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Charlotte Alington Barnard

"Claribel"

Cont...

Then, as now, there was friction between ‘serious’ and ‘popular’ music. Music critics described Claribel’s ballads as ‘mawkish’ and ‘trashy’. Audiences, on the other hand, demanded encores whenever they were performed. Not for nothing were they known as ‘parlour songs’. With the availability of sheet music and pianos in Victorian homes, Claribel’s songs found a wide and appreciative audience. They were not too difficult to sing, and the piano accompaniment was relatively easy. Some songs were so well-known they could be parodied, and even contemporary cartoons referred to them. Her first published ballad, from ‘The Brook’ by Tennyson, was the subject of a cartoon in 1866.
The caption is: Elderly Girl at Piano (singing ‘The Brook’): Men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever – ever – I go on for ever.
Charley (to fair cousin): If that’s the case, I shall be one of the men that go!

Family

Charlotte was the third child of Henry Pye and Charlotte (nee Yerburgh). They lived at The Cedars in St Mary’s Lane, Louth. The house, which still exists, is well shown in Brown’s Panorama of Louth. Two figures in the garden could be a teenage Charlotte and her mother. Her 2 older brothers had both died, one at a few hours old, and the other just 12 days old. Her mother died when Charlotte was only 17.

Henry was a solicitor and businessman in Louth. He also held several public offices, so was very well-known in the area. Her mother, Charlotte, was originally from Frampton, near Boston. The family name Pye was taken by her father, Henry Alington, under the terms of the will from which he inherited the fortune of his aunt Sarah Rowe. Henry remarried just 2 days after Charlotte’s wedding. His second wife was Lady Albina Francis Hobart, a woman with her own fortune.

Married Life

Charlotte married Charles Cary Barnard in 1854. She had been engaged twice previously. Although not an ‘arranged marriage’ in the sense we might understand today, Claribel’s marriage to Charles Barnard was certainly arranged by her family. One engagement had been to John George Holloway, a London barrister, whose family lived at Gunby Hall (about 20 miles south of Louth). Charlotte’s father felt this was not a suitable match! Charles was rector of Ruckland, and Farforth with Maidenwell, although they lived at The Firs in Westgate, Louth when they were first married. In 1857 they moved to Pimlico, then a fashionable area of London. It was here that Charlotte met other musicians, had lessons in piano and composition and wrote her first published pieces. By 1864 when she and her husband moved to Kirmington Rectory, Charlotte had become one of the most popular composers of the day. She continued composing until 1868.

Charlotte died in Dover in January 1869, of typhoid fever. She is buried there. Charlotte’s father had many business interests in Louth and the surrounding area, as well as being a land speculator and County Treasurer. However, in the summer of 1868 he was exposed as an embezzler and declared bankrupt, having siphoned off county funds and owing large sums on mortgages and small sums to his servants. Henry Pye, accompanied by his second wife and their young daughter, fled to Belgium. Charlotte and Charles joined them there, Charlotte herself having lost about £30,000. She and her husband returned to England at the beginning of 1869 for a holiday, but she became ill and died after a short illness. Charles Barnard remarried, and lived to a ripe old age, having fathered 6 children. Henry Pye remained in Belgium, his lifestyle supported by his wife’s fortune.

Article by Gill Chatfield - Louth Museum Volunteer

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