Sunday 8 November 2015

The Third Mary

I think that it is no secret that I enjoy researching the lives of artists' models.  Unlike the artists they sit for, often models' lives have infinitely more interest and variety due to the contrasts between the art they inspire and the marriages, homes, jobs and destinies they have. It should be no surprise to you that the many models of Julia Margaret Cameron offer me the chance to explore so many lives of all different women from May Prinsep (who I wrote about here and here) to Mary Hillier, subject of my next non-fiction book (see my research here among other posts), and Mary Ryan, who managed to scramble up from beggar-maid to Lady (see my post for The Virtual Victorian blog here).  It was only a matter of time before I got round to having a look at another of Julia Margaret Cameron's maid-turned-model, Mary Kellaway...

A Spanish Picture (1864) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Elizabeth Keown and Mary Kellaway)
Like her contemporary Mary Hillier, Mary Kellaway was a Freshwater girl. Born 27 December 1846 to Barnaby (or Barnabus) and Mary Kellaway, she was one of seven children, but the only girl.  Most notable among her siblings were her older brother Eli and younger brothers Horatio and Oscar, who I'll come to in a moment.  In some accounts of her family tree she is listed as Mary Rose Kellaway, but I can't find this middle name officially.  However, Barnaby was a mariner (according to census returns) and with a brother called Horatio, it can't be ruled out.  Tracing Mary Kellaway was made somewhat more challenging by the many and varied spellings of her surname, from Kellaway to Kelleway and even Celoway by different branches of the family, but I have stuck with 'Kellaway' as it is the one used most often and by subsequent biographers.

Madonna and Two Children (1864) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Elizabeth Keown, Mary Kellaway, Alice Keown)
In the 1851 and 1861 census, Mary is listed as living with her family in Pound Green, Freshwater. Pound Green was next to the Farringford estate and not far from Dimbola Lodge so it is unsurprising that Mary fell into the employ of Julia Margaret Cameron.  However, in the 1861 census she is listed as dressmaker, so it is possible that her employment began somewhen between this census and when Mrs Cameron first focused her lens on her (or didn't, you know what I mean).

The Three Marys (1864)
(Mary Kellaway, Mary Ryan (back), Mary Hillier (front))
Mary's mother, for whom she was named, died in 1856, and Barnaby remarried in 1857, to Hannah Holland of Stroud, Gloucestershire. By 1861, Mary's brothers are listed as either scholars or agricultural labourers.  While Mary was working for Mrs Cameron, her brothers were making a bit of a name for themselves locally. Eli and Horatio were reported in the newspapers for their arrest due to drunk and riotous behaviour.  Eli was caught trespassing and possibly poaching on Tennyson's land in 1864, and even cousin Samuel Kellaway was arrested for setting fire to Tennyson's hedge in 1869.  That turned out to be wrongful arrest and the culprit was Mary Hillier's brother William, who just fancied a bonfire.  A few kind words from Emily Tennyson sorted the young gentlemen out and the matter was dropped.

King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther in Apocrypha (1865) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Henry Taylor, Mary Ryan and Mary Kellaway)
Unlike Marys Ryan and Hillier, Mary Kellaway did not remain with Mrs Cameron until marriage or the lady's departure and by 1871, Mary has crossed the Solent and was working in Portsmouth as a maid with Elizabeth Kellaway, another cousin, in the household of Mary Moresby, an elderly woman of independent means.  She would not remain in Portsmouth for long (often the best way) as before the end of April she was married to William Nightingale, a grocer and cheesemonger from Cambridgeshire.  The couple were married on 25th April 1871 at St Clement's Church, Kensington, London...

St Clement's Church, Kensington
St Clement's was a new church, built in 1867 and the couple were married by the first incumbent.  The couple are listed as living at the same address, 19 Fowell Street, Kensington and William was the son of William Speachley Nightingale, a carpenter.  Mary's father, Barnaby was listed as a farmer, interestingly, but as he had not seemed to have been to sea for a while, I'm not sure how long he could keep claiming to be a mariner.

Salutation after the manner of Giotto (1864) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Mary Kelleway and Mary Hillier)
Mary and her husband William lived in St George's Road, Camberwell and were joined in 1876 by their daughter, who they named Florence. William is listed as a grocer in the 1881 census and the Nightingale family seem comfortable and reasonably prosperous. That would change suddenly in 1886, when at the age of 41, William died leaving Mary alone with their 10 year old daughter to fend for themselves.

Lilies and Pearls (1864-65) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Mary Hillier, Elizabeth Keown, Mary Ryan, Alice Keown and Mary Kellaway)
Mary and Florence were only unsupported for a short time.  In August 1890, Mary married Charles Luff at St Helen's Church, Kensington (original church was destroyed in the Second World War).  Again, her father Barnaby Kelloway (sic) was listed but not correctly marked as deceased (he died in 1877).  Charles was also a widower, and the union was witnessed by Florence.  By the census of the following year, Charles, Mary and Florence are living in 5 West Cottages, Hampstead and Charles is listed as a gardener.

West Cottages, Hampstead.
I'd love to live here.
Florence married in 1898, no longer Florence Nightingale, but the slightly less impressive Florence Jones.  Henry Walter Jones was a grocer like Florence's father and they lived a long and happy life in St Mary's Croft in Wanstead, properties that are now valued at over £1m each.  She gave birth to Trevor in 1905 and Gwyneth in 1909.  The last we see of them is the 1911 census where their seemingly affluent life is supported by 3 servants. She had moved from being the daughter of a servant, from a long history of domestic servants and agricultural labourers to being lady of a house with staff of her own.

Yes or No (1865) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Mary Kellaway and Mary Hillier)
Here is where family history gets complicated.  Researching the history of a woman can often be fraught with challenges because of name changes, but once that woman is taken out of their home and previous context then it can prove very problematic to pin identifications down exactly.  With Mary, her birth place of Freshwater made her easier to spot when it was accurately listed which is why I think I know what became of her, even if I wish I didn't.  At some point before the 1911 census Charles Luff died but neither of them can be pinned down in the 1901 census.  Sadly, I have a feeling I know what became of Mary in 1902, which may have coincided with her husband's death.  Mary Luff, listed as a former housekeeper, born in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, was admitted to an asylum, aged 51.
Netherne Asylum, Hooley, Surrey
 Netherne was opened in 1905, and provided an over-flow for Brookwood Asylum in Surrey (final home to Pre-Raphaelite model, Emma Watkins - see this post for her fate).  It is probably that Mary was admitted to Brookwood in 1902 but transferred to Netherne on its opening. I was extremely cautious about applying this identification to Mary Kellaway (not least because I do not want to be known as 'Asylum' Walker) but the place of her birth and the lack of any other options for this person, leads me to admit this is likely to be her.  Looking at the behaviour in her family it is possible to speculate that depression may have been a common factor for the Kellaways.  In 1893, Mary's brother Oscar attempted to kill himself in a barber shop by walking in and picking up a razor which he placed to his throat.  He then attempted to throw himself off Freshwater cliffs.  Eli Kellaway remained drunk and disorderly throughout his life, leading to the sad headline 'Eli's Weakness', in 1906's Hampshire Advertiser, after another arrest. Also in 1915, Arthur Kellaway of Freshwater, employed as an assistant in the military canteen, slashed his throat with a razor, in a sad echo of Oscar.
Daughters of Jerusalem with Child (1865) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Mary Kellaway, unknown woman possibly Sophia Hillier, Mary Hillier, Percy Keown below)
Unlike Emma Watkins or Fanny Cornforth, Mary did not seem to die in the asylum but was released on 22 April 1913. Beyond that point I have been unable to trace her, although there are a few 'Mary Luff' entries that might refer to her but without the identifying factor of her place of birth it is impossible to be certain.  Maybe she ended her days with her daughter, Florence, in her comfortable London home, being looked after by servants, seeing out her final years with her grandchildren.  I hope that was her fate.
The Three Marys (1864) Julia Margaret Cameron
(Mary Hillier, Mary Kellaway, Mary Ryan)
The above photograph is visual evidence of why I find the history of artists' models continually fascinating.  This moment in 1864 gives no hint on how diverse their destinies would be.  One would remain within walking distance of her place of birth for the rest of her life, another would be confined to a lunatic asylum while the other would become a Lady.  Two of these girls have very similar backgrounds, highlighted by the incident with Tennyson's hedge, while the other had the most uninspiring start in life, begging with her mother in London.  Finding the hidden history behind each of these beautiful, compelling faces is what keeps me returning to the subject and working so that I can bring it to you.  In this way I hope we can remember them not just as beautiful faces in a moment of time but as women who lived lives as striking, unexpected, impressive and mysterious as the photographs they appear in.


  1. Food for thought. Many a time I have looked at old photographs of unknown people and wondered what their lives were like. What were their hopes and dreams, what became of them? Perhaps it's not impossible that there are relatives/descendents out there reading this who can fit the missing pieces to the jigsaw. That would be wonderful.

  2. Indeed so. I have been contacted in the past by Fanny's relatives, and Alexa Wilding's family too, so maybe there are some Kellaways out there, reading this. I have to admit, I love hearing from family members and so I hope what I do is of interest to them.

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. I forgot you were writing about Mary Hillier, I remember being excited but am more so since I discovered my friend (also named Laura) is a modern doppelganger!

  4. Gosh, how splendid - lucky Other Laura!

  5. Horatio kellaway is my great great Grandad


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx