Acting and an Auctioneer

If any part of the story I have told about this family is remarkable in any way at all, then I think it is this part. This is the story of Fred's daughter Kate. Her birth date is listed as January 1852 and she was born in Stockton -on-Tees which is where Fred and Frances were appearing, having recently returned from Ireland where they had been married in 1849. Katherine or Catherine Ann as she is listed in the Birth Register was named after her grandmothers: Catherine Bullen nee Gibbs and Ann Oliver. She is my first cousin removed by three generations.

There isn't much documentation of her early life  but she was the middle child, with Walter the eldest and Henry the younger. I have no doubt that she lived the slightly bohemian life of a Victorian actor's child, though I doubt that Kate will have suffered the hand to mouth existence that the children of bit part players in travelling companies will have had to endure. Frances and Fred seemed to have made quite a good living in Theatres Royal on one of the most well-regarded circuits in the country.

Kate also had a very famous aunt: Martha Cranmer Oliver; discovered as a child actress by Mme. Vestris, Martha was appearing at The Lyceum in London by the time of Kate's birth. The first record I can find linked them together much more closely than I had expected.

In the Census of 1861, Fred and Frances are with the two boys lodging at 12 Grainger Street in Newcastle. Grainger Street is part of the classical streets of Graingertown designed by Richard Grainger between 1824 and 1841. They include the Theatre Royal which was evidently Fred and Fanny Hastings' place of work at the time.

Kate was not living with them but a little closer searching revealed her to be staying at an even grander address than her siblings: listed as Katherine Ann Bullen (mistranscribed as 'Buller'), she is living at 5 Park Cottages, Marylebone. Park Cottages were part of the Park Village development initially designed by John Nash as one of the first garden suburbs.The scheme is considered one of the first examples of its type, and continues to influence the design of suburbs today. The villas are covered in white stucco and the cottages, ranged in a semi-circle had a stunning view of and access to the park.

Kate is listed as being 9 years old and living here with her grandmother, Ann Oliver, described as a 61 year old widow, born in Frome Somerset and Martha, described as an actress, aged 27, born in Salisbury, Wiltshire. During 1861, Martha joined the Haymarket Theatre during the summer, but otherwise does not seem to have been very busy during the spring. This may account for Kate's visit - perhaps Martha had some free time and was able to offer her a holiday but I'm not entirely convinced of this. In any Census records I've seen where people are not permanent residents at an address, they are described as visitors but here Kate is described as 'grandchild' to the head of the house and transcriptions list Martha as her mother. Martha never had children and perhaps Kate, her sister's child, was the nearest she got to having one. This would not be the first time this sort of thing had happened in my family - Cassie Louise, Kate's second cousin had been brought up by her aunt and grandmother - Fred's sister Louise - before going on to the stage; my own grandmother was brought up by her father and aunt and my father's sister asked if she could adopt me! Swapping daughters amongst aunts seemed to be a recurring theme!  

 Park Village, Marylebone


Kate's name is not mentioned anywhere that I can see in the rest of the 1860s until 1868 when she is reunited with her mother. !868 was the year that Fred had left Frances and gone to Glasgow with Annie Wilmott. Frances was evidently trying to establish herself in theatres in the south of England and her daughter was on the road with her. Their situation reminds me of a quotation from a website about the 19th Century theatre, ' The traditions of the time required women to be delicate, fragile, and dependent. However, the rigours of the acting profession necessitated that they be resilient, independent, strong-willed and determined.' How true. 

The notice placed in The Era says that Mrs. Fred. Hastings would be available after her engagement at  the Bath and Bristol Theatres Royal and that Miss Kate Hastings (who was by then 17) was available to play 'second walking ladies'. These were presumably bit part players in a stock company.

Around 1870 Kate and her mother's careers took an interesting turn. The notice seeking employment obviously worked and Frances was engaged at the Brighton Theatre Royal by Henry Nye Chart and his wife. She played Betsy Trotwood and received excellent notices. Chart was responsible for starting to make The Brighton Theatre Royal one of the most celebrated and well-reagarded theatres outside London.

Kate and Frances then went on tour to the Cambridge Theatre Royal again in a production David Copperfield. Frances played Betsy Trotwood receiving excellent reviews. In 1873, they were still acting together in 'Love Wins' at the same theatre in a production 'that would have done credit to a first class London company.'

 

Mrs. Hermann Vezin


In 1874, they went on tour with Mrs. Hermann (Jane) Vezin's Provincial Company and there is a detailed review of a performance of 'Cora' from The Theatre Royal Hanley. After this tour, Frances seems to give up performing and this is borne out by her obituary from December 1880 which states that she gave up the stage some years earlier due to ill health. She was buried in Hastings Cemetery. It also announces that Frances was the sister of the celebrated actress, Martha Cranmer Oliver, who by this stage had also given up acting and was also suffering from ill health. 

Martha's leaving the stage initially was not caused by illness however.

In 1876, after appearing at the Opera Comique Theatre in Wych Street throughout most of 1875, she moved to the Dukes Theatre and then at the end of the year, arguably, her biggest engagement of all took place on Boxing Day - she married 31 year old William Charles Phillips of the Bond Street auctioneers, Phillips, Son and Neale. 

 

 

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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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