Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2021)
| copyright © J.Middleton|
The block of flats on the corner of Carlton Terrace and
Old Shoreham Road was built on the site of a house once occupied by ‘King
The man later known as ‘King Solomon’ was in reality James
William Wood who was born at Maresfield, East Sussex on 20 September 1830. Even
as a child he was full of religious zeal and exhorted people to repent of their
sins. Although he was baptised as a baby at Maresfield Church into the Church
of England, he insisted on a public baptism in Piltdown Pond at the age of
fourteen. Theologically, one baptism is sufficient but Wood referred to his
experience at Piltdown Pond as his equivalent of being immersed in the River
In 1849 James William Wood aged nineteen sailed for Adelaide in
Australia. But he was not alone in this venture because he accompanied
his elder sister Ann and her husband Alfred, the men being described
as agricultural labourers. It seems they went on an assisted passage and
perhaps there was a grant of land awaiting for them to work. It is
interesting to note that in later life Wood was described as a mining
agent, stockbroker and evangelist.
Rivals in Roses
back home in Maresfield, J.
W. Wood’s father Richard Wood, was involved in some unpleasantness
concerning his roses. The family tradition always held that Richard
Wood grew roses. But he was not the only one, and the other rival at
Maresfield unfortunately shared the same surname. It is not thought
they were related, but there was certainly no love lost between the
two. The following newspaper extract is a fascinating glimpse at an
old rivalry and was published in the Sussex
have received a letter from Messrs William Wood & Son, the well
known and extensive nurserymen at Maresfield, complaining of a
paragraph which appeared in the Brighton
to the recent Horticultural Show in that town, and which is
calculated to convey a very erroneous and unfair impression with
respect to their skill and reputation. The paragraph complained of,
is as follows.
had the laying out of the room, we know not; but we could not help
remarking on the cruelty of placing beside this pride of the
miserable things which were called ‘Roses’, from Wood’s Nursery
Grounds at Maresfield.”
We most gladly open our columns to
repair the injustice. The fact appears to be, that the roses alluded
to were not sent by Messrs Wood, of Maresfield, but are supposed to
have been sent by a Mr Richard Wood, of the same place, with whom
Messrs Wood have no connexion. (sic)
The article goes on to imply that
Messrs Wood were so well known that they did not need to send samples
to Horticultural Shows.
|Launceston, Tasmania in 1889.|
On 27 May 1862 at Launceston, Tasmania, Wood married
Phillis who hailed from Aberdeenshire. The couple were extraordinarily prolific
and produced 13 children but sadly most of them did not survive to adulthood;
indeed it seems that just four of them lived to maturity.
Whatever Wood’s expectations about a new life in Australia
had been, his business affairs did not prosper; in fact he was insolvent in
1866 and again in 1875.
The Woods lived in Melbourne while his business interests
were around Ballarat. It seems his wife’s death in 1882 must have had a
profound effect on him. In 1883 he was at the end of his tether after suffering
from what he describes as ‘continuous indisposition’ for some 25 years and he
called upon God for healing. His prayers were answered and in 1884 at Adelaide
he embarked on a ministry of healing. He was already a powerful preacher and
although he was described as not well educated, he certainly knew his Bible.
Today he would most probably fit the description of being charismatic.
A Return to Europe
If things seemed to be going well with him at last, why
then did he abandon Australia and return to Europe? It seems a strange decision
after 36 years in Australia. But in 1885 he set sail for the northern
In 1886 he visited the Holy Land
accompanied by four companions with some notion of rebuilding the Temple in
Jerusalem. The following year five of his chief followers (three men and two
women) went to Palestine in quest of the Ark of the Covenant that they believed
was buried at the foot of Mount Carmel. But they returned disappointed. Wood
also undertook healing missions to Ireland and Prussia, both east and west.
At first Wood settled in London where he soon gathered a
large number of followers. Indeed, there were so many that he appointed twelve
elders bearing the name of the twelve tribes of Israel to exert some
discipline. But this arrangement soon fell apart because Wood became
increasingly authoritative in his behaviour besides antagonising local people.
Chaos descended and water and gas supplies were turned off. Then bailiffs moved
in and private possessions were sold off; followers were ejected onto the
street and with a flourish of trumpets the Salvation Army moved in.
The next retreat was a house at Upton Park that Wood named
Arretecasah. But this house was also besieged by the mob and he was forced to
move once more.
There is a story told about the decoration of the
sanctuary but which location that might be is not clear. Wood’s ‘man of
business’ was told some ornament was needed to go on top of the pillars in the
Sanctuary. He went for a walk to ponder the matter and noticed a beautiful
model of an acorn and thought that would be perfect. Just to make sure he asked
the prophetess in the Holy of Holies for her views. But the prophetess was
seized with uncontrollable laughter, exclaiming ‘I see in a vision pigs’ feet,
pigs’ feet all over the place. The Lord says, “Do you think my Sanctuary is a
place for pigs? It is not to be acorns, it is to be pomegranates.” ’
Back to Sussex
After his fraught experiences in London, Wood moved to
Brighton in 1886. He held his first service in the private residence of the
celebrated Dr Moon
in Queen’s Road. He attracted a loyal following of at least
300 people and later services were held in the YMCA building at the Old Steine.
| copyright © J.Middleton|
The YMCA building in the Old
| copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove|
Photograph from the Brighton Graphic - 2 March 1916
Solomon’ (James William Wood)
Then a certain Miss Webb purchased a single storey
building in Edward Street, which was known as the Assembly Hall but was
formerly a riding school; Wood named it the Sanctuary of Love. Wood began to
identify himself as ‘King Solomon’ and dressed in gorgeous robes while his
disciples wore red flannel jerseys.
A certain lady told the reporter of the Brighton
Graphic about her experiences inside the Sanctuary of Love while
emphasizing that she herself had not been beguiled by the ceremonies. The first
thing you saw on entering the large room was a giant eye looking at you, which
represented the Eye of God and was surrounded by scarlet drapery. ‘King
Solomon’ wearing a robe of white and gold sat on a throne before which were
painted three circles. The outer black circle represented sin, the middle one
was red to signify blood and the inner circle was gold. Red-clad disciples led
visitors, consisting mostly of women and girls, to the circles and after
singing There Angels Hovering Round they began to dance. The dancing
continued until they were exhausted and collapsed at the feet of ‘King Solomon’
who graciously accepted their gifts of jewels. Apparently, there was a stack of
gold and silver watches in one part of the building.
Wood’s sect included a ‘King David’ a ‘Queen Esther’ and a
‘Queen of Sheba’. The latter was known as Sister Grace as a child and she was
gifted with healing powers. Some members of the sect were able to speak in
tongues and there was a great deal of dancing inside the golden circle. Indeed
some children spent such a lot of time dancing that they began to reel about
like people under the influence of drink.
Army of the Lord
Wood called his followers the
Army of the Lord and in case that reminded anybody of another organisation, it
was said he could not stand the Salvation Army although he was glad enough of
their assistance when he was in Australia. There were branches of the Army of
the Lord at Worthing, Maidstone and other towns.
Wood was given to prophecies that
did not come true. For instance, he predicted the devil would be chained by
1888. Another prophecy concerned a child expected to be born in 1889 as King of
Israel but instead turned out to be a stillborn girl.
| copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove|
Brighton Herald - 1910
In March and April 1889 several
articles appeared in Sussex Daily News
about ‘King Solomon’ when he was
obliged to appear at Brighton Police Court. The case involved an unfortunate
tailor of Wandsworth called James Ravillous who apparently received a message
that he must sell up his business and lay the proceeds at the foot of Caleb,
treasurer to the sect, (in reality a Mr Threadgold). The sum of money was
between £300 and £400. Then Mr Ravillous, his wife and seven children came to
live at the Sanctuary of Love in Edward Street. Ravillous became disillusioned
with the sect because he had to live on nothing but vegetable soup for twelve
months while ‘King Solomon’ treated himself to delicacies. Even worse was the fact
his children were sent to school without being given anything to eat, not even
a crust of bread.
copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Edward Street, Brighton, looking west towards the Dome.
on the right with castellated roof corners was
originally a riding
school, it then became
King Solomon's "Sanctuary of Love" before
being taken over
by the Salvation Army in 1895. It was demolished in
A Move to Portslade
‘King Solomon’ sent Ravillous a
letter asking him to leave but Ravillous had no money and nowhere else to go
and so he had to remain. ‘Solomon’ took matters in hand literally by throwing
him downstairs at 11 p.m. and throttling him until he lost consciousness. Not
surprisingly, Ravillous vacated the premises the next day. ‘Solomon’ was fined
the maximum penalty of £5 plus costs. But the bad publicity enraged local
people; there were riots outside the Sanctuary of Love in Edward Street and windows were
|copyright © D.Sharp|
Number 3 Beaconsfield Road, the former home of James Wood, the house with the man's head moulding above the doorway, in 1891 this row of nine terrace houses were called Gladstone Terrace in Holes Road.
(in later years this house was split into two dwellings)
copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton.
Brighton Herald 14 April 1906
According to ‘King Solomon’s ‘End of the World’
prophecy, only virtuous people would be saved on
Easter Monday 1906 from
gatherings that take place
in Portslade, Jerusalem and Egypt.
'Mrs Swami' is mentioned in the above as being
back in Portslade after serving a prison sentence
In 1891 James William Wood (a widower) was living at number 3 Gladstone Terrace in Holes Road (later renamed to number 3
Beaconsfield Road) he was
a boarder at Mrs Sarah Sundell’s house along with his two Australian
born sons, Bertram and Augustus. In the 1891 Census he gave
his occupation at this Holes Road address as ‘Evangelist for the
Army of the Lord’. There was a total of eight occupants in Mrs Sundell's small house which included a Harry Carpenter 'Reader in the Army of the Lord'.
In the late 1890s Wood was living at 35 Carlton Terrace with
his son, Bertram a photographer, James Wood ran a photography studio from this address from 1903-1907. Mrs Sarah Sundell, his former landlady joined Wood at Carlton Terrace as a servant and housekeeper along with Harry
Carpenter, now his secretary and a Joseph Alleweld his cook, there were six
other residents in Wood's household. In the 1901 Census, James Wood gave his occupation as 'Leader of the Army of the Lord'.
Two of the most infamous visitors to ‘King Solomon’s home in
Carlton Terrace in 1900, was the American medium, Editha Jackson
(Swami Laura Horos – one of many names she went by) and her husband Frank
Jackson (Theodore Horos). Editha - 'The Swami' was the self-styled
leader of the Theocratic Unity Temple in Bloomsbury, London. It was said she picked up many ideas for her own
temple in London by observing the ceremonies in King Solomon’s
sanctuary in Portslade.
In 1901 Editha and Frank Jackson were arrested in the north of England at the home of Mrs Sarah Adams, also known as Sister Zobeya, a member of the sect at Arregosabah Portslade.
Editha (Swami Horos) Jackson was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 7 years and
her husband 15 years imprisonment for numerous serious crimes perpetrated against their followers at their London temple. Harry Houdini described
Editha Jackson, ‘one of the most extraordinary fake mediums and
mystery swindlers the World has ever known’.
The 1911 Census showed just three residents of number 35, James
William Wood aged 80, occupation - ‘Evangelist’, his wife, whom he
married in 1908 - Ida Johanna Wood (née Biber) aged 30, who was born in Berne,
Switzerland and a daughter Deborah Elizabeth Wood aged 6.
Coincidently the Portslade poet Alfred de Kantzow, a close friend of
John Cowper Powys, lived at number 11 Carlton Terrace at the same
time James Wood lived at number 35. In Kantzow’s collective works of
poetry entitled Noctis Susurri (Sighs of the Night) there is one poem
called ‘Gold is Worshipped without a Temple’ which is based on
the Biblical characters of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba,
possibly a subtle reference to James Wood at number 35 ?
| copyright © J.Middleton|
Another view of and Carlton
Terrace and Carlton Court photographed on 26 September 2015.
The new sanctuary was set up at 35 Carlton Terrace
, Portslade (formerly number 27), it was claimed that the building was
originally erected to serve as a public house, which seems a little strange with the Victoria
and Railway Inn
a few minutes walk away. But the premises did have
the advantage of a having a hall at the back large enough to contain around 300
people. It had also been in use as a dance hall. This hall was turned into a
lavishly embellished sanctuary with all manner of symbols painted in gaudy
colours. The lavish standard of the Army of the Lord was housed there too.
| copyright © D.Sharp|
'King Solomon' gave his Portslade house the
extraordinary name of Arregosabah.
It was here that ‘King Solomon’
sat on his throne in rich robes wearing an embroidered cap and holding a
sceptre; his long white beard rendered him even more impressive. He must have
been pleased with his appearance because he was quite happy to pose for
Religious dances took place and
his devotees could not understand why people complained about it because the
place used to be a ballroom. The locals would make fun of the proceedings by
sneaking inside and rolling turnips across the floor. Rumour had it that
‘Solomon’ had five wives – four rich and one beautiful.
In the 1904 Directory the house
was identified as Portslade Art Studio Arregosabah. Perhaps the ‘Art
Studio’ had something to do with photography because he was known in some
quarters as a photographer. It is amusing to note that before Wood and his
followers moved in, the house served as the headquarters of Portslade
There is another fascinating
detail about ‘King Solomon’s time at Portslade. Around three miles from
Portslade on the Downs, there stood an old boundary stone. Apparently, this
stone was ‘given’ to King Solomon’ in the same way as the Biblical Jacob was
given a pillar. This ordinary stone thus became a pillar of witness between
Jehovah and ‘King Solomon’ and hundreds of pilgrimages were made to it by night
or day and in all seasons.
|copyright © D.Sharp |
View of Foredown Hill and Mount Zion (beyond telegraph poles), which is almost
3 miles from Carlton Terrace by road and track, could this be the original location of "King Solomon's" pillar ?
‘King Solomon’s’ Funeral
| copyright © J.Middleton|
has some impressive monuments
but none marks the place where ‘King Solomon’
buried; he lies in an unmarked grave.
James William Wood ‘King Solomon’
died on 17 February 1916 at Portslade. In his old age he had become
increasingly incoherent and built up a fantasy that one day he would take over Brighton's Royal Pavilion and turn it into a new Sanctuary of Love.
By the time of his death, his
followers were either dead or scattered. The reporter stated wryly that had his
death occurred at the height of his powers, his funeral would have been a major
event. Instead just two funeral coaches were needed for family members to
accompany the coffin to Portslade Cemetery
But his funeral was treated to
several columns in the Sussex Daily News. Moreover, a man who knew ‘King
Solomon’ personally and was well acquainted with some of his disciples wrote
the piece. He included several fascinating anecdotes about the life of ‘King
Solomon’ not to be found elsewhere and included in this article.
Perhaps ‘King Solomon’ would have
relished the fact that the dreadful weather made his funeral one to remember.
There was a biting north-east wind while from the moment his coffin, covered in
floral tributes, left Arregosabah in Carlton Terrace snowflakes poured down
from a bleak sky.
Revd V. Howard, curate of St Nicolas Church
Portslade, took the funeral service although ‘King Solomon’ had had nothing to
do with the Church of England for decades.
The weeping widow dropped a
handful of Madonna lilies into the grave. Another memorable figure was the
tearful young man dressed in khaki who was his son Sergeant Augustus Wood of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
|copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove|
Brighton Graphic 2 March 1916
Others attending the funeral were
noted as follows:
Miss Deborah Wood, daughter
Mrs Arthur Perriman, daughter
Mrs Wood, daughter-in-law
Mrs Florence Taylor, daughter
Augustus P. Wood, son
Mrs Alice Wood, daughter-in-law
Miss Rene Wood, grand-daughter
An unnamed grandson
Wreaths were sent by:
Grandchildren Violet and Arthur
Great Grandchild Eileen
Jack Earl West
Daughter Winnie, and Gus and
It is fascinating to note that Miss
Deborah Wood, daughter, noted in the list of mourners was born on 12
August 1904 at 37 Carlton Terrace and registered on her birth
certificate as Princess Deborah Elizabeth Biber, but the name of the
father was not recorded. The informant was Ida Lily Johanna Biber,
Domestic and Nurse, presumably the baby’s mother. In 1908
‘King Solomon’ married Deborah’s mother, Ida Biber. But there
does not seem to be any official record of him adopting Deborah,
although she went by the surname of Wood. Deborah never married and
died on 19 March 1995 at Montgomery House Nursing Home, 35 Montgomery
Street, Hove. This establishment was run by the Society for Housing
the Elderly, and in 1987 celebrated its 40th
anniversary. However, it closed down on 18 June 1999 with the loss of
35 jobs and the 30 elderly residents had to move elsewhere.
Wood left 35 Carlton Terrace to
his favourite wife Ruth but there were no other assets to go with it; instead
there were debts. Ruth and their daughter Deborah continued to live in the
house in great poverty. It was said they existed in just one small room with no
means of heating.
The house at Carlton Terrace was
an object of curiosity to local people who had no doubt heard lurid stories of
went on there. On 13 November 1933 a fire broke out at the house.
The garden became completely
overgrown. During the Second World War Portslade Civil Defence occupied the
house and there was a blizzard. The weight of the snow proved too much for the
overgrown bushes and trees and the whole lot collapsed onto Old Shoreham Road,
bringing all traffic to a grinding halt.
In January 1955 Portslade Council
announced plans to demolish the house and build a block of flats on the site
instead. In 1959 it was suggested that there should be a three-storey block
with eleven flats but in 1960 this was altered to seven flats.
| copyright © J.Middleton|
This wall is probably the only
part of his property that ‘King Solomon’ might recognise today but there is
nothing regal about it and it can only be described as utilitarian.
It might be helpful to put ‘King
Solomon’ in the context of his times. The 19th century was a period
of great religious fervour and James Wood was by no means an isolated preacher
because there were many charismatic figures. The revival covered all branches
of Christianity from unorthodox chapel to high church Anglican.
St Nicolas Church, Portslade
so crammed with worshippers that a new north aisle had to be built in 1859. The
Salvation Army established operations at Portslade in 1882, it being the 290th
corps in the first 300 and also in North Street the Baptist Church was packed.
At Hove, where once there was
only St Andrew’s Old Church
and St Andrew’s Chapel in Waterloo Street, there
was a rash of church building culminating in the magnificent All Saints
John’s Church, near Palmeira Square
, was so popular that officials kept a sign
handy to place outside before services when the church was full up and no more
people could be admitted.
Brighton became a centre of the
Anglo-Catholic Movement, which revived the style of early Catholic practices in
place of austere Protestantism. The Wagner priests were responsible for several
remarkable church buildings including St Paul’s, West Street and St
There was nothing lukewarm about
Christianity in those days. Some priests, such as the celebrated Father Richard Enraght
of St Andrew's Church Portslade
, were prepared to go to prison
for upholding their cherished beliefs, which might not be in strict accordance
with the then current laws of the land.
My thanks to Kay Kebby-Jones and Professor Mark Hutchinson of Alphacrucis College, Sydney, Australia, for additional information
Brighton Graphic & South
Coast Illustrated News (2 March 1916)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and
Master Detective (July
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Sussex Daily News (March
and April 1889)
Sussex Daily News (24
Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
page layout and additional research by D.Sharp