The Last of a Well Loved Actor

1880 until the end.

In 1880, Fred was 54. His children, sons Walter and Henry and daughter Kate, were all well-established in theatrical careers and he seems to have sustained a relationship with all of them despite living openly with a woman who was not their mother.

Frances, his first wife and her sister Martha both passed away in 1880, leaving Fred as executor of Frances' will. (She left around £200). After this, he continued acting in the companies of Osmond Tearle, who was also closely linked with his son Henry and then with F. A, Scudamore (Fortunatus Augustus!) who wrote and appeared in his own plays, several of which enjoyed quite considerable success, Rags and Bones, Is life Worth Living? and Keep to the Right. Fred was playing the older statesman, venerable father or uncle and had no shortage of engagements. 

Fortunatus Augustus seems to have been something of a foil for Fred's somewhat volatile acting style and it is popularly believed that he was the maternal grandfather of Sir Micheal Redgrave, though this has been proven to be untrue. Apparently his real name was Davis and he changed it, (just like Fred who swapped Bullen for Hastings to distinguish him from his father), to the evidently more distinguished sounding Scudamore. Fortunatus had two children: Mary and Lionel with his wife Ellen, an actress, but around 1890 something odd happened; a young woman whose real name was Scudamore, (Margaret Scudamore) who wanted to be an actress, turned up at the home of the man who had changed his name to hers. Her real father was William Scudamore, a wheelwright. Apparently Fortunatus threw his arms around her, proclaimed that she could be his daughter and then further proclaimed that she should live with the family. It was she who married Roy Redgrave and gave birth to Micheal, their son in 1908.

Confused? So am! The Victorian and Edwardian theatrical world appeared to live by its own rules. It's full of cases of actors changing their names, disappearing and claiming to be related to each other when they aren't really. I've tried to stick to the facts but it's been hard to keep folklore from muscling in at times!

Back to Fred; he toured the country throughout the 1880s. In 1884 he was at the Queens Theatre Manchester with Scudamore's Rags and Bones and according to the Manchester Courier, 'he thoroughly deserved the applause bestowed upon him.' Indeed, his notices were generally very good throughout his performances although the odd one does allude to a slight tendency to overact. When he was at the Royal Princess' Theatre in Edinburgh in 1888, a critic said, 'Hastings showed a great deal of unnecessary vehemence,' which I found quite funny.

 

Location of The Queens' Theatre in Manchester.

Poster for Jane Shore at The Royal Princess Theatre, Edinburgh, 1885. Fred was there in 1888.

In 1884, an announcement in The Era informs the public that Fred is the leading actor with F.A. Scudamore's company which has performed in over 300 towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales. His leading lady was Mrs. Alfred Mellon born Sarah Jane Woolgar who had appeared in the first stage production of Martin Chuzzlewit by Dickens.

 Mrs. Alfred Mellon. She is buried in with her husband who was conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra in the Brompton Cemetery near to Fred's sister, Louise and her husband Edward Elton.

300 towns and cities is no exaggeration. I have found advertisements, reviews and notices for Fred touring with the Scudamore Company in Huddesrsfield, Dundee, Dublin, Shields, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham. he was even appearing at the Leeds Theatre Royal when his son was Stage Manager of the Leeds Grand. Whether or not Annie accompanied him, I cannot be sure for I can't find any mention of her acting with him or indeed with anyone else after 1882. During the 1880s, Fred became a grandfather at least four times over as Walter had 2 children and Henry and Kate had one child each.

The 1890s seemed to start as brightly as the 80s. Fred was at the Leeds Theatre Royal in March and later in the year went to Nottingham, Huddersfield, Glasgow and Reading. By this time he was 64 and seemed to be as indefatiguable as ever. One critic described him as 'giving as artistic a portrait of an old man as I have seen in a long time.' This was despite the death of his daughter, Kate, who had passed away in September 1890.

 He opened 1891 with a production in January but in March, a slightly ominous announcement appeared in The Era on 7th, 'Wanted in consequence of the illness of Mr. Fred Hastings, aristocratic old man, tall and robust. First class modern wardrobe indispensable. Address, stating height, references and ina all cases, lowest terms or no notice will be taken of application. Enclose photo with stamp directed envelope for return. WH Hallett, Theatre Royal, Jarrow on Tyne. As in all the best dramas though, things took a turn for the better and Fred was back giving an 'excellent' performance' in Sunderland according to the newspaper of March 17th. In the April Census for 1891, he is listed at 23 Anderton Street, Ladywood, Birmingham along with Annie. Their professions are named as comedian and actress respectively. They also have a boarder: William Hill, a goldsmith aged 37. This is Annie's younger brother.

In June of that year, another notice appeared in The Era - not that of Fred as I expected it to be, but this: 'Died on Monday 15th June Annie Hastings, nee Annie Wilmott at 23 Anderton Street, Birmingham. Aged 45 years.'

Strangely, there is no mention of her career as an actor and I can't find any other notices which appeared for her but they may well exist and will be found if I keep looking. 

On 14th November, The Era published another notice, 'At Elswick Cemetery, Newcastle on Tyne on Sunday, many personal friends and members of the dramatic profession assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to an old and respected comedian, Mr. Fred Hastings. The deceased was well-known and highly esteemed and for many years was stage manager at the Royal and Tyne theatres.'

What else can I say? Except that this seemed like a fitting tribute to an actor of the old school; someone, who despite his frailties tried to do his best and enjoyed life doing what he loved. There are moments in his story when I saw myself.

The last thing to mention in Fred's story is the announcement of his will.

'

 

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03.09 | 12:47

Hello,
I wandered into your site at the mention of Grove End Road. I am researching the Hon Pauline Cranstoun. Your description of the area is enlightening.

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18.01 | 08:17

I've cited you as a source in my own blog post on Cassie Bruce at https://studiedmonuments.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/e-a-and-cassie-maskelyne-magic-couple/

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16.11 | 12:50

Margaret Cecil Vardy was the great grand-daughter of James Cecil, 6th Earl of Salisbury (of Hatfield House) and his mistress Mary Grave.

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13.02 | 17:35

Hi Jean,
How lovely to see your comment. He was obviously a man of immense talent, Best, Susanne

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