My second great grand aunt Alice Mainwaring was born in Adelaide, South Australia 170 years ago today, on 14 August 1852. Baptised on 14 October at St Andrew’s, Walkerville, she was the fourth of seven children of Gordon Mainwaring and Mary Mainwaring née Hickey.
In 1862 Alice’s grandfather Rowland Mainwaring died and her father inherited the family estate of Whitmore in Staffordshire, England.
In April 1863 her sister Emily died aged fourteen, “after a long and most painful illness”. Her oldest sister Ellen was married in February 1865.
On 5 January 1866, when Alice was thirteen years old, she and her family—without Ellen and without her oldest brother who was at school there—sailed for England on the clipper ship “City of Adelaide“. (This ship, which had been launched two years before, is now on display in Port Adelaide. It is said to be the world’s oldest remaining vessel of its type.)
Until their departure for England, the family had been living on East Terrace, opposite the Botanic Gardens. Alice’s maternal aunt Julia Morris was matron of the Adelaide Lunatic Asylum, situated nearby in the grounds of the Gardens.
In January 1866 there was a sale of the ‘superior household goods’ and effects of Gordon Mainwaring who had left the colony which included a pianoforte, a very elegant full drawing room suite in walnut and green damask, tapestry and brussels carpets.
The family settled in London in 1869. Whitmore Hall was leased and the family did not move there. The 1871 census has them living at 94 Gloucester Place, Marylebone, not far from Regent’s Park.
Alice’s father died 21 December 1872 and was buried at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.
Alice’s portrait hangs at Whitmore Hall, in the Chinese Room. She was evidently very pretty, and it was hoped that she would marry well. Family stories mention a match with Lord Brooke, heir of the Earl of Warwick, but it is said that she was not considered suitable and that permission to wed was refused.
Alice seems to have moved in artistic circles. ‘Miss Alice Mainwaring of Whitmore’ appeared in a Shakespearean tableau as Portia from the Merchant of Venice. The tableau, arranged by the popular R.A. portraitist James Sant, was one of a series held to raise money for charity.
On 22 May 1878 Alice Mainwaring married Lieutenant William Boyle Moore of the 37th Regiment at St Mary’s, Bryanston-square, London.
On 3 June 1878, less than 2 weeks after her marriage, Alice died at the Queens Hotel in Hastings on her honeymoon. She was only twenty-five. It has been variously suggested that she committed suicide, that she died choking on a fishbone, and that the fishbone story was concocted to hide some other distressing truth. Her death certificate states she died of pleuropneumonia (a severe bacterial infection) after an illness of three days.
Alice was buried with her father, at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.
- Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013. Page 109.