Monday, February 17, 2020

Singers of Somerset: (3) The Ladies

Ah! The ladies. The Bath concerts of the turn of the (eighteenth) century years regularly employed and featured some of the top female concert vocalists of the era, Angelica Catalani and Elizabeth Billington at their head. But it is not of them that I intend to speak. That has been done, minutely, by others. I have been a-digging, mostly (but not always) with some success. into the backgrounds of those singing ladies who, for a goodly number of years, lived in Bath, or visited Bath in the season. Many of them made a living, as the male musicians did, from teaching, and a remarkable number of the most prominent taught not just singing, but piano, harp and the other musical accomplishments of a well-brought-up young lady. Several of them, indeed, hailed on the one hand as superior vocalists, made an even more outstanding career as instrumentalists … they were, indeed, a skilled and talented set of musicians.

Some of these ‘Zummerzet Zoprani’ have already fallen into my net – a lot of Loders, Mrs Ashe (née Comer), Mrs Penley (née Field), Miss George, Mrs Vaughan (née Tennant), Miss Anne Rivière (later Lady Anna Bishop) – so, having had already the benefit of my inquisitiveness, they won’t be included in this little survey. I’ve chosen, without any difficulty or real ‘competition’, the following eight, of whom you are less likely to have heard.

Miss Parke [PARKE, Maria Frances, b London 26 August 1772; d Bolton Street, Piccadilly 31 July 1822] [Mrs John Beardmore]

Miss Sharp [SHARP, Elizabeth Priscilla, b Great Yarmouth x 9 September 1784; d no 2 Ainslie’s, Belvedere, Bath July 1830]

Miss Bartlett [BARTLETT, Julia, b Bath x 3 September 1797; d 9 West Clifton Terrace, Bristol 1880] [Mrs George Pillinger, Mrs Harris]

Mrs [John] Palmer formerly Mrs [Christopher] Shell [HAVEZ, Laura ?Celicia Rosalie, b 7 July ?1798; d 21 Soho Street, Liverpool June 1848]

Miss Wood [WOOD, Sarah]

Miss Owens [OWENS, Eliza, b Bath x October 1803; d East Burrows, Swansea August 1852] [Mrs William Deere Farndell]

Mrs [James William] Windsor [née DANIELS, Alicia] (b Amsterdam c 1773; d 30 Park Street, Bath 14 November 1862]

Miss Willis Browne [BROWN[E], Elizabeth Willis, b Chard 29 March 1806; d Portishead 13 January 1904]

I could have added Miss [Fanny] Melville of the Festival circuits, the singing actress Miss Nash 

Miss Nash

Anyway, let’s start with Miss Parke. Maria Parke was one of those multi-talented ladies of whom I was speaking. So much so, that, to my amazement, she has not only has found her way into Grove and the DNB and, very thinly, on to Wikipedia. I shall try to do a little better.

Her pedigree is clearly marked out. Like so many such musical ladies, she came from a decidedly musical family. Her father was oboeist John Parke of the King’s Theatre, the Three Choirs Festivals and the Ancient Concert. Her mother was Anna Maria Burnett, daughter of Colonel Richard Burnett, a descendant of Bishop Burnett’, of the Strand. John’s brother, William, was also a well-known wind-player and apparently the partner of the star singer, Mrs Martyr. So, I imagine Maria owes her entries in the reference books of Britain much to her illustrious relations, although as the (female!) composer of several performed pieces she is clearly due some 21st- century attention from ‘Female Studies’ courses.

We are told that ‘she made her debut as a pianist and singer at the age of nine’. This I have yet to find, but it is possible. I first spot her on the bill, as expected, alongside father, at the age of fifteen, at the Liverpool Festival of 1787 (28 August) sharing the soprano music with Mrs Billington and Miss Harwood. Something, already, of a teenage achievement. I looked back through father’s engagements of the five previous years, engagements which included most of the major festivals, to see if Maria was hiding somewhere in the small print, but no. Miss Harwood, Mrs Kennedy, Mme Mara, Mrs Billington, Mrs Shepley, the Misses Cantelo, Phillips, Mahon, and a bunch of ephemeral boy trebles … However, I don’t imagine that she made a first ever appearance at a major festival, without having sung anywhere less important previously, so let’s just say ‘her first significant appearance’. Aged fifteen. 

I see her singing in the Three Choirs Festival (‘much admired’) in 1790, at Westminster Abbey in 1792, at the Manchester Festival of 1792 and 1793, at the Three Choirs Festival in 1793, 1794, 1795 and 1797, at Hampshire Festivals in 1784 and 1799, the Covent Garden oratorios et al, delivering endlessly Handel’s ‘Sweet Bird’ and ‘What tho I trace’, ‘Let me wander not unseen’, ‘Sing ye to the Lord’, ‘O magnify the Lord’, ‘Angels ever bright and fair’, ‘Farewell ye limpid streams’, ‘Let the bright seraphim’, ‘In sweetest harmony’ and the like from a position at the top of the bill. 

In 1801 (11 May) she gave a concert of her own at Willis’s Rooms. Father played the oboe, the ‘Misses Parke’ (the other was apparently pre-named Fanny) sang a duet, and the programme seems to have included, if I read aright, a manuscript scena by Mozart. This just may have been her home-made variations of ‘O dolce concerto’, the melody of which had once been by Mozart.

In 1802, she came to Bath, engaged as the lead vocalist for Rauzzini’s concert series. She also sang at a do sponsored by the Duchess of York. I don’t know what see sang, as the press seemed only interested in the amount of diamonds the said Duchess lavished on the singer at the end of the evening.

In 1803, back in London, she top-billed at the Covent Garden Oratorios and at the Ancient Concert, she visited Oxford as the star of a November concert series, but in 1804 she was back in Bath giving her favourite Cimarosa, ‘Ah serena il mesto Ciglio’, and the inevitable ‘The Soldier Tir’d’ and some instrumental and vocal pieces of her own composition. The season over, she returned to the metropolis and the salons of the Countess of Carnavon, the Marchioness of Hertford, the Marchioness of Stafford and others of the swell sisterhood, and to Oxford and Bury for music festivals, before the season at Bath called again.

She returned to Bath regularly, up till 1809, while turning over her repertoire at venues from the Hanover Square Rooms to the Norwich concerts (‘admitted on all hands to be the first female singer of Handel’s music in the kingdom’) and the Covent Garden oratorios (1810, ‘the great magnet’), before, on 31 December 1814, she became Mrs John Beardmore ‘Esq of Queen Street, Mayfair’. 8 September 1816 she gave birth to a son, John, an Esq in his turn, ‘of Uplands Hants’ who would make himself a position as a barrister, a county magistrate, sheriff of Hampshire et al… and the rest I leave to Burke’s Peerage.

Mary Beardmore died in 1822, at the age of 49, at her home in Piccadilly. A few journals remembered the ‘Miss Parke’ who had been on of the country’s leading vocalists a couple of decades earlier. The Bath press, surely, noted her passing, but I haven’t yet found a mention.

She left behind her a certain amount of published music (not always well noticed), and a further amount of song-sheets bearing the legend ‘as sung by Miss Parke at the Bath Concerts’.

Warning: Mary or Maria Frances Parke (sic) has been confused with Mary Hester Park[e], also named as Mary Margaret Parke and other variations … beware.

Miss Parke, although she starred as principal singer in the Bath concerts for some seven years, was never a resident of the city. Miss Sharp, the second of my chosen ladies, although she was not born there – she was born in Norfolk, where her mother was engaged at the theatre -- became a Bath girl and lived most of her life and did most of her work there.

By a strange coincidence, Elizabeth Priscilla Sharp, was, like Miss Parke, also the daughter of a prominent oboeist. In fact, I see that on the occasion of the 1793 Manchester Festival, the two featured oboe players were Messrs John Parke and Michael Sharp. Messrs R Sharp and F Sharp were the leading double-basses. The mother of the Sharp children was the well-known actress, Elizabeth née Hopkins, who, along with her husband is the subject of a detailed article in the remarkable (13 volume) Biographical Dictionary of Philip Highfill and colleagues, so I sha’n’t repeat their history here, but stick to the subject of daughter, Elizabeth.

Like Miss Parke, Elizabeth was multi-musico-talented and also precocious. My first sighting of her in public performance is, aged eleven, at a concert mounted by her father at Chapelfield House, Noriwch. She played piano works by Dussek and Pleyel, and a sonata and a concerto which may or may not have been her own composition, and she sang ‘To me a smiling infant came’, ‘Lord Remember David’ and ‘As wrap’d in sleep I lay’. No one else, except father and his oboe, seems to have got much of a look in. 

The following year the experiment was repeated (14 November 1796, ‘Left is my quiet’, ‘Sognai tormenti’, ‘O magnify the Lord’, ‘La Vendetta di Nino’) but at Mr Sharp’s 1797 concert, at the Theatre Royal, Elizabeth seems to have rendered up the singing to a Master Elliot, and instead displayed her skills at the keyboard.

In 1800, Michael Sharp died, and the following April (1801) Elizabeth made her first appearance in Bath. That was where she would stay. When she sang, top-billed above Mrs Billington, in the Norwich Festival of 1802 (October), she was referred to as ‘Miss Sharp of Bath’. One of the Mr Sharps took a turn at the baton.

From late 1803, Miss Sharp became one of the regulars at Rauzzini’s concerts, and at those of the Catch Club and its supremo Mr Windsor, with which she seems to have allied herself in preference to the Harmonic Society. She shared the soprano music of the local concerts, ‘with sweetness, delicacy and taste’, now with Miss Parke, now with Mrs Windsor, and, on occasion, a Catalani, Dickons or Mrs Ashe, for the next half-dozen years before, after the death of Rauzzini in 1810, announcing her withdrawal from the concert platform in favour of teaching (‘8 George Street’). She was evidently a popular choice, for I see an advertisement in 1817 where she announces a steep rise in her charges: 1/2gn a lesson or 10gns a quarter. In 1823, she removed her home and business to the Belvedere, where she died, a spinster, in 1830.

Miss Bartlett – first name, Julia – was a wholly different case. Unlike the Misses Parke and Sharp, she was a Bath girl born and bred, unlike them, she was not from a musical family (her father was a carpenter in Trim Street), she was not a player of concerti and sonatae, she was not a precocious talent, and she did not travel the country to sing at the fashionable Festivals … she stayed in Bath, all  through the years of her youth, at eighteen became the principal soprano of the Bath Harmonic Society, and was seen and heard in endless concerts around Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales, as well as at the Eistedfodds of Carmarthenshire and other like musical gatherings, from 1815 up to and beyond her marriage to apothecary George Pillinger (21 November 1822), the birth of their daughter Julia Maria (b Bath 17 November 1823; d Clifton 30 November 1876), and the early death of her young husband (1829).

The name of Mrs Pillinger, teacher of singing (and piano)’ continued to be prominent through the 1830s (‘45 New King Street’), as a tutor and as a vocalist in the Pump Room Concerts, sharing a Messiah with Miss Turpin at Bathwick, at the Benefits of Mrs Palmer, Mr Croft, Henry Field and others of her fellow local musicians, before in 1840 (5 November) she remarried, a young carver and gilder named Richard Harris and relocated to Clifton. Mrs Harris and her daughter continued to play the trade of music teacher …

A family historian relates that they became friendly with the theatrical Macready and Chute families … I see nothing to substantiate that, but it may be true. In the 1871 census, Harris (65) and Mrs Harris (73) can be seen at no 9 West Clifton Terrace, each still professing their trade …

Julia died in 1880 at her home in West Clifton Terrace. Once last time she had been unlike the Misses Parke and Sharp: she had had a long life in music, during which, between 1815-1840, she had carved herself a niche as the first soprano of Bath Harmonic, and indeed of Bath itself. Richard Harris survived his wife and died in Clifton in 1886.

I should really follow Miss Bartlett with Miss Owens, her partner and successor as Miss Bath of Music, but I seem to have got these ladies lined up by year of birth, so I’ll briefly touch on the young woman known, for almost all her career, as Mrs Palmer. She began life as Laura Havez, one of two daughters of a Bath plumassier of apparently French origin (his first name was Julien) and his English wife Ann[e] (née Bailey). Annoyingly, while the name of sister Maria Francisca Rosa (Mrs John Lawley) appears in the 1797 baptism registers of Bath, Laura is nowhere to be found, but I’m guessing the two girls were both early-marriage children. 

Laura married, young (19 April 1819), a violinist-'cellist by name Christopher Shell. Mr Shell, one of a family of musicians, was a fine 'cellist, a fertile spouse, but otherwise a bit of a loss. He went bankrupt the year after his marriage, and turned up his toes a few years later (May 1824). And the widowed Laura, with a babe of less than a year old, took to the concert platform. I see her in the Bath subscription concerts in the company of Miss Goodall and Sarah Wood, at Henry Field’s concert with Miss Grant and Anna Riviere .. and then ‘Mrs Shell, soprano’ is seen no more. Laura had found a new husband. The widowed Mr John Palmer. They were wed in January 1826, with Laura’s father and sister as witnesses: after which those two both went out and married as well!

Mrs Palmer, of 3 Pierrepont Place, did not, however, retire back into private life. She continued to perform and with considerable success. I see her, later in 1826, singing first soprano at the Mere Festival, in 1827 at Croft’s Bath Concert … and producing two Palmer daughters to add to her two Shell sons, before Mr Palmer also checked out. Followed by father. In 1832 she advertised a Benefit for her ‘numerous family’, ‘under her peculiar circumstances’. They became more peculiar when sister Maria also died, not yet forty.

I last see Mrs Palmer performing at Frome (20 January 1835 ‘Angels ever bright and fair’, ‘O Had I Jubal’s Lyre’), I see her advertising singing lessons from a different address shortly after, but then … I don’t know exactly when she and the children removed to Liverpool, but they are there in the 1841 census, and mother is teaching music from 8 Benson Street, then 21 Soho Street …

But ill fate seemed to stalk the family. In June 1848, Laura Palmer died suddenly. Some of the local music folk, headed by Mary Whitnall, gave a concert (5 July) at Lord Nelson Street for the Benefit of the ‘orphan family’ (they were aged 20 to 28!) … It doesn’t seem to have helped them much. One son went as a draper’s assistant to Ireland, bankrupted, married and died in his forties, the other ‘went to sea’ and out of my ken. Celecia (or Cecelia) tried her hand as a fancy-work warehouse keeper, but shows up as an assistant housekeeper in a convent in 1871 (d 1877), while I spot Rosa as a Lancashire hawker in fancy goods in 1891 and 1901 (d 1908) … ‘after the music dies…’

Our next lady had a wholly different fortune, a long life, talented daughters … I thought that the history of Mrs Windsor was going to be a swift and simple affair. How wrong I was! Her decade and more as a top soprano of the Bath concerts was, I quickly found out, only a tiny piece of her tale. And it is a tale which has, to my horror, been mixed up even by my respected Mr Highfill. Why, mixed up? Because there was more than one little Miss Daniels, and more than one Mrs Windsor, and I’m having the devil of a time sorting one from the others. I’ve ended up with pages of references to the lady’s early life and career, prior to her settling in Bath (aged 30ish) and becoming the wife of a well-behaved music teacher and pianist and the mother of eight. And some of that early life was decidedly colourful.

First of all, Alicia Daniels (possibly, actually Daniell) was not English-born. She was, as was her brother Samuel, of Dutch birth. And seemingly born about 1773. Although the family historians claim 1778. Thomas Dibdin relates in his memoirs a tale of sharing digs with Alicia and her mother and tells of the young lady’s heavy Germanic accent.

Brother Stephen gives a concert ... under his real name?
Allegedly, she first appeared on stage at Drury Lane, and had a one-night trial 26 May 1791. Unfortunately, the Times listings for that night show no performance. There’s also a suggestion, I know not why, that she danced in the chorus (a Miss Daniels was an ‘attendant female’ at Drury Lane in 1795, and Columbine at the Royalty in 1801), which seems unlikely given that Alicia’s trump card (accent, or none) was always her voice. I’m slightly puzzled by the first bit of real evidence: a newspaper advertisement for Keyner’s Pavilion, Norwich (1792, 8 August) topbilling ‘Miss Daniels of the Haymarket’ (theory coming up), but soon after that I pick up what is indubitably she, taking a Benefit at Chester (29 November 1792). She played the title-role in Rosina, and sang between the items. Over the next four seasons, I see her playing annually at Chester (The Sultan, Sylvia in Cymon, Miss Gorger in The Camp, Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, giving ‘The soldier tir’d’ as Caroline in The Prize, several pants parts, Floretta in My Grandmother, ‘How to die an old maid’) with little brother Sam in children’s parts. However, she clearly played at other northern houses too, and reference is made to her having played at Lancaster, Manchester et al. Reference is usually made because Miss Daniels became a pendant to actor G F Cooke (they were briefly even married in 1796), from whom she soon escaped. Engaged at Dublin, with Cooke, she simply fled the alcoholic actor, back to England. By 1800, she was a member of the Bath and Bristol company, and the following year she had her unfortunate marriage annulled. 

It has been asserted that she sang at Vauxhall Gardens between 1799 and 1804. Well, she certainly sang there for several seasons, and became extremely popular, but my sighting are all in 1801-3. A bushel of sheet music bears witness to the songs she introduced there:

‘The Match Girl’ (W P Cope), ‘The Ballad of Little Sue’, ‘Sigh and O Nony’ (James Hook), ‘In Glasgow Town my mither dwells’ (Sanderson), ‘Annie and Jemmy’, ‘The Rose, the Sweetly Blooming Rose’, ‘The Fair Huntress (Costellow), ‘Content in my Cot’ (Hook), ‘The Female Sailor’, ‘Ah! Could my flowing tears avail’. ‘Damon and Phillis’, ‘The Invitation’ .. ‘Miss Daniels, ci-devant Mrs. Cooke, is much improved in science since last year, and bids fair to rival our greatest favourites’.

In between Vauxhall periods, she returned to Bristol and Bath where I see her in March 1802 taking a Benefit in The Haunted Tower and in 1803 (December 30) as soloist, alongside Mrs Second and Miss Sharp, with the Catch Club. Both she and brother Sam (tenor), who seems to have become organist at Frome, were listed with the Harmonic Society in 1804. Pianist, secretary and leading light of the Catch Club was the 22 year-old John William Windsor (b Holborn x 23 February 1779; d Bath 28 January 1853). They were married 13 May 1804.

This time, Alicia had got it right, but when she returned to London shortly after for a season at the Haymarket Theatre she, carefully, still billed herself as ‘Miss Daniels’.

At the Haymarket, between June and September 1804, I see her appearing in Foul Deeds Will Rise (Lorenzo, ‘highly applauded in some of the airs’), Lingo in Love (Mrs Flaw), The Enchanted Isle ballet (singing spirit), a version of The Barber of Seville, rechristened The Spanish Barber (Rosina), Love Laughs at Locksmiths (Lydia), as Rosetta in Love in a Village for Mrs Gibbs’s Benefit, and in George Colman and Michael Kelly’s musical play The Gay Deceivers (22 August).

Returning to Bath, her husband, and the first of a row of pregnancies, Alicia Windsor began the second part of her life, less as an actress and more, purely and simply, as a concert vocalist. 

She did not abandon the stage – I see her playing Adela in The Haunted Tower, Kathleen in The Poor Soldier (1805), The Cabinet (1807, ‘of the female singers the affected and Italianised Mrs Windsor is certainly the best’), Rosetta in Love in a Village (1807, Loder’s Benefit), The Duenna and Lionel and Clarissa with the visiting Mrs Dickons (1809), Rosina (1809) giving ‘Dancing Days’ 'sung at the Theatre Royal' – but it was the Catch Club, Rauzzini’s concerts, the Loder family’s concerts, and the Bath and Somersetshire Festivals (1809-1813), billed second only to Mrs Billington or Catalani, where Mr Windsor played piano and brother Sam led the viola section. She sang in Rauzzini’s production of The Messiah (13 June 1808), sharing the female music with Nancy Storace, and later post-Rauzzini (24 December 1810) with Miss Hughes. At Bourton (23 September 1811), she sang the whole female music. After Rauzzini’s death, she continued to feature, for several years, in the Bath concerts proffered, instead, by Mr Ashe, but after the 1813 season she retired from the lists to family life, and, as fare as I can see, only re-emerged in 1819 (17 March) to perform, with Windsor, at a concert for Miss Woods.

Now, this is where the pundits foul up. She did NOT die in 1826. Obviously, she didn’t. She can be seen in the bosoms of her family in the censi of 1841, 1851, 1861 …. In 1825 an actress of some quality, also trading as ‘Mrs Windsor’ was hired for the Bath Theatre. She was 5-6 years older than our Alicia, ‘of the Theatre Royal, Liverpool’ and she expired from an aneurism which occurred during a performance. (30 April 1826). The episode made the international press. As papers do and did, some immediately equated the two Mrs Windsors … one London one congratulated itself on, rightly, not equating them … and so fake history began. And a curious work titled Women of History and even Highfill, fell for it. Wrong.

Alicia Daniels lived out her life after music in comfortable surroundings in Bath, with her husband, four unmarried daughters: Elizabeth (b 18 June 1805; d September 1890, music teacher), Mary (b 26 November 1806; d 8 March 1878, music teacher), Alicia (b 19 March 1810; d 14 November 1866, concert harpist, teacher), Harriet (b 22 October 1815; d 18 November 1847) and her widowed brother Samuel (d 1855, m Mary Ann Lowder). The fifth daughter, Lucy (1813-1899, Mrs John Lowder, Lady John Rutherford Alcock) moved on, and the three sons … well, James (b 19 April 1808, is that he? Stationmaster in Shipton?) I haven’t certainly traced, and John (b 28 February 1812; d March 1813) died as an infant, but youngest son Samuel Bampfylde Windsor turned out the grey sheep of the family. Christ’s, Oxon, MA, Reverend: he was hauled into court for ‘unnatural assault’, which I assume means homosexual 'offences'. He got off, is next sighted in Hobart Town being married to a lady named Dumaresq, absolved his penance by fathering five children, and ended up as an army chaplain (2nd class) in the south of England. You can’t win them all.

Alicia lived to be nearly ninety. Her younger husband predeceased her by over a decade. And the ‘versions’ of her life story (mostly the Cooke episode) started filling memoirs …

On we go. And having triumphantly set Mrs Windsor to rights, I have to avow a probable total failure with Miss Wood. Oh, not what she did. She had thirteen years as a much-liked soprano soloist in the Bath concerts and Festivals, between 1812 and 1825. But … who was she? A 1822 directory of Bath tells me that she was Miss Sarah Wood of 49 New King Street. In 1819 she is of ‘3 Walks’, in 1824 of 14 or 18 New King Street … then what?

One clue only. An advertisement in the Bath press ..

So, is she Sarah, daughter of the late John Esq architect? The John Wood II (1728-1782), architect, who supervised the building of the Assembly Rooms? In 1769! Possible … but, according to the family historians he had for daughters only an Elizabeth and an Anna. And the dates… ? Dead end.

Sarah (she billed herself as Miss S Wood initially, later as plain Miss Wood … why?) comes into sight in 1812, is quickly up at the head of bills in the principal concerts with the Misses Parke, Sharp, Bartlett, Nash, the Mesdames Ashe and Windsor .. and listed alongside visiting stars such as Catalani or Corri. She appears, perhaps, to have been a mezzo-soprano, for I see her winning great praise for her ‘Una voce poco fa’ (fair meat, however, for anyone from basso to bat), and appearing with such as Catalani and Mrs Salmon in a Messiah, from which I imagine – in the absence of a boy treble – she sang the alto music. A fine notice after a Bristol concert, which featured Caradori, de Begnis and Torri read: 'contemplating [Henry Phillips] and Miss Wood, rank and file with the elite of the foreign school, it could not but excite a strong feeling of the equality at the heart of British talent. We stake our reputation (little of much) upon the taste and science of Miss Wood in ‘Una voce poco fa’ and heard as much elegance and more originality of decoration it than we recollect for a very long time previously’. To be spoken of in the same gasp as the impeccable Caradori …!  In 1820: ‘Miss Wood sung an air of Handel’s in a highly elegant and polished manner and is advancing fast in excellence – an event we always anticipated and which has never been retarded by any consideration but by her own diffidence in her superior powers…’ In 1821 she sang second only to Catalani and Mrs Salmon.

All in all, she was a popular and very regular performer through a fine period is Bath’s musical history, and my last sighting of her is in August 1825, singing at a glossy party chez a certain Mrs Whalley. After which (unless she is the Miss Wood singing ‘Tell me my heart' in Cardiff 10 years later), she disappears from my ken. One lost singer.

Miss Owens was kinder to me. I know enough about her. She was a local girl, the daughter of one John Owens and his wife Elizabeth, born and christened in October 1803. And it looks very much as if Elizabeth’s maiden name was Shell (m 10 April 1792). So, perhaps young Eliza was related to music from birth.

Sydney Gardens
Anyhow, she seems to have made her first appearances as a vocalist aged sixteenish at Bath’s Sydney Gardens with the George Loders (June 1819), and at the Harmonic Society where she swiftly became the companion of Julia Bartlett as the two principal lady soloists in the group’s concerts and tours in Wales. Over the next decade her name was seen on many a south-of-England-and-Wales bill, latterly in company with that of William Deere Farndell, a sometime boy chorister become tenor and then teacher. They were married 28 September 1829. The couple continued to perform around Bath for several years, then moved to Swansea where they carried on their profession up till Farndell’s death in 1852. Eliza died a few months later.

I notice that Eliza featured on Mrs Palmer’s concert bill in 1829, so maybe the Shell connection is a fact. As for the ‘Owens’ one … well, a Mr Owens played a violin concerto at the Rauzzini Bath concerts in 1805 ..???

I’m going to end with Miss Elizabeth Willis Brown[e]. Contralto. ‘Daughter of John Browne Esq of Bath and his wife Sarah’. She was another multi-gifted and well-trained young lady who, ultimately, gave up the vocal side of performing in favour of a career as a concert pianist. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and at Leipzig, was at one stage billed as ‘pupil of Liverati’, and sang in the Bath concerts from 1825 (‘Come dolce’, ‘A Soldier’s Tear’ &c) between her studies in London (‘pupil of Moscheles’) and Bath (‘pupil of Henry Field’). I see her in 1841 and 1842 giving Bath concerts (with her duet-partner brother) and I see her still visiting the city for the season and proffering lessons in the 1860s. Miss Brown[e] lived through till the 20th century, and died at the age of 97 (ish)’.

So there they are, my Somerset singers of the first decades of the 19th century. Decades when Bath and its music mattered in the greater scheme of things … it’s been fun investigating them.

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