Mrs Eliza Rickard

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos

Mrs Eliza Rckard
Mrs Eliza Rckard
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

It's a curiosity of the College residents that we know virtually nothing about the widows themselves after they entered the establishment but we can find out quite a bit about their children. As far as I can tell, Mrs Rickard (no relation to the Epsom Rickards family) did nothing of note whilst a resident, but her children - I have found only four - were somewhat complicated, especially Caroline Eliza. Mrs Rickard was born Eliza Hamlyn in Plymouth in about 1793 and married surgeon Frederick Rickard (born c.1791 Calstock, Cornwall). It looks as if their first child was the aforementioned Caroline Eliza (c.1816 Callington, Cornwall), followed by Augusta Jane (c.1818 Callington), Frederick Hamlyn (1823 Menheniot, Cornwall) and William Henry (c.1836 Liskeard, Cornwall). Given the gap between Frederick and William, there could well have been others but I can't find any.

Caroline married newly-qualified surgeon William Knight Sargent (born c.1817) at Liskeard on 4 June 1839, but he died in 1841 and she was back with her family in Liskeard in that year's census. Augusta married solicitor Newenham Charles Wright (born c. 1819 Ireland), son of the Rev. George Newenham Wright, in 1844.

By 1851 the family had moved to Plymouth and Mr Rickard died there on 8 August 1855, aged 64. Caroline was still with them, described as a painter of miniatures. In the 1861 census Eliza was resident at the College in Epsom and the photo above would have been taken soon afterwards. The Wrights were living in London - they had no children as far as I know - and Caroline, still painting miniatures, was in lodgings in Camden Town with brother William. I have never found Frederick Hamlyn.

In 1871 Caroline was keeping her own lodging house in Kentish Town and one of the lodgers from Camden Town had gone with her. This was Mr William La Penotiere, now aged 63, a solicitor and notary public, described as married but with no wife present (as before); he had with him two of his offspring, aged 17 and 29. Strictly, William was William Paul De La Penotiere, originally from Anthony in Cornwall, but he had spent a large part of his life in Canada and I believe that is where his wife remained. The surname is spelt in several ways in records. Then, on 27 October 1877 Caroline and William got married at Old St Pancras, the latter now being a widower. I think his wife had died the year before in Canada.

I am wondering if Caroline was not that handy in the kitchen, for in 1878 William was granted a patent for 'improvements in the construction of kettles, saucepans, and other vessels for heating liquids, food and other substances'. Anyway, he died in 1880 and we shall never know if Caroline's cooking skills were involved.

All this time Mrs Rickard had been at the College, but she died in the autumn of 1883 and was buried in Epsom Cemetery (Grave A30A). Then, early in 1887 Newenham Wright died and by the 1891 census Caroline and Augusta, both widows, were back together in a flat in Fulham, clearly feeling rather decrepit, because in the final column on the form, where the enumerator is supposed to indicate if you are (1) Deaf and Dumb (2) Blind or (3) Lunatic, Imbecile or Idiot, he has been induced to write 'rheumatism' for Caroline and 'gout' for Augusta. Caroline had reverted to her previous surname of Sargent.

Augusta died in 1896 and Caroline resurfaced in the 1901 census at The Priory (Ascot Priory as it is now known), Winkfield, Berkshire, an establishment run by Anglican nuns which was effectively a large care home for the sick and orphaned: it had a huge number of nuns and other staff in relation to the count of patients. Almost every inmate, as opposed to the staff, had something very serious written in the final column and in Caroline's case it was 'paralysis'. She died there in 1902 under her correct surname, or a version thereof.

Lastly, we come to William Henry, who was an accountant and Parliamentary clerk. In 1863 he married Fanny Harriott Whichelo and there were three children - Edith Annie (1864) Herbert Frederick Richard Hamlyn (1866) and Lilian Caroline Augusta (1874*). In the 1881 census Fanny (spelt Fannie) was in lodgings with Edith and Lilian: she was described as an actress, as was Edith. I have no idea where William was, and I have never found Herbert again, but William died in 1887, so the girls were free to tread the boards.

Lilian became known as Queenie Leighton and was very big in panto, particularly as a principal boy at Drury Lane, and you can read all about her career on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Queenie Leighton as Prince Charming in 'Cinderella' at Drury Lane
Queenie Leighton as Prince Charming in 'Cinderella'
at Drury Lane, Christmas period 1905/06
Image Source The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 20 January 1906

Most sources are agreed, correctly, that Lilian/Queenie married William Hotten George in 1898, but curiously they say he died in 1908, which he didn't (although Mrs Fanny/Fannie Rickard did), so I assume there was a separation.. He was in London for the 1911 census, without his wife, and then presumably returned to his roots, which were in Probus, Cornwall, and he died on 3 January 1915, leaving effects of just 395. That same year Lilian/Queenie married Frederick Charles Cockerill. Various sources say that Frederick had been a music hall manager and that Queenie had met him in 1911, but by 1915 he was an officer in the Artists Rifles. Mr George seems to have been written off as unimportant in the Queenie saga, but actually he was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Gynaecological Society and was a Senior Anaesthetist in London; he was also responsible for the design of something now known as an Impey Mask, which was used to administer anaesthetic required for various surgical procedures involving the eyes and sinuses. Odd that he was a surgeon from Cornwall, as this is where we began.

John Propert
Queenie Leighton
by Unknown photographer. Postcard print, early 1900s
Image source National Portrait Gallery NPG Ax55820 (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I am intrigued about what happened to Edith Annie (and Herbert for that matter). We know from an article in 'The Sketch' of 15 May 1912 that Edith was also an actress and that she travelled around with Queenie and holidayed with her, but I can't trace her at all. If anyone can supply the answers, please let us know.

* Some internet sources say that Queenie was born in the USA in 1872 and give a different parentage, but this is wrong.

Linda Jackson 2018