Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Jollys: from Buck House to the Workhouse

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JOLLY, Elizabeth (b Somerstown 1827)

JOLLY, Cecilia (b York Rd, Lambeth x 7 October 1832, d Peckham Workhouse 1904)

The fashion for duet-singing in the 1850s produced some outstanding pairs of singing sisters, topped by the Williamses and the Wellses, followed by such as the Broughams, the McAlpines and the Mascalls. Each of these families had the genealogical and musical talent to produce one soprano and one contralto. Mr and Mrs Jolly gave birth (amongst a volley of other babes) to two contraltos.

John Marks Jolly (b London 5 December 1790; d West Square, Southwark 1 July 1864) was a well-known musician in the London theatre and concert room. In his time, he played at most of the principal London theatres, and was conductor at and composed music for several, notably the Sans Pareil as early as 1815, and for a long stint at the Surrey ‘in its palmiest days’. His music was even played before the Majesties at Buckingham Palace.

J M Jolly in 1829
Mr Jolly married Sarah Ann Macklan (23 May 1813 St Botolph without Aldersgate), (1793-1868) and fathered Henry William (1814-1875), Amelia (b Clement Danes x 14 July 1816), Edward Moulton (b St Clement Danes 7 September 1819; d Barrington Rd, Lambeth February 1861), Charles Stuart(b London 17 February 1821; d Edmonton 1882), Sarah Anne (b London 31 October 1823), John Thomas (b 31 May 1825; d 4 November 1828), Elizabeth and Cecilia. Henry William became a musician and emigrated to America, Edward became a musician and stayed in England. The last two daughters became singing sisters.

I first see them out as a pair in June 1849, at Mr J Wild’s concert, but they got under way and into wider notice during the following year. In November they were purveying duets of their father’s manufacture at the National Hall, Holborn, beside Leffler and Perren, and in December they appeared at the Horns, Kennington, when their father presented a set of low-price concerts. The Era noticed ‘two sister voices, similar also in timbre, is a circumstance somewhat rare. The enunciation of both ladies is extraordinarily good, their notes have a full clear bell-like resonance’. They sang Jolly’s duet, ‘Beautiful Spring’, and Elizabeth (whom the Daily News insisted was J M Jolly’s sister, and making her debut on the occasion) gave his setting of Moncrieff’s ‘The Old Chimney Corner’.

In January 1851 they were at the London Mechanics Institute (‘The Lost Heart’), after which they went on the road for publisher Charles Jefferys, as a support act to the boy pianist Heinrich Werner. ‘They possess voices with remarkably deep tone and very clear intonation which combined with their simple and expressive style of singing ..’ applauded Liverpool, while Manchester opined ‘The elder one has a fine organ and they sing well together’.

Thereafter I spot them at the Strand Music Hall, and various city concerts, and in January 1852 in Glasgow singing at Julian Adams’s concerts. In June, they started a season at the Vauxhall Gardens.

In 1853 they were hired by the writer and entertainer Joseph Edwards Carpenter (b St Georges With East, London 2 November 1813; d 20 Norland Square, Bayswater 6 May 1885) ‘the distinguished author of up to a thousand songs’ to vocally illustrate his Scenes and Songs from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most enduring of the mass of Uncle Tom shows which followed the fashion for Mrs Stowe’s book. Carpenter lectured about the authoress and her work, and the girls sang songs with lyrics by him and music by Bishop, Edward Land, J E Perring, Henry Farmer, Bianchi Taylor, Edward Loder, E L Hime and, of course, J M Jolly. The pianist was W S Rooke, once of Amiliefame. The entertainment opened with three straight weeks at the Cabinet Theatre, King’s Cross, and progressed to the Manor House, Hackney and to Crosby Hall, and on 7 February set out from Hastings for a lengthy tour.


When Carpenter’s season finished they returned to concert singing and I note them at ‘Signor Borini’s concerts à la Jullien’ in Dublin 3 October 1853 duetting Jolly’s ‘The Gipsey Sisters’ and duet arrangement of ‘The Minstrel Boy’. Elizabeth gave ‘The Old Chimney Corner’ and ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, Cecilia sang Lover’s ‘The Land of the West’ and Farmer’s ‘The Little Evangelist’.

The following month they were given their chance, in the footsteps of the Misses Wells, at the prestigious London Wednesday Concerts (9 November, ‘The Twin Sisters’) at Exeter Hall, but the engagement seems to have been without a tomorrow.

In 1854 they returned to Carpenter for his new entertainment The Road, the River and the Railwhich had been playing since November at the Polytechnic with a Miss Blanche Younge as its musical part. The piece toured till the end of 1855, after which the Misses Jolly took to the music halls – Holder’s in Birmingham, the Philharmonic in Glasgow, the Surrey in Sheffield – and to a season at the Surrey Gardens. However, their career as a duo had its last flourish in the halls, and they became a fixture in the early 1860s in the choir at the Oxford and Cambridge Music Halls. Leader: John Marks Jolly.

In 1863-4, they are at the Regent Music Hall, but quite what happened next, I am not sure. What careers the girls had thereafter, they in any case pursued separately. I see ‘Miss Cecilia Jolly’ on the bill at the Imperial Music Hall at Easter 1864, and all other mentions are just ‘Miss Jolly’. Is that Elizabeth, or is there another Miss Jolly?

Miss Jolly, who I presume is Elizabeth (apparently the better singer of the pair) appears at the Regent, at Cremorne Gardens (‘a fine contralto’) and as principal resident contralto at the Alhambra through till 1867.




A Miss Jolly ‘female tenor’ turns up in the provincial halls and then (the same one?) for a while, as part of a duet team with Mr Tom Everard, comic. But that Miss Jolly is called Annie (‘contralto vocalist and ballad singer’) and later Ella Jolly, and she is still duetting while another one (Elizabeth, aged 42?) appears on the cast lists at the Gaiety Theatre, playing supporting parts in everything from plays to operas (Columbus, Mrs Mingle in Dearer than Life, Trusty in The Clandestine Marriage, Venus in Thespis ‘graceful and womanly’, Sheelagh in The Lily of Killarney &c) between 1871 and 1874 and as Cogia in Ali Baba at the Crystal Palace at Xmas 1871 with W H Payne, Annie Tremaine and J T Dalton. It is this Miss Jolly, surely, who is on the road in 1876 and 1877 in the Cornélie d’Anka and Alice May La Grande-Duchesse companies, and this Miss Jolly who is at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Liverpool, later in 1877 playing Clémentine in Barbe-bleue with R W South’s company. Pretty surely Elizabeth?



And just maybe in 1878 appearing at the Steam Clock Music Hall, Birmingham. She’d be over fifty, now.

I can’t be totally sure, for I now lose Elizabeth. But not Cecilia. Cecilia had a mishap in 1868, and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Cecilia Amy King Jolly (1868-1925). Presumably fathered by a Mr King. Mishaps were to be her lot, it seems, for – still calling herself ‘vocalist’ – she can be seen, in the 1881 and 1891 census living in the Peckham workhouse. She is still there, now ‘retired vocalist’, in 1901 and she died there, three years later.
The family historians say that Elizabeth died in 1916, aged 89. They also say she married one George Green Fenn in 1863. I don’t believe a word of it. The Eliza Jolly who married farmer Fenn of Streatham in 1861 was 32, and the daughter of John William Jolly, merchant … sigh, if it doesn’t fit, push it and squeeze it and pretend it fits … bloody family historians!

So more searching to do. Venus is still missing.

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