Agnes Law was the daughter of Edward Law, first earl of Ellenborough (1790-1871), whose country seat was at Southam, near Bishop’s Cleeve, just north of Cheltenham.1 Agnes was evidently one of at least three illegitimate children ‘from a liaison that followed his divorce’ in 1830.2 Her mother is yet to be identified with certainty. Agnes was born in London, probably in 1858. I have not identified her in the 1861 census but by 1871 she was clearly acknowledged as the daughter of Edward Law and living in his household as such.
Agnes Law, aged 15, by the Pittville, Cheltenham,
photographer G. C. Parker: August 1873
(private collection)3As the 1871 census shows, Agnes was living on the Ellenborough estate with two older sisters, Eva Law (1852-1927) and Ellen Richmond (1855-1951), both born in Gloucestershire. It seems that Ellen was half-sister to Eva and Agnes. Eva and Agnes were closely associated until their deaths in the 1920s. Eva’s mother was Hebe Coleman, a neighbour of the Law family in Southam. It has been assumed, but is not certain, that Agnes’s mother was also Hebe Coleman.
1871 census entry for Southam Delebere, Southam, Bishop’s Cleeve (extract)Something of the opulence of the girls’ upbringing may be surmised by the fact that the household included 17 servants in addition to a governess.
The striking photograph of Agnes reproduced above is an example of the carte de visite photograph very popular in the 1860s and 1870s, and was taken in the Pittville studio of George Parker. It shows Agnes in August 1873, shortly before Eva’s wedding to James Francis Daubeny (1838-1912). Daubeny was formerly a captain in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. Subsequently, Agnes went to live with the Daubenys at 17 Pittville Villas (now 34 Prestbury Road), Pittville (see 1881 census extract below):
1881 census 17 Pittville Villas, Pittville (extract)The entry for Daubeny’s wife has two puzzling errors. The initials should be E.L., i.e. ‘Eva Law’, and her age should be 30 (or 28), not 40, but this sort of minor recording or transcription error in not unusual on the census data sheets.
In 1888 Agnes married an Italian, Vincenzo Mauro, in St Marks, Battersea, London. Who Mauro was, when he came to England, how long he stayed are all a mystery.
But for a woman of Agnes’s upbringing, he must have been a man of both standing and charm, especially as he was five years her junior. The register gives their residences as adjacent houses in Lindore Street, off Battersea Rise. Whether this was a convenient fiction is unclear and how Agnes came to be living in Battersea is unknown.
The couple went to Italy where a child, Vincenzo, was born, but Agnes and her infant soon returned to England without the husband. At least that is the impression given by the 1891 census record.
1891 census record for 59 Regent Street, Cheltenham (extract)This finds Agnes and her two-year-old as boarders in the home of James and Ellen Goulding at 59 Regent Street, Cheltenham, within easy distance of her sister and brother-in-law at Pittville Villas. The 1911 census indicates that the marriage lasted for two full years and was then dissolved. So Agnes was still officially married at the time of the 1891 census but in practical terms it had ceased some time earlier and the official dissolution must have occurred shortly after the census was taken.
It seems that Agnes lived in Cheltenham for the remainder of her life. She was ‘living on own means’ at ‘Glendale’, 166 King’s Road, Cheltenham, at the time of the 1901 census, with two servants, a Scottish cook and a Welsh parlour maid.
1901 census record for ‘Glendale’, 166 King’s Road, Cheltenham (extract)Young Vincenzo, who was now 12, was perhaps away at boarding school. No further record of him has been traced.
By 1911 she was living on ‘private means’ at 2 Eldon Villas, Eldon Road, Cheltenham, with one cook/general servant. This records that her son was still living and that she had had no other children.
1911 census record for 2 Eldon Villas, Eldon Road, Cheltenham (extract)In December the following year, Agnes’s brother-in-law, James Daubeny, died. Agnes continued living at Eldon Villas until her own death in November 1926 at the age of 68:
Was Agnes estranged from her son, so that probate was granted to her sister Eva?
Agnes’s widowed older sister, Eva, died five months later, at 10 Pittville Lawn, in March 1927.
Such is the outline of the life of the striking girl in the 1873 photograph. There is very little to indicate whether it was a contented life. The short-lived marriage raises many questions. But Agnes was more fortunate than many Victorian wives in having the private means to escape an unsatisfactory marriage.
Perhaps this outline will open lines of enquiry in archives in Cheltenham and elsewhere.
1 The house is now the Ellenborough Park Hotel. See further historical information at http://www.ellenboroughpark.com/hotel-service/history/.
2 David Steele, ‘Law, Edward, first earl of Ellenborough (1790–1871)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It is probable that there was more than one liaison.
3 This carte de visite portrait of Agnes was presumably mounted in an album in the 1870s, but had been disbound when it was purchased in England in 2002.