My Pillinger Women: No. 3 Julia Pillinger

St Swithin’s, Walcot.

It will be no surprise if I say I am interested in those women who in days of yore, when it was doubly or trebly difficult, managed to have a life outside the domestic sphere. This piece is about two women named Julia, mother and daughter.

Julia Bartlett was baptised at Lyncombe and Widcombe near Bath on 1st September 1797, though according to censuses she was born in London. She was the daughter of William and Sarah Bartlett (nee Bassett) who were married in the parish on 19th May 1793. All parties, including the witnesses, Thos. Russell and Robert Sainsbury signed the register.

At the age of eighteen, Julia became the principal soprano of the Bath Harmonic Society and throughout her youth made frequent appearances in concerts and Eistedfodds throughout Somerset, Gloucestershire and even as far afield as Carmarthenshire in Wales.

The following is an example:  On 12 November 1818 a large advertisement trailed a Grand Concert of vocal and instrumental music at York Street Bath, in which “Miss Bartlett” was second in the list of performers. The first act comprised selections from Haydn’s The Creation in which she would have sung in the chorus, but her big moment came in Act 2 in a solo performance when she sang “Sweet Bird of Youth”.  Tickets were expensive, priced at 7 shillings, way above the weekly earnings of the average labourer.

On 21st November 1822 Julia married an apothecary, George Pillinger, (see The Pillinger Family Part 3) at St Swithin’s, Walcot, Bath. Both parties signed the register, as did their witnesses, the bride’s father William Bartlett, the groom’s sister, Eliza Pillinger and a Maria Hobson.

St Swithin’s, Walcot.

St Swithin’s, Walcot.

Julia continued taking part in concerts after she was married (George must have been an unusually supportive husband for the time), now styled “Mrs Pilllinger” according to the custom of the time.  In April 1823 at Mr A. Loder’s concert “attended by a brilliant and fashionable audience” in Bath “Mrs Pillinger introduced a new song composed by Mr Loder and was warmly applauded.”  She was in the early stages of pregnancy. A daughter was born 17th November 1823, almost exactly a year after Julia and George were married. The baby was baptised Julia Maria at Walcot on 3rd March 1824.

Julia continued singing. In January 1825 she duetted with Miss Owen “in the finest style” before the aristocracy, Lord & Lady Liverpool and the Bishop of Bath & Wells. In April 1825, when she was pregnant again, she appeared on the bill with “Signor Rovedino, an establisheed vocal professor and teacher of the Spanish guitar.”

She gave birth to a son George William Pillinger, June/July 1825. The little boy, who does not appear to have been christened, died at 8 months old. He was buried at St James’ church, Bath. His obituary notice is in the Bath Chronicle of 23rd February 1826).

Grief may have been instrumental in keeping Julia from the public stage for half a decade. Perhaps she wanted another baby, but none appeared. So when an opportunity arose she gritted her teeth and accepted the invitation.

The bill in Bath Chronicle, 3rd April 1828,  advertising, “a Grand Concert” shows that she was a popular performer who had been greatly missed. Her name was near the top of the bill, and announced:

“Mrs Pillinger (Her first Public Perfirmance for five years)”

After this success, another tragedy followed. George Pillinger died at the young age of 38. He was buried at St Peter & St Paul, Bath Cathedral, on 8th September 1829.

Without the financial bulwark of the apothecary’s shop, and now a single parent with a young daughter to support, Julia, mindful that “young ladies” of a certain stratum in society were often required to trill a song or two at private gatherings, became a singing teacher, or more grandly, a “Professor of Music”. She also widened her scope, and performed in Bristol as well as Bath. In May 1831 she and Miss Watson “from the Bath Concerts” appeared on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Bristol.

In Bath, around Christmas 1831, she had a frightening experience: “Mrs Pillinger, Professor of Music, of 45 New King Street was passing the left side of Brooks Street when a Ruffian dressed in a smock frock pushed against her and at the same time cut the strings of her reticule, and made off with it. Because of the shock of the assault Mrs Pillinger did not discover her loss for some time after. It contained £57 in notes and sovereigns. The Police are prosecuting a diligent search.” (The event was news in both the Bristol Mercury 27th December and the Bath Chronicle.)

On 27th July 1833 the death was announced of Mr William Bartlett, (formerly a carpenter of Trim Street, Bath) “father of Mrs Pillinger of New King Street, at the advanced age of 102 years.” (The obituary was carried by the Bristol Mercury but I have been unable to find where the aged parent was buried.) After this loss Julia seems to have centred her activities in Bristol.  She gave a concert at the Assembly Rooms, Clifton on 18th April 1836 reviewed in glowing terms by the Bristol Mercury: “Mrs Pillinger performed to a refined and judicious taste, various pieces executed in a superior manner. Hummel’s “Offertorium” and the grand scene from “La Somnambula”. The cast assembled by Mrs Pillinger, said the newspaper, showed that Clifton audiences knew how to appreciate home grown talent “uninfluenced by the fashionable folly of giving credit to none but foreign artists.” Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal was slightly less enthusiastic, the concert was “on the whole a good one” attended by 200 people, but suggested that several of the pieces would have been enhanced by a band. “Farewell ye limpid springs”, though well sung by Julia herself, “lost much of [its] beauty through having only a pianoforte accompaniment….the song ’Sweet Bird of Youth’ [an old favourite] without a flute or a violin obligato is like Hamlet without Ophelia.”

It was not all wine and roses: when Julia appeared amid various acts at the Theatre Royal, King Street, 16th September 1837, the recital was “Thinly attended”.  A few weeks later in October she kept her name before the public by appearing in a ‘Benefit’ concert to aid the widow of the late Mr John Stansbury. Such appearances did not pay the rent.

On 17th April 1839, Mrs Pillinger advertised her latest venture: “an Academy for instruction of a select number of pupils. Singing, Accompaniments and the Piano-Forte. Cards of Terms at her residence, 6 Queen Square.”

Her name still carried some weight: at the Annual Concert of Sacred Music at Assembly Rooms, Hotwells, November 1839, among the soloists was “Miss Laura Strachan, (pupil of Mrs Pillinger).”

Plans were afoot concerning the future of Julia Maria, who was coming up to fifteen. She had shown some aptitude for music and on 7th May 1840 she was accepted as a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London, recommended by the Academy’s founder, Lord Burghersh, himself a musician and composer. She lived in and received “full support”. At that time the Royal Academy was a3-4 Tenterden Street, Hanover Square, the unoccupied town house of Lord Carnarvon.

With her daughter away at college, Julia was able to give more time to her teaching career. She had gone into partnership with a pianist, Miss Woods, and they began a series of morning concerts to advertise their new venture. On 20th June 1840 the Bristol Mercury carried a long report about such a concert at the Horticultural Rooms, Park Street given by Mrs Pillinger and Miss Woods. It was “respectably attended”. Julia’s songs were “characterised with her usual taste and feeling, and her sterling merits as a teacher of music were most ably shown by her pupil Miss Laura Strachan” who sang “Kathleen Mavourneen” with great feeling.…….  In a postscript the paper “wished Mrs Pillinger and Miss Woods every success in forming an academy for singing and the pianoforte in these rooms.”

Julia by now had met the man who would become her second husband. Presumably she now desired to cut her ties with Bath and on the 20th October 1840 a Bath Corporation deed shows that she was “of Bristol” when she and Maria Keene of Walcot, widow, (her sister-in-law) traded the remainder of a 99 year lease on two properties in Bath at 37 Southgate Street and 16 Somerset Street,  to William Watson, a baker & mealman. Consideration £825, rent £6. (B&NES R.O. ref BC153/696/3)

On 5th November 1840 Julia married for the second time. The marriage which took place at Bedminster was announced in the local papers two days later: “Mr Richard Harris of Clare Street to Mrs Pillinger, Prof. of Music and Singing, Queen Square. Late of City of Bath.”

It seems quite likely that Julia and Richard met through their work. He was a carver & gilder and quite possibly worked on scenery for the Theatre Royal and other venues.

The census of 1841 shows that Richard was five years younger than his wife (though in fact the difference was nearer eight years). Their address given was Queen Square, Bristol from which Julia had advertised the Academy a year or so before.

A report, 31st December 1842, shows that the “Academy” was still going, but reads like a squib: it does appear that no reporter attended, and gives the suspicion that it was possibly sent in by Julia herself.  There were still occasional mentions in the papers as in 30th March 1844 when “Miss King, Pupil of Mrs Richard Harris, principal vocal performer, would be in concert at the Assembly Rooms, Prince Street.

On 27th March 1846, Richard’s father Thomas Harris died aged 70, “after a long and severe illness”. The address in the obituary is Queen Square: the elderly man may have lived with Richard and Julia.

Julia must have been holding on for her daughter’s return so that the Academy could be revamped.  On 19th June 1847 it was advertised once again.

“Musical Academy. Mrs Richard Harris, Professor of Singing and Miss Pillinger, her daughter, Professor of Pianoforte announce the opening at 29 Queen Square.

In the census of 1851, the family was still at 6 Queen Square shown as Richard, aged 45, Julia aged 53, “Professor of singing” and Julia Pillinger aged 26, “Professor of Pianoforte”.

By 2nd August 1856, the Academy had obviously been out of action for some time. Mother and daughter “proudly announced” that it would be re-opening “Tuesdays and Fridays school; private lessons as usual.”

By 1861, the enterprise had fallen on hard times, no. 6 Queen Square was a lodging house with a keeper, Mrs Harriet Page, a servant, and three lodgers, a William Porter and the two Julias, now 63 and 38 respectively. They still waved their Professorial credentials but I wonder whether they still had any pupils. Richard Harris is notably absent, somewhere unknown. It might be suspected that the strain of keeping hopes alive in a clearly failing business had seen him off, but this was not the case. He was still alive in 1871, by which time he and Julia were together again – in lodgings – at 7 West Clifton View, a boarding house, still clinging to their respective occupations, “Carver & Gilder” and “Professor Of Music”.

Julia Pillinger, now 38, was living at 2 Park Row, St Augustine’s, in the “arty” household of James Chute “dramatic manager” and his wife Mazzarina.

And thereby hangs a twist.

About a dozen years ago I was out one day with my daughter Celia when she pulled into a garage on Park Row, Bristol for petrol. I noticed this plaque, on the wall:

Blue Pacque Macready Chute Family, Bristol

I was vaguely aware of the actor William Macready but that was about as far as it went. I was prompted, who knows through what agency, to take a picture of the plaque. And that might have been that, except that when I downloaded the photo, I began idly to seek references to the “Macready Chutes” named in the blurb.

First up, 1841, and Sarah Macready, 50, “lessee of a theatre” was living in a lodging house in Queen Square, Bristol kept by Marianne Vickerman, aged 45. Sarah, nee Desmond, an actress, was the second wife of William Macready, Manager of the Theatre Royal who had died on 11th April 1829, leaving her with “two orphans”. (The famous actor William Macready was a son of the first marriage.)
The census of 1851 showed Sarah aged 58, “lessee of theatres” living at Walcot, Bath in the Assembly Rooms with her son in law James H. Chute, aged 41, who was proprietor of the establishment, born in Stoke, Hampshire, his wife, (Sarah’s daughter), Mazzarina Emily aged 26, born in Swansea and their two sons William aged 5 and Henry, 2. A daughter aged 10 days was unnamed.

James Henry Chute and Mazzarina Emily Macready had been married at Westminster in the winter of 1844. Here then were the “Macready Chutes” of the plaque.
Sarah Macready’s obituary with details of her life and career appeared in the Bristol Mercury of 12th March 1853, her age given was 64.

It is clear from advertisements that James Henry Chute was the manager of the Theatre Royal at this time. On 2nd June 1861 the “Royal Dramatic College” thanked him for donating a portrait of “W. Macready, senior, esq.”

James Henry took over the Princes Theatre in 1866. See: http: //

In 1871, James Henry, by then 60, “dramatic manager” and Mazzarina, 46, and five of their children between the ages of 20 and 6 years were residing at 2 Park Row, next to a school for the “deaf and dumb”. Henry, aged 2 in 1851, was by then twenty two and an assistant house surgeon at the Bristol Infirmary.

Now here’s the surprise. Evidence of the voice from the ether that had rung a bell in my head and prompted me to take the photo? Living with the Chutes, of course, was Julia Pillinger, aged 50, spinster, a music teacher.

I can’t help thinking that my idea that Richard Harris made theatrical scenery was correct and that the acquaintanceship Pillinger-Harris-Macready-Chute continued for at least thirty years.
Julia Maria Pillinger died aged 53 in the winter of 1876, leaving “effects under £2,000”.

Mr & Mrs Chute did not survive her long. Mazzarina died aged 54 in March 1878 of Bright’s disease and James Henry aged 67 of liver failure the following July. They were survived by six sons and three daughters, two of whom, George and James took over the management of the Princes Theatre.

George Macready Chute and his wife Abigail Philomena were living at Cotham Gardens, Westbury on Trym in 1891. In 1901 they were in Sidmouth with their son Desmond, aged five. In 1911 they were in Folkestone whilst Desmond, now 15 was boarding at Downside School. Despite apparently no longer living in Bristol, George M.’s occupation throughout is “Theatrical Proprietor/Manager.” According to the plaque the family was associated with the Princes Theatre until 1931.

Julia Harris died aged 83 in 1880. An obituary notice on 23rd November reads: “At West Clifton View Terrace, Mrs Richard Harris, for 50 years Professor of Music & Singing, Bath & Bristol, and mother of the late Julia Pillinger.”

In 1881 Richard, retired, aged 75, was living in a single apartment, at 9 West Clifton Terrace. He had a visitor on census night, a widow, Dorothy Bodey, aged 54. He died in 1886.

Epilogue: Kurt of Gerolstein compiles a very interesting blog on Bath history. His entry “Singers of Somerset” (3) features Julia Bartlett-Pillinger-Harris. He also writes:

“A family historian relates that they [the Harrises] became friendly with the theatrical Macready & Chute families. I see nothing to substantiate that, but it may be true.”

I may be that “family historian” but I have no recollection of speaking to Kurt. However, I respectfully offer the proof here. Not much of a connection, I admit, but there definitely is one!

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