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Miss Bishop’s School for Girls & Little Boys

The Allisons’ had two children, James & Rose. The 1891 census records James, age 7, and Rose, age 5, under their parents real name Beddoe, boarding with Miss Edith Bishop at her home school in Ryecroft Road, Lewisham. In 1891, the Allisons’ toured America, leaving behind their young children in the care of Miss Bishop. The Allison’s extensive touring arrangements in America and later Australia, led to little James & Rose attending boarding school throughout the 1890s.

1891 census England 18 Ryecroft Road, Lewisham, London. (Ancestry.com)

In 1891, Ryecroft Road, a loop road with big villas and lodges as seen here on the ordnance survey map published in 1898, backs on to Streatham Common. Although not that far from Brixton where the Allison’s lived when in London, the location with its natural woodland would have felt like it was in the countryside. (ref: OS Six inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

Miss Bishop advertised her school in the theatrical newspapers including this ad in The Stage newspaper from 9th May 1895.

(© The Stage Media Company Limited, British Newspaper Archive)

Barry Lupino

The 1891 census also records that George B.L Hook was a boarder at 18 Ryecroft Road (seen above between little James and Rose Beddoe. George Hook was born in 1884, the same year as little James.

George Barry Lupino-Hook, is better known as Barry Lupino, of the famous Lupino family and was also a boarder at Miss Bishop’s school. The school was not a theatrical school in the conventional sense but taught children of many theatrical artistes and even put on performances at the Mission House in Lanier Road, Lewisham.

In this 1893 newspaper clipping from the Music Hall & Theatre Review, Master Barry Lupino is shown along with the Allison children and other pupils in a Christmas performance of “Red Riding Hood”.

(Music Hall & Theatre Review 15 Dec 1893, British Newspaper Archive)

Barry Lupino (1884- 1962) went on to be a star in his own right as a comedian and film actor. He is the brother of Stanley Lupino and uncle of Ida Lupino. His father was pantomimist and comedian George Lupino. His mother, Florence Lupino. Barry Lupino was also famous for his roles in pantomime as seen below (on right) with George Robey in Jack & the Beanstalk. Barry Lupino played “Muffins” to Robey’s “Dame Trot”.

Rotary Photographic Series (personal collection)
Baptism entry of George Barry Lupino-Hook. March 16th 1884. St Mary’s Newington, Southwark. (Ancestry.com)

Hampers packed with black tights and green dresses

With such energetic performances we rarely stop to think what the music hall stars wore or how they packed to tour across the world. Shipping records tell us that James & Lucy Allison travelled with at least 6 pieces of luggage when they travelled to perform in Australia. In this grainy newspaper clipping from the Sydney Mail & Advertiser dated 22 Feb 1902 we can see that Lucy Allison wore green velvet and her skipping rope dance was quite enough to take your breath away. Their performances also included a skit with large hats, another with evening dress and yet another dressed as elderly couple. Lucy’s mother was a milliner.

Sydney Mail & Advertiser Feb 22, 1902 (National Library Australia via Trove)

The Allison’s changed costume through their performance eventhough their turn would have been no longer that 15 minutes. Their encore required a further change in costume. This New Zealand newspaper from 1902 gives us a vivid picture of James wearing a suit of black tights with his lean, lithe figure twisting and bouncing with the music.

The Allisons (James & Lucy) are distinctively clever. They opened with a turn as an old fashioned couple, sing a song, and are tempted by the music to dance. The lady’s simulation of the tottering gait of the ancient dame is cleverly done and realistic. She also does a skipping turn in which various step dances are neatly executed, while the skipping rope whirls continuously. Mr Allison dressed in a suit of black tights, cuts some truly remarkable capers, his lean, lithe figure taking on weird aspects as he twists and bounces in time to the music.

HAMPERS & BASKETS

Travelling required sturdy luggage and the British makers of such luggage would regularly advertise in the entertainment newspapers. In 1907, White Brothers of Nottingham advertised in the Music Hall and Theatre Review with a list of artistes who were customers including The Allisons. Of course this may not be James & Lucy Allison but it is indicative of the trunks and baskets used regularly for travelling artistes.

Music Hall and Theatre Review 15 March 1907 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)
Music Hall and Theatre Review 21 April 1905 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)

However, this earlier White Brothers ad from December 1899 also mentions The Allisons and perhaps it is more likely to be James & Lucy Allison because it also includes other acts that toured at the same time including The Selbinis and The Haytors on the Harry Rickards tour of Australia in 1897. At this time Whites were the main Hamper makers to supply the artistes. The Allisons’ sailed with the Selbinis’ and other performers as the Australian newspapers confirm.

Music Hall and Theatre Review. 15 December 1899 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)
The Express and Telegraph Adelaide 13 Nov 1897 (Courtesy National Library of Australia via Trove)
The Critic (Adelaide) 6 Nov 1897 (Courtesy National Library of Australia via Trove)

World Dracula Day

The 26th of May is World Dracula Day, the day that Bram Stoker’s book of the same name was published in 1897. The Irish born author Abraham Stoker was born in 1847 but had also been perhaps more famous in his lifetime as the manager of the Royal Lyceum Theatre which was owned by actor Sir Henry Irving. Stoker died in 1912.

The Corsican Brothers – Story of the Play. Royal Lyceum Theatre, Henry Irving. Acting Manager Bram Stoker

There is a peculiar connection between James Allison and the Irving – Stoker collaboration. In Dec 1896 James & Lucy Allison gave an interview to an Australian publication called The Referee while they were on tour in Sydney. In the interview James Allison talks about his early career including his first jobs as an opera chorus dancer, including in 1879 at the Lyceum with Henry Irving in The Corsican Brothers. James says he was one of six Pierrots. Henry Irving was indeed rehearsing in 1879 for The Corsican Brothers but delays meant that it did not open until later in 1880. The original 1880 programme does not mention James Allison by name, but then as a junior chorus dancer it wouldn’t.

The Macarte Sisters & the women behind the Ferrets

The Sisters Macarte [St Lois Post Dispatch, Missouri. 27 May 1906] (Courtesy of Newspapers.com)

The Ferrets

The 1912 edition of The Stage Year Book announced the launch of a new Music Hall organisation called The Ferrets to promote sociability and good fellowship among the ladies of the profession. Formed in December 1911, the general structure appears to mimic or perhaps ridicule the Grand Order of the Water Rats, the men only club. The Ferrets had a Queen ferret (Miss Ida Rose), Princess ferret (Julia Macarte), Bank ferret (Mrs Arthur Weir) , Musical ferret (Miss Mabel Mavis) and Scribe ferret (Mrs N Alva)

The Stage Year Book 1912

7 Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton

The Ferrets don’t ever seem to take off as a fully fledged organisation and disappear from records. However, the contact address of 7 Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton leads us back to the address of Julia Macarte. The Sisters Macarte (Julia, Cecilia and Adelaide) were internationally acclaimed acrobats and a high wire act. But it was their charitable activities off stage and their social group in Brixton that invented the short lived outing of the Ferrets. Both Julia and Cecilia Macarte dedicated much time and effort to the Music Hall Ladies Guild, an organisation set up for charitable purposes.

1911 Electoral register entry. Lambeth ( Ancestry.co.uk)
Music Hall and Theatre Review – Thursday 25 May 1911 ( courtesy British Newspaper Archive)

Another of the Macarte group was Ellen Coborn, formerly Stokley, the wife of comedian Charles Coburn. Ellen & Charles were married in Belfast in 1882 connecting the Irish links with the Macartes – whose real name was McCarthy. Coborn was most well known for his huge hit ‘The man that broke the bank at Monte Carlo’. The Era newspaper ‘cards’ of Charles Coborn also associate him with 7 Glenshaw mansions.

(British Newspaper Archive)

Over the years Glenshaw Mansions has been home to many music hall and theatrical performers. The most famous of all was Charlie Chaplin at number 15. An English Heritage Blue Plaque was installed in 2017 to commemorate Chaplin and the home where he lived between 1908-1910 with his brother Sydney.

The Macarte Sisters

Image courtesy of American Vaudeville Museum Collection from http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/collections/vaudeville/collection/american-vaudeville-museum-collection/

Julia, Cecilia and Adelaide were born into an acrobatic and circus family. Their grandparents ran Macarte’s Monster Circus in the 1850s. Their father Henry McCarthy performed as a circus acrobat from the age of 6, died in 1924 at the age of 70 and is buried at Brockley cemetery in south London. His address is noted as 53 Brixton Road. Little is known about their mother, who was reputedly a French acrobat. The Macarte sisters acrobatic act culminated in two of the sisters holding the slack wire in their teeth while the third walked across. Poor Adelaide died in 1908. By 1910 they had replaced her with a younger woman called Rosie Foote and continued to perform publicly as Sisters Macarte.

Passenger List SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria 10 June 1910 [Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists]

The American and Australian audiences were enthralled and fascinated by the astonishing act. Medical doctors were said to have been brought in to inspect their neck and facial muscles. In an interview for the Australian newspaper The Sun (Sydney) on 20 September 1912 Julia Macarte told the bemused reporter And don’t ask us what King George asked me.’ Julia went on. “He wanted to know if we were suffragettes.” “We aren’t,” said Rose. “We aren’t in any league against it, but we just don’t believe in it that’s all. We’re neutral.” Cecilia smiled; a neutral sort of smile. “I belong to only one league,” Julia said. “I’m vice-president of the Music-Hall Ladles’ Guild. It’s a benevolent, society, for distressed artists.

Land of the Lotus

In summer 1912 The Sisters Macarte were in London performing at the London Pavilion with Land of the Lotus the Japanese Mikado influenced scene but according to press reports they discarded their kimono immediately after the musical prelude. They were performing at this time on the same bill as Eadie & Ramsden.

Summer 1912, the London Pavilion.

When Eadie & Ramsden returned to London after their Spring season at the Folies Bergère Revue they resumed performing immediately. By July 1912 they were on the programme at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly. Playing the same bill with big stars such as Harry Tate in his hugely famous Motoring sketch, Little Tich, the sisters Macarte and Olga Petrova.

Little Tich, age 23 in his big boots. photo from the book ‘Little Tich, Giant of the Music Hall’ written by Mary Tich, Richard Findlater. Elm Tree Books, London, 1979
The London Pavilion, Piccadilly when Little Tich was headlining. (postcard, personal collection)

Paris, 1912 and the Folies Bergère

James Eadie and Cissie Ramsden were married at Brixton Registry Office on 27 February 1912. An announcement in The Stage newspaper declared they left for Paris that day to perform at the Folies Bergère.

The Stage 29 Feb 1912 [British Newspaper Archive]

Eadie & Ramsden did indeed perform at the Folies Bergère in March 1912. This was their second visit to Paris, their first engagement was at the Alhambra in Jan 1911. Eadie and Ramsden returned to Paris in November 1913 to perform at the Moulin Rouge.

La Lanterne (Paris) 6 March 1912 page 3 : At the Folies Bergere…

In Parisien memory, we have never seen a more sensational and newer attraction than Eadie and Ramsden. These extraordinary artists play a completely new sketch that is a pretty and an amusing tableaux where all the grace of Miss Eadie blends harmoniously with the elegance and suppleness of Ramsden. The latter -is the most dislocated man in the world and his fantasy of the best tone, makes him a unique artist of his kind, you must see Eadie and Ramsden in Folies Bergère review

[retronews.fr] Translated from French
Le Figaro 23 March 1912 (RetroNews.Fr)

Also at the Folies Bergère in March 1912 was comedy dance duo Moon & Morris shown here from a photo dated 1909.

We can only imagine how exciting Paris would have been for them in these last years of the Belle Epoque or what might had been if not for the outbreak of war. Eadie & Ramsden left Paris at the end of April 1914 and returned to London. On 28th June 1914 the heir to the Austrian throne Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated, events thereafter took Europe to war. On 1st August 1914 Germany declared war on Russia, two days later Germany declared war on France.

Mistinguett and Chevalier

In March 1912 when Eadie & Ramsden were performing at the Folies Bergere, the magnificent Mistinguett and a young Maurice Chevalier were on the same Spring Folies Revue. Mistinguett performed from the 12th March and was on the same daily programme as Eadie & Ramsden although it is doubtful they ever really knew her as she was already a major star. In her memoir Queen of the Paris Night, Mistinguett describes the years 1912-1914 as a period of intense work but for her a lessening of the tension. And it was the era that she met Maurice Chevalier with whom she later had a long relationship. Mistinguett says that “I don’t think I have ever been so paralysed with first-night nerves as I was before that first Revue at the Folies-Bergere. I was frightened, not only for myself but for Maurice. Stage fright is the nearest thing to a nightmare I know“.

The Brixton connection

In between touring commitments James and Lucy Allison stayed in several addresses in Brixton, south London. In the 1890s Brixton was becoming popular as a place to live whether that was in boarding houses or to put down roots. It was a meeting place for music hall entertainers, managers and agents. The Water Rat’s earliest meetings were at Ye Old White Horse public house in Brixton Road in 1890. Over the next decade Brixton, and the surrounding area was to becoming the beating heart and spiritual home of music hall.

The Allisons lived at several prominent address in Brixton between the 1890s and 1915.

1897-1898

Evandale Rd

The 1911 census records that James, now 52 years of age, and Lucy together with their son James Eadie and his wife Cissie Ramsden lived in a house at 89 Loughborough Park, Brixton together with Florence Lane, their domestic servant. The house is no longer there but historical records indicate that 89 & 91 and 93-95 Loughborough Park were “the most striking houses” on the south east side. Loughborough Park was laid out around 1844.

1912

32 Stockwell Park Road

1912 Marriage certificate of James Eadie (otherwise Beddoe) 32 Stockwell Park Road

1901

Harbour Road, very close to Fred Karno’s fun factory

Other records suggest James & Lucy Allison, together with their children lived at 22 Burton Road and this electoral register list from 1899 appears to confirm (Ancestry.com)

The Era 18 June 1898

World Theatre Day 2020

The Allisons (James & Lucy) and Eadie & Ramsden performed in some of the most outstanding theatres around the world. On this World Theatre Day I have chosen to celebrate one of the most famous, if not the most famous of all the music hall theatres – the London Pavilion, Piccadily. In July 1912 Eadie & Ramsden performed at the Pavilion as a comic duo along with others including celebrated comic performers Little Tich and Harry Tate.

The London Pavilion – was always filled with a gay laughing crowd and a bill completely star studded. It was the spiritual home of Dan Leno when not engaged in Drury Lane pantomime.

W. MacQueen-Pope. “Ghosts & Greasepaint” 1951

The London Pavilion was rebuilt a number of times. The original music hall was built in 1859 on the site of a stable and inn. As Shaftesbury Avenue was developed so too the building was pushed through and expanded and the new music hall was opened to much fanfare in 1889. At one stage the Pavilion could seat an audience of 3,000. The London Pavilion as we know it stands on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue and Coventry Street. In the 1930s it was redeveloped as a cinema by Frank Matcham, and in the 1980s it was gutted with only the 1889 façade remaining and reborn as a shopping and leisure precinct. By the 2000s it was rebranded as the London Trocadero.

Back to 1912….On Monday July 15th 1912 the Pavilion hosted a programme of comedians, a cyclist, juggler, a coster impersonator, Lasso thrower, and of course a myriad of artistes who could sing and dance. Eadie & Ramsden performed their well honed comedy skit Charlie’s Visit that they would later take over to France and America.

According to the critic at The Stage newspaper who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the programme, Eadie and Ramsden were enthusiastically received by the audiences at the Pavilion and Little Tich was making a great success.

The Stage 11 July 1912 © The Stage Media Company Limited [British Newspaper Archive]

Under the London Pavilion was a beer hall – the Spaten -where the best lager beer to be drunk in London -almost as good as could be got in Germany – was in constant demand.

W. Macqueen -Pope “Ghosts and Greasepaint” 1951

What is Legmania?

The Legmania craze took hold in the Victorian music halls of the 1870s. It embraced eccentric dancing, contortions, extending the leg impossibly above the head, step dancing and so much more. Moving between burlesque and comedy, Legmania captivated audiences as variety artistes developed their own speciality blend into their acts.

The image below and used elsewhere on this site is taken from a publicity postcard of James Eadie and Cissie Ramsden from around 1912. It tantalisingly shows off James’ balletic pointed toe in a clearly comic pose.

The Legmania tradition carried on into the early 20th century. This 1935 British Pathé clip of Jack Stanford is just one example of eccentric dance that continued to please audiences after the decline of the music halls.

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