Dame Nellie Melba, OBE

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Two weeks ago, while sorting through an old box of my grandmothers’s bits and pieces, my mother found a signed photograph of the famous Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, OBE. It was taken in a Parisian photographic studio and she is dressed in full Edwardian finery.  Dated 1898, it is signed ‘To Mrs. Duff, from her sincere friend, Nellie Melba”.

The Marwood sisters of Pleasington Lodge, near Blackburn , Lancashire, Freda, Muriel (my grandmother) and Angela, together with their first cousins Constance, Dorothy and Monica Marwood of Beech Cottage, Liverpool, were all devoted followers of the theatre and opera, collecting and exchanging  photographs of the stars of the day.

Most of these mementos have disappeared over the years, so my mother was delighted to find this one, and rather hopes to find one or two more as her sorting continues. The name ‘Mrs Duff’ is puzzling her though; she’s never heard of her before.

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Made in Chelsea

The house I was born in off the Fulham Road in London is now on the market for £5.6 million. We lived there until I was about 6 or 7, and I think my parents paid £11,000 for it in 1960 and that was almost double what they expected to pay originally. Our ‘nursery’ seemed huge, but was basically the double windowed bedroom on second floor with a bunkbed. Can’t remember much else other than we had a rocking horse. Looks like they have done some major refurbishment since then though, and I was once told that the line ‘To get your kicks at 66’ by Elvis Costello in “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” was written about the house – although that would have been nearly a decade after we left.

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Marwoods on Walker Boat

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My mother sent me this photo of her mother’s cousins ‘Conda’ (Constance) and  Dorothy Marwood on ‘Walker yacht’. Their Uncle Fred T. Marwood is my great grandfather, and he married Mary Agnes “Polly” Walker of Avenham Towers (my great grandmother). There’s no date, but Conda and Dorothy were born around 1890 and so I am guessing this is at least 20 years later given their clothing and likely age given the photo. No idea which of their Walker relations had a yacht either, or what the yacht was called, as that might give us a clue.

Rediscovered plans of Osmaston Manor (1850-1873)

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Mark Smith at the Derbyshire records office has kindly been in touch about the rediscovered archives of the Osmaston Estate, which includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans, photographs, and family papers of the Walker family who acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of my ancestor Francis Wright (1806-1873). You can read his post here, and hopefully they’ll be sharing some of the photographs soon as the house was demolished in the 1960s. In the meantime, you can see some of the photos of the interior here and also some photographs of the exterior on Matthew Beckett’s the England’s Lost Country Houses site.

Kirbys at Gillardstown Plantation Ceylon

Planting life in Ceylon - Rowsell Maitland Kirby

Tom Rowsell who also publishes a family history blog has been in touch and kindly send me the photograph above of my great grandparents George Henry Kirby and Elsie Maitland with his great great grandfather Norman Rowsell, who was a planter in Hatton, Sri Lanka from 1880. He became the Ceylon Labour commisioner in 1904, and was married to Florence Congreve and their children Vere and Maud were born there as was my grandfather Claude Kirby. The Congreve’s were a prominent family on Ceylon and Jessie Norval Maitland married George Congreve. I can’t join the dots between Elsie and Jessie, so am guessing they are distant cousins and clearly moved in the same planter circles.

The photograph is from a book called Ceylon in my time by Colonel T. Y. Wright. I’m not sure if he’s related to my grandmother who was a Derbyshire Wright. Sadly, it’s hard to make George out in the photo, but interestingly the book mentions that the author was both his friend and employer. However, he had to give him notice as Gillardstown Plantation manager for being too unreliable:

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Interestingly, Tom runs a translation services that offers Sinhalese and Tamil translation among others, which could be useful for anyone needing help with local records: http://www.empowerlinguatranslation.com/