I was astonished, in the nicest possible way, when I stumbled across this blog with its accompanying photos. I was a volunteer on the tunnel dig. As a schoolboy I became obsessed with archaeology. I lived near Downton, and when the Roman villa was discovered there I hung around enough so that eventually, when it was clear I was both interested and not going anywhere in a hurry, the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works Philip Rahtz archaeologist, who was leading the dig, found me things to do.
The following year, I was doing the same, mostly washing flint finds, with a team from Cambridge who were investigating the Mesolithic site that Rahtz’s team had discovered whilst investigating the road that led into the villa. Then the following year, I got news that Philip was hoping to find and investigate the Old Sarum tunnel over a weekend. I spent the first day with him. Whilst trying to locate the tunnel, the grave of a small Romano British child was found in a shallow grave. Presumably, from the bracelets, a girl. Apart from museum exhibits, the first real skeleton I had seen and I found it quite moving.
It took the best part of that Saturday to uncover the tunnel entrance but eventually a chink was opened, enough for a torchlit glimpse inside for a few. The dowser in the photograph was Ralph Whitlock, a local farmer from Pitton, well known broadcaster, author a general authority on all things rural. Along with others, this photograph appeared in The Times and drew an immediate shocked demand from the powers that be at Old Sarum, those that were to become in time English Heritage presumably, wanting to know why Philip had allowed such superstitious unscientific methods to be used on a dig they had paid for. Much sweet talking needed from Philip!
Anyway, towards the end of the day, enough headway, and indeed headroom, had been cleared to enable people to crawl in for look. Everyone, that is except me. I had been helping all day the same as all the admittedly older, others and was frankly more than a bit miffed. Especially as everyone appeared to have something to say in hushed tones when they came out. Disgruntled, I truthfully announced that I would have to leave soon to dash down Castle Road to the bus station and get home. There followed glances cast towards me and a huddle. After this I was coyly handed a torch and told I could have a quick peek before I left.
The reluctance was immediately apparent. Written on the ceiling in candle soot was every four letter word, similarly doubtless employed by the adolescents of Salisbury today and no doubt from time immemorial! Philip, it seems, bless him, was trying to protect my presumed innocence and perhaps more general embarrassment. The boy hauling the rope in one of the photos looks like dead ringer for me at that age though I can’t be certain as I’m sure I had my BWS school blazer on, and feeling in mortal dread of getting it covered in chalk. I’m also perplexed as to why the said sooty inscriptions don’t appear in the photo. Had they cleaned them off overnight for propriety’s sake or fear of really creating an uproar in The Times? Who knows. Anyway, in his biography Living Archaeology, Rahtz describes them discreetly as ‘very rude’.
My totally unrealistic dreams of becoming an archaeologist obviously came to naught though after an earlier career in map making and photogrammetry I spent the last 40 years and more of my working life as a potter. So, perhaps in a way I’ve been doing my bit to provide shards for future excavators to muse over and stick back together. By chance, last year one of my pieces was displayed in the museum as part of a Wiltshire Artists exhibition, on loan from Swindon’ Museum and Art Gallery.
Kind regards Laurence McGowan
This a wonderful item from Laurence and we are so pleased he has been in contact to pass on this story. Thank you.
This is not the first time Salisbury Museum has had to postpone special exhibitions – consider the year 1914 – the 50th anniversary of the opening of the St Ann Street premises.
A friend doing a ‘lockdown’ clear-out came across this hardcover book ‘The Festival Book of Salisbury – Published to commemorate the Jubilee of the Museum’. It was probably bought (for three shillings) by her grandparents.
The then ‘Resident Curator of the Museum’ and Editor of the book was Frank Stevens. He was the son of the former ‘General Curator’, E T Stevens and a nephew of Dr Humphrey Blackmore, who was Honorary Director at the time (and we know of his complicated romantic liaisons now, thanks to Martin Callow’s research). As we have seen from the blog about the Read family, the museum was then very much a private and family affair, with three Read brothers and four Blackmores all involved during the first fifty years.
As the unpaid ‘Resident Director’ Frank Stevens would have lived in the accommodation built adjoining the galleries and office, just to the west, along St Ann Street.
In the book he writes a foreword entitled ‘Invitation to the Reader’ and states he wishes the reader ‘to open the door and step inside. He will be thoroughly at home within these pages, and able to wander as he lists, just as if he were in truth strolling within the confines of his own city, with all the pride and independence of a citizen of New Sarum’.
The book contains a dozen scholarly articles on a variety of topics including The Great Bustard, George Herbert, The Giant and Hobnob, Fossils and Prehistoric remains of Salisbury and the ‘Old’ Salisbury Journal.
In his ‘Au Revoir’ at the end of the book Stevens discusses museums thus ’The days of musty fusty museums are past, the era of the official guide has begun, and as far as we can, it is a “point of honour” to show you round, to find out your tastes and if possible gratify them. Perhaps you have no particular interest in Museums as a class. That is probably because you have never visited one where you have been looked after, and where the objects of interest have been pointed out to you’. Do we recognise ourselves here, Stewards??
He signs off with this paragraph: ‘There is yet one other object in the Museum which is of supreme interest to us. It is a little box at the door: you should not miss it, and on it is a ticket which records the fact the visitors on average have contributed less than a penny apiece for the upkeep of this fine collection. Surely you can do better than that’. At this stage the museum did not charge entry and relied on ‘Subscribers’ (like our Members) and donations. Early minute books indicate that finance was always a struggle. A familiar story!
It is not clear from the book what the museum planned for its festival which the foreword (written in December 1914) says is postponed ‘owing to the European crisis’. The Museum Committee having started the publishing process of the book, decided to continue with it. I guess by the time the war was over the idea of such a celebration no longer had any relevance. During the war the museum had received a large bequest from the late Dr Wilkes and plans were afoot for enlarging the premises.
Rosemary Pemberton -with thanks to Frances Ryan and Peter Saunders.
We are tempted to say “Nothing Changes”…! Thank you Rosemary.
Concluding Rosemary Pemberton’s research on the Read family and The Salisbury Museumin the Nineteenth Century.
Moving on to the three sons mentioned in the museum’s Minute Books, the third son George Sydney Read was born in The Close in 1824. He won a scholarship to Oxford at the age of 16 and was appointed a Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Cork in 1849. In 1858 he became a barrister in London. At the time the museum opened he gave his address as ‘The Close’ where he was living with his sister. His name as G.S. or Sydney appears in some museum committee attendance records and he was appointed joint Honorary Curator of Numismatics. He spent some of his retirement in St Ann Street and, though he died in Surbiton in 1904, his funeral was held in St Edmund’s Church.
The second son Charles John was born in 1820, shortly after the family moved to Salisbury. He was present at the first meeting of the ‘Relic Fund’ in April 1860 that was charged with setting up the new museum and continued to serve on its committee. He volunteered to be present on a rota with three others during the hours the museum was open. A newspaper cutting of 1862 attached to the first Minute Book and reporting on the first year of its operation, states he was one of those ‘whose specimens constitute the greater part of the collection’. Current museum records indicate he donated a number of flint tools from the locality as well as loaning/donating ceramic pieces.
In 1885 he wrote a paper for the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (WANHS) on flints from Bemerton and Milford Hill.
On August 17th 1870 he wrote to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal quoting from an eighteenth- century book on Stonehenge written by the famous Bath architect John Wood the Elder (Choir Gaure, vulgarly called Stonehenge 1747) that posited the edifice had never been completed. Charles then stated he had never come across this idea and recommended this be discussed at the WANHS meeting of the following month.
According to the censuses between 1851 and 1881 he was a lodger in The Close Porter’s house (just to the north of The Matron’s College) or lived in St Thomas’s Square and latterly with his brother Raphael, also in The Close. He earned his living as a Professor of Music having trained at the Royal Academy in London where he taught piano. (See Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Harpists by W M Govea.)
Among his pupils in Salisbury were two men, Dr C W Pearce and T E Aylward who went on to become distinguished organists. The Musical Times of 1 March 1864 notes that he directed ‘A grand miscellaneous concert of vocal and instrumental music at the Assembly-rooms’ where he gave a pianoforte solo.
The Salisbury and Winchester Journal of 3 October 1853 advertises his publication the ‘Parochial Psalmist’, an arrangement of hymns and psalms for four voices accompanied by organ or piano. He also composed, as The Musical World (Vol 16.1841) reports that he played a movement of his pianoforte concerto at the Royal Academy. It is also known that he owned a violin made by one of Benjamin Bank’s sons (See British Violin Makers. W M Morris)
He died on 26 June 1891 in the Fisherton Asylum.
Salisbury Museum Minute Books – 1866 above and 1860 below.
From the Musical Times. 1 March 1864
The artist’s eldest son Raphael Woolman (b.1819) possibly led the most adventurous life and was the only one of the siblings who did not marry.
He trained as a surgeon at Salisbury Infirmary, qualifying in 1841. In 1844 he joined the 52nd Light Infantry as an Assistant Surgeon and served with them in Dublin from where, in 1852, he was sent to the funeral of The Duke of Wellington to be in charge of the medical needs of his soldiers. In 1853 he went with his regiment to India.
His obituary in the local paper (13 March 1886) indicates that though he offered to go to the Crimea, he transferred instead to the 30th Cambridge Regiment with a promotion to Surgeon.
The obituary also states that he went to Canada with them in 1860 on Brunel’s S.S Great Eastern as a consequence of The Trent Affair (a diplomatic incident which looked as though it might start a war between North America and the UK). However, this incident did not take place until November 1861 and the transport of a mass of military personnel was shown in the Illustrated London News on 6 July 1861. It seems that the government needed to replenish our troops in Canada, especially with the outbreak of the American Civil War in April of that year. In 1864 he was appointed Registrar at the newly opened Royal Victoria military hospital at Netley on Southampton Water. He served in that post until his retirement aged 50 in1869 with the honorary rank of Deputy Inspector General of Army Hospitals.
Having retired back to The Close, possibly to the same house as his father, he became a Magistrate and served on the management committee of the Infirmary. His obituary notes a love of music and art. Both George and he loaned pieces to a Fine Art Exhibition held in The Council Chamber in 1879. A good number of their father’s works were also exhibited there. Ceramic history seems to have been more of a specialism for him. Sitting on the museum committee he had the added responsibility of writing a very detailed catalogue for the special Loan Exhibition of Porcelain Statuettes in 1872 to which he contributed some of his collection. His obituary notes he resigned from the museum shortly afterwards.
He died in February 1886 aged 67 and was buried (according to his obituary) just to the north of the two cedar trees in the cathedral cloister. In his will he leaves the majority of his effects to Sydney and Charles but an advertisement for an auction in June in The Canal suggests some was sold, as it advertises antique furniture, silver, books and a part of his china and wine collection.
A coloured version of a print from The Illustrated London News of 6 July 1861 showing troops embarking on SS Great Britain.
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Demolished in 1966.
Salisbury Museum’s copy of the 1872 Loan Exhibition catalogue signed by Raphael Read.
A Bow porcelain statuette in Salisbury Museum’s collection with R. Read’s label as ‘proprietor’ on it.
The two youngest Read children, David and Mary seemed not to share their sibling’s interest in the arts. David moved to London and became a solicitor. Mary lived in The Close with her mother until the age of 33 or 34, married Edward Davies of Stratford-sub-Castle, a landowner and also moved to London.
David Read is therefore the member of the family with the best surviving legacy but his three eldest sons, Raphael, Charles and Sydney, contributed a great deal to the museum in its early days and to the cultural and civic life of the city.
With thanks to Bea Tilbrook for census, military records, wills and newspaper information and to Nigel Wyatt for musical references.
Prepared under ‘lockdown’ conditions. Other source: John Constable’s Correspondence. R B Beckett. (ed)
The memorial tablet in Salisbury Cathedral Cloister commemorating David Charles, ‘landscape painter’, his wife Charlotte and their son Raphael.
Looking back over my selection of photographs of Minute Books and cuttings from the beginnings of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, (taken while researching the Wilton antiquarian James Nightingale), I came across a number of references to committee members with the surname Read. There was a C.J., a Raphael, an S., a Sydney (presumably the same person) and, most mysteriously, a Deputy Inspector General. The Deputy Inspector General of what I wondered, were they all from the same family and where does the discovery of a sour relationship with John Constable fit into the story?
In 1820 an artist, David Charles Read (born 1790 in Boldre, in the New Forest) moved to The Close, Salisbury. The first census (1841) indicates his home was between Bishop’s Walk and St Ann’s gate on the southern side. He would have brought with him his wife Charlotte and his oldest son, born in 1819 with the artistically aspirational name Raphael. The couple would go on to have four more children, of whom two are of interest here: Charles John, born 1820 and George Sydney born in 1824.
David Charles Read trained as an etcher in London when young but returned to the country for the sake of his health. The Dictionary of National Biography states ‘he had ample though unremunerative employment as a drawing master’. He spent his spare time drawing and painting, mostly landscapes, though he did complete a few portraits, including two of the poet Goethe. His paintings were mainly of the Avon valley and the New Forest though the subjects of his etchings could be from further afield.
Campbell Fine Arts, a print specialist,writes ‘Whilst David Charles Read may have remained little known as a painter, he excelled as an original printmaker. His beautifully open and highly confident etched works display a spontaneity associated with fine natural talent and betray the particular influence of the Dutch masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn. Further than this, D. C. Read was one of a select group of original printmakers…. to make extensive use of drypoint as an original printmaking technique, handing on the traditions of this important process to the mid Victorians’.
Salisbury Museum owns a particularly atmospheric engraving of Stonehenge by him.
Stonehenge. 1830. The Salisbury Museum.
View from Pugin’s House. 1835. The Ashmolean Museum.
Britford Vale. 1835. The Ashmolean Museum.
As a character David Read seems to have had inflated ideas of his own talent and his demand for recognition eventually upset none other than john Constable. Initially Constable found Read’s copies in oils from Claude and Van de Velde ‘very far from bad, and very much better than I expected’.
But in 1822 Archdeacon Fisher asked Constable to promote one of Read’s painting to a London gallery and this is his rather waspish reply.
” MY DEAR FISHER, There is nothing so cheering to me as the sight of your handwriting, yet I am dilatory in answering you. I will gladly do all I can for Read and his picture, but you know I can only send it; I possess no favour in that place, I have no patron but yourself, and you are not a grandee ; you are only a gentleman and a scholar, and a real lover of the art. I will mention R ‘s picture to Young, and this is all that is in my power. Is it not possible to dissuade him from coming to London, where he will be sure to get rid of what little local reputation he may have? But perhaps he prefers starving in a crowd, and if he is determined to adventure, let him by all means preserve his flowing locks, they will do him more service than even the talents of Claude Lorraine, if he possessed them’.
Some months later Constable confided to Fisher ‘the truth…is that he is ignorant of every rudiment of art-without one grain of original feeling-without one atom of talent’. Read countered this lack of public recognition by talking of ‘future fame being preferable to present flattery’ and, when ‘exalted’ at a wine-party in Salisbury, he prophesied that posterity would say ‘here Read walked and there he sketched’.
David Read worked fast, completing up to five etched plates a week, and produced six series of prints between 1829 and 1845. Also (perhaps in order to enhance his reputation), he presented the Earl of Pembroke with a set of prints, and dedicated another to Queen Adelaide. He befriended Pugin and presented a volume of his etchings to the British Museum in 1832 and 1842. In the letter he wrote to the British Museum with the presentation in 1842 he complained of the ‘chilling neglect that attended their first publication’. However, his works did find appreciation from Goethe, Mendelssohn and a few connoisseurs.
In 1845/6 he spent a year in Italy painting well known scenes. Then, in 1849 he moved to Kensington and died there in 1851 at the age of only 61. Between 1871 and 1874 his son Raphael compiled a manuscript catalogue of his works, with a memoir and gave it to the British Museum. They bought a number of his works in the nineteenth century with the result that they now hold around 300 of his drawings and etchings. It is now rare to find his etchings, partly because he was so scrupulous that did not wish any etchings to be taken from worn plates.
David C Read’s own etching copied from a watercolour by John Linnell. His son Raphael has added the words’ Very like him when young’. The Salisbury Museum has one of these prints.
The sale of his collection at Christie’s. 6 April 1853. Note that he is referred to as ‘that accomplished amateur’ which probably would not have pleased him.
Rosemary Pemberton May 2020
The story of David’s three sons (the committee members mentioned in the Minute Books) to be continued…
Rosemary has been researching this and putting it together ‘under lockdown’. It is another reminder of what we can do via our computers. Thank you Rosemary!
Last week we had a very interesting ‘mystery’ photo from the museum archives, courtesy of Alan Clarke.
The mystery was, what was the burnt out building in the middle of the photograph? The clue was the church, top left.
St Thomas’ church, by the Market Square of course. So the burnt building was very much in the centre of the city, just south of the Market. It was the yard and buildings behind the Old George Inn.
Alan supplies further photographs to explain. The date is 1945.
The street front section survived, and still does, of course, as the entrance to the old George Mall.
Below is a description, from a redundant BBC Wiltshire website, of the Old GeorgeInn from 2004, before it became home to the Boston Tea Party cafe. It was possible to tour the then empty inn on special open days.
“Through a door on the High street, in Salisbury, through a maze of offices, fire doors and breeze block corridors and before you know it you’re back in the 15th century.
Well not exactly but you will find yourself inside an ancient medieval hostelry aka The Old George Inn.
The Old George Inn, now perched above the main entrance of the Old George Mall, has been providing bed and ‘board’ since 1364.
But it hasn’t been open to the public since the mid 90s when its last incarnation, The Bay Tree Restaurant, closed down.
Since then the Inn, with its entrance blocked off from the street below, has languished disused, empty and closed to the public.
But be warned, with steep steps, a warren of corridors and uneven floors it’s not for everyone. But if you are able it’s well worth it.
As you push open the last fire door, leaving the mall behind you, you enter a remarkable wood-panelled banqueting hall.
Trussed together by a forest of pillars and oak beams, the great hall not only boasts a minstrel’s gallery but an intricately carved Jacobean mantelpiece.
Above you, on two beams ends, hang two crudely carved figure heads of Edward II and his Queen Isabella.
Queen Isabella, nicknamed “the she-wolf of France”, was fiery to say the least and had her husband done to death which might explain why they appear to be glaring at each other.
The bay-window, overlooking the high street, was built in 1453 at a cost of just £1.00 by some Italians doing a spot of moonlighting from their work on the Cathedral.
But the most impressive part of the Old George Inn has to be its heavy weight celebrity guest list. The diarist Samuel Pepys booked in for a night where he “lay in a silke bed and had very good diet”. But he found the bill so exorbitant that he became “mad” and had a row with the landlady and moved to a cheaper inn the next morning.
In 1645 Oliver Cromwell stopped off at the Old George for bed and breakfast on his way to joining the army and it also crops up in Charles’s Dickens’s novel “Martin Chuzzlewit”.
Even William Shakespeare and his strolling players are said to have performed a “one night stand” in the Inn’s courtyard which once stabled up to 50 horses.”
It was all redeveloped in the 1990s with archaeological excavation taking place as appropriate. You might like to read more about that here.
See yesterday’s posting about Sue Allenby’s interview…..
We have had this review from Linda Salter…
“The Salisbury 2020 Sue Allenby interview by John Elliott on her novel ‘Elias’ was a masterclass in how to deliver perfection in each of their roles. Superb! Fascinatingly gripping and now a definite ‘must buy and read.’ What enthusiasm and capacity! Thank you so much to all involved. It has totally thrown my morning – and therefore my day – out of kilter but I couldn’t be more delighted!”
…the new – online – exhibition at The Salisbury Museum.
Access it here, or from the front page of the museum website.
Bridget Telfer, whom we all know as Volunteer Co-ordinator, but who also, as a result of NLHF funding, is now tasked with the new Salisbury exhibitions at the museum, has adapted longer term plans to the current circumstances.
A gorgeous collection of items from the Salisbury archives has been photographed, and presented with brief notes, for our interest and pleasure.
We are also invited to get involved. Welcome to the new exhibition…
…first published in Fisherton Informer February 2020 and included here with permission from editor Frogg Moody.
Humphrey Purnell Blackmore (1835–1929) was an important figure in the history of Victorian and early twentieth century Salisbury. He was a noted local doctor, in private practice until 1927, and at the Salisbury Infirmary, from 1874 to 1879, as well as involved in other professional work. He was also a noted archaeologist, and was involved in the early years of both the Salisbury and South Wilts Museum, and the Blackmore Museum which were co-located at premises in St Ann Street and merged in the early twentieth century. He eventually became Honorary Director of the Salisbury and South Wilts Museum.
He was a talented artist. However, behind this distinguished career lurked scandal (later apparently forgotten), which was well-known in 1860s Salisbury and reported in the local press. So this article is not about his public or professional life, although there is an interesting story to be written there as well, but about Humphrey Blackmore’s early private affairs – his irregular relationships with two women caused scandal locally and legal disputes between him and his partner in medical practice, Martin Coates. The scandal and the reaction to it are interesting for a number of reasons; in particular they reflect the social attitudes of the time. Also his divorce, which we will come to later, was one of the divorces to be tried under the relatively new Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes which opened at the start of 1858 (created by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857). This had made it much easier for couples to divorce, which prior to 1858 was extremely difficult.
Blackmore’s subsequent respectability and eminence as both an archaeologist and museum curator (and indeed as a doctor) is a fascinating contrast to this earlier scandal.
The life of Humphrey’s elder brother William Blackmore (who figured in Humphrey’s affairs as well, as an advisor), has been more widely studied than Humphrey’s and he was the subject of a recent biography. He was similarly a man of contrasts. He was a lawyer and entrepreneur and also a collector of archaeological artefacts, especially Native American ones. He founded the Blackmore Museum which opened in September 1867 (at more or less the same time as Humphrey became involved with Annie Mills (see below) but financial difficulties caused him to commit suicide in 1878.
William, Humphrey and their siblings were the grandchildren of the Reverend Richard Blackmore, who was Rector of Donhead St Mary, and died in 1847. Humphrey was born in 1835 and attended Queenwood College (between Buckholt and East Tytherley), which eventually burnt down in a fire in 1902. He trained as a doctor and became the pupil of a local doctor in Salisbury, William Martin Coates (1811-1885). In 1857, despite a considerable difference in age between the two men, Humphrey became the partner of Coates. The partnership was based in Endless Street. Along with his brother William Blackmore, Coates was an important figure in the story of Humphrey’s affairs. When Humphrey became Coates’ partner, a partnership agreement was drawn up, allowing either partner to refer to legal arbitration if they felt they had grounds for dissolving the partnership.
In 1864 Humphrey formed an “immoral connection” , that is he had a mistress (we would now say he had an affair) with a Miss Forrest (of a “lower station in life”, also spelt “Forest”), who was subsequently reported to have emigrated to Australia in early 1867. All might have been well for Humphrey, but towards the end of 1866, rumours reached Coates through patients that Humphrey had been “keeping a young woman named Forest in Salisbury as his mistress.” Humphrey admitted this was true and expressed regret for what occurred, and agreed to put an end to his connection with Forest. (During this period Humphrey was involved in the conveyancing of various properties in St Ann Street in connection with the development of the Salisbury and South Wilts and Blackmore Museums, so he was a busy man!) In the meantime Coates wrote to Humphrey’s brother, William Blackmore (who advised Humphrey in this matter, as in the later scandal), on 21 November 1866, He made a proposal that the partnership be dissolved. In a later letter to Humphrey on Christmas Eve, 1866, he threatened, to apply to “file a bill in Chancery for a dissolution”, as indeed he actually did later, after the Mills affair (see below).
In February 1867, Humphrey obtained a legal opinion from the barrister Nathaniel Lindley (1828-1921, later Lord Lindley) on whether Coates could succeed in obtaining a dissolution in the Court of Chancery on grounds of his (Humphrey’s) immorality. Lindley’s view was that Coates could not obtain a dissolution on those grounds. However Humphrey eventually offered out of his share in the partnership income to guarantee Coates against any pecuniary loss arising from his (Humphrey’s) connection with Forest, due to patients who might be scandalised into going elsewhere for their medical requirements. This financial arrangement was carried out by an agreement dated 30 May 1867.
Despite the legal wrangle with his partner over the Forest affair, not long after this in late 1867 Humphrey became attached in Salisbury to another woman Annie Mills (or Reeve, or Rickaby, her maiden name). This would be quite out of order even today as she was initially his patient, and also (apparently) married. Annie Mills seems to have been quite a complicated woman, and unravelling the history of her marriages or supposed marriages, and untangling events in 1867-1868 is quite hard. in 1868 she was reported in the Salisbury Journal as “The lady with Four Husbands”.
At the time Humphrey met Annie in July 1867, she was living with a Robert Mills at Church-street Villa, Fisherton, and they were ostensibly married. It later transpired that Robert Mills and Annie Mills had indeed been married in January 1866 at Carlisle, and a record of this marriage exists in the Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915, and there were witnesses produced at the proceedings. However this appears to have been a bigamous marriage twice over. Not only was it later alleged by Annie’s lawyer at her bigamy trial in 1868 that Robert had a wife still living and consequently her marriage with him was invalid, but in June 1863 she had married a man called Charles Julian Reeve. A record exists for the marriage although no record exists for her divorce from him, and he was still alive in 1868. Hence at Annie’s bigamy trial, it was argued by the prosecution that she was still married when she met Mills.
Before Robert Mills and Charles Reeve, she had firstly been married to a Benjamin Crowther in 1855, and then in 1860 she sued for divorce from him in the then very new Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes. She petitioned for divorce on grounds of his cruelty but there was a counter-petition by Crowther and the marriage was dissolved in 1862 on grounds of her adultery with William McDonald. It was also alleged that she had consorted with other “gentlemen”.
Blackmore married Annie in October 1867 in Scotland, and was then divorced from her in 1868. This marriage was declared null and void in 1868 in the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes. The marriage was not “dissolved” in the Divorce Court, as they had never been legally married. As a consequence of the marriage there were as many as three separate legal cases: firstly the Divorce Court hearing in 1868, secondly Annie’s arrest in April 1868 and trial for bigamy in June 1868, and finally litigation (or threatened litigation) by Humphrey’s partner Martin Coates arising from his belief that Humphrey’s “immoral connections” (referred to as such at the time) were damaging the income and reputation of the partnership.
It is difficult to be sure what are the true facts of the events of 1867, into which I will go into some detail. Humphrey’s testimony seems more reliable and certainly he represented himself as the innocent dupe of a scheming adventuress, but Annie’s motivations are unclear. What is in no doubt, as we have evidence, is that she married both Robert Mills and then Humphrey Blackmore bigamously while her second husband, Charles Reeve, was still alive. There was no divorce from Charles Reeve, and the Rev. Matthew Pierrepoint who performed the marriage of Annie and Charles Reeve in 1863 testified at Annie’s bigamy trial that he saw Reeve alive and well on 24 April 1868. So she was still legally married to him. The following account of the events of 1867 is told largely from testimony by Humphrey and others in the Divorce Court, as reported in the Salisbury Journal (the surviving Divorce Court records do not appear to include the affidavits, only Humphrey’s “Petition” and Annie’s “Answer” – both of these were formal documents). Another source has been the “Bill of Complaint” submitted to the Lord Chancellor by Westall & Roberts on behalf of Martin Coates, Humphrey’s partner, in late 1868 – see more about this below.
As we have seen Humphrey met Annie in July 1867. She was living with Robert Mills at Church-street Villa, Fisherton. The house belonged to one Ann Brown who testified that Annie came to live in her house, with Robert Mills, as her husband, in June 1867. Also living in Ann Brown’s house (as a “friend” of Ann Brown), was one Eliza Maggs, who testified in the Divorce Court. She saw Annie almost daily, and evidently became friends with Annie as well. Both Annie and Robert were (initially) Humphrey’s patients. Humphrey claimed that Annie had told him that she and Robert Mills had been separated and living apart, and that she left him on account of his conduct some time previously, and that she had only revisited him because of his having been dangerously ill, and she had only acted in the capacity of nurse! Humphrey was later introduced to Annie’s father, Robert Rickaby, referred to as “Major Rickaby”. Humphrey later discovered that he was a commercial traveller, “principally engaged in the hop trade”. He also met Annie’s mother. Around 12September 1867, Humphrey claimed that Annie told him that Robert Mills had “received a telegram requiring his attendance in London to appear before the Judge of the Divorce Court”, and he had left for London.
Humphrey claimed that soon after Annie told him that she had received a letter from her father telling her that the divorce had gone through. But there is no record of the divorce and in any case, as we have seen, the marriage with Robert Mills was bigamous. (Annie later testified in the divorce case between herself and Humphrey, that she had never told him before going to Scotland with him that that there had been any such divorce.) By this stage Humphrey was clearly besotted by Annie, and Humphrey proposed marriage to her, “but with the reservation that such should not take place for some months to come”. Humphrey then wrote to “Major” Rickaby (twice) asking for his assent who refused. Rickaby’s letter, which I do not have space to include, is quite amusing. Rickaby gave Humphrey the impression that Annie could marry, although this was clearly a deception.
Annie remained at Ann Brown’s house until 19 September 1867, when she left for London, accompanied by Eliza Maggs. She wrote to Humphrey on several occasions “in most affectionate terms”, claiming that her father was trying to compel her to marry someone else. On 28 September 1867 Humphrey received a very urgent letter from Annie, asking him to come to London, which he did. He claimed he decided to marry her regardless of her father’s (apparent) opposition, and to stop her from being persecuted to marry someone else (supposedly), but he was still worried as to whether she was free to marry again, and that her supposed divorce from Robert Mills had gone through. This she repeatedly assured him was the case, and she stated that her lawyer Thomas Thomson had told her so, but in order to reassure Humphrey she would go and ask him again. Humphrey wanted to go with her to his office but Annie said it would be better if she went on her own! Eliza Maggs also testified at Humphrey’s later divorce hearing that she had gone with Annie but implied that she was not sure whether Anne had actually gone into the lawyer’s office! When Annie got back to Humphrey she told him that it was quite useless to attempt to get married in England by licence and that Thomson had advised that the best plan was to get married in Scotland. They then travelled to Scotland, where there was difficulty in finding a minister who would marry them, until they went to Robert Martin a solicitor in Perth, who arranged the ceremony. In the meantime Humphrey and Annie had shared lodgings at James Street in Perth with only one bedroom! After the ceremony they returned to England.
Soon disillusioned, Humphrey returned to Salisbury alone leaving Annie in London. On 24 October 1867 Annie signed a “certificate” prepared by Humphrey and his brother William, confirming her divorce from Robert Mills. This is odd since the implication is that Humphrey came to believe by then that there had been no divorce from Robert Mills. Annie however later testified that she had been compelled to sign the certificate by threats and violence on the part of Humphrey and William.
On 12 December 1867 (or 16 December according to the Divorce Court archives) Humphrey commenced a divorce suit or petition against Annie in the Divorce Court on the grounds that Robert Mills was still living and also on the grounds that neither of them had had lived in Scotland for 21 days prior to the Scottish marriage. He sought a “declaration of nullity”. His London solicitor in the suit was Henry Wellington Vallance. On 16 January 1868 Annie’s solicitor Thomas Thomson filed Annie’s “Answer” to Humphrey’s petition claiming that she was never lawfully married to Robert Mills and that she or Humphrey had lived in Scotland for the required length of time, and that therefore her marriage to Humphrey was valid. However the Judge’s decision was in favour of Humphrey and in July 1868 he pronounced the marriage null and void.
During the Divorce Court proceedings, Annie had applied for alimony, which was refused! In June 1868, Humphrey, before the marriage was annulled, felt it necessary to write to the Salisbury Journal due to all the rumours which were circulating and the reports of both the divorce suit and the bigamy trial (see below) in that paper. It is worth quoting this letter in full:-
“Sir – In your report of the proceedings in the Divorce Court, on the application of Mrs Mills for alimony, which was summarily dismissed by the judge on the ground that she had sworn herself out of court, I observe that you have set forth, at full length, the statements in the affidavit upon which she grounded her application.
“I need scarcely say that these statements are entirely false and that no opportunity was then afforded me of denying or cross-examining the respondent upon them; but knowing as I do the inclination of many persons to prejudge a case in its preliminary stages, I think it necessary, through your columns, that I should request the public to suspend their judgment upon my conduct until the final hearing of my petition, when I shall prove that the allegations to which I have referred are false in every important particular, and that a base and unprecedented conspiracy has been practised upon me.
I am, sir, yours sincerely,
In the meantime Annie had been arrested for bigamy in April 1868 (at the instigation of Humphrey’s side) and her trial took place in June 1868 at the Central Criminal Court in London. In the Salisbury Journal Annie was described as “a well-dressed and good-looking woman, named Annie Reeve, otherwise Annie Laura Rickaby”. The first witness was the Rev. M.A. Pierrepoint, who, as we have seen, had performed the marriage ceremony between Annie’s second husband Reeve and the prisoner. Pierrepoint said that had seen Reeve again in April 1868. Annie’s father Robert Rickaby testified that Reeve had married Annie under a false name, but had died of smallpox. Rickaby also said he did not know how Annie had got the name Laura (cited as her second Christian name)! He also said that Annie had not been divorced from Robert Mills. The Recorder also said she gave herself a new Christian name. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and she was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment.
Humphrey’s partner in medical practice, Martin Coates, became aware of Humphrey’s relationship with Annie quite early on, but it is unclear when. On 1 March 1868 Coates wrote a “long and friendly letter” to Humphrey. In July 1868 Coates’ solicitors Westall & Roberts wrote to Humphrey’s solicitor Charles Whatman (who had been Mayor of Salisbury 1861-2) saying that Coates had for a long time tried hard to persuade himself and others that the version given him by Humphrey was the true one, but stating that it would be greatly in Humphrey’s own interest to consent to an immediate dissolution of the partnership “having referees if necessary to settle the terms”. Coates wanted a new partner to help him in the practice instead of Humphrey and had the conviction that several of the best patients would go elsewhere.
Coates wanted to dissolve the partnership through a court case under the terms of the partnership agreement drawn up when Humphrey joined him as partner. At the end of 1868, the Coates side became more conciliatory offering arbitration on the financial settlement out of court, although the final amended version of Coates’ “Bill of Complaint” was only filed in the Court of Chancery in February 1869. This set out the case for dissolution, asks for assets and liabilities to be divided up, that Humphrey be restrained from setting up in practice as a doctor in Salisbury or within 20 miles, that Humphrey pay the costs of Coates’ suit.
The case of Coates v Blackmore however did not get as far as the court, as the Arbitrator, Charles Skirrow, was able to fix the terms of the dissolution of the partnership. The case was settled out of court in 1869 by the Arbitrator and the partnership dissolved as from 21 July 1869. The requirements in the Bill of Complaint that Humphrey not practice as a doctor in the Salisbury area, and that Humphrey was to pay the costs of Coates’ suit, were not included in the settlement, otherwise Humphrey’s later career might have been different! Skirrow’s “Award” also appended an apology from Martin Coates, stating that the charges against Humphrey included in the Bill of Complaint were unfounded.
Humphrey lived for another 60 years. In October 1877, he married Augusta Sophia Gore, but the marriage was childless. He died on 2 February 1929 at Vale House, in St Ann Street, where he was already living in 1867 at the time of the scandal. Vale House is still standing in St Ann Street, next to the old site of the Salisbury Museum, now converted into flats. His wife died in 1931. I am hoping to continue my research and discover something about what happened to his so called “mistress” Miss Forest after she emigrated to Australia (if she did), the location of Church-street Villa, where Annie Rickaby or Mills lived in Salisbury, and particularly Annie’s subsequent life after the divorce, which could prove interesting!