I think that Edward went to the Britannia probably as a result of Louise having appeared in the Variety theatre when she was married to John. It would seem that they made contacts there and Edward was able to capitalise on them in order to obtain parts
and become part of the company.
The New Britannia was run By Sam Lane and his second wife Sara, an actress. It opened in 1858 and was known as a 'saloon theatre.' It had a horeshoe shaped auditorium and apparently the decor was beautifully light and
tastefully painted in creams and gold. Hoxton was not known as a theatre going district but The Britannia soon put it on the map and apparently attracted audiences in their thousands.
The first record I have for Edward in the company is a bill
from 1864 when he is listed on 24th january playing Squire HIckory Dickory Dock. I was also able to find him listed as Toby Philpott in January 1865 and then playing 'Grip the Burglar,' 'remarkably well,' according to the Era's review! Apparently the actors
in the company were treated as members of one big family and no-one was encouraged to think of themeselves as being the star of the show. According to newspaper articles and comments, an actor could be top of the bill for one performance and have a walk-on
part in the next. Edward obviously felt at home there for he is mentioned in reviews and playbills for a period of over seven years. This would have provided a steady income for the family especially as Louise seems to have stopped working after the death
of their last child.
They had also moved to 76 Nichols Square in Shoreditch which had a somewhat genteel reputation amongst what was mainly a working class neighbourhood. Apparently the square had only one entrance in and out and had the feeling
of being in an urban village. In the 1871 census, the family is listed as Edward aged 41, a comedian, Louise is listed as his wife but does not have a profession next to her name. This is rare for Louise, who, until this census had been named as an actress
since her first census in 1831. The rest of the family is Alfred, listed as a newsagent - he was the 6 year old 'tumbler,' of 1851, Henry aged 19 is also a newsagent and Cathleen or Casey as she is listed here is described as a 'coryphee.' Edward, Louise's
child with Edward, is a scholar. I was very interested in Casey's career as a coryphee for when I first saw it listed, I had no idea what one was. It turned out that a coryphee is a member of a ballet troupe - not yet a leading or principal ballerina but the
leaderof the little trio who dances in front of the corps de ballet. Cathleen had obviously been well trained and had performed as a dancer for a long time but there is very little mention of her theatrical work. There is a Kate Bruce mentioned several times
in reviews and articles playing mature comic parts on provincial bills and I think that this is probably Cathleen who changed her name for a reason I will shortly explain.
By the 1870s. Edward seems to have left the Britannia, possibly to take part
in productions in the West End - he was at the Victoria palace of Varieties as Mr. Bombastes and is mentioned in 1878 at the Gaiety Theatre. During this period, the family also moved to a new address: 331, Strand. This new location was surrounded by theatres
and hotels and gave plenty of opportunity for work. The Gaiety Theatre was next door but one and the Savoy Hotel when it opened in 1897, was just a couple of doors away. Edward advertises in The Era of 1874 announcing that he has seceded from the Britannia
Theatre 'after a long and successful engagement with Mrs. S. Lane,' and is now available for work. In July 1875, yet another resting actor uses the Strand address to advertise his availability and this time it is Mr. Fred Hastings, Louise's brother who had
evidently come up to London. He advertises himself as a leading man with or without stage management. After Louise's marriages, I had no idea if or how often she saw her brothers and sisters, so here is proof that she and her older brother continued to support
each other. Finally, I also found an advertisement placed by A.B. - Alfred Bruce, also in The Era advertising for work in the evenings as a Check Taker or Cashier!
The family is listed in the 1881 census: Louise is once again described as an actress
and Edward and their son, Edward Serle Elton as comedians. Alfred John is still at home and listed as single as is Kathleen who is listed as a danseuse. Henry is no longer at home as he was married by this time. there is however, an interesting addition to
the household: Cassy Louise aged 6 described as a granddaughter. It is interesting to speculate why she was living with her grandparents, aunts and uncles as opposed to her own parents?
The living accommodation according to the census, is divided
into two parts. There is a shop which would appear to have been the downstairs part of the building and this is mentioned several times in various documents including newspapers and listings from The National Portrait Gallery. The shop was a picture framer
and gilder's establishment which belonged to a Samuel Coombes although living there in 1881 with his two nieces was Albert Benjamin Richman, also listed as a gilder and picture framer. In 1883 an inquest was held in to Richman's death after he was found
dead in bed at his appartment in 331 Strand. Apparently he had been out drinking the previous night and had been very generous in providing drinks for his friends and when asked why, said that this was his last night on Earth so he was making the most of it.
The inquest stated that he was indeed found dead in bed the next morning. The Eltons must have been at home in the same building when all this took place. The story was in the majority of national newspapers and caused their address some notoriety. He was
evidently an entertaining character as he also appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette of 1877 bringing a complaint before Justice Malins, complaining that his neighbour had begun printing the Daily Express on a steam printing press during the night. He complained
that the press was under his bedroom but the Judge found against him as the press was 15 feet away across a courtyard! Edward also advertises at 331 Strand in the same year. He has a quite substantial box in The Era saying that he can translate anything from
French at the shortest notice and at moderate rates!
Unfortunately about a year after Mr. Richman's demise, a further death is reported. This time it is that of Edward, Louise's second husband. They were married for almost 25 years and his obituary
appears in several newspapers, under the heading, 'Death of the Celebrated Actor, Mr. Edward Elton.' According to accounts he died at home in his 54th year after suffering epileptic convulsions. He had also been ill for some time and was buried in Brompton
Park Cemetery in a plot just behind the chapel. Later, his wife, stepchildren, son and daughter-in-law would all be buried alongside him.
Edward left a will of £194 18s and 9d and administration was granted to Louise his widow according
to the National Probate Calendar.
Brompton Park Cemetery.