10 episodes

Women's History Stories

The Door History Podcast The Door Podcast

    • History
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

Women's History Stories

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Bella Burge at Glenwood House

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Bella Burge at Glenwood House

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.







    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories blog, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    The First Woman Boxing Promoter







    Bella Burge aka Ella Lane, Bell Lloyd and Bella of Blackfriars, lived at Glenwood House in Loughborough Road South (where all the houses have been replaced by the Loughborough Estate).







    As a young woman she performed on the music-hall stage but went on to become the first female boxing promoter. Born in New York in 1877 to English parents Leah Belle (Bella) Orchard came to London with her mother and older sister in 1882, following the death of her father.







    Loughborough Road South c.1910, a few years after Bella lived on that part of the street with fellow music-hall performer Marie Lloyd





    Bella first appeared on stage at the age of 11 as Ella Lane. It wasn’t long before (B)Ella met the famous music-hall star Marie Lloyd who, only 18 herself, unofficially adopted her.







    Ella worked as Marie Lloyd’s dresser and performed with Marie’s sister Rosie as The Sisters Lloyd. Bella’s friendship and the Lloyd sisters endured throughout their lives. In the mid 1890s Bella moved with Marie to Glenwood House on Loughborough Road. They travelled round Britain and to South Africa together. 







    In 1901, at the age of 24, Bella married boxer Dick Burge at Brixton Registry Office. However, three weeks later, Dick was arrested for forging cheques and served time. After Dick was released seven years later Bella suggested he build a career as a boxing promoter. They identified an octagonal former chapel on Blackfriars Road as a venue for their enterprise.







    The Ring opened in May 1910 and successfully attracted a new audience of working-class people, including women. Dick served in the First World War but died of pneumonia in 1918. Bella ran The Ring alone, becoming the first female boxing promoter. 







    The building was destroyed by an enemy bomb in The Blitz. Bella retired and lived out her life in a flat on the Finchley Road in north-west London. She died in 1962 at the age of 85.

    • 10 min
    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Jeanette Tassie Cowen at 4 Langholme Villas

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Jeanette Tassie Cowen at 4 Langholme Villas

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.







    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories blog, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    Coming Through Social Shame and Tragedy









    From Illustrated Police News, 15 October 1870







    The Cowen family lived at Langholme Villas. OS 1870









    In the summer of 1869, 16-year-old Jeanette Tassie Cowen, the daughter of a travelling salesman and musician, was subjected to a sexual assault which left her pregnant. Her father Robert decided that the baby – John – should be adopted and after answering an advertisement in Lloyd’s Weekly, arranged to pay Margaret Waters a one-off fee of £4 for the baby’s care.







    The Cowen family were at that time living at 1 Langholme Villas, Loughborough Road.







    John was handed into the care of sisters Margaret Waters and her sister Sarah Ellis, who were ‘baby-farmers’, in other words they were paid foster-carers catering particularly to ‘illegitimate’ children. When police raided the premises, which had been under surveillance after a number of babies were found dead in the area, they discovered John and a number of other children in a terrible condition. He died two weeks later.







    His death was central to the conviction of Margaret Waters, who was hanged at Horsemonger Gaol on 11 October 1870.







    Although the social stigma of ‘illegitimate’ birth was huge at this time, the Cowen family weathered the storm. Jessie married John Coward, a textiles warehouse worker, in 1874 and had six children. She died in Streatham in 1921 and is buried alongside her husband in West Norwood Cemetery.







    Note: In the recording, Margaret Waters has been mistakenly given as Mary Waters.

    • 7 min
    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Eva Tear at No. 22

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Eva Tear at No. 22

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.













    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories blog, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    A Woman Overcoming Personal Crisis







    Australian-born Eva Milway Sellen (1865–1958) lived with her husband Herbert Tear, a photographer, at 22 Loughborough Road at some time between 1900 and 1906. They had three children.







    The couple had a strained relationship. In 1905, when she was living apart from Herbert, Eva was found drunk in Atlantic Road, Brixton and charged at Lambeth Court as an ‘habitual drunkard’. She received a sentence of three years in a reformatory. The 1898 Inebriates Act allowed non-criminal inebriates to be held for up to three years. 









    Kate Cakebread, a notorious inebriated woman, who was incarcerated multiple times. By Phil May c.1895







    No. 22 Loughborough Road, once the home of Eva Tear









    The reformatory records show that Eva started drinking brandy and claret at the suggestion of a doctor at a time when she may have been suffering from postnatal depression. She told the staff that she had been caused great unhappiness by her husband. Nevertheless, at the end of her sentence, she was released into his care.







    Unsurprisingly the marriage ended, and Eva moved to her own place in Perivale in West London, before going to live with her son Frank in Southend, Essex. 







    Herbert and Eva divorced in 1914 and Eva acquired a new partner, William James, who was cited in the divorce case. She outlived both Herbert and William by some 20 years, dying in Chichester, Sussex, at the age of 92.

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Alphonsine at No. 50

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Alphonsine at No. 50

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.







    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories blog, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    The Spiral Queen and Skirt Dancer







    Born Augusta Rose (more commonly known as Rose or Rosaline) Noeldechen in 1857 in Berlin, Mademoiselle or Madame Alphonsine also used the stage names La Belle Rose, Marie Rose and Rose Celeste.







    Rose built her career balancing on a large ball about 2ft (60cm) in circumference which she ‘walked’ up and down a large spiral 40ft high (12m) on a track just 16in (40cm) wide.By the early 1880s she was performing her spiral ascension in the US. Here she met Canadian John Wingfield, who had an act of performing dogs.Rose and John moved to Blackpool in 1914, but Brixton in south London was their home for more than 20 years.

















    Madame Alphonsine, the ‘Spiral Ascensionist’. Illustration for The Strand Magazine, 1897.







    No. 50 Loughborough Road, former home of Rosa Wingfield, aka ‘Alphonsine’









    Rosa suffered a number of serious falls during her career, including in 1889 at The Canterbury Theatre of Varieties near Waterloo. Later she became a promoter for Elliman’s Embrocation, a cream for easing aches and pains. Her endorsement was used widely in newspaper adverts for the ointment.







    By her late 30s Rosa had largely abandoned the spiral and, while standing on top of the ball, performed while waving her skirt and scarves in a style known as skirt dancing. She was appearing into her 60s, albeit latterly with her feet on the ground.







    Rosa died in Blackpool in 1947, aged 91. John passed away 18 years earlier.

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Irene Pye at No. 66

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Irene Pye at No. 66

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.







    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    Music-hall Artiste, Fishmonger and Matriarch







    As a young girl, Irene Eades started performing in music-hall, no doubt inspired by the numerous artistes who were her neighbours in Camberwell and Brixton.







    In later life, Irene told her family that she had known famous music-hall star Marie Lloyd, who herself lived briefly on Loughborough Road in the early 1890s.







    In 1907, aged 18, Irene married hairdresser George Pye and her career as a performer came to an end. In 1915 George joined up to fight in the First World War. By the time he returned, Irene was running a fish shop on Robsart Street, Brixton. They opened another fish shop on Loughborough Road in 1921.The mother of six children, Irene accommodated her large extended family, and also rented rooms to non-family members.









    Irene and George outside their Morden fish shop. Photo courtesy of Ken Pye







    The Pyes’ former fish shop premises at 84/86 Loughborough Road

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Ella Zuila at No. 32

    Through the Door: Loughborough Road – Ella Zuila at No. 32

    A mini-series in which historian Tracey Gregory talks with Naomi Clifford about the inhabitants of Loughborough Road in Brixton, South London.







    Tracey’s blog, Loughborough Road Stories, explores the people and buildings of Loughborough Road and surrounding streets over the past 180 years.







    This is a collaborative project between Morley Radio and The Door history podcast.







    Heroine of the High Wire







    The astonishing acrobat and high wire performer known as Ella Zuila was born Catherine Isabella Webber in Sydney, Australia in 1854, to English parents. She first performed on the ‘high-rope’ and trapeze after she met her future husband, George Loyal, in 1871.







    Ella’s tricks included wheeling a large cannon across the wire, sitting at a table drinking a glass of wine, carrying George across the wire on her back, walking across the wire with baskets on her feet.









    Poster for Ella Zuila, the Heroine of the High Wire. Metropolitan Litho Studio, 29 Warren St., N.Y., 1879







    No 32 Loughborough Road, once the home of high-wire artist Ella Zuila, her human cannonball husband George Loyal and their daughter Lulu.









    They travelled the world with their act – in which their daughter Lulu also participated. When very tiny she was taken across the high wire in a small wheelbarrow, and when older joined her mother on the back of an adapted bicycle or stood on her mother’s shoulders.







    On a tour of the US in the late 1870s George was fired from a canon – Ella’s job was to catch him, so he vies for the position of first person fired from a canon with another amazing female performer, Zazel.







    But despite this stunning and dangerous display it was Ella who started to eclipse George as the star of the show. She was the headline act on many of the bills of Forepaughs Circus and she started to be referred to as the female Blondin, the wire walker famous for his feats high above Niagara Falls in 1859.







    Ella and her family settled in Lambeth, living at No. 32 Loughborough on and off from the 1880s into the 20th century.







    Listen to the episode for more details of this astonishing woman, who once enjoyed widespread fame and is now scarcely remembered.

    • 9 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
8 Ratings

8 Ratings

JJ1460 ,

Great podcast

Am very much enjoying this podcast. Naomi, please keep making these! Such a lot of fascinating information revealed in a very pleasant chatty way. I feel as though I’m there with you. I’m very interested in your work revealing stories of women who could otherwise be lost to history. This is something I like to do so you do inspire me.

Vegansteven01 ,

Cosy and erudite

My current binge listen. Cosy and erudite in equal measure, covering all manner of historical intrigue from a woman’s perspective

HistoryLoverLondon ,

A classy, polished podcast for history lovers.

The Door stands out from many podcasts I have tried and abandoned because host Naomi Clifford is both lucid and informed. She is not afraid to edit to keep things pithy. There is no rambling or banal time-filling, just fascinating and intelligent conversation with fellow enthusiastic historians. The topics are diverse, with The Door already tackling a promising range of stories that illuminate the underated - or downright forgotten - women we really need to know about. Naomi has a lovely, melodious voice too, which is a plus. It's a class act and I love it.

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