In search of Mrs Arthy

The image above is one that I recently rediscovered among my collection of 19th century photographs. It was taken by Mr J. Hawke at his studio in George Street, Plymouth, England, around the middle of the 1870s. Someone at the studio had painted in details of the lady’s clothing; her jacket with perhaps a velvet collar and the black ribbon around her neck, from which was hung a golden ornament. The large blue bow may have been part of her apparel or may have been added to enhance the sitter’s appearance.

Unusually, the image had a name and address written on the back. This then was a portrait of Mrs Arthy, The Holt, Alverstoke, Gosport, in Hampshire. It took some time to decipher her surname as it been partly written over and could be read as Artney, Artny or Arthy. However, the census for 1881 confirmed that this was Jane Arthy, aged 39, of the above address but born in Ireland. The same census revealed that her husband, Walter Bridge Arthy, was a chaplain in the Royal Navy and some twenty years her senior. Further research revealed that Jane & Walter were married in Dublin in 1867. With these details as a starting point the search for Jane’s life and times could really begin.

As no children were of the couple were mentioned in 1881, it would be easy to assume that that the marriage of Jane & Walter had been childless. The 1871 census supplied a few more clues to follow up. At this time, Jane had been lodging in Mylor, Cornwall, with a three year old child called Walter Arthy, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. From this information, it could be assumed that the family were well-travelled and often separated, presumably due to Walter Bridge Arthy’s naval career. By 1881, Walter, the younger, was no longer living permanently with his parents, attending, and boarding, at St Andrew’s College in Berkshire. Young Walter would go on to have an even more illustrious military career than his father.

Meanwhile, Jane’s husband Walter, senior, was still following his naval career, eventually retiring around 1880. He and Jane shared a further 22 years of married life at The Holt in Alverstoke prior to his death 8th August, 1902. Probate was granted to his widow, Jane, to the effect of £697:18s:3d. Jane died in 1926, by which time she was resident in Seaford in Sussex and probate of her estate was granted to her only son, Walter, to the tune of £89:9s:8d

Walter Arthy, junior, had found time to marry Dorothy Mary Blake in 1898, during his distinguished military career. He also travelled widely on service, visiting America, Australia and Gibraltar, amongst others. By 1907 he was a captain in the R.G.A., rising to Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Field Artillery by 1914 and survived the horrors of The Great War. By 1939 Walter, junior, and his wife Dorothy were living the retired life in Seaford but Walter was ready to take on one more challenge in the service of his country. With the advent of World War II Walter signed on as an Air Raid warden, survived yet another six years of war and died in 1955. Probate was granted to his wife Dorothy, to the effect of £2273:13s:3d. And so ended the story of the two Walter Arthys, who had jointly served their country for almost a century. And the story would have remained unknown but for the rediscovered photograph taken all those years ago.

Published by qvictoria

A collector of Victorian photographs for many a long year. I'm interested in both the individual photographs and the studio advertising on the 'backs' of the images, Victorian graphic design at its most varied and interesting. My collection of "cartes de visite" photographs is housed in plastic pockets within a series of albums, numerically arranged in order as they are acquired. There are now roughly 3000 photographers and images in all. I use directories, newspapers and genealogical information to research the life and work of each photographer and their studio but there aren't enough hours in the day. This photo is one of my collection, chosen for the gentle expression in the face of the sitter.

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