During his early life Cyril Audain must have enjoyed advantages and privileges most of the patients in Long Grove could only dream about. The son of a prominent estate owner in the West Indies, he was brought up in Kensington, had the status of ‘gentleman’ and, at the age of twenty-one, married the daughter of an army major. However, after his death he was buried, like his fellow patients, in a pauper’s grave.
Cyril’s parents – St Vincent
Cyril’s father, John Audain, was born on the island of St Vincent in 1808. He became a prosperous merchant and, after the abolition of slavery in the West Indies, bought the Richmond Hill estate, the largest on the island, which overlooked the island’s capital, Kingstown.
We do not know the name of John’s first wife but, in 1846, he married his second wife, Hannah Bannatyne, who, according to historian Jeffery Green, was seventeen years John’s junior and the daughter of a black school teacher.
London – the 1860s and 1870s
Ten years later John became a member of the island’s governing body but in 1860 he and Hannah moved to England with their three children, Estella Julia (born in 1850), Ida Augusta (1851) and Harley Ivan Richmond (1859). The family settled in Kensington, living at 2, Pembridge Gardens, St Mary Abbots, with a governess, a nurse, a housemaid, a porter maid and a cook.
The 1861 Census describes John as a ‘West India proprietor’ and Hannah’s place of birth is given as ‘Penang, E. Indies’, though later censuses state that she was born in St Vincent.
Hannah gave birth to two more children in England, Cyril Bannatyne (born 13th of December 1860) and Claude Edwin Hunt (26th of May 1864). Tragically, John died aged 56, just weeks before the birth of his youngest son.
His death does not seem to have affected the family’s finances, however, as the 1871 Census finds them still living in Kensington at 14, Colville Terrace East, with a cook, a parlour maid and a housemaid. Hannah is living on ‘income from West India possessions’.
Marriage to Emma Place
By the time of the 1881 Census the family had moved to 18, Boscombe Road in Hammersmith with a ‘lady-help’ and two domestic servants. Hannah is still of independent means whilst Harley is a clerk at the Board of Trade and Claude is an architect.
Cyril, however, although now aged 20, has no occupation. Is this indicative of his ‘lazy and indolent habits’, cited in his future wife’s divorce petition, or the first indication of the mental health problems that would dominate his later life?
On the 14th of December 1881 Cyril married Emma Place at St Paul’s Church in Hammersmith. In the register Cyril is described as a ‘gentleman’. Emma was the daughter of Major Thomas Longden Place of the 44th Regiment of the Madras Native Infantry. She was born in Bangalore in 1854, just two years before her father died on the 30th of April 1856, aged 49.
In the 1861 Census Emma had been living with her widowed mother, also called Emma, and her older sister Elizabeth, at 11, Clarence Square in Brighton. By the time of the 1881 Census, however, the family had moved to 8, Montpelier Terrace, Ilfracombe in Devon. Mrs Place, as an officer’s widow, is described as an annuitant.
In 1875 Emma gave birth to a daughter, Eva Newcomen Place, in Brighton, but we do not know the name of the child’s father. It would appear that Emma was living in Brighton alone as, the following year, her mother died at an address in Cheltenham and her sister was living in Bath. Had Emma been shunned by her family for giving birth to a child out of wedlock?
By the time of the 1881 Census Emma had moved to London and she and her daughter – now called Constance Eva Newcomen Place – are living at 4, Keith Gardens in Shepherds Bush. There is no evidence that Emma had been cut off financially by her family as she is described in the census as being of independent means. She and her daughter have the entire property to themselves and employ a live-in domestic servant.
In the 1st quarter of 1882, Cyril and Emma’s first child was born, a daughter called Estella Bannatyne. She was baptised on the 28th of April 1882 at the Church of St James Norlands in Kensington. According to the baptismal register the family was living at 4 Keith Gardens, Shepherds Bush, the property where Emma was living at the time of her marriage.
The following year, on the 5th of May, 1883, Cyril’s mother Hannah died at her home in Boscombe Road, Shepherds Bush aged 58. Her personal estate was valued at £1,285 6s 8d, the equivalent of more than £160,000 today.
On the 14th of December 1884, Emma gave birth to a second daughter, Violet Elphinstone, who was baptised at St Thomas’s Church in Hammersmith on the 25th of February 1885. The family was now living at Chichester Villa, Friars Road in East Dulwich, though by the time of the 1891 Census they had moved yet again to 156, Canterbury Road in Croydon. In this census Cyril is described as a stockbroker’s clerk.
The previous year Emma had given birth to the couple’s third child, a daughter called Catherine (or Kathleen) Beatrice. Estella is now aged 9 and boarding at a girls’ school in Barnes. Emma’s 16 year-old daughter, Constance, is still living with the couple but in the census she is described as their niece.
1890s and Emma’s divorce petition
We hear no more about Cyril and Emma until the 3rd of January 1899 when Emma sued her husband for divorce. The statement supporting her petition to dissolve the marriage gives a clear picture of what their life together was like in the intervening years.
Emma claimed, “that at Croydon and at Hackney aforesaid the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain on several occasions beat, threatened and assaulted your petitioner by smacking her face and on other occasions hitting her with his fist and blackened her eye and so far assaulted her that she was compelled and did in fact apply for and obtain a summons against the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain at the North London Police Court and on another occasion he tried to choke your petitioner and struck her head against the dresser and threw water and beer over her and generally grossly mistreated and neglected her and kept her without proper food and nourishment whereby her health became and is permanently injured”.
She also stated, “that the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain was of lazy and indolent habits and on one occasion the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain not providing a home at Croydon aforesaid your petitioner and her three children were turned out into the streets and compelled to walk about all night and rescued by the Police and taken to the Police Station and thence to the Union where they remained for one week and became chargeable on the parish rates”.
Emma went on to make the following assertions:
“That the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain was of violent and drunken habits and constantly used filthy and violent language against your petitioner calling her foul names in the presence of her children and other persons.
That during the years 1895 1896 1897 and 1898 at 19 Askew Street Hackney and various other places in the neighbourhood the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain has on numerous occasions committed adultery with a woman named Florence Tamplin otherwise ‘Fair Flo’ otherwise Alice Hargrave.
That frequently during the years 1896 1897 and 1898 the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain committed adultery with a woman known as Country Agnes.
That in Hackney in various open spaces during the years 1895 1896 1897 and 1898 the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain committed adultery with Hannah Isaacs alias ‘Hannah the Jewess’.
That during the years 1895 1896 1897 and 1898 at Hackney aforesaid the said Cyril Bannatyne Audain has committed adultery with Liza Neil otherwise Mrs Morris and during the said period on divers occasions has committed adultery with other women whose names are at present unknown to your petitioner.”
Cyril’s first admission to the workhouse and Emma’s death
On the 11th of January, 1899, just over a week after Emma filed her petition, Cyril was admitted to Hackney Workhouse where he was to remain for almost a month. We do not know where he went to live on being discharged from the workhouse at his own request on the 9th of February but, at the time, Emma was living (one assumes with her daughters) at 225, Queen Anne’s Avenue, Upper High Road in Clapton.
Sadly, just three months later on the 30th of May, Emma died in the Consumption Hospital in the Brompton Road in London. As she said in her divorce petition, her health had been ‘permanently injured’ as a result of her husband’s neglect and mistreatment during their marriage. Her personal effects were valued at just £19 16s 9d, the equivalent of £2,500 today.
On the 6th of October 1900 Cyril was admitted to Hackney Workhouse once again. He was still there in 1901 when, in that year’s census, he was described as a pauper. In the same census Violet is a boarding pupil at St Lawrence’s Convent School in Belper, Derbyshire. We do not know who paid for the girls’ education. Were they, perhaps, supported by Cyril’s siblings, even though he, himself, appears to have been cut off financially by his family?
On the 23rd of January 1901, Kathleen, at the age of 11, was baptised at St Stephen’s Church in Hammersmith. Her parents are both named in the baptismal register even though, by that time, Emma was dead and Cyril was in the workhouse. Her address is given as 6, Nesbit Street in Homerton, Hackney.
Although she is not living at this address in the 1901 Census, Nesbit Street was very close to Hackney Workhouse. We know that, at the end of the nineteenth century, the Hackney Board of Guardians began to acquire houses in the area for use as children’s cottage homes. Was this where Kathleen was living while her father was in the workhouse? Sadly, Kathleen died in Alton, Hampshire in the 2nd quarter of 1904, aged just 14, though we do not know with whom she was living at the time.
The following year, on the 15th of March 1905, her sister Estella died at the age of 23 in Highgate Infirmary. At the time of her death she was living at 1, Quenington Mansions, Rostrevor Road in Fulham. She left her effects, valued at £117 9s 9d, to her half-sister, Constance Eva Rutledge (née Place).
Cyril’s admission to Long Grove and death
We do not know if or when Cyril was discharged from Hackney Workhouse after being readmitted in 1900 but his mental health had deteriorated to such an extent by the 6th of April 1905 that he was admitted to Fisherton House Asylum in Wiltshire. He would remain there until the 12th of July 1907 when he was transferred to Long Grove. Cyril spent nine years in Long Grove, dying there on the 31st of December 1916. He was buried in plot 1416b in Horton Cemetery on the 5th of January 1917.
Cyril and Emma’s surviving daughter, Violet, married Haydn Ambrose Watson, a musician, at St Paul’s Church in Chiswick on the 6th of August 1906. At the time of their wedding they were living at 18, Magnolia Road, Grove Park West. In the 1911 Census the couple are living at 25a St Stephen’s Avenue, Hammersmith with their 4 year-old daughter, also called Violet. Violet would give birth to two more children, Poppy and Peter, before her husband went off to fight in the First World War. Tragically, Haydn was killed in Flanders on the 20th of September 1917. Violet died in 1959. She never remarried.
As the historian Jeffery Green stated in an online article about the Audains, “their prosperity may have sheltered this mixed-race family from prejudice. Certainly the children’s lives suggest that class, rather than colour, remained a strong force in Victorian times, despite the growth of scientific racism”.
Estella – a professor of music
Estella became a ‘professor of music’ and in 1871 married bank clerk Alfred Reynold Soppett at All Saints Church in Notting Hill. She died in Lambeth in 1895. Her personal effects, valued at £220, were left to her brother Claude.
Ida – an accomplished musician
Ida studied harp at the Royal Academy of Music, having been recommended by John Thomas, harpist to Queen Victoria.
She went on to a successful career as performer and music teacher.
She knew Samuel Taylor Coleridge and played in one of his concerts. In 1896 she became the first musician of known African origin to play at the Proms.
In 1893 she married a fellow musician at St Stephen’s Church in Paddington. There are numerous references to her in the newspapers of the time.
Ida died in Brentford in 1932.
As the oldest son, Harley inherited the family estate. According to historian Jeffery Green, he became a civil servant (though it has not been possible to find him in a census after 1881). In 1923 he married Nellie Ryan, the former wife of RAF officer Richard Chappell Ryan. Harley died in Poole, Dorset in 1941.
Claude became a stockbroker and in 1892 he married Mary Anne Wakely at St Matthew’s Church in Bayswater. The couple had two daughters, Beatrice and Leonora. In 1894 Claude was found guilty of obtaining £195 credit under false pretences. His sentence was ‘2 sureties’. Claude died in Brentford in January 1917, just weeks – possibly days – after his brother Cyril.