Friday, September 20, 2019

The West End in the early 1860s ... in photos ...


ARTICLE IN PROGRESS ... any photographic additions to this 'gallery' much welcomed

A while ago, I happened upon a splendid selection of 'production photos' from the Strand Theatre's early 1870s productions of Nemesis, El Dorado and Not Such a Fool as he Looks. Delighted, I was. We weren't yet at the stage, in 1870, of taking action photos in theatres, but here at least were posed action pictures from a studio.

So what was my surprise to discover, this morning, a large bundle of portraits of the actors from the Adelphi, the Lyceum, the Strand, the Olympic, the Princess's et al, dating from a decade earlier, some of them, indeed, already in posed action!

At least some of the earliest photos in the bunch seem to come from the 1859 revival of the decade-old drama The Willow Copse (La Closerie des genets), staged at the Adelphi Theatre (23 September).

Toole and Ben Webster? or  Paul Bedford? Webster created the part, but ..

Toole as Augustus de Rosherville and Miss Woolgar as Meg

Also in the cast for this piece were others of the Adelphi's players, who later played in other roles and plays at the theatre. I'm slowly identifying them ..

The tortured, deflowered ingenue, Rose, was played by 24 year-old Henrietta Simms, a recent addition to the Adelphi company. Daughter of Charles Hamilton Simms (b Rugby 1805; d 7 Rutland Place, Scarborough 17 November 1877) and his wife, Elizabeth Mary, 30 years touring actors in the north of England, granddaughter of John Simms of the Leamington Theatre, she was born in Lincoln in 1835, and went on the stage as a child, played ingenues in Newcastle, Sunderland, Scarborough, Edinburgh for a decade, with stints at Dublin and Manchester and with Fred Younge's touring company, before, in 1859, being hired for the Adelphi. She would spend the bulk of her remaining career there, playing emotional and light comedy roles, many in the plays of Dion Boucicault, of which her Helen to the Julia of Miss Bateman in The Hunchback was a long-remembered highlight. When G V Brooke was Otello at Drury Lane, she was Desdemona, when Boucicault starred as The Phantom, she was his victim, when Jefferson was Rip van Winkle, she was Meenie, she featured in Boucicault's The Fox Chase, in Aurora Floyd, in The Love Chase, as Mrs Vane in Masks and Faces, as Bertha in Dot...  In 1867, she wed Dr Evan Burnell Jones, but returned a few months later to the Adelphi, before migrating to the Princess's with the Boucicaults (Dora in The Octoroon), and following them on tour to play Miss Rolleston in Foul Play. In 1869 she starred with Wybert Reeve in Won At Last at the Charing Cross Theatre, but during the run was taken ill. Whatever the illness was, it affected her both bodily and mentally. Henrietta would spend thirteen years in the Camberwell Lunatic Asylum, up to her death, 4 April 1887.

The aristocratic but loving seducer, by John Billington (yes, after all the drama, there is a happy ending)

David Fisher played the villain of the piece and was judged 'ill-suited' ..

I suspect that these photos, like most of the rest, are from a period two or three years on from The Willow Copse ... so maybe they are just Adelphi Theatre photos, generally on sale.

Henrietta Sims and Mr and Mrs Billington were involved in another Adelphi hit when Mosenthal's Deborah, under the title of Leah, was staged 1 October 1863, with Kate Bateman in the title-role

Kate Bateman

Here is Toole, again, in his famous role of Tom Cranky in The Birthplace of Podgers: this photo could be from any time from 1858, when he created the role at his Benefit, onwards .. but I suspect a few years on.

More Toole ...

Bedford rather than Webster?

Webster? This is Webster.

This is Bedford

So I guess all the photos ARE Bedford, which means the ones which are labelled 1859 may very well not be first-run originals

Toole and Bedford ... 

Further down the Adelphi cast lists I find Mrs H Lewis. Mrs Lewis (née Eliza Guilford Terry b London 29 March 1816; d Kennington 21 December 1878) had been on the stage for more than twenty years when she came to the Adelphi in 1861. She had been the wife of Henry Naish Lewis (b London 27 April 1808; d London 27 November 1862) for eight years, but although they worked as a pair she had kept her maiden name for the stage, and the two of them had become suburban favourites at the Standard Theatre, the Garrick, the Queen's, the Marylebone. In August 1861 they took a brief engagement at Hull, where they played Mr Corrigan and Shelagh in The Colleen Bawn, and Eliza scored a hit. Within weeks, the Lewises were hired for the Adelphi, and Eliza was giving her Shelagh, alongside the Boucicaults, to the West End. Henry didn't enjoy the late promotion for long. He died a little more than a year later. But Eliza stayed on, a useful member of the theatre's company, in good supporting roles, for seven years.

Here's another famous pair. Harry and Charles Webb. Brothers. Not twins. Comic actors both. In 1864, the came from Ireland to George Vining's Princess's theatre with their (cut-down) version of A Comedy of Errors, in which they played the two Dromios. Their physical likeness to each other being remarkable, and their acting ability fine, they were a novelty hit of huge proportions ..

Their Antipholoi were manager Vining himself ...

and 'soft-voiced' John Nelson, the theatre's new jeune premier. Nelson was born in Cumberland (23 June 1839). His obituary says that his father was a farmer, but mother Ann is a widow washerwoman, in Botchergate, with six children, in the 1841 census. The same article says that he began his stage career at Aberdeen (1859) and Bristol (1860), and I pick him up in 1861 at Bradford, then in end-to-end engagements at Manchester, Douglas, Dublin and Brighton. In January 1864, he was engaged by Vining and featured, without delay, as Paul Goldsworthy in Paul's Return. He was a clear success, and quickly established as leading player in A Comedy of Errors, The Streets of London (Mark Livingstone), as Romeo to the Juliet of Stella Colas, and opposite the same actress in The Monastery of St Just. 

Stella Colas

In 1865, in conjunction with Amy Sedgwick, he played a season as a London star at the Bradford theatre where not long since he had been a member of the stock company. 

In 1866 he co-starred and directed with and for Miss Sedgwick at the Haymarket Theatre, in 1868 he was Romeo to the Juliet of Adelaide Neilson, in 1869 Ham to the Little Em'ly of Patti Josephs at the Olympic, and in 1871 took another Dickensian lover as Bradley Headstone in Found Drowned at the Opera Comique. As part of a full and fine career, he had a colourful role alongside the Miss Chester of Mrs Vezin (1872) and the press labelled him 'one of the finest delineators of a noble, manly character' in its successor Lost or Found. 

Mrs Vezin

And that was precisely the type of role he was asked to play in pieces such as Ship Ahoy at the Surrey (1874) amidst various versions of Lady Audley's Secret, East Lynne, Frou-Frou, The Lady of Lyons and other such. In 1876-7, he toured for John Chute, with Carlotta Leclercq in Pygmalion and Galatea and The Gascon. This leading lady, he married, and the couple continued touring, with frequent pauses for cause of Nelson's health. They were still on the road when he died, at Preston, 25 July 1879.

John Nelson

Carlotta Leclercq

Adriana was played by Caroline Carson. Who? Well, I decided to find out. And the answer (after spending an entire day researching) is that this was probably her best West End job, but I should probably be devoting a six volume novel to the Carsons. Plural. Caroline (b July 1832) was the second (?) daughter of an Irish compositor, Peter Carson, and his wife Catherine. I see her, with her younger sister, Kate, doing the hard yards in the minor provincial theatres in 1857. But Caroline had a ladylike style, and she was soon upped to leading lady at Swansea, Bradford, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh ... She teamed with John Coleman in the title role of Catherine Howard, toured as Dora in The Octoroon, played Shakespeare in the provinces with Coleman, and had a taste of London as Ann Chute at Astley's and with Vining at the St James's. The next year, Vining brought her to the Princess's where she played Juliana in Donna Diana, Clarisse in Light and Shadow and, this, The Comedy of Errors. Soon after, she left London for America, where she played for several seasons, married a young German, Bernhard Weber, and retired to dual motherhood. However, there is another chapter to the Carson story, which I'll tell briefly, as it has been wrongly reported many a time. Caroline's elder sister, Mary Jane, was also an actress. But where Caroline was ladylike and perhaps a little limp, Mary was a drama queen. Married, young (1845), to solicitor, William Cockerill Gladstane, she, after some vicissitudes, in the early '50s, took to the American stage, and later the Australian, as 'Mary Gladstane', melodrama heroine. The widowed sisters can be seen, together, in the 1900 US census ..  Oh, Kate married a scion of the Stock Exchange ...

Caroline Carson

And Emma Barnett as Lesbia. What can I tell you about Emma Barnett? Not her birthdate, anyhow. Her death date was splashed all over the nation's newspapers when she was found, in a pool of blood, dying at the foot of a staircase in her home, with a fractured skull. August 1877. In her little obituary, it was said that she was the daughter of Frances Matilda Barnett (1798-1870), an extremely popular provincial actress whose husband, Edward Barnett [Baruch], was, during half-a-century, involved with theatres in the south of England. I severely doubt it. Anyway, she appeared on the stage in 1857 at the Standard, 1858 at Preston, before becoming a popular leading lady at J A Cave's Marylebone Theatre for some five years. In 1864, she was hired for the Princess's, and in her first season was cast in both The Comedy of Errors and The Streets of London. A third major hit came her way, during the five years she spent under Vining's management, in Boucicault's After Dark. She spent time at the Adelphi in 1870-1, appeared for Marylebone's Joseph Cave at the Victoria, and, in 1872, joined the company at the Court where she played in Sons of the Soil, The Jealous Wife, Phoebe in Lady Audley's Secret, Playing with Fire and Creatures of Impulse. Between 1873-6, she played for Cave at the Victoria, and the Marylebone ... then came that staircase, at 11 Cave's Terrace, Shepherd's Bush, a house owned by Mr Joseph Cave ... 

Luciana was played by Helen Howard

Vining, John Nelson and Emma Barnett from the Comedy of Errors cast, went on to create the London version of The Streets of London, a Boucicault melodramatic adaptation from the 'Boulevard de Crime'. Vining had the heroic role of the clerk, Badger, while Nelson was the jeune premier and Miss Barnett the villains' daughter

David Fisher and Fanny Marston played the pieman and his wife, with Dominic Murray as their costermonger son ..

Henry Forrester (Paul) and Fanny Gwynne (Lucy)

It was not, however, the actors, the plot or the dialogue which reigned supreme in this highly-successful piece, but the representation on the stage of a burning building, complete with horse-drawn fire-wagon ...

Photos of the comedy War to the Knife (1865) are not exactly scarce... here is one, anyway, depicting Fanny Josephs, Marie Wilton, the splendid Fred Dewar and Sid [Squire] Bancroft ...

And here are some of the folk from the Strand Theatre ...

Miss Patty Josephs ...

Miss Ada Swanborough and Mr David James

'Mr Belford' was a highly successful actor, at first, for a long period at Sadler's Wells, and then, in the 1860s, at the Strand where, notably, he challenged E A Sothern with his Dundreary imitation in the comedy, Brother Sam. Belford was born William [Morgan] Rowles, in Easton in Gordano, Somerset, the son of carpenter (and, later, shipwright), and baptised there 25 January 1824. He started his working life in an apprenticeship in Clifton, but in 1847 turned to the stage. I see him performing at the Glasgow Adelphi on the night, in 1848, that that theatre burned, and thereafter on the St Albans and Hertford circuit, before, in 1849, he joined the company at the Wells, as Poins to the Falstaff of Phelps. For the next two decades, he was a featured actor and leading man in the West End minor theatres. In 1871, he played Randall alongside Vezin in Randall's Thumb, to open the Court Theatre, he joined the company at the Queen's, and later played at the Gaiety, with Phelps, being much praised for his Theseus to the comedian's Bottom, and as the Duke in As You Like It. He played at the Alexandra Palace (London Assurance, The Palace of Truth) but faded from public view, as illness set in, and died (as he had lived, a bachelor) at Brighton, 3 June 1881.

Miss Eleanor Bufton (later Mrs Arthur Swanborough ie Smith). Perhaps when one is as lovely as she, you get a complex about age. Eleanor was chopping years off her age from the moment she went on the stage, in 1852, as a seventeen-year-old dancer, at Edinburgh. Yes, she was born in Radnorshire, Wales, 2 June 1835, to blacksmith John Bufton and his wife, Esther. She had a splendid career as an actress, several children, and died at 169 Strand on 9 April 1893. Her gravestone apparently slices seven years off her age. Her death registration five years. A strange kind of posthumous vanity!

Miss Fanny Josephs, sister to Patty

Ada Swanborough, with J D Stoyle and H T Craven, seemingly in Milky White. Craven, the author played the title-role, Miss Swanborough his daughter, and the young comedian, Johnny Stoyle, in his London debut, was Dick Dugs, a country lad. The show was produced in Liverpool and brought to the Strand 28 September 1864. I would imagine the photo, above, of Ada with David James is also from this production.

Another from 1863, this time from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where F C Burnand's 'serio-comic drama', The Deal Boatman, was produced 21 September with George Belmore in its all-consuming title-role as Jacob Vance.

The Deal Boatman was a version of an episode from David Copperfield, and also featured Rose Leclercq as Mary, the child whom he rescued from a shipwreck ..

and Frederick Charles as her sweetheart, Edmund Leslie

The greatest melodrama hit of the year 1863, however, came out at the Olympic Theatre: Tom Taylor's English adaptation of another Parisian thriller as The Ticket-of-leave-man (27 May). Henry Neville was Bob Brierly, the convict-with-a-heart-of-gold, returning from transportation to wreak good and fight evil like every such 'hero' from Jean Valjean to Sweeney Todd. The baddies were Mr Atkins and George Vincent, the sweet maiden of the tale was played by Kate Saville, and an array of supporting characters included Horace Wigan as the detective, Hawkshaw, Miss Raynham as a little Dodgery boy named Sam Willoughby, Mrs Stephens as his mother, Robert Soutar as a swell. Maclean as the Mr Brownlow of the affair,  and Miss Hughes as a singer, Emily St Evremonde (who had two numbers to sing, à propos of very little).

Here is George Vincent in the role of the Faginesque Melter Moss.

Neville as Bob Brierley

'Miss Raynham', who made a specialty of playing boys ...

Sam Willoughby

This is Lydia Foote [Lydia Alice Legg] (b Covent Garden 1843; d Broadstairs 30 May 1892) in the role of May Edwards. Although Miss Foote, 'a niece of Mrs Keeley' (her mother's sister), was not in the original cast, she succeeded to the role in August. I have always wondered why, born 'Legg' she chose to call herself 'Foote'. Anyway, like her aunt, she had the wonderful stage characteristic of 'endearingness' and had a fine career, till her death, from cancer at the age of 49.

Mary Anne Keeley née Goward

1864 -- yes, this was a wonderful time for the drama -- brought another grand hit, this time in Dublin. Dion Boucicault followed up his huge hit The Colleen Bawn with another triumph, Arrah-na-Pogue, produced at the Theatre Royal 7 November 1864 with the author and his wife in leading roles. But a large part of the success was for the great John Brougham as the O'Grady 'an Irish Squire of '98'. We always see the same, late, photo of Brougham ... this one shows him at his peak and his best, in his grand role ..

Most of these photos seem to have, at one time, belonged to one and the same collection, a later owner of which has neatly pencilled identifications more or less correctly on the verso. Many items from that collection have been, for some time, listed on ebay by the excellent vendor 'blaurent'. And there they may be found. So I'll round this survey of 'West End circa 1863' with a few more delightful items. 

Here is a charming pair of pictures of Henry (Harry) Widdicombe, (b Holborn 9 March 1812; d 19 Kennington Park Rd 6 April 1868) comic actor, in and out of character. The character is 'his favourite original character', Peter Polt, in John Courtney's 'comic comicality', The Two Polts which he introduced, with Bruce Norton, at the Surrey as far back as 1850 (25 November). I see he played it in a Benefit at the  Royalty in 1865. Perhaps that is when our collector bought the card, as several other players from the occasion are also among the collection.

Our collector seemingly also visited the Haymarket, for her is a fine picture of Mr Chippendale, long-time character man at that house

Mr Chippendale

and here Miss Henrietta Lindley, of the same house. They were both appearing in Our American Cousin at this time ...

This next picture is labelled as 'Mr Morris' in Peep O'Day. I know Peep O'Day (the title, in case you are wondering, refers to yet another Irish paramilitary bunch), I know of author/star Falconer, I know of the song 'Killarney' and Anna Whitty which and who featured in it, but I have yet to track down Mr Morris.

Adeline Billington. Actress, vocalist and wife of the gentleman further up the article.

Across to the Lyceum, where the 'new drama in 4 acts' entitled Bel Demonio, a Love Story, was playing. 

Charles Fechter was the star, and his leading lady was Miss Kate Terry

Our friend (above) Fred Charles (Fabio) was in the cast, and was Mr George Jordan as the unfortuately named Count Campireali (better, I suppose, that Realicampi!)

But the actors in the piece, Mr Fechter apart, really played Nero's fiddle to the scenic production. Of which, according to our annotator, one feature was a ballet in which a young lady destined for nationwide fame featured

Well, I assume it's the same "Mdlle Béatrice" (Marie Beatrice Binda) who starred round and round Britain at the head of her own company, playing heavy dramatic roles, for many years.  It looks like it.

Oh, Bel Demonio was hiding one other coming star in its programme. As a forepiece, Widdicombe and Carlotta Leclercq played a piece entitled Uncle Baby. Author (for the first time on any stage (W S Gilbert).

And here is another member of the company, who played in Uncle Baby and another forepiece, The Lost Child, alongside Widdicombe: Mr James Gregory Shore (aka McLoughlin, b Ireland 1827; d 21 April 1885). 

Here's another newcomer. Miss [Theresa] Furtado (later to be La Belle Hélène) 'her first appearance' in a new sensation drama, Gates's scenery, Stupendous Effects, and powerfully-wrought sensations' entitled Rosalie, or the Chain of Guilt ('in the course of the drama the wreck of an emigrant ship'). Not the legit theatre, this was Mr Edward Tyrell Smith as Astley's Amphitheatre!

The body is Mr E F Edgar.

I see there was a 'Miss Clifford' in the cast. There is a 'Miss Clifford' in this box as well ...

All has clicked together pretty well till now. I think this is an album put together by a well-off Frenchman/woman over a couple of seasons, 1862-3-4. Our collector has the cash to buy full sets of photos for the plays he or she saw, and obviously has no taste for the opera or music. Melodrama, mostly.

There's a photo of Mrs Charles Kean. The Keans didn't venture into London a lot, and in 1864 they were in Australia. I wonder how she found her way into this lot ...

but, even more curious, are two pictures of Mrs or Miss Stirling, one with Benjamin Webster, and labelled as being in The Deal Boatman. When? Where? As the father and the housekeeper? 

Bit more work to do here!

Coloured Princess's Theatre stereoviews ..  a little earlier. 1855.

Carlotta Leclercq as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream .... 

'We are dainty little fairies' with Mendelssohn music ...

Miss Heath (Florizel) and Miss Carlotta Leclercq (Perdita) in A Winter's Tale. This was 1856. And much acclaimed. Instead of the two above roles being played by men, as originally, both were played by women. The rot had set in.

Mrs Charles Kean as Hermione 


Unknown said...

Great post and really interesting photos.
My GGG Grandfather was Charles Seyton, an actor. He was in The Streets of London. I would be really interested to get a clearer copy of the cast photo you have. Do you know who any of them are? I have a photo of him in Boucicault's Arrah na Pogue, so could cross reference.


Oh dear, I can't remember where I sourced these photos. Some, at least, from ebay. Try there, althought I doubt they would still nbe around .. Best wishes, KG