Florence Smithson – A Musical Mystery?

Florence Annette SMITHSON, Welsh Soprano/actress/pantomimist 1884-1936

This star of the Edwardian stage was born in Wales, daughter of Will SMITHSON, actor and provincial theatre manager (?East and West Midlands?) – mother possibly Madame Florence ANNETTA, actress and pantomimist.  All three names may be stage names.

Florence SMITHSON first married in Merthyr Tydfil in 1901 to a George ROBINSON but later married Herbert TAYLOR (stage name Dan ROLYAT)

Part of Robert Courtneidge’s stable of talented actors and actresses, she starred with ROLYAT on many occasions making a huge impact at The Shaftesbury in the Arcadians.  A recording of her singing the Waltz song from the Arcadians exists ( HMV 15312 rec. London 12 July 1912).



‘She has a voice of extraordinary compass, which fact she demonstrated recently at the Shaftesbury Theatre in “The Arcadians.” She took a wonderful high note – F, four notes above the top C. Someone told her that Jenny Lind had soared four notes higher still, to what is known to the initiated as the A in Alt. This put Miss Smithson on her mettle, and one evening, in response to the inevitable encore, to the amazement of conductor, band, and audience, she, too, took the A in Alt.’ (From The Royal Magazine, London, October 1909, p.490).

His Master’s Voice 15312, recorded, London, 12 July 1912

‘Everybody will go into raptures over this sweetly pretty number as sung by this rapidly rising artiste… Miss Smithson’s intonation is absolutely faultless… [She] will be remembered by the signal success she achieved in the “Arcadians,” in connection with which play, it may be interesting to recount that Madame Patti [1843-1919] paid the former artiste a splendid compliment by throwing on the stage a tiny note which ran as follows: “I think you sing beautifully. – Adelina Patti.”’ (From The Talking Machine News and Side Lines, London, September for October 1912, p.291c).


A special concert for over-seas troops will be given to-night by Mr. Seymour Hicks at the Princes Theatre. Among the artists who will appear are Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson. Miss Ellaline Terriss, Mr. R. G. Knowles, Mr. Seymour Hicks and company, Miss Isobel Elsom Mr. Van Hoven, and Miss Florence Smithson. The Charlie Chaplin film, “The Property Master” will also be shown. All Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, and other over-seas troops will be welcome. (From Daily News, London, 11 March 1917, p.2).

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So who won the Enos challenge?

Some 10 years or so ago I set a challenge to readers of this site to find the ancestry of Enos Smithson born 1778 in Langthorpe. At the time I’d had a number of discussions with Bill Smithson of Killinghall who had been most helpful with his own research but we couldn’t find where Enos got his name or who his ancestors were. A number of us had drawn a blank so I set the challenge.

So who won it? Well, I think I did but only recently! The process was as follows. I firstly found the baptism of “Enos son of Willm Smithson” baptised 8th May 1778 at Kirby Hill near Langthorpe. Next step was to find Williams wife – “William Smithson of Skelton in parish of Ripon, yeoman and Margaret Metcalf of Longthorpe, spinster married by licence 28 November 1763. Both signed. Witnesses Dorothy Dale and Richard Tanfield.” – again, this record from Kirby Hill.

What else can we find about William? Again from the Kirby Hill registers “William son of Samuel Smithson of Langthorpe by Mary his wife was born May 22nd, was baptised June 20th 1735” and “William Smithson of Langthorp was buried June 1787”. And what about his wife Margaret? “Margaret, the wife of Wm Smithson of Langthorpe buried at Kirby on the Moor, the 21st of January 1783.”

OK but where did Enos get his name from? Margaret’s father was Enos Metcalf born around 1698 and baptised at Kirby Hill: “Enos son of Leonard Metcalfe of Humburton was baptised Jan 10th 1698” and “Enos Metcalf of Longthorp buried the 25th day of December 1771”.

What do we know about William’s father Samuel? “Samuel Smithson of Skelton in the parish of Ripon late of Langthorpe in this parish. Buried the 28th day of September 1763”, again from the Kirby Hill registers.

So can I claim the prize?

Check out a public tree I’ve put on Ancestry to show the above in more detail.

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