Robert James Lees - Brief Guide

Robert James Lees


A Brief Guide to Robert James Lees

Robert James Lees was born at the very beginning of the rebirth of Spiritualism in England.  Although his writings and preaching were influential, he refused to align himself with any of the organised groups who promoted spiritualism (or investigations into spiritualism) in Victorian England.  His was a very personal spiritualism interwoven with his unique interpretation of scripture. 


Robert James Lees' roots were in the English East Midlands. He was born in Hinckley in Leicestershire. His parents were born in neighbouring Warwickshire. His wife was born in Birmingham.


He came from a large family and therefore there are many direct and indirect descendants living today.  Some still live in the English East Midlands, but descendants of his children can also be found in the United States and Australia.


Lees was a writer. His first employment was with the Manchester Guardian (in Manchester).  After his move to London he became involved in several London-based publications including George Newnes' Titbits magazine. He wrote several spiritualist novels, which he said were dictated to him by friends from the spirit realm, of which the most well-known is Through the Mists.  His only autobiographical work of non-fiction is The Heretic which is an account of his two decades in London.


Lees established a charitable institution based in premises in Peckham in the London suburbs.  This was run on socialist Christian principles, but was short lived. After its closure, he and his family moved to the West Country, first to St Ives in Cornwall, then to Plymouth and finally to Ilfracombe (both in Devon).


It is claimed that Lees was instrumental in the arrest of Jack the Ripper, the Whitechapel Murderer of 1888. It is further claimed that he assisted in the arrest of Irish Fenian terrorists.  There are many further claims regarding his spiritual powers, many of which cannot as yet be substantiated. Lees himself spoke very little about his eventful life. The claims were largely those of his children and his admirers.



His alleged association with Queen Victoria following the death of Prince Albert.

The claim that Lees was granted a `pension' from the Privy Purse for his (undisclosed) services to Queen Victoria and his country.

The legal case tried at the Central Criminal Courts, London c.1875 in which the the defendants were those who allegedly had attempted (successfully) to bankrupt Lees.

Lees' involvement with the Jack the Ripper investigation of 1888 and following years.

The source of financial funding for The Peoples League.


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2003 Stephen Butt