The Hallam sisters

This is an extended version of two stories I’ve shared over the last few days about friends of my grandma.

I’m still slowly going through my grandmother’s autograph book, and someone who wrote in it twice is her friend Hilda Clare Hallam; Hilda wrote a verse by Charles Kingsley and a few lines  of music by Johann Strauss. Hilda’s sister Lesa also signed and added a small and lovely pencil drawing of a little child.

Hilda was born in Marylebone in 1889, ten years after her sister Lesa. Hilda first appears in a census in 1891 when she was just over a year old. She’s living in Lisson Grove in Marylebone with her widowed grandfather, her parents, and her brothers and sisters.

Frederick, Hilda’s seventy year-old grandfather was born in Ireland, and his occupation is recorded as ‘traveller’.However, on  investigating Frederick’s history it seems he arrived in England from Ireland, aged about thirty-six and he was a cutler and surgical instrument maker. A cutler makes cutlery, knifes and bladed tools and implements. The family came over from Waterford in Ireland 1849-50, , Frederick senior born 1814, Mary born 1820, little Mary then aged about eight, Margaret six, Frederick junior five and Sarah three, Charlotte was born in 1850.

Back to 1891 and in the Lisson Grove house , were  Eliza and Frederick now a dental instrument maker and the children, . There are also Hilda’s four brothers and sisters: Florence a milliner aged nineteen, young Frederick a fifteen year old apprentice, eleven-year old Eliza, and  Lottie  aged 17 who is mistakenly recorded as a boy.

In the 1901 census the family have moved from Lissen Grove to Fordwych Road in Hampstead. At home now are Hilda, her sisters Florence and Lisa (aged 21, born in 1880, who wasn’t mentioned on the 1881 census) and the parents, Fred and Eliza. Both Florence and Lisa were born in the USA, in New York. By looking at the 1881 census we see that Frederick junior junior was also born in the USA. The family at that time in that census were living in Iverson Road, Hampstead, and Lottie is clearly identified as a girl!  She too was born in the States so the family must have been there from 1874 when Lottie was born. Also staying in the house in 1881 were Eliza’s two sisters, Ada and Jesse Watts… which gives us Eliza’s maiden name.

Four years after the sisters sign the autograph book they are still at home with her parents, Frederick and Eliza, Frederick is still an instrument maker, Florence a milliner and Lisa/Lesa an artist. Hilda now is out at work, and she is a clerk.

We don’t know much about Hilda, and I can’t find any record of her marrying, however I have found out a little more about Lesa. She’s recorded on the census as an artist and in fact she was quite well-known and if you Google her name you’ll find quite a few paintings by her. You will also see that even recently her paintings have come up for auction. In grandma’s autograph book Lesa offers a pencil sketch of a child, dated 1907 when she was twenty-eight and by then she had received a mention in the press about her work exhibited by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours:

Colours in Piccadilly
The Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours is rich in pictures this year, over 600 works being arranged at the Gallery in Piccadilly. Naturally, all these are not worthy of commendation, but a great many are above the average.
Of the flower painters… prominent amongst the 400 naturalists are Miss Ethel Webling and Miss Lesa Hallam.

Lesa exhibited again in 1910 this time in the Royal Academy of Arts in London, , a painting called The Pink Rose.

In 1914, quite innocent of what was to occur a few months later Lesa was placing advertisements in ‘The Coinnoseur – n Illustrated Magazine for Collectors.:

OLD MINIATURES COPIED AND COLLECTIONS RESTORED and put in order by a skilled and experienced artist Miss Lesa Hallam, 18 Berners Street, London
COLLECTION OF GENUINE OLD MINIATURES IN WAX dated 1812 some signed ‘Flaxman’ also genuine old masters on ivory in good condition Miss Lesa Hallam, 18 Berners Street, London

Flaxman, by the way was probably John Flaxman, 1755 – 1826,  a sculptor and well-known in his time as an illustrator and a sculptor of funerary monuments, some of which are in Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

The following year in May 1915, Lesa married Walter Schoeller who was born in 1880; he was the eldest son of Clara Hoddick and Valentin Schöller, and an older brother Willy, and two younger sisters, Irene Schöller and Aenni. I believe Lesa and Walter moved to live abroad. I don’t know if they had any children, but I think probably not. I think they may have lived in France, but I can find out little more except that Lesa died in 1957, maybe in France.


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