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The Ebsworth / Fairbrother Extended Family

This page summarizes the extensive documentation available on Joseph Ebsworth and his wife Mary Emma Fairbrother and their extended family.

Details of how this couple appear to be a part of our family history can be found on the Cooper page.

The following people are described on this page:

Robert "Bob" Fairbrother (1767-1841) [father of Mary Emma Fairbrother] was a popular pantomine artist (also dancer and acrobat) appearing regularly at London's Sandler's Wells and Drury Lane Theatres. His meeting with his future wife Mary Bailey is documented in a book entitled Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi, by Charles Dickens.

Bob Fairbrother was also popular in North America, an obituary appearing in a New York paper on 13 March 1841. He also appears to have been a favorite of the Prince of Wales (later King George IV). Later in life he was a stage and theatre manager.

The following are excerpts from the London Times of some of his performances (click picture for full article):

15 Jan 1789
5 Oct 1789
25 Oct 1790
12 Feb 1795

The following are excerpts from the Daily Universal Register of some of his performances (click picture for full article):

18 Sep 1786
29 Aug 1787
10 Sep 1787
12 Sep 1787

As a side note, he was also a school friend of Dorothea Bland and maintained their friendship throughout their lives. He refused to publish their correspondence and all her letters were destroyed on his death. Dorothea Bland, stage name Jordan; better known as Mrs Jordan, was the mistress of King William IV, with whom they had at least 10 children. There is a recent biography on Mrs Jordan by Claire Tomalin entitled "Mrs Jordan's Profession". Curiously Dora Jordan lived in Hull for some of her life and some of her observations of the place are interesting.

As was the fashion in those days Robert and Mary Fairbrother had a large family (4 girls and 3 boys). The following summarizes the careers of some of their children.

Mary Emma Fairbrother (1794-1881) was a dramatist, pantomimist and fencing master. She was fluent in french (taught by her mother) and transcribed several books and plays. She married Joseph Ebsworth in 1817 and had 10 children (only 3 survived her). In 1826 she moved with her family (and 2 of her sisters) to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Amelia and Sophia Fairbrother were twins born in 1804. Amelia, better known as Anne, married an actor Charles Hill and moved to North America in 1840. They eventually settled in Canada (Montreal / Toronto). She was an accomplished dancer and in the off-season started a number of dancing schools. Mary Jane Warner has published a biography of Anne Fairbrother Hill.


Anne (Fairbrother) Hill.

Robert Fairbrother (sometimes referred to as John) was a theatre publisher / printer.

Other children of Robert and Mary Emma Fairbrother also had stage careers.

Joseph Ebsworth married Mary Emma Fairbrother in 1817. He was initially trained as a watch maker but left this trade to join the operatic company at Covent Garden. he moved with his family to Edinburgh around 1826 were he became a music (specifically singing) teacher. He also authored a number of popular drama and transcribed plays, dramas and songs. He owned an operated a book shop specializing in dramas and music of the day. He was also a linguist, particularly in "dead" languages such as Hebrew, Sanscript etc. See also Joseph Ebsworth's obituary from "The Scotsman".

Joseph and Mary Emma Ebsworth had 10 children, 5 in London and 5 in Edinburgh. Only 3 survived their parents.

Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth (1824-1908) was initially a painter and later became the vicar of Molash in Kent. Seemingly in his spare time he published 22 volumes of old english ballards and songs, being the first of such an archive; the volumes are still discussed today.


water colour painting (of Edinburgh) by J. W. Ebsworth.

There is possibly also a T. Woodfall Ebsworth who appears in "The Scotsman" giving lectures on literary subjects (see T. Woodfall Ebsworth poem). The Woodfall name is interesting as there is a Woodfall family from London who were newpaper owners (and one is quite famous for starting what we now know as political reporting).

Emilie Marguerite Ebsworth (1818-?) married a popular comedian Sam Cowell (1819-1864). He was popular both sides of the atlantic. Emilie kept a diary of one of their visits to New York which has been subsequently published.


Sam Cowell.

Lastly, and by no means least, is our George Henry Ebsworth (1838-1909) Importer and Exporter of fish (and good for him!). I feel some sympathy for him, he grew up in an obviously talented family but had different skills, his wife passed away in her forties and his children (at least 2) were seemingly looked after by another family (can't find them in any 1880 ish census) whilst he lodged alone with other families. His mother left for London (to stay with her daughter Emilie) shortly before her passing. George was a senior partner of Ebsworth & Hoeppner, Leith. He declared bankruptcy in 1877 and became a Commision Agent.


Notes and Sources

Dora Jordan's Hull (around 1783)

The following is a series of snippits from the book "Mrs Jordan's Profession" by Claire Tomalin related to Hull (note that as far as I can tell this is Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire - I realise that it's a bit of bit of a stretch of the imagination from the place we know).

In Hull we find Dora installed at Mrs Dunn's in Myton-gate; rooms over a shop.

The sailors of the Hull whaling fleet would fill the gallary, if not always to the benefit of the rest of the audiance below, as food, drink and worse showered down from above.

Hull was a prosperous and cheerful city, richer than Manchester or Liverpool, and one of their most important and reliable of bases. Its money came from the whaling industry, which gave employment to the men and huge profits to the ship owners. They spent lavishly on their pleasures, hunting, horse racing, gambling and entertaining; it was 'as gay a place as could be found out of London. The theatre, balls, great suppers and card parties were the delight of the principal families of the town'. Her manager called it 'the Dublin of England' for the liveliness of its society, and the whole company looked forward to its season there.

Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi

Shortly before his death Joe Grimaldi ("England's greatest clown") wrote an autobiography; it was given to a writer to clean up and reduce. Unfortunately the writer, probably pushed for time and having to complete the re-write after Joe Grimaldi's death, was not sucessful and the work was passed onto a young reporter / novelist named Charles Dickens. This biography was published in 1838 (now out of print). Richard Findlater re-published it with extensive annotation in 1968.

The following snippits related to Bob Fairbrother are taken from this later book.

One on occasion, when by unforeseen circumstances Joe was detained at Sadler's Wells beyond the usual time, he and Mr Fairbrother (the father of the well known theatrical printer) Note 1 who, like himself was employed at both theatres, and had agreed to accompany him that evening, started hand-in-hand from Sadler's Wells and ran to the stage door at Drury Lane in 8 minutes.

In 1794 ... he lodged in Great Wild Street with his mother, their landlord had died, and the widow's daughter, from accompanying Mrs Grimaldi to Sadler's Wells had formed an acquaintance with, and married, Mr Robert Fairbrother, of that establishment and Drury Lane, upon which Mrs Bailey, the widow, took Mr Fairbrother into partnership as a furrier, in which pusuit, by industry and perseverence, he became eminently successful.

Note 1: [Findlater] Robert Fairbrother, progenitor of a large theatrical family, became a confidential secretary-servant of Sheridan at Dury Lane. In later life he worked for the theatre in Tottenham Street, was briefly prompter at the Surrey; and retired in 1826. He could not have had much time to be a furrier; and was possibly rather young for marriage in 1794. [Coates] This last comment is a little strange as Robert Fairbrother was born in 1767; so he would be 27 when married (and 59 when he retired) which seems to make sense. He died in 1841. Also, in other texts he is himself described as a pantomimist and, to some degree, acted as an early tutor to Joe Grimaldi.

T. Woodfall Ebsworth poem

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This page belongs to andy coates who can be contacted @ hotmail as "andycoates99".


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