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The London Apprentice Music Hall in the 1860s


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Juvenile performers on the music hall stage.....

[This is from a piece I cobbled together for family history research a while ago. Clara Cavalier was the illegitimate daughter of my GGGG grandfather Anthony Cavalier, who was a Sheffield sugar-refiner and Chartist councillor for Ecclesall ward 1849-1852. I had assumed the London Apprentice Music Hall was part of the ‘London Apprentice’ pub on West Bar, but from the posts in the ‘Sheffield Pubs’ section of this site, the ‘London Apprentice’ on Spring Street sounds more likely]: -


During the 1860s a small number of younger locals, without a main family wage-earner, managed to avoid the Workhouse: the line-up at the nearby London Apprentice Music Hall included orphans, runaways and others blighted by family tragedy.

There were singing sisters Ellen and Sarah Byrnes ("Jenny and Topsy"), already fatherless, soon to lose their mother too; Ellen was old enough to marry, so Sarah (aged 7) teamed up with Clara Lilian Cavalier (aged 11) who was in the same predicament, to form "Topsy and Emma, Duettists and Juvenile Wonders".

Bridget Conolly ("Bessie Armytage, the Great Contralto"), it was said, altered the hands of the clock at her Convent School in Hull to cover her escape - to travel with the singing troupe of Annie Milner ("Madame Tonellier") and pursue a music-hall career.

There was also Emma Taylor (aged 11), appearing despite condemnation of the stage by her father Charles, a Sheffield comb-manufacturer, and by her mother, a clergyman's daughter. Charles Taylor died in 1866, and she was soon wed - to Singing Clown Joe Hodson, with his own backstory of running away to join a circus, and the couple founded Hodson's Portable Music-hall in a roaming horse-drawn caravan.

(Sources: mainly local newspapers and family research)

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