After their marriage at Templemore, Fred and Frances returned to England in 1850 and began their acting career together. Frances became known professionally as Fanny Hastings and relatively surprisingly was referred to on a few occasions as Miss Fanny Hastings as she was married by then but generally she became Mrs. F. Hastings or simply Fanny Hastings when performing.
Their first child, Walter Harcourt Hastings, was born in 1851 at Alnwick in Northumberland, with two more, Katherine in 1852 in Stockton on Tees and Henry in 1853 in South Shields.
At the same time as the children were arriving, Fred and Frances were performing in different theatres all over the North East. When Walter was only about five months old, the Theatre Royal Durham announces, 'On Friday Evening, 27th June will be performed The Lady of The Lake and Poor Pillicoddy with Katherine and Petruchio being for the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hastings. Boxes 3s, Pit 2s.' This is followed by, 'This evening Mr. and Mrs. F. Hastings take their benefit and we can scarcely add anything to the legitimate claims which these clever and accomplished performers have upon the sympathies and support of all time playgoers.'
Katharine and Petruchio is a reworking of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew by the playwright and actor David Garrick. It was written in 1756 and was performed far more often than the original Shrew through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
There are many notices like this appearing in the press and it is evident that Fred and Frances had formed a well-regarded and strong acting partnership which was to last for several more years. My favourite notice from this period is that of 21st November of the same year from The Era. The couple were in Stockton and The Era announces: Stockton - Mr. Benson has succeeded in retaining the services of several established favourites, Mr and Mrs. F. Hastings. Miss M. Oliver of the Lyceum Theatre London is a great acquisition to this as she would be to any other company. Her charming naievte (sic) and piquancy are irresistible.'
It was quite surprising to find this as it showed that Fanny and Martha remained in contact and this is further borne out by things that happened later in their lives, but it was special to imagine them acting together in a provincial theatre, as Martha was just becoming a star of the Lyceum in London. The Durham Circuit was very highly regarded however so it would have provided good experience for a budding star of the metropolitan stage.
If there is any puzzle relating to the family in 1851, it is that Fred, Fanny and Walter (born in the January) do not appear in any census records for the night of March 30th; nor does Martha and nor does her mother. This was around the time that Frederick Bullen died at Warminster. perhaps the family were on their way to comfort Catherine and the rest of the family and being in transit, were unable to complete the census.
Whatever happened in the early part of 1851, by April 1852, Martha was back at the Royal Lyceum under the management of Madame Vestris in a Drama in Eight Acts while her sister and brother-in-law carried on touring the provinces. They also appeared at the Lyceum in 1853, but in their case it was The Lyceum, Macclesfield!
With three children under five in the 1850s, the couple continued to work hard. in 1856 for example, they appeared triumphantly at the Theatre Royal South Shields (see below). They were regularly engaged at this time by the Roxby family, particularly Samuel Roxby who managed the Durham Circuit.
In 1858, they were acting together again at the Theatre Royal, North Shields to very favourable notices. Mr. Hastings 'delivered excellent performances' and Mrs. Hastings' acting 'did not go unnoticed by the audience.' By October 1859, there is something of a change when the couple are engaged at the Theatre Royal, Bradford. Fred is second tragedian and also acting as stage manager while Fanny has been engaged to 'give new life to the singing chambermaid line.' The Hastings were part of what was known as 'The Durham Circuit,' meaning that they toured the theatres in Durham, Newcastle, Scarborough, North and South Shields and Sunderland, Apparently it was a well-attended and prestigious group of venues and had been started by Stephen Kemble, a founding member of the famous Kemble acting family. The Newccastle Theatre Royal saw some of the first performances of Sarah Siddons and by the time Fred and Frances were part of it, it had become one of the best companies outside London.
After his stint as stage manager at Bradford in 1860, Fred returned to Newcastle where he was praised for his 'careful and clever acting' on December 1st 1860. This is followed by what must have been one of the most illustrious moments of his career when he supported Charles Kean and his wife in 1861 when they completed a short season at The Newcastle Theatre Royal. 'Mr. Fred Hastings as Philippe de Comines displayed more than the ordinary care and talent,' is the comment that accompanied his performance in the company.
In the Census of that year, the family is living at no, 12 Grainger Street Newcastle with John and Anna or Emma Ida Arkley. Grainger Street is part of the magnificent Neo-Classical buildings designed by Richard Grainger in the 1830s and contains the Theatre Royal so that Fred and Frances virtually just had to cross the road when they were performing. The other buildings on the street are also home to comedians, musicians, actors and actresses who are also housed in various other lodgings and boarding houses. John and Emma/Anna are described as a farmer and milliner respectively while their immediate neighbours include engineers, printers, a photographer and dressmakers. Living with their parents are Walter who is now 10 and Henry who is 8. Absent however is Katharine but although somewhat hard to find, she is alive and well and living with her maternal grandmother and aunt at 5 Park Cottages in London. Her aunt is of course, Martha Cranmer Oliver who by 1861, was reaching the peak of her acting career. appearing at the Haymarket and later, The Royal Princesses' Theatre. It is interesting to see how the same names are linked together in the acting world. Whilst at the Princesses, Martha is working with Robert whose brother Samuel had engaged Frederick and Frnces a few years earlier.
It's not clear if Katherine was staying with her Aunt and Grandmother for a long period of time but her name is given as Katherine Anne Bullen rather than Hastings but I'm not sure if this has any significance either at the time or in the longer term. For her parents however, 1863 brought a change: no longer are they on the Durham Circuit, but they instead acting at the Birmingham Theatre Royal. In April, he worked with Mr. and Mrs. Kean in Henry VIII, though the Birmingham Post hinted that his portrayal was a little too burlesque to be of the highest order! In November, the couple appear together in a play that is described as being new to the Birmingham public, ' Henri de Lagardere' and both receive very favourable notices. This continued throughout 1864, with the couple consolidating their time in Birmingham. Fred played Antonio in A Merchant off Venice while Fanny was praised for her Mrs, Candour not to mention the vivacity of her 'buxom Widow Wildbriar' with her broad Lancashire dialect. In the June of 1864, several members of the company travelled to Leamington Spa to play a one week engagement in 'The Ticket of Leave Man.' This seems to have been one of the few times that the company left Birmingham during the prolonged period of several years in the 1860s, allowing the Hastings family to put down roots. Throughout 1865, Fred is still at Birmingham until late September when he returns to Newcastle to open at the Theatre Royal where he is described as 'an old friend who has returned.' Fanny was also persuaded to returned to Newcastle where she too appeared at the Theatre Royal in the adaptation of a popular novel entitled 'East Lynne.' She appeared on the same bill as Fred who was playing the part of Orpheus in Medea.
1866 saw them appearing in productions at Scarborough and Hartlepool with a benefit at South Shields but by this stage in their careers, something was happening that would change this theatrical partnership so that it would never be the same again. Frances and Frederick were about to go their separate ways.