A celebration of those members of our extended family with creative, artistic and performing talents

Updated with the story of Dorothy Labbettnew

Artistic genes have emerged in the extended family in a number of ways. We have a page dedicated to Arthur Junaluska - actor, director, designer and choreographer. (left: his backdrop for the Rose Moon Dance in his Native American Ballet The Dance of the Twelve Moons.)  But there are a number of other artistic talents threaded throughout our extended family - musicians, writers, artists and photographers. The talents of some were well recorded in the family to the advantage of posterity. William Edwards, whose family worked in the cotton mills and iron foundries in Lancashire , took up photography and painting in oils, and did well as a portrait painter. An example of his work and a photo of the painter are in the Heard photo gallery. Others are a mystery - Cousin George Turner 1840-1886, son of a bricklayer, described himself as a teacher of drawing and painting in Chelsea in 1871, and as an Art Master in Kendal in 1881. Walter Hattin, b. 1880, from 4 generations of shoemakers, in 1901 census is found lodging at 5 Beaumont Terrace, Paignton, Devon, described as a "Painter's Artist". Walter's artworks have so far eluded me, but other family members' talents are described here. Arthur Junaluska is not the only family member involved with the performing arts. We have musical talents and circus arts represented.

Charles Causley, the Cornish Poet

Charles Causley is often called the best Poet Laureate we never had. He is regarded today as a Cornish poet, but his paternal line is in fact Devonian. His mother's family carried the Cornish blood, and he was the first Causley in the family to be born in the county. His paternal grandfather was married to one of our Greenslades. Emma Greenslade, born in about 1840 was aunt to Harriet Hatting Pickett,née Greenslade. Emma died just eight years after they were married, having lost two sons. Charles's grandfather, also Charles, then married a Maria Webber who was to be the poet's grandmother.

Charles causley

Charles, son of Charles Causley and Laura Bartlett, was born in Launceston, Cornwall on 24 August 1917. His father never recovered from the effects of his time in the trenches and died in 1924, when Charles was seven. His mother had to do menial work to support them; but there were books in the house and he never felt any sense of deprivation.

He was educated at the local elementary school, and then at Launceston College, for which he gained a scholarship. As a youngster he had enjoyed reading and writing poetry. He began a novel at the age of 9. But it was later in his teens, on a first visit to London, that he bought a copy of Siegfried Sassoon's 1919 War Poems and this led him to Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden and Wilfred Owen.

He had just taken his school certificate when his mother announced that she had got him a good job in a builder’s office and he was obliged to leave school at 15. After that he worked for an electrical company, reading all the while and experimenting with writing. His particular admirations were for Hardy and for D. H. Lawrence. At this time too he played the piano in a dance band. His first play, Runaway , was published when he was 19. His second, The Conquering Hero, in the following year.

In 1939 he joined the Navy. He was a coder in the communications department, and was promoted to ordinary coder and eventually to acting petty officer. His life and experiences in the Royal Navy inspired his career as a poet. He began writing poems about his experiences in 1943, partly as a way of withdrawing from the queasiness of seasickness and fear. His first book of poems, Farewell, Aggie Weston, was published in 1951 by Erica Marx’s Hand and Flower Press. Naval service made a deep impression, and many of his later poems are tales of comradeship, adversity and loss. He also wrote a book of sea stories, Hands to Dance and Skylark, named after an old naval order to ratings to work off their high spirits.

On demobilisation Causley trained as a teacher at Peterborough Training College. On qualifying he returned to Launceston to teach in the school where he had studied as a boy. He discovered a skill as a children’s poet that earned him as much recognition as his other writings. Many of his works were published at least from his publishers perspective with a younger readership in mind, though he might not have entirely agreed with this focus. But the publication of Farewell, Aggie Weston had established his reputation as a poet for all ages, and this reputation remained intact throughout his life.

He was to remain in Launceston for the rest of his life, leaving there only rarely. He never married. Despite his reluctance to leave Cornwall he clearly enjoyed the time he twice spent in Perth, Western Australia as a visiting Fellow at the University of Western Australia, and at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada. He wrote with relish about travel in these countries and the United States.

For three years in the mid-1950s he was literary editor of two BBC magazines, Apollo in the West and Signature, and from 1962 to 1966 he was a member of the Arts Council’s poetry panel.

In 1966, his mother suffered a stroke. He chose to nurse her at home for six years until her death. He retired from teaching, a deputy head, in 1976. He published several anthologies of his poetry with updated Collected Poems in 1992, 1997 and 2000. He was much in demand at poetry readings in the United Kingdom. He made many broadcasts and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio Cornwall. He was visiting Fellow in Poetry at Exeter University in 1973/74; in 1977 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the same university.

Causley received many honours. In 1958, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was twice awarded a travelling scholarship by the Society of Authors. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967, and a Cholmondeley Award in 1971. He won the Ingersoll/TS Eliot Award, and was presented with the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in 2000. He was appointed CBE in 1986 and, in 2001, elected one of the 10 Companions of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature. Over a period of 50 years, he gained a reputation, not only as a major poet, but also as an editor of poetry collections, as a playwright and as a writer of prose. He also collaborated with composers to produce librettos and the setting of many poems to a musical score.

Charles died on 4 November 2003, aged 86. He is buried in Launceston, next to his mother.


The Marvellous Corrick Family Entertainers

The Marvellous Corrick Family of Entertainers were a household name in Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900s. Indeed they toured the world, and references can be found to their appearances in Asia and in the UK (for example at the Athenaeum in Llanelli).

Albert Corrick was born in Street, Somerset, in 1849, the son of John, a shoemaker, and Eliza Corrick, who both worked for Clarks, the already well-established shoe manufacturer. Albert emigrated to New Zealand on the Mermaid, in 1862. He began a career as a music teacher, church organist, composer and performer. He met and married Sarah, née Calvert, an emigrant from Durham, who taught piano. They opened a music school in Christchurch, and imported sheet music. When the children started to arrive, Albert was determined that they would become musicians, and all were taught instruments. The family started what was to have been a short concert tour during school holidays. It proved so successful that it was extended to all capitals in Australasia; then to the East, and in 1907 to Europe. The line-up comprised "Professor" Albert Corrick (organist, violinist, conductor and teacher), Madam Corrick (contralto, cello), and their children Alice (soprano, piano), Gertrude (piano, cello), Amy (flute, piccolo), Leonard (clarinet and saxophone player, singer of comic songs,and the family projectionist and cinematographer), Ethel (singer, violin), Jessie (singer and violin), Elsie (singer, violin, piano) and Ruby (cornet and French horn). The family were also hand-bell ringers of some note. Alice seems to have been the star, and had already won acclaim with her voice at the age of 17. During a European tour she visited Paris where she received voice coaching under Mme. Machesi.

Corricks assembled for photo

This extract from a review of their season at the Mechanics Institute that appeared in the Launceston Examiner, 27th May 1902 gives a flavour of their appeal.

"A programme of 16 items was submitted, ...[which] was considerably augmented by encores. The entertainment was not confined exclusively to musical numbers,  and occasional variety was afforded by exhibitions of fancy dancing, and the display of a series of interesting biograph pictures. The first number was an overture, "Bohemian Girl" by the company, the instruments consisting of flute, cornet, violins, piano and clarionet.  ...The music was of high class quality. Miss Alice Corrick sang the grand scena and aria from "Der Freischutz", and received quite an ovation. For an encore, [she] sang "Soldiers in the Park", and her second number on the programme was "Tell me, my heart". This latter item was well received, and in response to a double encore, Miss Corrick sang "Comin' thro' the Rye" and "The Cows are in the Corn".  Madame Corrick, who is possessed of a sympathetic contralto voice, sang "Alone on the Raft" which was illustrated with limelight views... Various selections were played on the hand bells by the company and some excellent music was produced, each item being encored. Miss Ethel Corrick was recalled for her singing of the humorous song "Keep on the Sunny Side" and Professor Corrick sang with good effect "Lads in Navy" which was illustrated with 50 views, descriptive of the words. A clarionet solo, orchestral selections and a number of biograph pictures contributed largely to the success of the entertainment. "

John Boydell, Engraver, Printmaker,Publisher

John Boydell (1719-1804) displayed his artistic genes not only in his own work as an engraver, but in his creative approach to engraving, printselling and public taste that was to change the fortunes and rôles of engraver and publisher beyond recognition.

John Boydell
John Boydell

The son of a Land Surveyor in Dorrington, Shropshire, at the age of twenty John was fascinated by an engraving by W. H. Toms in Baddeley’s Views of Country Seats, which depicted a neighbouring estate. It prompted him to give up his career and go to London, where he managed to apprentice himself to Toms for seven years. Each day he worked about fourteen hours for Toms and then attended drawing classes at night at the St. Martin’s Lane Academy, and taught himself French and perspective. He bought himself out of his apprenticeship with a year to go, and started his own business. Around 1747, Boydell published his first major work, The Bridge Book, for which he drew and cut each print himself. It cost one shilling and contained six landscapes each of which, featured a bridge, not surprisingly. He persuaded a number shops to sell his book, and met with such success that very soon he could afford larger plates and was able to make engravings, generally of views in or near London, which he could price at one shilling each.

By 1751 he had completed 152 views in England and Wales, which he sold in collections priced at five guineas each. He had also engraved numerous plates after Old Masters, especially Berghem. Though many of his own engravings, and especially his large shipping scenes on the Thames, are attractive works with strength and merit in design and execution, he thought little of them. When he published A Collection of Views in England and Wales, he remarked in his Preface that he had learnt the art too late to arrive at great perfection. Also in 1751, when he became a member of the Stationers' Company, he started buying other artists' plates and publishing them in addition to his own. He started a small printselling business which did well and in 1752 he moved to Cheapside, where he stayed until his death. As both artist and print dealer, if his own works did not sell well, he could supplement his earnings by trading in the prints of other artists.

As a printseller he resented the fact that when purchasing prints of French engravers they thought so little of English work that he had to pay cash, instead of exchanging prints with them. He determined to change this. He hired William Woollett, the foremost engraver in England, to engrave Richard Wilson’s Destruction of the Children of Niobe. Boydell paid him approximately £100 for the Niobe engraving, an extraordinary fee compared with the going rate for such commissions. The print was hugely successful: Boydell actually sold more than £2,000 worth, but more importantly, the French accepted it as payment in kind. In fact, it was the first British print actively desired on the Continent. Urged on by Boydell, Woollett followed the Niobe with more engravings and in 1776 he had his greatest success when he engraved Benjamin West’s Death of General Wolfe. Though John Boydell held only a third share in the profits from this work until Woollett’s death in 1785, it earned him no less than £15,000 in its first fifteen years.

Death of General Wolfe engraving
The Death of General Wolfe, engraved by Woollett after the painting by West

Until his death Woollett remained Boydell’s principal engraver, but he was only one of more than 260 artists from whom Boydell commissioned work, generally single handed but sometimes in alliance with other printsellers, and always on such generous terms that Northcote called him “the truest and greatest encourager of English Art.” Under his auspices the English School grew up and flourished, and in 1782 he published two folio volumes, A Collection of Prints after the most capital Paintings in England, from plates in his possession. By 1785 the exports of English engravings, mostly through his firm, were worth £200,000, and the imports of foreign engravings had sunk to about £100.

His creative instinct was undimmed. In 1786 he conceived his crowning achievement. He announced his Shakespeare project, a massive, indeed grandiose undertaking. He determined to commission two series of Shakespearean oil paintings, one large and one small, from all the principal artists of the day; to build a gallery for their permanent exhibition; to publish, without the text, an Imperial Folio collection of engravings after the larger paintings and to publish a Folio edition of Shakespeare’s Dramatic Works with the highest calibre of typographic excellence, illustrated with engravings from the smaller pictures.

Shakespeare gallery building
The Shakespeare Gallery in 1851 when it had been
purchased by the British Institution

By the time the Shakespeare project was complete, forty engravers had been employed to reproduce 170 paintings by forty four artists, among whom were Reynolds, Romney, Fuseli, Benjamin West, and Wright of Derby: the Shakespeare Gallery had been built in Pall Mall on the site now occupied by the Marlborough Club: and the Boydells’ total outlay had exceeded £100,000.

Not content with this commitment, and undeterred by the outbreak of the French Revolution, no sooner had the first part of the Dramatic Works been published in 1791 than Boydell announced two other projects, the one for an illustrated Milton in three Folio volumes, which was duly completed in 1797, and the other for An History of the Principal Rivers of Great Britain, with coloured aquatint plates, in five similar volumes. Of this latter only one volume appeared, An History of the River Thames with seventy six aquatints after Farington.

But eventually the Napoleonic wars destroyed Boydell's trade. effectively bankrupt, the great support felt for this man who had been made Lord Mayor of London, and President of the Royal Academy encouraged Parliament to support a lottery with the proceeds of which his business could be saved,and with the Shakespeare gallery as a prize. On his death bed John Boydell learned that the lottery had raised enough to save the business which his nephew Jacob took forward.

According to Bruntjen, "it was due to the enthusiasm of Boydell and others that the English government eventually provided funds for the establishment of the National Gallery in 1824."

The Donalds; Two Generations of Poets

These two very different poems were both written by George Donald, 1800-1851.


George Donald, about 1840

Published in Songs for the Nursery, in Whistle-Binkie,
pub. Robertson & Co., Glasgow, 1840
(and the source for much of the information on George)

 CHEETIE!  cheetie pussie!
Slippin’ thro' the housie,
Watchin' frighted mousie—
Makin' little din;
 Or by fireside currin',
Sang contented purrin',
Come awa' to Mirren,
Wi’ your velvet skin!

Bonny baudrons ! grup it !
Straik it weel an' clap it!
See the milk, it's lappit,
Ilka drap yestreen;
Hear to hungry cheetie!
Mewlin' for its meatie,
Pussie, what a pity

Ye shou'd want a frien'!
Throw the cat a piecie,
Like a kindly lassie,
Ne'er be proud and saucy,
Hard an' thrawn like Jean;
Doggie wants a share o't,
If ye've ony mair o't,
Just a wee bit spare o't,
 An' you're mither's queen!

Cheetie! cheetie pussie !
"Watchin’ frighted mousie,—
Slippin' thro' the housie
Wi your glancin' een;
Or by fireside currin',
Sang contented purrin',
Come awa' to Mirren,
Tell her whare you've been!

Cheetie Pussie original manuscript
Cheetie Pussie Manuscript


George Donald, 1840

Published in The Chartist Circular, January 11th 1840

What is a Chartist – is he one
Whose creed is anarchy and spoil?
Is blood the basis of his plan,
And does he ply the impostor’s guile?
He dares the authors of his ills
From word or action to infer
That these compose his principles-
That this is like his character.

He, with indignant sorrow hears
The prayer of want and wail of woe
Fall heedless on the tyrant’s ears,
And swears that such shall not be so.
Along the city’s crowded streets,
And in the once contented cot,
The willing sons of toil he meets,
Now unemployed, and weeps their lot.

By foul corruption’s lavish waste –
By faction’s lust for power and place,
He sees his land to ruin haste,
And strives to save it from disgrace.
He knows that men are equals born,
But sees the many by the few
Are of their birthright basely shorn,
And holds the robbery up to view.

He says that all should have the choice
Of those for them that legislate;
For well he knows the people’s voice
Their wrongs alone can terminate
He says – and wealth at this may storm-
That there is many a wealthy fool;
And rank and riches should not form
The right of any one to rule.

Oppression in its every guise,
Against the body or the mind,
He hates, and fain would exercise
Good will and peace to all mankind.
This is a Chartist – who will say
His claims are wicked and unjust?
Keep patriot, then, your conquering way,
Till opposition bites the dust.

Soon happiness and liberty
Shall crown the battle you have fought,
And Whig and Tory only be
Remembered by the wrongs they wrought.
Be steadfast in your glorious cause,
Tho’ here and there some victims fall,
Till equal rights and equal laws
Shall be secured to one and all
































George Donald, was born in Calton of Glasgow, in 1800. His ancestors were from the Western Highlands. His father was a tenter (mechanic) in one of the power loom factories in Calton.  At the age of 8 George worked with his father for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week with an hour and a half for meals. Because he exhibited a passion for reading he was allowed to attend school for two hours a day by the factory manager.  This mean education was enough to inspire his writing, and to nurture the independent mind that prompted his radicalism.

There had been rebellion and unrest in Scotland in the late 18th century, and the rumblings of rebellion flared up again in 1820, with a widely supported general strike. At Paisley 300 armed radicals closed the mills. George was inspired by and participated in this radical rebellion. The family believe that George had to leave Scotland for some time as a result of his part in this uprising. There is no evidence of this. But in 1826 the Thornliebank factory closed as a result of the economic depression, and George lost his job. He went to Ireland with the family, where he was employed as a manager, but could not settle and returned to Scotland. 

Thornliebank factory
The cotton print works at Thornliebank where the Donald family worked

George settled the family in Glasgow again. He had become became an ardent advocate for religious and civil liberty,was an enthusiastic Chartist, and was writing poems for the many political journals in circulation. In turn his literary efforts opened the door to a radical social circle, and he became well known to the liberal political leaders of Glasgow. Unfortunately the social habits of this group were as enthusiastic as their political beliefs, and George entered too willingly into the drinking habits of the set. Eventually although he threw himself into his writing, he similarly embraced his drinking, and he began to neglect his family. His wife Mary left with the children. Son George was later to write of this separation from his father.

Finding himself out of work he went to America for a while but soon returned to Scotland. The Chartist Circular wrote of him in 1841,"He is the woeful nursling of a cotton factory - intelligent, morbid, sensitive, long inured to poverty and tossed about this barren world like an isolated wreck on the stormy ocean. Penury and woe are his familiars, yet he is a bard of genius..." For 18 months he was a partner on the short-lived radical newspaper The Liberator, which failed, losing much money. His wife returned to him for brief periods, and George's life continued in and out of work and drink. He published "The Lays of the Covenanters" which won him some critical acclaim but very little money. He wrote "Memoir of a Glasgow Unfortunate" which was serialised in a Glasgow newspaper. At one time he wrote to a benefactor "I am shoeless and shirtless and cannot write for the cold"

Copy of the Whistlebinkie book
My Dragon in Songs for the Nursery

Some of Donald’s happiest efforts may be seen in the pieces he contributed to the popular work, “Songs for the Nursery,” which was appended to a successful two volume anthology entitled Whistle-Binkie, published in 1840. The commission was timely for him. George wrote to the editor of Whistle-Binkie, "I thank you for what you gave me – it enabled me to break my fast. My thoughts at times are fearful. May God forgive and protect me. You are a stranger to me but you are a Christian and can feel. I dread the time is not too far distant when I shall fall down in the streets. And I am ashamed to make my situation known. This is my reward for having written more than any other working man in Glasgow – I deserve it."

During part of his last days Donald was employed in the office of the Glasgow Examiner. A cold, which he caught in 1850, settled down to his chest. His health never recovered. Despite the ministerings of his family and his doctors he died in December 1851. George's failings had involved his family in long struggles with poverty and its attendant ills.

George Donald Junior
George Donald Junior

George's eldest son, George Donald Jnr. could not forgive the privations that his father's lifestyle had imposed on the family. He was obliged to begin work in the calico printfield at the age of 12 as a calico print colourist apprentice. But he had inherited his father's poetic gift, and whilst working at a succession of jobs he attended the Glasgow School of Arts in the evenings and submitted poems and articles to newspapers and journals. At the evening school he was latterly appointed a monitor- teaching for one hour, and receiving free instruction during the next. Eventually he was to serve for 11 years as a journalist for the Glasgow Examiner. But he was also the proprietor of a Temperance Hotel, and for 23 years the Assistant Inspector and Inspector for the administration of the Poor Law for the Govan Parochial Board. The family story is that this George too became an alcoholic. His last recorded job in the 1891 census was as a clerk. He died in 1893 at the age of 66. George's son married g-g-great aunt Elizabeth Berry's granddaughter.

In the course of his life, as well as poetry, George Donald Jnr published prose sketches, tales, literary reviews, etc., in newspapers, periodicals, and magazines. He taught himself French, and published translations of French verse. In 1865 he published a collection of his work in Poems Reflective, Descriptive and Miscellaneous, including some very personal poems, some Scottish poems, and some of his translations. It received mixed reviews.

The following poems are the work of son George Donald, 1826-1893

Our Ain Green Shaw

They tell me o’ a land where the sky is ever clear,
Where rivers row ower gowden sands, and flowers unfading blaw.
But, O, nae joys o’ Nature to me are half sae dear
As the flowrets bloomin’ wild in our ain green shaw.

They speak o’ gilded palaces, o’lords and leddies fair,
And scenes that charm the weary heart in cities far awa’,
But nane o’ a’ their gaudy shows and pleasures can compare
 Wi’ the happiness that dwells in our ain green shaw.

 O weel I lo’e when Summer comes wi’ sunny days and glee,
 And brings to gladden ilka heart her rural pleasures a’,
When on the thorn the mavis sings, and gowans deck the lea,-
 O there’s nae spot then sae bonnie as our ain green shaw.

  While heaven supplies my simple wants, and leave me still my cot,
 I’ll bear through life a cheerfu’ heart whatever may befa’,
Nor ency ithers’ joys, but aye be canty wi’ my lot
 When wanderin’ in the e’en through our ain green shaw.

Published in Scottish Modern Poets, Volume 2,
Edited by Edwards, Brechin 1881

To A—— W-——
[presumably his wife-to-be Agnes Wilson]

LIGHT of my soul! O, turn on me
Those eyes with love's pure rapture beaming;
Life's joys are vain apart from thee,
Its fairest shows but empty seeming.
O, with thy radiant beauty bless
This heart, for thee so fondly glowing;
With rapt affection's holy kiss
An ecstacy divine bestowing!

While at thy feet reclined I dream
Of sorrows past, of ills before me,
I a poor exiled wanderer seem,
And thou an angel bending o'er me;
Then the mild lustre of thine eyes,
Thy holy smile, thy voice of gladness,
Come like an influence from the skies,
And banish all my bosom's sadness.

Oh! if condemned to lose thy love,
That with so sweet a spell hath bound me,
No light could cheer me from above,
And Nature would seem dead around me;
Where'er my wandering steps should go,
Remembrance of that love retaining,
Would only bring me deeper woe,
And sadder make my vain complaining.

Light of my soul! O, turn on me
Those eyes with love's pure rapture beaming;
Life's joys are vain apart from thee,
Its fairest shows but empty seeming.
O, with thy radiant beauty bless
This heart, for thee so fondly glowing;
With rapt affection's holy kiss
An ecstacy divine bestowing!

Published in Poems, Reflective, Descriptive and Miscellaneous, by George Donald, pub. Thomas Murray and Son, Glasgow, 1865

Donald death notice
George Donald's death announced in the Glasgow Herald, 19 June 1893

Octavius Ralling - Architect 1858-1929

Truro cathedral
Octavius Ralling indulged an enjoyment of drawing in his personal life
 as well as his professional. This is a frontispiece to a Church History of Cornwall, published in 1887

In March 1877 it was announced in the Essex Standard, West Suffolk Gazette, and Eastern Counties' Advertiser that student Octavius Ralling had been successful in the Freehand and Model Drawing Night Art Classes of the Colchester Literary Institution. My Uncle Bob's grandfather, I've not been able to discover much about the life of Octavius, or even too much about his professional work. But there are plenty of surviving examples of his draughtsmanship for us to admire the skill that won acclaim for the 19 year-old student - albeit in what was effectively the family newspaper! The eighth son of Thomas Ralling, a journalist and newspaper proprietor, Octavius was born in Colchester in 1858. His father had started his working life in a print works, before becoming a journalist and then gaining part ownership of the paper. However, the Rallings were no more than modestly well off. And the family suffered several tragedies. His father died when Octavius was 11. Suffering from TB, he cut his throat, thus hastening his death from the disease according to the coroner. Octavius's mother died when he was 16. And two weeks after Octavius's success in freehand drawing was being praised by his journalist brother in the newspaper, his eldest sister Rosa hanged herself in the family home. By the time of the 1881 census and Octavius and his younger brother Ernest were living with their eldest brother Thomas and his family in Colchester. Aged 22, Octavius was described as an Architect's Assistant.
Photo of Octavius Ralling
Octavius Ralling

Bodmin public rooms
Bodmin Public Rooms, by Ralling and Tonar,1891 currently listed. Described by English Heritage as "a striking design, strongly reminiscent of Northern Renaissance town halls"

Drawing for Exeter cathedral organ loft
Exeter Cathedral Organ Loft Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)

Baptismal well sketch
Octavius's drawing of
Fingringhoe Church, Essex
Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Service)

His elder brother James had gone to Exeter in around 1880 to manage an iron monger's shop, accompanied by his sister Emmeline. James and Emmeline lived at first at 110 Bath Road. In the same house was a retired tailor George Spratt, with his daughters and granddaughters, all teachers. By 1884 Octavius was also settled in Exeter. We read of him and brother James actively participating in an Exeter Parliamentary Debating Society. He was employed first by Exeter Architect R. Medley Fulford in cathedral yard. In 1888 Octavius married one of the teacher granddaughters from James's early lodgings, Ellen Brown. At about the time of his marriage Octavius was in practice alone, working at 17 Castle Street, but by the time of the 1891 census he was in partnership with Lewis Tonar in an architect's practice in Bedford Circus, Exeter.

The surviving records give testament to Octavius's civic, ecclesiastical and commercial work. He may have done much private work, but there is scant surviving evidence for that. An early success with his civic work was for the Public Rooms in Bodmin. In January 1891 it was announced that Ralling and Tonar's joint design had won the competition against 16 others for the new civic building. Its style has been described as free Gothic.

Their work for commercial clients met with local approval, for example in 1891 and 1893 the local paper, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, praised the design work of Tonar and Ralling for Exeter shops in the High Street (chemist Wynne Tighe's shop) and in Fore Street Hill (to be occupied by Lipton's ). The partnership undertook much work for local churches, including, for example, restoring the nave and east window of St John the Baptist at Withycombe Raleigh in 1925-1928.

Withycombe Raleigh Nave
Restored nave and east window of St John in the Wilderness,
Withycombe Raleigh

Sketch of Exeter cathedral by ralling
Sketch of Exeter Cathedral Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)

In 1892 Ralling and Tonar won a high profile contract in Exeter when they were appointed as architects for the city's Tepid Swimming Baths. There was much made of this project in the local Press, general opinion being that public swimming baths for Exeter were long overdue and that they would be a real asset for the city. The baths were opened in September 1893, with a pool of 75 ft x30ft, 7ft deep end with diving board, 3ft 3ins shallow end, a gallery for 500 spectators, hot and cold douche and slipper baths, 42 changing rooms, meeting rooms, and laundry facilities. They were located centrally, behind the High Street, more or less where the car park of the central library now stands. Despite the publicity that attended the baths' arrival they were never a huge commercial success and never made any money for their shareholders. The City Council acquired them in 1911, and they were destroyed by bombs in the Exeter blitz of May 1942.

The architecture of the Tepid Baths was clearly not thought to have affected their commercial success, for in May 1897 the foundation stone was laid for Exeter's Turkish Baths, in Northernhay Street. which were also to be constructed to the designs of Ralling and Tonar.  (In Pollards Official Guide to Exeter of 1894, Tonar and Ralling are actually described as "designers of swimming baths". These baths opened in May 1898. The exterior had an "arcaded front" to the first floor; the interior had cooling rooms, plunge baths with douche and spraying equipment, and two hot rooms. On the first floor were private cubicles, and an open piazza surrounded by bays. On the top floor were bedrooms which were to be rented by the Rougemont Hotel which stood alongside the baths - these bedrooms could be accessed directly from the hotel. The interior was decorated with mosaics, and white glazed bricks with blue banding.

The celebratory tone with which the opening of the baths was reported was premature, as within two years of the opening the holding company had been put into receivership following the loss of a costly court case initiated by the chapel opposite the baths, which had objected to aspects of the baths design. But the baths themselves seem to have continued to function in some form until about 1910 .

newspaper drawing of Exeter tepid baths
Newspaper pictures of the Tepid Baths
Source: Exeter Memories

turkish baths today
The Turkish Baths today
plaque outside oddfellows hall
Right: Oddfellows Hall, Exeter, designed by Ralling and Tonar in 1896,
with, above, inscribed bronze tablet and foundation stone.

At about the same time that they were working on plans for the Turkish baths Ralling and Tonar were completing the design of the new Oddfellows Hall, in Catherine Street, Exeter, just a stone's throw from their Bedford Circus offices. They commissioned the builder, Brealy. The foundation stone was laid in June 1896 by Brother P.G. Mansfield, who had been presented with a mallet and silver trowel by Octavius to perform the task. The inaugural meeting was held in the Hall in September 1896.

Oddfellows hall today

A major commission for Ralling and Tonar, and one that was probably dear to Octavius's heart was the restoration of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter. The Benedictine Priory was dedicated in 1087, and the small community of monks there played an active part in city life until the Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536. Some of the buildings were demolished and a remnant became the home for a wealthy Elizabethan family. It remained a family home until the nineteenth century when it was converted into five dwellings. The building deteriorated over time, and by the early twentieth century what were effectively tenements had become more and more dilapidated. In 1913 the Corporation purchased the building: Ralling and Tonar were given the job of restoration. Octavius had been interested in the building long before getting the contract for the restoration as he had made several sketches of the Priory in the 1890s. The project took from 1913 to 1916. Ralling and Tonar were assisted by Harold Brakspear who was a medieval architectural historian. Octavius maintained a hands-on involvement with the work throughout the restoration. When it was completed the Corporation opened the Priory as a museum. Still a museum, further restoration has been carried out in the 21st Century, and the interior is now furnished and decorated to represent an Elizabethan town house.

octavius's suggested restoration
Octavius's suggested restoration for St Nicholas Priory
Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)

St Nicholas Priory drawing
st nicholas priory first plan
st nicholas priory plan 2
st nicholas priory plan 3
Sketch of St Nicholas Priory by Ralling from 1890s and plans for the 1913-1916 restoration. Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)
sketch of courtyard in cathedral close exeter
Sketch of old houses, North Street Exeterst Nicholas priory crypt sketch
Above: A courtyard in Cathedral Close. Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services) Above left: house in North Street, Exeter and above right: St Nicholas Priory, crypt. Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)
It is evident that as well as professional plans and drawings Octavius enjoyed sketching, particularly old buildings, and seized opportunities to indulge his pastime. He certainly sold his sketches for book and magazine illustrations. And in the 1896 Xmas edition of the Exeter Flying Post, Mr. T. Upward of Queen Street was advertising "private Xmas cards, including the new Exeter Card (sketch of the city by Octavius Ralling)" At the following Xmas the same gentleman was advertising cards with " a variety of charming Exeter views sketched by Mr. Octavius Ralling."

In 1910 the Exeter Pictorial Record Society was established to collect pictorial representations of the most interesting features of Exeter. The collection contains paintings, prints, drawings, maps as well as photographs. Octavius contributed sketches to this record of the city.
sketch of old house in Plymouth
Sketches of Plymouth buildings that Octavius made during a visit to the city by the British Archaeological Association in 1882, perhaps before he had moved to the South West. Source: Plymouth Library Services
Octavius was also greatly interested in politics. From his early appearance in Exeter in 1884 in the Parliamentary Debating Society, of which he was a leading member, he became an active Conservative - his name often appearing as a seconder or assentor of candidates for national and municipal elections. He was prominent in the affairs of the Working Men's Society, which despite its name was a Conservative group; he was for years the Hon. Secretary of an Exeter branch of the Primrose League - an organisation established to promote Conservative politics; he was vice-president of the St John's Ward Conservative Association. Indeed he may have allowed his political life to stray into his professional life, as in 1890 he was the architect for the new Thorverton and Cadbury Conservative Club building, which was later to become Thorverton Memorial Hall.

It may be that Octavius's involvement in politics was owed in part to the social aspects of his activities. When he was still in Colchester in his 20s the newspaper carried reports of his performances in local amateur dramatic performances. Just like his love of sketching, his interest in treading the boards never left him, for the Exeter newspapers reported his participation in plays, sketches and concert parties over the years, some of them organised by Octavius himself, and often in connection with his political activities.  On occasions he was joined by his wife, and by his eldest daughter, a singer and pianist, who appeared to share his love of the limelight. In 1893 Mr. and Mrs. Ralling were in a concert party at Ide.  The following reports a concert for the Working Men's Society in Exeter in the same year. (Trewman's Exeter Flying post 16 Dec. 1893).

newspaper cutting about entertainment featuring Rallin

stone well sketch

sketch drawn on canal bank

Top: Baptismal Well, Mount Edgecombe, Cornwall, and below a view of Exeter from the canal. Source: Westcountry Studies Library (Devon Library Services)

He was one of the longest standing members of the Devon and Exeter Architectural Society, being for a while its hon. treasurer. He was also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was a Freemason, but he certainly never reached the illustrious ranks of the order achieved by his brother Thomas. It is evident that despite the family tragedies that blighted his youth, Octavius was able to lead a prosperous, fulfilled and apparently happy life. He was married to Ellen for 38 years. They had six children who survived to adulthood, and the evidence suggests their marriage was a happy one. Three of Octavius's sons left England to work as planters, brokers, merchants and traders in Africa, South America and the Far East, though each of them served in France in the First War. Ellen died in 1926, and Octavius died less than three years later on 1 February 1929. They were buried together in Exeter Higher cemetery. Sadly the grave stone has now been cleared, so there is no marker for Octavius's final resting place. But he left his mark on the architectural heritage of Devon and Cornwall, and thankfully, despite Hitler and later developers, some of that survives still, along with his drawings, as a legacy of his passion for his adopted county, and his talent.

ancient painting of coat of arms

Watercolour copy of the Grenville coat of arms by
Octavius, uncovered during the restoration
of St Nicholas Priory

  Thanks to the Westcountry Studies Library, Plymouth Library Services, St Nicholas Priory and Exeter Memories for help with illustrations.

Coronation Street Logo

Family on "The Street"

Cheryl Frayling-Wright was the only child of Arthur and Marjorie Frayling-Wright- she was the granddaughter of PC Arthur Wright, son of Ellen Huxtable. She uses the name Cheryl Murray. At the age of eight years old she joined the famous Elliot Clarke School of Dance and Drama. Then later she enrolled at LAMDA for a three year drama diploma. She has appeared on stage in A String In The Tail, Separate Tables and Aladdin. On television she had rôles in Vienna 1900, Games with Love and Death, Microbes and Men, Dixon of Dock Green, Billy Liar and Crown Court. She played lesbian inmate Julie in Within These Walls and played Gillian in the police drama Z Cars. In 1991 she was offered her West End Stage debut in Separate Lives but she was also offered two episodes of Coronation Street. She chose the Street and joined the cast on 10 January 1977 and continued to play sexy Suzie Birchall until 1981. She returned to the rôle in 1983 for a year until she finally left in 1984.

CVheryl Murray in Rovers Return Corrie
Cheryl Murray as "Suzy Birchall" in the Rovers Return

Cheryl has since appeared on television in Supernatual, Hi De Hi, Sorry, Some You Win, Zigger Zagger, Our Young Mr. Wignell, The Eleventh Hour, Brookside, Midnight at the Starlight, Rich Deceiver, Live at the Liverdrone and Blue Haven. She also made guest appearances on This Morning, Classic Coronation Street, Wire TV's Soap Show, GMTV and This Is Your Life. In 1998 she took the rôle of vet's wife Mrs. Parker in Emmerdale but found the strain of work too hard so she was replaced by actress Lottie Ward. She played the eldest daughter of Billie Whitelaw and sister of Smiths fan Lucette Henderson in the video "Everyday Is Like Sunday" by Morrissey.

Cheryl married her first husband, surveyor, Ian Murray in 1970 but they later divorced. She married second husband management consultant Colin Jacobs and their only child Louise was born in 1981. The couple later divorced.

cheryl Murray in Corrie

The Feys and the Pymans

Many of the Feys who moved to Bristol, and their in-laws and descendants, were talented musicians and performers, both professionally and as amateurs. Fred Fey was the Musical Director at The People's Palace, Baldwin Street, Bristol - a Music Hall between 1892 and 1912. Fred conducted the orchestra there, and also composed music. His niece Gladys Pyman was featured there at the age of 9. A talented child, she was billed as "The Baby Pianist". She was so tiny her feet could not reach the pedals.
Gladys Pyman Gladys Pyman

Her sister Elsie Lillian Pyman played cello with "The Saville Cwyn Orchestra". When she was older Gladys too joined an orchestra - the Bristol Folk House Orchestra. The Bristol Folk House emerged from a movement in 1870 offering education to Bristol dockers and became an established part of the movement for adult education and social action. Part of the national temperance movement in 1922, the name of Bristol Folk House was acquired. Its orchestra would have been established at about that time. Younger sister Queenie Pyman took over as the orchestra's pianist from Gladys who gave up the rôle when she got married. Her brother Gil Pyman was violinist with the orchestra. So too was a former docker William Williams whom Queenie was to marry. And sister Elsie Lillian met her husband through the Saville Cwyn Orchestra. The family seem to have successfully combined romance with their musical talents!

Folk House Orchestra
Bristol Folk House Orchestra 1929

William Hector, Pioneer Photographer

William hector and camera

William Hector, , the son of a wool sorter and weaver, in the then declining woollen industry of Crediton, followed a different career as a thatcher with his brother, and over 15 years built his business, moving from a modest cottage in an alley, when his wife was employed as a housekeeper, to a much more lavish abode at 40 High Street by 1861, where William was employing two men and a boy, and his wife no longer needed to work. But William was evidently a man of ingenuity and enthusiasm. Somewhere along the way he developed an interest in science, which he pursued through astronomy, and the newly invented skill of photography. Initially William's interest was as a gifted amateur. Photography as anything more than just a scientific experiment had been around for less than 15 years when he began to experiment with it, and by 1861 he had submitted a small photograph to the exhibition of the Photographic Society of Scotland. In 1860 William risked life and limb for some photo journalism when he secreted himself in some bushes to take photos of the hovel where the North Devon Savages lived.

back of photohector photo of great great gran
The reverse of Hector's Carte de Visite, and his carte of my great grandmother Mary Wright and grandmother Kate

Evidently William's passion was one that he took seriously. He ground his own lens, and built his own cameras. And although he may have been an amateur, the commercial potential for his hobby cannot have gone unremarked, as his daughter Jane was described as a "photographic artist" in the 1861 census. William was reluctant to give up his successful thatching business, as he was recorded there as a thatcher still. The attic of his High Street house acted as darkroom-cum-observatory to foster his career and hobby. Certainly in the town he was regarded as the local photographer, whatever his occupation, and he was invited to photograph events of significance, such as the record of the Town Band, perhaps helped by his daughter: and in the early 1860s, of the laying of the foundation stone of Searle Street, a development of smart new villas and a new thoroughfare in the centre of the town (below).

laying foundation stone

By the mid 1860s the local press were describing William as "our skilful townsman" and his work as "excellent specimens of the photographic art". On 1st October 1869 there was a review of William's business in Photographic News. In the 1871 census William at his High Street premises described himself as Thatcher and Photographer

railway construction with crane
This would have been one of William's earliest photographs, of the building of the railway from Crediton, in 1852

His son John was living a few doors away carrying on his business as Painter and Glazier. His son William was living with his parents, his occupation Organist. (Their neighbour was carpenter William Fey) By the early 1870s the business was well established. By 1878 not only did he have the Crediton business, but had opened at Fore Street, Okehampton. By 1881 William had given up thatching, and described himself in the census as a Photographer. His daughter Amelia was his Assistant, still at 40 High Street.

 crediton town band
There is some doubt about this picture of Crediton Town band above. Some opinion has it that the gentleman with the side drum is William and other, that the person to the right of the drummer is William's brother Thomas. Perhaps both are true. We are sure the photo was from William's studio.

As well as his interest in photography, William himself was an accomplished musician - not only in the town band, but with his brother playing the bass-viol regularly in the church. He died on September 28th 1882, aged 62 -certainly a pioneer.

There is a family story that William collaborated with William Friese-Greene, a pioneer in moving pictures, but whilst they may have known one another as photographers, Friese-Greene did not experiment with movies until after William's death. Perhaps the collaborator was his son-in-law Henry Cornish, for after William's death the business at 40 High Street Crediton was taken over by Cornish, who had married William's daughter and photographic assistant Amelia.

Hector advertpicture

newspaper ad for cornish photographer
Newspaper adverts for William Hector photographer, and Henry Cornish, son-in-law and William's successor in the studio

The Hectors certainly had artistic genes, for son William (1852 - 1925), seen below on the left standing in the doorway of his shop, was not only a watchmaker and jeweller, but developed his skills as an organist and music teacher. Young William had been the organist at Shobrooke Parish Church by the age of 12. He was organist at the Unitarian Chapel in Crediton when 15. (He went on strike there in support of his request for payment for his time). Local newspapers carried many reports of William's public performances, with praise not only for his accomplishment as a musician, but also as a teacher, and the proficiency of his pupils. He became organist at Newton St Cyres parish church, where he served for over 50 years.

hector jnr in shop
As jeweller William Jnr had contributed a trophy for
 best shots in the Crediton Rifle Volunteers in the 1880s.

newspaper advert for hector jnr music teacher

Ralph Rillman Miller

 In  the 1940 US census Ralph Miller (married to Margaret Donald, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Berry) recorded his occupation as singer. He was a high tenor and could hit a high 'G'.   He sang at the Metropolitan Opera for a year or so in the men’s chorus . Ralph was a talented man. He went on to work for some time as an aircraft engineer, but returned to the Arts when in 1951 he was appointed Assistant Director of the Museum of the City of New York. But he was a self-taught artist and was also exhibiting his own work. He was interested particularly in researching and experimenting with the technology of the Renaissance Masters, making his own paints and varnishes. He divorced Margaret and in 1962 married his secretary Helen Marcy. In 1960 he was appointed Director of the Museum and stayed in the post until 1970, but he took early retirement then to pursue a career as portrait painter and artist. He met his third wife, Neilah Price, whilst learning Renaissance pigment-making techniques in Florence, and went to live with her in South Africa, where he died in 1994.

Country Afternoon
Country Afternoon. Oil on canvas by Ralph Miller, 1957

new Dora Labbette - Star of Concert Hall and Opera new

dora The SingerThe Singer, by Walter Strang. Allegedly featuring Dora, he destroyed the painting after she left his son.
David Strang
Captain David Strang, by his father
Dora Labbette (4 March 1898 – 3 September 1984) was an English soprano. Her career spanned the concert hall and the opera house.  At the peak of her career in the concert halls, she conspired with Sir Thomas Beecham to appear at the Royal Opera House masquerading as an Italian singer by the name of Lisa Perli. In her private life she had an affair with Beecham, with whom she had a son.

Dora was born Dorothy Bella Labbett in Woodside, near Croydon, rather than in nearby Purley, as she was later famously to claim. The Labbetts are a Crediton family; in 1865 John Labbett married my great-great-aunt Maria Fey, and moved to Devonport where he became a police constable in the Dockyard. From 1861 the Royal Dockyards were policed by the Metropolitan Police.  Dora's father John was born to PC Labbett and g-great aunt Maria in Devonport. Constable John Labbett senior and his  family moved to Paddington in 1872 where he served in D Division, or Marylebone.  Dora's mother was Nellie Berry, the daughter of a Crediton cordwainer.  In 1891 both these Devon families, the Berrys and Labbetts, had ended up  living in the same apartment building in Paddington. Four years later  John Labbett and Nellie Berry were married.  John worked at a variety of jobs. He was a carpenter, licensed railway porter, and later a railway clerk. He suffered from poor health, and after Dorothy's birth he moved the family from Croydon to Hastings, in the hope that the sea air would  be good for him. The move appears to be in vain, for he died in 1903.

Spotted singing at concerts when 10, in Hastings, Dora's prodigious talent was developed by generous support from composer Florence Aylward,  opera star Liz Lehmann and renowned organist and chorus master Dr Herman Brearley. She tried for and gained a scholarship to attend Guildhall School of Music, where she became one of their most famous students. Named gold medalist in 1916, she was recipient in 1917 of the Landon Ronald prize...as "likely to become the best artist of all the students that year." Whilst there she sang in front of Queen Alexandra in 1917. She also studied with Liza Lehmann, who took her to sing to the music publisher and impresario William Boosey, who gave her a contract to sing songs published by his company, at "Ballad concerts, Promenades and Sunday evening concerts". She made her Wigmore Hall début in 1917, and soon found herself in demand as an English soprano, for oratorios and ballad concerts, giving her a lucrative career.

She had met a dashing Captain in the Royal Engineers, David Rogerson Strang, and on 15 April 1918, seven months before the Armistice, they were married in the Parish Church of St. Mark, Hamilton Terrace in London. She was twenty, the soldier thirty. His father was William Strang, a famous artist of the previous century. The son had inherited his father's artistic temperament.
They lived at 70 Carlton Hill, St. John's Wood, a smart London suburb, where on 18 April 1919, their daughter Joan was born. Strang wanted Dora to give up her singing career, but she resisted, and nineteen months later, she walked out of marital life, pulling a handcart heaped high with her belongings. Dora and infant Joan took lodging at 3, Pembridge Place, Notting Hill, another desirable suburb.

In 1922 she began a series of duet recordings with tenor Hubert Eisdell for Columbia Records.  She became a regular performer on Henry Wood’s ever popular promenade concerts, appearing on many occasions.  As well as the Proms, she sang in concerts with orchestras throughout the UK. Late in 1925, she performed twice in Hull - the second time on 17 December in Handel's Messiah with the Vocal Society.  After this Beecham asked her to participate in a recording of the Messiah. This was the start of her relationship with the conductor. At Christmas 1928 she appeared in Beecham's "magnificent" production of the oratorio at The Queen's Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonic Choir. In the following year Beecham presented Dora to the King and Queen at The Queen's Hall, in a revival of Handel's Solomon. Beecham took her to France where she sang for the ailing composer Delius.  She was the soprano soloist at the first performance of Delius's Idyll in 1933. By this time she had gained considerable fame and popularity, as a "BBC artiste", a recording artist and a concert and oratorio performer.

Dora's marriage to Strang had been annulled in 1928.  Beecham began proposing marriage, offering to part officially from his wife Utica in America. Dora however wanted him to seek a divorce in London, although she acknowledged that Utica would very likely oppose it. It was a stalemate. Nonetheless their relationship had continued and in 1933 Dora gave birth to their son Paul.  Beecham insisted on making legal arrangements for maintenance of his son when Dora stopped working, and would later pay for Paul's schooling.

Dora Labbette was established so firmly in the world of oratorio and the concert hall, but she was ambitious to create the full rôles of heroines in opera.  A few arias sung in concert simply whetted her appetite to sing a complete opera. "As for the Messiah, the Creation and Elijah, I must have sung the leading soprano parts in these oratorios hundreds of times, until I felt I would shriek if I were asked to do them again.... But it seemed quite hopeless and against all tradition that a singer who had been identified with the concert platform should desire to appear on the operatic stage." Who would take her seriously? She made a first move in Oxford in 1934, when the University Opera Club invited her to appear as Telaire in Rameau's Castor et Pollux. Then in March 1935 for the London and Provincial Opera Society, with Barbirolli conducting, she took the rôle of Juliet in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet with Heddle Nash. 
Lisa as Juliette
"Lisa Perli", or Dora Labbette as Juliette
Portrait of Dora by Strang
Dora Labbette portrait by Walter Strang
Dora and beecham en route to NY
Dora with Beecham, en route to New York, Christmas 1935

Mimi in La Boheme
Dora as Mimi in La Bohème with Heddle Nash at Covent Garden
These beginnings inspired Dora further, and in 1935  a mysterious bewigged and veiled blonde stranger turned up at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to audition for the rôle of Mimi in an upcoming series of La Bohème performances. It was no contest. The stranger impressed all, and was immediately signed for the rôle. Engaged as Signorina "Lisa Perli" (Dora had adopted her Surrey birth area as a surname) still heavily veiled, she came to a rehearsal, and finally a member of the chorus recognised her as Dora. Beecham was in on the ruse, and demanded that she be called, "Signorina Perli, if you don't mind"

The press and public were not long deceived by the pseudonym, and she was rapidly accepted as an opera singer.  She was a triumph in the role. The critic Neville Cardus wrote of her, "Lisa Perli is the best of our Mimis. She has a genius for diminutive pathos and in the closing scene she can bring moistness to the throat of the hardened critic."  She toured it throughout opera houses of England and Europe in subsequent years, winning great acclaim wherever it was performed.

At the end of 1935, Beecham sailed to America for a third series of concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, beginning on 2 January 1936. Dora accompanied him . On their return, during a visit to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow in March 1936, ‘Lisa’ sang  in Romeo and Juliet as Beecham conducted.

After this operatic success, she went to Paris and studied Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande, subsequently singing Mélisande at Vichy and Bordeaux and at Covent Garden the following summer.  Her other operatic rôles in 1935-1938 included Desdemona in Otello, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Marguerite in Faust, and the title rôle in Mignon. She toured with the English Opera Company, and also performed in Munich, Dresden and Berlin.
 In 1938 Dora recorded a selection of Delius's songs at Abbey Road : "Whither," "I Brasil," "The Violet," "Sweet Venevil" and "Twilight Fancies" with Beecham leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
During the summer of 1940 Beecham sailed off to Australia with his lady, the exotic "Lisa Perli" on his arm.  "Lisa" made seven appearances on the tour, which took in Melbourne, Brisbane,  Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

This was an unhappy  time for Dora, with Beecham making unpleasant comments about Dora at every opportunity, sure signs that his relationship with her was nearing its end.
Among her last concert performances was in The Creation, with Beecham, in Sydney in 1940.
They returned to England via Canada, travelling by train from Vancouver to Montreal, where at the beginning of November 1940, Dora boarded ship for Britain. This was a dangerous time to cross the Atlantic with the risk U-boat attacks. She was anxious to return to her children in London. Beecham had meant to follow after completing engagements in Canada and the United States. However he was offered a conductorship with the New York Metropolitan Opera  so he remained in the USA. When Dora bade farewell to him in Canada, and he was never to rejoin her. When Beecham gave a concert in Vancouver on 7 November 1941, Miss Betty Humby played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24; it was she who would become the next Lady Beecham.
Once back in wartime Britain, Dora resumed her career with a series of broadcasts for the BBC that included operatic arias with Boult and the BBC Orchestra. She also worked for the Motor Transport Corps, delivering medical supplies to hospitals and helped to raise money to equip the London Philharmonic Mobile canteen, which she drove to the scene of air-raids to provide refreshments to the emergency services and blitz victims.
Although she continued to perform, it appeared that her heart was not in it, and the news of Beecham’s marriage to Betty Humby on 18 January, 1943 shattered her.
She took part in a production in English of André Messager’s operetta Monsieur Beaucaire during a provincial tour in 1943. It was well reviewed but box office receipts hardly merited risking a London showing. That year she made her final appearance in opera, appropriately enough as Mimi, with Sadlers Wells Opera.
Abandoned by the love of her life, Dora had lost interest in performing. She moved to Sidlesham, on the Manhood Peninsula in West Sussex, and gave up her life to gardening, keeping chickens and breeding spaniels.
In her later years one could sense her love for Beecham never left her.  Lung cancer having spread throughout her body, Dora suffered a stroke  died on 3 September 1984, aged 86, in Selsey, near Chichester.

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera said of her: "Her voice was true, pure and youthful, and she was an outstanding actress."

Monsieur Beaucaire
Dora at the end of her career, in Monsieur Beaucaire, in Glasgow, in May 1943

Chipperfields - the Circus Dynasty


Any consideration of performing arts is incomplete if it does not include circus arts - clowning, tumbling, balancing, bending, tight and slack wire-walking, juggling, and weight-lifting. These arts are as ancient as performing itself, and many have insinuated their way over the centuries into other fields, not least the "legitimate" theatre. We are fortunate in that one of our connected families is the Chipperfields, who for many generations have earned their livelihoods from these ancient arts in booths and circuses touring Britain, and latterly the world. Not only did members of the family own the shows and run them : they were the clowns, the acrobats, the contortionists; they have been musicians, playing enough instruments to form a band. and actors when needed. They built the tent and pulled it down; they even made and painted the ornate facades. In more recent years perhaps the family's emphasis has been on training and presenting animals - though that too is an ancient skill and has always been part of the Chipperfields' performances.

My 4x great grandfather James Fey, b.1737, was the 3x great grandfather of Myrtle Slee. Myrtle married Dick Chipperfield, who with his brother Jimmy brought the Chipperfields circus to the prominence it achieved in Great Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.

circus programme
Frost fair on the Thames 1684
The Great Frost Fair on the Thames in 1684

During the Great Frost of 1683-84, in our last mini Ice Age, the river Thames, frozen solid with ice a foot thick, became like a city for two months. "The Thames before London was ... planted with booths in formal streets, all sorts of trades and shops furnished ... bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes ... so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph or carnival on the water." One of the entertainers was a young man named James Chipperfield, with his menagerie of performing animals, and according to the family, an ox roast too. And so the Great Frost saw the beginning of a long line of Chipperfield family performers, who entertained crowds up and down the country for many years with puppet shows, acrobatics, fortune-telling ponies, wrestling bears, and smaller animals such as mice and canaries performing tricks they had learned. They performed in booths at fairs, on wagons, in public houses, and on village greens, in theatres, and indeed in any space where they could attract an audience and would be permitted to entertain. Eventually they would carry their own performance space with them in the shape of the Big Top.

According to the family, one of the early showmen was a James William Chipperfield. Born about 1775, this James had a bootmaker's and costumier's business in Drury Lane, London, which served him well for his winter occupation. But in the summer, he would tour the fairs with a small show, accompanied by his wife. The show comprised dancing bears, performing monkeys, and trained pigs, and his wife had a peep hole show of views. They would tour with this on a small cart. James and his wife Mary Ann had a son also called James William Chipperfield, born in about 1803.

This son James started the touring life early, as an assistant to a conjuror called Hamlin. James married Harriet Amy Coan, at the age of 14 according to the family. Perhaps. He certainly went through a church wedding at the age of about 18, in Bury St Edmunds. They travelled together in a horse-drawn wagon with a hooped canvas roof. In 18 41 they were at a fair in Rayleigh, Essex. Harriet died of pneumonia and James married again. His second wife was described by a relative as a "red-haired" old pig of a woman. By this time they had a good size conjuring booth that they were touring, but James found the life too stressful with this wife and retired, and died in 1866.

Original James william chipperfield2nd james chipperfield
The original James William Chipperfield b. c.1775 and his son
James William Chipperfield b. c.1803
circus caravans
Circus wagons

James Chipperfield
James William Chipperfield b.1824

The son by the first marriage James William Chipperfield (1824-1913) was born in a caravan at St Martin At Oak, Norfolk. His first job was clowning in what his father was then calling a "Lilliputian Circus". He supposedly entered a den of animals at Wombwells Menagerie when only 14-years-old. He began presenting his own act when he acquired an "educated" pony.

He married Elizabeth Jones in 1846. She was born 1823, and died in 1856 at the Hull Fair. He then married widow Sarah Ann Coan (née Chapman) 1821 - 1890. Sarah Chapman had been John Coan's second wife and on marriage acquired a family of 5 children. She went on to have 12 more. James William inherited quite a tribe when he married Sarah.

His daughter appeared as the youngest tight-rope dancer in the country. He introduced to Britain Zulu tribesmen from Africa and the Aztecs from Mexico. He also entered the marionette business. With acts like Robert Tipney, "the skeleton man alive", and with his menagerie, he worked his way to the front rank of the showmen. (The travelling menagerie, also known as the Beast Show, was the term commonly used to describe itinerant animal exhibition as it developed during the nineteenth century. The expression travelling zoo was also used, and they were a feature of the Chipperfields' circuses for many generations.) James was also a clown and a juggler. He could balance a cartwheel on his chin, and a saucer on his nose. He must have gathered a sizeable collection of animals, as he established permanent winter quarters in Norwich. He was on the road all his life and claimed to be England's oldest showman. He died at his home, in Beeston, Leeds, in 1913, aged 89 years.

early poster rforJW Chipperfields circus
earely poster for James with Tipney advertised
Two posters from the middle years of the nineteenth century for James's show.

James William Francis Chipperfield
(1848-1917) Son of James William Chipperfield. Born in 1846 off Tottenham Court Road, London. He claimed that he knew every village in England. He was a noted trainer of animals. "I can train anything from a rabbit to an elephant", was one of his favourite expressions. Like his father he too was an accomplished clown. He cut out silhouettes, and used them to give shadow plays which he wrote, and for which he delivered the patter. He showed a pony which he taught to "talk" by nodding or shaking its head. He was also a good balancer. He toured a menagerie, and making the most of his family of nine children, when they were grown, he added a square show booth to his menagerie, to feature them as tumblers, wire walkers and clowns. Thus his show began to grow in size. The travelling menagerie reflected the increasing wealth and influence of fairground showman in the nineteenth century, interest generated by new knowledge in the natural sciences and the public's fascination with the exotic and the dangerous.

In 1891 James and his family were in their caravan, camped with other show caravans at St Lawrence Green, Crediton. All nine children were there. James described himself as a showman. James and John were musicians, and Richard was an acrobat.

All the children entered show business in one rôle or another. Apart from other jobs, the boys made a five-piece band to attract the paying customers, which made up in volume what it lacked in musical accuracy. They also put on sketches from time to time. Mary Anne was a juggler, and also danced on a platform outside the show to attract patrons.

Henry left the to tour fairgrounds with his own cinema show. Jim went to Ireland with the Royal Italian Circus, where he eventually settled. But Richard took over his father's growing circus, and initiated the momentum that was responsible for building it up so that it eventually became one of Britain's "Big Three" with Billy Smart's and Bertram Mills's circuses.

james francis chipperfield
James William Francis Chipperfield b.1848

richard chipperfield
Richard Chipperfield b.1875

The Chipperfield Biograph

richard chipperfield
Richard Chipperfield

Richard Chipperfield (1875-1959), son of James Francis and Mary Ann Chipperfield, was born at Sileby, Leicestershire. He first performed in public at the age of five. He succeeded to the management of the circus in the early 1900s. In 1902 his brother Jimmy left to tour the fairgrounds with a travelling cinema, that were all the rage then. In 1903 Richard secretly married Maud, daughter of Peterborough horse trainer George Seaton, in Bristol.

Richard was no animal trainer, but with his powerful frame he was a skilled acrobat, and a clown, his act incorporating many traditional clown gags that were hundreds of years old. The children performed as soon as they were old enough. Initially the girls sang and danced, then took up acrobatics and wire-walking. He toured successfully with his parading show in its square canvas booth, with the family clowns, jugglers and acrobats. Then in 1911 he acquired a cinema and a traction engine, and started touring with his Electrograph. Six films were shown at each presentation in just about as many minutes. These included films of Marie Correlli riding in the Shakespeare Birthday procession and the disaster that befell the "Albion" on the River Thames.

He continued to perform in the show, as a clown. But the shows were halted when the First War broke out. The family slaughtered or sold the animals. Being over age Richard was called up into the reserve. The family settled at Amesbury. They acquired a building which was converted to a cinema. But as the war continued their audiences dwindled. They had to sell everything and lease the cinema just to live. Times were very tough for the family.

One of Richard's hobbies was painting, particularly animals. Examples of his work were to be seen on the walk-ups of his circus pavilion. At the height of their wartime poverty the family survived from Richard's earnings as a sign painter for the local council, and as a carpenter. The cinema at Amesbury reopened after the war. Then in in 1923 Richard was urged by the family to give up the cinema and go on the road again. They acquired some pythons and a black stallion that performed as a talking horse. During the war Dick junior had learned to play piano and violin at school, and he became the show's musician, on piano and trumpet, as well as performing conjuring tricks. Marjorie was a contortionist, and had a balancing act, Jimmy began a wire walking act, a clown, and began wrestling with a bear. and Maud performed with the pythons.. They took that on the road.

Persuaded by the family Richard gradually enlarged the show, until it became more than a small show booth and by 1930 was a larger booth with a ring, and with the addition of Shetland ponies. The Chipperfields started to become well established in the traditional circus business, and even purchased an elephant. In 1933 they combined the show with that of the Purchase family, creating a large touring circus and menagerie. Captain Tom Purchase died shortly after the amalgamation having been attacked by one of his lions. The combined show was then a Chipperfield affair. Richard probably would have preferred to keep it small, but sons Dick and Jimmy were ambitious.

In 1935 daughter Maud married Thomas Fossett of Sir Robert Fossett's circus, and she left the family show, and started a trapeze act with her husband. Richard, seeing potential for new experiences and new acts hired out the Chipperfield horses, lions, tigers and bears to Sweden's Circus Scott in the 1937 season, and Dick, Jimmy and Johnny accompanied them to tour Sweden with the animals. But Richard, having survived the war, periods of hardship and growth, creating this large concern, had a stroke in 1938, and retired from touring. He died in 1959. He had been a performer, and reluctant entrepreneur, developing the show from one day tenting to a circus with ring, menagerie, traditional circus acts and performing animals.
Dick Chipperfield (1904-1988), having started his performances as a clown at the family's fairground variety show when he was just five, by the age of 20 was learning to train wild animals. In 1939 Richard and his brother Jimmy were mainly responsible, along with their siblings, for running the show after Richard senior's retirement. The family decided to enlarge and modernize the show further, and acquired many new animal acts. Unfortunately this plan was rather spoilt by the intervention of World War II. Chipperfield's Circus toured in partnership with the Sandow family's circus during the second war.

Richard had been refused entry into the forces as he had flat feet. During the late 1940s, the RAF Wethersfield base was used as a winter camping ground for the Circus. Elephants were housed in the maintenance hangars and Nissen (Quonset) huts, formerly used as offices, became homes for lions, tigers, snakes and monkeys. Richard was the show's wild animal trainer. Though others might present the animals, it was he who first trained them to perform. After World War II the show began touring again with a new tent. They won a contract to perform winter shows, and during their summer tours, the tent was full at every performance. The circus grew every year. It was to become one of the largest touring circuses in Europe. Richard made sure of its success by travelling to Ceylon, where he bought eight elephants. He made further trips abroad to buy horses, sea lions, chimpanzees, more elephants and other wild animals. By 1953, Chipperfield's Circus ousted rivals Bertram Mills and Billy Smart and boasted a big-top tent which could accommodate 6,000 people. It had a collection of 200 horses, 16 elephants and 200 other animals. They employed 250 people. Their children all went to private schools. Dick took the circus to Ireland in 1956, the first to tour there after the war. In the coming years the circus was to tour overseas, including a season when Dick, Marjorie and Johnny took it to South Africa in the mid 60s. But in more recent years all circuses have suffered financially, and despite efforts to avoid the difficulties, the Chipperfields were not immune. The circus dwindled in size. Richard stopped performing, and died at the age of 83 in 1988

reception caravan with dick and myrtle
Dick Chipperfield with Myrtle, and two children
in the Chipperfield Reception Wagon

Dick and lions
Dick Chipperfield with his lions

Jimmy with bear
Jimmy Chipperfield with bear Benji at the London Palladium in 1936

James chipperfield on this is your life
Jimmy Chipperfield with Eamon Andrews on This Is Your Life

Jimmy Chipperfield was born in the top bunk of a touring caravan in 1912, and died a multi-millionaire in 1990. Jimmy, like his elder brother Dick began in the show as a clown, and when the show started up again after the First War, as a wire-walker and an acrobat. At the age of 15 he realised an ambition and started working with bears. Whilst Dick liked to perform with lions and horses, Jimmy's preference was bears and tigers, having learned the skill of working with the latter from Captain Tom Purchase. The Purchase menagerie and the Chipperfield Circus were often seen together at fairgrounds and Jimmy Chipperfield first met Rose Purchase at Mitcham Fair when they were both 16. He plucked up the courage to ask her father for his permission to take her out and chaperoned by his sister Maud, they took a spin for five shillings per person in a plane at the nearby Croydon aerodrome. Jimmy fell in love with Rose and announced to his father their intention of getting married when he was 22. Richard did not object to Rose,of whom he was very fond, but he forbade the marriage as he thought the couple were too young. Jimmy would not be prevented, so in 1934 he and Rose ran off from the circus which was then at Dartmouth, and were married in Plymouth. They laid low in the Plymouth house of my cousin Fernley Slee who was the Chipperfield's consulting vet. Richard relented, phoned Jimmy and told the couple to return to the circus, all was forgiven. Rosie would sometimes perform with Jimmy and his bears, as well as presenting her own animals. Brother Dick was later to marry Fernley's sister Myrtle. In 1937 Jimmy had a contract to take his wrestling bear to the London Palladium, where he appeared for 8 months with the Crazy Gang, until the bear inflicted an injury which cost him a kidney.

On the outbreak of war he was desperate to serve, and having been turned down by the RAF as unfit because of his missing kidney, Jimmy used all his invention, contacts and artfulness to overcome the RAF's objections, and was eventually accepted. He qualified as a pilot and for much of the war flew with a night fighter squadron.

He bought a farm at Stockbridge during the war, but when, by Easter 1946, the Chipperfield circus was back on tour, Jimmy was with them. The family regrouped after the war to rebuild the fortunes of Chipperfield’s Circus. He and Richard together were responsible for growing the circus such that in 1953 it was the biggest in Britain. But Jimmy had always been restless, as well as ambitious, and perhaps the one with the most ideas for making money. Two years later Jimmy suddenly broke away from the family circus and after a brief spell at farming, and trying to fit in with other circuses, Jimmy branched out in the fields of show jumping ( He promoted a number of show jumping events, before returning to the circus for a while) filming and zoo ownership, opening small zoos with Rose in Southampton and Plymouth in 1961 and 1962 respectively. He began almost by accident acquiring and training animals for film work, helped by children Mary and Richard. He pioneered the entire idea and his first formal contract was to provide the horses for The Horsemasters. He was soon providing animals for the likes of Walt Disney. He had begun trapping in Africa with his son, Richard, bringing animals back to England for circuses and zoos. From this he developed the first drive-through safari park outside Africa, the Lions of Longleat, in partnership with Lord Bath, signed and sealed in 1964. He went on to create a string of these parks in England and abroad, making him a multi-millionaire. He had left performing and the circus, and worked at such enterprises until his death in 1990.

chipperfield at fair
The show between the wars, with Richard Chipperfield delivering the patter and Marjorie walking on the rolling globe

Rose Chipperfield, who died in 2006, aged 93, was the widow of the famous showman and safari park pioneer Jimmy Chipperfield. A former performer herself, she helped Jimmy build up the largest travelling circus in Europe and was the mother of Mary, Richard, John and Margaret, who all became involved in circuses, zoos and filming. Born in 1912, Rose came from the famous Purchase family which operated travelling menageries for seven generations. Rose took over from her mother, dancing in a cage between two male lions as a prelude to her father’s daring act. She appeared first with a snake act at the age of 14 and graduated to the dance routine in the lions’ cage at 16. Her pets included monkeys, a raccoon, a giant rat and a lemur which lived with her in her wagon, as well as several pythons. Their first born son, James, died at the age of six from tetanus contracted from a simple graze to his arm but they subsequently had four more children, Mary, Richard, John and Margaret. Rose paid a solo trip to Sri Lanka, returning with nine more elephants, some leopards and a number of giant pythons. Leaving the family establishment, Richard was killed during a safari in Uganda in April 1975. Rose Chipperfield was described by one critic who saw her dancing in the lions’ den as “the epitome of delicious English womanhood, a dainty little lady with a lissom body surmounted by a really charming face in which glowed eyes of surpassing beauty”.
captain and mrs purchase
Rosie's parents Captain and Mrs Tom Purchase
chipperfield early wagons
Chipperfield animal trailers in the 1950s

big top
The Big Top of the 1960s, that would hold 8000-9000

Chipperfield 1916
Chipperfields in 1916 at Chichester

Marjorie Chipperfield(1916-1975) began singing and dancing with the circus, but became a wire walker, an equestrienne, a contortionist and a balancer. She was the younger daughter of Richard, and as such participated in the family shows. In 193 she did a bending and balancing act, climbing in and out of the narrow rungs of a ladder. Then in 1933, with the family Lion Show, she performed a rolling globe act. After Dick had taken over from their father she started presenting liberty horses. Then for the 1939-40 season she appeared, as Mlle. Marita, with performing bulls, at the Belle Vue circus. She was to appear with a number of circuses, performing in many rôles over the years. She was Miss Marjorie, balancing and rolling, at Poole's (Tom Fossett's) circus, in September 1941 and exhibiting fine horses at Arthur Joel's 'All-British' circus, 1941–42, with her brother Johnny, and Rosie Chipperfield. With Reco Brothers' circus, in 1942 she exhibited liberty horses and globe walking. Later in 1942 joined Harry Benet's stage circus. She married Jimmy Stockley in 1945. Jimmy became indispensable as Chipperfield's Transport Manager. Marjorie was Roxana, assisting Marsaline (Bertha Gridneff), on the wire.

With Chipperfield's circus she was in charge of the girls' wardrobe. and was joint proprietor in 1948, with brothers Richard, James and John. Her elephant ballet was presented at the Kelvin Hall circus, Glasgow, 1948-49. She was a director of Chipperfield's in 1951, when their headquarters were at Jimmy's Down Farm, Stockbridge, and later when the winter quarters moved to Heythrop, Oxfordshire. Then she and Jimmy looked after the family's wild animal reserve in South Africa until Jimmy Stockley's death in 1973. She died in 1975, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnny Chipperfield (1921-1978 ) was a rider, clown and animal trainer. The younger brother of Dick, Maud, Jimmy and Marjorie, he trained a Welsh pony to do tricks as a boy, then trained a monkey jockey for it, performing in the arena. At age twelve he bought his first ring horse and became a rider and clown with the family show. In 1937 he went with his brothers and the family's animals to Sweden, performing with Circus Scott . While there he learned trick riding under the tutelage of Rudi Blumenfeld. In 1938 he presented his dog act. During the war he served with the RAF regiment, and was demobilised on the very day that the family circus was due to open, at Southampton, for the 1946 season. He rushed to join them and presented his dogs, performed a comedy ride as 'Madame Spangaletti' and clowned with his brother Jimmy. He continued to present his dogs in the late 40s and early 50s, but by the 50she was also training horses, and exhibiting high school riding, In 1952 he presented Golden Palominos,and by this time was the horse trainer for the circus. He married Doris Morche, a member of a German springboard troupe in 1953. During the mid-1950s he began presenting the Chipperfield elephants. In 1957–58, he was exhibiting horses, ponies, elephants and chimpanzees. He went with brother Dick and sister Marjorie to South Africa for the Chipperfield tour of Southern Africa 1965 - 1967, and returned to the UK in 1968. From 1970 onwards Johnny performed with the family's circus in the UK training and presenting Asian & African elephants, horses, lions, tigers and dogs. He died in 1978 of leukaemia.

many with poodle an skipping ropeJohnny Chipperfield with a performing poodle in 1950
Mary Chipperfield presenting tigers
Mary Chipperfield presenting her tiger act

Mary chipperfield and husband
Mary Chipperfield and husband Roger Cawley
at about the time of their prosecution

Mary Chipperfield (1938 - ) Daughter of Jimmy, Mary was born in a caravan in Kentish Town. She rode in the ring once when she was 10, but her major debut was in a ring very different from the circus ring. Although she was skilled at riding circus horses, she went to stables in the north of England to learn show jumping, appearing in competitions when she was 17.

Mary returned to the circus when she was about 19, presenting liberty horses and High School, which she had learned in Switzerland. She continued to work with horses, but over the years she trained and presented many different animals. In the 1960smost of her time was taken up in her father Jimmy's enterprises. At her father's Southampton Zoo, she was actively involved in training animals for films and other appearances, away from the circus, with her husband Roger Cawley who had been a manager with Bertram Mills Circus. She and Cawley worked with father Jimmy and brother Richard to establish the Lions of Longleat, and Roger Cawley was manager thereafter for some years, he and Mary living on the estate. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s Mary also appeared at numerous circuses in Great Britain, including Billy Smart's and the Blackpool Tower Circus, and in the USA and on the Continent. She presented chimpanzees, liberty, High School and other horses, elephants, lions, tigers and leopards together, and other exotic creatures. She lost the top of a finger to a big cat, but continued to work with them for many years.

In 1975, after a successful appearance at Blackpool, it was reported that "Mary Chipperfield, the English woman circus super-star, presented her group of lionesses, tigers and leopards; rode an impeccable Spanish high school horse and a Palomino fire-jumping stallion; showed her big and little horse act, then partnered with Franz Althoof, Jr. presented the Knie liberty horses; and brought along her five African elephants plus her camels, llamas and zebra, which were presented by Franz."

Then shockingly in 1998 it was reported in the press that Mary Chipperfield was abusing her animals. She was covertly filmed repeatedly kicking and beating a young chimpanzee. In April 1999 she was found guilty of 12 animal cruelty charges. Her husband, Roger Cawley, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a sick elephant. They were fined for the offences. Sadly after that shocking behaviour Mary showed no remorse for her behaviour when talking to the press. She gave up chimpanzees, but continued to train animals, and continued to present them in circuses. In late 2006 in she was appearing in Portugal at a circus featuring four tigers she had originally trained 1980.

Other Chipperfields Other members of the family from Mary's generation and later have continued to perform in circuses at times.

Charles Chipperfield. In the early 1990s Charles, a son of Johnny Chipperfield, ran Chipperfield Brothers, but this ceased running during the 1990s. The title was hired out to Tony Hopkins Promotions for his touring UK circus from 1992 to 1996. Charles Chipperfield's circus, without animals is on the road again now, but it is not clear if that show is run by this Charles.

Sally Chipperfield, daughter of Dick Chipperfield and my cousin Myrtle toured a circus with her husband James Clubb for a while, but she has given that up, and for 35 years has been running Amazing Animals, with her husband training and supplying animals for the media industry.

Suzanne Chipperfield, daughter of Mary Chipperfield, she worked with lions, tigers and horses, appearing in European circuses. For a while she was the youngest trainer of lions in Europe.

Graham Chipperfield step grandson and Richard Chipperfield grandson of Dick and Myrtle Chipperfield have both presented animal acts. By 16, Graham Thomas Chipperfield presented a ring of elephants. By 19, he became a lion trainer.He presented a group of ten Chipperfield lions and three Asian elephants, Letchmai, Mina and Camilla, over several years. In 1993 he joined Ringling Bros. with his elephants and lions. He was badly mauled by a lioness called Sheba during a training session. Graham was practicing his lion-attack act when he was attacked for real. Two 3-inch puncture wounds in his shoulder and back were repaired with 80 stitches. Then in late 1997, Graham was joined by brother Richard Chipperfield Jnr., with twelve tigers. As the British public had lost its taste for live animal shows, they chose to both work in America where performing animals are still deemed acceptable. At times they appeared in the cage with the animals together- an unusual act.

But their performances were ended when in 1998 a 350lb Bengal tiger bit Richard, 24, on the back of the head. It had jumped on him from behind as he went to kiss another tiger for a photo session. Graham, who saw the incident later shot the tiger that had so critically injured his brother.

Richard was too severely injured to return to the ring. And at age 29, Graham Chipperfield retired from the circus after shooting the tiger dead.

charles chipperfield poster

Richard Chipperfield in ring with tiger
Richard Chipperfield junior in the early 1990s with tiger

cirque du soleil
Cirque du Soleil
Chipperfield Circus, as run by Dick Chipperfield, ceased touring in the UK in the late 1980s. In the 1989-1990 seasonthe show toured Ireland, commencing the season in Cork. The title was then hired out to Tony Hopkins Promotions for his touring UK circus from 1992 to 1996. The show featured Dick Chipperfield Snr's grandson, Richard Chipperfield working his lion act. In 2010, Chipperfields' Circus returned without animals in the show, appearing at Cambridge and Rochester.

There is little doubt that the Chipperfields failed to read the signs in the UK, and were unable to innovate the way they had earlier in their history. In the 50s the show had grown too large, which restricted the number of cities and venues it could play, and where it could attract the size of audience required. By the 1970s, performing animals seemed to belong to a different time in Britain. Eventually circuses like Archaos and Cirque du Soleil returned to those ancient circus arts without animals. The Chipperfields had somehow abandoned that heritage which had meant that previously their circus not only survived, but prospered. In the past the family had stayed ahead of the competition by anticipating what would be successful, and  delivered it with great skill. But by the 1990s they were stuck in the past.


Those Hector Musicians Again


Son of William Hector, the jeweller and organist, Dr. Chastey William George Hector Mus.B. (Oxon) became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists, and a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. He graduated from New College, Oxford in about 1895. He was awarded his Doctorate in Music in  1922. He was assistant organist of St. John’s, College, Hurstpierpoint, 1895; organist of St. Cuthbert’s College, Worksop, 1896; organist of St. Michael’s, Handsworth from 1898. He became organist at St. Peter’s Parish Church, Brighton, in 1907.  And as well as a music teacher ( he was music master of the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School), arranger, conductor, choir master, musical director  (he was the director and conductor of the Brighton and Hove Operatic Society), Chastey was a composer. His compositions for the organ include  Allegretto;  Diaton  (1925); a Christmas carol, All Hail With Joy (1925); Exultation (1926);  Wedding Chimes  (1927); Blue Sky - A Reverie (1929); The Lamb of God- A Lenten Cantata(1930) with Wallace King . He wrote the music for several light operas:  Cupid And The Ogre (1912);  The Golden Argosy (1933);  Phillida or Love on The Prairie (1920) ( a two act operetta);  Kamaldar (1936). The book and lyrics for these were written by regular collaborator Stanley West. In 1928 he wrote the music for the operetta The Jade Ring, the book by D.E. Tilling and D.R. Ward and lyrics by J.M. Tilling. They were performed widely in the 1920s and 1930s, across the UK and in Canada. He was said to write in the Sullivan tradition, his collaboration with Stanley West being compared to Sullivan's with Gilbert. As well as his participation in scores of concerts, he organised many musical events for charity, and gave organ recitals for them in both Sussex and Crediton. Married to Bertha Highnam, they had one child, Cyril in 1907. Chastey died suddenly on  24 April 1934. He suffered a seizure while conducting choir practice in the church hall and died two hours later in the  Royal Sussex County Hospital, aged 57.
chastey score
  The score for Phillida
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Page updated 22/04/2020

© Nick Heard 2019