This is Cecilia Irene Louisa Elmes, aged 2, of 14 Beulah Road, Sutton. Photographed with her bunny by David Knights-Whittome in 1911.
On the other hand, it could be Marcia Iolanthe Elms of Rosebank Cottage, Carshalton Road, Sutton.
Today’s post started out very simply. I had no intention of going into great detail about this sitter. In the run up to the Easter weekend, I simply thought that this was a delightful image of a beautiful young girl with her toy rabbit which we would put up on the blog for it’s own sake.
Taking my lead from the information supplied on the original envelope, identifying the girl seemed quite simple. There was just one possible female candidate with the name of Elmes in the Epsom, Sutton, Cheam or Carshalton areas. This was clearly an image of Miss Cecilia Elmes, born late 1909/early 1910, who lived with her parents Albert, a furniture carman, and mother Esther, in a modest house in Beulah Road, Sutton. I was sad to discover that she led a short life dying tragically young and unmarried at the age of 21.
As I wrote up my findings and went to update our catalogue, I noticed another ‘Little Girl Elms’, with a different image number listed just below our girl on the spreadsheet. The spelling of the name was different, and the images dated a year later, but I decided to take a look out of curiosity.
These images are dated 5 months later than the original set, but the girl looks to be the same. The discovery of the second batch of images highlights a common issue with this material. The spelling and numbering on the envelopes is horrendously inconsistent, and has become something to watch out for among the team working on the project. Names are misspelt within the same batch, often differing between a plate and it’s envelope; Knights-Whittome reuses and duplicates the same numbers frequently, and plates are commonly misfiled in the wrong envelopes.
In this case, I should perhaps have been more careful to look for variations of spelling but the added ‘e’ at the end of Elmes, perhaps gave misplaced reassurance that this name had been spelled out by the client.
Re-searching for the second spelling of Elms on Ancestry threw up another possible candidate. Marcia Iolanthe Elms, also born c.1909, was born to Edward Furness Marson Elms, an architect, and Eleanor Mary Piercey Elms. The couple resided at Rosebank Cottage, Carshalton Road, Sutton. They employed both a cook and a housemaid.
Marcia married Norman C Peirce in Chelsea in 1935 and died in Torbay in 1986 in her late seventies.
In cleaning the larger half plates, we have since come across another batch of images which may well be of this same young girl, photographed a year later still. Given the number of images we have of this sitter, it seems a reasonable assumption that our young Miss Elms may well be borne of the more affluent family, but we have no hard evidence to prove this theory and so it remains a mystery for now.
Part of the beauty of this project is in giving life back to these faces, these unique individuals who just 100 years ago lived their lives and earned their livings and did their shopping and played their games among the roads and shops and parks and streets that we now know as our own home. This is not the first occasion upon which we have drawn a blank when faced with two possible candidates. It is incredibly frustrating not to have been able to resolve this mystery. I feel I have cheated both girls out of their rightful legacy in some way, but there it is. The mystery remains unsolved.
If anyone reading this can identify this lovely young girl, and her bunny, it would make us very happy. As always, contact us on the form below. A Happy Easter to you all, from us and the bunny.