Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Balletic emoluments or, sign for your salary


Recently, I came upon some receipts, signed by members of the London Italian Opera of the 1830s. I thought I might be able to decipher the names on the documents ... then match them up with the salaries ... could be interesting?

Here they are. I'll start with the least impossible one.

Mademoiselle and later Madame (Fanny) Copère was a very, very long-serving member of the King's Theatre/Her Majesty's Theatre companies. She came from France, and the Paris Opéra, in 1818, apparently after having got into some tricky company, returned to London in 1824 as a premier sujet behind the visiting stars, and remained in that function until she became, in the mid-1830s 'Madame Copère', moved into character roles, and ultimately to the ballet and later operatic costumery departments as supervisor of the dressmakers. 

1836. A hiccough.

What became of her? I am entirely sure she was not the Madame Copère (contralto vocalist), with family Joe and Annie who covered the nations music-halls thereafter. Ah! Fanny Copère (spinster), daughter of Peter Copère, born Annuit, naturalised British subject, married the 70 year-old Hon Rev Henry William Stanhope, widower, son of a General ... 12 August 1862 ...  He died 1872. I guess it is she who died 1886 in Chelsea, 'aged 85'. Oh goodness, that is the chap who previously married Grace Aguilar ...  

Number Two. Harder.

Strange signature. Its the ballet again, because this lady has received her monies, on behalf of her son, on date unrecorded, from Mons Deshais or Deshayes, the head of the ballet department. And who is this lady? At first glance, I see Veuve Vatille-Malavergny or Malavergne with the usual theatrical vast squiggle. Well, Deshays was another very long server at the King's and ballet-master 1821-1842, so he isn't much of a clue. Malavergne ... yes. Pierre Frédéric Malavergne (sic, since his mother spells it thus) was the dancer known as 'Mons Frédéric' (1810-1872) who was to become, latterly, extremely famous in Russia. So this receipt is clearly from before 1831, the date of his Russian beginnings. And yes, there is the teenaged Fred dancing at the King's Theatre in 1828 and 1829 ... featured in La Vestale alongside Gosselin and Coulon ... so I guess this is he. And his mum.

The other two have so far defeated me. The first, I thought would be easy. My eye immediately saw 'De Muynck'. Well, Italian opera ... deMuynck = the great Caradori. But 31 March 1836? Caradori was already Mrs Allen. 'Mr Lumley, treasurer of the King's Theatre, Italian opera .. 60 pounds sterling for .. what .. of the two engagements contracted with M Laporte for this season ...  

IS it 1836? Is the D an initial or a particle? The mess at the end is, I fear, another operatic or balletic squiggle. Is this a payment in advance, or for services rendered? 1836 was the year of the Laporte bankruptcy .. could be the former...

And this signature is illegible. I think the pair of buttocks in the middle of it is just a squiggle.  So what does that leave? Lonn? Lion? Léon ...  1830 .... month of June ... forty pounds and 19 shillings? Looks as if four pounds 1s has been deducted ...  Well, it's is French rather than Italian, so I think once again we are in the ballet... good grief, is it St Léon? No, he'd be only 10 years old ...

Seems there are more of these, but I've only happed on these so far.  To be investigated further.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Ancient Epistles, or old letters


Yesterday, when I chanced upon that amazing Haymarket Theatre letter, with its character-assasination of old John Marks Jolly, I looked a little further down the listings and lighted on a few more fascinating old letters ..

This one caught my eye instantly, because, once again, it concerned music-making in Victorian days.

24 August 1821. Before the invention of the postage stamp. Sadly, there is no addressee. But I have managed to winkle a bit of history out of this little page.  

"Miss Martin" -- presumably a vocalist, but there were a good few Miss Singing Martins -- is finishing an engagement at Vauxhall and is available for another ...

Firstly, it is not the celebrated Vauxhall Gardens in London at which Miss Martin is singing. It is the sort-of-equivalent in Bath, known better as the Sydney Gardens. At this stage in their existence of some 25 already years they offered mainly pretty promenades and Special Occasions. The names of the entertainers weren't generally publicised except on such occasions ... the illuminators got the billing!

'Vauxhall' 1800

But by the 1820s, the musical director Matthew Patton (1781-1854), the local Loder family were predominant as vocalists, with Mallinson providing the comic songs...  I can't see Miss Martin anywhere, but I guess she must have been there. And, for some reason, so must have been young Mr Harris. In the orchestra perhaps? Anyway, his letter is franked "Bath" (see top right corner).

I know rather more about John Thomas Harris than I do about Miss Martin. He was, in 1821, but twenty years old. He was born on 9 January 1801, son of one George Harris (1778-?1824) and his wife Elizabeth Lucy née Robbins (m 4 January 1795), and he comes to my attention on a playbill first in 1824 (3 March), playing the organ accompaniments in a rather ritzy concert series at the King's Theatre. Why? Well, it seems had got the job of chorus master at the Italian Opera!

He had also got himself a wife, Miss Sarah née Lloyd (21 September 1823), who had started producing children at a prodigious rate: James Thomas (1824) and Sarah Elizabeth (1826) at 50 Strand, Isabella (1827), Fanny (1829) and Emily Carolina (1830) in their new home in Holborn, George Henry (1831), Maria (1833) and Ellen Lucy (1834) at the next home at the address in Judd Street, Brunswick Square which was already theirs in 1821 going by the letter!

In 1827, he is chorusmaster at the English Opera House, in 1828 he is fulfilling the same office at the Lenten concerts stage by Henry Bishop at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, and with William Hawes for Cosi fan tutte at the English Opera House. The opera was aletered and adapted by Hawes, which I guess is why Harris was needed. When John Braham had a Benefit (8 June 1829) and a barrage of famous vocalists joined to sing 'Tom Bowling' in nautical dresses on the deck of a scenic man o' war, Mr Harris accompanied them all on the organ. In 1831 he was again chorus master for Bishop at Covent Garden, in 1832 at Drury Lane .. whenever a chorus was involved at London's two principal English operatic theatres, Mr Harris was in charge. In 1836 he organised the choruses for Bochsa's grandiose concerts, and for the Royal Musical Festival in Westminster Abbey  ... I see him last doing The Messiah in March ...
On October 10 1836, he died. One line seems to have been his lot in the obituary department. He died at Judd Street, of unreported causes. Aged 35.

Three of his young children had already perished. In the 1851 census, Sarah 'annuitant' was caring for Isabella and Fanny 'professors of music', George 'solicitors clerk', 18 year-old Maria, and mother-in-law Elizabeth Lucy. What became of them all? All I know is that George gave up the law and took to making false teeth. He married, had children, and died in 1893. He had acted as executor for his youngest sister who had died, unmarried 27 December 1890. The rest ...? Go, see ...

1861. Coincidence or George?

As for Miss Martin ... maybe I'll bump into her one day ....

Letter number two is not theatrical. Its historical. A letter to wealthy Lancashire businessman ... of course, I didn't know he was a wealthy businessman when I squinted at this letter ..

July 1854. Mr Peter Whitehead, Hollymount, Rawtenstall. 

From Samuel Blacksquiggle of Manchester, clearly an agent or subordinate of some kind.

Mr Whitehead is apparently trying to secure marble for a highly-polished mantelpiece or mantelpieces, and Mr Blacksquiggle is assuring him that his friends Mr Knowles and Mr Pattison have the good stuff ...

Peter Whitehead

Mr Whitehead, along with his brothers, Thomas and David, were large and important cotton millers. 'Holly Mount' a grand triplex mansion, housed the three and their families between 1835 and 1855, during their business partnership, at which time the brothers went each his own way in business (Peter built the Ilex Mill, extant today) but still shared a home. 'Holly Mount', sadly, has suffered the fate of so many Victorian buildings in the 21st century ...

At the time of the 1841 census the brothers can be seen in their tripartite mansion

The family has been much written about, and thoroughly and meticulously investigated by a descendant, Peter Osbaldeston. I hurried to alert him about his ancestor's letter ... alas, he died some months ago.

Peter Whitehead died 10 October 1866, aged 78.

I wonder who Mr Blacksquiggle was. I shall chase him up. Also the marble merchants [John] Knowles and Pattison. Just for fun ... or maybe someone else would like to?

I'll go dig up another letter or three ...

PS the photo of Hollymount today is from the flickr page of Robert Wade.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

William Ryalls, or the tenor "Tom Topsail" from Sheffield

RYALLS, William (b Sheffield 22 January 1812; d Barone Villa, Park Road South, Birkenhead 5 January 1875)

Mr Ryalls was, for many years, the favourite tenor singer of the Lancashire and Yorkshire towns. It was admitted that he had his limits – in oratorio, in a large hall, he lacked the power to fill the hall – but the people of the midlands knew and know their voices, and they knew that Mr Ryalls was a concert singer par excellence.

William Ryalls was born in Sheffield, the son of one Jasper Ryalls (d December 1833), who was involved in the knife-making business, and his wife Mary (née Burgin, d 1873), and he himself worked as a cutler until he was in his thirties.

However, Mr Ryalls had discovered a fine tenor voice, and he became a popular amateur singer. I see him singing in Edinburgh in April 1836 to rave reviews in the Caledonian Mercury, at the Sheffield Choral concerts, in 1838, alongside Miss Sykes (not yet Mrs Sunderland) and Mrs Boocock from Southowram, singing ‘Sound an alarm’ and ‘Lord, Remember David’, and over the following years his version of local man John Knott’s ‘Tom Topsail’, ‘a decidedly superior display of pathetic ballad singing’, became familiar around the town and notably as the Cutler’s Feasts. On 7 February 1843 he gave a Farewell Concert … with Mrs Sunderland as support … and bade adieu to Sheffield. He was moving to Liverpool, and there, a few months later, he announced that he was giving up cutlery, and turning professional vocalist.

He was a quick success in Liverpool, and before the end of the year he was on the bills at the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. When he staged his own first concert, he put up a programme including the Misses Williams, violinist Blagrove and cellist Lindley, as well as local star Mary Whitnall. It was a London-style bill, and the Liverpool music press appreciated the lavishness of the new Liverpudlian. In 1844, he was seen from Liverpool and Manchester, via Wigan, Glasgow, the Isle of Man – frequently in the company of Miss Whitnall – and, on 2 November 1844, the two took part in the first of what would become the enduring series of Liverpool Saturday Evening Concerts. Nearly 20 years later, William Ryalls would make one of his last regular appearances at the same concerts.

‘He sings with great ease, not marring, as too many of our tenors do, the music entrusted to him by affectation …’ approved the press. ‘[He was] received with that rapturous applause which accompanies him wherever he appears’, ‘more successful than ever’, and, as soon as 1845, he was being described as ‘the most popular local vocalist of the day’.

He performed with the other top provincial vocalists – Mrs Sunderland, Misses Whitnall, Kenneth and Leach, the visiting Weisses or the young Mr J S Reeves – and from time to time with London folk. When pianist Mrs Beale imported Charlott Ann Birch for her concert (20 May 1845), Ryalls joined England’s star soprano in duet and unsurprisingly showed up as ‘somewhat nervous’. When Mary Ann Wood made one of her periodic sorties from retirement, Ryalls, Miss Whitnall and Sapio were her support singers. Madame Albertazzi visited Liverpool for his concert of 1846, Staudigl passed through in 1847, and Charlotte Dolby and John Parry also featured with the locals in concert.

As did most provincial Victorian vocalists, Ryalls supplemented his performing by teaching, and among his first pupils to debut were two of his sisters, Ellen and Lizzy. They accompanied William to a number of concerts in 1851 and 1852. Lizzy married musician Henry Phillips Sorge in 1852, Ellen seemingly retired, after some fairly devastating notices, became Mrs John Porter in 1855 (30 July), and died at the age of 27.

Through the 1850s and into the 1860s, William Ryalls was the tenor of Lancashire and Yorkshire – with another Sheffield man, George Inkersall, coming from behind. Inkersall’s voice was more adapted to the oratorios which were somewhat out of Ryalls’ fach: although he ventured everything from The Messiah and The Creation to Samson, Jackson’s Isaiah, and the Lauda Sion in his time. But it was ‘Sally in our alley’, ’Norah the pride of Kildare’ and ‘Tom Topsail’ with which Ryalls won his audiences, and towards the end of his career the Liverpool press could affirm, when he appeared at his umpteenth Saturday Evening, that he was indeed a ‘great favourite… [he has] continued for many years to be the most favourite (sic) male vocalist at the principal popular concerts given in this town.’

In 1854, Ryalls mounted a performance of The Messiah in Liverpool with the unwieldy Belina Catherine Whitham as principal soprano. Days later, the pair of them filed an intention to marry document at Birkenhead. As far as I know, they didn’t marry. Miss Whitham briefly married a couple of other chaps before her early death, and Ryalls … well, he wed instead, in 1855 (13 September), a Scots lass named Jane Peacock Cork, from Edinburgh, with whom he lived for the last fifteen years of his life, and who bore him a vast family. In the 1911 census, she said she had had 12 children, 8 of whom were living. Yes, nine (minus four) sons and three daughters.

In 1861, Ryalls opened a music store at 9 Hamilton Street, Birkenhead, and he relocated with his burgeoning family to the area. He promoted concerts, ran his Birkenhead business, and produced children until his death in 1875.

Jane continued to run the business, along with Lizzy’s husband Sorge, until she cried enough in 1879. Sorge promptly went bankrupt, abandoned Lizzy and their large brood, and fled via South Africa to Christchurch, New Zealand. ‘Signor Enrico Sorge’ arrived on the scene in 1882. For some reason, he moved on rather quickly -- he gave a Farewell Concert 11 May 1883 -- and I next spot him in San Francisco, amongst the other ex-English bankrupts and bigamists, playing piano for .. no!.. ‘Enrico Campobello’. Another phony Italian (Sorge was born in Windsor). ‘Enrico’ Sorge died in Ogden, Utah, about the middle of 1887.

Jane survived until 9 October 1929, when she died at her home at 8 Reedville in Birkenhead. Eldest son, Henry John (b 12 December 1858; d 17 October 1949) took up the music-and-piano-selling business, with considerable success and not quite so many children.




'Mademoiselle de Varny' or, I've got a little Liszt

DEVARNY, Mademoiselle [de PAUW, Hortense] (b Valenciennes 14 September 1811; d unknown)

‘Mademoiselle Devarn[e]y’ has gone down in history largely because of one engagement of a few weeks’ duration. It wasn’t that she was a particularly outstanding vocalist. But she got momentarily attached to a fashionable and famous performer, whose life – including his half a dozen weeks touring in her company – has been minutely written about. And she, thus, has become much-quoted footnote fodder. Later, she became friendly with another ‘celebrated’ gentleman, to whom she wrote letters, which have, likewise, been thoroughly pored over and annotated in latter days. The gentlemen in question were (1) Franz Liszt and (2) Théophile Gautier.

When Louis Lavenu was setting up a six-week concert party tour, for August-September 1840, with the Abbé Liszt as his topliner, he hired two lady vocalists as makeweight support acts for his star: the teenaged mezzo Louisa Bassano and ‘Mlle de Varn[e]y’. Few people knew of her. When she had made her first London appearances, months before, as ‘prima donna of the Académie Royale’, the press commented ‘we never heard of this prima donna’. Nowadays, only the annotator of Gautier seems to have any idea about her at all. The websites which try to merchandise her portrait cop out amusingly with ‘she must have done something…’ So I thought I’d try to find out.

The lady was apparently born in Valenciennes (not in Brussels or Belgium), under the name of Hortense de Pauw. She studied, as did her sister, at the Brussels Conservatoire, under Mons Cassel, and was awarded a deuxième prix for chant et vocalisation in 1834. I see her at the school’s concerts, singing The Creation and ‘Giorno di orrore’ with Mlle Vanderperren (the future Mme Mortier de Fontaine). She sang at various concerts over the next years, and a letter survives, written by Fétis to the Director of the Paris Conservatoire, dated 1 May 1837, on her account: ‘elle a de la voix et du talent, est excellente musicienne, dit la comédie avec esprit, et possède, comme vous verrez, une figure agréable. Nourrit […] lui a donné le conseil d’aller à Paris et d’y débuter soit à l’Opéra soit à l’Opéra-comique ..’.

She duly moved to Paris to study further with Bordogni and with Ponchard and, when she auditioned for Meyerbeer, Halvéy and co, at the Paris Opéra, she was given a debut as Ricciarda in Guido e Ginevra and as Alice in Robert le diable. The result was not sufficiently conclusive, and she moved on, though one newspaper cried that she should have been tried at the Opéra-Comique, and, when Le Courrier des Théâtres announced her engagement for London, he described her as ‘une cantatrice qu’on a trop peu entendue’. In 1839, when she appeared in Parisian concert the press mumbled ‘une jeune et belle personne qui n’a fait qu’apparaître à l’Opéra, ou on n’a pas eu le temps de l’apprécier’.

Mdlle de Varny (by any other spelling) arrived in London in the early weeks of 1840, and made her first appearance at Julius Benedict’s Concert (7 February, ‘une jeune française dont le talent a été justement apprécié et encouragé’, 'a fine voice', 'a soprano voice of good quality and considerable compass'), before her debut at Her Majesty’s Theatre as Eleonora in Torquato Tasso (3 March). ‘In spite of a rather agreeable person and considerable powers of vocalisation, she, perhaps from excess of fear, failed to please every correct ear…’, ‘a cultivated singer and executes with care [but] her voice is shrill, without light and shade, and her acting without feeling’. She was clearly not going to cut it as a prima donna alongside Grisi, Persiani and Viardot Garcia. However, she was cast as Agnese del Maino to Persiani’s Beatrice di Tenda (interpolating a Mercadante aria), and, although she pleased ('a very able representative' 'the only fault to notice in in her is a contortion of the mouth, unpleasantly visible when she exerts herself strongly', 'entitled to praise'), she still failed to excite. In July, she sang Jane Seymour to the Anna Bolena of Grisi, and, this time, evoked much warmer praise: '...good both as a voice and as a singer. Her appearance too is pleasing, and should she remain to play the Jane Seymours and Donna Elviras after her short-lived reign of absolutism has closed, she may prove an acquisition', ‘This lady has greatly improved … in the duet with Grisi she sang with much expression and taste. We question whether the part of Jane Seymour has ever been so efficiently supported. M Laporte should allow her to appear a little oftener’. 

He didn’t. Allegedly, because Grisi’s cousin, Ernesta, was in the troupe, and the star required that she should be often cast, in spite of being ‘a very inadequate representative of almost every character she attempted’. She sang at the Società Armonica ('Robert, toi que j'aime', 'Collei Sofronia' with Colletti, 'Quanto amore' with Lablache, 'Casta diva') ...

And so, the season came to its end, and Hortense joined the Lavenu-Liszt tour. Liszt’s letters described her: ‘La Compagnie se compose de Mlle de Varny, qui vient d’épouser le rédacteur d’une nouvelle feuille française qui se publie à Londres, l’Alliance. Elle est plutôt bien que mal. Tournure et manières françaises (comme la Olivier)! Prima donna assoluta, c’est-à-dire absolument détestable’. Fair enough singer, but oh! the manners and mannerisms! This quote has been repeated by Lisztmanians as if their hero was simply saying Hortense was 'absolutely detestable'. That, of course, is not what the pianoplayer said at all. He said she was 'plutôt bien'. It was her off-stage minauderies that he didn't like. Thus is history perverted. The husband, by the way, was apparently a Mons Lemoine. Gustave Lemoine the writer? I can find no trace of his newspaper.

I notice that the sixth Duke of Devonshire's papers include a letter from Hortense, written from the Old Ship in Brighton and dated 26 August 1840. I wonder what she was doing writing to him. Had she had a taste of the "Cavendish banana"?

Mlle de Varny did not return for the second Liszt tour. She headed for Rouen, for Belgium, and, if she rather than her sister or fellow-student is ‘Luigia de Pauw [-De Roy]’, she did a season as prima donna at Mondovi and, in later 1841, turns up at Ancona (Elizabeth to the Maria Stuarda of Desiderata Derncourt). It must be she at Messina: 'Madame Lemoine de Varny' sang Beatrice di Tenda and Lucrezia Borgia, evoked ‘Sie ist schön und hat eine schöne umfangreiche Stimme’, and then moved on to the Naples theatres for three months. She began unsteadily at the Fondo, with a nervous Lucia alongside Colletti and Fraschini, ‘elle n’a pas été applaudi’ in Luigi Savj’s L’Avaro, and, as in London, ended up playing second roles, notably as Ines to the Maria Padilla of Tadolini.

There is a mention, in one paper, of her taking over from Belloni as Adalgisa, to the Norma of Montenegro, during the Carnevale/Quaresima seasons at La Scala in 1844, but another sheet credits someone different. And, again, appearing with Montenegro at the Italian opera in Vienna. And in June 1845 ‘Madamigella Depaux-Devarny’ can be seen at the Salle Cluysenser, Brussels, playing Juliet opposite Mme Giannoni in I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Only now she is calling herself ‘Signora Albani’. I wonder why. So, was it she playing I Puritani at Vercelli, with the tenor Antonelli, at Carnevale 1842-3? Is she the Eugenia Albani at the Teatro Sociale, Mantova, in the same opera? Ah! It’s clearly she (Mme Albani-Devarney) doing that Adalgisa, after all. And she was ‘applauditissima’. Belloni had decided the part wasn’t suited to her and got ‘indisposed’. ‘Signora Albani’ as Lucia at Pavia, Rossi’s Il Borgomastro di Schiedam at Alessandria, Eugenia Albani at Novara, autunno 1844 in Donizetti’s L’ajo nell’ imbarazzo, Nina pazza per l’amore .. at Como as Lucia with Sesto Benedetti and Scapini and in Il Nuovo Mosè ..

That Brussels engagement was a bit of a horror. She had a brush with the gas lighting and ended up in flames. She was evidently not hurt ... I see her the next week as Adina in L’Elisir d’amore .. but, then no more … was this the end of the career of Madame Lemoine alias Hortense de Pauw otherwise Mlle Honorine, Hortense and/or Olimpe De Varn[e]y, otherwise Madame [Eugenia] Albani? I know no more. But, in her time, if my identifications are correct, she had sung at the Paris Opéra, at Her Majesty’s Theatre and La Scala with Grisi, with Persiani and that piano player, Liszt … Not a bad record.

Alas, De Pauw is not as uncommon a surname as I'd hoped. What to think of a concert programme dated Ghent 6 March 1845, where Mme de Pauw-De Roy sings an aria from Corrado d’Altamura and another from Inès de Castro, accompanied by … Monsieur [Liévin] de Pauw-de Roy …! This Madame is already around in 1841 .. and still in 1847 .. Monsieur is a composer … and a Mlle Louise de Roy is another co-pupil of the sisters. The Luigia spotted in Italy, maybe. And then there are the posh de Pauws ...

And then I come upon the Cambridge UP (oyoy!) suggestion by Ms Kimberley White that Hortense's real name was Hortenzy de Paun (Varinsky) -- that doesn't sound very Valenciennes, more Warsaw! -- I wonder where that bit of [sham]info was pulled from -- and that she disappeared after 1842. Sigh. She didn't, of course.

Oh, dear. I’m afraid this one isn’t over yet … but at least now Alamy will know who the lady was!

Monday, March 29, 2021

A Payne-ful puzzle: or a theatrical family pieced back together ...

Over the past fifteen or so years, I have amused myself by researching the lives and careers of Victorian Vocalists. Nearly a thousand articles and blogs have been the result, plus a large volume containing the hundred most resounding ...

I made a particular point of -- and had particular fun in disrobing -- hundreds of the lesser singers and wannabe singers of the C19th -- the Signors Browni and Jonesvitch and their mates, and dragging various pseudonymical artsites from behind their Italian or Germanic nom de théatre ... Of course, these little essays of discovery have never been published. They sit on my hard drive, occasionally referred to, occasionally used to answer correspondents' questions ... but, just occasionally, something happens ..

Like this week. A jigsawpuzzle. Four of my articles proved to be connected! So I've stitched bits of them together to make up one coherent mass of musicians, and even followed one strand of the tale of the Payne family up to ... 21st century New Zealand!

And it all started with a real wannabe. A real loser.


LOCKSLEY, Arthur [PAYNE, William] (b Shoreditch 25 May 1821; d ? 1881)


In Victorian years, as in our time, there were folk who stayed doggedly in showbusiness, after an inkling of early success, for far, far too long. ‘Mr Locksley’ was one.

William Payne was born, according to his say-so, in Berne, Switzerland, the son of a gilder, Thomas Payne and his wife, Agatha de Geneve, who said sometimes that she was born in Jamaica, others in Bath. Little Willie was, in fact, actually born in London’s East End. He was sometimes highly imaginative about ‘when’, but when, in 1848, he married Ellen Silk, second daughter of George Silk (1787-1844), an attorney from (latterly) Hertford, he said he was ‘of full age’. Which the 1841 census doesn’t seem to confirm. But it’s a bit faded and scribbly, so maybe it's the scribe's fault. In 1851, Ellen ‘aged 22’, her firstborn son and two of her siblings can be seen staying with grandma (Maria Adelaide French, born West Indies…), in Somerstown. Funny, she had said she was 16 in 1841 … which seems to be right. William is admitting to 25. Five years shorn off. Sigh.

William studied singing with William Howard Glover of Emily Soldene fame, appeared as Pylades in that gentleman’s selection from Iphigenia in Tauris at the Hanover Square Rooms (19 December 1848), and under him at the Glasgow Proms, and made an unpromising start to his career as a theatre tenor when he ‘fell ill’ when he was supposed to have been playing Albert in The Night Dancers for Glover at the Glasgow Prince’s. Then, having been engaged for an 1849 season of concerts in Manchester, ‘of London, his first appearance here’ he disappeared, seemingly, after the first one.

In 1852 (5 February) he emerged again, at a concert given by Glover’s pupil Julia Bleaden, at the London Tavern, and failed again. ‘'The Death of Nelson’ by Mr Payne was distressing, extremely so …’.

It is Easter 1853 before I see him out again. And, this time, in grand company. ‘Mr Arthur Payne’ is engaged for his ‘first appearance in London’ at the Haymarket Theatre. Well, I don’t know when that first appearance was, because I have never found his name on a playbill, but I suspect it was somewhere in the ‘a villager’ category.

In 1855, he got his big chance. Joseph Stammers and J H Tully were giving an unpretentious season of English Opera at Drury Lane. Elliot Galer was principal tenor and ‘Mr Herberte’ (ie John Burnett Gadsden) and ‘Mr Arthur Locksley’ were his alternates. ‘Locksley’ was Mr Payne under a new name. He got to sing a witch in Macbeth, Eustace in Love in a Village and the leading tenor role, with Rosalia Lanza and Lizzie Dyer in Der Freischütz. The reviewer was politer this time: ‘a tenor of small pretensions but a sweet and tenable voice’.

The following year he got hitched to Mrs Pyne Galton’s little team, and appeared with her in concert, and in small-scale operatic performances in the provinces, billed as ‘principal tenor, Drury Lane’. He played the tenor roles in The Mountain Sylph, La Sonnambula and Maritana with her, Edmund Rosenthal and poor ‘Augusta Costantini’ (Mrs Jane Blundell) from Liverpool, and Newcastle huffed: ‘the sorriest piece of lugubrious burlesque ever witnessed’.

I spot him in 1860 at the Pavilion Theatre singing La Sonnambula with Rosenthal and Rebecca Isaacs, with Tully as conductor, and then at Easter 1862 at Sadler’s Wells, as tenor (Pierre Chase) to Catherine Lucette in an operetta, All’s Fair in Love and War. The press mumbled that ‘he sang with considerable merit’ and would doubtless get better. But it was disaster time. He got a cold, was off, and Captain Morton Price (‘Mr Lucette’) took his place. He came back and then he was sacked. He sued.

So it all came out in court. The managers said he was incompetent to be ‘first tenor’ in a theatre and the audience ‘goosed’ him; Tully, the leader, and his fellow actor, Forrester, both came to the stand and said he was no good. A bit unfair of Tully, who’d employed him a number of times. But evidently, whatever his voice was – and it was clearly small to very-small – Mr Payne suffered from perpetual stage fright. Anyway, the judge awarded him 50 pounds. And the managers insisted, in that case, that he come in and play!

The 50 quid would have been useful. William Arthur Payne (sic) had just been declared bankrupt.

In 1861 the family can be seen at 1 Canal Terrace, Marylebone with father Thomas, still gilding, and mother Agatha, brother George (24) is a professor of music .. while he is seemingly based in St Albans. Ellen is 37, he is ‘absent’. There have been five children … one of whom was (temporarily) named Zerlina.

I, truthfully, didn’t think I’d see any more of ‘Arthur Locksley’, but, lo and behold!, in 1865 he surfaces at Drury Lane again, taking the role of Amiens in As You Like It, starring Helen Faucit.

In the 1871 census, he admits to being 34 and still insists that he is a musician, Ellen to 29. And a vocalist. In 1872, father Thomas (78) and mother Agatha (72) of 1 Canal Terrace are to be found in St Pancras Workhouse. Both died soon after.

The press of the country, and its vital records, took their time to render up little further mention of the couple. ‘Arthur’ is said to have died in 1881 aged 60. Ellen lived to the age of 84, and died in Harringay in 1911.

The name of ‘Arthur Locksley’ did feature again in the British theatre. A Moore and Burgess Minstrels chorister by right name Ernest Dillon Shallard apparently chose to borrow the stage name of his not very illustrious predecessor in the last part of the century. Here, originally, this little biog finished. But … a few years on ...

... I wondered, who is the ‘Arthur Locksley Hamilton’ who surfaces, with wife ‘Ellen Vining’, partner ‘Captain’ Henry Perry Overend (1831-1907), a blind pianist, a ‘youthful American negro comedian [and his] magic donkey’ and a panorama at Coventry in 1872, Belfast in 1873, Guernsey in 1874, Ipswich at Christmas 1875 and on and on round Britain for more than a decade? Well, well. It is our couple’s eldest son and it looks to me as if he ended up far from London. Mr and Mrs Hamilton and their panoramas of ‘London by Day and Night’ and ‘The Franco-Prussian War’ (‘the Hamilton-Overend Exhibition’) were spotted just recently, by my friend Terri, in Pittsburgh in 1892. They are suing William Daly for unpaid wages. Mr ALH, the local press confides, ‘was a well-known opera singer in England’. Hum. And Mrs ALH was the daughter of Frederick Vining and was the aunt of Fanny Davenport and the niece of James Wallack. Really? Well, according to me, Vining of the Haymarket Theatre had four daughters. By 1892, three were dead, and the fourth was Mrs Charles Steyne, wife and mother of reputable thespians. The one named Ellen, mother of musician Charles King Hall, was nearly thirty years in her grave. Apparently the real Mrs Payne was a Miss Clara Jane Welstead. Maybe. Anyway, from America they progressed to Australia where Arthur [Frederick Hamilton] jr died, at Footscray, in January 1924. 

But there was another and bigger surprise to come from my diggings. Payne is an awfully common name in the musical theatre, so I’ve never investigated Mr H[enry Charles] Payne (b Hastings 1859) who has come under my eye in musical-theatre small parts in the 1880s (Alice in Wonderland, La Cosaque, Lily of Léoville, Stage Dora) and in small dramatic and opera companies … well, guess what!, he was Mr Locksley’s third son! His wife, Clara Sarah Willis (of Kate Santley's Co) was a dancer. And now I’m wondering about the ‘Arthur Payne’ who was a sometime member of a D’Oyly Carte company: could it be [Thomas] Arthur Payne ‘operatic artist’ of 8 Alderney Street (b London 29 September 1853; d London 1897), ‘operatic artist’ in Tottenham (1891) with wife Lottie ‘operatic vocalist’ and sons ... is he son number two? Lottie? Yoho! Yes, indeed! This is the Cartesian known as Arthur LORRAINE, whom I 'outed' last year, and his Cartesian wife ‘Lotti Carlotta’ (Charlotte MOORE 1853-1941).

The grand surprise, however, was their mother: Ellen Silk! For years I have unknowingly been writing about her, and I never made the connection, nor identified her, till now. Ellen worked as Ellen PAYNE, and she had a considerable career as a supporting soloist and character woman in touring operatic companies (Manley’s, Henry Haigh’s, Cooke & Addison’s, Loveday’s, Florence Lancia’s, National Opera Co) from the 1850s. 

And one of those two daughters of hers, Eleanor Mary Payne (1853-1916), became a genuine provincial prima donna under the name of Madame Adelina TELMA. Adelina’s sister, Mary, also sang, in a more modest capacity. Seems they all did!

‘Madame Telma’ married William Tweddell (b 1848) from Newcastle, who worked as Henry WALSHAM … and who had a considerable career as a tenor and an impresario … and to whom I've devoted a long article in my Collection. They in turn had children Harold William (b 15 February 1889), Isabel Hilda (b Wexford 1890, Mrs Edward Pugh Aston) and Joseph Henry B (b London 1892), before Walsham-Tweddell’s death at the age of 50 … Walsham died in want (15 September 1898), and in the 1901 census his widow and her mother can be seen working as sewing-machinists in Tottenham. Isabel Aston is last sighted in … New Zealand (1945). And, heavens, HER daughter Mrs [Isabel] Mary Wright died at Hautapu in the Waikato, 11 May 2011 …

Tweddell’s sister married scenic designer Walter Brooks Spong, and became the mother of Australian actress Hilda SPONG.

Poor Mr Locksley. Just about the whole of his extended family had, at least, some success, at some level, in the world of music and the theatre. He, alone, was apparently a hopeless and utter failure.










Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Addams-Williams Family, or Llangibby Lost ...


I should be proofreading the books, but ...

The breakfast-time scoot through ebay turned up two pictures of a pretty girl from Wales, with her birthday and name on the back ... so I had a little look. Odd, that on the back of one photo she was called Eleanor and on the other Francis. Same birthdate ...

Yes, they are twins. The tenth and eleventh children of Mr William Charles Addams Williams, solicitor, of Monmouth, and his wife Julia Ellen (née Gabb).

Hopton, Willie, Julia Helen, Mary Selina, John, Leonard, Jessie Louise, Marcia Caroline, Christopher ...

And, oh dear! Its another broken up family album! Here is sister Julia Helen (1867-1956, Mrs Charles Richard Taylor)

And youngest brother Christopher (b 2 April 1877; d 1944) who went on to become a civil engineer in the Indian public words department

And here is Marcia Caroline (b 1 January 1876; d March 1958, Mrs James E Briggs) ...

and aged 21

This is labelled 'Julia and Jessie Louise' .. Jessie Louise (Mrs William Henry Burden, b 14 April 1878; d 24 August 1952) of Tynmawr Hill, Mon ... farmer's wife.

I wonder if the rest of the "Addams Williams" family are lurking in a box chez "faustino's dad". Mary Selina married a clergyman who became a bishop!  Willie was drowned in a boating accident (10 September 1886) of the River Wye ..

Oh, why the cumbersome name?  The Welsh library clears that up ...

Addams-Williams family, of Llangibby Castle.

Biographical history

The Williams family acquired the Llangibby Castle estate (anciently called Tregrug) following the purchase of the estate by Roger Williams (d. 1585) of Usk in 1544-1545. He was succeeded by his son, Rowland Williams, followed by his son Charles Williams, who became MP for Monmouthshire in 1621. He was succeeded by his son Sir Trevor Williams who played a prominent role in the civil war in Monmouthshire, siding first with the King, then with the Parliamentarians before rejoining the royalists in 1648. The estate remained in the hands of the Williams family until the death of Sir John Williams without male issue in 1739. His daughter Ellen (1724-1781/2), who inherited the estate, married William Addams of Monmouth who assumed the additional surname of Williams.

And there followed an absolute torrent of Monmouthshire A-Ws, confusingly far too often named William or Thomas, and who apart from being sizeable landowners were solicitors or ... you guessed it! clergymen. Groan.

Our family are the children of William Charles (b 1829; d 1916), son of William A-W (1793-1865), son of Thomas (1758-1842) of Usk ... I haven't delved into the lineage from Roger of the Castle, doubtless one of those works that specialises in Gentry of Wales or the like will have done it. Oh, by the way, Llangibby Castle hasn't been an actual Castle for centuries. It is now an estate named for the ruins of the ancient castle. The Williamses seemingly collected ex-castles. In 1899 Alfred AW, the owner of Llangibby paid out over eighteen thousand pounds for the ruins of Usk Castle.

However, although our ex-album is peopled by A-Ws, they are only part of the story. This seems to be an album based on the family of William Charles's wife, Julia Gabb, and here come the Gabbs ...

Tom Gabb was a solicitor in Abergavenny. He married Miss Marcia Willoughby, 20 May 1829, and she bore him five daughters and two sons, before his demise at the age of 53 in 1849 (2 February).  In order: Christopher, Cicely, Selina, Marcia, Julia, Charles and Eleanor. Eleanor was lost at the age of 13, Christopher in Madeira at 21 ... Cicely died a maiden lady of 56 (1887) ... Selina (b 9 July 1833) became a schoolmistress and, at forty, married a tutor, George William Gilmore, who turned missionary. They apparently missioned, from 1899, in Florida, where Selina died at Jacksonville 4 February 1926. They had a daughter, Florence.

Julia, as we know, contributed largely to the Gabblety of the Nations, and Marcia (10) and Charles (4) did likewise ...

Charles went to India and became an officer in the Bombay Cavalry. He married Mary Anne Allen, from Leeds, at Agra, sired Lucy Marcia, Christopher William Willoughby, Mary Selina, and Charles Willoughby .. of whom the odd photo survives in our set:

Lucy (b 16 October 1867; d 1 December 1944)

This one is labelled 'Captain Willoughby Gabb', so I suppose is Charles ...

Charles died at sea, near Malta, on his way to England aged 32. The papers commented that he was the grandson of the late Sir Christopher Willoughby, bart, Baldon House, Oxford. Yeh ...

Of course, it could be his son, also a Captain, who died of a polo accident in Poona ...

His other son became a vicar in Derbyshire.

And then there was Marcia. Mrs Charles Price Lewis. A farmer's wife! Hurrah. 100 acres. 'Of the Mynde, Herefordshire'.

Children ...? Where? When?

Helen Lewis

John Lewis

Leonard Lewis

Willie Lewis


Mary Selina

unnamed Lewis

Well, the children all had their photographs taken in Monmouth, so I guess they were born there, but the Lewis family emigrated to South Africa. Marcia died there, in Richmond, Natal 11 February 1932. I see that son John Llewellyn Lewis died there, aged 36, at the family's home at "The Hill" Thornhill  Junction 21 November 1913 .. and husband Charles, aged 87, on 21 October 1926. At his death, the South African authorities listed his surviving progeny ...
Mrs Mary Eleanor Roberts
Charles Christopher Lewis
Arthur Ernest Lewis
Tom Anthony Lewis (d 13 May 1959)
Marcia Emmeline Lewis
Frances Marion Lewis (d 2 October 1960)
Sydney Willoughby Lewis (d 8 January 1964)

there was also a Wilfred Percy Lewis and Marcia Selina (see above) who were deceased as well as John .. ...

Odd. The names don't match the photos ... I wonder why. Have they been labelled wrongly?

"The Hill", Thornhill Junction. Little bit of nostalgia there? "The Hill" had been the home of the wealthy legal Thomas Addams Williams and his family back in Monmouth ...

Ah well, the family spread far and wide, and now I suppose the collection of family photos one of them cherished will be blown to all corners of the globe ..

PS all credit to "faustinos dad": he has indicated which other photos, unnamed, came from the same collection. We need more vendors like him!

London, eh ... but none from Pietermaritzburg ...

There's clearly much more to discover about these families. The Gabbs ... and the castle that isn't a castle... the Reverend who suffered (?) a stinging crush from the Swiss au pair ... the maiden sister who went a-nursing in South Africa ... the Rev who went to preach in Trichnopoly ...

The castle that wasn't a castle

And the little twins who have cost me a day ... 17 December 1909, Eleanor became Mrs Dr Arthur Edward Francis (b 27 May 1874; d 26 December 1957) ... in Calcutta! They came home, of course, and in 1939 I see them living No5 The Glen, Sunninghill ...

Frances, I lose ... 

Maybe I'll have one little last probe after the horses are fed. And then hand this over to Family Treasures Reinstated to take it from here. They did us all proud with the Lee family from Cumberland ..