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Flo Bilton, English music hall singer and dancer and sister of Belle Bilton (Countess of Clancarty), London, 1890

December 28, 2014

Flo Bilton (1868-1910), younger sister of Belle Bilton (1867-1906, later Lady Dunlo and Countess of Clancarty), music hall singers and dancers, who appeared together in the late 1880s as the Sisters Bilton.
(lithograph cigarette card, issued with Ogden’s Cigarettes, England, early 1890s)

Flo Bilton, whose real name was Florence Beatrice Bilton, was born in the Kennington area of London in 1868, the youngest daughter of John George Bilton (1842-1905), a recruiting sergeant in the Royal Engineers, and his wife, Kate Maude (née Penrice, 1843/45-1930). Her first marriage was on 30 September 1887 at St. James’s, Piccadilly, to William Arthur Seymour (1864-1894). Her second marriage took place in Fulham during the summer of 1894 to Evan McFarlane (1868/69-1943). Both her husbands served in the British Army.

* * * * *

‘THE SISTERS BILTON.
‘Flo Sings, ”He Lost It” – Lady Dunlo on Her Case.
‘Last night, at the Trocadero Music Hall, a Sportsman reporter interviewed the respondent in the now notorious divorce case of Dunlo v. Dunlo and Wertheimer. He writes: After the verdict had been delivered it is needless to say that Lady Dunlo receive very warm congratulations from her friends, and from many unacquainted with her ladyship, but who on reading the proceedings had ranged themselves upon her side. Time quickly ran by, and in order to catch, ”turn” No. 14 in the ”Troc.” programme, it was necessary for Lady Dunlo’s sister Flo (Mrs. Seymour) to reach the hall, so ably managed by Mr. Sam Adams. I view of the fact that ”Flo” was a big line on the bill at the hall, and an immense attraction on the stage, the audience last night was exceptionally large, so large indeed, that the crowding in the stalls caused not a little inconvenience, even to the early comers. About ten o’clock, through a dense throng assembled in the street outside the entrance, a well-appointed trap drove up and there alighted therefrom Lady Dunlo, Miss ”Flo” Bilton, her sister, and Mr. Seymour, the husband of the last-named lady. A faint cheer was raised by the assembled crowd as her ladyship passed into the hall by the main entrance. She was received by Mr. Adams, jun., and at once on reaching the handsome salle attached to the hall was most warmly welcomed by many friends, and tendered the heartiest congratulations. One of the first to shake her ladyship very warmly by the hand was Mr. Wertheimer, who had arrived about twenty minutes previously. Whilst the ”O.P.” box was placed at the disposal of the now famous respondent, Sister Flo hastened off to her dressing-room, there to prepare for ”Mr. Call Boy” when No. 14 came round. At once, on her ladyship being recognised on entering the box, she was most enthusiastically greeted, and again and again bowed her acknowledgements to the crowded house.
‘The advent of Miss Flo Bilton was the occasion for a perfectly extraordinary outburst of enthusiasm, almost the entire company standing up and waving hats and handkerchiefs, while the more ardent occupants of the stalls shouted ”Bravo!” and ”Gold old sister Flo!” Miss Bilton, on silence being partly restored by the personal requests – and they were not one, two, or three – of Mr. Adams, sen., sang her first son, the refrain of which, oddly enough, was ”He lost it.” This was electrically taken up by the entire house with the result that with the chorus the lady had really very little to say. Another song was equally well received, and in her ”skirt” dance Miss Bilton was greeted with the most flattering plaudits, a large number of the audience sill continuing the opening words of the refrain, ”He lost it.” The ”farewell” turn created even more enthusiasm than either of the others, and perhaps in the history of the Trocadero Hall never was such a reception accorded an artist or under circumstances so unique.
‘Lady Dunlo was now slow to answer such ”interrogatories” as were put to her by the Sportsman reporter, and thought time did not admit of a lengthened interview, it was certainly to the point.
‘Asked by the reporter, ”What verdict did you anticipate?” Lady Dunlo almost indignantly replied:
”’The verdict that was given, simply because I knew I was innocent of the horrible charge that had been trumped up against me.”
‘Reporter: Do you intend to continue your professional engagements/
‘Lady Dunlo: Of that at present – and of course I have had really no time to consider the matter – I am not quite sure.
‘Reporter: What is your opinion of the charge of the presiding judge, Sir James Hannen?
‘Lady Dunlo (enthusiastically): Well, all I can now say of his lordship is that he is a dear old chap. I really feel and mean that.
‘Reporter: Are you quite satisfied with the advocacy of your learned counsel?
‘Lady Dunlo: I am truly delighted with Lockwood – and who could not be? and then as to Gill I can only describe him as a brick.
‘Reporter: And now Lady Dunlo, what is your opinion of the counsel on the other side? ‘Lady Dunlo: I think Sir Charles Russell, did the very best – his dead level beat – against overwhelming odds and for a very, very bad case. I felt really sorry for him when he walked out of the Court and did not return to hear the verdict.
‘Acknowledgements of the courtesy extended having been duly made, Lady Dunlo resumed her evident enjoyment of the Trocadeo’s well varied bill of fare.
‘AT THE ROYAL, HOLBORN.
‘A most enthusiastic reception was given to Miss Flo Bilton (Mrs. Seymour) on her appearing at the Royal, Holborn, last night. The audience stood up and cheered for at least ten minutes, and Miss Bilton and Lady Dunlo (who was present in a private box) were visibly affected by this spontaneous outburst of sympathy.
‘At the conclusion of Miss Bilton’s performance the demonstration was repeated for some minutes. Before leaving the hall Lady Dunlo was offered an engagement for a few nights, and will therefore probably appear at the Royal this evening.’
(The Evening News and Post, London, Thursday, 31 July 1890, p. 4c)

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