Friday, 19 July 2013

Sepia Saturday 186: Jack and Gill, a Christmas Pantomime?


Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett

Although by far the majority of carte de visite and cabinet photographs were run-of-the-mill studio portraits of people in their Sunday best, browsing of old photo collections shows that even from the early 1860s many visited the studio wearing costumes. Some of these are clear representations of a particular character popular on the stage or in folklore, perhaps imitating the copyrighted photographs of actors published in significant numbers which have become sought after collectibles, while others are not quite so obvious.

I have previously written about such portraits from the mid-1880s by Derbyshire photographers Schmidt and Brennen, possibly depicting characters from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical (Dame Hannah and Ruddigore). Later examples from my collection include group photos with costumes from G+S's The Mikado and Tennyson's poem-play Dream of Fair Women.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
"Jack & Gill," Capt. Marshall & Miss Pepworth, c.1881-1883
Cabinet card by H. Kisch, Maritzburg, Natal, South Africa
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This week we have a South African couple, he at least dressed in costume, and an inscription on the reverse informs us that the subjects, identified as Captain Marshall and Miss Pepworth, are masquerading as "Jack & Gill." Whether this was for a stage performance - perhaps even a Christmas pantomine - or to attend a fancy dress party, will probably never be revealed. The portrait was almost certainly taken outdoors, although the latticework window, rocks, branches and plants appear to have been at least partly arranged by the photographer. The nature of the "second edge" close to the lower edge of the print suggests to me that it is a copy of a slightly earlier print mounted on card.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of cabinet card mount by Henry Kisch
with inscription handwritten in black/dark blue ink
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Although the portrait is undated, Bensusan's comprehensive list of South African photographers shows that Henry Kisch operated photographic studios in Maritzburg (now Pietermaritzburg) between 1877 and 1885, after which he moved to Durban. The arrangement on the reverse of the card mount, with a diagonal signature, large ornate initial letters and ivy/scroll work, is typical of the "large letter" designs by Marion Imp of Paris that Roger Vaughan describes as being commonly used in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Image © and courtesy of David Hill
Captain George Marshall (centre), Pietermaritzburg racecourse, 1890
Image © and courtesy of David Hill

A search on the net quickly led me to David Marshall's family history web pages, which include biographical details of his great-grandparents George Marshall (1850-1921) and Sarah Eleanor Pepworth (1859-1890). After an education at Rugby school, George went into the family business as a timber merchant. From 1873 he served with the Middlesex Yeomanry Cavalry, and in 1878 went with them out to South Africa where they fought in the Anglo-Zulu War in that and the following year.

Image © and courtesy of David Hill
Sarah Eleanor Pepworth, c. late 1870s
Image © and courtesy of David Hill

After the conclusion of the war he settled in Natal and on 4 July 1883 married Sarah Eleanor Pepworth, daughter of a prominent local resident and former mayor, Henry Pepworth, J.P. George started a timber business in Natal, while he and Sarah lived on a farm in the Dargle Valley, in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. Sarah died in August 1890, a few weeks after giving birth to their second child, and two years later George Marshall returned to England with the two young children, ending their association with South Africa.

References

Bensusan, A.D. (1963), 19th Century Photographers in South Africa, Africana Notes and News, Volume 15, No. 6, pp. 219-52, from South African Photographers of the 19th Century, on Ancestry24.

David Murray Marshall Hall's Ancestors and their Descendants

38 comments:

  1. Brett, another great blog. Love your work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As always, a fascinating, but sad, story with great pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So sad about poor Sarah dying young and after childbirth. I wonder if the Captain gazed at their Jack and Gill picture in all those lonely years following her death, and remembered the fun they had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sad to think that it somehow made it's way onto eBay, really.

      Delete
  4. Don't you think that's "Jack and Jill" getting ready to "go up the hill", rather than Jack and Gill? She doesn't look like a Gill!
    Barbara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're forgetting that Gill is an alternative spelling for Jill, as in Gillian. Certainly they are the nursery rhyme characters - I thought that so obvious that I didn't think it needed reiterating, sorry.

      Delete
  5. I think that it's Jack and Jill too. That bucket gives it away.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ah... the costumes from Tennyson's poem-play must be fantastic! I love the Jack and Jill photo. Lovely and charming.

    Hazel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is rather unusual, and rather charming, I agree.

      Delete
  7. Ooh Brett I always learn so much from your blog posts. Now, the big ignoramus in me must ask - what is Ancestry24 - is that like an add on to the usual Ancestry subscription? Secondly did David Marshall know about the Jack and Gill photo??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Ancestry24 is a web site devoted to genealogy resources for southern Africa, but I haven't browsed it much - just got there via a Google search.

      David Hill wasn't aware of it, but he is now!

      Delete
  8. The stuff you dig up about a photo is amazing. Its a sad story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was lucky with this one, but I have to say that it is an amazing photograph to start with.

      Delete
  9. You tell us a story about Jack and Gill(Jill) and then rather ironically there are photos by David Hill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That hadn't occurred to me - well spotted.

      Delete
  10. So sad, so many of those deaths that today never would have happened. Those were the days back then. You certainly pleased us again with your story and photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to presume that she died as a result of complications after child birth, but that may not have been the case. I found views of the cemetery where she's buried on Google Maps, but it's rather a neglected cemetery so I didn't include a shot of that.

      Delete
  11. Another perfect example of an old photograph opening a window into a fascinating personal story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fortunate when they hold such important clues.

      Delete
  12. Another fine post. I always learn something new.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It's amazing how a pair of quotation marks can transform a story! Your best research often comes from teasing out the thread in those little details.

    You may have found this already, but I looked up the "Jack & Gill" title in musicals101.com, and found a show by that name in 1866. But I like the idea of a young officer and his sweetheart dressing up for a costume ball. I like the Captain's gaiters too. A nice authentic touch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Mike. That is an interesting snippet that I hadn't found, and may well have been the inspiration for the outfits. Yes, I noticed the gaiters - they are very similar to pictured in my "Gamekeepers" article.

      Delete
  14. I cannot help thinking that the umpire 'Hart-Davis' will be an ancestor of one of my favourite TV doucumentary presenters on interesting topics, but who I have no seen of late.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Hart-Davis

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had no idea what you were talking about, but I did get there in the end. Yes, you may well be right.

      Delete
  15. I doubt many couples today would dress as Jack & Jill/Gill for a costume party.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think you're right, except perhaps for pre-schoolers.

      Delete
  16. What a sad story. They were such a happy fun-loving couple. The marriage was probably very successful and then wham! she had to die so young. Not fair.
    Great post, as usual.
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose deaths in childbirth, either of the mother or child, were far more common in the nineteenth century than they are now, but it still must have been a terrible shock to all. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Nancy.

      Delete
  17. That's it?!?
    How unlikely form you.
    What happened next?
    Did he remarry?
    What did the children become?
    Any descendants still living?
    I bet you're keeping the next chapter
    for some other time...
    Teaser!!!
    ;)~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well yes, there is plenty more but, since the "Jack & Gill" photo will shortly be on its way to this couple's great-grandson, I thought I'd leave it to him to tell that story.

      Delete
    2. Alright then...
      Sniff!!
      :(~

      Delete
    3. The link to David's web site is in my references, if you want to visit it, and read between the lines.

      Delete

Join my blog network
on Facebook