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For family historians, enjoyment comes not just from seeing our ancestors’ names in print or learning about the worlds they inhabited, but in reading the very words they read.

Emma Jolly, in the article Historic Newspapers

Emma Jolly writer, historian, genealogist
  1. Naming for Empire

    In the course of studying for an MA in Imperialism and Culture, I have been examining how enthusiastic working class Britons were about the Empire in the period 1870-1914. This debate has long exercised historians, such as John Mackenzie, Bernard Porter, and Antoinette Burton.

    Mackenzie, a pioneer of cultural imperialism argues that the working classes were enthusiastic about empire and that they were particularly influenced by propagandist media, such as music hall songs, popular newspapers and juvenile literature. He highlights the adventure stories and heroes of empire, and the fervour with which many working class people greeted them. He quotes Mafeking night, 18 May 1900 (when impromptu parties took place across Britain to celebrate the relief of besieged British forces), as a striking example of this imperialistic passion.

    In contrast, Bernard Porter writes dourly, “For the working classes who participated in Mafeking night the whole occasion was probably little more than a celebration of the safety of their comrades in uniform.”1 Richard Price challenges them both by arguing that the enthusiasm emanated more from the lower middle classes and that this was evident in the voting patterns of the ‘khaki’ election of 1900. The boundary between the upper working classes and the lower middle classes can be difficult to distinguish but at the time of the war in South Africa, four fifths of British society is believed to have been working class.2

    Wherever the balance of the argument falls, there is no denying that a passion amongst the British people for the heroes, military successes and adventures of empire grew hugely up to the turn of the century. In the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, this enthusiasm reached its peak. And it was in this period that an interest in current affairs spilled over into the naming of children.

    In my Naming Napoleon blogpost, I look at the popularity of the name Napoleon during the nineteenth century and why this was so. In assessing these, I came across siblings or middle names of the Napoleons which indicated an interest in heroes or military adventure. Napoleon’s British foes, such as Horatio, Nelson, Wellington and Wellesley were all in evidence, as were as the names of mythical heroes such as King Arthur. In the 1899-1902 period, names such as Arthur and Horatio, as well as those of Saxon kings, Alfred and Harold, were common.

    By 1898, however, Horatio was becoming associated with another Horatio Herbert: the hero of the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, then Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Although Kitchener preferred to use his middle name, both forenames saw a surge in popularity in the birth registrations3 from this date. From 1900 (as he progressed to Chief of Staff during the Boer War, eventually being appointed Secretary of State for War in 1914), the hero worship of Horatio Herbert continued along with the popularity of his forenames. In 1892, a Horatio Herbert Bryant was registered in Bradford West, with several more following in subsequent years. Even ‘Kitchener’ was used as a forename; first appearing in the GRO birth registrations of December quarter 1898: Kitchener Sladden of West Ashford. There was a marked increase in Kitchener related names in 1902, but no Kitcheners4 were registered between 1905 and September quarter 1914 – the onset of the Great War. The imperial link also seems clear with Horatio Kitchener (Goole, 1898) and Horatio Baden (Hendon, 1900).

    The connection of Kitchener with the then Colonel Baden Powell continues with Kitchener Baden P R Coleman, who was registered in Ipswich in September 1900 (4a, 973). Baby boys with the names Baden, Baden Powell and Baden Mafeking appear regularly in GRO records between 1899 and 1920, when post war socio-cultural values began to turn against overt references to military imperialism. The GRO birth indexes for England and Wales5 show that between 1837 and the beginning of the Siege of Mafeking in October 1899, only ten children were registered with the first name Baden. In contrast, from the December quarter 1899 and the outbreak of war in 1914 there are hundreds of Badens, several of whom were given the middle names Powell or Mafeking to emphasize homage to the hero of the siege.

    Checking some of these Badens on the 1911 census6 shows many of them were from working class families, with fathers who were miners, labourers and factory workers. There is a sense that by making a lasting public statement of their enthusiasm for Baden Powell, and possibly support for his military and imperial activities, that the parents of these children wanted to show the wider world that they were part of the empire-supporting community.

    Besides Kitchener and Baden-Powell, other heroes celebrated through babies’ names include Field Marshal Fredrick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914), commander of the field army in the Boer Wars, who was nicknamed “Bobs”. Kitchener Bobs Thornton in Headington (1902), Bobs Baden P Ellis from St Saviour (Sep 1900) and Bobs Baden Jones of Fulham in the same quarter are all clear examples. The forename “Bobs” appears in the GRO birth registrations from March quarter 1900 through to September 1901, and then reappears in March quarter 1915. This posthumous reappearance may show respect for Roberts’ death7 in France, three months into the Great War, when visiting troops from his birthplace of India.

    The registration of a Bobs Germiston V Sargeant in Lexden, 1900, highlights an enthusiasm for naming children after imperial places or scenes of military adventure. This phenomenom appears to have been particularly prominent during the Boer War specifically. Previous wars do not seem to have had the same effect: between 1854 and 1901, for example, only five births were registered in the name of the Crimea (Tayler, Ebers, Evans, Boswell and Price) and another five after Balaclava (Tucker, Gibbins, Lofthouse, Smith and Smith).

    Germiston is a city in the East Rand. Roberts commanded forces to attack there on the 29th August 1900, enabling the capture of Johannesburg two days later. Master Sargeant’s parents may have been influenced in their name choice by the overtly biased reporting of the time, as evinced in Winston Churchill’s The Boer War: London to Ladysmith Via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton’s March (Longmans Green, 1900):

    Advancing with great speed and suddenness through Elandsfontein, Lord Roberts surprised the Boers at Germiston, and after a brief skirmish drove them in disorder from the town, which he then occupied. So precipitate was the flight of the enemy, or so rapid the British advance, that nine locomotives and much other rolling stock was captured . . .

    Although the macho exploits of Roberts, Kitchener, and Baden-Powell were feted in newspapers and boys’ own literature across the Empire, there was one woman whose name became celebrated in this period. This was the war correspondent, Sarah Wilson8. Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta Wilson (1856-1929), to give her her full title, was the aunt of Winston Churchill (at the time, he was a war correspondent for the Morning Post). ‘Sarah Wilson’ was a common name, even when used as forenames, but in the period from June quarter 1900 to March quarter 1901 there was a marked rise in the number of female children registered thus with the GRO. More evident are the births of “Lady Sarah Wilson” (June 1900: West Bromwich and Hastings) and “Lady Sarah W Hunter” (Sep 1900, Middlesbro). Significantly,

    Sarah Wilson wrote for The Daily Mail, which was even then known for its sensationalist coverage and large working class readership. Its influence in 1900 is difficult to over-estimate. One history of the paper states: “By the start of the Boer War its circulation had risen above a million, far higher than any newspaper in the world.”9. When Sarah Wilson wrote in gushing terms about the heroic adventures of Baden-Powell, therefore, thousands of working class people would have either read or heard about them. It is probably no exaggeration to suggest that her writing10 influenced the naming of some of the “Baden”s mentioned above.

    “Sarah Wilson” aside, parents tended to stretch their imaginations when choosing to name girls after imperial themes. Several opted for place names, like Ladysmith and Pretoria. The reasons behind giving children these names are less obvious than in the case of naming for adventurous heroes. These parents may have wanted to celebrate the relief of sieges or British successes in the War, but in some cases (e.g. “Colenso Peace”) middle names suggest a less enthusiastic attitude to military activity. Some of the parents may have wanted to demonstrate their Britishness or to mark celebrations that they associated with the events of war. In the case of Pretoria, it may just be that they thought it sounded pretty as a name.

    From census returns and middle names, we know that most Pretorias were female, but there were exceptions: Pretoria Fredrick Adams from Devon, Pretoria Harold Banting from Gloucestershire, and Pretoria Mafeking Robert Randall from Berkshire. The most common combination for girls was Pretoria May – according to FreeBMD there were two hundred and nineteen registered between March quarter 1900 and September quarter 1908. British troops, under the command of Roberts, took Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, on 5 June 1900, but preparations had begun in the previous month. Other interesting, and obviously imperial combinations were Pretoria Mafeking Blomfom11 Ellis in Lancashire, Pretoria Anna Ladysmith Sexton from Erpingham in Norfolk, Pretoria Victress Spencer from North Yorkshire, and Pretoria Baden Wiseman in Bury St Edmunds.

    Some of the imperially named children had parents with a military connection. They may have wished to express support for British troops or demonstrate their association with their former regiments. Pretoria May Pritchard, for example, was the daughter of army pensioner, James Thomas Pritchard, and another was the child of a drill instructor. There are examples, too, of parents who had lived in various corners of the empire, such as the family of Pretoria Madge Taylor, whose brother, George A, was born in Dalhousie, India.

    Other parents seemed keener to give their children grand or distinctive names, not necessarily linked to the Empire: viz Pretoria Maud South (b1900), the daughter of Cartridge Foreman in Kensal Rise and her brother, Lord Algernon South.

    Before 1900 no child was registered in England and Wales with the name Mafeking. In May 1900-September 1901 forty-nine children (boys and girls) were registered in England and Wales with Mafeking as their first name. There was also a Mafeking Henry J Jones in Edmonton June 1905 and a Mafeking V Diskett in Dorchester June 1921. This Mafeking’s mother’s maiden name was Cawley; her mother may have been the Mafeking Cawley who was born June 1900 in Sherborne, making her naming less imperial and more familial. Middle names for earlier Mafekings, however, included Baden, May, Victor, Herbert, and Roberts.

    Between March quarter 1900 (when the Britains besieged in Ladysmith were relieved by troops under command of Lord Dundonald12) and Sep 1900, the births of twenty-four Ladysmiths were registered. There was also Ladysmith Winifred R Taylor, June 1902, in Islington, Ladysmith May Lambert, Sep 1903 in Sheffield, and Ladysmith J Lynas in Leyburn, 1931. This last may have been the daughter of Ladysmith Iceton (b. 1900), who died in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Of the other Ladysmiths, the only middle name that stands out is that of Ladysmith Shamrock and Thistles Dujon of Peterbro’. As the shamrock and thistle were the national flowers of Ireland and Scotland respectively, this may suggest support for these nations or specific regiments. Miss Dujon appears to be of imaginative parents with a brother named Prince George Alexander Dujon (1910-1988) and a sister named Princess Edna A(E)lvizea Dujon. The name choice may indicate eccentricity, but also an emphatic patriotism from her father who was born outside Britain but within the Empire. John (later Julyan John) Dujon was from the West Indies but settled in Peterborough, where he was working as a labourer in an iron foundry in 1901. By 1911 he was working there as a greengrocer hawker.

    Not all families were keen to name every one of their children after imperial themes. However, it was amongst the working classes that these unusual naming practices most commonly appear. Plumber’s daughter, Ladysmith Lack, for example, had a younger brother named Buller – named after Victoria Cross hero, Major-General Redvers Buller. The name Redvers was extremely popular between 1900 and 1902, both on its own and in combination with the imperially-associated Bullers, Gordon, Victor, Baden, Stanley, Kitchener, Nelson, Cecil, Roberts, Hector, Macdonald13 and Colenso14.

    Kimberley is first recorded as a first name in June quarter 1896 with Kimberley George Foster of Totnes. The next set of Kimberleys were boys and girls registered after the relief of its siege, between March 1900 and June 1901. The name re-emerged in June 1915, but only regained popularity in the 1950s.

    Naming children for empire was more common than the examples here may suggest. Although names in this post are distinctive and show an obvious connection to the Anglo-Boer War and the Empire, many more children were named after imperial heroes with common names. Thus, children born in this period who are named Cecil after Cecil Rhodes can be difficult to distinguish from those named for non-imperial reasons. Where middle names are checked, the link appears stronger. “Cecil Rhodes” appears fairly regularly between 1882 and 1897 when larger numbers appear. 1900 saw thirty-five Cecil Rhodes, whilst the June quarter of 1902 saw the registration of twenty-two. The numbers of boys registered as “Charles Gordon”, for example, saw a marked increase in numbers from February 1884 when General Charles Gordon, Royal Engineer and Christian zealot was sent to the Sudan to ‘rescue’ Egyptian forces from the Mahdi, but soon became besieged in Khartoum. After his death, or popularly perceived martyrdom, in January 1885 to December 1910, hundreds of boys were registered with his name.

    Peace came to South Africa on 31st May 1902. After this, the obvious naming after imperial heroes faded away. Evidence suggests that this explicit imperial fervour reached its peak during this war. However, some of the overt support for militaristic imperialism was reinvigorated in the Great War and names such as Kitchener made a limited return after 1914. Naming for empire may have been short-lived, but it was significant. Unlike Winston Churchill and other establishment figures mentioned here, most of those who named their children after imperial themes never contributed consciously to history books. Through their children’s names, however, these parents were able to indicate to future generations how they felt about the War, and of the impact it, and its representation in the popular newspapers of the time, had on their lives.

    1Bernard Porter, The Lion’s Share: a short history of British Imperialism 1850-2004 (Harlow: Pearson, 2004)

    2 Michael Blanch in Warwick, Peter (ed), The South African War. The Anglo-Boer war 1899-1902 (1980), p210

    3 Birth registrations in this post are based mainly on the records of the General Register of England and Wales (GRO). The indexes of these records can be accessed via a number of online sites, including www.ancestry.co.uk (Ancestry), www.findmypast.co.uk (FindMyPast), www.FreeBMD.org.uk (FreeBMD) and www.thegenealogist.co.uk (TheGenealogist).

    4 As a forename

    5 Accessed via www.freebmd.org.uk

    6 Accessed via www.findmypast.co.uk

    7 Field Marshal Lord Roberts died 14 November 1914 of pneumonia in St Omer, France.

    8Wilson’s South African Memories can be read online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14466

    9http://www.dmgt.co.uk/uploads/files/The-Story-of-the-Daily-Mail.pdf

    10For an example of her support of Baden-Powell, see Wilson’s article: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/9542340

    11Presumably a reference to Bloemfontein

    12The Relief of Ladysmith took place on 1 March 1900. Winston Churchill entered Ladysmith at the side of Lord Dundonald.

    13 Major General Hector “Fighting Mac” Macdonald (1853-1903) – Hector a very popular name: in Scotland in 1900 it was the 25th most registered boy’s name, but from September quarter 1899 there are hundreds of ‘Hector Macdonald’ forenames.

    14 The Battle of Colenso (in Natal, on the Tugela River) took place on 15 December 1899. It was one of the worst defeats of the war for the British, and thus may seem an unusual choice of name for British parents. Colenso appears in the GRO records in 1894. Up to March quarter 1904 there are four recorded. In 1902 a male child, Colenso Peace E Chipping was recorded in December quarter in Chertsey. His father, James Chipping, was a bricklayer.

  2. Save Camden Local Studies and Archives

    On 19 May 2011, Dan Carrier reported in the Camden New Journal (link to online article) that Camden Local Studies and Archives (Camden LS Homepage) is under threat of closure following the publication of the results of the Council’s library consultation.

    The article stated: “as the results of a library consultation are number-crunched and the Town Hall considers how to cut about 25 per cent of the service’s budget, the archives look likely to be merged with Islington’s or closed.”

    John Richardson, Chairman of the Camden History Society (http://www.camdenhistorysociety.org/) argues the consultation suggested that respondents “were in favour of spending less on local studies, not closing it.”

    It is not likely that Camden can merge its archives with that of Islington as Islington’s Local History Centre (Local History Centre) does not have the space to retain the vast resources that Camden LS currently holds (believed to be 180,000 items). Recent rumours suggest the archive could move to London Metropolitan Archives (http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm) However, critics of this move, such as the Camden History Society, point out that staff at LMA do not have the Camden-specific knowledge and experience that current researchers find so useful.

    As Dan Carrier wrote, the collection includes muskets from “the Napoleonic wars to maps of every drain in the borough”. With the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth in a few months time, it is important to note that three Dickens unpublished letters are also held in Camden LS. Many of these items are uncatalogued. In London, the only archive larger than Camden’s is that of Westminster City Archives (http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/libraries/archives/).

    It is ironic that councillors are looking to closing the Archives as part of a cost-cutting exercise. On numerous occasions, the Archives have, in fact, helped Camden Council to save money. Former chief archivist Malcolm Holmes told the New Journal of one example whereby using some of the old maps in the collection enabled the Council to save “around £150,000 in 1970s money”.

    It is also odd that Camden’s Council should choose to close the archive whilst in nearby Hackney a new state-of-the-art Archives is currently being built (http://www.hackney.gov.uk/ca-archives.htm) The borough of Hackney is just as badly affected by the cuts, and it is unclear why  investments in local history can be made by its Council but not by Camden’s.

    Camden Local Studies and Archives helps a wide variety of people – many of whom live outside the borough and were not party to the consultation. Those who currently use the Archives include: social, economic & house historians, genealogists, economists, journalists, teachers, schoolchildren, students, council employees, lawyers, builders, and authors. For family historians, its collections of parish rate books (dating from 1726),  local newspapers, electoral registers, theatre programmes, the registers of Highgate Cemetery and the photographs of local interest are invaluable. It also holds the unique Heal Collection on St Pancras and the Kate Greenaway Collection.

    Those who have voiced concern about the impending closure, include best-selling author of The Fields Beneath, Gillian Tindall, as well as Camden New Journal readers from London and beyond. In a letter to the newspaper, Camden resident, Lester May, wrote that, “Camden Council seems set on closing the local studies library and archives service in order to save around £135,000 . . . Thus one of the best resources of its kind in London, perhaps in the country, will be lost and this at a time when more people are interested in their family and local history than ever before. . . The loss of the local studies collection and archive would be permanent. There is sufficient in the council’s reserve of £95.8million for consideration to be given to funding the local studies library and archive service such that it is retained as a local service within the borough, ideally where it is currently located in Holborn.”

    John Richardson states that the Camden History Society “is particularly concerned . . . [about] its closure and its contents [being] shipped elsewhere . . . Camden are taking £135,000 out of the Local Studies budget, in effect making it impossible to function.” He argues further that this not what the consultation response indicated.

    The collections cover the area of the present London Borough of Camden. This includes the history of Hampstead, Holborn, St Pancras, Camden Town, Somers Town, Kentish Town, parts of Highgate, and the parishes of Hampstead, St Andrew Holborn above Bars, including the Liberty of Saffron Hill, St George the Martyr Queen Square, St Giles in the Fields, St George Bloomsbury, and St Pancras. The earliest parish records date from 1618.

    Update 7 June 2011

    Yesterday, on Monday 6 June, I attended a Camden Council scrutiny meeting of the library report. The Town Hall was packed with library and archives supporters. Gillian Tindall, author of The Fields Beneath, spoke as part of the deputation on behalf of the Camden History Society. She said that if Camden Local Studies is closed, it will be “a great loss for future generations” and “would be a black stain” on Camden Council’s record. Holborn Library Users Group was also represented (the Archives are housed in Holborn Library’s building). The group’s deputation argued that the loss of the Archives to Camden would be irreplaceable, and condemned the report’s suggestion that Local Studies provision be outsourced. The speaker further said that no library buildings in whole or in part should be sold without full public consultation. This was greeted with cheers and clapping from the gallery.

    Tudor Allen, Senior Archivist at Camden Local Studies & Archives, told the Councillors present that he would like to publicize the value of the material they hold. He reminded those present that the collection is invaluable.

    One councillor announced that she had to contact the Archives that very day about the oldest Market in Camden for a press release. This only goes to show how essential Camden Local Studies is to the smooth running of the entire council.

    Fiona Dean, the Council’s Assistant Director of Culture, said that they had spoken with the British Library, local university libraries, LMA & Islington about housing the records. However, they were agreed that keeping the archives within Camden is preferred option. Near the end of the meeting, Councillor Tulip Siddiq, the cabinet member for Culture, stated that the Archives will stay in Theobalds Road until suitable accommodation is found for them within the borough of Camden.

    The decision on Camden’s libraries & archives will be announced at Town Hall on this Wednesday, 8 June. Supporters of the Archives are urged to telephone their councillors before next Wednesday to ask them to vote for Option D.

    A full list of Camden’s councillors can be found on the Camden Council website.

  3. The Obituary of Miss Lily Knight: 29 May 1952

    lily-knight-1940

    Lily Florence Knight 1893-1952, seen here in 1940, around the time war forced her departure from the Palladium.

    A number of twitter users expressed interest when I tweeted recently about finding an obituary for my great grandmother, Lily Knight, in The Stage Archive (https://archive.thestage.co.uk).

    Although my great grandmother was not on the stage, our family knew that she had always worked in the theatre world. Her daughter, my grandmother, grew up around the theatre, and Lily’s grandchildren were treated to notable performances at the London Palladium. The tradition continued when my cousins and I were taken for our annual trip to West End theatres during summer holiday visits to Grandma in London.

    Lily adored her work: she became privy to all manner of backstage secrets and met the toast of the London stage. Her life in the theatre covered the music hall period from Marie Lloyd through the years of variety and the emergence of cinema, into the dance craze, the light comedies of Noel Coward, Repertory theatre, and the dominance of classical actors such as John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Redgrave and Alec Guinness.

    The discovery of the obituary filled the gaps in my knowledge of Lily’s career, pinpointing the exact theatres in which she worked and identifying some of her colleagues and employers.

    Lily Florence Knight began life in 1893, in a laundry in Stoke Newington. By the time of the 1911 census, Lily was working as a clerk in the establishment of a ‘Musical Agent’. Although Lily was just 17 years old, she had used all the intelligence, charm and looks at her disposal to make a career for herself away from the laundry in which most of the female members of her family worked. Her ambition was spurred by the contrast between the laundry she called home and the glamour of the early twentieth century stage.

    The obituary revealed that Lily had begun her career even earlier than 1911, when she ‘in her early teens’, working in the office of a ‘William Henshall’ – the aforementioned musical agent. Around this time, Lily married Sydney Spencer and gave birth to two children. In order to keep working Lily retained her maiden name and was always known professionally as ‘Miss’. According to the obituary, Henshall gave up the agency in the 1920s and it was then that Lily began working as a secretary at the Alexandra Theatre in Stoke Newington. During the twenties, the Alexandra housed pantomimes, films (it had been an early cinema for a short period) and circus performances. More details about this theatre can be found at the Music Hall and Theatre History Website: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/AlexandraTheatreStokeNewington.htm Some of its posters and programmes 1897-1935 are held at Hackney Archives (currently being moved to a new location) http://www.hackney.gov.uk/ca-archives.htm

    A few years later, possibly after the closure of the Alexandra in 1935, Lily transferred to the London Palladium – then one of the most celebrated theatres in the world, and in the heart of the West End. The Palladium was celebrated for its variety acts, and from 1935-39 saw a number of performances from the group later known as The Crazy Gang, which featured the composers Flanagan and Allen, as well as Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold. Here Lily worked as a secretary for the managers George Rhodes Parry and (later) Charles Hutchinson. Other acts of the 1930s who played the Palladium were the comedian Jack Benny, singer Paul Robeson, the musicians, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway, the actress Ethel Barrymore, the dancer and singer Josephine Baker, and the singer and entertainer Fats Waller (http://www.reallyuseful.com/theatres/london-palladium/history-1 ). It was during this period that Lily befriended the man in charge of bookings and, from 1945, the Managing Director of the Palladium, Val Parnell.

    Valentine Parnell (1892-1972), had begun his career as an office-boy, and later became a famous theatrical impresario and television producer. Val had been born in Hackney, and married firstly Dorothy O’Connell in 1913. In 1911 he was living with his ventriloquist father at 7 Wiltshire Road, Brixton. A biography and photographs of Val Parnell, can be seen at http://www.teletronic.co.uk/val_parnell.htm

    When war intervened, leading to the temporary closure of the Palladium in 1940, Lily took a position at the BBC. A few years later, in September 1943, she moved to the head office of the theatre owners, Moss Empires, working for Charles Henry, the head of the Press department and the chief of production. From 1946, Moss Empires owned the London Palladium, enabling Lily to keep in touch with old friends. More detail on how Moss Empires was run by a small staff at Cranbourne Mansions in Leicester Square can be read at http://glasgow-empire.webs.com/howmossempiresworked.htm

    Jack Sullivan, who had had been away serving in war, returned to Moss Empires and separated the Press department, taking Lily as his secretary. After he moved on, she continued to work for his successor John Carlsen.

    However, this happy period was soon to end. In 1952, Lily was struck down by cancerof theoesophagus. The obituary stated that, ‘After a short illness, during most of which she felt it her duty to carry on until it was impossible for her to continue. She was admitted to the Wanstead Hospital, where, after an operation, she died last Friday, May 23.’ Although it was known she was ill, she had been expected to return home after the operation. Lily’s death in hospital at the age of only 58 was a huge shock to her husband, children and grandchildren. And, as the obituary shows, Lily was to be deeply mourned by her beloved theatre world:

    Her great knowledge of the business and unfailing helpful attitude to the many inquirers day to day were invaluable, and her loss is grievously felt. . . . Val Parnell said: ‘I knew Lily Knight personally for a great number of years. She was a most likeable person, and we shall all miss her very much indeed.’

    The Stage, May 29, 1952, p4

     Further Reading: Christopher Woodward, The London Palladium: The Story of the Theatre and Its Stars (Jeremy Mills Publishing, 2009)

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