A glance behind the curtain (i)

If you were walking along the respectable streets of Hampstead in April 1911, and you happened to wander along Kilburn Priory you might have passed number 27, the home of a very respectable family. No doubt the exterior of the house was immaculate, the windows shining, the sills and steps to the door clean and swept. The door would have been neatly painted, the brass door furniture gleaming like gold, and no doubt the curtains and nets at the window were pristine. The servants would have made sure the property was neat, tidy and… respectable. Maybe the nets only came half way up or down the window and maybe there was an aspidistra or similar houseplant in an ornamental china container.

Maybe if you had passed early in the morning you would have seen two handsome young men hurrying out, maybe to take a cab or a train or an omnibus to their work as clerks. They were Edward and Nelson Walford, aged eighteen and twenty-one and the youngest of four brothers and a sister. Their sister was maybe sitting at breakfast with their mama, or maybe she was planning her day ahead, maybe to go into the city, or to meet friends, or to practice the piano.

Edward and Nelson’s older brothers had left home; George, the oldest, was doing very well for himself, living in Warrior Square, Southend-on-Sea, Essex with his wife Elizabeth Isabella, and two young sons Howard and Montagu – known as Eric. George was an ‘agent and merchant in foreign produce’ – keeping up the family tradition of export/import business. Horace, who was five or six years younger, was also married, living in St John’s Wood with his wife Charlotte; he was also a business man, ‘a commercial traveller in oils, rubber and asbestos.

The four boys’ sister, the middle one in the family was Ida Isabel, a beautiful, gently and intelligent young woman, very gifted musically. She lived at home with their mother Lois. Ida was probably engaged to be married, to a man the similar age to herself, twenty-five; ; William Reginald Matthews, always known as Reginald,  was born in Littlehampton on the south coast, the son of the manager of a timber yard. He might have been abroad in 1911, maybe he wrote to his fiancée, telling her about his adventures and business dealings.

If you saw Lois and Ida leaving their home, fashionably and expensively dressed, but modestly and decently attired as a respectable widow and her respectable daughter, you would have seen two striking women, no doubt wearing the latest hats. Lois probably still wore black, or grey or navy blue in memory of her husband who had died so unexpectedly in 1895. He, like his sons, had been in exports and imports, mainly dealing in wool, having many connections in Australia where he had lived, and Tasmania where he was born.

If it happened to be a Sunday when you passed by, then maybe you would have seen the family on their way to church, probably to the Parish of Saint Mary with All Souls, Kilburn. You would have seen a respectable middle-class family, more than comfortably off, with connections in high places…

However, what you would have observed, would not have told the whole story… there was a very different aspect to their lives which you could catch a glimpse of behind the respectable curtain…

© Lois Elsden 2018

Louis and the Barmaid

My mother and her sisters and brother grew up knowing very little about their grandfather, apart from his name, Louis Frederick Walford, and that he and his brothers had changed their surname from Moses. They knew the family was Jewish, and there was some connection with Tasmania, and they knew, and that his father had been a businessman.

Thanks to the resources of the internet and genealogical sites, I’ve found out a lot more, and even visited places connected to Louis and the family in Tasmania, as well as London, and visiting their graves. Now I am coming across newspaper reports from Australia in the 1870’s of Louis’s business and recreational activities. His parents had returned to London, but Louis stayed on in the land of his birth, and as well as working as a purchasing agent, he enjoyed many leisure pastimes, such cricket, horse-racing, and now, I’ve discovered, dog racing! It may of course be a different Mr Walford, but until I know otherwise I am going to imagine this is my great-grandfather!

Unfortunately the racing wasn’t as it is today with hounds chasing a scented lure, this was the hounds coursing – i.e. chasing hares. This to us now is barbaric and horrible (although it still goes on illegally) but obviously a hundred and forty years ago people had a different view. No doubt in 2140 people will look back at us and be shocked by things we do as normal.

I don’t know how many dogs Louis had, but one which received favourable reports in the newspaper was called The Barmaid.In the particular report I was reading, there was a competition for thirty-two dogs with wonderful names – or so they seem to me, no doubt in the world of dog racing the names are just names. There were ordinary names like Bertha and Sandy and Bruce, and noble names such as Queen Maud, Jewish Queen and King of Trumps (not a name which would ever be used to-day for several reasons, but of course then it was referring to the card game)

Here are some of my favourite of those long ago dogs –

  • Seaweed
  • Logic
  • Peeler
  • Blue Light
  • Pluto
  • Briseis
  • Beeswing
  • Miss T
  • Fly

Louis’s dog was Barmaid and in the first run she beat Mr. Dodd’s Jessie Bothan, in the second round she beat Clio, and in the semi-final she was beaten by Beeswing who went on to win the championship, The Berry Bank Stakes organised by Mr Joseph Mack.

Intrigued by this I looked up to see if Louis had other dogs. I came across a report from May 1879:

Sporting men whose proclivities run in the coursing line had yesterday an opportunity of examining three very fine greyhounds brought in the Victoria by Mr. George Jenkins. 

The second of the greyhounds described was:

The second is a red slut, Lady, bred at Bathurst, by Dick, from  Sill.  Dick was by Daddy, from one of Mr. Walford’s sluts, and Sill, by Doctor, from Mary Stuart. This slut was runner-up for the St. Leger of 1877, won by  Gill Gill, and was the winner of several private matches.

I was shocked momentarily – slut? … and then obviously I realised we would say ‘bitch’ for a female dog. Was slut more acceptable? Was bitch rude? Or was it just the word they used. It took a bit of working out as I’m not a dog person, or a ‘sporting’ person as no doubt the newspaper would have said. So…

  • the red greyhound was called Lady, and she was second in the St Leger in 1877
  • her parents were Dick and Sill
  • Dick’s parents were Daddy and a slut owned by Louis
  • and Sill’s parents were Doctor and Mary Stuart

I then began to wonder again about the word ‘slut’ by which is usually meant a slatternly person… it probably arrived in the 1300’s and meant pretty much what it means to say and came via German, Dutch or Swedish all of which have similar words. At one point it could be used for a man as well, and sometimes it was meant teasingly, not necessarily disparagingly.

So… having learnt a little about greyhounds and sluts, I’m off to see if Louis had any more apart from Barmaid who, I wonder might have been the red greyhound Lady’s grandmother!

L. F. WALFORD (late of Messrs. E. Barnett & Co.)

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to visit Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. Before arriving there, we spent nearly six weeks in Tasmania – it was a holiday, a trip of a lifetime, but also a voyage of discovery, to see if I could find anything out about my great-grandfather Louis, who was born in Hobart in 1845. Although I didn’t learn anything new about his life, I was able to see where he had lived and worked, and experience the wonderful country of his birth. I knew he crossed to the mainland, and was for a while in New South Wales and in Sydney, before arriving in London some time around 1880.

Imagine my surprise earlier this evening to find that he had lived in Brisbane for a while! He had worked for Emanuel Barnett, who had an import export business, just as Louis’s father and uncle had, and worked in a now historic warehouse, then called Jewell’s Building, and later Wenley House. By the time Louis was working for Barnett & Co., Emanuel had been there for three years – and remained in the building until 1919.

The Brisbane Courier 20th January 1877

L. F. WALFORD (late of Messrs. E. Barnett & Co.), being about to make a short visit to England, will be glad to undertake commissions or the execution of indents. Mr. Walford having a large and influential business connection, is also prepared to negotiate for the opening of accounts for every description of merchandise in the home markets.
Until February 10, G.P.O., Sydney; after that date, 10 Coleman Street, City, London.

Did Louis return to Brisbane from London, or did he decide to stay, and there meet my great-grandmother with whom he had five children… I don’t suppose I will ever know!


A happy family picnic

I mentioned the other day that I have found a new cousin; if you look at the picture below you will see an elderly lady, on a picnic, surrounded by her smiling sons,daughter, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. This elderly lady is the sister of my new cousin’s ancestor!

It’s not a very good picture, and I think the ‘original’ I have is a copy. I’m so pleased the old lady is smiling, I was named after her and although i don’t know much about her as a child and young woman, I do know that as a mother of these five people she had a very, very difficult time when they were young.

She was born into a large family, her father was a basket maker – but basket in the 1850’s weren’t the ornamental things we have today; in the days before plastics and light alloys, having a strong yet robust lightweight container for goods of all shapes and sizes must have been an important, and almost intrinsic part of life, commerce and the transport of goods. She was the seventh child in the family of ten children; her mother may have died when she was only eight years old, but at the moment I’m not sure about the date.

her life between the 1861 census and the 1881 census is a mystery, for the moment, but somehow she met the man she fell in love with and who was the father of her children – the five children you see as adults in this picture. He died when the oldest child was still a teenager, and his youngest child was only three. The most difficult time for his bereaved ‘wife’, must have been bringing up the children, as  she was not legally his wife at all, they had never married.

So here, in this photo, over thirty years after she was ‘widowed’, here she is with her happy, successful family; all married, all have or went on to have children, and although I wasn’t born until almost a hundred years after she was, and obviously never knew her, I and my cousins felt her influence – particularly in the way we should behave, in manners, courtesy and behaviour.

Her family name was Penney, her mothers name was Quenby, and her children were all Walfords… if any of these names appear in your family, who knows, we maybe cousins too!

Life in the colony

I have been sharing some family stories, about my ancestors who went as business men with their families to Tasmania, then called Van Diemen’s Land. Samuel Moses and his wife and children sailed from London, probably in 1839, and by the early 1840’s were well settled into the life of the town of Hobart. As well as being involved in commerce, my great-great-grandfather was a very special person within the small Jewish community, as this item in the newspaper of the time reports:

Ancient Jewish Rite

On Sunday morning, the son of Mr. Judah Solomon, a youth twenty years of age, was circumcised according to the custom of the Jews; the operation was performed by Mr. Samuel Moses of the firm of Nathan Moses, and Co., of the Commercial House. The operation is usually performed when the child is eight days old, but when he was born, twenty years ago, there was no person competent to do it. The operation was performed in a very scientific manner in about two minutes, the patient undergoing the operation without a murmur.
After the ceremony was performed the whole of the guests about thirty in number, adjourned to the adjoining room, where a splendid luncheon was provided by the host of the Temple.

Sent to the roads

A couple of days ago I shared a report I had found about my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Moses who travelled to Hobart in what was then Van Diemen’s Land to enter into business with his brother-in-law, Louis Nathan. he and his family went, no doubt in great comfort for commercial reasons, but many, many thousands did not. They were sent there to serve a custodial sentence in the penal colony, often under the hardest and most desperate conditions. Life was tough and hard, and even for people who were not convicts but free, if they committed any crime then the law was just as harsh.

I came across this court report while trying to find out more about my  family. Samuel later became a JP, the first Jewish JP in Australia:


Before Joseph Hone, Esq., Chairman; and Messrs. Moriarty, Seccombe, and Poynter.


  • Mary Ann Forrest was found guilty of stealing a bonnet and shawl, of the value of 10s., the property of Catherine M’Goy, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
  • Thomas Dolphin, charged with stealing a jacket, of the value of 15s., the property of James Dogherty, was acquitted.
  • Thomas Marsden, indicted for stealing on the 23rd June a handkerchief, of the value of 2s., the property of Alexander Mayne, was found guilty, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour – with an intimation that he would be sent to the roads.
  • Thomas Wright was found guilty of stealing some money (Is. 6d.) from his master, Mr; Samuel Moses, of Murray-street, and sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labor.
  • Mary Burton was found guilty of stealing a shawl, of the value of 2s. 6d the property of Priscilla Clare, and sentenced to be transported for seven years.
  • James Dogherty was found guilty of stealing nine ducks, of the value of 20s., and three ducks, of the value of 9s., the property of Bernard Macintyre, and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labor.
  • William Villiers Lawrence indicted for stealing, on the 10th of April last, a watch, of the value of £20, the property of Mr. J. White, and William Sutherland charged with feloniously receiving the same knowing it to have been stolen, were found guilty – Lawrence was sentenced to be transported for seven years, and Sutherland for fourteen years, both to be sent as speedily as possible to Port Arthur.
  • Patrick Parkinson, who was out on bail, was ‘ charged with an assault upon Catherine Harvey, on the 16th June last. The Jury retired about eight o’clock, and had not returned into Court at half-past nine, when our Reporter left.

You may wonder how someone already in such a place could be ‘transported’, as Mary Burton was; she would have been sent to one of the actual prisons on the island. Poor Thomas Marsden, must have been in desperate circumstances and stole a handkerchief worth two shillings – about A$14 in today’s money – he was sentenced to two years hard-labour, working on the roads in a chain gang – and he would have worn the chains all the time, even at night.

Getting a more rounded picture

Yesterday I mentioned I had come across something about my great-grandfather Louis who died in 1895, just before his fiftieth birthday. Because his children were so young when he died, and because they were not exactly close to his family, we don’t really know much about him.

yesterday I discovered that he had been interested in the arts, and had been involved in the setting up of a Mutual Improvement Society, in Denman, New South Wales in the 1870’s. this showed he was not only interested in ‘the arts’ but that he was keen to be involved, and was elected as secretary.

A little more investigation and I come across another aspect to him, he was interested in cricket too! When he came to England in about 1880, did he support the Aussie cricket teams who toured over here? I hope he did! His interest led to him joining the Bombala Cricket Club – I’m not sure as a player or supporter – he would have been twenty-eight years old:

Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser
Wednesday 5 November 1873

The annual general meeting of the Phoenix Cricket Club was held on Saturday evening at the Commercial Hotel, Mr. Jones in the chair.
The following gentlemen were proposed as members of the Club and duly elected: Messrs. I. Levy, .J. Lanhorn, E. C. Sutton, J. Coronel, M. Solomon, L. F. Walford, A. Joseph, and T. Ryan.
According to the rules of the club, the election of office bearers for the ensuing season took: place at this meeting. The following gentlemen were unanimously elected: Mr. H. M. Joseph, J.P. President; Mr. W. V. M. Cooks, J.P., Vice-President; Mr. C. L. Tweedie, Secretary; Mr. K. Johns, Treasurer. Committeemen: Messrs. Coronel, Grace, Gleeson, Wallace, Levy, Asher, Button, J. Whyte, Strickland, and Mears. Messrs. Levy and Wallace were appointed captains of the practice ground.
The days appointed for practice are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in each week. It was proposed by Mr. Wallace and seconded by Mr. Thomas – ‘ That Rule IX (prohibiting all who are not members of the club from practising or in any way making use of the property of the club) be strictly adhered to.’ This was carried without a dissenting voice.
It was decided that the season be opened by eleven members of the club playing fifteen all comers on Monday, the 10th instant, the challenge to appear in the local papers. A vote of thanks to the officers of the past season having been carried, the meeting adjourned

So there he is, a member of the club, proposed and elected, L. F. Walford – Louis Frederick. It’s interesting to note that maybe he wasn’t the only Jew, there are other Jewish names, Levy, Solomon, Joseph and  Asher.