Monday, October 29, 2007

One of Our Most Charming Favourites of the Stage

Two things we can say with certainty about Eleanor Bufton (1842-1893) was that she was one of the leading actresses of the Victorian period and that she came from Radnorshire.

The Dictionary of National Biography, she was well enough known to be listed in that august work, has it that she was born in Llanbister in 1842, the illegitimate daughter of an illiterate mother, one Mary Bufton. I'm not so sure. The 1881 census lists her husband Arthur Swanborough, actor-manager of the Strand theatre and his mother-in-law, an Esther Bufton who was born in Knill around 1812. Eleanor was away from home in Liverpool and her birthplace looks for all the world like Evenjobb. The 1871 census confirms that mother and daughter were born in Radnorshire. Eleanor had married Arthur Swanborough, his real name was Smith, in 1860 and the pair are listed under that surname in the 1861 census, again mother Esther is living with her daughter. Miss Bufton's age varies quite widely in these records, in 1861 she was 26, by 1871 she had aged a mere three years and was 29, while by 1881 she was 41, when she died in 1893 her age is given as 58, all of which suggests to me that she was born around 1835.

In 1871 Eleanor Bufton hit the headlines when she was involved in a minor railway accident which left her cut about the head and bruised. She successfully sued the Metropolitan Railway Company, her acting ability perhaps proved by the jury's award of £1600 in damages. In 1880 Miss Bufton was again on the front pages when she was the victim of an outrageous attack while walking home from the theatre. The perpetrator was never found, perhaps it was a shareholder of the Railway Company.

There are some photographs of Eleanor and her daughters Vere and Gussie here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some additional information, it looks as if Eleanor was the daughter of John Bufton and his wife Esther - a Radnorshire blacksmith who moved to Birmingham when his daughter was quite young - they were there by 1841.