchill.”
McNay continues, “The signs of the zodiac, gold on blue, are by Frank Dobson, on holiday from his usual style of earthy English modernism…Virgo especially cavorts with dangerous, lovely levity.”
THE FINANCIAL TIMES BACK IN BRACKEN HOUSE
Most fascinating of all, for astrologers, is the fact that four days after Viscount Bracken’s Solar Return on February 15th, the newspaper he founded, The Financial Times, announced its own return to the building. That’s quite a Solar Return statement!
Next time you’re in this part of the City of London, remember you are a stone’s throw from the mosaic Moon symbol in St. Paul’s Cathedral and its historic partner, The Sun, playing the role of Winston Churchill, in a clock created for him by his great Aquarian friend, the mysterious Minister of Information. This image (Twitter) below shows the original vision for the clock, still keeping the time perfectly today.