The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

Orange Blossom: an Edwardian Country Wedding

Family History, Love & Marriage No Comments »

Wedding 1904 Courtesy of The Full Wiki
Edwardian wedding

In the 1860s my great grandmother Mary left Devon for London; she was orphaned after a tragic and appalling accident killed her father and shocked her mother to such an extent that she succumbed to spinal meningitis. Her brother Thomas, who at the time was only sixteen, took his two younger sisters to the city in the hope that they would find work and perhaps some prosperity. Unfortunately, Mary never found any satisfaction from her new life and would later die an alcoholic.

   She may have regretted leaving Devon because soon after her marriage she and her husband planted family roots in the slums of Southwark, whilst in her mother's hometown another branch of the family were celebrating – in style – the nuptials of one of the belles of Totnes.

   Annie Holman was born in 1873 into a prosperous middle class merchant's family. There was little romance about the family business, they basically made their fortune from selling poo. Her grandfather was an ardent chartist and follower of Feargus O'Connor and despite owning several farms and properties, the grandfather advocated O'Connor's land scheme. He encouraged his children to support charitable causes and participate in fund raising events; Annie continued this tradition and entertained the local populace whilst gathering money for Christian charities.

  In the spring of 1890, she performed with the Amateur Orchestral Society in the Coffee Tavern Hall at Totnes in aid of the Y.M.C.A; obviously the star of the show she contributed to a programme of secular music with masterful solos on the violin. Fourteen years later she was in the spotlight again, this time for her wedding. She had been slow to warm up romantically, but eventually had found a beau in the guise of Charles James Watts who hailed from a popular Victorian seaside town in Essex.

  The Western Times in June 1904 was ecstatic about the wedding and printed the following account:

Wedding at Rattery, Totnes

'A fashionable assembly was present on Wednesday at St. Mary Church, Rattery, to witness the solemnisation of the wedding of Mr. Charles James Watts, of Clacton-on-Sea, and Miss Annie Holman, eldest daughter of Mr. William Holman, J.P., of Velwell, Rattery and Totnes. Great interest was manifested in the event, and several of the villagers exhibited decorations, while the church was also decorated. During the assembling of the guests, Mr. Baddeley, of London rendered the "Bridal March" (Lohengrin) and Gounod's "Marche Romaine." As the bride entered the church with her father (who gave her away), the hymn, "O Father, all creating," was sung.

   'The bride was attired in a charming dress of white satin mousseline, trimmed with chiffon and orange blossom, with wreath and veil (lent by her aunt, Mrs. H. Roberts). She also wore a necklace of pearls, and carried a magnificent shower bouquet. Her bridesmaids were the Misses Kate, Gertrude, and Dorothy Holman (sisters of the bride), who wore pale green silk, trimmed with mimox [?] lace, their hats being en suite, while their bouquets were of light pink roses, and the bridegroom gave them gold bangles.

   'Mr. J. W. Herring of Taunton was the groomsman. The officiating clergyman was the Vicar of the parish (Rev. B. Packer) who was assisted by the Vicar of Shebbear (Rev. T. E. Fox).
   'After the marriage portion of the service the "Deus Misereatur" was sung. The hymn, "How welcome was the call," was sung prior to an address by the Rev.
B Packer. As Mr. and Mrs. Watts left the church to the strains of the "Wedding March" (Mendelssohn), they were received with a shower of rose leaves, and the church bells were set ringing. At Velwell Mrs Holman received a large party at the "At Home," and later in the day the happy pair were given a hearty send off, as they left for Newton Abbot en route to Gloucester and Robin Hood's Bay.'

The couple had a grand celebration and bon voyage. Unfortunately, I have no further information about them, but I do have some rather pretty pictures of  Grade II listed Velwell.

'Velwell' refers to Velwell House where the family were living at the time of the 1911 Census and where Annie's father William was born in 1847. There is some confusion about the residence; William often described himself as living at 'Higher Velwell' which appears to be the name of a farm close to Velwell House. Irrespective of whether he actually meant Velwell House or the farm, it is still worth visiting the Velwell House website to take a peep.

Take a digital tour of Velwell House and look out for the splendid Victorian dresser!

MJ Holman

‘My First Half-Century’ – Marie Lloyd in 1920

20th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture No Comments »

Marie LloydTwo years before she died, the music hall star Marie Lloyd wrote an amusing and wry piece for the theatrical newspaper The Era. Many notables, such as the great Sybil Thorndike would later follow her example, but Marie's contribution was typical of her personal style and approach to her public:

Topping the Bill for thirty-three years

by Marie Lloyd

'This is my first fifty years; what the next will be like I shudder to think! Yes, I was fifty last month, and proud of it – prouder still to think that for 33 years I have topped the bill. Without any desire to brag – or, as the modern word is, swank – I think I can justly say that no artist can claim to have more sustained popularity. And for this I am very grateful to the public, who have loyally supported me through all these years of strenuous starring.

   'I am the only artist whose exact age the public are always asking, and I see the question answered almost weekly in the "Era." I regard that as a proof of popularity. I never made any secret of my age, and why should I? It's wonderful how artists grow old by repute. People imagine that they have a birthday every month. The other day an old man with a long white beard and tottering footstep came to me and said. "How well you wear! Why, my mother used to bring me as a little boy to see you in the pantomime at Drury Lane!" "Well," I replied. "then I must have worn better than you!"


   'On another occasion at a suburban hall, an elderly man with a grey beard down to his knees said, "Do you remember me?" I said "No." "Oh," he replied, "I used to be a call boy at the Bedford when you made your first appearance there!" It was evidently a case of reincarnation, but I'd rather like to know who I was before I was Marie Lloyd.

   'Well, I have had a crowded hour of life, work and worry, sorrow and joy. People don't always get the credit for the good they do, and some get more than they deserve, but the wounded Tommies know what I did for them, and the gratitude which I know they feel is more to me than diadems and decorations.

The Flies' Anthem

   'Personally I feel as youthful as ever, and can enjoy life with the best of them. My house at Golders Green is the scene of many merry gatherings. We call ourselves "The Flies," and friends have epitomised it in a parady of "Where do Flies go in the Winter Times?" It runs thus : –

They all go round to Mary Lloyd's

In the summer time,

And tickle a tune upon her ticolee.

There's something nice, always on the ice,

And you never have to ask her twice

For a drink of her kickolee.

Her front door is never known to lock,

It's always standing open so you never have to knock,

Nobody knows what time it is, for the

hands are off the clock,

And we don't go home till morning

At good old Marie Lloyd's.


The British in Berlin

   'Perhaps the proudest time of my life was when I went to Germany and topped the bill over all the Continental stars at the Winter Gardens, Berlin. That, of course, was before the war. I had an opportunity for studying the attitude of the Germans towards the English, and found that the ordinary people held us in the highest regard, but the military were never tired of sneering at us. I used to go about Fredreich-street with my fist clenched at some of the remarks that were made. One day I heard a burly officer, with a scar on his cheek, say something insulting about the British, and I promptly gave him a blow in the face, saying: "There's one for the other side." And then went back!'

From The Era, 10th March 1920

Totnes Bank Crash of 1841

19th Century Digressions, Family History No Comments »

Oxford Arms, Fore Street, Totnes


This description of the failure of two Totnes banks is strangely reminiscent of the scenes outside the branches of British bank Northern Rock in 2007/8!

Western Times
Saturday 24 July 1841

'The utmost consternation and gloom were spread through this town by the failure of these Banks. Many an honest yeoman, who came to market comfortable in mind and pocket, went away almost broken-hearted. On Saturday afternoon, and during Monday, the town was crowded by people, who came in to enquire, in most cases, after their lost all. It was painful to hear the numerous cases of sudden distress into which hundreds of honest and industrious persons of all the classes have been thrown. In many cases this has been rendered more severe from this being the time when the dividends on the funds are paid'.


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