Family history research can lead to unexpected places, and stories unfold as you follow the trail of different characters – in your own family, or sometimes just collateral people you come across. What you find in your lateral investigations can lead to stories, and stories can lead to other stories!

Lois Elsden was searching for a great-aunt of her husband… she had her name, Emma Pither Dodd, but that was all…

I was on the trail of Emma Pither Dodd, trying to find not only her parents, but the father of her little boy, Alfred. I found an Emma Dodd working for a diamond merchant Max Meyer in 1891.

I get fascinated by names (I came across a Carling Curling a little while ago) and I suppose it may be because I have an unusual name… and the characters in my novels have unusual names too, Deke, Tyche, Aislin, Beulah, Genet… So, fascinated by Max and Tilley Meyer I looked them up in the 1901 census, and there they are with their two sons and their servants still living in London. However, there is another Max Meyer, exactly the same age and living in Torqay in Devon. Really? Two naturalised Germans in England of the same age and same name?

The second Max is a musician and when I look at his census record I see  he is staying in a hotel. I open the household record to see who is staying with him, and oh, what a treasure trove of exotic names and people! This is a very large hotel!

Not just any hotel, but the Imperial Hotel, Torquay!

Among others staying with Max and his wife, Alice, in this grand establishment is Thomas Webley of the Webley gun fame. His father Philip and uncle, James, started the company in 1835; it grew to become Webley & Scott, the English rivals to Samuel Colt!

Also staying in the hotel was Frederick Macmillan of the internationally famous publishing house (and yes, I have had rejection slips from MacMillan’s!) Frederick Macmillan was one of the two sons of Daniel Macmillan, a Scot who had started the company in 1843 with his brother Alexander. Frederick took over the company from his uncle in 1889. Frederick and his New York born wife Georgina Winnie were staying in the hotel with their daughter Ethel.

Others from the highest of society include Robert Lewis Bowyer, a member of the London Stock Exchange; also from the Stock Exchange was Septimus Croft and his wife, Ada d’Alton Croft ; Messers Bowyer and Croft surely would have known my own family, the Moses/Walfords some of whom were  stockbrokers. Also at the Imperial was  James Brown a Scottish colliery owner; Lady Victoria Bunton and her son, Harold Jocelyn Bunton; Mr and Mrs Cooper, woollen manufacturers; 28-year-old Prince Adam Czartoryoki ; Colonel Edward Everett; John Cooper Malcolm and his wife Louisa Arabella were on holiday from Leeds where he was a solicitor and  coroner; Fleet Surgeon John Block Nicoll and his wife Margaret; Johanna Sanderson from Java Jjandjoez; ; Thomas Muller Rickman, an architect and surveyor from Warwick…

There are some exotic names too, Oliphant Arthur Brown, a painter, also from Scotland; Emily Clover and her daughter, Evelyn from Lancashire; Walpole Edwin Eyre, JP and his wife Caroline; Eastree Cuthbert Quilter and his mother Mary Ann;  Captain David Ouhram and Mrs Jane Rodger Ourham.

The manager of the Imperial was Frederick Fisher who was born in Westpahlia in Germany; his wife, Jane was from Utrecht in the Netherlands and she too lived in the hotel with their children, Albert,11, Elizabeth, 9, and Harry, 6, who were all born in Singapore in what was then the Straits Settlement.

Back to the Mayers…  Max Mayer the musician had married his wife Helen Handel Beer in 1889; he was naturalized as a British subject in 1900 became a professor of music in Manchester, his wife Alice a singing teacher.

Max Mayer, the dealer in precious stones, was, in 1911, a diamond and pearl merchant, still living in Kensington with Tilly (Mathilda Amelia) and their son Edward Rudolph. Their residence at 20, Bolton Gardens, had seventeen rooms and the family of three had six servants. He was by now extremely eminent, buying and selling some of the rarest stones including the Agra Diamond which he purchased for £5, 100 which would be nearly £2,ooo,ooo today! In 1913 a necklace valued at half a million pounds (goodness knows how much it would be worth today) was stolen from Max who offered a substantial reward. The necklace was supposedly of the same value as the London Opera House!

For all his wealth, Max the diamond merchant who had started his career as a commercial clerk in Hatton Garden, lodging with a Mr Herman Oppenheimer, was not able to buy long life. Sadly he died in 1921 at the age of 62. I do not know what became of his widow; I cannot find a record of her death so I guess she moved abroad, maybe to Paris.

Professor Max Mayer, the teacher of music died in Manchester in 1931 at the age of 72; his wife Alice died three years later when she was 71.

Whether the Emma Dodd who was Max and Tilley’s servant was the mother of Alfred, or whether she was another young girl, I wonder if she ever saw stories about the Mayers in the newspaper and thought back to the days when she had lived with them as their servant?

To find Lois’s e-books, including her genealogical mysteries, follow this link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

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2 thoughts on “The diamond merchant and the musician

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