A short history of the Society of British Dowsers

The British Society of Dowsers, founded, came to life on 4th May 1933. It was no coincidence that its founder, by Arthur H. Bell, D.S.O., O.B.E (pictured), was a former army officer, since the British army had already a long interest in the subject in supporting its soldiers in hostile terrain. (Col. Bell had first became acquainted with dowsing in 1900 when he was serving in South Africa) and many of the society’s first members were also army officers.

The Society was established to encourage the study of the art and to promote communication between dowsers through a quarterly journal, organising talks and an annual convention where all members could meet. The editorial of the first journal pronounced:

“The recorded practice of four centuries and almost daily examples of the useful application of the dowser’s art suffice to convince all but the most obstinate sceptic of its reality and value. But many of those who are familiar with that aspect of dowsing known as water-divining are unaware of the other varies purposes to which the art can be applied and do not, perhaps, appreciate the far-reaching extent of its possibilities. ”

Indeed the early decades of the society focussed much on water divining and searching for oil,   minerals, or even lost people. But over time dowsing interests extended to more diverse matters such as diagnosing health conditions, archaeology and farming for instance. This reflected the increasingly diverse backgrounds of its membership.

While British dowsers concentrated more on the practical applications of dowsing, on the continent of Europe, it had been applied in more liberal manner. And new ideas were disseminated through the society and adopted here. Over the last 40 years, the art of dowsing has changed considerably from the early days of the society. The spiritual side of dowsing has become a subject of increasing interest, while conventional applications, such as water divining, are now practiced only by a few.

The journal, Dowsing Today, still contains fascinating articles from members, there is still an annual conference and in more recent times, training courses have been available to encourage more people to take up the practice.

And as it approaches its 90th year, the society remains very much a broad church of dowsing interests and ideas.  

Colonel Bell