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Marie LONGMORE (1844-1912) - Victorian actress & singer

  Chapter 1  

  How Did This Project Arise?  

Periodically I check the search engines and a number of other sites, including COPAC (the National, Academic, & Specialist Library Catalogue), for new instances of the name LONGMORE. Approximately six years ago I discovered a piece of sheet music amongst Cambridge University Library's collection which was endorsed "Sung Nightly [by] MISS MARIE LONGMORE at the Royal Queens Theatre, Manchester".
Being an ex-musician, this intrigued me and inspired me to dig deeper... and deeper ... and deeper! Was this her real name or a stage name? Where was she born? Who was James Edmond Walker?

My first move was to obatin a photocopy of the sheet music from Cambridge University Library, but unfortunately this did not tell me any more than I already knew. Checking my LONGMORE database revealed many Marys, but no Marie. If you work in the theatre, your name quite often appears on playbills, but much of the time the playbills haven't survived. This appears to be the case with Marie.

There never was a Royal Queen's Theatre in Manchester - this appears to be a bit of artistic licence by the music publisher. It seems that the Queen's Theatre in Spring Gardens, Manchester, started out as the Theatre Royal in 1775, but burnt to the ground in 1789 and was rebuilt the following year on the same site and opened as the New Theatre Royal. However, in 1807 it lost its Royal Patent to the Theatre Royal in Fountain Street and was renamed the New Amphitheatre in 1809 before being finally renamed the Queen's Theatre in 1831. It was quite a small theatre, being 102 feet long by 48 feet wide with pit, gallery and boxes. It finally closed in March 1869 and was demolished a few months later to build a warehouse on the site. During the demolition, the spring, which gave its name to Spring Gardens, was found 15 feet below the stage!

I still wasn't any closer to discovering who Marie LONGMORE really was, so I began to trawl through the 19th Century Newspaper database. I encountered Marie LONGMORE's name many, many times, but it wasn't until I found this

that I realised that I had now solved the mystery.

  Marie's Ancestors  

Marie (Mary) was born on 20 October 1844 at East Gate Street, Stafford, the daughter (and according to this report, the seventh daughter) of Alexander LONGMORE and Eleanor LONGMORE nee SWAINSON. Let's look at Marie's paternal ancestors first.......

Marie's father, christened plain Alexander Longmore at St Martin, Birmingham on 17 August 1812, was a bit of a man of mystery. Marie, on her marriage certificate, names her father as Alexander Michael LONGMORE, an artist, yet on the 1841 Census of Barford Street, Birmingham, his occupation is shown as a journeyman painter, presumably implying that he was a house painter. Marie's birth was registered twice, the first time by her mother, and then again some months later by an Elizabeth MALPAS who was "present at the birth", yet neither of these certificates states that the father, Alexander, is deceased. However, by the time of the 1851 Census of Foster Street, Darlaston, Marie's mother Eleanor was a widow. I have not been able to trace the death of Alexander.

Little is known of Alexander's parents, Alexander LONGMORE and Hannah PAGETT, who were married on 21 November 1808 at St Bartholomew in Edgbaston, now part of Birmingham. I suspect that Alexander Senior was born somewhere in South Staffordshire, but at the moment that is only a suspicion. I have no idea what his occupation was nor when either Alexander and Hannah died. As is common with a lot of pre-civil registration people, it is difficult to put meat on their bones. Marie's father had at least five siblings, but at least three, possibly all of them, died in infancy.

Marie, too, had siblings, but I will deal with them in a later chapter. But let's now have a look at her maternal ancestors......

Her mother Eleanor married Alexander on 16 September 1832 at St Philip, Birmingham (now Birmingham Cathedral). Eleanor was born in Liverpool on 4 March 1812, the daughter of (and an only child as far as I can ascertain) John SWAINSON and Priscilla JONES, who were married at St Anne, Richmond, Liverpool on 21 January 1811. John SWAINSON was a hairdresser and seems to have died by the early 1820s as in Gore's 1825 Liverpool Directory, Priscilla was trading as a hairdresser from 37 London Road and again in 1827 at 36 London Road. However, I believe it is safe to assume that both of Marie's maternal grandparents were dead before the onset of civil registration in 1837.

Eleanor, too, was involved with the theatre. Her occupation on her 1854 marriage to musician James PICKLES is stated to be an actress, and on the 1871 Census of 42 Bond Street, Dudley (her theatrical 'digs'), she is listed as a comedienne. Certainly she was not unknown to the theatrical press of the time, nor the daily press for that matter as this clipping from the Morning Chronicle of the 12 October 1858 testifies. Although the assailant was committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions, I have not so far managed to trace the outcome.

Eleanor and James had just the one child, a daughter Jane, born 22 February 1855 at 5 Cairndale Street, St Nicholas, Aberdeen, Scotland. Like many on the periphery of Marie's life, Jane's story is a complex one and will thus be revealed in a separate chapter, as will those of Marie's siblings. Their stories will be linked to a former British Prime Minister, the wartime Special Operations Executive, a TV personality, and South Africa. But for now, let's leave Eleanor. James PICKLES died on 12 May 1972 and in 1975 she married her third husband, John WARD, another theatre musician. This was ironic, considering her anti-Irish outburst detailed in the Court case above, as John WARD was born in Co. Longford, Ireland. Eleanor died in 1881 and she is buried in Wigan.

Now let's look at the life of the original subject of this research, Marie LONGMORE ..........