Ada Nettleship John

It’s time to bind my book. I need – a cover!

John Presco

A Triple Portrait of May Morris

A Triple Portrait of May Morris


Untamable, tiger is a painting by John Trivett Nettleship which was uploaded on August 13th, 2019.

a forest idyll by john trivett nettleship

  • John Trivett Nettleship
  • A forest idyll, 1899
  • 58.5 x 76 cm. (23 x 29.9 in.)

John Trivett Nettleship

 (British, 1841–1902)


John Trivett Nettleship – Wikipedia

He was one of The Brotherhood, a group of the 1870s including John Butler Yeats and Edwin John Ellis. They were admirers of William Blake, on friendly terms with the Pre-Raphaelites or at least the Rossetti brothers, and part of the Bedford Park social and artistic group.[2] He created a group of what he called “Blake drawings” exploring the style of the poet-artist. He also made the Blake-influenced illustrations to Arthur O’Shaughnessy‘s poetry collection Epic of Women and other poems in 1870.[3]

May Morris – Wikipedia

Ada was creative, musical and good at drawing. In an interview she gave to Harper’s Bazaar in 1897 when she was 40, she is described as a woman of ‘intelligence, education and thought’ who in her youth had been a noted ‘art-embroiderer’ in the style of May Morris. Ada’s artistry and her early exposure to the importance of financial prudence formed the foundation for her successful career as a dressmaker.

In December 1875, just before Ada turned twenty, her father died. Four months later she married John Trivett Nettleship, known as Jack, a 35-year old painter and sculptor who specialised in portraying animals, often on a very large scale. Jack was from a well-educated, high-achieving family. Two of his brothers were Oxford college professors, the third was an eye-surgeon. Jack attended Heatherley School of Fine Art in Chelsea, where John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane and Frederic Leighton all trained, and then the Slade School of Fine Art. He also published a study on the poetry of Robert Browning, so sat easily in the worlds of art and literature and Ada’s marriage brought her into the heart of an artistic community.

Ada Nettleship (1856-1932)

Posted on  by Lizzie B

Born: Adaline Cort Hinton

Sector: Retail (Apparel)

In Tate Britain hangs a fantastic painting of the actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. In it she is wearing one of the many costumes designed for her by Alice Comyns Carr. However, it was another woman, Ada Nettleship, who made this dress, buying the ‘fine yarn’ in Bohemia, ‘a twist of soft green and blue tinsel’ and, together with her team, sewing on the shimmering wings of 1,000 beetles to create the final iridescent effect.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth 1889 John Singer Sargent 1856-1925
Presented by Sir Joseph Duveen 1906.

‘Sweet Nettle’, as Ellen Terry used to call her, has now faded into the historical background, one of the many DNB Ghosts. The entry in the Dictionary of National Biography for her artist husband says nothing about her life and work, despite the fact that for much of their marriage it was her business that brought in the cash, keeping him in canvas and paint and their family housed, clothed and fed. So let’s celebrate Ada’s life and work here.

Born in 1856, Ada was the daughter of a surgeon, James Hinton and his wife, Margaret, née Haddon. Both came from non-conformist families. James’s father was an ‘intellectual dissenting preacher’ and James was equally keen to challenge the social status quo, particularly in the area of domestic and social relations. He was a man of many ideas and supported polygamy but, as Edith Havelock Ellis wryly commented, could never ‘make a woman can be at once a free personality, a wage-earner, a wife and a mother, and at the same time remain for the world at large a healthy, romantic, joyful, capable and charming human being.’

It was easier for men, or at least or James. He eventually organised his household so that his wife and four children lived in Brighton and he visited at weekends, staying in London during the week where he was free to pursue numerous affairs. It was therefore Ada’s mother who provided both emotional and financial stability to Ada and her siblings, keeping a tight hand on the family purse strings.

Margaret came from a large family that valued girls’ education. Two of her sisters, Elizabeth and Caroline, ran a progressive boarding school in Dover attended by, among others, Henrietta Barnett. Caroline was also a philosophical writer, who published several books about her brother-in-law’s treatises. Another sister, Emily, was head of a school in Penge where Ada was later a pupil.

Ada was creative, musical and good at drawing. In an interview she gave to Harper’s Bazaar in 1897 when she was 40, she is described as a woman of ‘intelligence, education and thought’ who in her youth had been a noted ‘art-embroiderer’ in the style of May Morris. Ada’s artistry and her early exposure to the importance of financial prudence formed the foundation for her successful career as a dressmaker.

In December 1875, just before Ada turned twenty, her father died. Four months later she married John Trivett Nettleship, known as Jack, a 35-year old painter and sculptor who specialised in portraying animals, often on a very large scale. Jack was from a well-educated, high-achieving family. Two of his brothers were Oxford college professors, the third was an eye-surgeon. Jack attended Heatherley School of Fine Art in Chelsea, where John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane and Frederic Leighton all trained, and then the Slade School of Fine Art. He also published a study on the poetry of Robert Browning, so sat easily in the worlds of art and literature and Ada’s marriage brought her into the heart of an artistic community.

However, Jack’s profession meant income was unpredictable. In the Harper’s version of events, Ada was persuaded to expand into dress-making by a friend, but it is just as likely that it was her own idea, a practical way of adding to what Alice Comyns Carr later described as ‘a slender income.’ By 1881 she and Jack were living at 2 Melbury Terrace near Marylebone Station, one of the many streets to disappear as the station expanded. Ada was employing ten women and 2 girls in her dress-making business and was also mother to two young daughters, Ida, aged four and Ethel, two. She and Jack would have one more child in 1886, Ursula.

Ada Nettleship
Ada Nettleship, carte de visite, 1888
Reproduced by kind permission of Rebecca John

Ada is best known now for her theatrical costumes but whether the dress she was making was to be worn on the stage or in the street, she wanted to make beautiful clothes, ‘each individual production of real artistic value’. However, she was also committed to combining originality with suitability and was involved in the ‘Rational Dress’ movement, which advocated for everyday clothes that were lightweight and easier to move around in.

In May 1883, there was a large Rational Dress Exhibition in London and amongst the divided skirts and ‘outrageous’ costumes designed for cricketing and boating were Ada’s ‘artistically designed evening and walking dresses’. In the opinion of the St James Gazette, ‘it is more than conceivable that a young woman of good figure would appear to advantage’ [in one of Ada’s evening dresses] ‘without any stays at all.’

This is probably how Ada got to know Constance Lloyd. Constance was an advocate for women’s rights and dressed in the aesthetic style, wearing higher-waisted and looser-fitting dresses. Both Constance and her future husband, Oscar Wilde, regularly spoke on the subject of dress and Constance later edited the Rational Dress Society’s Gazette.

Constance Lloyd by Louis Desanges (1882)

When Constance and Oscar were married on 29th May 1884, Constance was wearing a dress made by Ada, now aged 28. Oscar has been generally given the design credit though it is just as likely that the ideas came from Constance and that she visited Melbury Terrace to work them up with Ada.

Constance was reported to have a ‘happy, hopeful light’ in her eyes as she walked down the aisle in the result: an elaborate dress of ivory satin, ‘the bodice, cut square and somewhat low in front, was finished with a high Medici collar; the ample sleeves were puffed; the skirt, made plain, was gathered by a silver girdle..[and the dress was]…ornamented with clusters of myrtle leaves’.

Ada and Constance continued to collaborate on dresses that turned heads. It was with Constance that Ada first experimented with creating a sequinned effect using beetle wings, the technique she would later use to great effect on Ellen Terry’s stage costume. Perhaps it was the theatricality of these dresses and the publicity they garnered that brought Ada to the attention of Alice Comyns Carr (1850-1927).

Beetle wings
(c) Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd
Alice Comyns Carr
Mrs. J. W. Comyns Carr by John Singer Sargent
c. 1889  Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky 
Oil on canvas

Alice is another DNB ghost. She was from a smarter social circle than Ada, growing up in Genoa where her father was the British chaplain. Charles Kingsley, author of ‘The Water Babies’ was one of her godparents. Both Alice and her sister, Alma Strethell, a highly-regarded translator, feature in paintings by John Singer Sargent.

In 1873 Alice married the drama critic, Joseph Comyns Carr. In 1877, Joe turned his hand to gallery management as a director of the new Grosvenor Gallery, funded largely by Sir Coutts Lindsay, a member of the Coutts banking family and an artist in his own right. The Gallery was quickly favoured by the pre-Raphaelites. James McNeill Whistler exhibited here and it was also where Jack Nettleship showed his work.

Alice and Joe’s house in Blandford Square, a stone’s throw from Melbury Terrace, naturally became a meeting point for those with an aesthetic bent. Dinner party guests included the artists Edward Burne-Jones, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John Singer Sargent, the writers Robert Browning and Henry James and composers Hubert Parry and Arthur Sullivan.

Alice’s first major costume design job was for a stage version of Far from the Madding Crowd in 1882, starring Ellen Terry’s younger sister, Marion. Alice already knew Ellen Terry well as Ellen had starred in a play, ‘Butterfly’, which Alice had translated from the original French. Alice soon started designing costumes for Ellen, eventually replacing Patience Harris (sister of Augustus Harris who would later take the English National Opera building off Richard D’Oyly Carte’s hands).

It is likely that Alice and Ada got to know one another through their husbands and in 1885, they teamed up, Alice recalling that she was ‘fortunate to secure the help of Mrs Nettleship, the wife of the well-known animal painter, an old friend of mine, and an extremely clever dressmaker who was anxious to find some means of adding to a slender income.’

The pair had an early high-profile success with the dresses Ellen Terry wore in The Amber Heart, in 1887, deemed to be a good enough reason in themselves to see the play. In August, The Queen went into rhapsodies about Mrs Nettleship’s ‘very original gowns’ and detailed her work on a high-profile wedding trousseau as well as elaborate court dresses of gold brocade. and outfits for Ellen Terry’s upcoming tour of America.

In 1888, the Nettleship family moved closer to the centre of town, setting up in a large house at 58-60 Wigmore Street, where Jack had a studio at the top of the house, the family lived on the next floor down and Ada’s dress-making business operated on the bottom floors. She rang a tight ship, dressing in a practical outfit of her own design made from a single piece of heavy black brocade so that she could move around easily. Women who trained under Ada included Elspeth Phelps, who went on to run her own business, and Sylvia du Maurier, who gave up dressmaking when she married Arthur Llewelyn Davies and had the five sons who were the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ stories.

Ada’s designs, which a few years earlier might have been deemed eccentric, were now instead seen as ‘refreshingly original, delightfully different’ according to the The Queen which rounded off a gushing article on 11th June 1892 concluding: ‘Mrs Nettleship is no slave to Fashion but is a devoted worshipper at the shrine of the beautiful.’

Letters from Ellen Terry to Ada between 1895 and 1901 suggest that if she was not a slave to Fashion, she was at times a slave to Ellen. In public Ada said that ‘actresses are as a rule very charming people to work for’ and Miss Terry was, of all her customers, ‘the sweetest-tempered…and the most easily-pleased’, but Ellen’s letters to Ada show that she could be demanding. This one is begging to be performed at Letters Live.

22 Bankstern Gardens
Earls Court S.W.
July 1895

Monday one-o-clock in the morning

Sweet Nettle,
Would you have a little dress run up for tonight’s wear for Miss Gibson in the Corsicans?
I have told Sarah to send you the dress which is to be copied, first thing in the morning – it is of dark shot silk and is much too funereal for the little lady (Miss Gibson) who wears it. This [a swatch of fabric was attached] would suit the situation much better (this is to be had at Russell & Allen’s).

(c) Victoria & Albert Museum

This – or something like it – only it must be a lighter colour. A white satin dress is already on the stage so that won’t do – and a transparent dress won’t travel for America – so a pale glace silk of some kind best trimmed with Tarlatan (can’t spell it) not Nett festooned at the bust & slightly round the bottom of skirt = Was at rehearsal till past 3 on Sat evening – Am half dead = I hope you liked yr ‘Party’ =

Yrs affect

I want a Cheap cloak for Wednesday. Looking like Ermine but really the innocent Bunny rabbit & unlined =

Ellen might have been cost conscious but when Ada and Alice worked with other collaborators on stage costumes for her, Henry Irving and the rest of the company, the budgets quickly increased. Edward Burne-Jones worked on designs for the costumes for King Arthur, which Ada later said generated the ‘biggest bill I had at the Lyceum, when one considers the number of dresses’, coming in at c. £75,000 (equivalent). Lawrence Alma-Tadema designed the dress Ellen wore in Cymbeline. Just the main body of the dress, with its twenty-five pieces of silk in graduating colours took Ada three weeks and in total the dress cost nearly £20,000 equivalent.

Dame Ellen Terry as Imogen in ‘Cymbeline’
Source: National Trust, Smallhythe Place
Detail of the dress from the collection at Smallhythe Place (c) Rebecca John

By 1897, Ada was making ‘all Miss Terry’s official gowns and many of those which are unofficial.’ With Ellen being so busy, it was worth Ada employing a body-double so costumes could be fitted costumes exactly in Ellen’s absence. Ada was clear that securing a first-rate fitter was a critical part of a dress-maker’s success: ‘the fitter can do more to make or mar a business than even the principal herself.’ A good fitter could earn £500 a year in 1902, equivalent to c. £60,000 p.a.

This was just one of the many insights Ada gave into the world of dress-making in an article she wrote for the South Wales Daily News in January 1902 as part of a twelve-part series on ‘Woman’s Work’, which also featured articles by Margaret Bateson and Florence Fenwick Miller. She laid out the training needed, the initial capital required to survive for the first year or two (equivalent to £60-£120k per annum) and the annual profits one could expect (in the same range). She suggested pricing on a cost-plus basis, with a 50% mark up, though given the dresses were all custom-made, customer-specific pricing was always an option. Pricing was also seasonal – the price for a morning dress in season could be set 50% higher than out of season.

Ada reinforced the importance of connections: ‘the dressmaker who starts with plenty of rich and influential friends has the best chance, provided she has an efficient staff and manages well.’ Just as now ‘some customers..are treated to specially small prices on account of the connection they bring.’ (Indeed, Lily Langtry later boasted that she could always negotiate an 80% discount on her dresses.)

She also highlighted the same issue raised by the photographer Alice Hughes a year later: the risk of bad debts. Regular terms needed to be set for payment, accounts should be sent out quarterly and paid off in a timely fashion. Even then, trade protection societies offered credit checking facilities, where ‘for a fee of a guinea a year’ potential customers’ credit-worthiness could be checked and debts recovered. ‘There are many undesirable customers always ready to try a new dressmaker and it is sometimes hard in the beginning to refuse good orders but it is worse to contract bad debts’

Ada concluded that dressmaking was a ‘pleasant profession and one which a clever woman can take up with every chance of success’, but she also admitted that during the season ‘the strain is very severe’. A few months later the strain Ada started to feel was nothing to do with the season. Jack Nettleship died in August 1902 and at the age of 46 Ada was left responsible for the business and her younger daughters, Ethel and Ursula now aged 23 and 18 and both unmarried. One of the first things the three of them did was move to a smaller house at 28-30 Wigmore Street.

However, it was her eldest, married, daughter Ida, allegedly Ada’s favourite, who was to be the greatest source of worry and, ultimately, grief. Ida had enrolled at the the Slade School of Fine Art in 1892, when she was just 15, winning a scholarship to study for a further three years in 1895. She continued her training in Florence and later Paris where she attended classes taught by, among others, James McNeill Whistler.

Ida and her mother were clearly close. She wrote to her mother from Paris in the autumn of 1898 asking her to send her ‘some sort of evening dress, because there is perhaps going to be a dance at Whister’s studio.’ She also helped Ada with her costume research, writing to her:

“My darling Mother,
Here are some ’54 fashions, & I am going to try for some evening dresses and mantles tomorrow. It is rather hard to get them for the particular dates especially ’55. There is a book called ‘Une siecle des Modes Feminines’,1794-1894. There are two prints each year – all pictures, no writing – coloured & good – price 2frs.50. If I cannot get anything better I will send it to you. What beautiful clothes they are. I can get a fine book for frs.10 with plates from ’53 and ’54. [..] Who is going to dress in that bountiful dress of 1854? Is it for a play?..”

Ada found time to send Ida a story she had written about a rain gatherer and sun gatherer, which both Ida and her friend, Gwen John, who was with her in Paris, were keen to illustrate. A family photograph taken in 1898 shows Ida sitting at the centre of the group, her mother and father both with a hand on her shoulder, her younger sisters to the sides.

This picture of family harmony was soon to be permanently altered by Ida’s relationship with the painter, Augustus John. They met in 1897 and Ida was soon in love. While her father was swayed by Augustus’s talent, Ada disapproved of his unkempt clothing and worried about his roving eye. Aware of her parents’ displeasure, they eventually married in a secret ceremony in January 1901, where artist friends including Augustus’s sister, Gwen, and Ambrose McEvoy acted as witnesses. Ada and Jack were presented with a fait accompli later that day and were less than thrilled but attended a wedding celebration nonetheless.

Embed from Getty Images

Ida Nettleship John (1902)

Ida’s marriage to Augustus lasted for six turbulent years. Within three months, she was pregnant and between January 1902 and March 1907, she gave birth to five sons.

The growing family was often on the move, from London, to Liverpool, back to London, out to Matching Green in Essex and finally over to France, living in numerous houses and occasionally a caravan.

Ida’s letters tell of the support her family gave her. Ada rushed up to Liverpool to be with her when her first child, David, was born and Ida wrote to her sister, Ursula, on 21st January 1902: ‘Mother & Gus are downstairs, & Mother is playing all the tunes she knows on the piano, It is so nice to hear.’

Back in Fitzroy Street in August 1903, she wrote to Gwen John that “my tribe came round as usual tonight, & assisted at the bathing etc. Gus lay on the bed – Ursula knelt by me – Mother loomed large on the other side of the bath, sitting on a wooden chair.” However, Ada’s dislike of her son-in-law was ever-present and the feeling was mutual: he described her as a ‘slow-moving dumpling’ with a temper that was ‘certain, but bad.’

From the late summer of 1904, the John household became even larger as Augustus and Ida started living in a ménage à trois with Dorelia McNeill, a beautiful young art student, and, soon, Dorelia’s children by Augustus. Ada refused to visit when Dorelia was in residence and her concerns increased when they all decided to de-camp to France in 1905. She did her best to persuade her daughter to leave Augustus and come back to London, even getting Ethel and Ursula to make their cases to Ida, but to no avail.

Ada must have had the same concerns as any mother watching her daughter make choices she thought were poor but her first-hand experience of family scandal would have made her particularly sensitive to the potential fallout of Ida’s unconventional living arrangements. In 1886, her brother, the mathematician Charles Howard Hinton had been at the heart of ‘an extraordinary bigamy case’. He had married Mary Ellen Boole, daughter of George Boole, whose name lives on in the concept of Boolean logic, in 1880. Three years later, Charles married a second woman under a false name who subsequently gave birth to twins. He continued to live with Mary Ellen and turned himself in to the police in October 1886 ‘as a matter of conscience to them both as they did not want to have a secret in the house.’ Ada was called as a witness when Charles was charged at Bow Street Police Court, the case was widely reported and Charles had to leave the country with Mary Ellen and their children, moving first to Japan and later the United States.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Ada viewed Ida’s increasingly bohemian lifestyle with alarm. Ethel Nettleship later said that her mother went ‘completely haywire’ as a result of and for the duration of Ida’s marriage. This might have been how it felt at home but Ada did a good job of keeping things together on the business front and she and Ida remained close. Ida sent her eldest son, David, to stay with his grandmother from time to time and on the rare occasions she came into funds, she entrusted them to her mother to make investment decisions for her.

However, these distractions at home might have been reason Ada decided to restructure her business. In June 1904 it was set up as a limited company with 8,000 preference shares and 10,000 ordinary shares. Ada retained half the ordinary shares and Percy Anderson (1851-1928), a painter and costume designer who worked closely with the D’Oyly Carte Company, took the other 50%. He committed to ‘do his best to place all orders for costumes with the new company’. Ada was compensated for all the assets and goodwill that transferred across into the new company and she remained in charge as a salaried employee. At that point, the business had a turnover equivalent to £1.5m and gross margins of 34%.

In March 1907, Ada travelled to Paris for the birth of her fifth grandchild. She arrived on the 9th, bringing with her a long list of items Ida had requested: Dinnifords Magnesia, dill water, a beauty book with ‘hair prescriptions’, soap, talcum powder and ‘unbreakable bricks’ for her older grandsons. Ida had delivered another healthy boy, Henry (named at Ada’s request after Henry Irving) but she was in a woeful state, suffering from puerperal fever and peritonitis. Her condition continued to deteriorate and she died five days later.

As Augustus mourned, Ada arranged a funeral and cremation in Paris, returning to London with the ashes of her daughter and her three eldest grand-children.  Caspar, the second-eldest, remembered her as ‘a tough, tubby woman with grizzled hair and a round face’ who made them wear shoes and socks and saw to it that they were properly scrubbed in the bath.  Ada was soon engaged in a tug-of-war with Augustus over where the children should live and how they should be brought up, culminating later the following summer with him ambushing Ada and his sons in the pelican enclosure at Regent’s Park Zoo and making off with two of them.

No doubt these issues at home were a major contributory factor in the drop off in Ada’s business performance. Turnover in 1908 was nearly half of the previous year and gross profits were just £58,000 (equivalent) down nearly 90% on the 1905 results. Ada’s shareholders were not happy. ‘Have you been able to approach any Paris houses as to amalgamation or some other mutual arrangement?’ asked her solicitor. It was proposed that her salary be cut for a year until the dividend could be re-established.

Ada accepted the proposal though asked for it to last only six months rather than twelve: ‘I have good hopes of a better season and I am doing all I possibly can to work up the business’, she replied. She was overly optimistic and it was not until 1910 that gross margins back to their 1905 levels of 35% and then on a lower turnover.

She receives very little press coverage in the 1910s though she was still interviewed every now and again about her views on dress. Her philosophy had changed little in the intervening thirty years: she was quote in 1914 as saying she was pleased that ‘organs are now allowed free play’ in women’s dresses but once again repeated her mantra that ‘no lady would wear the current fashions if she were not convinced they were the fashion’.

It is likely that the war and Ada hitting sixty combined to put the final nail in the business’s coffin. She turned her attention back to her family, staying actively involved as her grand-children grew up, taking them on holiday and sending Caspar practical presents including knitted scarves and a kettle when he joined the navy aged just 13. He ultimately became First Sea Lord.

Ada Nettleship in c.1930 with her grandson, Caspar John and her daughter, Ursula Nettleship.
Reproduced by kind permission of Rebecca John

Ada died on 19th December 1932 at 45 Weymouth Street and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery. Despite all their run-ins, Augustus John was there at the end, appearing with a supply of beer when he heard Ada was dying, two of her grandsons in tow. It seems fitting that Ada, with all her creative talent, should spend her final hours in the company of another great artist. Augustus sat by her bed all night, talking about French literature and his life in France. ‘Had she [Ada] been conscious she would have vastly appreciated both his presence and the completely unconventional Russian play atmosphere’, her daughter Ursula later reflected.

What struck me in researching the story of this working mother was that she found it hardest to meet the demands of her family and her business when her children were grown up. It was her role as a grand-parent that finally forced her to make changes to her working set up. Her story could not be more relevant today. Recent ONS data showed that more than 1 in 5 families with children aged under 14 had a grandparent involved in caring. Research by Birmingham University in 2017 suggested that support from grandparents raised the likelihood of a woman being able to return to work by 12 percentage points. And if we didn’t give much thought to the role that grandparents played before 2020, surely the events of the last twelve months have given us pause for thought, as millions of parents have had to cope with home-schooling while their normal childcare lifeline has been cut in a bid to protect older family members from COVID.

Many of these grandparents are also still working themselves. Although the age at which women are having children is going up, so is the age at which people are retiring. A poll by IPSOS Mori in 2014 suggested that 14% of grandparents had reduced working hours, given up a job, or taken time off in annual or sick leave to care for a grandchild at some point in their lives – 19% of grandmothers and 8% of grandfathers. Perhaps now is a good time for employers to reflect on their attitude to and policies for grandparents so that they can benefit from their wealth of work experience for as long as possible.

I would like to give special thanks to Rebecca John for talking to me about her great-grandmother and sharing her photographs. Her book with Michael Holroyd on Ida John has been a valuable resource (see below). I would also like to thank Dr Veronica Isaac who generously shared with me her research on Ada’s work. You can read more about Veronica’s work on the history of costume here.

The dress worn by Ellen Terry in the portrait by Singer Sargent was recently conserved by Zenzie Tinker and in normal life you can see it on display at Ellen Terry’s former home, Smallhythe Place, in Kent.

If you enjoyed this story, why not find out about more remarkable women in the monthly newsletter.Send me a story each month

Sources include:
St James Gazette 30/5/1883; Dundee Evening Telegraph 7/7/1884; Morning Post 16/10/1886; The Queen 13/8/1887; ‘Ellen Terry’s gowns and the woman who makes them’ by Bessie O’Connor in Harpers Bazaar 9th Jan 1897; ‘What Actresses Pay For Their Dresses’ in New Zealand Herald 25/08/1900 South Wales Daily News 25/1/1902; Leeds Mercury 13/2/1914
Life and Letters of James Hinton’ ed Ellice Hopkins (1878); ‘James Hinton: A Sketch’ by Mrs Havelock Ellis (1918); ‘Mrs J Comyns Carr’s Reminiscences’ (1926)
‘Oscar Wilde’ by Richard Ellmann (1987); ‘Bohemian Lives: Three Extraordinary Women’ by Amy Licence (2017); ‘Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde’ by Franny Moyle (2011); ‘The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John’ by Michael Holroyd and Rebecca John (2017); ‘Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939’ by Virginia Nicholson (2002);
‘A well-dressed actress’: Exploring the Theatrical Wardrobe of Ellen Terry by Veronica Isaac (2018) Costume, Vol.52 Issue 1 P.74-96; ‘A Letter from Ellen Terry’ by Ann Hardie (1999) Costume, 33:1 110-115.

Ian Fleming – Talitha Getty – Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor

Posted on May 26, 2018 by Royal Rosamond Press

I love doing Family Trees. I am a genealogist of renown, for in tracing the source of the Rosamond name to Rougemont, I have proven the Knight Templars owned the Shroud of Turin. Jean de Rougemont, is the Queen Mother of most of the Royal Habsburgs you see in the large canvas in back of me.

Twenty minutes ago I found the image of a Blue Knight on a Black Horse. It is a Frisian Horse. This horse and rider is the coat of arms of the city of Leeks in the Netherlands. This is where the artist, Willem Jilts Pol was born. That is Willem with his wife Arnoldine Adriana “Adine” Mees  below the photo of Elizabeth Taylor,  her son, Christopher Wilding, who married Aileen Getty. Now, add the artist, Christine Rosamond Benton, to this group, and you have a Art Dynasty, and the Bond Dynasty, created by Ian Fleming, who had no idea what an amazing seed he planted! That is the actor and artist, Michael Wilding, doing the portrait of a Rose. I am in love with art, poetry, and, history. I suppose I am the family historian, that can be quite the orphan. Pol’s portraits look like Liz! Connections!

I am going to post more on the quest for a Female Bond, that describes her as a kick-ass lady. Why must she have this attribute? There are four people who qualify to be both Bond genders, and that is John Paul Getty, and his wife Talitha, born, Talitha Dina Pol, and, Liz Taylor, and Richard Burton. These two men, and these two women, knew everyone, and partied like there was no tomorrow. Ian Fleming wanted Burton to play James Bond. My kindred turned down the offer. Here is Richard with his wife as an event, smoking a cigarette. How much has he had to drink? The look in Liz’s eyes, is a tell. Has anybody ever counted the drinks James takes in his movies and books?

Owning thirty years of sobriety, my Bond does battle with alcohol – out of the gate! There is no greater tragedy then to see two people destroy themselves with alcohol and drugs – and each other. This was the case of John and Talitha. They did everything they could to save each other. Talitha, lost her quest. John got sober, and did many fine things in the world of art. He was knighted after he became a British subject. My sister, Christine drowned on her first sober birthday.

Before I found the Blue Knight, I found a wooden bridge to Lara’s house. I was looking at where she lives in comparison to Leeks. It’s a fairytale setting. Lara’s father is a renowned breeder of the Frisian Horse. If I insulted him, and Lara, I apologize.

When I saw the Blue Knight, I alas was able to accept the truth……..I have a huge crush on Lara Roozemond, and she knows it. She is my muse, and my model for Victoria Bond, whom I can not toss aside. The beautiful black horse, will go, where it will go. Without love, none of the people you see in this post, would exist. In saying this, I am a candidate for the New James Bond, the better lover. Did Ian Fleming have children? Yes! Did Ian name his son after Caspar John, the Sea Lord? That is his father with the writer, James Joyce.

In finding the Frisian horse, comes the answer to the quest-ion – Is Lara Roozemond our kin? Does she fit – with these? In God’s name will some bright young chap and being, go put a love letter in Lara’s mailbox! Show some courage! Write her a poem!

I responded to Lara’s poems and suggested she author an epic poem. I thought she responded to this suggestion – with another poem. I now believe I was ignored, because, there are other old men enamored by this beautiful poetess, probably because they understand she is the epitome of Western Culture that is based upon Courtly Love, and ‘The Unattainable Woman’ .

My fiancé’s kin was a major player in King Rene’s court. I have Victoria Bond seducing young equestrians – with a bandage. While in prison, Rene wrote and illustrated one our greatest books. It begins with a knight waking to find his heart is lying next to him. He has been wounded by Love. He is in need of a bandage. My Bond, is an epic poem. Only brave men can author a kick-ass poem!

If I come in as Bond, I will do all I can to destroy everyone in America who teaches, it is not a matter of what you know, but the color of your skin. Hitler’s sickness is on the rise in Europe. What he did to the Dutch People, is the unsung atrocity. He starved them to death – out of jealousy! It is not a matter of black lives matter, monsters came amongst the whites, always with the same lesson, that they do terrible things – for our own good!  It is a matter of cutting their lesson short, for they can’t wait to hurt every man, every woman, and every child who tread lightly upon the earth, looking for love.

Never again! Lara is  – The Hope of Tomorrow! This is why I am in love with her! Art, is hope! Lara is a work of art.

“I am Arion!”

Jon Presco

President: Royal Rosamond Press

Arthur and Pre-Raphaelites

Posted on August 9, 2021 by Royal Rosamond Press

Here is the e-mail I sent the mother of my daughter, Heather Hanson. Patrice is the grandmother of my grandchildren. This is a Grail Lineage as I describe. Nothing can change this truth. I made my intentions very clear. Patrice and her family put many evil obstacles in my way, and all but destroyed me. They knew I needed an Heir to make by story and dreams come true. They took children hostage.

Anyone who cliams they helped me compile this information, and are owed something, are part of the Parasitical Plot to get all then can get from me and my creative sister – who gave me credit for her success – as her teacher!

In 1969 I declared I was a New Pre-Raphaelite Artist. I wanted my art to be grounded in spirituality.

John Presco

Grail Author

Copyright 2021

From: John Presco
To: Bancrofthouse
Subject: Re: a message from Patrice
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 12:27:35 -0500 (EST)

When Tom first contacted me he told me I was central to Christine¡¯s
biography. I considered letting him finish the biography I had begun
in 1990, as I have at least two books to write, I making several
starts, only to have my information expand dramatically. I may have solved
some core mysteries of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and great
secrets surrounding the original Nazarite church. 
Tom told me he was
working with Stacey, and I told him any help I provided had to be
under critical guidelines, being, this is a story of miracles and
recovery aimed at helping those who suffer from the abusive disease of alcholoism ¨C especially children –

who make bonds with angels in order to survive horrendous abuse and

Tom told me there had been a legal meeting with attournies where

legal steps were considered, but Tom himself refused to work under
these conditions. He tells me he wants me to sign a release of some
kind so my information will not be exploited in a sensational
It turned out to be a legal document asking me to give him EXCLUSIVE
rights to
the material, meaning, I could not draw upon my memories in written
form in regards to Christine, and perhaps all the members of my
family. I felt
this was a betrayal of the initial trust, which was tentative as it
was, as Stacey ¨C a non-family member ¨C ha been manipulative and
secretive since the
day of Christine¡¯s funeral. She, and members of my family have been
getting their way, and power over others the exact way my abusive
parents did, through secret family information aimed at keeping my
family a closed covert family. Only those who agree to go along with
the dark agendas are let into the inner circle. For taking my niece
Shannon¡¯s side in the chaos
outsiders created on top of my families tragedy, I was put, and kept
in the dark.

I will forward you an email from a fan of Christines in regards to
the disappearance of the ADULT heir that no one with all their
resources is attempting to find. They did nothing to help me find
Heather, I
pleading with the probate judge to consider the Miracle and Dream
that is still continuing in my LIFE, A miracle and dream I need to
subscribe to in
order to save my life. Stacey, Mark, and Vicki do not want my and
Christine¡¯s Program, as the one they have, that allows them to own
all the creative endeavors in the family, works fine for them, and
a beautiful cover for the darkness they spread.

It sound like Tom has contacted you again? I would like to know.
the appearance of Heather in my life, things have changed in regards
to the artistic legacy I own a physical part of in regards to a half
million dollars worth of prints, that might make a partner with
Vicki, Stacey and the Gallery, as this partnership was separate from
the estate. I think
this is what they are worried about, they willing to have a legal
battle over this, knowing I am poor. But, if my biography becomes a
best seller, then I
own what they own, money and the power of a media that pays
to a world famous artists, who might want to hear what I have to
that may not be favorable to them who are not concerned about saving
lives via the Program Christine and I shared, we sister and brother
in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I am always open for negotiations and compromise. I seek your
guidance in regards to not wanting Heather exposed to this. Its only
the next day of
our reunion and your email that reminds me there is so much ¨C DRAMA –

surrounding this legacy that was left to Hether¡¯s two cousins, all
three not allowed to play, be players, all three, inheriting the
Creative Gifts Christine and I were born with. No one else in the
family have these Gifts. I find this utterly unfair!

Heather is a Libra like myself. What sign are you Patrice. If I
you¡¯re an Aquarius?



Pre-Raphaelite Paintings of Arthurian Legends | Kate Macrae’s Reflective Log (

Gandalf and the Pre-Raphaelites

Posted on November 5, 2018by Royal Rosamond Press

Joaquin Miller had dinner with the Pre-Raphaelites and was my grandmother’s friend. This history is being compiled for the grant I am applying for. The history of the Pre-Raphaelites has not been discarded. I will prepare a home in Springfield.

Above is a photograph of my ancestors taken in the Oakland Hills no far from where Miller lived in his Bohemian enclave called ‘The Hights”. These are Turners and Forty-eighters who helped found the Abolitionist Republican Party and elected our Kin, John Fremont, to be the first Presidential candidate. I am going to send this photo to the Smithsonian. There is a rifle and a black wreath hanging in the tree. The wreath may have something to do with the Odd Fellows who allowed Ken Kesey’s mural to be rendered on their wall.

“As a token of her confidence, she told him he need no longer call
her, “Auntie.” The previous year, Bilbo had suggested that Frodo no
longer address him as, “Uncle,” if he wished. Plain, “Bilbo,” would
do. Frodo still called Bilbo, “Uncle,” now and then; it had become
too ingrained a habit. But, following suit, Rosamunda suggested Frodo
might call her, “Rosa,” or, “Rosamunda.” Frodo forgot, and called
her, “Auntie,” many times, but, within the space of an afternoon
tea, “Rosa,” she became.”

Rosamunda Bolger (née Took) was the mother of Fredegar “Fatty” Bolger
and Estella Brandybuck. She was married to Odovacar Bolger and was
known as Rosamunda Took prior to the marriage. They lived in
Budgeford in Bridgefields in the Eastfarthing of the Shire. Rosamunda
and Odovacar both attended the Bilbo’s Farewell Party in 3001 along
with their children.

I am sick to my stomach that I missed this show.


Christine Rosamond Benton and I were drawn into Tolkien’s Trilogy. The artist known as ‘Rosamond’ could not put these books down, nor could I. This caused our mutual friend, Keith Purvis, a British subject, to comment;

“She doesn’t know these books are real.”

We three were original hippies who took the Lord of the Rings to heart as we modified the modern world, made it over more to our liking, we oblivious to what normal folk were about. This is exactly what William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brother and Sisterhood did. They – returned!

I discovered the Pre-Raphaelites in 1969 and let my hair grow long for the first time. I gave up drugs in 1967 and was looking for a spiritual format. I came under the spell of the Rossetti family who were friendly with Joaquin Miller. We Presco children knew Miller’s daughter as ‘The White Witch’ and we would call her for advice. Miller’s home ‘The Abbye’ was above our home in the Oakland Hills. Our kindred were friends of Miller, who was also a friend of Swineburn, who wrote ‘The Queen-Mother and Rosamund’ and ‘Rosamund Queen of Lombards. Tolkien was inspired by the Lombards.

Filed away in Rosamond’s probate is my plea to the executor to allow me to be my sister’s historian. I mention Miller and Rossetti. I saw myself in the role of Michael Rossetti who had his own publishing company. He published Miller and other famous poets. When I was twelve, my mother read evidence I might become a famous poet.

All my imput has been ruthlessly ignored, because petty un-creative minds have forced our families creative legacy down the tiny holes of their hidden agendas, into the mouths of worms and parasites, because these ignorant people sensed I and the real Art World, did not let them in the door – would never admit them into our circle, our ring of genius!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2011


Posted on April 3, 2014by Royal Rosamond Press


Yesterday I received in the mail a book I ordered on E-Bay. I quickly scanned it to see if their were any illustrations or photographs. Then, I found it, what amounts to my personal Holy Grail. Joaquin Miller dedicated his book of poems ‘Songs of The Sun-Land’ to the Rossetti family that includes Gariel, Michael, and, Christine. Gabriel was a artist and poet, Michael, a publisher, and Christine, a poet.


There is controversy over this dedication. Michael is against it. He is critical of Miller’s poems that takes the reader to the Holy Land. Joaquin is describing a personal relationship with the Savior that reminds me of how Bohemians and Hippies would view Jesus, he a Nature Boy of sorts.

Gabriel, who had Joaquin over to his house for dinner, where he met several members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood seems to address his brother’s objections in a letter, and gives a tentative go ahead. He talks about Miller sending him a photograph of himself and bids him to say a word or two at the bottom of it, that does not exist. This photo may be the famous one taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is better known as Lewis Carrol the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. If Joaquin had glued this portrait to a piece of paper, then we might have seen it on the dedication page.

What is going on here is extremely profound. Miller has exported his vision and lifestyle to the England, where he wrote Song of the Sierras, and now he is importing to America a cultural brand that contains Grail and Arthurian subject matter that was at the epicenter of the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Rossettis may not have been too happy with Miller attaching himself to their star because the British are very protective of their culture. I wish I could say the same thing about the University of Oregon that is about to tear down homes that were once in the city limits of Fairmount, the city founded by Joaquin’s brother, George Miller.

The homes the Miller brothers lived in are registered and protected as Monuments. There is a Joaquin Miller State Park near Florence that was founded by George who also promoted the Winnemucca to the Sea Highway. There needs to be a Monument for George. I suggest the homes on Columbia Terrace be spared, and this city block declared a National Monument. I have suggested these homes be used to house homeless Vets going to college, but now I see a Free College on this site due to the student loan crisis.

This college will teach alternatives to prospective students of the UofO, such as having parents of students purchase a home in Eugene. In many cases a mortgage is cheaper than rent. Teaching your children how to get a job rather then attend college, will produce more home ownership that the UofO who promises jobs – that don’t exist!

The Miller Brothers were born on a farm near Coburg. They went into the world and achieved much. They are a cultural icon too Oregon and California. On page ten of the prelude, we read;

“By unnamed rivers of the Oregon north’
That roll dark-heaved into turbulent hills,
I have made my home….The Wild heart thrills
With memories fierce, and world storms forth.”

I once read that many college students didn’t know there was a Oregon, and if they did, they didn’t know where it is. The Rossettis more than likely read these words. Did they go to a globe to see where Joaquin and George live?
How many students at the UofO know who the Miller brothers were, and the Brotherhood.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2014

“When Joaquin Miller left DC, most sources agree that he gave his cabin to a friend, who in turn gave it to the Sierra Club. Then in 1913 the cabin was carefully disassembled at the urging of the California State Association and moved to its current location in Rock Creek Park, near the intersection of Beach Drive and Military Road, where it is now the property of the National Park Service. By and by, another Miller found inspiration in the cabin. From 1931 through the 1950’s, Pherne Miller, Joaquin’s niece, leased the cabin from the Parks Department, and there she gave art classes and sold soft drinks and candy.”

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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