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Things aren't always what they seem - Lily Lansdown - Part Two

Posted 13 July 2016 by Kirsten English

This blog follows on from my earlier entry about Lily Lansdowne/Vesta. Let's move on to Sydney Lansdown, Pauline's father. It took a while to have any success with him.

Searching the British Newspaper Archive and The Stage archive brought up references to him working with the Karno company in the 1910s. Fred Karno seems to have had several companies all performing round the country and they are listed with artists by place. Syd Lansdowne appears regularly in these lists.

Also in these lists, but in a different Karno company is Syd Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's older brother who later introduced him to the company, and the rest is history...

In fact, in 1915 I found Syd Lansdown performing in Accrington doing Charlie Chaplin impersonations. I'd say it's highly likely he knew the brothers. I found 2 references for Syd Lansdown appearing with Lily Lansdown in performances, but little else for him.

If Sydney/Sidney Lansdown was his real name there were quite a few showing up in the census records and birth records. We simply knew nothing about where he was from. In the end, all I could think of doing was going through the 1911 census to see if there was any reference to a Sydney Lansdown with anything to do with theatre.

I eventually found him in 1911 living in Burnley, Lancashire. His name has been helpfully transcribed as 'Sodladone'! He was 'visiting' the Carroll family and was listed with a wife, May, and a daughter, Gwenda. His occupation was 'Music Hall Artist'. This record also told me he was born in 1888 in London. His wife was also a music hall artist so it is most likely that they were touring at this point and staying with the Carroll family. Thomas Carroll, the head of the family, was a piano tuner so may have had a link with music hall as well.

In 1921 May Louise Lansdown petitioned for divorce from Sydney on the grounds that he had been living with another woman.

In 1922, his daughter, my client's mother was born. It would be reasonable to assume the woman he was living with was Lily Lansdown/Vesta.

However, in 1926, Sidney married a lady named Louisa Linwood in Lambeth. They had a son in 1927 named George Kenneth Lansdown. He in turn married and had children. It was one of these children that I was able to trace for my client and their meeting was filmed and shown on Family Finders.

And this is where the twist in the tale came. Through handwriting, photos and her father's memory, this cousin was able to prove that Louisa Linwood was in fact the mother on the birth certificate. For reasons we will never know, she not only put her stage name - Lily Lansdown - on the birth certificate, but as her maiden name, she put another actresses stage name - Lily Vesta!

This meant Lily Vesta/Lillian Simcox was nothing to do with this family at all - my instinct that something was wrong was proved correct. It also meant that the family story of the mother turning up with a young boy to claim her daughter was true. Kenneth was the young boy.

This piece of research is still the hardest and most unpredictable tree I have done, but with an awesome result. As always, I learned loads, this time about the music hall world and where to find resources. And I was so pleased to be able to link my client to the cousin she never knew she had.