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  • Heather Tweed

Who Was Henry Burford ?

Updated: Jan 9

A photograph of a grave monument in Lambeth Cemetery was posted by the rather splendid Loughborough Road SW9 account. It was accompanied by the sad fact that a previous resident of Loughborough Road had taken his own young life in 1906 aged only 39.

The Tweet ended with the intriguing question

‘but who was Burford?.’

Always up for a challenge I examined the photograph closely making out the embossed words

'In Loving Memory of Henry Dyenich Burford who died July 6th 1895 Age 52 Years’

I immediately dived into my favorite archives and discovered..well not as much as I’d hoped but enough to suspect that this is the start of a much deeper trawl to piece his life together. More questions have been raised than answered.

I discovered many called Henry D Burford and as yet not one Henry Dyenich Burford.

Henry died in Leicester infirmary in 1895 under the name of Henry Dionysius Burford. Did the slip of a hurried clerks pen cause his name to slide from a very Russian sounding middle moniker to a classic mythological name? Did he change his own name? Did the monument maker kick himself for making such a permanent mistake and was there a relative or friend to correct or request a substantial refund?

Henry was a Comedian and had he lived to see his name mishandled in such a manner perhaps he may have laughed it off as one of life’s great jokes?

He was born in Churchill, Warwickshire in 1848.

Henry certainly travelled in the UK and may have done so to entertain audiences in theatres across England, Wales and perhaps beyond? A brief search in Newspaper archives has yet to throw up any nuggets of information about his act.

In 1869 at the age of 26 he married in Emma Williams in Cardiff.. The marriage index gives these tantalising possibilities and once located the certificate may give more clues and answers to this enigmatic act.

In 1881 they lodged with Liverpool born Alice Campbell at 129 Clarence Street in Little Bolton a few miles outside Bolton centre.

Henry is noted as an actor.

From 1882 to 1885 he was a member of the Masons listed under the Liverpool Dramatic Lodge. There is a gap for 1886 then simply ‘struck off’ in 1887.

His address was listed as R. Court Theatre....

He may simply have forgotten to pay his dues or was along with many smaller acts struggling to keep work lined up enough to keep his income high enough to justify being a Lodge member.

At the time of his death in Leicester Henry was living at 266 Kennington Road in Lambeth. An area popular with Music Hall and Theatrical acts to lodge.

His death in a hospital so far from home suggests either an accident or medical incident whilst on tour or a longer term illness that needed treatment as his health deteriorated.

When the probate was passed two years after his death he left Effects of £176 15s.7d

The administrator was a solicitor called William Henry Armstrong. Could it be a coincidence that a spinster called Ellen Burford passed away just a few months later in Cardiff with exactly the same probate amount being handled by the same solicitor?

Maybe this Ellen living at 161 Pearl St Cardiff is a sister or Aunt?

I shall explore more and let you dearest readers know if I discover more!

New Finds :

Ellen appears to be an aunt.

Poor Ellen passed away at the workhouse in Cardiff. Her inheritance came too late.

n.b These are my first notes written just after my first research on Henry. They are not yet tripple checked!

If you know more please let me know.

Update 8th Jan 2024

After posting the blog to TwiX Loughborough Road account & Water Rats Museum have joined the hunt.

Water Rats say he was a member under his stage name.

British Newspaper Archives have given up the fact that Henry was also known as HD Burton onstage. He had a magnificent funeral attended by Dan Leno amongst others and one pall bearer was King Rat W Cragg.

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