Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Mr Swift: an international tenor of the Victorian era


SWIFT, Joseph (b St Helen’s, Lancashire c 1827; d 3 Pall Mall, London 10 July 1869)


During the Victorian era, very few tenors from the English-speaking world made themselves a reputation in the operatic theatres of Europe. In the later part of the nineteenth century, Americans Charles Adams and William Candidus found success in Germany, but in the earlier years of Victoria’s reign only a handful of Anglophones made any sort of an impression in the world of Italian opera. There was the ‘preposterous’ Sims Reeves, of course, who cast his giant shadow over a whole era of English tenoriousness, and then … Without a doubt, and even though he made not the same name for himself either at home or away, the second place must be allowed to Joseph Swift.


So, who was Joseph Swift? ‘Mr Swift’, as he was inevitably, shortly, known in Britain, even though the Italians dubbed him ‘Giuseppe’ and the Portuguese ‘Jose’. It has been a little hard to find out, for while Sims Reeves won the repeated honour of stretch-biogs in the press, year after year, the personal background of Britain’s number two operatic tenor doesn’t ever seem to have been written about. At one concert, the press proudly acclaimed him an Irishman, which set me off on a whole false trail, for Joseph Swift wasn’t an Irishman. He was a laddie from Lancashire.


The reason that I know that, is that I have unearthed him in the two British censi of his adult life: in 1851 as a student of music in London’s Manchester Street ‘born Lancashire, aged 24’, and in 1861 in South Square, Gray’s Inn, ‘musician, 32, born St Helen’s’.  On the principle that you wouldn’t say you were born in St Helen’s if you weren’t, I have dug around amongst the Swift families of Windle and Prescott and the hamlet of Handshaw (publican: Edward Swift) in the 1841 census listings, exhuming a teenaged Joseph who was a moulder, another a coal miner, another nephew (?) to a brewer, but none seemed to fit. 


In January 1861, Joseph missed a Manrico at the Opera House on the grounds of ‘a most severe domestic affliction’. Sounds like a wife, but he’s supposed to have been a bachelor. A parent? That didn’t lead me to an answer either, so for a long time the background of Mr Swift remained cloudy, and he didn’t impinge on my consciousness until 1849, when he is a student at the Royal Academy of Music. 


But I half-got him in the end. Joseph Swift was the son of one Richard Swift, and he wasn’t a bachelor. Just a handful of years before his death (23 October 1865) he married farmer’s daughter, Miss Elizabeth Blackhurst, back home in St Helen’s. And he seems to have been a wee bit older than he claimed… if he is the Joseph son of labourer Richard and his wife Jane born at Sutton, Prescott, St Helens in 1824. Siblings John, Ralph, Ellen, William … and, oh, another Joseph in 1832! They must have lost the first one…. So I’m not a lot nearer.


Like other young and promising tenors, Mr Swift of the RAM had the spotlight fairly quickly turned upon him, with some hopeful folk looking out for a ‘new Sims Reeves’ (the old one had plenty of mileage left however!) and others reacting equally exaggeratedly against the, at best, premature chatter. Mr Swift was, in any case, fairly clearly the most promising young man of his crop, the Academy’s other prize pupils of the time being Mary Rose, Laura Baxter, Helen Taylor and the much spotlit Catherine Browne. He, equally clearly, had a way to go. When he sang at one Academy concert, The Times reported ‘his intonation was so sharp it was painful’. And the arch pontificator of the early Victorian musical world, the rather ridiculous French Flowers, MB Oxon (‘The British School of Vocalisation’), launched at him in 1850, as part of a tirade against (other) singing teachers, a specific tirade. ‘As a specimen of an artificial voice let me instance Mr Swift who sang ‘Il mio tesoro’ at Miss Bassano’s concert. His natural voice (which is excellent) is baritone and yet he is taught to consider it a tenor by his master, notwithstanding that he has not a tenor sound in the whole range of his natural voice. In consequence of his pushing out high sounds, his voice on one occasion gave way…’

Most reactions were more measured -- ‘has a voice of good quality and exhibited intelligence’, ‘a tenor of remarkably good and even quality; he has the means, we hope he will make use of them..’ – but at this early stage of his career Mr Swift was evidently subject to vocal bloops.


During his time as a student, Swift began to make occasional appearances in professional concerts. The Louisa Bassano one, where Flowers referred to him as ‘a’ Mr Swift, seems to have been the first, but I also spot him at Miss Chandler’s do at Store Street Music Hall, at Charlotte Dolby’s at-home soirees in Hinde Street (‘Dalla sua pace’) and at the Réunion des arts, before he was brought before the wider public at the Exeter Hall London Thursday Concerts (11 December 1851) billed, in traditional style, as ‘the new tenor’. The young Louisa Pyne stole the limelight singing Rode’s Air and Variations, but Swift, praised for his ‘fine voice’, did well enough with Mendelssohn’s ‘By Celia’s Arbour’ that he was retained for the series. He also began a perfect avalanche of concert engagements: at Exeter Hall for the English Music concerts (‘The gentleman made a very respectable debut and sang ‘By Celia’s Arbour’ with great applause’), at Sussex Hall alongside Misses Pyne and Dolby and Henry Whitworth, at Crosby Hall, at St Martin’s Hall (Alexander’s Feast, Oberon and Orfeo selections &c), at John Ella’s Winter Musical Evenings and at the Exeter Hall Wednesday concerts (‘If with all your hearts’). He appeared at the entertainments given by pianist Charlotte Pearson, by Miss Binfield, by Leslie Sloper (‘The Garland’, Gounod’s ‘Venice’), by George and Joseph Case, and at the London Tavern for Julia Bleaden, on which occasion all the praise being heaped on the young tenor got too much for one scribe who exploded: ‘There has been much talk recently about the new tenor, Mr Swift. Some have placed him but a round or two in the ladder below Mr Sims Reeves. Nonsense! There is just as much difference as between chalk and cheese… he was tame to tameness’.

If he was ‘tame’ (unshowy), Mr Swift was also ubiquitous, and as the season wound to its first height he turned out for a bevy of concerts: alongside Reeves, Manvers and another young tenor, William Fedor, at Drury Lane, at Exeter Hall for Allcroft, the City of London Institute, at the Hanover Square for the Misses McAlpine, the Ferraris, Charles Salaman, Brinley Richards (‘The Garland’ ‘sung with the utmost taste … an improving tenor’) and, when Edward Land launched his English Glee and Madrigal Union, it was Swift whom he chose as the group’s tenor, in team with Louisa Pyne, Charlotte Dolby and Frank Bodda.

In June, the new tenor was seen out almost daily: for Louisa Bassano/Wilhelm Kuhe (4 June), Otto Dresl (5 June), Allcroft at Exeter Hall (6 June), Lindsay Sloper/Miss Dolby (7 June), Charlott and Eliza Birch (9 June), and on 11 June three engagements: Emma Busby’s, Mlle Coulon’s and the Royal Society of Female Musicians concerts. He was included in the fashionable programme of Madame Anichini (‘The Garland’, ‘I Marinari’ with Ciabatta, I Puritani duet with Anichini etc), shared with Elisa Taccani the vocals at Mme Pleyel’s piano concert, visited Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall in concert and, later, to sing Elijah with Grace Alleyne, Charlotte Eyles and Carl Formes. In London, he took part in a performance of The Creation for the Choral Fund.


London, however, was not to suffer from a surfeit of Mr Swift. Antonio Porto, the manager of Lisbon’s Teatro de Saõ Carlos (who had, it appears, a habit of popping over on the ferry, to Portsmouth, to scout the British scene for talent), had moved to hire both Mr Swift and Mr Fedor, ‘at the beginning of their careers’, for his theatre. Mr Fedor was already booked to go to Marseille, Mr Swift was available, and he went. He went in good company, for Porto had also booked the French soprano Anaide Castellan as his prima donna. Mr Swift was to be primo tenore assoluto: alongside the other primo tenore assoluto, Antonio Prudenza. Mr Swift was ‘de meio caracter’. In effect, they were to share the tenor roles of the season.

Jose Swift made his first appearance on the stage playing the role of Elvino to the La Sonnambula of Mlle Castellan and the Rodolfo of Francesco Maria Dell’Aste, and he won the plaudits of the Lisbon public (‘excellentmente recebido pelo publico’) and papers, for his ‘tenor contraltino, meliflua, muito afinada, bastante extensa…’. His style did not win total unanimity. One critic lauded his ‘vox melodiosa e delicada usandi do falsete com multa propriedade e affinacao e cana com sentimento’ but another complained that Portuguese audiences didn’t like falsetto singing and that Sr Swift should desist. I suspect that, in the terminology of the time, by ‘falsetto’ he meant head voice.

The news of the young tenor’s success made its way overseas, and Dwight in Boston reported the ‘furore’ caused by the young man who had ‘only been seen in London as a concert singer, with a very sympathetic tenor voice’.

Prudenza played in I due Foscari, Alessandro Maccaferri (‘primo tenore generico’) did Nabucco, and Swift came out again in I Puritani on 15 November, alongside Mlle Castellan, dell’Aste, and Ottavio Bartolini. He followed up as Tonio in La Fille du régiment with Ersilia Agostini and Bartolini, and in January as Gennaro to the Lucrezia Borgia of Mme Rossi-Caccia. In March 1853 he was Percy to the Anna Bolena of the same prima donna, and in April, Tebaldo with Rossi-Caccia and Agostini in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, In May he sang Polyeucte in I Martiri.

Jose (or sometimes Giuseppe) Swift was a decided success as an operatic tenor, and he was ‘re-engaged at an increased salary’ to return to Lisbon for 1853-4 and again for 1854-5. Castellan, too, returned and the pair sang La Sonnambula, La gazza ladra, and Don Pasquale togetherWhen Otello was produced, Corrado Miraglia sang the title-role to Castellan’s Desdemona, and Swift was Rodrigo. He was also teamed as primo tenore with Amalia Angles-Fortuni in I Masnadieri and I Martiri and, with both prima donnas, as Raoul in Les Huguenots. The following season he sang the Vicomte de Sirval in Linda di Chamounix and Macduff, alongside Castellan and Bartolini, as well as repeating I Puritani, Anna Bolena, La Fille du régiment, Don Pasquale and La gazza ladra.

At the end of his three seasons at Lisbon, Swift moved on – apparently to other European theatres. His European career has come to me in fragments, often without dates or sources attached, but a reference to ‘Swift, tenore di bellissima voce , reduce or ora da Varsavia, per il corrente carnevale , al Teatro di Mantova ..’ rings a bell. He was at Warsaw 1st August-30 November 1856.


At the beginning of 1856, however, he was back in Britain. Later, it would be said that it was now that he ‘made his debut in opera at Drury Lane’ after ‘five or six years of study in Italy’. Well, as we know, he hadn’t been studying anywhere, he’d been very visibly working. And, although he’d been at one time announced to sing opera at Drury Lane, I find no evidence that he did. He was far too busy at Lisbon.

His return to London wasn’t in opera, but in some distinctly fashionable concerts. Jenny Lind and her wheeler-dealing husband set up a series of British concert appearances in London and the British provinces for the opening months of the year, and, after Alexander Reichardt had performed as the star’s support tenor for a couple of concerts, Joseph Swift took up that place for the bulk of the series. The Times spoke of the ‘beauty of his voice and the geniality of his expression’ and another critic wrote ‘This gentleman’s voice is a gift of which he should be conceited and endeavour to turn to the very best account’. However, when he shared the music of one performance of The Messiah with Charles Lockey, the inevitable comparison surfaced: ‘a very inferior reader of the magnificent recitatives in the second part when compared with Mr Sims Reeves who sang them on Monday and Wednesday nights’.

Swift moved on from his position as cavalier servant to Mme Lind to team with another prima donna, Josefina Gassier, and her husband. They sang in London concerts, and also took to the provinces where they gave performances of La Sonnambula, Don Pasquale and Il Barbiere di Siviglia, performances which seem, to me, to be Joseph Swift’s first appearances on the British operatic stage.

Through May and June, Swift was seen in concert in London (‘La mia Letitzia’, Davide PenitenteStabat Mater at St Martin’s Hall), and again he was billed for a London opera season, this time a three-week affair at the Surrey Theatre. However, Sig Lorini seems to have sung most nights (with his wife) and I do not see Swift on the bills.

At the end of the season, he returned to Europe, cancelling a January concert tour with Mme Rudersdorff, but I do not pick up his trail again (give or take August to November at Warsaw) until January 1857 when he is announced to sing Rigoletto with prima donna Morandini at Mantua.

And, sure enough, in June a report from the Continent makes the British music press: ‘Our English tenor Swift, of whose beautiful voice artistic talent and gentlemanly manners we have great reason to be proud, after dividing the honours at the late carnival in Mantua with Barbieri Nini is taking a vacation to continue his studies under the first masters (in Milan)… he is engaged as first tenor at [the Teatro Municipale] Alessandria in Piemonte for the autumn season..’

He appeared there with Argentina Angelini in Gli ultimi giorni di Suli and La Traviata with Rosa de Rudaand in December, the same correspondent describing Swift’s ‘continuing and increasing success’ reporting that ‘at the completion of his autumn engagement at Piemonte’s Teatro Municipale di Alessandria’, he had been taken up by Signor Merelli, Europe’s most many-tentacled operatic agent and fixer who had arranged for him to go to the Gran Teatro at Bergamo, but then shifted him to the Teatro Nazionale in Turin, when the bid was higher. Mr Swift was evidently rolling, but he was (like most tenors) still not pulling everyone’s vote. ‘If his singing was (sic) a little more refined and if he took greater pains to modulate his voice which seems to me to be as ungovernable as when he first appeared in public, I should be inclined to think he might become a good singer, but at present I cannot agree with Pirata and others who write about his lovely simpatico voice, his fine figure, his noble carriage and other innumerable qualities which as yet I cannot say that I have discovered. Of the operas in which he has sung – Traviata, Lucia and Attila – the last I think is most suited to his vigorous and energetic style…’. 

I have found him singing only Attila of those operas at Turin, but I have spotted him singing La Sonnambula there, alongside Pamela Scotti and Francesco (not Federico) Monari, and also Poliuto, in the early part of 1858. From Turin, he moved on to play alongside Giulia Beltramini-Marcora and Luigia Abbadia at Rovereto (May, La Traviata, Poliuto, ‘dalla voce insinuante’)the Mauroner of Trieste (TraviataPoliuto) and Udine, and on 11 September 1858 he made a first appearance at the Scala of Milan, cast again as Rodrigo in Otello, alongside Bettini (Otello) and Maria Lafon (Desdemona).

Still in 1858 (carnevale), he sang at the Apollo in Venice, in Don Pasquale with Albina Maray, Ernani and Poliuto with Borsi-Deleurie, and in Benedetto Zabban’s Il Conte di Stennedof alongside that most English of Italian buffos, Giuseppe Ciampi.

From there, he moved on to the Teatro di Societa at Bergamo, where I spot him in December in Rigoletto, and then – apparently no longer under the management of Merelli – to sing with his La Scala partners at the Hofoper at Vienna. Not a place where one was accustomed to hear an English tenor. Geremia Bettini, Carrion and Musiani were also engaged, but Swift sang Elisero to Carrion’s Amenofis in Mosè and Rodrigo to the Otelloof Bettini.


It seems that the Pergola Theatre at Florence followed, but before at the end of 1860, Joseph Swift returned to England, hired by Edward Tyrell Smith for his dual-headed Italian and English opera season at Her Majesty’s Theatre. It was billed as ‘his first appearance at this theatre’, and the other principal tenors engaged were Giuglini and Sims Reeves.

Mr Swift’s first appearance came rather more quickly than anticipated. Two days after the opening of the season, the already ailing Giuglini was unable to appear, and Mr Swift went on as Manrico to the Leonora of Therese Titiens. ‘A tenor voice of remarkable freshness and purity’ approved the press. Swift was also called upon to deputise for Giuglini in Lucrezia Borgia, and then more lengthily for Reeves in the title-role of the decidedly successful new Robin Hood.

On 26 December, Joseph Swift came out in his own new role, singing Raphael to the Queen Topaze of Euphrosyne Parepa in Smith’s production of Massé’s successful Parisian opera. Queen Topaze had been somewhat fiddled with (Swift, for example, sang George Linley’s ‘Light as falling snow’) and did not prove a success. The other success of the season was Vincent Wallace’s The Amber Witch in which Reeves created the lead tenor role, but Mr Swift was allowed his due, alongside the star, and appeared with Parepa in The Bohemian Girl and Il Trovatore, and in the title-role of Fra Diavolo. At the end of the Her Majesty’s season, when Smith transferred his new success, The Amber Witch, to Drury Lane for extra performances, Mr Swift took over Reeves’s original part of Rudiger.

During the operatic season, he made a number of outside concert appearances, the most unusual of which was undoubtedly an appearance, alongside his Her Majesty’s co-stars, Parepa and Charles Santley, on the programme for the opening night of London’s new and wilfully upmarket Oxford Music Hall.

In the autumn, Swift went on tour with the Her Majesty’s company. Giuglini again had the pick of the tenor roles, but Swift sang Pollio (‘the best Pollio heard upon the Dublin stage’ appreciated the Irish press) and Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Giuglini’s roles when required.

He followed up with a similar programme in Giulia Grisi’s ‘Farewell Tour’ of Britain, singing Norma, La Sonnambula and the rest of the Grisi repertoire when co-tenor Galvani didn’t appear.

Norma, in fact, was now becoming Mr Swift’s mascot role on the British stage. ‘A well built, good-looking Pollio with a pleasant voice’, Willert Beale remembered in his memoirs: ‘He played (Pollio) with remarkable conscientiousness and his voice resounded with that manly intonation which we have before noticed…’ nodded the Manchester press ‘few visitors to Manchester have found more favour’.

The Grisi tour ended 2 December, and Mr Swift continued on the rounds of the concert platforms. At Christmas, he returned to Manchester to sing The Messiah with Mme Rudersdorff, Fanny Huddart and Formes (‘realised fully al that we had expected of him’), and in the early part of 1862 he performed at London concerts given by Edward Land (‘Love sounds the alarm’ ‘with force and energy’), the Marchisio sisters (‘Breeze could I thy pinions borrow’ Mendelssohn and quintet with them), Howard Glover, at the Crystal Palace (‘Love sounds the alarm’, Amber Witch duet with Parepa) and with the Vocal Association where he took part in the first concert selection from Benedict’s The Lily of Killarney. He appeared briefly in opera with Jenny Baur’s company, and sang in The Messiah and Elijah with the National Choral Society at Exeter Hall, alongside Florence Lancia, Dolby and Santley (‘Both Mme Lancia and Mr Swift would probably find it advantageous to devote especial attention to the oratorio school of singing for which they are in every sense well fitted’).

He was on hand again for the Italian opera season, where he again sang Lucrezia Borgia and Il Trovatore in place of Giuglini (‘Mr Swift whose fine voice and musical intelligence were always admired has made remarkable progress and may be complimented on having supplied, with as much ability and so entirely to the satisfaction of the patrons of Her Majesty’s Theatre, the place of an artist of such high standing’). In the last part of the season he replaced Armandi in Norma ‘and was a decided improvement’. The Musical World permitted itself to wonder why the Pyne and Harrison company had preferred to hire George Perren as their second leading tenor when a vocalist with the stage ease of Mr Swift was around. 

In the autumn, he went on the road with Edward Land’s concert party, with Marie Cruvelli, Madame Gassier and the bass Josef Hermanns, to fine receptions and reviews (‘a powerful tenor voice and sang with great animation’) in which the word ‘energetic’ appeared regularly. So, alas, did the word ‘Reeves’: ‘next to Mr Sims Reeve (facile princeps) he is one of our most accomplished tenors’, but since Swift necessarily performed some of the same music as his contemporary it was inevitable. When the party sang at John Russell’s concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, the Musical World acclaimed ‘one of our most genuine English tenors with a voice alone which should make his fortune’, and another critic came up with the delightful encapsulation of Reeves’s megastardom over his performance of ‘The Savoyard’ and ‘The Stolen Kiss’: ‘in which Mr Swift by no means unworthily emulated his preposterous contemporary’.


Swift spent Christmas singing English opera in Ireland with Annie Tonnellier and Emma Heywood, and it seems to have been there that he introduced Balfe’s new song ‘Si tu savais’ which would become his concert battlehorse over the years to follow.  On 29 May he made his first appearance with the Sacred Harmonic Society, singing The Creation, and the Daily News proffered ‘The Sacred Harmonic Society could not find a more satisfactory substitute for Mr Sims Reeves than Mr Swift. He is not a showy demonstrative singer and may perhaps be deemed rather tame. But this we think would be a mistake. His manner is quiet and his style is pure and simple. He has a full mellow voice and possesses both taste and expression.’  So what happened to ‘energetic’?

Swift sang his way through the concert season, delivering ‘Si tu savais’ with regularity, and in the autumn he took a prominent part in Alfred Mellon’s Covent Garden Proms (‘The Savoyard’, ‘The Stolen Kiss’, ‘Si tu savais’, Balfe’s rifle song ‘The Banner of St George’) before joining the company at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He appeared there as Auster, Spirit of the Storm in the stage version of Manfred, and in the new year as the singing a Lord in As You Like It, but in between times he returned to Her Majesty’s Theatre to replace Sims Reeves in the title-role of Faust for the final performances of the initial English-language run of the opera. He also stepped in, in his decidedly useful fashion, as temporary leading tenor for the touring Rosenthal company.

On 4 June 1864 he mounted what seems to have been his only personal concert, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with a grand bill of mostly English singers (Reeves, Santley, Mme Lemmens-Sherrington, the Weisses &c).

Later in June he appeared, ‘of Her Majesty’s and Drury Lane Theatres’, at Astley’s playing Tom Tug in The Waterman for E T Smith’s Benefit, and in September he joined up once more with Mapleson’s Italian Opera company. He was, as ever, Pollio, to the Norma of Titiens, but also sang Manrico, Oberon to the Huon of Italo Gardoni, and Jacquino in Fidelio.

In November, William Harrison (now without Louisa Pyne) ventured a season of opera at Her Majesty’s and Swift took part, playing Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Faust opposite Anna Hiles, La Sonnambula alongside the debuting Susie Galton, and creating the part of Agamemnon in Levey’s operetta Punchinello. He took time out from Her Majesty’s to dash to Dublin to replace poor Giuglini for the last time, returning to London to take the title-role in Harrison’s production of Maillart’s Lara, alongside Louisa Pyne. Lara had limited appeal.

During the concert season of 1865, Mr Swift was less in evidence, and when he again went out with the Italian opera he seems to have played only Jacquino, before joining up with Mrs Pyne Galton as the tenor for the touring company which was to showcase daughter Susie in pieces of Faust, Il Trovatore and La Sonnambula and the operettas Punchinello, Fanchette, Castle Grim, The Rival Beauties et al. ‘His voice is always heard with rapture’ wrote a critic.

If his voice were in good shape, however, something else clearly was not. Apart from occasional appearances with the Galtons, Mr Swift was conspicuously absent from the theatre and concert bills of 1866 until August of the year when he was announced to take to the road as tenor with the Rosenthal opera company…

Did he go? Every review I see speaks of William Parkinson.

If he did, it was his swansong.

At an age of not yet forty, Joseph Swift had done with the world of music.


I have a death certificate in front of me. I bought it many years ago, when ‘Mr Swift’ did not, for me, even have a christian name, and the Internet did not exist. But I found a brief announcement of his death in the press of July 1869 and I hastened me to the black books at the London Registry Office. From them, I found the only possible match: a Mr Joseph Swift, who died, aged 42, at number 3 Pall Mall on what looks like 10 July 1866. Now I know that ‘Joseph’ is correct …  and the Musical World, I too late find, actually found an infime space to record tersely ‘On July 10th at his residence in the Opera Arcade...’ So, it is he. Even if the Opera Arcade and Pall Mall seem to be adjacent, rather than precisely the same thing. But on that death certificate, under profession, it says ‘confectioner’.

Is that what became of Joseph Swift in the last few years of his life? Did ill-health force him from the stage and the concert platform, and into another way of making a living. Or did he lose his voice? The youthful death would seem to point to an illness. The certificate says ‘chronic phthisis of...’ what may be ‘heart’ and ‘serious apoplexy’.


So, annoyingly, my information on the last bit of Joseph Swift’s life is almost as fuzzily uncertain as that about that on the first part.

What is not uncertain, though occasionally, maybe, a little Continentally incomplete, is the professional part in between to two fuzzy areas. Mr Swift deserves his place in the upper ranks of Britain’s Victorian tenors.




Monday, May 29, 2023

An exceptionally curious Cartesian: Elaine Gryce.


Yesterday's success in outing Mr Rowlands encouraged me to have another half-day dip into D'Oyly Carteland. And ... well!  

I have met some strange stories in my years of wading through the characters of Victorian music and theatre. But that of the young woman who called herself 'Elaine Gryce' (why, I wonder ..) has got to be up there amongst the oddest. Miss Gryce was a very brief Cartesian -- depping for Kate Rolla in the title-role of Mirette -- she was later, also, accused of sporting very brief costumery -- but her history, and that of her family, could one but write it up fully, would not be brief at all, at all.

Miss 'Gryce' was in fact Annie Mary (sometimes Steele) VERITY. She was born 18 April 1867 one of the six daughters of a fellow by name Charles Henry (sometimes Steele) Verity and his second wife Henrietta Maria Murch. And Mr Verity, into whom I am not going to delve further, was apparently a scion of the family of the Duke of Rutland. I suppose it was all younger son of younger son (you can look up Burke), but anyhow the respectable part of his branch of the family was esconced in Bridgend. Not Charles though. He was disowned, kicked out, disinherited for his bad habits and dissolutenesss. I see him down in Weston-super-Mare (why?) in the 1871 census professing to be a 'broker', with his brood of lasses. A son (by wife one) had emigrated in the 60s to Australia. I don't know what became of him, but apparently wife (2) dumped him, and in 1875, when what I assume was his eldest daughter married, she said he was 'deceased'. Otherwhere, I hear he died in the workhouse. In 1893, when 'eighth' daughter, Emily Claudine, died she was 'granddaughter of' the Bridgened gent. 

Anyway, the family clearly got on without him. But I do wonder who paid for what followed. Three of the girls opted for the stage. Elizabeth Steele Verity ('Lisette Steele') and Emily Claudine were dancers. Annie is said to have gone to to Milan -- alone? as a teenager? -- and studied and sung in public. Yes. Well, we've heard that tale a million times. Very maybe.

In the 1891 census she is not in Milan, but in Jersey. Married. To a one-time law student (later 'actor'! as 'Tom Carling') named Willliam Astor DADSON,  allegedly from the Astor family (I suspect not THAT one) who ... oyyyy! Sorry, not going there! Except to say that they don't seem to have bred, and he died in a lunatic asylum in 1916 (26 October). Fast back.

In the 1891 census they are in Jersey: Annie is calling herself 'Adrienne A Dadson, operatic vocalist'.

And then she turns up, singing ... in America and Canada. How? Why? In 1892 she is playing in Les Cloches de Corneville opposite one Hamilton Tetley, sometime of the D'Oyly Carte. Then in an Operette troupe of dubious value with on Samuel Gryce. I see her in Canada, in 1893, with a manager yclept Ernest Hagger... then as 'the Canadian prima donna' on a variety bill at the Union Square featured in a version of La Jolie Persane. She/they left for home in early 1894, and I spot her, lavishly billed, alongside her sister in a charity fête at Leamington Spa. .

The Arion & Boston Company existed. A tiny, underpowered, ephemeral group ... but Leamington didn't know that. As for  Miss Greig's 'podigy' ...

At one stage, The Era thought it well to devote a wee para to Elaine...

Hmmm. Well I can't speak for the 9 year-old at Covent Garden, nor the education (under which name?), nor even the Hogarth engagement. Yes, USA/Canada is correct though vastly exaggerated. 

I also don't know how she picked up the week's employment with Carte, before the splendid Florence St John replaced the miscast Miss Rolla ... but I guess it qualifies her as a 'Cartesian'!

Obviously, she did NOT play Carmen at Drury Lane. She was one of several who sang Frasquita in Carmen for Augustus Harris. 

She omits to mention here her appearance as Miss Pattie Buttre in Little Boy Blue ... probably her most successful assumption.

Yes, she toured as Lady Dodo in The Shop Girl ... I missed The Sign of the Cross .. but caught the odd panto ... the odd music-hall engagement .. a trip to America in 1897, then Cora Angélique in The Belle of New York (1901). My last sighting of her is in Brixham at a volunteer concert billed as 'of the Savoy Theatre', in 1902, singing 'Home sweet Home' and 'Sing Sweet Bird'.

But this is far from the end of Annie Verity. Because Annie, in what seems an almost unbelievable exercise, reinvented and cloned herself.

I have not found Annie in the 1901 census. Though we know she was touring. Nor, indeed in the 1911 census. But Lord knows what she was calling herself by that time.  However, in the 1920s a lady named 'Miss Verity-Steele' turns up, not in the theatre, but at the posher dog shows. Exhibiting and breeding of Pekingese dogs. 'Prices from 10gns to 100gns'. And as the authoress of The Book on Pekingese ('illustrated'). And look at this! 81 Lansdowne Road, Worthing in the 1939 census. Dorothy Slater (b 16 October 1888), Queenie V Steele (b 18 April 1876, authoress), Annie M Dadson (b 18 April 1867, retired authoress). Dorothy Slater was another dog fancier who revised/updated the famous book in later days. I feel 18 April gives it away. Mrs Steele and Mrs Dadson are one and the same person.

I notice, down the way in Shepton Mallett, a Sister Mary Hyacinth teaching music at a convent. The good sister is the former 'Lizzie Steele' sometime dancing girl and sister to Miss Gryce, as was.

By the time Annie-Queenie died, in 1947, she had reverted to being Mrs Astor-Dadson. Or even plain Dadson. The days of Gryce were decades gone. The light of other days was faded. Woof.Yap.

Friday, May 26, 2023

A strayed Cartesian: O J ROWLANDS

In and out to doctors, nurses, hospital ... can't settle to any decent project and article ... so took a dip into David Stone's D'Oyly Carte archive to see if there were an undiscovered Cartesian I might clarify for the record ...

And I landed on one. O J Rowlands, of whom we are told only that he was one of the extra chorus rushed to America to bolster the cast of the original production there of The Gondoliers. 

Guess what! It was his real name.

Owen Jones WILLIAMS later ROWLANDS (b Tal y Bont, Conway 1854; d 39 Silverdale Ave, Tuebrook, Anfield, 14 November 1920) 

Born, it seems, to his unmarried mother, he was brought up as the eldest son of Hugh Rowlands (1831-1900) from Bangor and his Llanrwst-born wife Margaret née Williams who, at various times, were of  Liverpool, and of Wrexham, as father followed his profession of chemist. 'Late manager to Mrs Francis, Town Hill [Wrexham]', '1 Bridge Street, Wrexham' (1888)...   Eight years after O J's birth, Hugh and Margaret produced twins, then a number of other children, so I suspect that my surmise that the 'early' child is the one registered in 1853 or 4 as Williams, is correct.

Owen started life as a 'clerk' in Liverpool, and, in 1877, he married Jane Jones (I'm afraid so). And around that time, Owen's name began peeping out as a bass singer with the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union. I see him him in 1874 sharing a bill with a fuuture Cartesian soloist Lyn Cadwaladr and future star baritone James Sauvage. I see him singing the bass chestnut 'The Wolf' at Liverpool concerts, with the 'Liverpool-Cambrian' quartet, in concert with Ben Davies and Clara Perry, at Eistedfodds and St David's Day celebrations, up to 1887. In the 1881 census he is listed as 'Out Door Inspector, Parish Council'. Jane is dead, presumably in childbirth, and the infants would be looked after by their grandparents. 

Then, in 1888, he was hired by Carte and left on the City of Paris 4 February for America. On his return to England, he did not return to inspecting the outdoors. He changed his name, and headed for a career as a musical theatre basso. HUGH GWYNNE, as he now was, played in Dorothy at the Trafalgar Square Theatre,  in Under the Clock at the Court, went out on a long tour with Albert Chevalier as featured vocalist, and was seen in venues ranging from church in Wrexham, to the Pier Pavilion, Isle of Wight, and in 1896 ... the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Hedmont was Faust in Augustus Harris's production of Gounod's opera. Another ex-Cartesian, Charles Manners, was Mephistopheles, and 'Hugh' was Wagner.

In 1897 he took an engagement with South Africa's Ernest Searelle, as leading bass-baritone of his musical company. I see him down south playing Admiral Hawser in The French Maid, Snug in Bonnie Boy Blue, Mateo in La Mascotte, Don Jose in Maritana ...

I don't know how long he stayed in Africa. But I don't see him again on the British stage. I merely see his death in 1920 reported in the South African records.

Well, he had a stage career he probably never expected to have when he was inspecting outsides. And Drury Lane ....

Glad I sorted him out.

Friday, May 19, 2023



Found these photos today.  

Christchurch (NZ) is very near my home, so I thought I'd investigate these little girls.

Well, the one on the right is Louisa GORLE 'aged 6', therefore photographed in 1872. By Gaul of Christchurch. The one in the middle is her eldest sister, Henrietta Ann with her husband Thomas Hamilton ANSON. Married 1872.  The one on the left is puzzlingly labelled 'H Gorle'. Its fairly obviously taken at or about the same time as Louisa's .. so it's not Harriet. I suspect it may be daughter no5, Phillis, 2 years older than Louisa.  Anyway, they are Gorle girls ... some of them. Because the Gorle elders had a large number of children, seven (minus one) of whom were girls: Henrietta (1850), Frances (1853), Rachel Mary (1857), Rosa Mira (1860), Phillis (1864) and Louisa (1866) all born before the family's immigration to Canterbury in 1869.

So who were they? John Taylor or Tayler Gorle (b Mapleton 26 September 1822; d Metherell Towers Devon 2 August 1888) was one of those well-bred chappies of military lineage who followed father into the military at a young age, purchasing a ensign rank (1840) then a lieutenancy (1841) and a captaincy (1845) in the 10th Foot and in the 1850s the 40th Foot. He also married, and the breeding began

After his resignation from the army, he set out on a new career (still billed as Captain Gorle) as a colonial farmer and bloodstock dealer. At the end of 1869 the whole family left for Canterbury: Captain, Mrs, 6 daughters and 4 sons. Which seems right.

John Gorle was quickly into his stride, buying up lands at Courtenay and Kirwee near the Waimakariri River. He dealt in livestock from his yards in Kirwee, joined things, ran things, donated to things, wife and children took part in local concert-giving and pony-sports in the approved fashion. Later John bred racing greyhounds and Exmoor (imported) ponies. They took on another home in Sumner (and later New Brighton, Yaldhurst et al) and soon it was 1872 and time for the first daughter to get married. Our Henrietta.

She married a well-established 'pioneer' of her own class. Nephew of an Admiral, son of a Knight, General Sir John Anson, who was killed in a railway crash at Wigan shortly after the wedding. I don't know why Thomas had been exiled to the colonies -- probably like Gorle -- to get a slice of the new country, but he too did all right.  Especially in the breeding stakes. Children not cattle. 

In April 1884 Captain Gorle and his family returned to England with wife and three and then more remaining unmarried children. Three boys and three or was it four girls. Louisa was one. Harriet, of course, stayed in New Zealand with her husband.

Louisa 'of the school of agriculture' died in Devon in 1903. Aged only 43. She never returned to New Zealand.

Harriet lost her husband in 1894. But she and her children stayed in Canterbury .. I see that she died in Jeffrey's Rd, Bryndwr, 27 July 1929.

I lived close to there in the 1960s.

I'm stopping there. There is doubtless a huge family tree to be played with here. 

But it was a nice way to spend a morning, getting to know the folk who lived in my neighbourhood.


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Digging up the roots of Lilian Tree


Manchester-born Lilian Tree (soprano) was a well-known vocalist in, particularly, Australia, at the end of the nineteenth century. 

I bumped into her, 'prima donna [leggiera] of the Carl Rosa', this week and thought, I don't really know anything much about this lady, except that she sang the lead in A Moorish Maid, New Zealand's early attempt at a light opera. Well, as you who have read my reams of discoveries about Victorian vocalists will know, I can't let pass by one of the species without at least having a go at identifying her or him ... so I started. 

I started in the middle, which is a good way of finding beginning and ends. Sometimes.

On 10 October 1888 a Mrs Tree (aged 39) and a Miss L Tree (18) arrived at Adelaide. She had been hired by Martin Simonsen, along with a selection of Italian(ate?) vocalists for an 'Australian' opera company. The press assured that she had 'sung for some nine months with Carl Rosa'. 'Miss Tree's voice, which is remarkable for its fulness and flexibility, embraces three octaves extending to F in alt. Besides this she is pretty, charming, graceful -- and only twenty'. Twenty, eh?

Well name and date were both fictional.  The name was easily unveiled, for she had made her first appearances under the name of Lily Crabtree. But she was not to be found in the British birth records as such. Nevertheless, she turned up for me at 16 Shakespeare St, Ardwick, Lancashire in the 1871 census. Father Alexander Crabtree, corn merchant from Oswaldwistle aged 41, wife Ada b Sheffield aged 30, Alexandrina aged 6, Alexander jr aged 3 ...  so, the future Miss Tree was not born in 1870, or even 1868, but in 1864. And there she is ... Alexandrina Crockett, born Salford ...  Crockett?

However, by the time she was christened, 19 years later, she was known as 'Lily'. And Crabtree. And her father was named as Alexander Crabtree. And he was deceased.

OK. This was not, it seemed, going to be straightforward. It wasn't, but I got there. Ada Amelia Bendelow (b Doncaster), a dressmaker from Sheffield, had been, since 1857, the wife of one Edwin Crockett and the mother of a little Bertha Eliza Crockett (1861). 

Alexander Crabtree was also a father and had been, from 1848 until sometime before Lily's birth, a married man. His wife, Hannah née Graves, may even have been the one who died in Manchester in January 1864. His daughter was Harriet Eleanor Ann Crabtree (ka Ellen), born in Liverpool 3 March 1849, who became the wife of schoolmaster Thomas Kilner in 1870. Ada Amelia was her witness.

Then came the history! Alexandrina was born in December 1864. Indubitably to widower Alexander, and the married Mrs Crockett. And, some months later, the parents were wed ...

Ada Amelia was, unsurpringly, slightly unsure of her surname. She was pretty surely no widow. 

Alexander wasn't sure either. As witness another marriage ..

Why? How? It all came to court, with Alexander charged with bigamy ..

He was declared ... not guilty! Why? 

Small wonder that daughter Lily grew up with a healthy disdain for the state of legal marriage.

Alex continued to cohabit with Ada, Jane sued for divorce. Ada had a son (6 May 1867) and, in 1875 (9 March), a daughter, Catherine Rhoda. And then Alexander died (17 June 1877). Ada took on the running of the Lloyd Hotel in Chorlton-cum-Hardy where she can be seen in 1881 with Lily ('age 16') and Alexander jr ..

And then the music started. In 1883 Miss Lily A Crabtree, aged 18, of Manchester 'a pupil of Charles Halle' won a piano scholarship to the brand new Royal College of Music. She studied singing there, too. She was cast as Countess Almaviva in the college production of The Marriage of Figaro. 

In April 1886, she took out the prestigious Parepa Rosa Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music where she continued her piano studies with Randegger and her vocal ones to such effect that later that year she was engaged by Nelson Vert for the 'London Symphony Concerts' at St James's Hall (Meistersinger quintet). And got herself hired, though still a student, by Carl Rosa.



Lily Crabtree made her debut, as Micaela, to the Carmen of Marie Roze, at the Liverpool Royal Court, where she also sang at the Halle concerts alongside Joachim, being well recieved on both stage and platform. She later affirmed that she also sang in Nordisa, which I do not find. 

In 1888 I see her at the Halle Concerts again, taking on no less that a programme than 'Ocean, thou mighty monster', 'Non mi dir' and 'Volte la terra fronte' in another programme with Joachim, and at de Jong's Free Trade Hall concerts, before she returned to the Rosa. Micaela was now sung by her erstwhile understudy, Kate Drew, and Lily was cast as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, as Countess Almaviva ...

Manchester days

And then she was gone. Why?, I wonder. With a pretty good English career in view, why did she exile herself to deepest Australia and a company where the manager's wife was the prima donna? I guess we'll never know. Although Lily would go into versions of the subject at length in later years. 

Anyhow, she and mama set sail ... and lost a few years of age during the transit of the seas. Lillian (as she was now known) shrunk from 23 to 18. Mamma shrank from 44 to 39. 'Mrs Tree is a lady of means and she and her daughter have come more for the trip than anything else' spake the Australian gossip columns. Ah! Journalism. Mrs Tree was a pubkeeper.

She sang The Rose of Castile, The Bohemian Girl, Il Guarany, Rigoletto, Maritana, Faust, Satanella, Carmen (yes, Micaela again!) before it all fell to pieces, and Lilian rushed to the press with long stories about how she hadn't wanted to come anyway, and was talked into it ... (Sydney Telegraph 30 January 1889). Her engagement was, however, enlivened by the attentions of the Italian baritone Achille Ettore Torquato (ka Attilio) Buzzi (b 1850; d 27 June 1909). Buzzi, who had created the role of Shylock in Pinsuti's operatic Merchant of Venice in 1878 was one of those brought out by Simonsen in 1886. Lilian soon declared she and he would settle in Melbourne .. they were 'engaged'. Lily got 'engaged' quite a lot.

Through 1889 she (and he) appeared in frequent concerts, and contracted with John Solomon for a season at the New Opera House, where they appeared in The Bohemian Girl (with interpolation), Der Bettelstudent (Laura, 'a perfect dream'), Kowalski's Moustique (Queen Venus), Maritana, Martha, La Sonnambula, Faust, The Sultan of Mocha, Nemesis, The Beggar's Opera ...

Mother was still there, So was Buzzi, but Lillian -- who had gathered loving reviews in the highly popoular lighter works of the repertoire -- was flinching. She 'contracted typhoid fever', was 'off' a lot, and would, she announced, return to England in the new year. But come the new year, she was still in Australia, playing the repertoire with what had now become Henry Bracy's company. That company finally closed in mid-1890, and Lillian returned to the concert platform. I see her in October 1890 singing in The Seasons. Baritone: Signor Buzzi.  

Finally, she did head for Europe. Where mother had seemingly gone before. Back to hotel management at Gregg's Hotel in Darwen. Buzzi didn't. 'After a short rest [she] journeyed to Milan where she stayed eleven months, [studying with Blasco] appeared on the stage there, and in February [1892] made an appearance with the Carl Rosa at Liverpool' in the title part in Aida. Georgina Burns had been forced out of the role through illness, Marie Roze had taken her place... but on 19 February Lilian 'who has kindly undertaken the part at a few hours notice' stepped in. 'Her first appearance this season'. 

She gave a second performance at a matinee 25 February while Mme Roze sang Trovatore in the evening and seemingly a third before the Rosa Liverpool season ended. And so did Lilian's Rosa career.

In May 1892 she sailed back into Sydney, from Naples, on the Oruba. With a husband. An Australian husband. Or 'husband'. The not-long widowed Dr Arthur John Vause was the wealthy owner of the private mental asylum at Bay View, Tempe, and the couple, it seems, had met shipboard. The marriage or 'marriage' lasted some two years. Her absence from the platform was of no length at all (Stabat Mater Her Majesty's Sydney 31 March 1893) but that from the stage, in spite of perpetual rumours, was to be longer.

In 1894 she was touted to visit America 'engaged for the Metropolitan Opera House'. But she didn't. Then, or any of the other times similar rumours were propagated. What she really did was scarper from Australia with a major (married) local personality, Dr Harman Tarrant. 


According to her, she travelled with him through Europe, where she sang Aida at 'the Grand Opera, Milan', then at Genoa, Naples, and Cracow, over a period of two years.  I can't quite fit 'two years' in here, and I have yet to exhume those soi-disant European performances from any source. Anyhow the couple ended up in England.


Lilian appeared in the Halle concerts ('her first appearance since her successful Australian tour'), and then got involved in E C Hedmont's ambitious season of opera at Covent Garden, where she was cast as Brünnhilde in The Valkyrie and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. Her reception was diverse: one paper described her as 'stout' another as 'pretty and petite'. Her acting, some opined, left something to be desired. Her physique was clearly not in her favour. And though the voice seemed to have been excellently maintained, and was generally described in favourable terms, one journo described her Santuzza as 'not up to the average of an English provincial one'. It's just a suspicion, but I think her 'manager', Dr Tarrant may have been getting up some people's noses. But other writers make Lilian the villain in the tale of a relationship which was pretty well ended before Tarrant's death, in poverty and alcohol, 10 September 1900. The international press was favourable: 'une belle voix, une jolie femme, et une artiste consciencieuse'.

One other important person, however, liked her performance. Augustus Harris hired her for his opera company at Drury Lane, and her Santuzza, there, was perfectly well received, although one paper worried that it was hard to imagine the tragic Santuzza 'when uttered by such a bright, cheerful and handsome prima donna'. She sang Venus in Tannhäuser ('sang with grace and refinement, looking the part of Venus to the very letter') and repeated her Brünnhilde ('deserved success') where, once again it was noted 'Miss Tree cannot be blamed because Nature has not endowed her with an Amazonian figure' but her 'excellent singing and dramatic feeling', it was judged, made up for lack of Teutonic butchness. When Harris produced Hansel and Gretel, Lilian sang the mother, Gertrude. A range of parts which would seemingly have fitted her usefully into any major opera company.

But at the end of the season, it was back to the concert platform -- the Queen's Hall Promenade Concerts (where she sang the 'Liebestod', Beethoven's Egmont, Robert le diable), the Glasgow Sundays, Samson in Edinburgh, more Halle concerts, a concert party tour ('Mme Lilian Tree and party') .. and finally, in March 1897, she turned up back in London topping the bill at London's Palace Music Hall. She sang 'I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls' and 'The Children's Garden'. And then she headed back to the Antipodes.

Back 'home' she continued her music-hall experience at the Sydney Palace and the Tivoli with Harry Rickards ('The Song that Reached my Heart', 'The Last Rose of Summer', 'Robert, toi que j'aime') and subsequently toured with Rickards' Biograph Company. She also continued her habit of giving lengthy newspaper interviews which didn't always tally with verity .. 'I shall be 25 at Christmas'. No, Alexandrina, you will be 33. 

She was still, though considerably plumper, a star, and paragraphs regarding the offers she had refused for the Metropolitan Opera, NYC, Covent Garden et al hit the press regularly. As did such earth-shaking news as her sprained ankle, her intention to enter a convent, and the continuing propinquity of Mr Tarrant.

When tenor Philip Newbury was added to the Rickards company, the Trovatore Miserere was added to the programme, on which Lillian was now featuring such as 'Softly Sighs', 'Ernani involami' alongside 'Come Back to Erin' and 'Home, Sweet Home'. Such was her success, that she continued with Rickards through 1898. Then she returned to the stage for John Solomon. The opera was Carmen, and now Lily was no longer Micaela, but 'a very substantial' Carmen, supported by Jack Leumane and Ted Farley and a rather second-rate cast. It was agreed that she sang it well, but the bill was soon varied with Maritana and The Bohemian Girl. 

At the end of the season, 'Madame' Tree advertised for pupils. And Tarrant, who had failed in his efforts to re-establish himself in the eyes of authority, in spite of heavy advertising, died. Back in Italy, Buzzi was said to have joined a Carthusian brotherhood.

Lily, who had not been spared in her paramour's obituaries, advertised for vaudeville engagements, and soon returned to Rickards. It was not a success. She was no longer the public's darling. 

She was sued for debt ... interestingly, as 'Miss Lilian Tree' spinster .. and shortly after quit Australia for, this time, New Zealand, where, in 1903, she was reported to have married one Charles Lund 'well known in connection with the Lund line of steamships'. The records show that Charles John Gilbert Lund of Wellington married Lilian Margaretta Lancaster ... another husband, another name .. ? But she would be Mrs Lund for the next two decades. She remained in Auckland, teaching singing from 15 Grafton Road, and giving concert opera with the locals, until Alfred Hill and J Youlin Birch brought out their opera A Moorish Maid (26 June 1905). Lilian was starred in the leading role of La Zara at the head of a cast made up largely of amateurs for six nights at Auckland's His Majesty's. When the show went further, Lilian did not go with it. She had a 'serious illness'.

Youlin Birch

In 1906 Mr and Mrs Lund voyaged to England. All sorts of rumours as to grandiose offers filtered back to the Australasian press, including one that she had been offered the role of Lady Jane in Patience. I see her only, in 1910, at a short-lived Brighton Festival singing Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana and the Verdi Requiem (4 February) alongside Watkin Mills ...

Lilian was now chopping 15 years off her age. And Charles was a .. hatter? What happened to the shipping line?

Come the war, he joined the airforce, and revealed his birthdate. 28 May 1886. That can't be right. Married at 17? Elsewhere its 1881. Married at 22. Oh! Alexandrina! Now we see why you are shrinking your age so drastically!

Charles Lund died at Epsom, Surrey 1 September 1926 'aged 45'. He left L146.12.3d to his wife Lilian Margarita Lund of Furnival Mansions, 25 Wells Street, Marylebone. 

I imagine that Lily was the Lilian Lund who died in Paddington in 1933. Admitting to 52 years of age. She was 68. 

So, that tidies up the bits and ends of Miss Alexandrina Crockett ka 'Lilian Tree'. There are a few left to sort out, but this is a pretty fair start. And I'm thinking what might have happened had she stayed in Manchester, with Halle, the Carl Rosa et al. A lady who could sing the Liebestod one minute, and 'Robert toi que j'aime' the next. But I suppose she did extremely well as a big fish on the other side of the pool. And had a good few 'adventures'.



Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Scrattons of Prittlewell, Essex .. and Hackney and Maidstone


This family archive turned up on e-bay so I thought I would 'preserve' it, here, as well as I could. 

Prittlewell Priory and its occupation by the Scratton family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been widely documented

But the Scratton family was a tentacled one, and various branches spread round Essex and even up to Hackney. And every generation of every branch seemed to sport a Daniel and a John ... 

The line we seem to want to follow is that of John Stratton of Hackney whose will tells us he was the husband of Abigail Cotton, the brother of Daniel and John Scratton, and the father of a Daniel, a John and a Thomas. Thomas Scott Stratton is useful, for he became a vicar and officiated at his niece's marriage. Although he was the eldest son, Daniel seemingly chose not to inhabit Prittlewell Priory, which was occupied by Brother John until his death age 53 on 26 April 1861. Our Daniel (b 1787) can be seen as a landed proprietor and JP in Maidstone at that time. And here he is photographed in 1864

And here in 1858

And here, his wife, Susan née Ansell 1793-1874.

And here a summary of their offspring, and their offspring's offsprings, duly illustrated


Emigrated to Australia in the 1850s. Practiced as a lawyer in Melbourne, seemingly with limited success. Latterly suffered from dementia and died at Camberwell 9 July 1884, apparently unmarried. The grey sheep of the family?



Clergyman. Curate at Wolverhampton and Pembury and twenty years vicar of Stickford, Lincolnshire. Married Lydia Blackburn, 2 sons Edward Joshua Blackburn Stratton (1854-1916), eventual Lord of the Manor of Prittlewell and William Howell Stratton (9 July 1859-1910). Died at Stickford 7 May 1896. Prittlewell Priory was still the Scratton fief but soon to go under the hammer.

Rev George aged 62

George before grey set in (1863)


Solicitor. Married Ellen Scratton. Six children of whom the surviving four are pictured here. John (16 December 1856-24 February 1928),  Ellen (b 3 July 1859; d 1953), Arthur (b 1858; d 13 March 1934) 'gentleman' and wealthy, m May Cameron, Alfred (16 April 1863-5 February 1912) civil engineer, Buenos Aires railways.

John stitched the two branches of the family back together. He married his cousin Ellen Scratton (b 1818; d 5 April 1906) daughter of John Scratton of Prittlewell.

John in 1864

Handsome couple, ain't they. And the children ...


Alfred aged 17


John, Arthur, Ellen and Alfred

John, Ellen, Arthur (1863)

Ellen 1866 with whom?


Married Dr Duncan Menzies. Son John Duncan Menzies (pictured here) (1861-1895). Surviving daughter Emily Menzies (d 1930 unmarried). 

Susan Menzies (1864)

Duncan Menzies

J D Menzies

J D Menzies

Emily Menzies



Married John William Mostyn MD, army surgeon. He died three years later on service in Madras.



Emma in Monte Carlo



'Gentleman'. Married Louisa Maria Ambrose who died of it, then Matilda Barrett. And finally, it seems, an Anne Christine. Removed to France and died in Puteaux 23 July 1895.



Vicar of Badby-cum-Newnham, Northants. Married vicar's daughter Margaret Gregory. Son Daniel (30 September 1875-1936) became a Commander in the Royal Navy and moved to Australia. He, 'of Harkstead, Gilgarre' died in South Yarra 29 January 1936. His sister, Mary (b 29 July 1879) died unmarried in 1954. Harkstead UK was where the family came from.

Rev William 1861

Rev William in 1879

Margaret in 1874

Daniel and Mary

Daniel (7) 'at the garden door' with the cook , nurse and housemaid

Daniel (a favourite!) aged 3 rising 4

Daniel and Mary with nanny Annie Sutton

There are more. Which 'Miss Scratton' is this?  "Miss' is traditionally the eldest daughter. But whose.

And, then, whose album was this? Bingo. Same dealer, same writing .. a bunch of Gregorys. So Mrs William's family?

Alice Catherine Gregory (1848-1912)

F T Gregory

Grace Elizabeth Gregory (1846-1929)

Mary Matilda Gregory (1853-1919, Mrs Wm Cuthbert Lewis)

Wm Cuthbert Lewis

Grace Elizabeth Gregory

William Gregory

children of Francis Thomas Gregory, the vicar of of St Mary's Platt, Wrotham, and curate of Loose, and thus siblings of Margaret. Oh ... more of the Gregorys ... Alice, Grace, Mary, FJ jr and mother Sarah ...

Mrs Nicholas de Jersey Lovell (Hester Garret Gregory)

and husband 'of Easton in Gordano' and and children ...

Violet and Muriel Annie Lovell

Grace Lovell

Lord knows what else was in that album ...

But I think that is the backbone of it ...

I hope it finds a home ...

PS Mr Rivers is sending me a list of the 200 (!) pictures in the album!  There goes my weekend!

ADDENDUM: Amongst the other photos in the Gregory-Scratton volume I found three which seem to be, perhaps, friends of the family. Here is Humphrey Edward OWEN as a thirteen year-old scholar (1862) and as an Oxford (Magdalen) graduate. 

and here is his sister, Rosetta Frances OWEN

I thought I had best investigate them, in case they were family ... and found a huge story. They were two of the family of the Rev Edward Owen, who owned a slave plantation in Jamaica between 1829-34. He married South African-born Maria Elzembe Smith and fathered a number of children ... 

I had begun to research their story when I found that someone else had had a go before me. So I copy that entry (edited) adding my corrections and additions:

Edward Owen: Anglican clergyman and absentee owner in Jamaica. Edward Owen, born circa 1808, son of Edward Owen of Jamaica. His mother was probably Ann Burt Owen, possibly née Wright. Married Maria Elzenbe Smith. Awarded compensation for three estates in Jamaica as executor of Edward Owen, but was also probably a beneficiary of the will.

Nothing found on his early life but Edward was a student at Worcester College, Oxford 1825-1833: ‘Owen, Edward, 1s Edward, of ‘Mancuo’ [sic: this has not ben further traced] Jamaica, arm. (D. Med.), WORCESTER COLL., matric. 9 Nov., 1825, aged 17; B.A. 1830, M.A. 1833, curate of Gawsworth, Cheshire, died 31 July, 1848.’ He was ordained deacon 22/06/1834 at St George, Hanover Square, appointed as a curate 30/06/1834 at Lullingstone, Kent and ordained priest 26/04/1835 at Bromley, Kent.

Maria Owen, the youngest daughter of Edward Owen of Jamaica, married Edward Duke Moore.  

The Rev Edward Owen married Maria Elzenbe Smith in 1832 in the Parish of Saint Mary-le-bone: ‘Edward Owen of this Parish a Bachelor and Maria Elzenbe Smith of this Parish a Spinster a Minor were married in this Church by Licence by and with the Consent of Edward Smith Esquire the natural and lawful father of the said Minor this Twenty First Day of May in the Year One thousand and thirty-two.’ Both bride and groom signed the register clearly and the witnesses were A. Tweedie, Edw Duke Moore, E. Owen, L Hanley and A. Smith. 

In 1841 Edward and Maria are in Waterloo Crescent, Dover, Kent. Edward is 30 (rounded down), a Clerk, born out of county, Maria is 25, born out of county, and there are four children, Jacintha, 6, born in county, Anna Maria, 3, born out of county, Humphrey, 2, born in county, and George, 7 months, born out of county. There are four female servants

Edward died 31/07/1848. 

By 1851 the family is scattered. Humphrey Edwd, 11, born Kent, Dover, is in a large school in Newgate Street, London. George, 10, born Sussex, Shoreham, is a pupil at the Clergy Orphans School in the parish of St Marylebone, London. There is no sign of either Jacintha or Anna Maria in the 1851 census but there is a death registered in the June quarter of 1850 in the district of Camberwell for a Jacintha Georgina Owen. No age is given in the indexes at this point but there is a burial to match this death: Jacintha Georgina Owen, Commercial Place, 10 May 1850, aged 15 years, in Camberwell St George. The age is right and it is possible that Jacintha was also at a school. There is no obvious death for Anna Maria. The fact that George is in a Clergy Orphans’ school suggests that their mother, Maria, has also died. [EDITOR: she hadn't she is in Hove, 68, clergyman'swidow, born Cape of Good Hope, with daughter Rosetta 33 and granddaughter Woltera Strickland]. In the 1861 census, Humphrey and George, at 7 Hamilton Place, Highbury, are living together but Humphrey is described as ‘son of Head’ and since Edward is deceased it looks as if their mother is still alive, though again there is no obvious sign of her in 1861. Both Humphrey and George are Clerks in the Bank of England. Humphrey became a student at Oxford: 'Owen, Humphrey Edward, 1s Edward, of Dover, Kent, cler. MAGDALEN HALL, matric. 31 March, 1864, aged 24; B. Mus. 1866, B.A. & M.A. 1872, vicar of Leck, Lancashire, 1870-3, chaplain at Capri 1866-7, rector of South Moreton, Berks, 1877-78, chaplain at Toulon 1881-2, at Grasse 1882-3'.

Humphrey Edward Owen married Augusta Mary Ann Frances Laurence in 1862.  In 1871 Humphrey is in Leck, Lancashire, in 1891 he is in Horle, East Sussex and in 1901 in Farnborough, Hampshire. Humphrey’s death is registered in the December quarter of 1905 in Farnham, Surrey. No will/probate found. 


Maria died in Hove in early 1895 aged 82

Rosetta Frances OWEN was born 22 March 1845 and died unmarried 18 August 1926 in Bayswater

Woltera Margaret OWEN (b Dover 1842; d 1897), another daughter of Edward and Maria, married Charles STRICKLAND (b Bengal 10 May 1834)  RN surgeon,  in 1863. Annie Maria was a witness. The couple can be seen in C1881 and C1891. Their daughter Woltera Auldjo Daintry (Mrs Michael O'BRIEN) and her daughter Kathline are with them. 

I checked a few others among the folk featured as well. Just in case. Margaret seems to have collected photos of the other local clergymen.

This is the Devon man, Rev Francis Henry CURGENVEN (1837-1901), vicar of Byfield, with his wife Katharine Georgina née Stephens (1843-1939) and their five surviving children. In decreasing order: Beatrice (1873-1950), Edward (1875-1947), Gerald (1876-1959) Agnes (1877-1954) and Stephen (1880-1901). A Winifred and a Gertrude were lost early.

The children

Then there is Norfolk-born Henry Hammont LUBBOCK (5 March 1835-8 July 1892), former Cambridge rowing blue and bachelor (!) rector of Hanworth. 

This is the Rev Henry FURLEY (1842-1917) 'of Heydour' then curate at Daventry, then rector of Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent. Son of George Furley of Canterbury. Married 1873 clergyman's daughter Helen Mary Watts (d 23 December 1897) of Fulletby by whom he had six children. Remarried 12 February 1901 Lizzie Furley. A cousin?

I'm sure there are more. Yes. Charles tells me that the Rev Edward Bowyer SPARKE (1805-1879) is coming up. Rector of Feltwell, Norfolk. Goodness, one wife, the odd child, eight servants, and a house in Chester Square, Belgravia ...  See he ended up a canon at Ely Cathedral. I'll put his picture here when it comes.

Ah, here's a lady who belongs. Two photos of Mrs Mary [Ann] Beck, née Rainier formerly Adams (b 15 December 1819; d 3 February 1874), wife of Louis Alexander Beck in her second marriage. I spotted a Sarah Mayhew Rainier (1811-1866) somewhere in this morass .. of course! The Rev F T Gregory's wife! So this is her younger sister. In 1871 she is visiting Lodway House and she died at the Vicarage of St Mary Platt ...  

Mary Rainier Beck

 Time for a pause.