The Wedding Party–A Mystery Solved

I’ve got a pile of postcards and old photos that I inherited from my father. Many of the postcards he collected from places that he visited around the world, when he was a merchant seaman in the 1920s and 1930s. There are also lots of postcards of places in the Isle of Man, where he and I were born. As well as reproductions of 18th century engravings, there are photos; the earliest of which date from 1860. Here’s an example of one of these, showing Douglas Bay:

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But there is one photo that has always intrigued me. It shows a wedding party, in the grounds of what could be a rather grand house. Other than the fact that it certainly couldn’t be any of our family, I had no idea who these people were, or where the photo was taken. Until, that is, a couple of days ago…

Here’s the photo:

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My brother has finally solved the mystery – he came across the same photo in a book. It is the wedding of Louisa Jane Dumbell and Alfred Charles Elliot on the 23rd June 1866. Louisa was the daughter of a prominent Manx figure of the time, George William Dumbell. He founded his own bank in 1853, and it had a fairly chequered history until its collapse in 1900. However, in 1866, George was riding high, and he made sure his daughter’s wedding was a lavish affair:

In 1866, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter, Louisa,to Mr Elliott, of the Indian Civil Service, the most lavish expenditure was indulged in. The SUN columns described the bride’s dress as being of “white satin, trimmed with three rolls of satinround the skirt, bodice trimmed with Bruxelles point lace, with crystal buttons, Bruxelles lace veil, wreath of orange and myrtle,pearl ornaments, etc. She was attended by eight bridesmaids, and the wedding party completely filled the church at Braddan. A troop of workmen had been for weeks employed in erecting a. monster marquee in the grounds at Belmont, which were illuminated and decorated with fairy-like grandeur.” The wedding festivities terminated on the fourth day with a great ball in the Castle Mona Hotel.

The photo shows the wedding party in the six-acre grounds of “Belmont”, the house that George Dumbell had built in 1835. And now, with the benefit of knowledge, I realise that I should have recognised the house in the photograph, because I played in the house and grounds as a child. One of my schoolboy friends was Michael Crowe, and his family lived in Belmont (which by this time had been split into two semi-detached , but still very grand, houses). We spent many happy hours playing in the very Rhododendron bush that you can see on the left of the photo. By the 1950s, it had grown to gigantic size, and it was our jungle and climbing frame all rolled into one.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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20 Responses to The Wedding Party–A Mystery Solved

  1. Allerton Delano Marshall says:

    I was so interested to find your blog and the references to Belmont. My mother, the late Sylvia Hitch Marshall, was the daughter of Gertrude Minna Dumbell, who was in turn the daughter of The Rev. George William Dumbell Jr., eldest son of the Manx banker to whom you refer. I grew up seeing that photograph every day, and although Mother knew it show her Great-Grandfather’s house in Douglas, she never knew the details of the wedding celebrated that day. She did, however, acquire some wonderful copper pieces from the house, through what means I know not, which are in my possession today. The story in the family was that when her Grandfather refused to enter the family banking business and was ordained to the priesthood, his father disowned him, causing him to emigrate with his wife and five daughters to Palestine, Texas beginning a life of ministry ending in Staten Island, where he married his daughter to my Grandfather Allerton Delano Hitch.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Allerton, I’m very pleased that I was able to give you a little more background on the photo. The internet can be a wonderful resource. Regards, Geoff Coupe

    • Jonathan Bracken says:

      Allerton – most interesting. I think you’re my third cousin (once removed)! My great x 2 grandmother was Anne, born 1840, George William Dumbell Jr’s younger sister. It would be interesting to see photos of the copper pieces that came your way. I don’t think anything came our way, except a rather pristine bible, presented to GWD Sr in 1885. I have you down on my tree, your bit shamelessly cribbed from someone else’s work on Ancestry I fear! Rather than sabotage Geoff’s Blog feel free to contact me direct on jrbracken@gmx.co.uk

      Regards
      Jonathan Bracken

    • Most interesting, Allerton. I have a photo of the seven daughters of Rev. Dumbell, one your grandmother Gertrude and another my grandmother, Henrietta Frances Emily Dumbell (Murray). There also were five brothers. Three other children died as infants. I remember talk of the Hitches. Rev. G. W. Dumbell, Jr.,l established a number of churches en route across the United States (covered wagon and all), including an Episcopal Church in St. Louis. The remains of the family’s homestead in Texas may still exist near Plano. Rev. Dumbell later settled in Goshen, New York, where he was the minister of Saint James Episcopal Church. The photo was taken on the grounds of Lone Oak, the home of my grandmother in Goshen. I will be pleased to send a copy if provided an email address. Wow! All these relatives! Thanks to my brother, John Spencer Simrell, who found this.blog.

      • Donna Russell says:

        Hi Bonnie I have been reading your info on the Dumbell family. My husbands great great grandmother was Emily Byne illegitimate daughter of Francis Byne who I believe was in business for a short while with George William Dumbell.I just wonder if you have any information regarding this. I seem to think I have read something regarding the Murray family and the Bynes.

        • kenneth boyne says:

          i just found out my grgrgrandpa was from isle of man and we spell boyne here,there was byne,as i was told one person connected me to a byne, this may be kin ? my gr gr grandpa was william thomas boyne here on stone here died in new orleans,live in new york short time. kb

        • kenneth boyne says:

          i saw boynes/bynes and murrays somewhere in my tree i’am sure, i’am linked to isle of man and ireland michael boyne married jane gale/gell and there were others have some pictures in needed,kboyne

  2. Gail Rattee says:

    Geoff Coupe: I am so interested to read up on all your information re George William Dumbell. My Grandfather was James Henry Dumbell and my Gr. Grandfather was Henry Dumbell (who I believe to be the brother of George William Dumbell) My great grandfather was born in 1846, to a John Dumbell. I don’t know John’s wife’s name. If you can give me any information I would certinly appreciate it.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Gail, sorry, but I don’t have any further information on the Dumbell family. Here’s a page with some links to resources that might help you further:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/familyhistory/get_started/get_started.shtml

    • Jonathan Bracken says:

      Gail – I don’t think your Henry Dumbell was the brother of the George William Dumbell (GWD) mentioned here. I’ve got a fairly extensive family tree and while there is a Henry Charles Dumbell born in 1846, his father was GWD b 1804 (he also had a brother of the same name b1832 – mentioned in the post from Allerton Marshall above). There is a web article on GWD at http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/people/business/gwdumbel.htm
      Mind you I’ve been on the Ancestry website and someone has put a tree together incorporating your Henry, a clockmaker, father John and grandfather Nathaniel! http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/19191953/person/1923809745 you might need to subscribe to view. There may be a connection in the early 1700s between the two trees but more work is required to establish!

      Geoff – Most interested to see this. GWD was my great x 3 grandfather, and your post has drawn out a few potential relatives!

    • Donna Russell says:

      Hi Gail I have ben reading youinfo on the Dumbell Family. My husbands gg gandmother was Emily Byne illegitimate daughter of Francis Byne who I believe was in business for a short while with George William Byne. I was wondering if you know anything about this. Many thanks Donna Russell.

    • kenneth boyne says:

      any body have pictures of the boynes / byne on the island with other familys?

  3. Trish says:

    I just stumbled across this blog post while looking for something entirely different but I’m fascinated to see how many descendants of the Dumbells it’s dredged up 🙂

    I live on the Isle of Man and I could have told you who was in that wedding party, not because I’m particular well educated in Manx social history but simply because that photo is framed (and labelled) on the wall of The Prospect pub along with a load of old bank notes. The building which is now occupied by the pub was previously the last premises of Dumbells bank – you can see it on street view http://goo.gl/maps/TR62Q – although if you turn around you will see the rather more impressive former premises of their big competitor, the Bank of Mona (the building which looks like a wedding cake).

    Also Geoff linked to the press release on the Chrystals site but the property (or at least half of the original property) is still for sale so you can have a proper snoop inside http://bit.ly/13xXSBw I expect the wallpaper will be familiar to you if you were in the house in the 50s. 😉

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hi Trish – thanks for your comment and pointing out the pub that was previously the bank. It’s very odd – I walked up and down Prospect Hill every weekday as a child going to and from school (first Tynwald St., then Demesne Road, and finally, biking to St. Ninians), and I simply can’t recall a pub being there. The Isle of Man Bank on the corner, yes; Prospect House, yes; but not that there was a pub between them. Has it been a pub since the 1950s, or is it a relatively recent incarnation?

      And yes, the wallpaper does look familiar!

      • Trish says:

        Hi Geoff,

        Well, first I should admit it turned out I was completely wrong (or at best misled) and that is not the former building of Dumbell’s Bank. The Prospect does have a wall of Dumbell’s memorabilia including a photo of the bank and when you are inside the building you think that the photo and the pub are one and the same (they look vaguely similar). But I found the photo online – http://bit.ly/10TGW9p and it seemed rather dubious that it was the same place. That’s because it isn’t. The former Dumbell’s bank is 1 Prospect Hill on the corner of what is now called Nelson screen but what was, at the time, called St George’s Street (a small matter which confused me no end as St George’s Street is now a good few streets further up Athol Street). It’s now the Natwest Bank – http://goo.gl/maps/N19XD and of course as soon as I realised that, I found the document supporting its entry onto the Protected Buildings register – http://bit.ly/15R7Th0 Certainly much more of a building to challenge “the wedding cake”. So apologies for telling you complete nonsense yesterday.

        As for The Prospect – it’s been around for as long as I can remember and I asked around at work and no-one could remember it not being a pub but that only takes us back as far back as the 80s. It’s officially called “The Prospect Hotel” though which makes me suspect it must have been around for a while as it’s certainly not been a hotel for a long time. I let you know if I find out anything more definite.

        Regards,
        Trish

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Hi Trish, thanks for the clarification. Yup, the NatWest building is much more the sort of thing old George would have commissioned for his bank 🙂

          As for the Prospect – I’m beginning to think that it must have been there in my youth. I’m recalling faint wisps of memory of beer barrels being lowered down by ropes on a ramp leading into the cellar. The entrance to the cellar was a trapdoor at the front of the Prospect, rather than round at the back, I think…

  4. Julie O'Shea says:

    Just came across this, I now live in Belmont, Douglas, the Dumbells house and am very interested to hear anything about them. I have the famous wedding photo but would be very interested if anyone knew anything about the layout of the house before it was split into two properties.

    • Trish says:

      Hi Julie,

      Oh how lovely, I spotted that it was now being run as a B&B! Is that your business?

      I don’t think anyone will have that information on the internet. There must have been original plans but who knows if they’ve survived from 1835. Have you been around all the record places on the island?

      I would try the following:

      Public records office in Spring Valley. https://www.gov.im/about-the-government/departments/economic-development/central-registry/public-record-office/visiting-the-isle-of-man-public-record-office/ Planning permission was introduced in the island in 1921, so if any alterations were made, which required planning permission, between 1921 and the 1950s, it’s possible there is a plan. The public records office holds the plans up to 1982, they are super helpful but best email them ahead of visiting (don’t think they get many visitors, they seemed a bit surprised when I knocked on the door, in the advertised opening times).

      The Land Registry on Bucks Road. https://www.gov.im/categories/home-and-neighbourhood/deeds-probate-and-land-registries/land-registry/ It’s possible (although I wouldn’t say probable) that one of the old deeds contained a floor plan. I find it a little intimidating in there (it’s mainly advocates and they clearly know what they are doing) but the staff are helpful if you ask them.

      The Library in the Manx Museum. https://manxnationalheritage.im/collections/library-and-archives/ They have alsorts in here, Wills etc, you never know what information they may contain.

      The iMusuem behind the Manx Museum. http://www.imuseum.im They have scanned and indexed all the old newspapers, there may have been an estate sale or something that may include a floorplan. You can actually do this online if you subscribe via Government Online Services but it’s free if you go into the building (although check their opening hours as they are about to change). Even
      if you don’t find the plans, I’m sure you’ll dredge up a load of fascinating titbits about the history of Belmont (e.g. adverts for servants).

      Good luck!

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