A history of Spiritualism

Spiritualism has been around since 1848 and in Britain since 1852. The timeline below gives a brief history of the main events over the years.


Hydesville Knockings in the USA lead to the investigation of the mediumship of the Fox sisters and the birth of the Movement of Modern Spiritualism.



First public demonstration of mediumship by Margaret Fox in the Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York.



Mrs. Hayden from America becomes the first Spiritualist medium to work in Britain.



David Richmond propergated Spiritualism in Britain at Keighley in Yorkshire.



Robert Owen, Socialist reformer and co-founder of the Co-operative Society, embraced Spiritualism after sittings with Mrs. Hayden. (After passing to the Spirit World he became the author of the Seven Principles of Spiritualism through the mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten. They were then adopted by the Spiritualist's National Union).



First Spiritualist newspaper in Britain, "The Yorkshire Spiritualist Telegraph" published at Keighley.



Andrew Jackson Davis established the first Sunday Lyceum for children in New York



An attempt was made to form the first National Organisation of Spiritualists in Darlington.



First Lyceum opened in Britain at Nottingham by J. Hitchcock. Emma Hardinge Britten returned to England from America where she was quickly recognised as a very powerful medium.



Committee appointed by the Dialectical Society investigated Spiritualism. They published the most favourable report on Spiritualism up to that time by an investigating body.



Robert Owen communicated the 'Seven Principles of Spiritualism through the mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten. Sir William Crookes reported on Spiritualism to the Royal Society and published his findings in the "Quarterly Journal of Science".



A second attempt to form a national organisation was made at a National Conference in Darlington. Again it failed. However it stimulated interest and people wrote to the Spiritualist press. It soon became recognised that there was a need for such an organisation.



British National Association of Spiritualists founded. Renamed the London Spiritualist Alliance in 1884 and known today as the College for Psychic Science in London



Society for Psychical Research founded on January 29th. by Sir William F. Barrett.



Alfred Kitson chaired the first Lyceum Conference in Bradford.



'Two Worlds' founded as a Spiritualist weekly newspaper by Mrs. Harding Britten. (Now a monthly magazine). British Lyceum Manual also published for the first time.



Formation of the National Spiritualists' Federation. Spiritualists' Lyceum Union established (Name changed to British Spiritualists' Lyceum Union in 1894).



Foundation of National Spiritualists' Association in America.



Foundation of Spiritualists' National Union Ltd. as a company not for profit and limited by guarantee, taking over the assets and liabilities of the National Spiritualists' Federation in July of that year.



Spiritualists' National Union took over the rights, assets and obligations of the Federation and obtained legal status, whereby it could hold real property.



Sir Oliver Lodge, great physicist of the 20th. Century, after 25 years of scientific research, told the British Association that 'the personality existed beyond bodily death'.



Parliamentary campaign for the legal recognition of Spiritualism instituted by the Union under Ernest Oaten.



Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proclaims his belief in Spiritualism.



Ernest Oaten became editor of 'Two Worlds'



Formation of the International Spiritualists' Federation.



Hannen Swaffer, journalist and socialist caused a sensation when he made public his conversion to Spiritualism in his book 'Northcliffe's Return'.



Gordon Higginson gave his first public demonstration of mediumship at the age of 12.



Publication of J. Arthur Findlay's trilogy, "On the Edge of the Etheric"; "The Rock of Truth"; 1935 and "The Unfolding Universe".



"Psychic News" founded under the editorship of Maurice Barbanell.



First broadcast on behalf of Spiritualism through the BBC by Ernest Oaten.



Spiritualism investigated by Church of England Committee set up by Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Gordon Cosmo Lang. (Its subsequent favourable report by the church was never published and its contents only became known when released by "Psychic News" who had been mysteriously sent a copy)



Ministers begin to be appointed by the Spiritualists' National Union.



Spiritualists' National Union Ltd. achieves full government recognition and is given certificate to act as a Trust Corporation.



Union of the Spiritualists' National Union and the Spiritualists' Lyceum Union.



Helen Duncan trial at the Old Bailey, London. Helen was deemed to be fraudulant and served nine months in Holloway prison.



Lord Dowding came into prominence as a champion of Spiritualism after the war during which he was in command of the RAF during the Battle of Britain and, through a medium friend many of the airmen who had passed over were able to give their former chief convincing evidence of their survival.



Celebration of Centenary of Modern Spiritualism took place in the Royal Albert Hall, London.



Passing of the Fraudulent Mediums Act removing mediums from the twin threats of the Witchcraft Act 1735 and the Vagrancy Act 1824, and thereby enabling Spiritualists' to openly and legally practice their religion. The Lyceum Department received a letter from the Spiritualists' National Union stating that henceforth it would be known as the 'Spiritualists Lyceum Union'.



National Federation of Spiritual Healers founded.



A motion showing that there was a need for a Guild of Spiritual Healers was put to the Spiritualists' National Union Annual General Meeting at Worthing and was held to be proven although nothing could be done at that meeting, it was an ideal only.



Proposals were put to the Spiritualists' National Union Annual General Meeting at Manchester for the formation of such a Guild.



Stansted Hall was bequeathed to the Spiritualists' National Union by Arthur Findlay to be used as a College for the Advancement of Psychic Science.



Arthur Findlay College (Stansted Hall) opened in September.



The League of Friends of Stansted Hall was inaugerated.



The Northern, Sheffield, Southern, Yorkshire, East Midlands and London Guilds had been formed and the first meeting of the Guild of Spiritualists' Healers was held at Stansted Hall. Gorden Higginson became President of the Spiritualists' National Union.



First National Conference of the Guild was also held at Stansted Hall.



At the Spiritualists' National Union Annual General members voted in favour of a new set of Articles of Association which were circulated prior to the meeting. This resulted in bringing into force the Three Tier System of administration which came into effect immediately after the SNU Annual General meeting in 1976 marking a new phase in the history of the SNU.



The SNU Centenary was celebrated by holding publicity meetings in every District Council area with a National Celebration taking place at Wembley, London on 31st. March, the date of the Hydesville Rappings in 1848.



Gorden M. Higginson MSNU, President of the SNU since 1970, passed to the Spirit World on 18th. January.



The Guild of Spiritualists' Healers was amalgamated within the SNU. The Spiritualist Healing Committee became a Standing Committee with special responsibility for healing throughout the Union.



Leaders of major Spiritualist organisations met at Stansted Hall on March 31st. for the Sesquicentenary celebrations of the birth of Modern Spiritualism. Work began on the New Pioneers Centre adjacent to the Sanctuary at Stansted Hall.



The New Pioneers Centre at Stansted Hall was opened and dedicated by Mrs. Judith J. Seaman MSNU, President of the Spiritualists' National Union.



11th. May the Government adopted the Unfair Practices Directive the purpose of which is to harmonise unfair trading laws in all EU member states and prohibit traders in all sectors from treating consumers unfairly. When this came into force in April 2008 it had the effect of repealing some 25 pieces of UK legislation, either in part or the Act as a whole. One of the acts that was repealed was the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951.



In May the provisions of the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 were removed and mediumship came under the Consumer Protection Law.



The unveiling of the SNU Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire



On January 18th. the SNU released access to 'MySNU' for all of its' members who had registered. In July 2013 the Gordon Higginson Memorial Scholarship was introduced.



On 18th. July a dedication service was held to unveil the J. Arthur Findlay Memorial at Stansted Hall. Arthur had left detailed instructions and drawings of exactly what he wanted for a memorial to mark his life's work. National Faith Network (IFN) - The Spiritualists' National Union announced that it was now a member of the IFN, thus allowing it to develop a dialogue with other religions and religious organisations on a national level to support and develop the excellent work done by many of its churches at local level. June 26th.-28th. June - First World Congress of Spiritualists' hosted by Lily Dale Assembly Spiritualist Camp, New York State.