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 just 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 playing Ricciarda in Guido e Ginevra and as Alice in Robert le diable. The result was not sufficiently conclusive, and she was 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.

Gaetano Fraschini

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-student of the sisters. The Luigia spotted in Italy, maybe. Bit of intermarriage? And then there are the posh de Pauws ...

And then I come upon the Cambridge UP (oyoy! beware!) 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 ..

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Baily of Frome


Spotted these two same-named gentlemen on e-bay this morning. One photographed in 1875, the other in 1886 ... from a family collection or album undoubtedly. It was quite a family, too ... William Baily (b 1771) of Frome Selwood, Somerset, maltster, is the relevant one among many William Bailys of that time and place. He married an Ann Shore (b Corsley, Wilts) and the middle name 'Shore' appeared for generations thereafter as a middle name among their descendants, until the inevitable happened and on more pretentious than the rest hyphenated it.  'Maltster' may have been William's main occupation, but the associate businesses of farming and beer-selling/inn-keeping were never far distant. Here is an advertisement from 1815. 

Eggford Farm, eh? The former home of writer Elizabeth Singer Rowe, and at some stage, apparently, in possession of the Shore family.

William and Ann seemingly begat two sons and one daughter, and the first of these was -- guess what! another William [Shore] (b Frome 1800; d Frome 27 July 1886). Who became the landlord of the The Bell Inn on Broadway at Frome, married Eliza Knight from Cowley, and gave birth to four sons and a daughter ..

(1) William Baily b 1831 m Mary Frances YEOMAN d 24 August 1932

(2) Eliza Frances Baily b 1833 m Charles CASE, d Frome 19 January 1924

(3) Joseph Baily b 1835 m Mary GOLLEDGE d Bishopstoke 1901

(4) Francis James Baily b 1839; d Frome 4 June 1875

(5) Albin Shore Baily b 1840 x 27 May m Elizabeth BEUSEY, d Hardington 30 October 1898

And here we are. We have William, brewer, in 1875 ... aged 44? THIS William?

and we have Albin, farmer of 362 acres, and owner of Hardington Park, in 1886. Aged 46.

The brothers followed in father's wake, farmer, brewer, maltster ... Joseph ended up farming at Bishopstoke, Albin at Hardington, William brewed and Francis died at age 36. Which was not at all like father, who lived to the age of 86.

Well, instead of leaving the Bailys here and getting back to the Victorian Vocalists, I decided to see if I could find a living descendant of the beer-Bailys of Frome. There should be a few around, after all, four of five of William the publican's children married, all those four had children ...

Albin first. He had two daughters - Isabel Mary Elizabeth (5 October 1880-3 March 1967), and Constance Emily (22 May 1884-8 June 1956) -- and a son, Albin, dairy farmer (7 November 1881-16 May 1964). None of them wed or had issue. One dead branch.

William. Three sons. William Shore, Richard Edmund and Herbert Francis. Herbert became a sailor and died in the Red Sea (3 January 1908). Richard remained a bachelor. But the latest William 'leather manufacturer' wed Dorothy Hoare (24 February 1884-10 July 1970) and produced 5 offspring! Ahha! Oh. One died young, a son died in the war, Peggy Dorothy (b 1 November 1911; d 1998) became the Akela of the local cubs, Evelyn Joyce (1907) I lose, but Betty Frances (1908) became Mrs Arthur M Parsons ... so this branch may just have survived

Joseph and Mary produced three daughters -- Frances (Fanny) Mary (1862), [Eliza] Alice (1865), and Harriet Mabel (1868) -- and one son, Francis William (1866-1904). Fanny appears to have married, but I don't know whom. Alice became the wife of the widowed William Merson Harvey of the Manor Farm, Bishopstoke, and gave birth to a William, a Norah and a Ralph. Harriet remained a spinster. Since Francis William had time to father two children (Joseph Francis, Mary Gwendoline) before his early death, this branch has every chance of having survived!

Last of the sons, Francis died a gentleman and a bachelor aged 35. The Francis-es in the family didn't have much luck.

And then there was sister Eliza Case. She married a prosperous tanner-cum-leather manufacturer (1828-1902) and obliged maternally five times: Charles Baily 1860-1889, Ellen Eliza (Mrs George Hudden Knight, 1861-1940)  Florence Jane (Mrs Nathaniel Lewarne, 1864-1943), Walter Edward (1867-1916), George Reginald (1871-1942). Ellen had three daughters (Veronica, Phyllis and Norah), but as far as I have found was the only one who contributed -- via Norah -- to keeping this bough of the family tree green, through Crommelin-Brown and Filipowski ...   I'm pretty sure she has succeeded!

Two dead branches, one possible, and two probable. Sounds like there should be a few folk out there who would like to find their great-great-grand-uncles' portraits?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

13 Bruton Street, W1, or Who Slept in MY bedroom?


This week's schedule has been a little skew-whiffed. Wendy has taken her mother, Pat, on a wee trip to the North Island to visit the mainland family and its graves: so I have been left in charge of feeding, medicating, cleaning-up-behind and otherwise watching over and caring for, in particular, the eight cats, and two aged and very large geldings ...

The morning ' breakfast session' begins sometime between 7am and 8am. The latter, the hour when usually I am sitting down at my desk with my first green-lemon tea, and having a whisk through the nightgrown offerings on e-bay et al. E-bay has been rather dull, recently. Worse than the TV for 'repeats'. When I see a re-re-re-offered item (at the moment, its that corny old picture of Lydia Thompson with her axe: buy my biography of the lady ... its not much dearer and better quality!), I switch keyword. So if your item is offered BEHIND such monsensicals Peter Paul Rubens described as 'theatre' or Marie Roze labelled as 'Marie Pink', I don't see it. Vendors of e-bay unite, these incompetent galguys are costing you views! 

Anyhow, today's late harvest was all right. Thomas Fawcett Burra and his family were cute, but I've had my fill of Reverends ... so I was going to get down to fixing the family's finances when I saw this pair of smart young fellows. Oxford University boys, just like my little brother. Dressed up for graduation day 1878.

Their names are on the back.

One is easy. Alan Walter Lennox BOYD (b Piccadilly 7 August 1855; d Bournemouth 23 November 1934) son of Scotsman Edward Boyd, sometime manager of an insurance firm, and his wife Georgina. There seem to be five siblings and as many servants ...  Anyway, Alan became a barrister, married (1902) Clementine from Bermuda, himself fathered four children (and employed five servants) and ended up in Bournemouth as, I suppose, a seaside solicitor up to his dying day. When he left a comfy 43k sterling. I haven't investigated his afters (I suspect his descendants did the pooffy hyphenatin' thing. Lennox-Boyd?). 

The other was less easy. James Ramsay (or Ramsey) PARSONS. Eeeeeeasy. Not. Guess what. Two chappies with the identical name were born within a couple of years. One in Mumbai, India, the other in Islington. Easy? No. Both, apparently from prosperous families, both became prosperoud gents ... so which is which and who went to St John's, Oxford?

After several hours of digging, I have settled on the Indian one. (b) defeats (a). Evidence follows.

(a) James Ramsay PARSONS (b Islington 1853; d Hollywood House, Wimbledon Common 13 September 1915). Son of James Parsons. Married Dundee 9 February 1884 Amy Isabella Stiven. Variously described as 'of Yokohama', of Singapore', 'banker, of London', 'African merchant banker and ?outfitter?. 'Yokohama Agent for the Chartered Bank of Australia, India and China', 'of the Nigerian tinfields' etc.  Son James Ramsey born  Java 17 May 1887. Son James Cairns born Japan 1892. ... no mention of University ...

(b) James Ramsey PARSONS (b Mumbai 11 October 1853; d Symington 3 August 1918). Son of Liverpool-born John Parsons of Twyford Lodge, East Grinstead 'East India Merchant' and his wife Jane Josephine. Father obviously travelled early on, as JR was born in Mumbai, the family is is Birkenhead for the 1861 census, but by 1871 mother and father are living in Leinster Terrace (where mama promptly got over her 20-years headache and had two daughters!) and John is boarding with a tutor (crammer?) named Deane. Mr Deane must have crammed well, for young Mr Parsons passed his Oxford exams, graduated in 1878, and was admitted to the bar in 1879. We can see him in 1881 in a gentleman's boarding house ('of the Inner Temple' 13 boarders, 5 servants) in Bruton Street. Well, now:  I lived in Bruton Street exactly a century later. He lived at number 13. I lived at number ... 13. And I don't think it had been much altered in the century intervening, except to change its function from boarding house to the HQ of Harold Fielding, theatrical producer! He was 'barrister in practice' ...

He ('of Inner Temple') married (16 August 1882) Blanche Eva Russell, fathered a son, John Clive Russell Parsons (who succumbed to the hyphenation disease) and barristered-on ...  mother died in 1886, father lived to the age of 98, and died at Twyford Lodge 27 April 1913, possessed of a grand fortune of L91,000. James survived him only some five years ...

Well, its not often you find a photo of someone who may have slept in your bedroom, a hundred years before you did!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Aethelred the Umpteenth ... lived on MY patch ..!


When I looked at this photo, taken in London's Portman Square, I had absolutely no idea what I was about to discover ...

Dryden Sneyd. Actually Dryden Henry Sneyd of Ashcombe Park, Staffordshire ...

And what does this gentleman have to do with me?  Well, for some thirteen years Mr Sneyd lived just a few kilometres from my home at Gerolstein, New Zealand. He owned 100 acres of land which have become the centre of the village of Kaiapoi, and left his mark in the name of one of the main streets -- Sneyd Street.

Dryden Henry Sneyd (b Basford Hall, Ipstones, 2 September 1833; d Cheddleton, Staffs 20 January 1913) was born in Ipstones where his father, the Rev John Sneyd MA (d 17 February 1873) was the vicar of St Leonard's Church. Like all well-off clergy he fathered a multitude of children on his wife, Penelope née Holley, was looked after by a multitude of servants ...    Dryden, being a younger (3rd) son of a younger son in a cadet branch of the very wealthy, landowning Sneyd dynasty of Keele Hall had little 'expectations' and, at the age of twenty, he boarded the ship Minerva (830 tons) and sailed out of England to the gold-prosperous shores of New Zealand. He arrived 2 February, purchased his 100 acres at 'Ashcombe', established the township of Keele, comprising Sneyd, Audley and Kynnersley Streets and ... he farmed. Perhaps not madly efficiently ..

He described himself, simply, as 'gentleman', later as 'stockowner'. He got involved modestly in local affairs, local land bickerings, social occasions, grand juries etc. Kaiapoi acquired a pub called the Sneyd Arms!

Otherwise, he seems to have made little noise during his time in New Zealand, which came to an end in 1866 ...

I wonder why. I suspect that there had been a thinning of the Sneyd ranks (brothers 2, 4, 5 & 6 had died), and that he had crept a little closer to the top of his particular Sneyd-tree. Anyhow, a manual of aristocratic folk (The Landed Gentry) referred to him as 'second surviving son of Rev John of Ashcombe Park' 'of Ashcombe Park, Belmont and Onecote' '29th in direct male descent from Eawulf (a noble of Wessex) and his wife Elfwyn daughter and heir of AEthelred the last King of Mercia by Etheliked .. and so forth and so forth. Fancy, a toff in Kaiapoi!

Ashcombe Park, which had been built by grandfather William, thus descended to bachelor Dryden who lived out his days there, and at his death passed it on to a nephew ... by 1926 it had passed out of the family.

I'm not going into AEthelred and the other ramifications of the Sneyd family ... of which this gent seemed to have been a reasonably inconspicuous member ... but he seems to be largely responsible for Kaiapoi ...

Hmmm. In the 1950s, when travelling from Christchurch to Nelson, my brother and I used to beg papa NOT to take the road via Kaiapoi ... such a GLUM place.  Well, its been shook up a deal since then, and somewhat expanded ... but it is still not a place you would expect to find a descendant of Eawulf and Elfwyn ...

The nephew turned out to be a wondrous eccentric -- Chief Bard of the Order of the Imperishable Land and sucklike, and penned Arthurian poetry ... of which much can be read about elsewhere ..