Friday, July 30, 2021

Panto 1910: Miss Esta Stella


I found this photo on ebay this week. Seasonal pantomime as it used to be, a century ago.  The year 1910, as I managed to winkle out ...

And I found a review, with cast list. This, the kind of review that pantomimes were worthy of in Edwardian Britain ...

So here we are, 'The Palace of Cards', the final scene from Jack Horner at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol, Christmas 1910.

And here is the review ... 

I wonder if photos of the other eleven scenes exist.

Esta Stella. Her publicity said that that meant 'star of the east'. It wasn't her real name, obviously. 

Her story is not easy to piece together. Her professional life, yes -- she carried on successfully for over a quarter of a century in music hall, and, latterly, revue --  but her private life.  I presume it is she, in the 1911 census, living alone (as she did till the end of her life) in Meadow View, Chertsey, as Madeline Stella, 27 years of age, born in Blackheath. What she does not tell us is, as what. She has scratched out what seems as if it might have been her real name of the census paper ...

The 1939 quasi-census shows Miss Stella living in an eight-room villa, still single and alone, Shepperton Villa, in Chertsey Bridge, Spelthorne. She gives her date of birth as 24 June 1881. Is that true?

So, we go to the birth records for ... ermm .. Kent or Surrey? .. but I find no Madeline ... well, try the other end. She suddenly stops appearing in the electors' registration list for Staines in 1939 .. dead, or just fled the war to kinder parts?

IT'S NOT SHE! Red-herring-time!

But bingo! Caroline Jackson of the Family Treasures Reinstated group came up with a newspaper clipping from 1972 ..

"The old-time revue and variety star, ESTA STELLA passed away on Monday, July 17, in Newhaven Hospital. She was 90, and had lived in retirement in Brighton for nearly twenty years. She was well known in the early part of the century for her many appearances in the late HARRY DAY'S revues, and as a star of the music hall, being known as "The Military Maid," with her singing and dancing act and also appeared in pantomime in the company of many old- time names. Her first husband was CON FREDERICKS, the American vaudeville performer."

Here I go again!!! Er .. first husband ...?

While I slept, Caroline and Gina squirreled away. Now it's my turn, while they (in England) sleep. Ive been on the trail since dawn and here is the result of all our lucubrations.

Esta STELLA [HUEY, Maggie Susanna Burton] sometime 'Little STELLA' (b 4 Nevin St, Liverpool 23 August 1881; d Brighton 17 July 1972).

Maggie was the eighth child (fifth daughter) of one William Duckworth Huey (1841-10901), the son of Duckworth Huey, hairdresser, of the London Rd, Liverpool who had died at the age of 32 (1 October 1850). William became a cook, a chef, a restaurant manager, a restaurateur, married Hannah Burton (1843-1913), had seven children, lost one, went bankrupt (1880), had one last child (1881), gave up cooking and became a clerk ...
Having had some dance training from her teenaged sister, Annie, she started in showbusiness as a juvenile, in concert and pantomime in Liverpool, as Maggie Huey. When she went on tour as Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin she became 'Little Stella'. She and Annie played into pantomime at Croydon, Eastbourne, Sittingbourne, Greenwich and Hull, she was a juvenile vocalist and fairylike dancer on the halls, and for a while purveyed a male impersonation act... I wonder if she were the 'Little Stella' painted by James Sant RA. He seems to have painted both Babes in the Wood and Little Red Riding Hood as well ..

In 1898, she threw in the 'Little' bit, and became Esta Stella, and started out on the adult career which would take her through the next thirty years.

But I shall stick to the personal part. 

In 1901, I see her in the Kennington Road, in digs in the house of an Italian waiter, along with James Karno and John Dunning 'music-hall artists'...  

In 1911, she is with another music-hall family. Because she has married into it. 

The Norwegian gymnast Con Fredericks had come to Britain from Chicago, with his troupe, on several occasions from 1896. Latterly, part of the troupe was his son, Con[rad John] Fredericks junior (b 7 May 1883). Con jr and Maggie were married 5 December 1907. A daughter was born, and died at five weeks.

The couple can be seen, with the elder Fredrickses, in 1911. Both spouses, of course, continued with their careers, and the inevitable happened. Maggie went on tour in Hello, Everybody, for the provincial revue specialist, Harry Day (real name: Edward Lewis Levy), and fell. Con divorced her, but Levy's wife, 'Kitty Colyer' (Katherine Amelia Rea-Cox), apparently forgave him. 

They seem to have stayed married until his death 17 September 1939. And Maggie continued to work for Harry! She was still starring in Harry's Airs and Graces in 1918.

And called herself, in the 1939 listings, 'Stella Day, theatrical actress' widowed, 58. Address: 15 Cedar Avenue, Thornton Clevelys, Lancashire.

Both ladies lived to the age of 90. Kitty died in March of 1972, Maggie in July. Both calling themselves Mrs Day. 

Conrad remarried, an actress named Margaret Eva Douglas (b 15 June 1892), they had a son, Patrick Albert Conn (20 August 1916) and left for a two-year long trip to Australia and New Zealand. After which I thought  had lost them ...

But Caroline came up with the answer. Con simply changed his name.

In 1926, he is touring in revue with Whit Cunliffe, in 1930 performing an act 'The Funny Airmen'. Later he teamed with Renee Reel in a comedy act and appeared as a comedian in pantomime. In 1950, aged 67, he was touring in Emile Littler's Annie Get your Gun. And as Con Kenna he died at 72 Marchmont Street, London 28 March 1953.  He left 108L 10s 8d. His son, by Margaret Eva, Patrick Albert Con[n] Fredericks, born 20 August 1916, survived him, and died at Sittingbourne 1 May 1980. I see that, in 1939, Margaret, living with Patrick in Croydon, is Margaret E Thomas. Did Con have another marital flop? Margaret Eva Thomas died in 1975.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Westland: from Scotland to India to New Zealand


I'm suppoosed to be working on the book after the book after next .. but with my morning cup of tea I came upon this lady ...

Mildred Westland, photographed in 1886 in India. So I had a wee investigate and found her family, and also ... yes connections to my New Zealand homes ...

So I thought that, with my second cuppa, I'd just record what I'd found ...

Mildred was born as Janet Mildred Jackson, in Clifton, Somerset 13 December 1854, daughter of Charles Julian Jackson, a medical man, and his wife Janet Leith née Harvey. Dr Jackson went out to India circa 1870, and his family later followed him. He died ('retired deputy surgeon-general in HM Indian army') at Nice 16 January 1895.

Mildred wed, at the age of nineteen, Scotsman James Westland of the Indian Civil Service (Darjeeling 23 April 1874) and a few weeks later he was appointed accountant and comptroller general to the Indian Government. Over the following decade and a half, he had an ever-more-distinguished career in government financial affairs, during which time Mildred gave birth to five children. The four who survived were

Charles James (b Nagpur 1875; d Glen Muick, Cheviot, Hurunui 11 July 1950)
Agnes Mildred (b Aberdeen 1877; d Boar's Hill, Oxon 23 April 1964)
Dorothy Harvey (b Calcutta 14 March 1881; d Bournemouth 1 June 1946)
Francis Campbell (b Camden 17 September 1884; d Didcot 10 April 1941)

In 1889, James resigned from his position in India, for health reasons, and the family returned to England where they can be spotted, passing through, at a Kensington hotel in the 1891 census. And a few days later (10 April 1891) they left that hotel and boarded a ship for New Zealand. Mother, father, and four children aged sixteen to seven years of age. And where did they settle? Why in the Hurunui. I pay my water-rates to Hurunui Council. I guess their homestead "Glen Muick" (named for the spot in Aberdeenshire where the Westlands came from) is about 30 minutes drive from my home.

However, their stay was short. In 1893, James was appointed to the Viceroy of India's Executive Council and the family -- seemingly minus Charles -- returned to India. In 1899, they finally returned to England where James -- now Sir James KCSI (1895) -- became a member of the Council for India. I see him at the Yarrows, Frimley in 1901.  James died at Weybridge 11 May 1903. Dame Mildred at a Montreux hotel 8 March 1927.

I belong enthusistically to a group named Family Treasures Reinstated. We try to find present day family members to whom old photos and bibles and diaries can be restored. Several of the members, in particular, are whizz-bang winklers-out. So I thought I'd see if I could find a home for Mildred.

Next generation. Agnes = 0 (unmarried), Francis = 0 (married late and died), Charles = 2 (married Jessie Eleanor Fisher, son Alan and daughter Hilary), Dorothy (Mrs Lt-Col Sisley Richard Davidson DSO) = 0

Wow! The famous First Four Ships! Toff stuff.

Charles farmed at Cheviot, but was an avid astronomer, and at one stage moved to Apia, as an official government astronomer. He also wrote on the subject.

Well. We're down to Alan and Hilary. I see Hilary as bridesmaid at Alan's wedding, I see her living in Samoa, I see her doing an 'extended tour' of the Continent with Mildred, I see her 'of New Zealand' with Mildred at a do in Scotland, and I see she is still assumed to be 'Miss' in a lawyer's ad in 1944 ... but she wasn't! Not quite. Hilary Frances Westland married Francis Richard Dykes ... she lived in St Albans, Papanui .. my stamping ground! ... and died 11 November 1989. But no children. Her husband died right after the wedding.

So it's all down to Alan. Alan Stephen Westland (1897-1970), married Edna Longdin. Son 10 September 1933. 

Omigod. The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand) 20 May 2021 ... 

Westland, George Harvey (Harvey), formerly of Glen Muick, Cheviot, on May 8 2021, peacefully at Rangiora.  Loved brother and brother-in-law of John Westland, Madeleine and Neil Bissell (Wellington) and the late Janet Parker, loved uncle to all his nieces and nephews.  A Memorial Service to remember Harvey will be held in the Kaiapoi Working Men's Club, 113 Raven Quay, Kaiapoi, on Friday June 18 at 1.00pm.  All welcome.

George lived not far from us. He was into gun manufacturing and shooting. The Malvern Rifle Club.

Well, I guess that's found the descendants. Now I'd better get a third cuppa, and get back to my real day job.

Oh PS Lt-Col Sisley R Davidson (b Cupar 26 August 1869; d 4 March 1952) went to the same school as I did. Nelson College, NZ.  Seventy years before me, of course.

Sisley and Dorothy

Friday, July 16, 2021

Harry and Charles: "The comic shadows"

Twenty or thirty years ago, when I was researching my book Emily Soldene: in search of a singer, 1500 pages and hundreds of illustrations of the Victorian theatre and its population, I tried very hard, in all corners of the pre-Internet world, to gather up portraits of the people featured in Emily's story. Right down to the chorus girls of three continents. And, with a little help from my friends, I did amazingly well. Things turned up in the most amazing places. Rootling around in the National Library of New Zealand, I even dug up a photo of 'The Raynor Brothers', blackface comedians! Why did I want them? Because when the famous Payne family, who had made such a hit in the eccentric can-can finale of La Grande-Duchesse, moved on from the John Russell tour (star Emily Soldene), Russell replaced them with the Raynors.

1879, Paris. A 25-minute act.

"the place of the irreplaceable Paynes was imaginatively taken by the Raynor Brothers, Charles and Harry. The Raynors (who, of course, were not brothers at all) were ‘Ethiopian comedians’, blackface music-hall entertainers who would later bill themselves with considerable success as ‘the comic shadows’. Harry had traipsed the world as an entertainer -- California and Nevada, Australia, the East & West Indies, Tahiti, India, China, South Africa -- and had, the previous year, appeared on Broadway at the San Francisco Minstrels’ Hall and Tony Pastor’s billed as ‘the thinnest man in the Ethiopian business’. The highlight of his zany act was his performance on the one-stringed ‘Japanese fiddle’:
'He was dressed in jet black tights and jacket fitting so tight to the skin that it seems impossible for him to move about. He is the slimmest and ugliest looking nigger we ever saw and his appearance alone is sufficient to convulse and audience with laughter particularly when he takes a seat and lifting two canal boats - sometimes called feet - places a sheet of music against them and commences to play. Then it is that roars of laughter burst forth. He plays upon a Japanese fiddle with one string and although the music brought forth is not the most pleasant to listen to yet it elicits considerable applause...'
Charles, who had trained as a doctor, had recently given up medicine to join Harry in a double act, and they had been seen at Christmastime in London, performing a burlesque boxing match at the Bedford Music Hall, and again at the Cabinet Theatre, Liverpool Street, in what they called ‘The Great Australian Variety Troupe’, doing a burlesque of Italian opera. It may have been this, or else the fact they were represented by Parravicini and Corbyn, the agents who had snapped Emily up on the crest of her first success and were now billing her widely as ‘the talented artiste who has created such a furore as the Grand Duchess at the Standard Theatre’, that encouraged Russell to cast them. But, like almost all of his casting, it worked a treat"

‘THE FAMOUS FINALE to the second act will be danced by Mdlle Rosa and Messrs Raynor, and the whole of the principal characters..’.

Well, I shall add the photo which I (at great expense) had copied when I return to New Zealand. Emily' two vast  volumes are far to carry with me ... but ...

Toddling through ebay this morning, I came upon a photo "Victorian Photo: Cabinet Card: Dapper gents Cigar named: Raymond: Bertin, Brighton".

It is actually Raynor, and it is they. And for a fraction of the price that I paid 30 years ago!  I'd love to know who the chappie in the middle is, but that Harry, the skinny, crazy one on the right; and that's Charles, 7 years younger, on the left. And, oh dear, they WERE brothers!

So disgusted was I to find an error in Emily, I determined that 'the brothers Raynor' would be outed. And here is the truth of them.

Mr James Mennie, of Newington and Bermondsey, born in Bray Court, Islington 9 October 1807 to Robert Mennie and Christiana née Sheath, his wife, made a success of his life. He went into the booze business, and became mine host of the Skinner's Arms, Cannon Street West. He married Miss Caroline Amelia Elizabeth Levell, in 1838, and they had five children  -  Alfred, Louisa, Henry, Frank and Charles -- and they prospered. James invested his profits in leasehold real estate, three houses in Falmouth Road from which he derived sufficient income that, when Caroline died, in 1858, he gave up the pub and went into retirement.

Alfred became a commercial traveller cum clerk (living at 16 Falmouth Street), Frank an advertising agent. Charles didn't study for medicine for very long, because in 1871 he's already listed as 'actor'. Harry of course is already on his way by 1869. With the greatest of American burlesque travesty artists, Francis Leon (prima donna)

I wonder if the rhinoceros was somewhere in Barberblu (as their burlesque of the opéra-bouffe was later called). But to have billing on a Kelly and Leon programme was already something.

But already in October 1869 the brothers are up as a double act at  the Bedford Music Hall: 'The Brothers Raynor are two of the funniest Niggers to be found in the Music Hall world. They are quaint and extremely grotesque, but never unwarrantably coarse, and the solo of one of them on a curiously manufactured banjo is a really droll effort'. That will have been Harry. It was Harry who was the zany one. 'Their eccentric Ethiopian entertainment, the funniest part of which consisted of a boxing match' 'The original black shadows" at the Alhambra .. and on they went.

1871, London

1872 Vienna

Henry seems to have remained a bachelor. But Charles wed, in 1878, a well-liked dancer and burlesque performer known as Clara St Leger. Her actual name was Clara Soper, daughter of Bermondsey tailow, William Lemon Soper (1809-1897) and his wife Ann Degenhardt Reed.  The other girls in the family plied the tailoresses needle, but Clara trained with Espinosa and took to the stage, playing on both sides of the Atlantic over some twenty years. 

Charles gets a mention on 1873 in a review at Cremorne Gardens -- 'Some exceedingly clever musical and comical sketches were given by a troupe identified with the name of Mr Charles Raynor, who are making just now a considerable stir ..' but by and large, over the next fifteen years the brothers worked as a highly successful duo, all round the world.

In 1888, freshly returned from a tour to the Antipodes, the pair took on the management of the Pack Horse Hotel in Staines 

but two years later, Harry died, aged 45.

Charles carried on. He sold the hotel, and went into partnership with Alfred Wood: 'The clown of the pair is Mr Raynor, who certainly knows how to be funny and how to play the concertina. Mr Wood tootles on the bassoon, and his partner improvises on the clarionet, the pair finishing their diverting business with the celebrated Cats' Duet which the Brothers Raynor in the years that are gone served to bring into great popularity'. 

But a few years later he, too, fell ill. Within three months, in 1896, both Clara (aged 38) and Charles (aged 47) went to their graves at Staines. A sad end to a very merry story ...

To which we can now affix the facts, alongside this delightful photograph

RAYNOR, Henry [MENNIE, Henry] (b Newington ?July 1844; d Staines 6 January 1890)
RAYNOR, Charles [MENNIE, Charles] (b Newington 21 March 1851; d Staines 10 November 1896)
ST LEGER, Clara [née SOPER, Clara] (b Bishopsgate 1 January 1855; d Staines 26 August 1896)

Caroline [Eliza] Brook. Ah, yes. Married Horatio Nelson Hunt. There they are at the 'Pack Horse', in 1891. He's 'brother in law'.  William Brook(e) 'brother-in-law'. But ... how are they brothers in law?  No, I'm not going there. I'll stop here. 

I found what I wanted to know.  

Here are further details (which I have not checked) from the Australian press:

Monday, July 12, 2021

Lord Love you Millie Vere! or, Out of Cartesian Gaol


Yesterday, I related how I dragged George Smith Bradshaw, clinking his chains, from the oubliettes of the Geraldine de Maur-Millie Vere prison for too-hard-to-discover folk. The too-hard basket for recalcitrant Victorian vocalists. I was awf'lly proud of my effort. Little did I think that today one of the longest-serving prisoners of all would escape therefrom as well!

Fifteen months ago I frustratedly posted a tale of woe entitled 'Goddam you Millie Vere' after a day spent failing to divulge her identity. So frustrated was I, that I even christened the Cartesian Dungeon Cell in her (co)-name. I knew I would never sort her out. Never? well ... Today was the day. I finished the very very very final proof-reading of my G&S book, and was fiddling around with bits and pieces and .. well ... I must have left the Dungeon door open ...

Post of April 2019:

"If I hadn't renounced the demon drink 3 1/2 weeks ago, I'd be reaching for the bottle. It is nearly 3pm, and have spent the whole day, since dawn, trying to get to the bottom of Miss 'Millie Vere', Cartesian contralto. Why so long? Because she kept of throwing up HINTS of her identity, and I investigated each one until each ended in a brick wall. Surely, sometime, I thought, in her long career someone must have said something ... well, they did, but ...

But first, that career. My first sighting of 'Milly' or 'Millie' is in 1874, when she joins P E van Noorden's ladies' minstrel group, the Blondinette Minstrels, as pianist. She stayed with the group until 1876 (and maybe longer), rising to feature as a contralto vocalist as well. Another member of the group was harpist Annie Wade, and Annie and Millie could be seen appearing together until 1878. Annie played at Riviere's proms, Millie got a date at the Crystal Palace, another at Glasgow's New Year's Day Concert and joined 'Mr Federici' in a vocal group (1878), and both girls appeared with Paganini Redivius's concert party ('a contralto voice both sweet and pleasing') before Annie disappears. Sister, I wondered. Mother, even? 'Wade' wasted an hour, at least.

At Christmas 1878 Millie played Polly Larboard in Charles Bernard's Robinson Crusoe at Newcastle and Sunderland ('splendid voice ... repeatedly encored'), with Joseph Eldred as comedian, and was immediately signed for his touring burlesque company, but soon she joined the HMS Pinafore tour, initially as Hebe. During the tour, she played in conductor Ralph Horner's operetta Four by Honours, alongside Robert Brough, Florence Trevallyan annd John Le Hay. As Betsy the maid she went 'far to securing the success of the performance'.

In 1880, she played Jack in the Beanstalk with Nellie Power, before rejoining Carte for another tour. But in May, in Dublin, she was laid low with gastric trouble, and the company went on without her. In 1881, I see her in concert in Sunderland, in 1882, on tour in a chorus role with Emily Soldene in Boccaccio (with Miss Annie Vere alongside her!), then with H S Dacre in the title-role of Olivette, and at Brighton for Little Red Riding Hood, 

before in 1883 she rejoined Carte for an extended period during which she featured as Iolanthe and Katisha, and, in an emergency, conductor. And a provincial critic mentioned that she was 'Mrs Wallace'. Clue number two, another two hours.

It was fairly clear who the 'Wallace' was. She was seen for some time thereafter in concerts with another ex-Cartesian who went by the name of Welbye WALLACE.

He had previously been Mr W Harrington Mitchell. Whether that was his real name, I knew not, but under that name he had sung in amateur concerts in Cheshire and Hull in the early 1870s. Maybe he was the William Chandler Harrington Mitchell gent from Manchester. He had made a big effort to establish himself 'after his return from Italy' as a tenor, concert giver, lecturer, manager, musical you-name-it in the 1870s, but without real success. So, he ended up as singer-staff with Carte between 1882-5. And, apparently, married or 'married' Millie. Ah, its supposed to have happened in Dublin: amazing how many performers got married in Dublin.

'Welbye Wallace'

After leaving the Carte, Millie was seen in concerts (Crystal Palace etc), took part in the Drury Lane panto of 1887 (Puss in Boots) behind Tillie Wadman and Letty Lind, and in 1888 went on the road as Teresa in a revamp of the musical Rhoda, with show's original star, Kate Chard and her husband, and Cartesian Robert Fairbanks. It lasted a little longer this time, but kept clear of the West End.  Millie was soon touring as Javotte in the much more successful Erminie (1888-9). In 1889 she and Welbye (and Fairbanks) are on the bills at Southsea's Clarence Pier, but in 1890, I see her only singing for the Masons. In 1891 she sang Alfred King's The Epiphany and, seemingly, the Verdi Requiem at Brighton, in 1892 in a concert of mainly old Cartesians, playing 'her original part' (it wasn't) in Quits, before getting a job in the West End playing in The Wooden Spoon as a forepiece to The Wedding Eve. The Wedding Eve topbilled Decima Moore, Mabel Love and Kate Chard, so maybe contralto Millie was not an understudy.
Thereafter, I spot her in a couple of one-off performances (The Competitors, A Laggard in Love), as Oberon in pantomime at the Brighton Aquarium (Jack and the Beanstalk 1894) and Titania in Cinderella in the north (Cinderella 1895). Cinderella was played by a Daisy Wallace. I started looking, but enough is enough and the age was wrong. But, by now, Millie was what she needed to be: a character lady, and the stage jobs began flowing. She toured as Mrs d'Erskine to Billie Barlow's The Bicycle Girl, as Mrs Smith in Dandy Dan the Lifeguardsman, as Madame Moulinet in The Topsy Turvey Hotel, as Miss Basingstoke in The Gay Grisette ... and, I thought, it stops here. But then I found a 1909 notice from the Granville, Walham Green: Who's my Dad? with Millie Vere as Miss Semolina Snipe ... and there she is writing to The Stage in 1913 ...

So she should be in five or six censi, but I couldn't find her (or 'Welbye') in any of them. And I've tried. Wade, Wallace, Mitchell ... oh, I should say that one provincial paper billed her as 'Clara Millie Vere'. So I've looked there too ... the nearest I've got is a widowed Mary Ann Wade née Wilkinson, in 1871, at 1 Canonbury Square, Islington, with two daughters, Melina 24 'musical profession' and Clara 22 ditto. In 1881, Melina (1864-1923) is still professor of music, but Clara has gone. Annie and Millie? Straws are made to be clutched at.  

Post scriptum a year later: 

Glad I didn't clutch them! They would have broken.

First discovery. Mr W Chandler [H] Mitchell 'actor' had a daughter. Daisie Marie Wade Mitchell ... yes, it's Daisy Wallace!!  But WADE!  Daisy married another actor, William Willoughby West  ... Amelia Annie Mitchell is a witness ..  MILLIE?! ... Looks as if I were right first time up. Died: Amelia Ann Mitchell of 13 Drakefield Road, Balham, Widow, 5 July 1931 ... administration Daisie Marie Wade West (1882-1952).  Oh, Millie. Her estate was L8 4s 6d. But what is this? 
I went in search of Wade .... and here we are! Mrs Amelia Annie Mitchell aged 45, born Bloomsbury, married, with her sister, Emily McGee, in the 1901 census in Streatham and 1911 ... 1891, William, Millie, daughter Daisie, two servants, in Reigate ...  Wait a minute, her unmarried sister is named McGee? What happened to Wade?
1861, John McGee, 48, boardinghouse keeper 5 Montague Street. Wife Alice née Gillett, daughter Amelia born 21 January 1855. So that's Millie! 

But who is Annie Wade, apart from Jules Rivière's pet harpist? And why did Millie give the name Wade to her daughter? Well, I'm skipping this one. All I know is that the Wade connection led to Millie's disrobing! The rest can wait.

VERE, Millie [McGEE, Amelia Annie] (b Bloomsbury 21 January 1855; d 13 Drakefield Rd, Balham 5 July 1931).  I shall have to give the too-hard basket a new name now  ...

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A Guide to Bradshaw or, The Lost Comedian


I've been acquainted with 'Mr G S Bradshaw' for nigh on thirty years. He played for some years with Emily Soldene's companies. But, although I noted details of his career in an ancient file, I didn't ever investigate him further. Then, last year, when I was scrutinising the members of Mr D'Oyly Carte's companies for the G&S Who's Who, he turned up again. And, again, I didn't deeply investigate him. 'Bradshaw' was clearly a pseudonym. He was popped into the Geraldine St Maur-Millie Vere box, classed as 99 percent unfindable. But ... yesterday, quite unexpectedly, he rattled his chains and jumped out of that box ...

And I can tell you that GSB was born, wait for it, George Smith. Somewhere in Marylebone. Maybe Thayer Street. Date 26 October 1844. His parents were Thomas Smith, upholsterer, and his wife Margaret, née Jordan, formerly a servant, it seems, in the Crooked Billet public house in Aldgate. 

As you can see, George was named for his grandfather, who seems that he might have been the Geo Smith upholsterer of 69 Dean Street, Soho. But then something odd happens. Thomas and Margaret had three more sons and a daughter. And they were christened (all in a bunch in 1856) Milton (b 27 February 1847), Byron (b 5 September 1850), Hahnemann Gall (b 4 July 1852) and Concordia Mercy (b 30 September 1855). So, we have an hereditary upholsterer who is into poetry, homeopathy and prayer? 

The other odd thing is that, after the birth of Mercy (as she was known) and the bulk christening, I lose Thomas. In 1861 Margaret -- 'married' not widow, and a needlewoman -- is at 22 Denmark Street with the children; in 1871 at 11 Rathbone Place 'married' and -- what? retired actress! -- but no sign of Tom. In 1881 she finally admits to 'widow' and 'annuitant'? How? And she, Hahnemann, his wife and children, all back in Gerrard St, Soho, are now calling themselves 'Bradshaw'. As is Byron. Only Milton remains 'Smith'. Curious.

But back to George. In 1861, he is a compositor. But by 1871 he has put a toe into showbusiness. He hasn't given up his day job, though, he lists himself as vocalist, actor and printer. 

His first job seems to have been, in early 1869, as a singer, touring with 'Professor' John Henry Pepper CR, FCS of Pepper's Ghost celebrity and his programme of scientific and chemical illusions. Pepper made up his programmes with all sorts of entertainments (George Grossmith took a turn), and he had produced a version of Der Freischütz. George sang the well-known music, as accompaniment to the visuals, and acted in an accompanying farce. I see him also singing in variety at Macclesfield. Apparently, he was for a while with a group of minstrels, Charles Christy's Minstrels, who toured minor provincial venues. I notice an ad, briefly, in the trade press, for "Leslie and Shaw .. the Two Crows" coming from his address. Well, the Smith-Bradshaws weren't the only folk living at 11 Rathbone Street. It was divided into three. But I think George was the only striving blackface singer.

The crows seem not to have flown. 

In 1871, he found himself a different employ: as low comedian with one of the small opera companies touring the provinces. This one was run by Henry Haigh, and I see he played in The Waterman 

It was followed by a company run by Isidore de Solla, and its star was Mrs de Solla, the former 'Arabella Smythe' ...

I see he played the Marquis in Maritana .. probably Alessio and maybe Florestein ... anyway, Macclesfield found that 'Mr Bradshaw's propensities for singing and acting peculiarly fit his for the stage. He possesses a good clear voice'. He toured for something like a year with de Solla, then after a brief appearance at the East London Theatre in La Fille de Madame Angot, he joined another like troupe yclept the National Opera Company with whom he played Florestein, Robin in The Waterman, the Burgomaster and Pitou in Geneviève de Brabat, Spyk in The Loan of a Lover, Turbey in The Goose with the Golden Eggs, the Sherrif in Martha as well as in the accompanying farces. And Pomponnet, this time, in La Fille de Madame Angot. Pomponnet would be his bread-and-butter in the coming years. All the way from Kilkenny to Drury Lane. In 1875, he advertised for the role, stating that he had 'two splendid Pomponnet dresses'.

At various times he had brief engagements in the Queen's and Theatre Royal, Dublin (Alphonse in The Rose of Auvergne, Florestein, Pomponnet, Alessio, Marquis, Patoche in Calino), Bath, Worcester and apparently with Virginia Blackwood, with the minuscule Dixon and Haines opera, but his next substantial job, in 1878, was another round of Pomponnet on an Edward Rosenthal tour with 'Annie Beauclerc' as his Clairette. 1879 saw a nice change. Mr D'Oyly Carte, sometime agent of Mr Bradshaw, was putting out a second tour of his hit musical HMS Pinafore. And for the George Grossmith role of Sir Joseph Porter KCB he hired: Mr Bradshaw!

He also played in  In the Sulks and After All, the curtain-raisers.

And on Easter Monday 1880, he opened at Drury Lane, giving his Pomponnet alongside Cornélie d'Anka, Alice Burville and Wilford Morgan.

I next spot him at the Philharmonic in April-May 1881, playing Pompéry in A Cruise to China, Mr Corrigan in The Colleen Bawn, Widow Melnotte in a burlesque Lady of Lyons, in East Lynne, The Dancing Barber et al, then at the Alexandra Palace where he gave his Pomponnet as a pendant to the horse show (24 June) and the goat, mule and donkey show (15 July), before joining up with the top opéra-comique company in Britain: Emily Soldene's. I see him giving his Pomponnet with Soldene at the Crystal Palace and at the Standard Theatre, but he seems to have temporarily dropped out, for a Christmas engagement at ... Covent Garden. He played Granny Grin in the pantomime Little Bo-Peep and Obadiah in The Miraculous Cure until 11 February and then rejoined the Soldenes, as Pomponnet, Pitou and Lotteringhi/Lambertuccio in Boccaccio.
Next, he joined Frederic Wood (October 1882) for a small-scale tour of The Beautiful Galatea, The Waterman, The Rose of Auvergne and Prizes and Blanks, and took a turn with Joseph Tabrar at the poor Imperial Theatre, but he returned to Soldene for a three-weeks season at Hastings in which she pulled out her old triumphs in a vain attempt to save her sinking management. He stayed on at Hastings a while thereafter, but the end was nigh. 
I see George at Bury St Edmunds, playing Trénitz, not Pomponnet in a tiny production of Angot for the Hon Veronica Knollys .. and with the Mohawk Minstrels ('buffo vocalist') ... and touring as Brother Pelican in Falka (1885) ...

So where, then, did he go? What happened? I simply don't know. And did he do it as Smith or Bradshaw. To be solved.  Anyhow, I chased up the brothers and sister to see if a clue was to be found ... sister was the most interesting.

Mercy not only played piano, she also sang. As early as 1870 she can be seen playing at concertina-player Charles Roylance's concert ('Miss Smith Bradshaw') at Cambridge Hall, Newman Street. She advertised herself in 1876, as a pianist, as 'of the Opera Comique'.

However, from the profound depths of my memory I pulled a comic-opera chorister named Miss Mercy. Could it be?

Well, it was. From the South company (1876-7), Mercy went to the Carte company, and while in Dublin (23 March 1878) she married the baritone, Michael Dwyer. The couple can be seen in 1881 touring with the Walsham Company. She had two sons and a daughter, retired from performing, and died 22 October 1922. George wasn't with them in 1881. They were on tour in Burnley.

Milton, who staunchly remained Smith stuck to the printer and stationery trade. He married Mary Ann Forbes, and had one son who died aged 28.  He died in Hampstead 8 December 1903. I can't find him in 1881. 

Byron became Bradshaw and an heraldic and decorative designer and draughtsman. He married Margaret Sarah Starie in 1882 as Bradshaw and, for the occasion, confirmed his father's name as Thomas ... Bradshaw (deceased). He died in Camberwell 7 September 1920. In 1881 he's living in Gerrard St, alone. No George.

Hahnemann is, in 1881, a stone seal-engraver, with a wife, Caroline Sarah née Hatfield, two children, and a sister-in-law. And mother Margaret. No George. They are all now Bradshaw. He died 18 February 1897.

So, no George by any other name.  And no Margaret after 1881. And no Thomas. I particularly want to find Thomas. Because ... well, Mercy got a piano-playing job at the Opera Comique circa 1875-6. How?  Well, funnily enough, round about that time there's a Mr T Bradshaw playing in the chorus of Princess Toto. And that Mr Bradshaw was in the original chorus of Trial by Jury ... could it be? I doubt it. Thomas would have been in his seventies.

Well, that's enough brain-beating for one day. Over to the G&S experts now!

Oh. Here's George Smith Bradshaw, weaver and upholsterer, of Soho ... mid eighteenth century.. .  'the last of the Soho tapestry makers' .. oh died 1795.  Son John Bradshaw Smith!  Ohhhhhh ... second son, George ... well, I think here's the connection. Whether said second son is grandad, or whether our Smiths just borrowed a celebrated name ... ?  I have a gut feeling is (a). The Soho upholstery, you know ..

George Smith Bradshaw of Dean Street died at Pershore in his 93rd year ... April 1812 ... Miss Smith daughter of George Smith Bradshaw died Pershore 1806 ..  yes, the Smiths and Bradshaws are already interchangeable ..  Ooh look George Smith Bradshaw upholsterer of Dean Street being robbed in 1759 by a woman with a pick-lock ... and in the proceedings he's referred to as ... George Smith! And she got off! Ah, and here's his will!  Eight pages. Son John Smith, annulation of four thousand debts! His wife Mary and daughter Charlotte .. son-in-law Lt Richard Thomas, husband of Margaret ... daughter Jane Smith ..  my son George Smith ... thousands of pounds everywhere!  Heavens, has he been lending to the Earl of Sandwich? Henry Glover of Dean Street, Soho ...

And his younger son is plain George Smith. I'm satisfied that this hugely wealthy man is great-grandfather to the lost low comedian ...  grandfather to the missing Thomas ...  what a turn up for the books. 

George Smith Bradshaw born Soho 28 December 1767, son of George Smith Bradshaw and Margaret, Dean Street ..  yes, see the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840. Huge entry. It looks as though the Bradshaw was assumed by Mr Smith after inheriting from William Bradshaw ... so now we know.