The Gore-Booth and Warwick Families

The Gore-Booth and Warwick Families

Gore-Booth Coat of Arms

Alfred Warwick was born April 14th, 1890 in Watertown, Ontario north of Hamilton. He was the ninth of twelve children of William Frederick Warwick and Emily Frances Arrabella Gore-Booth and probably the first of them to be born in Canada after the family left England in 1887.

Alfred was working as a coal dealer in Hamilton in 1913 when he married Martha Ella Stewart, a farmer's daughter from nearby Lincoln County. The new couple had their only daughter Winnifred Jean Warwick on 17 October, 1914, but their happiness would not last long. A year later, Alfred signed up to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was killed in France August 11
th, 1918. He is buried at Pas-de-Calais. His widow would later marry his brother James and have another daughter named Frances Muriel Warwick.

Several contradictory stories have been passed down about Alfred's parents, so it has been difficult sorting out fact from fiction. The common thread is that Emily was of noble birth and that William was considered 'below her station'. The couple is supposed to have eloped to Gretna Green and Emily disowned by her father. While the 'noble birth' part of the story is in fact true, the real reason for Emily not benefiting from her family's estate is far more interesting.

The Gore-Booths are not 'noble' in the strictest sense, but are actually Baronets of Lissadell in Co. Sligo, Ireland. The beautiful Lissadell house was made famous in the poetry of W.B. Yeats, who visited there frequently and became enamoured of the Gore-Booth sisters, Eva and Constance. Eva was a poet and suffragette, and her sister Constance became famous as the 'Rebel Countess' after becoming involved with the Easter Rising of 1916. Constance was imprisoned and sentenced to death for her role in the rebellion, but her sentence was later commuted on account of her gender. She became the first woman elected as a British M.P., but as a member of Sinn Féin she declined her seat.

The famous Gore-Booth sisters were the daughters of Sir Henry Gore-Booth, 5th Baronet of Lissadell, who was well known as an Arctic explorer and adventurer. Henry's father was Sir Robert Gore-Booth, the 4th Baronet. As a wealthy Anglo-Irish landowner during the Great Famine of the 1840s, Sir Robert was accused of arbitrarily evicting starving tenant farmers from his land and packing them into leaky, overcrowded emigrant ships headed for Canada and America. However, other accounts insist that he mortgaged the estate to help feed his tenants and refused to accept any rents for the duration. Which version of events is closer to the truth is still a matter of controversy.

Sir Robert had a younger brother named Henry Gore-Booth, born April 11th, 1909 at Lissadell. Like most younger brothers in such families, Henry's prospects were somewhat limited. He could not hope to inherit his father's title or lands, and would probably not have had the skills or the inclination to do much in the way of a career. So, like others in his position, he bought himself a military commission and set to work spending his family's money while he could. He even made himself a good marriage in 1834 to Isabella Smith, daughter of James Smith of Scotland. The couple had the requisite number of children and made social appearances as were expected, but there were always rumours of trouble in the marriage.

This is where the public record ends and the story gets interesting.

Emily Frances Arrabella Gore-Booth and William Frederick Warwick were married at St. Mary the Virgin Church near Liverpool on November 2nd, 1872. William was an accountant from Clerkenwell and the son of an engraver, which would have put him solidly in the middle class. Their marriage record states that Emily's father was 'Henry Gore-Booth, Officer in the Army, Scots Fus. Guards' and he actually signed the document as a witness to the marriage. So much for the elopement story.

The next document to surface was a baptism record for Emily Frances Arrabella Gore-Booth at St. Peter's, Liverpool, dated 29 Jan 1852. This record lists her parents as 'Henry and Frances Gore-Booth'. If this was the same Henry Gore-Booth who was married to Isabella Smith, then something very interesting was going on indeed. Proving this conclusively would be another matter, however, so I turned to a professional researcher in Ireland.

For a very reasonable fee, this fellow searched the Gore-Booth documents housed at the Public Records Office in Belfast for any reference to Emily. While he didn't find her name mentioned specifically, he did find two letters to Sir Robert from the family's accountant, Mr. Henry Leader of Wyelands & Buxton. The first of these stated that his brother Henry was requesting a loan of £30 to pay for his daughter's wedding, which was to take place on November 2nd, 1872. The second letter also referred to the wedding, and made some cryptic references to Henry's situation and character:

Christmas Day, 1872

Dear Sir Robert,
        ___? of the 20
th Dec (Ins't) afforded me much pleasure, telling me as it did, that you had put an end to the suit & were binding H.G.B. to future good behavior & better principles.
        Last night I had a letter from Mr. Gordon [the family's Dublin solicitor] confirming this & going into the particulars of payments, present & future, & these shall be attended to.
        Where has his money gone to? Could it be that he gave a portion of it as a settlement on his daughter when she was married lately in Liverpool - though this is not likely, knowing as I do the distress he was in for money to pay the necessary expenses of the marriage - he begged & prayed for a remittance, so I sent him £20.

What suit is he referring to? Was it in regards to Emily or another matter entirely? It would certainly be interesting to find out. The researcher also sent a copy of a document with Henry's signature, which matches the one found on Emily's marriage record.

The picture that emerges from this first series of documents is that Henry Gore-Booth had an affair with a woman named Frances, who became pregnant with Emily. The couple (or perhaps just Frances) pretended to be married in order avoid embarrassment when the baby was baptized. But rather than abandon his illegitimate daughter as he could have easily done, it appears that Henry stayed in her life and even borrowed money from his brother to pay for her wedding. According to Frances Warwick King, Henry even paid for Emily's education in a European boarding school.

This left the mystery of Emily's mother. What was Frances' surname? What happened to her? How did she meet Henry? Some of these questions were answered when I started to examine the census records. The search was complicated by the fact that the name Gore-Booth is often incorrectly indexed as just Booth with Gore or G. as a middle name, but I eventually tracked down 9 year old Emily and her mother Elizabeth F. (Frances), age 28, living in Weston-super-Mare near Bristol in 1861. Amazingly, Henry Gore-Booth was living with them and the couple was listed as husband and wife!

1861 British Census, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset Co., pg.10

Looking at the next census year in 1871, once again we find Henry Gore-Booth with his now 39 year old 'wife' Fanny, this time living in Surrey. Emily was not with them, and it's possible that she was in boarding school at the time. It should be noted that while this 'Fanny' is probably the same woman as Elizabeth Frances, her place of birth in 1861 was listed as Birmingham, Warwickshire, while in 1871 it was listed as Lydney, Gloucestershire. While this sort of discrepancy is quite common in census records, it interests me because Frances Warwick King claims that Emily's mother died when she was quite young. However, the odds that Henry Gore-Booth would have taken up with two different women named Frances of exactly the same age are pretty astronomical, so for now I will assume that there is only one.

1871 British Census, Richmond, Surrey, pg.29

The final census showing Henry Gore-Booth was in 1881, the year he died. Here there is no question that he is the husband of Isabella Smith - he describes himself as 'Captn, Army, Son of a Baronet'. This time he is living in Hammersmith, London, as a lodger in the home of a 49 year old widow named Fanny Swindells who happens to have been born in Lydney. Is it possible that this is Elizabeth Frances as well, and that the couple finally gave up any pretense of being married? It could well be, but as it turns out the pretense wasn't really a pretense.

1881 British Census, Hammersmith, Middlesex, pg.96

The most astonishing document I have uncovered so far is a marriage registration dated May 2nd 1863 (ten years after Emily's birth) between 'Henry Gore-Booth, bachelor', and 'Elizabeth Gore-Booth, otherwise Menier or Mayner', daughter of John Mayner, Gentleman. Again there is no question that this is the same Henry, as he lists his occupation as 'Captain in the Army' and his father as 'Robert Gore-Booth'. There is also no question that his wife Isabella was still alive at the time - she actually outlived her husband by over a decade. Frances Warwick King once told me that Emily was the daughter of Henry's "other wife", which I originally took to be the family's way of getting around a sticky subject. As it turns out she was absolutely correct, and Henry really did have two wives. It's possible that Henry and Isabella had secretly divorced, but given the laws of the day and the public scrutiny these two upper class families would have been under, it is extremely unlikely. Bigamy could be swept under the rug - divorce was a scandal.

It must be pointed out that divorce in the nineteenth century was virtually impossible. Before 1858 it could only be granted through an Act of Parliament. After that date the rules were eased very slightly, but divorce was still only granted under extraordinary circumstances. The only solution for most people in an unhappy marriage was simply to leave their spouse and try to carry on with their lives. In some cases, carrying on involved living with or even marrying another person. This seems surprising in our age of computerized, cross-referenced records, but back then if someone said they weren't already married they were taken at their word. It wasn't as if the minister was going to make the long trip to London to check the marriage registry to make sure.

The last document I found was the will of Isabella Smith, Henry's original wife, who seems to have spent most of her marriage at Jordanhill, the Smith family manor in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Isabella died in 1896 and specifically refers to herself as the spouse of Henry Gore-Booth in her will. Incredibly, our Emily is mentioned twice in this document. The first instance is in the estate inventory section of the will:

"Bank Draft for £10 on the Merchants Bank of Canada, Hamilton, Canada, dated 24th November 1891, payable to Mrs. Emily Warwick, Sherman Street, North Barton, Hamilton, Canada, purchased by deceased, but not used."

What could this possibly mean? At the very least, it means that Isabella was aware of Emily's existence, and most likely knew that she was her husband's illegitimate child. The amount of £10 seems relatively small, which leads me to suspect that this was one of a series of payments, perhaps yearly or even monthly. Frances Warwick King told me once that after her father's death, Emily was approached by a representative of the family who gave her a sum of money on the understanding that she would make no further claims on her father's estate. It would have been not long after this that the Warwicks moved to Canada, which made me wonder if they used the money to pay for the trip. Now I am beginning to wonder if the arrangement extended further and this £10 bank draft was part of Emily's inheritance. The other, more cynical possibility is that it was 'hush money'. The best way to find this out would be to examine Henry's will, which I have so far been unable to find.

The other mention of Emily in Isabella's will is as the recipient of a bequest of £35.20 to Mrs Emily Warwick. This is a very odd amount and appears to have been changed from just plain £30. No explanation is given of the reason for the bequest or the relationship between the two women. What must it have taken for Isabella to send money to her husband's illegitimate daughter? Was she heart-broken, or did she simply accept the situation? Did she resent Emily, or did she accept her as part of the family? It's hard to guess from the perspective of 20th century society. Perhaps an examination of Isabella's letters and other papers will yield some clue.

There are many other questions to be answered about Emily and her parents. How did Henry and Frances meet? Frances was quite a bit younger than Henry and would have been only 19 when she had Emily. Who was Frances' father John Mayner, and did he have a relationship with the Gore-Booths? Are there any references to Henry and Frances' relationship in family letters or other documents? Was Emily mentioned in Henry's will?

The search continues.

The Lissadell Papers at PRONI

Jennifer's Genealogy Page
Created: Tuesday, May 16, 2000
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 04, 2006