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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flo Lancaster

(Originally published 15 May 2010. I was recently contacted by a family member who has confirmed a couple of bits of speculation in the original. I have also added some additional information, hence the re-post.)

A couple of years ago I failed to locate any information on Flo Lancaster when I was writing up artist H. M. Talintyre. At the time I said...
Flo Lancaster was a pseudonym; the British Library list her works under the heading of "Ellen Wallis, later Lancaster" but I'm pretty sure this is not correct as I think it refers to Ellen Wallis (1856-1940) who was an actress and stage manager. 'Flo Lancaster' would appear to have been the working name of Mrs. F. Edwardes-Jones. She was, apparently, a prolific author of stories for girls' and women's magazines who began writing before the Great War and she was writing Oojah stories for Jack and Jill in the 1950s when actress Ellen Wallis had been dead for some years.
Well, a couple of days ago I received a comment from 'Cas' who mentioned that Ellen Wallis had a daughter named Flo E. Lancaster, and a little bit of digging located her in census records.

Actress Ellen Wallis married John Lancaster and had a daughter, Florence Ellen Lancaster, born in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1877. She was Christened at St. John with St. Ann in Buxton on 22 September 1877; her birth was subsequently registered in Chapel-en-le-Frith in 4Q (Oct-Dec) 1877.

During the 1881 census, Ellen and her daughter were at the Grosvenor Hotel in Manchester; in 1891 they lived at 57 Lancaster Gate, Paddington, the family now consisting of Ellen (34), Florence (13) and her younger sisters Norah Wallis (8) and Gladys (4); another resident, Ellen Wallis (66), was listed as "mother-in-law", but as the former Ellen is "wife" this would appear to be Ellen's mother. The younger children were probably Norah Emily Wallis, born in 1883 and Gladys Emily Wallis born in 1888.

By 1901, Ellen — now given the middle initials M. W., widowed and aged 47 — was living at 11 Steeles Road, Hampstead, with daughters Florence E. (23), Norah W. (18) and Gladys (14); all are now given the surname Lancaster.

Now it gets a little interesting: Wikipedia reveals that "The original Shaftesbury Theatre was built by John Lancaster for his wife, Ellen Wallis, a well-known Shakespearean actress. The theatre was designed by C. J. Phipps and built by Messrs. Patman and Fotheringham at a cost of £20,000 and opened with a production of As You Like It on 20 October 1888." An obituary notice in The Standard (14 November 1896) reveals:
A Coroner's inquiry was held yesterday on the body of Mr. John Lancaster, printer and bleacher in Manchester, and owner of the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, whose body was found on the sands at Blackpool on Thursday. Evidence of identification was given by Mr. A. J. Tobias, of Manchester, son-in-law of the deceased, who stated that Mr. Lancaster had lived at the Royal Hotel, Blackpool, for some time, having no permanent address. Six months ago Mr. Lancaster was seized with illness, and since then he had been weak, and occasionally depressed, and expressed fear that he might lose his mental balance. On Thursday [12 November] he partook of tea with the Witness and two daughters, and soon afterwards he was missed from an adjoining room.

The physician who had been attending the deceased, said that Mr. Lancaster never left the hotel unaccompanied. His theory was that the deceased heard the waves breaking, and became seized with an uncontrollable desire to cease to exist.

A juryman surmised that the deceased slipped as he was watching the waves, pointing out that his hat was found on the stones. Eventually a verdict of found drowned was returned.
Following his death, Ellen Maria Wallis Lancaster issued a notice of opposition to her husband's final will, drawn up in July 1896. The two had separated before Lancaster's death and she was left out of his will almost completely. (Mr Justice Barnes at the Probate Court approved the will in May 1897.)


Working backwards, we discover that Ellen Maria Wallis Cook was married to John Lancaster in Brighton in 3Q 1876. She was the daughter of Charles Cook (an artist) and his wife Ellen, born on 17 August 1853 and baptised at St. Mary, Islington, on 23 October 1853, which means the commonly accepted birth year of 1856 is wrong. She subsequently remarried, to Walter Reynolds (also a theatrical proprietor) at St. Pauls, Hampstead, on 14 May 1902. Her daughter, Florence Ellen Lancaster was one of the witnesses.

Ellen Reynolds' death was registered in Surrey in 1940, aged 86, which ties in with her birth in 1853.

Although this tells us a little about actress Ellen Wallis, it doesn't reveal much about her daughter. Florence Ellen Lancaster was married at St. Pauls, Hampstead, on 19 July1902. She was married to John Kirkham (an agent) and was living at Maisemore Mansions, N.W. when their son John Lancaster Kirkham was born on 5 May 1903. (John Lancaster Kirkham became an actor, married to Charlotte May Kirkham.). Further children followed: Kathleen Ellen Kirkham (b. Hampstead, 1906) and Richard Wallis Kirkham (b. Hampstead, 1910).

John, Florence and their family were living in Hendon at the time of the 1911 census; their fourth and final child, Denis George Frank Kirkham, was born in Hendon in 1913.

And that's where I lose track of Florence Ellen Kirkham until the following notice appeared in a newspaper (possibly the News of the World) on 17 February 1963:

It's worth noting that I can find no trace of Florence's death under the name Edwardes-Jones, Jones, Kirkham or Lancaster. Although she was not the Flo Lancaster of Uncle Oojah fame, it would be nice to tie up this loose end.

Why her mother is listed as the author of Uncle Oojah is a question I can possibly answer. The British Library have simply conflated publications by two different authors called Florence Lancaster. Actress Ellen Wallis was almost certainly the author of the comedy sketch The Prior Claim, first produced at Steinway Hall, London, on 3 May 1898 and subsequently published in book form by Samuel French (The Prior Claim. Comedietta, French's Acting Editions 2167, 1898?). This was bylined Florence Lancaster.

To find the real  Flo Lancaster, we have to look elsewhere.

On 1 March 1921, Pauline F. L. Edwardes-Jones was born in Gillingham, Kent, her mother's maiden name being Lancaster. If you check back to the beginning of this incredibly long ramble, you'll see that I made the claim that 'Flo Lancaster' was the working name of Mrs. F. Edwardes-Jones, based on payment records made for "Jerry, Don and Snooker" stories written for Jack and Jill in 1954-58. Pauline's full name was Pauline Flo Lancaster Edwardes-Jones – I'm told that she was given her mother's full names so that she could reproduce the Uncle Oojah stories if she ever had the opportunity.

With thanks to her daughter, I have been able to track backwards to discover that "Flo Lancaster" who wrote the stories of Uncle Oojah was Pauline's mother, Hilda Florence Edwardes-Jones.  Hilda was born Hilda Florence Collins in Bristol on 27 January 1881 and was adopted by George and Eleanor Knight Lancaster.

She grew up at Hill Path, Banwell, Somerset, where George worked as a miller's carter. Born in Banwell in 1854, George was also a local Methodist preacher in the 1880s and 1890s. He married Ellener Knight Neades (born in Banwell in 1851) in 1875 and the couple adopted Hilda Florence Collins when she was a young girl. The family moved to Coombe House, Winscombe, Woodborough, Somerset, in the 1890s, George working as a coachman. He died in 1920. His wife, who had the unusual name of Ellener, died on 3 June 1925 in Hornsey, Middlesex.

Hilda – by now known as Hilda F. Lancaster – married Paul Jones in 1917 (the marriage registered in Axbridge probably took place in Banwell). Paul, who also styled himself Paul Edwardes-Jones, was Irish, born around 1878. It is thought that he came to England because of poor health, although he survived the Great War. He died in 1941, aged 62.

Hilda continued to write Oojah in the 1940s and 1950s. She lived in Hammersmith, London, where she eventually died in 1963, aged 82.

Pauline married William Wiffen Robert Clotworthy in 1956. They lived together until William's death in 1988; two years later Pauline moved from Boscombe to Chingford, London, where she died in August 2001.

PUBLICATIONS

Books by Flo Lancaster
Little Dots Annual 1915-1923.
Meadowsweet Farm, illus. H.M.R., London, Charles H. Kelly, 1920?.
Oojah House. The story of Flip-Flap's Little Mansion, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & Manchester, E. Hutton & Co., 1922.
Uncle Oojah's Big Annual / The Oojah Annual. London & Manchester, E. Hutton & Co. / Daily Sketch & Sunday Graphic, 1922-51.
Oojah's Treasure Trunk. London, Daily Sketch & Sunday Herald, 1926.
Meadow Sweet Farm. London, Epworth Press, 1926 [1927?].
The Princess of Persia, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1938.
Uncle Oojah's Ostrich Farm, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1938.
Uncle Oojah, illus. H. M. Talintyre. Glasgow, Collins, 1944.
Uncle Oojah's Alphabet, illus. H. M. Talintyre. London, Haverstock, 1946.
Uncle Oojah Annual, ed. Peter Pitkin; illus. H. M. Talintyre. London, H.A. & W.L. Pitkin, 1948?

Books as Florence Weston
Ragamuffin's Friend. London, Epworth Press, 1920??. 

Plays
The Prior Claim. Comedietta (produced at Steinway Hall, London, 3 May 1898). London, Samuel French (French's Acting Editions 2167), 1898?. 

(* The photograph of Ellen Wallis is from Wikipedia Commons. My thanks to Sandy for sharing many details about her family.)

2 comments:

Cas said...

I'm glad that my tip has been so fruitful. I knew some of this...I have a tree connection to Walter Reynolds... your hard work has certainly filled out the picture. Thank you

Steve said...

My pleasure. I enjoy this kind of thing, although it can be a bit frustrating when there are gaps that cannot be explained. However it's progress on resolving the question of who Flo Lancaster was. Another clue may turn up in ten years or tomorrow. Exciting, eh?