Olive Maud Macaulay

olive maud macaulay a small

Everybody belongs to somebody. That is the thought I always have in my head when I acquire new portraits and embark on a little research.

Take the above cabinet card, for instance. It arrived with a small collection of other photographs relating to the Monson family (see previous blog posts). An attractive lady in a pretty dress with an enigmatic expression. To me, she looks young and full of hope, but the card does not identify who she is.

Fortunately a second cabinet card of the same lady (below) is inscribed on the reverse, with the name ‘Olive Bruce (nee Macaulay)’:

olive maud macaulay c small

Here she appears a little older and perhaps more pensive. I sense some sadness in her expression. So now I am intrigued.

From the newspaper archives I quickly learn that a marriage took place 19th August 1903 between Robert Perry Bruce, of Florence, and Olive Maud Macaulay, of Paignton, South Devon. The wedding is described in some detail in the Western Morning News (20 August 1903), and appears to have been a grand affair with the bride wearing a dress of ‘rich braided cream silk, with train to match, covered with family Honiton lace‘.

Marriage Western Morning News - Thursday 20 August 1903

Sadly, Robert Bruce died in 1914 at the age of just 52. Olive outlived her husband by a further fifty-four years, passing away 1968 in Merton, Surrey, at the age of 93.

How is Olive connected to the Monson family, such that her portrait was bundled together with their own family portraits? Among the (long!) list of wedding presents described in the newspaper is an ‘antique jewelled cross’ gifted by ‘Mr and Mrs Henry Monson’. Could this be Henry John Monson from my previous blog post? In which case, Mrs Monson would be Theodosia A. E. Wright. And the name Theodosia runs through these families, with Henrietta Anne Theodosia Monson as another of the portraits, and Olives’ own sister Miss Lois Theodosia Macaulay (born 1882; see above extract).

The connections might not be straight-forward and require further research, but in the end I come back to my first thought. That everybody belongs to somebody.

Various information from Ancestry.co.uk

Newspaper clipping/quotes from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Henrietta Anne Theodosia Monson


At first glance, I mistook this lady for Queen Victoria. She is, however, the grandly named Henrietta Anne Theodosia Monson, born 1826 and baptised in Bedale, Yorkshire the same year. At the time of this portrait she would have been around 65 years old.

Henrietta was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Monson, and Aunt to the Monson siblings in my previous blog post.

On 2nd March 1848, she married Henry William de la Poer Beresford and adopted her husband’s family name of Peirse, to become Henrietta A T Beresford Peirse. While her early life and older age were spent at the The Grange in Bedale, she lived many of her adult years in the Peirse family home of Bedale Hall:

bedale_hall_-_geograph-org-uk_-_636593BEDALE HALL By Gordon Hatton, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (29 October 1921) records her passing, and describes ‘Mrs Beresford-Peirse’ as ‘affable and greatly benevolent’, commenting that ‘although her health had declined…. she preserved her faculties in a wonderful degree’. Her portrait presents her as a strong woman, so I’m not in the least surprised to learn that she lived to the late age of ninety-five.

Monson Family – Two Weddings And A Dress



While it’s fun to buy job-lots of victorian photographs on eBay, I can never be sure if they are connected to one another. So I was happy to discover that the man above, named as H J Monson, was the brother-in-law of Eric James Wright who featured in my previous post.

Henry John Monson was baptised in Kirby Underdale, Yorkshire, on 26th October 1862. In 1901 he married Theodosia Anne Emily Wright, the sister of Eric James Wright. The following account is taken from the St Jame’s Gazette (22 August 1901) in which the bride’s dress is described as ‘a gown of ivory satin flounced with chiffon and trimmed with Brussels lace‘:


A name that stands out is that of brother Mr. Gilbert J Monson since he is depicted on an accompanying cabinet card, although the inscription is faint and hard to read (‘Gilbert Monson, HJM’s youngest brother’?):



Born in 1876, Gilbert would have been twenty-five at the time of the wedding. In the above photograph he is still a young boy, smartly dressed but perhaps a little timid-looking.

The brothers had several other siblings, including the beautiful lady below. She is Caroline Alexandrina Monson (born 1865) and, according to a Monson family descendent who has kindly contacted me, shortened her name to ‘Aline’:



I therefore believe the inscription, while difficult to read, says ‘Aline Monson – passed on at Mentone – Connie was with her)’. Caroline did indeed die at Mentone, France in 1908, and it would seem that her sister Constance was by her side.

A third sister, Alice, married Captain Cecil Maddock, as reported in the Luton Times and Advertiser (1 June 1906). Intriguingly, Alice’s dress was ‘a costume of ivory satin draped with old Brussels lace‘. Could this be the same dress worn by Theodosia Anne Emily Wright a few years beforehand?

Gilbert Monson is also mentioned, this time ‘giving’ his sister away:


Sadly, Alice died just two years later, as recorded in ‘Homeward Mail from India, China and the East, 30 May 1908’: MADDOCK – May 1, at Karwar, Alice Edome, wife of Capt. E.C.G. Maddock, India Medical Service.

I see a definite likeness between Caroline and Gilbert and I’m happy that all three photographs are together, as I think they should be. There is one more cabinet card to explore from this family, which will be the subject of my next post.


Eric James Wright


This cabinet card of a smartly dressed young man is the first in a series that I recently acquired from eBay. On the reverse is written ‘Eric James Wright – born 1880’.

On the 1881 census and age just 5 months old, Eric can be found in Cambridge, England with his brother George Denman Larken Wright and sister Theodosia Anne Emily Wright. In 1891 he is a pupil at Aysgarth School, North Yorkshire and by 1901 a student of Trinity College, Cambridge University.

According to the Cambridge University Alumni records (Ancestry.com), Eric managed several mines during his adult life including the Concordia tin mines of Bolivia and the Chorolgne tin and bismuth mines in the Andes. He died in Bolivia in 1940, leaving his effects to sister Theodosia Anne Emily Monson (England & Wales, National Probate Calendar).

Which leads me neatly to the Monson family, the subject of my next post.

Blanche Victorine Forsythe (Actress)

blanche forsythe actress

Recently bought on eBay, this vintage photograph is roughly the size of a cabinet card. Unfortunately it has been trimmed and part of the signature is missing, but the 1911 census helps to identify her as Blanche Forsythe, an English actress born 1873. She made her name in various theatrical productions and later in silent films.


Blanche signed the 1911 census (Class: RG14; Piece: 7283; Schedule Number: 34). She lived with her mother and two brothers in Tottenham, London at the time of the census and gave her occupation as ‘actress’.

In the above photograph Blanche is dressed as Trilby O’Ferrall from a stage adaptation of the novel ‘Trilby’ by George Du Maurier (published 1894).

The following interview is taken from the Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser, 31 July 1896. In it, the interviewer asks Blanche to compare herself to another English actress Dorothea Baird, who also played ‘Trilby’ around the same time. Blanche is unfazed, saying that neither is “better than the other”:



During the 1910s, Blanche was cast in various silent movies including title roles in ‘Jane Shore‘, ‘East Lynne‘ and ‘Sixty Years a Queen‘. Coincidentally she also played the part of Ustane in the film adaptation of ‘She‘ by Henry Rider Haggard, an author I have previously come across while writing this blog. The IMDb website has more information about Blanche’s film success.

I have searched but am yet to come across any other clear photographs of Blanche Forsythe on the internet. If anyone knows of any, please contact me!

Update (January 2018)

Thank you to Debbie for contacting me and sharing information. Debbie has brought my attention to the BFI Player, where Blanche Victorine Forsythe can be seen in a small number of early films. In particular, in 1915 Blanche stars as Sal in ‘Heart of a Coster’ (3’25”), and as Peggy in ‘The Lure of Drink’ (from the beginning). Both are well worth viewing!