Thursday, February 22, 2024

Theatre Royal, Plymouth 1861

A culling of ebay this week brought up an amazing series of playbills from an 1861 season at the very consequent Theatre Royal at Plymouth.

A season, in the glorious Victorian days, was not host to today's dreary 'every night' productions of one show. That kind of theatrical constipation had not -- in the days before films, television, and only in the early days of the music halls -- not yet arrived.

A country manager took a theatre for a season of weeks or months, hired himself a company and, sometimes, even, lured the odd guest 'star' to Stockport or Scarbough for a night or two, and put on a series of performances with which he hoped to attract sufficient of the local populace to witness a nightly changing bill of drama, comedy, dance, music ...  If he were a canny caster, and could hire himself young actors and particularly actresses who became 'local favourites, he could get the same audience back for a new sixpence worth night after night ...

These 'seasons' were particularly potentially profitable when there was a daytime attraction pulling patrons to the town .. the local race meeting (Doncaster and Newmarket theatres always opened their doors in race weeks), or a regatta ... and this was the case here.  Manager J R Newcombe (who was the expert maestro of the Plymouth theatre for many, many years) opened his theatre for the races in 1861 ...

The first night, with his new company (including some members of his last season's company) was 19 August, when he presented Twelfth Night featuring local favourites James O'Sullivan (Orsino) and Kate Ranoe (Olivia) and the young Fanny Addison as Viola.

The first bills I have are for the 23rd and 24th. 

 I am not sure whether they played six nights a week

But the second Friday seems to have been the money night, with no less a celebrity than horse racing's Admiral Rous's presence for the occasion billed larger than any of the players. 

The next week ...

And the next Friday the amdrams moved in.

Most of the pieces played were familiar ones, but Gitanilla, by John Crawford Wilson, had only been produced at London's Surrey Theatre 8 October of the previous year. It was well enough received there, with Creswick in the role of melodramatic Pedro and the theatres 'astounding effects' and a nice toll of dead bodies. Afteer its couple of weeks at the Surrey it was picked up by J H Chute for Bristol and Bath, then by Newcastle and Liverpool on a double bill with the seasonal pantomime. In Dublin it was played as a forepiece to Lydia Thompson! And Newcombe picked it up. He got half a dozen showings out of it, and doubtless shelved the scenery for his next round of The Colleen Bawn. Leicester played to two dramas as a double bill! Bury played it as an addition to Slavery ... Mr Wilson might have been sub-sub-Boucicault, but Gitanilla did OK! The writer progressed to Elsie, or Flights to Fairyland et al

Naturally, I have to know who this little company were. The two twenty-something juvenile ladies became 'known'. One, indeed, so 'known' that I've already biographied her ...

RANOE, Kate [RANOE, Katherine] (b Bridgnorth, Salop c 1837; d Montreal, Canada, 29 March 1893)


The musician and showman, Jullien, featured some well-known artists – from Charlott Ann Birch or Anna Thillon to Madame Gassier to Charlotte Dolby – as vocalists with his grand orchestra. But he also gave extended opportunities to a number of young unknowns, such as Cicely Nott and most particularly, Kate Ranoe.


Miss Ranoe was born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Her actor father, James Ranoe had come there to play with the local theatre company, and married local girl Maria Hall in 1834 (28 April). Maria swiftly began turning out a regular run of infants, and by the time James moved on from Shropshire, at the end of the 1830s, they had babies Michael, Kate and Isabella in tow.

In the 1841 census, 4 year-old Kate is to be found in Henry Street, Lambeth, with her paternal grandmother. James is evidently working in the provinces, the rest of the family with him, as another sister, Cecilia Victoria was christened later that year in Stamford. Further children followed, with the inevitable rate of wastage, with another sister, Rosina, born in 1845. Michael went on to be a railway guard and inspector, Isabella a drawing mistress married to a stone mason, but Kate, Cecilia and Rosina all went into music and the theatre.


Kate made her first appearance in public at the Adelphi Theatre in Sheffield in February of 1849, on the occasion of her father’s Benefit. She sang two solos and a duet, and played the role of Jenny Leatherlungs in the trifle Jenny Lind at Last. She was billed as ‘the Infant Jenny Lind’. ‘She both acts and sings with energy, precision and tact’, reported the local press, warning her parent against making her do too much, too young.

 Now, the story (doubtless true) about little Miss Ranoe goes that she was taken up/adopted or whatever by Monsieur Jullien, who paid for and supervised her musical education. Well, it just happens that in Sheffield that week Jullien was indeed playing (vocalist: Mme Thillon) and it is tempting to believe that he saw the little girl perform.

 In any case, Kate was at some stage taken into the Jullien household, enrolled at the RAM – variously as ‘pupil of Miss Dolby’ and ‘pupil of Crivelli’ -- and judged to have ‘a contralto voice which promises to be of the very finest quality’ in pieces such as ‘The Lord is mindful of his own’. I am not sure whether she is the ‘Miss Ranoe’ who appears briefly at the City of London Theatre in 1852. There were a lot of them.


When Kate’s time at the Academy was over, she naturally made her re-debut under her ‘father’s’ management. Jullien launched a season on 15 July 1856 – ‘a grand inauguration festival for the opening of the Colossal Concert Hall’ – for which he hired a tiara of star artists including Dolby, Alboni, Novello, the Gassiers, Reeves, Rokitansky and … Miss Kate Ranoe.  After the opening, things settled down to a less stellar level, and Kate put in regular appearances. I notice her giving ‘John Anderson, my Jo’ ‘sweetly’, and the Evening Prayer from Eli, during the seasons which were interspersed with Jullien’s wide and grand national tours. On which ‘Miss Ranoe’ went too.


At Christmas 1858, she was cast as ‘Italian Opera’ in the Covent Garden pantomime Little Red Riding Hood, and apparently she went to Paris to further her studies under Duprez. 


At this stage, however, Jullien was – for the umpteenth time -- deep in financial trouble, and after a spell in debtor’s prison, he died in March 1860. A fantastical story appeared in the press, telling how, now insane, he had threatened ‘young lady of fifteen, his adopted daughter’ with a knife, ‘a pupil of Duprez who bids fair to become a great singer’. Kate appeared in a Benefit for his widow at the Surrey Gardens (31 July) singing Reichardt’s ’Thou art so near and yet so far’.


With her sponsor gone, Kate’s career changed. She took a job in the company at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth (‘the late lamented Jullien’s protegée’), and there we meet her. When she sang at yet another Benefit for Mme Jullien (‘Deh vieni’), the press assured ‘we have never seen her to greater advantage’, but, when she played the title-role in Rosina, they were less impressed’ remarking ‘her voice has lost all that brilliancy which we remember it possessed, some four or five years since, when she accompanied the late M Jullien’.


From now on, Kate worked as an actress who sings. When the theatre did a play version of Il Trovatore she played Leonora, and interpolated bit of the opera, when they did The Colleen Bawn she was Eily, she sang songs between the acts, and was decidedly popular. It was averred ‘she still lives with Mme Jullien’, but in the 1861 census she is a 23 year-old actress and boarder in a local home.When Madame Jullien attempted to continue where her late husband had left off, Kate too appeared, but more and more she was working as a burlesque actress and comedienne: at the Adelphi, the Olympic, the Strand, the Royalty, at the Queen’s Theatre in Dublin.


Her situation had now singularly changed, for on 20 January 1862 at St James’s Westminster, Kate had become Mrs Frederick Edward Molyne[a]ux St John (b Newcastle 28 November 1838; d Ottawa 30 January 1904), a sometime officer in the marines and a scion of the aristocracy. Since Mrs St John continued as an actress, perhaps not a very well-off scion.

In 1868, the St Johns left England for Canada, and Molyne[a]ux metamorphosed into variously a journalist, an author (The Sea of Mountains), a political secretary, a railways agent, an agent for the Land Corporation of Canada and a civil servant. Kate, after a brief sojourn at New York’s Wallack’s Theatre (25 September 1867), continued for some years to perform – notably as La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein in an early Canadian Offenbach production – in Montreal, Toronto and associated venues.

The St Johns returned to England for some years, during his period as a railway agent (they are there for the 1881 census), but returned to Canada where they ended their days in Ottawa.

Kate, apparently, was ‘accidentally killed’ in Montreal in 1893.


The other theatrical Ranoes worked on: James as a useful provincial and suburban actor and stage manager, and finally as stage manager to the Italian Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Maria, who had been a costume-maker at the Lyceum, at the head of her own costumery as ‘Madame Ranoe’ of 5 Church Street, Covent Garden, and Cecilia and Rosina both as burlesque actresses.  

Cecilia married in 1860 Francis Cowley Burnand, the well-know burlesque author and writer, who, after her early death, remarried Rosina, by this stage the widow of Edward Payson Jones (1874). The enumeration of their offspring would take more space than this article. Dame Rosina Burnand died in Ramsgate in 1924.

Don't worry. I'm not going to detail the other member of the company at such length, but Kate was 'one I cooked before'.

I'm not going to go into Fanny ADDISON [ADDISON, Frances Pauline] (b Birmingham 2 December 1843; d 7 January 1937). She has been written about so many times before. Daughter of an actor, she, like her sister Carlotta, went on the stage young. She married (1874) the American actor Henry Mader Pitt (1850-1898), worked latterly as Fanny Addison Pitt and lived to a ripe old age ...

In the 1861 census, she 'aged 17' and sister Carlotta 'aged 15' are boarding in Sidwell St, Exeter. Fanny is already an 'actress'. She has been seen at Doncaster, as a member of the company at Brighton, and at census time she was playing Eily in The Colleen Bawn and Ophelia at Exeter. Her teenage engagement with Newcombe was an early step to a career as a characterful star of the American theatre.

A couple of wee reference book errors. Fanny was born in 1843, not 1847. And ... where did she end her life? No-one seems to be certain. Surely it made the press.

Anyway she was 17 going on 18 in this season.

James O'SULLIVAN [SULLIVAN, James Joseph] (b Cork c1835; d Manchester 19 October 1872) 'son of Stephen Sullivan and Ellen née Bedwell' began his career as an actor in his native Ireland. Unfortunately, Ireland is/was littered with James Sullivans and James O'Sullivans (inclusding in his days a particularly vocal clergyman) so tracking down his earliest days is almost impossible. I see him being baptised 14 March 1835 at St Mary's, Cork. And I see him not again until 1860, when he is 'from the Theatre Royal, Sunderland' and joining the company at Durham. Playing Macbeth and the sculptor in The Marble Heart. On to North Shields as Claude Melnotte in The Lady of Lyons, and in March 1861 he came to Plymouth, where he was seen  in Irish comedy, in the drama The Pirate of Algiers (Abon Hamet) opposite Miss Ranoe, The Marble Heart et al. When he put in an appearance at the Standard, Shoreditch as Ragged Pat in Ireland as it was, with Miss Mandelbert, and Raymond in The Midnight Angel, he was billed as 'the favourite representative of Irish character from the Theatre Royal, Dublin'. And then came The Colleen Bawn. He appeared as Myles-na-Coppaleen at the Manchester Queen's 'with so much spirit and felling' then moved straight back to Plymouth for our season.

He was still there in November, with many of the August company, playing Faust in Faust and Marguerite with Emma Robberds, Iago in Othello, Rory in Rory O'More, in the inevitable Colleen Bawn, in March 1862 as Macduff ... In May-June he visited Newcastle as Barney O'Toole in Peep o'Day, then Sheffield, and gave his Myles ('200th time) with three songs and an Irish Jig at the Liverpool Adelphi ('capitally played') and The White Horse of the Peppers.

Next up, he was at Dublin's Queen's Theatre playing nasty Will Murtough ('with a song') in The Green Bushes, at Limerick playing Young Joe alongside Harry Webb in The Post Boy, then returned to Plymouth now as a guest star as Rory O'More, Iago, Terence O'More (with several Irish songs) in a St Patrick's Eve piece and, of course, Myles-na-Coppaleen.

Sullivan was throughly established as a top provincial actor and comedian of wide talents. In the following years, he toured major dates from Manchester to Liverpool, Leeds to Brighton, in his favourite roles -- Myles, Murtough, Shaun the Post in Arrah-na-Pogue, Rory o'More -- occasionally risking a part such as Charles Surface with limited success. Such 'Irish' classics as Born to Good Luck were more what his audiences expected. 'In this class of character Mr O'Sullivan is well able to hold his own against all-comers'.

But he didn't. It was reported, in 1871, that he was unwell at his home in Tonbridge. But he was back, playing Peep o'Day and Arrah-na-Pogue at Manchester ... and there he died, aged 37, shortly after.

Sullivan married (1864) Emma Alice Hawley (actress) daughter of one Frederick Hawley who described himself variously as Esq, solicitor and theatrical agent and Emma Cox née Euens. She (d 1914) remarried after his death, John R Cornock.  

Emma [Mary] ROBBERDS (b Paddington c 1841; d Burnley 27 January 1924) took a tad of unearthing, but I and my memory for trivia got her in the end. And it was her real name!  The memory bit that set me right was of the suburban Marylebone Theatre in the early 1850. Amongst the company for many years was a Mr Charles Robberds (1807-1869) and his wife Louisa née Chubb. Robberds, theatre? Go chase them. 

And there they were, married 1824, in the 1851 census, in Exeter St, Marylebone, mamma and papa and four children (there were more) of whom no2 was Emma, aged 10 ish. Strange that she don't appear in the red books of Somerset House. But Robberds is an easily misspellable name.

Following Emma's career is equally fraught with pieges. When she is 'Emma Robberds' all is fine. But I suspect there is another 'Miss Robberds' immiscing in the affair. Not forgetting that mama used to bill herself as 'Miss'. I think I've weeded well, but ... well... 'Miss' is such a dumb prefix.

I spot her first at sixteenish playing leading roles at Cardiff, Wolverhampton in 1857. Then Swansea, Cardiff with Chute (Desdemona, Juliet, Rosalind). Is that she in the Sunderland panto? And in 1861 she came to Plymouth. She would, like O'Sullivan, return regularly, but she fulfilled engagements at Portsmouth, Bury, in Wales and in 1862 made her London debut at the Surrey Theatre and the Standard Theatre (1863). I see her playing Ophelia at Bath ...

In 1864 (9 February) she married a fellow player, 'Charles Western' veritably James Whistance, and they played together from Sheffield to Glasgow and back to Plymouth, at the Surrey (Desdemona &c) before he died 20 May 1870, aged 31, at East Bridge Street, Truro.

Emma had begun her career as a leading lady in the provinces and she continued, mostly as such, round the country until it was time to take on such roles as La Frochard in The Two Orphans. In the meantime she remarried one William Alfred Bennett (I'm not sure whether he was a 'dentist' or an 'artist'). Apparently she had 7 (minus one) children by him ..

A thoroughly appreciable career as a provincial and suburban leading lady.

OK. That's the most featured folk of Newcombe's season.  So whom do we have left?  Minnie Davis, Frank Seymour, Frank Allen, Mrs E F Saville, Charles Parke, R Thorne, Philip Day (not THE PD?), A Wallace .. haha! F H Neebe! I've encountered him before ... well here goes!

Frank Seymour?  In C61 he is 28, born Commercial Rd, East End ... but shouldn't he be in Plymouth?  Anyway it reeks of pseudonym. So on we go. 1856 he is at Newcastle, 1857 at Cheltenham ('low comedian'). Mrs Frank Seymour does the Highland Fling at Birmingham. 1858 he (I presume it is he) is in the company at the Strand Theatre briefly then .. oh! here he is in Dublin, at Queen's Theatre, with James O'Sullivan who is playing the title role in Ben Bolt and Rolando in The Honeymoon. The two played together in Turning the Tables. The two are still there in 1859, in 1860 Frank is at Newcastle and Liverpool and then Plymouth where .. oh, dear, this is our season! A sneery review saying the men are too young and Wallace and Seymour are the only efficient ones! Emma and Fanny are nodded to, and Minnie Davis is granted 'a nice singing voice' and we learn that, in between our playbills, Marco Spada and Ingomar were given.

January 1862 he is still at Plymouth  ('first rate in burlesque characters') with Lewis Nanton, R Thorne and Miss Robberds. When Hamlet was given, he was the Gravedigger. Sullivan was the Ghost and Emma was Ophelia. At panto time, Frank was Abanazar. 

Off then to Scotland ('the celebrated low comedian'), to Birmingham, Wolverhampton for panto and, good heavens, is that he playing opposite the great Mrs Howard Paul in her act (while Mr Paul was doubtless away 'scouting (female) talent'!. I can see that Frank had a fine career as a comic actor .. I see him playing Sairey Gamp in Dublin in 1866 .. and advertising in tandem with Miss Juliet Power ... 'The smallness of his stature adds largely to the quaintness of his style' ... 1870 panto as Bluebeard at Exeter ... 1871 at the London Royalty .. and there he is in 'Mr Neebe's company' at Weymouth!  I sha'n't enumerate his every engagement for there were many and many, but he played at the Elephant and Castle in 1875, at Greenwich (as co-manager) in 1876 ... well, there doesn't seem to be another Frank Seymour around, so I suppose it is he who becomes stage-manger (ie director in modernspeak), pantomime and drama author attached to the Exter Theatre, and to Eliot Galer's Leicester house ('first comedy and special parts') ... and the Frank who appeared in A Night of Terror at the Avenue (1885) and what? Is that he playing the elderly character role of the General in Van Biene and Lingard's adaptation of La Princesse des Canaries as Pepita (1887). A major touring hit which came into Toole's Theatre and employed him for a long period ... while some fellow advertised himself as 'Frank Seymour, character vocalist and top boot dancer'. 

He carried on into the equally successful Lingard Falka in the plum comic role of Brother Pelican ... until ...  October 1891 'the well-known comedian died last Sunday and was buried at Woking cemetery by the Actor's Benevolent Fund'. Said to be 59. Since that goes with C61, I guess he was ...

Another fine performer winkled out by Mr Newcombe for his season was Minnie DAVIS [DAVIS, Marion Annie] (b Edinburgh 1834; d 188 Belsize Rd, Hampstead 19 December 1915). Daughter of an Edinburgh music teacher, William Davis, and his wife Jane née Hodgkiss, Minnie took her first stage steps in her native town, in seems, 1854, playing Marion in Cramond Brig at the Theatre Royal under Mrs Wyndham. With the occasional break, she remained at the theatre until mid-1859, in roles such as Kitty Clive in Masks and Faces, The Ragpicker of Paris, Mrs Pillicoddy in Poor Pillicoddy, Patty in Fraud and its victims, Dot in Cricket on the Hearth, Lemuel in Flowers of the Forest, Nelly in The Green Bushes, Nancy in Oliver Twist, and her flagship double role of Miss Thistledown and Margery Macfarlane in The Bonnie Fishwife. She also appeared in the pantomimes and in burlesques alongside, notably, Toole and Louise Keeley (Medora in The Corsair, Raleigh in Kenilworth) and in the plethora of comediettas which made up the ever-changing progammes.

She was then engaged by Harry Webb, for the Queen's, Dublin, as first soubrette and there, from 14 September to 6 March 1860, she filled the same variety of roles as at Edinburgh (Betsy in Betsy Baker, Dorothy in No Song, No Supper, Claude Melnotte in a Lady of Lyons burlesque, Rosa in Three Fingered Jack, Betsy in Dick Turpin, Luciana in Two Gentlemen of Verona, plus, of course The Bonnie Fishwife). She was re-engaged to September 1860, and went ... to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where 15 October she made her London 'debut' in Married for Money.

And then came her engagement at Plymouth.

She went back for further engagements is Scotland Sinbad, Aladdin, Audrey in As You Like It, Cregan in a Colleen Bawn burlesque, concerts alongside such patenet opera stars as Pauline Vaneri, Paul Pry, Effie Deans in The Trial of Effie Deans ... travelled to Birmingham and Brighton and at Christmas time returned to London and Sadler's Wells Theatre to play principal boy for Miss Marriott. Over the next years she played much with Miss Marriott and at the Wells, frequently as burlesque and pantomime boys, and also appeared at the suburban Standard Theatre, where the pants parts included that of Macheath in The Beggar's Opera.

And somewhere in there she encountered a young actor (eight years younger than she) by name Edwin Brooke. They were wed in Shoreditch in 1864, and worked together much of the years to come. In those years, Minnie gave birth to six children.

The couple worked steadily in major venues -- Liverpool featuring largely -- with seasons at Sadler's Wells, they toured with Henry Leslie's Old English Comedy Company (Lady Sneerwell, Money &c), with Mrs Bateman 'four seasons', at the Lyceum, the Olympic (Lady McSycophant in The Man of the World), she repested her Fishwife and her Audrey in As You Like It, until in the early 1880s, with three surviving children (Edwina, Gustave, Albert) growing up and her husband not in the best of health, Minnie turned to teaching and 'assisting' amateurs.

Edwin died 30 November 1884 at Bullen Road, Lavender Hill. He was 42. His will says he was really Edwin James Macdonald Brook (with no 'e'). And it left his fortune to Minnie. £584. 

To her dying day, aged 61, Minnie described herself as 'actress'. But there was more sorrow to come in those later years. After having lost three of her children as babies, her elder surviving son Gustave (b 19 January 1874) went to sea as a qualified mate and was lost off the Portland coast, aged 25. Edwina Fanny Lily and Albert Harcourt outlived their mother, and Albert married and had children ..

PS Minnie's younger brother, Charles, who worked alongside her in early days at Edinburgh, drowned aged 23, whe he suffered a fit and fell into the loch. The water was not Minnie's friend.

There is another name on Newcombe's bill which caught my eye. One of the chorus dancers. 'Louise Elliston'. Well, later in her career this young lady worked with Emily Soldene, so I had already investigated her. Louise ELLISTON [MENDES, Sarah] (b Shoreditch c 1834; d Bridge St, South Lynn 17 August 1899) is said to have trained with Flexmore, travelled with the Ravel(le) troupe at some stage, is listed in the 1851 Lambeth census as a 14 year-old dancer. She is living with an aunt surnamed Ellis. Well, actually, she came to my notice already giving birth to a fatherless child, Thomas Frederick Mendes 7 November 1857. She comes to my stagenotice first in 1860, dancing Columbine in the Southampton panto. Anyway, she spent two years at Plymouth, it appears, and while there married local actor William Henry Stone, by whom she would have five or six more children while continuing to Columbine (Edinburgh, Standard Theatre, Prince's Manchester, Day's Birmingham) and play the halls as a solo dancer. Mr Stone swapped acting for other trades, but Mrs Stone became entrepreneurial and travelled a troupe, 'the Elliston Family' (a naughty reference to the famous acting family of earlier years), of which daughter [Louise] Maude (b 31 March 1867) was the prominent element. The troupe continued into the 1890s, but Sarah-Louise, who had moved to character roles latterly, while promoting her daughters, suffered an accident with a stage trap in South Wales which ended her performing career. 

So if Louise Elliston was only a chorine at Plymouth, who was Mdlle Aline who was principal danseuse? I didn't think I'd find out .. but it seems I sort of have. Aline? ARCHER (b ?; d Union Place, Edinburgh 30 January 1866) was a solo and principal dancer between 1857 and her marriage, child birth and her resultant death. She was said to be (and why not?) the daughter of Thomas Archer, actor, the wife of Joseph Charles Rowella, actor, and to have been but 23 years old at her death. Which would make her 14 as principal dancer at Cork and Liverpool. To be proven. Thereafter she was featured dancer at Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dublin, Plymouth et al before installing herself as ballet mistress at Edinburgh with the occasional attempt at acting (Mercury in Ixion, Princess in panto) and visits to Sheffield and Liverpool.  ...  

Rowella? Is this Carl Rowella, harlequin, ballet master and dancer? Later wed Jenny de Brent (15 May 1869)?  It is not 'the Great Little Rowella' (d 1896) whose forename was William. Oh, the 'Rowella's were born Taylor. At least William (b 1 March 1838; d 11 November 1896) and his son Adolphus William (b 25 August 1868) were .. I don't know about the Archers .. or Joseph Charles, or Carl, or Fritz ...

Joseph was convicted of stealing pants, a vest, a silk apron and boots and sentenced to 2 months hard labour  in 1872. It was said he'd fallen into alcoholic habits. But the court didn't reveal his real name.

Alas, Aline ...

Amongst the other ladies we see Mrs E F Saville in an older role. Mrs Saville was the former Clementina Sobieska GRANT. Her husband Edmund Henry Faucit Saville was by this time deceased. They had been of the Surrey Theatre, the Victoria Theatre and many others, together, up to his death 20 November 1857. She doddled on most successfully alone, and died in August 1879.

Miss M WALSTEIN confuses me. Is it a real name? If so, a strange choice. A Lavinia Walstein, actress, goodtime girl et al, had died in 1833. And revealed at her post mortem to have been ... a man. This one? 

Well, there had been a few real or pretend Miss Ws since the turn of the century ..  and I suppose she could have been the Miss W at Sadler's Wells in 1861 or the one in Brighton in 1867. Less Likely to be the one floating around in 1881. But, for the moment, I can't be bothered with her.

Frank ALLEN (b Covent Garden c 1828) I spot at Truro in 1858, as Trulove in The Love Chase, Sir Arthur in All that Glitters, Hawkesley in Still Waters Run Deep, and then at Exeter before coming to Plymouth, where he was cast as Danny Man alongside O'Sullivan and Miss Ranoe. He stayed in the south playing mostly villainous roles, and took over the Truro Theatre for one season before continuing to Sheffield (1865), the City of London Theatre (1866) and returning to Plymouth (1867) ...

In the 1861 Plymouth census he has a Scots actress wife, Catherine, aged 19 ... hmmm .... 

I have encountered Lewis NANTON [BROWNSMITH, Nanton Lewis ] (b Finsbury 15 December 1839; d Leeds 2 April 1871) and his wife 'Peggy Burette' (Pauline Constance Noemie Barrett) before, because their daughter Kathleen married the memorable comic opera comedian, Walter Passmore. Nanton had but a short career as he died aged 31. So he was barely of age, and fresh from clerking at a silk mercery and playing in amateur dramatics in London, during his engagement at Plymouth. In January 1862, he is playing alongside Emma Robberds, Frank Seymour and the Messrs Thorne (in blackface) and Marshall in The Governor's Wife. He spent seasons in Brighton and Portsmouth (Bob Brierley in Ticket of Leave Man, Duke Aranza in The Honeymoon), Birmingham et al, and stepped in for Irving in Formosa at Drury Lane (1869) before taking the role of Micawber (with Pauline as his wife) in the David Copperfield show Lost Emily. He died of 'a burst blood vessel during a fit of coughing'. 

CHARLES PARKE has eluded me so far. He was around in 1855 at Ramsgate playing with the Savilles (Cassio to the Othello of Mr, Claude Melnotte oppostie Mrs, dramatic roles in The Wreck Ashore, The Green Bushes &c) and advertising himsel as 'walking gentleman' of the Marylebone Theatre, Glasgow and Brighton'. Following his stint at Plymouth he got himself a job at Drury Lane, no less, playing the King in Hamlet with Charles Kean. The King not the Ghost. I don't know he got such geographical promotion, and it was a one off, but it permitted him for years to advertise himself as 'of Drury Lane, melodramatic leads and heavies'. I see him at the Liverpool Colosseum, the Leeds Princess's, at the Queen's Manchester as a selection o baddies, at Bolton playing Danny Man, and at Wigan where he took tim out to put on a frock as Clorinda in Cinderella (1865). He played Sweeney Todd at Newport, Shrewsbury, Wigan again, Paisley and Campbelltown, at Dundee as the villain of a new drama The Bells of Shandon, at Halifax for Chute, at Preston and at Dewsbury (Black Frank in Jeannie Deans) but after after 1872, I see him not until 1876 'after his severe accident', again in Scotland. And that's it.  He disappears, and I still don't know who he is. Who he was. I'll keep looking, but wouldn't mind a bit of help! 

Climbing down the bill, we find Charles LLOYDS. We know him, and his elder brother Frederick. Sons of Peter Godfrey Lloyds (d 1865) an accountant in Toxteth Park. I see the family's name was originally LEUTZ. Anyway Frederick LLOYDS (b Liverpool 1819; d Kentish Town 21 December 1894) became a successful scenic artist and Charles (b Liverpool 1821; d ?1870); a perhaps less successful actor. He married an Eliza May EDLIN and died in the seventies it seems ..

Mrs R BARNETT (née WESTON, Eliza [Edwin]) (b Dublin c 1812; d unknown) was at the end of her career in 1861. And it had been a fairly substantial career, almost all of it as Mrs R[ichard] Barnett. the couple had been married at Newchurch, Isle of Wight, in 1834 when they were playing the Ryde Theatre: she as a singer and he musical director. They played togther at Salisbury, Reading and Oxford, and Eliza got a little job at the Adelphi before finding a bolt hole at Sadler's Wells for several seasons ('a very clever little actress'). She moved on to the Garrick, The Victoria, more Adelphi and in 1848 to the City of London Theatre (alongside the Savilles) for nearly a decade (Fool in King Lear) ... I don't know what became of Richard, but by the time of what seems to have been her virtual retirement, their daughter, Emma [Caroline Hickman] Barnett (b 10 January 1840; d Shepherd's Bush, August 1877) , had taken to the stage. She, too, would have a career largely in the suburbs (Marylebone, Princess's, Court, Victoria, Adelphi) as a dramatic actress until her death, aged 37. She was living with Marylebone manager J H Cave, and was found at the bottom of the stairs, bloody and cracked skull. The newspapers had a heyday, the coroner accepted that she had fallen.

I cannot find the 'fullstop' to the careers and lives of Richard and Eliza. In the 1861 census Eliza is in Plymouth, a widow and now a nurse ... and then ...

Frederick Edwin Harrison NEEBE (b Darlington 1843; d Basford 1897) son of a German Lutheran Minister was another neophyte. A clerk in a wine merchant's establishment, he was here beginning a career in the theatre which started as a low comedian (Plymouth, Leicester, Southampton, Blackpool, Liverpool, Halifax &c) and led him to managerial posts ...

Walter Watkins ('Watty') BRUNTON (b London 23 May 1828; d London 18 January 1904) and his wife née Annette Ellen VINCENT (b London 30 June 1836; d Bethnal Green 1 February 1893) had long careers, and twelve children, several of whom went into the theatre. I'm sure there is a biographical note on Watty somewhere ... anywhere up till the 20th century when he was still active in comedy, drama and pantomime in the suburban theatres.

I have to avow myself beaten by 'Mr G Watson' and the sisters (if they were) Burton, Mr Marshall, Mr Grimani and is the B Lester.  Who else is there?  Mr P DAY. Hmm Phil Day was a musical comedian of worth later in the century. But here is a Mr P Day in 1869 at Holborn. And at the Gaiety in 1870 ... yes, it's he! The same chap. Samuel Phillips DAY (b Cork 1844; d Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia 3 December 1887). So he was a teenager at Plymouth. Mr Newcombe knew how to pick them!   This must have been Phil's first job. 

Phil, son of a London 'author and lecturer', had a grand and versatile career: juvenile man at the Princess's Edinburgh and the Prince's, Manchester; King Coal in the Livrpool panto, a long stint (1867-9) at the Royalty Theatre playing juves, character roles (Ikey the Jew) and the comedy leads in the afterpieces, then at Charing Cross with Miss Fowler and as the villain at the Holborn (Roderigo in Othello &c).    In 1872 he joined the company at Hull, and he married Emily MOOREHEAD daughter of a defunct Doctor in the Bengal Army (23 November 1872).
In the 1870s he played at the Adelphi, the Folly, the Aquarium, at Exeter under the management of Fred Neebe, in the 1880s he emigrated to Australia .. and there he died of a heart complaint.

The Australian press gave him a sizeable obituary ..

I think they got his date of birth wrong!

Well, that's been fun, bringing a bunch of old playbills to life. Time for a cuppa, and then go see how my gold plated garage cum sleepout is progressing. We were promised windows today ...

And oh, here's another bunch of antique playbills just arrrived on my desk. Shall I, or sha'n't I?

Maybe tomorrow.

PS, does Plymouth have a museum other than a maritime one?

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