LAST MODIFIED Monday 22 May 2017 7:58

Mrs. Chester, singer and actor

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Mrs. Chester, singer and actor", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 25 June 2017


To John Bishop, September 2016, for finally establishing the details of Mrs. Chester's second marriage and death.


Soprano vocalist, actor

Born ? Ireland, c.1810-16
Married William CHESTER, St. Pancras Old Church, London, 16 March 1830
Arrived Hobart, 22 July 1835 (departed London, 16 March, per Medway)
Away from Australia, departing Sydney 11 October 1836 (per Pegasusfor India) returning Tasmania 23 November 1841
Departed Sydney, 20 December 1859 (for England, per Blackwall)
Married Robert ROLLAND, VIC, 1861 (1861/3140)
Died Newcastle, NSW, 18 August 1867, "aged 51 years" (TROVE public tag) (NLA persistent identifier)

Summary (before Australia)

As Mrs. Chester, the vocalist and actor Marian Maria Chester makes brief appearances in many published accounts of colonial music, the index of the Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia even hazarding a birth date of "c.1799". Some sources have claimed, possibly reliably, that she was related to the Wallaces and Ellards; mention in a notice of her arrival in Sydney in 1835 that "Several other professionals we hear, may shortly be expected in Sydney" may quite plausibly be a reference to the impending arrival of the Wallaces. Later notices mention that she formerly sang under her maiden name Miss Crawford, and that she studied singing in London for two years with the composer Alexander Lee (1802-1851), who was lessee of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane during the early 1830s. "Mrs. Chester" indeed appears in playbills, notices, and cast lists of published plays at the two theatres royal in 1833-34. Her husband, William Chester (died Newcastle, NSW, 1859), was later reported to be brother of the formerly the popular actress "Miss Chester" (reputed mistress of the duke of Buckingahm), who indeed appeared on several bills with "Miss Crawford". A review of November 1830 noted: "A Miss Crawford, from a place not mentioned, has made a very promising debut as the page Cherubino in Figaro, at Drury Lane". Tracing her possible parentage back, considering the Wallace-Ellard connections and that she was later organist of a Presbyterian Church, two Protestant Mary Crawfords were baptised in Dublin (on 22 April 1806 and 1 June 1809).

Summary (Australia)

The Chesters arrived in Hobart in July 1835, where, if indeed related to the Ellards, they would have found a cousin Maria Logan (Ellard) also recently arrived. They went on in September to Sydney, where Francis Ellard was well-established as a music dealer. She made her Sydney debut in the title role of Clari, the maid of Milan on 1 October, and singing Bishop's "Home Sweet Home". After a little over a year in Australia, though reportedly intending to return, the Chesters departed for India, where they took over the Chowingee Theatre at Calcutta. Mrs. Chester appeared in many notices there before the theatre was destroyed in a fire. Reportedly mentally distressed by the event, she and her husband and child returned to Tasmania in 1841. She came out of six years "retirement" as a schoolmistress at Bothwell, Tasmania, in 1848, giving several concerts on the island and in Melbourne. She returned to the Sydney stage briefly in 1849, whereafter the Chesters then spent several years at Newcastle-Maitland, appearing in and presenting several concerts in Maitland in 1849-50, and briefly teaching dancing. Mrs. Chester returned again to Sydney to work in Frank Howson's company for a season running from August 1854 until February 1855, in which time she also appeared with Catherine Hayes, and in Melbourne early in 1856. After two years of serious illness she left Sydney to return to England in December 1859. However, she was back in Melbourne two years later, where in August she made her last advertised stage appearance

Vocal repertoire



? Mary Crawford 1

Mary Crawford 2

Camden, St. Pancras, Old Church, marriage register, 16 March 1830

[Advertisement]: "THEARTE ROYAL", The Tatler (26 October 1830), 180

"THE LONDON DRAMA", The Edinburgh literary journal (6 November 1830), 297

Playbill, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, 19 October 1833

Playbill, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, 31 October 1833 

Playbill, Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 16 June 1834

Hobart Town, VDL (TAS)

"TRADE AND SHIPPING", The Hobart Town Courier (24 July 1835), 3

[Advertisement], The Hobart Town Courier (24 July 1835), 3

THEATRE, ARGYLE ROOMS. Mrs. Chester from the Theatres Royal Drury lane, and Covent Garden ...

"The Theatre", The True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch (31 July 1835), 8 

During the past week the Theatre has been crowded, in consequence of the engagement of Mrs. Chester, (formerly Miss Crawford) from the Theatres Royal, Covent Garden and Drury Lane. Mrs. Chester's singing is a combination of richness, compass and extraordinary execution; and she articulates with great taste and feeling. The Theatre has undergone some improvement in the scenery and dresses, which heretofore were very carelessly looked after, and the performers are generally more perfect and correct in their delineations, and consequently obtain favour with the Public. This evening Mrs. Chester plays Maggy, in the "Highland Reel," and will sing some of her choicest songs.

Sydney, NSW

"SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE: ARRIVALS", The Sydney Gazette (19 September 1835), 2

[News], The Sydney Herald (17 September 1835), 3

Mrs. Chester, the vocalist, who has for some time past appeared with much success at Hobart town, arrived yesterday in the Maria. Several other professionals we hear, may shortly be expected in Sydney.

"THE THEATRE", The Sydney Gazette (3 October 1835), 2

THE THEATRE. - On Thursday evening last, agreeably to previous announcement, Mrs. Chester, formerly of the Theatres Royal Drury Lane and Covent Garden, made her first appearance on the Sydney boards in the character of Clari, in the operatic piece called the Maid of Milan. As a vocalist of superior ability, power, and taste, Mrs. Chester confessedly ranks first here in her profession; it is very evident that with a powerful natural voice, Mrs. C. has had the opportunity afforded her of superior instruction, combined with considerable musical skill, and much persevering application. This lady sang Home, sweet home, with a chasteness of expression and style we have seldom heard equalled, and never surpassed. In Rossini's difficult song of Tyrant soon I'll burst thy chains, she shewed the powerful addition which highly cultivated art had given her as a vocalist of natural ability. Her cadences evinced much command and taste, and her execution of them was very effective. Mrs. Chester was encored in this song, as she was likewise in that beautiful ballad, O say not woman's heart is bought. But we confess that the song which we most admired, was, Come where the aspen's quiver, which Mrs. Chester sang with the most delightful softness and expression of tone. As an actress, it would be scarcely fair to pronounce judgmeut on Mrs. Chester at first sight. Her intona- tion is deeply sonorous, her delivery pre- cise, but her articulation appears slightly defective, betraying a sort of thickness of expression, which being perhaps a na- tural imperfection, will imperceptibly wear off after her auditors have become more accustomed to hear her. Her per- formance of Clari was more studious than natural—rather labored than easy: yet notwithstanding it proved she had both observed and profited by all those requisites to constitute a successful performer, more commonly known as "stage tact." Mrs. Chester was well received by a tolerably numerous and respectable audi- ence, and both her singing and acting met will much justly bestowed applause. But while we record the public approbation of a new candidate for theatrical fame, we haye also the pleasing duty to perform of bearing testimony to the strong manifestation of popular remebrance of an old, an often approved, an useful, and a deserving favorite in the person of Mrs. Taylor. This lady's song of, O Love was a mischievous boy, and her comic duett with Mr. Simmons of When a little farm we kept were loudly applauded, as was likewise the whole performance of both them, and the rest of the company, who appeared on this occasion to exert themselves to the uttermost in order to compete with a powerful rival for theatrical nonors. It would perhaps be esteemed unjust to draw a full length comparison between the two first rate female performers on the Sydney stage, but we cannot avoid saying, that if, on the present occasion, we yield the preference to Mrs. Chester as a vocalist, indebted more to art than to nature for her superiority over Mrs. Taylor; yet, as an actress of prepossessing appearance, and fascinating manner, we should unquestionably acknowledge the superiority of the latter over the former lady. Whatever opinion we may have heretofore entertained and expressed, and may still perhaps do so, as to the effects which Mrs. Chester's partial engagement at the Theatre during the season of benefits, may produce over the interests of those more particularly concerned in the question, we cannot help awarding the meed of praise towards those to whom it is eminently due, as connected with this subject. We allude to the gentlemen composing the lessees of the establishment, who are entitled, not merely to the dry thanks, bui to the liberal patronage of the.public, for having secured, doubtless at a great additional expense to themselves, a person of Mrs. Chester's superior vocal talent, and general ability. We repeat what we have before asserted, that "we know the lessees are considerably out of pocket by their bargain," and it reflects no little censure on the slate of public spirit, that they should be suffered to be so. When a few gentlemen are joined together for the laudable purpose of promoting a patriotic view, in the adequate equipment of one of the first places of popular amusement, it is a shame to the community that their patriotism should bo rewarded by a heavy pecuniary loss. It is, therefore, to be hoped, that tho public may, by their liberal support of this infant institution during the remainder of the present season, not only reimburse the lessees of the Theatre for their outlay, but give them something more than bank interest for the investment of their capital. By the bye, before we quit this theatrical topic, a word or two with those sluggish gentlemen, the members of the orchestra. We have before told them of their merits, and of their exertions, but they appear to have quite forgotten our lecture. They are, we know, most liberally—liberally to a fault, paid for their services; and it is but reasonable to expect a suitable return from them. This is, however, any thing but the case, and the fault appears rather to be gaining ground, than diminishing. We were taught to expect very great things from the highly talented gentlemen who were to compose the orchestra upon its present formation, but we rather surmise that both the proprietors and the public have been most miserably disappointed in this particular. We need only advert to the worse than wretched accompaniament to Mrs. Chester on Thursday evening, and our strictures on the inefficiency of the present instrumental company, will then be acknowledged lo be well founded. Mrs. Chester was, in point of fact, the leader of the band; and in being so, it was pretty generally acknowledged that sho displayed more musical judgment than the united phalanx of the orchestral body. We invite all those who are fond of any thing like rational amusement to visit the Theatre this evening, where they cannot fail of being highly gratified by Mrs. Chester's Page, Mrs.Taylor's Rosa, (she having in a most lady-like manner resigned the other character to Mrs. Chester, at the request of the latter) and Mr. Simmons's Pedrigo Potts, in the operatic piece of John of Paris. Such pieces in the hands of such performers ought to attract full houses, or public taste is vitiated, and public spirit is dead!

"MRS. CHESTER", The Sydney Herald (8 October 1835), 3

MRS. CHESTER. It is with some degree of gratification that we witness persons of respectability and science joining our infantile corps dramatique, and lending their talents for the rational entertainment of the community - for by such means alone will the drama flourish and eventually arrive at maturity, or the speculators in theatricals find their undertaking to be advantageous. These remarks are elicited by the recent engagement at the Sydney Theatre of Mrs. Chester, who, having received a theatrical education in Europe, has emigrated to this Colony for the purpose of following her profession. The Lessees of the Theatre - who certainly deserve every credit for their exertions in the public service - at once made the necessary arrangements with Mrs. Chester, for her appearance, and on Thursday last she made her debut in the Opera of Clari. In a strange land, and before such an audience of strangers, we considered that Mrs. Chester laboured under many disadvantages on Thursday night, and calculating the embarrassment under which Mrs. C. must have laboured on her first interview with the public, we considered that her performance on this occasion was not a fair criterion for judging of the merits of this actress; we therefore resolved to see her when she had become more "at home" with the audience. Many a bright genius in theatricals has been consigned to the shades (or, as the London writers would say, "damned") by the false judgment of superficial critics, who allow their senses to be carried away, and former erroneous conceptions from first impressions. Mrs. Chester appeared on Saturday, and again on Tuesday last, when we had the pleasure of beholding her performances in the Opera of Clari; and, as the Page in John of Paris, (very opposite lines of character) in both of which she strengthened the opinions we had formed of her talents. Mrs. Chester's acting is natural, and unaffected, without any violent exertion to give effect, unlike some of our performers, who are all rant and noise, and therefore unnatural; her emphasis and precision in the relation of the author were remarkably beautiful. We thought her rather too sombre in both characters, in the Page she wanted much more vivacity. As a vocalist Mrs. Chester is superior to any on the boards. Her voice is a full round-toned Soprano, not so powerful as Mrs. Taylor's, but of a more, pleasing mellow quality. Mrs. Chester's upper notes, - say above, G in Alt, appeared laboured, but this might have originated from a slight affection of the lungs at this particular season of the year. Her runs, cadences, and shakes, were executed with neatness and taste, although the latter we thought, in some of her songs, were used too frequently, but perhaps Mrs. Chester merely wished to let us know what she could perform, rather than exhibit the real beauty of the composition in question. As a ballad singer, we have no doubt Mrs. Chester will be unrivalled on the Sydney boards for some time to come; and as an actress, in a general line of business, (although we would say light Comedy is her forte) her services will be invaluable. We intended to have done justice to the exertions of some of the performers in Clari and John of Paris, but our "sand has neatly run out" for this publication; we must not, however, close without deprecating the miserable attempt that was made in the Orchestra to accompany Mrs. Chester. Had there been no rehearsals? if the orchestra is weak, it is no excuse for being imperfect. In the plaintive song of "Home, Sweet Home," we never heard such timeless, unfeeling, discordant, strumming, the musicians, we perceived, played "from ear," and a fertile imagination they displayed! We hope better things of the Orchestra for the future.

"POETICAL EFFUSION - ORIGINAL", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (26 March 1836), 4 


To Mrs. Chester, Theatre Royal, Sydney.

POLYHYMNIA, once in frolic mood,
A strange eccentric whim pursued,
That there should be of glee no dearth,
Amongst the children of the earth.
'Twas at a meeting in the sky,
When all the potentates were nigh;
In all their regal symbols crown'd,
While airs delicious floated round,
And beams of lustre filled the place,
And kindled every latent grace,
Amidst a pause of deep debate,
While Jove relaxed his brow of state,
The mirthful Goddess turned her head,
And thus to her tunelul sisters said,--

"I'll quick to yonder earth repair,
"Surrounded with dense fogs, and there
"The human character assume,
"And dissipate it's native gloom.
"In various shapes, and various airs,
"The manners, and the characters,
"Of mood, meaning, and intent,
"Of each gay bard I'll represent.
"In different forms and suits appear,
"Even 'from lively to severe.'
"In fair 'Rosetta' I will shew
"What cunning can with dotage do;
"As 'Lady Freelove,' perplex'd with strife,
"Depict the wayward youthful wife;
"Then 'Don Giovanni's' lesson proffer,
"Worth all the gold in Plutu's coffer;
"In 'Copp's' fair run may broil and bluster,
"And 'John of Pariss' troop oft muster:
"Show vice and folly each in measure,
"By holding the 'mirror up to nature.'
"In 'Margaretta', 'Clari,' 'Zelinda,' prove,
"Resistless is the shaft of love.
"These, and a thousand other things,
"To waken rapture's lively springs,
" 'I'll do,' she said, 'with action bland,
" 'And then to Apollo gave her hand.
" 'No toil, no effort, will I spare,
" 'And CHESTER is the name I'll bear !' "

The group o'erheard, the purpose lauded,
And, with cheers, her intent applauded.
Long and loud did they praise the dame
"CHESTER''--Polyhymnia, are now the same.

M. S. S.

Playbill, Theatre Royal, Sydney, 25 April 1836 (State Library of New South Wales MRB/F37) 

Calcutta, India

[News], The Sydney Herald (30 April 1838), 2

Mrs. Chester, the vocalist, was still at Calcutta, at the end of January.

[News], The Sydney Gazette (28 July 1838), 2

Mrs. Chester intends returning again to Sydney from India. It also appears her change did not turn out so advantageous as she anticipated, theatricals being on the decline in India.

"THEATRICALS", The Sydney Herald (25 October 1839), 2

Mr. and Mrs Chester, formerly of this Colony, appear to have been unfortunate in the East Indies . . . The Chowingee Theatre, concerning which Mr and Mrs. Chester had entered into some speculations, was burnt down accidentally.

"THE CHOWINGHEE THEATRE", Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany (1839), 177

[Advertisement], Launceston Advertiser (21 October 1841), 1

Hobart Town, VDL (TAS) - 1841-c.1845

"SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE", The Courier (26 November 1841), 2

PORT OF HOBART TOWN. Arrivals ... 23 - the bark Britith Sovereign, 491 tons, Cow, from Calcutta and Madras, with a general cargo-passengers, Dr. Ford, lady, and three servants, Mr. and Mrs. Chester and child ...

Chester, Herman; birth, 16 March 1843, Hobart; Tasmanian Names Index; NAME_INDEXES:1067829; RGD33/1/1/ no 1373 

Chester, Ernest Stevens; birth, 14 September 1844, Hobart; Tasmanian Names Index; NAME_INDEXES:1068815; RGD33/1/2/ no 546 

Bothwell, VDL (TAS) - c.1845-1848

"BOTHWELL", The Courier (8 April 1848), 2

BOTHWELL. It is said that Mrs. Chester, our talented schoolmistress, intends to give a musical concert very shortly in Hobart Town. It may not be generally known to the musical world of Hobart Town, so well as to us of this district, the power and pathos of this lady's voice. She displays great taste and much science in the performance of all she sings; whether it be a ballad, or a higher order of musical composition. Until her arrival, it may be said that singing was almost a dead letter among us; she has, however, revived and established a taste for it, and many private parties have been got up for the purpose of hearing her sing. The church music may be mentioned also as a pleasing result of her exertions, which has lately undergone a complete change. The choir in the Presbyterian congregation was organised, taught, and still continues to be conducted by her. Mrs. Chester retired into private life about 6 years ago, on her return to this colony from a tour through India, but has been induced to come again before the public; when her friends (and she has many) will no doubt give her a hearty welcome. Communicated.

"CONCERTS", The Courier (3 May 1848), 2 

CONCERTS. - Mrs. Chester, after a lapse of twelve years, made her appearance once more before a Hobart Town assembly on the evening of Friday last, and attracted a numerous audience, desirous of hearing a singer of whom report spoke most favourably. Nor were they disappointed. Mrs. Chester possesses a naturally fine voice of great extent and power, united with skill and accomplishment in her art. In her first song, "Bid me discourse," she at once proved her science, although she filled in some of the passages from nervousness. The ice once broken, she gradually improved. "Di Pacer" was well sung, and reminded us of the days of "Auld Lang Syne," carrying our imaginations home to Old England. The beautiful ballad of "Auld Robin Gray," although well sung, wanted that depth of pathos with which this touching Scotch melody is capable of being endued. Its charm lies in its simplicity, and the notes should be given without turn or ornament. Mrs. Chester, however, secured an encore. Ballads invariably come home to the feelings of an English audience, and we cannot but wonder they are not oftener introduced at public concerts. Mrs. Chester's last effort was the song of "Do not mingle," which she gave in excellent style, and with such effect that she was rapturously encored. The military hand acquitted themselves in their usual creditable way. We were particularly pleased with the performer on the flute in the last overture. His notes were singularly rich and sweet, and his time admirable. The duet, piano Herr Imberg and cornet-a-piston by one of the band, was exceedingly well played. Miss Duly sings prettily, but wants power for a concert room. The glee, "See our Oars," wanted in precision, and consequently in effect. Altogether Mrs. Chester may congratulate herself at the result of her re-appearance; and we hope in a few weeks to have the pleasure of hearing her again.

On Monday evening Mr. Pucker gave a concert at the Music Hall, in Collins-street . . .

"Mrs. Chester's Concert", The Cornwall Chronicle (13 September 1848), 19

Mrs. Chester's Concert. - On Friday evening, Mrs. Chester nmde her first appearance before a Launceston audience, as a Concert singer. and although the was evidently labouring under a severe cold, her debut was successful. On Mrs. Chester's advance to the platform, she was universally applauded, and after the performance of an Overture by the Band of H. M. 96th, she sang the famous ballad of "The Rover's Bride," by A. Lee, the Professor under whom we understand Mrs. Chester studied the art of singing for about two years. In this performance the daring of the bold outlaw, contrasted with the mild and plaintive accents of the confiding bride were well expressed, and the ballad was gone through with excellent effect. A couple or Scotch ballads - "Auld Robin Gray," and "John Anderson my Jo," were alao tastefully given, and (the latter in particular), much applauded. "The joyous days of Childhood" was another sweet ballad, which, spite of the singer's harassing cough, was touchingly sung. The concluding song, "The Wild White Rose" was unavoidably interrupted by a violent cough, but upon the whole the taste displayed, in Mrs. Chester's selection, and performance was admirable. The Piano Forte used was not in first-rate tune, and the accompaniment was consequently somewhat deficient. A celebrated Sinfonia by Haydn was performed by a portion of the Band, assisted by Mr. Beckford, who lent the music for the occasion. Mr. Bishop the master of the Band, and Mr. Howson, Senr., displayed much ability in this portion of the entertainment. Several glees were sung by Amateurs during the evening, and gave general satisfaction, "Lightly tread" being the favorite. We hope Mrs. Chester's speedy restoration to health will give another opportunity to the inhabitants to witness her talented exertions.

Chester, Marian (with husband and 2 children); departures, Hobart, 21 September 1848, per British Sovereign, for Port Phillip; Tasmanian Names Index; NAME_INDEXES:533702; POL220/1/1 p32 (page 32)

Melbourne, NSW (VIC) - 1848-1849

Sydney, NSW - 1849

"SYDNEY", The Courier (30 June 1849), 4 

A ci-devant London actress, Mrs. Chester, made her first appearance last Saturday as Madame Galochard, in the King's Gardener: her acting is naive and piquant, and malgre the severe cold under which she evidently laboured, her ballad singing was pleasing, although of a school rather passee. Her speaking voice is remarkably melodious and euphonie, and as for as we can judge from so early an acquaintance with her qualifications for the stage, we consider her an acquisition. - Sydney Atlas, June 9.

Maitland, NSW - 1849-1850

Newcastle, NSW - 1850-1860

John Askew, A voyage to Australia and New Zealand, including a visit to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Hunter's River, Newcastle, Maitland, and Auckland (London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1857), 290

Mr. [Joseph] Spragg's next appearance before the public was in the character of a comic singer at a public concert given in the court-house by Mr. Chester. Mrs. Chester was the principal and only female singer. She had been a professional both in London and Sydney. Mr. Chester was a clerk at a store, and had only been a short time in the city. Concerts were rare things in Newcastle; and when the night came, the house was crowded with all the fashion and beauty of the city and neighbourhood. Mr. Spragg, in order to be in full trim for the occasion, had two nights of rehearsal in his own drawing-room. A short time before the concert hour, the kitchen was turned into a green-room. I lent him a long pair of ridge-and-furrow Scotch stockings, which he drew on over white trousers and fastened at the knees with pieces of red ribbon. A loose shooting-jacket was thrown across his shoulders, and a rustic hat well floured, crowned the whole man. As a finishing-stroke, his face was coloured with rouge, and his hair was dusted with whiting. He spent an hour at this evening's toilet. His duty was to shine in the character of a country clown; and before a large glass on the chimney-piece he studied his part so well, that he was "perfect" by the time he was called upon. Mrs. Chester sung several popular songs, accompanied by the piano; Master Sydney Chester, a boy of 14 years, sung several nigger melodies; Mr. James Hannel sung an Irish song; and then came Mr. Spragg, who sung the "Country Fair." This song elicited a hurricane of applause, which died away in the gruff sounds made by some clever imitator of a braying donkey. The whole of the proceedings passed off so well, that there was another concert on the following week, at which Mr. Spragg appeared in the same character, and Mr. Rogers, grotesquely attired, sung his usual ditty.

"NEWCASTLE. PULICANS' LICENSES", Northern Times (24 April 1858), 2 

William Chester, Metropolitan, Watt street, Newcastle, the house lately occupied by Captain Bingle, nearly opposite the Bank of New South Wales.

"THEATRICAL", Northern Times (12 June 1858), 2 

THEATRICAL. - We have much pleasure in announcing that the amateurs of Newcastle are about to give a performance for the benefit of Mrs. Chesier on her retirement from the stage. Shakespeare's tragedy of Romeo and Juliet had been selected, in which that lady will sustain the character of the Nurse; and our favorite amateur, Capt. Absolute, will appear as Romeo. Mr. Byers and company will also kindly assist. We understand that Mrs. Chester was the first professional lady who visited the colony, and before that time was a singer and actress of some celebrity at "Old Drury." Her first appearance in Sydney was in 1836, at the old Theatre Royal, in George-street, in the musical drama of "Clari." She afterwards played there for several months until her departure for Calcutta. She has subsequently appeared in conjunction with some of the brightest stars who have graced our histrionic hemisphere and gladdened many a dull scene, and caused many a hearty laugh, as several of us can testify. Fickle fortune has, however, tossed her about, sometimes high and sometimes low, through various shades from grave to gay - and now on her exit from professional life, commences a new drama entitled "Mine Hostess," and bids farewell to all pomp and circumstance of "gaudy show." For although Mrs. Chester retires from the stage, she will continue before the public, and on the 1st of July, at the Metropolitan, the curtain will rise to an entire change of performance, where she purposes to give daily such an entertainment as shall please the most delicate or fastidious tastes. We trust that the contemplated tribute to her talent and standing among us will be such that she can look back to the "fall of the curtain" on her professional career with pleasure and satisfaction.

"DEATHS", The Sydney Morning Herald (23 June 1859), 1 

On the 15th instant, at his late residence, Bolton-street, Newcastle, Mr. William Chester, after a long and painful illness, in his 49th year, son of the late Edward Yates Chester, Esq., of Holyport, Berkshire, England, and brother of Granado Chester, Esq., late surgeon of the 5th Madras Light Cavalry. He was much respected and deeply regretted by all who knew him. English papers please copy.

Edward Yates Chester (c.1776-1851), William Chester, born 30 January 1812 in Bray, Berkshire, England

"ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION", New South Wales Government Gazette (24 June 1859), 1417 

In the Supreme Court of New South Wales. ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION. In the Goods, Chattels, and Credits of William Chester, late of the City of Newcastle, in the Colony of New South Wales, publican, deceased. NOTICE is hereby given, that fourteen days after this notice, Marian Maria Chester, widow and relict of the above-named William Chester, deceased, will apply to this Honorable Court, that Letters of Administration of the goods, chattels, and credits of her late deceased husband, may be granted to her. - Dated this twenty-first day of June, A.D, 1859. HENRY BAKER Proctor for the said Marian Maria Chester. By Iceton and Pownall, his Agents. 1630 4s. 6d.

[News], Empire (10 November 1859), 4

One of the oldest professionals of Sydney claims the sympathies of the public. Mrs. Chester, formerly one of our best vocalists, being afflicted with paralysis, and desirous of returning to England, is about to give a concert, in the Exchange, under the patronage of his Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Denison. Madame Jaffa, Miss Brady, Madame Flora Harris, Messrs. Charles Packer, J. and E. Deane, Kohler, Frank Howson, and others, give their services to this charitable cause; and the concert will undoubtedly receive the warmest support from the musical world and general public of Sydney.

[News], Empire (21 November 1859), 5

It is now about twenty-three years, since the arrival of Mrs. Chester threw the musical world of Sydney into considerable excitement. That lady was the first veritable "star" that had deigned to visit the colony. Fame spoke favourably of her vocal powers, and many who bad witnessed the beautiful performance of the celebrated Miss Chester (now Duchess of Buckingham) wondered who Mrs. Chester could be, until the manager of the Sydney theatre announced her as Mrs. Chester late Miss Crawford, of the London theatres. She was accompanied by her husband, brother of the Miss Chester above alluded to, a gentleman of whom those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance spoke in the highest terms; he brought letters of introduction to the chief officers of the Government, and up to the period of his death (now about five months since) held a responsible situation at Newcastle. Mrs. Chester made her first appearance before the Sydney public in the character of "Clari, or the Maid of Milan," and her beautiful singing of "Home, sweet home," and "Tyrant, soon I'll burst thy chains" at once proved her to be a vocalist of much ability. Mrs. Chester was engaged to sing three nights in each week, at a salary of ten pounds per night, and the management, at that time reaped a golden harvest from her labours. A reference to Doctor Loetzby's [Lhotsky's] Review on music in New South Wales, published in 1837 will shew the estimation in which Mrs. Chester was then held by a delighted public. About two years afterwards she was induced by promises of great patronage to visit India, and shortly after departed with her husband for Calcutta, whore for a time her professional efforts were crowned with complete success, she was honoured with the friendship and patronage of the highest families and personages in the "City of Palaces," and was on the high road to independence, when misfortune in a fearful form overtook her, and at onoe blighted her prospects and her hope; by a terrible catastrophe. She was awoke in the middle of the night by the cry of "Fire!" and had scarcely time to envelop herself in a blanket, with the assistance of her husband, and leap from the window of the hotel, when the fearful thought that her infant son, whom she had entrusted to a servant, was still in the burning house, took possession of her mind. No assurance on the part of her husband could, in her state of excitement, convince her of the contrary, and in the midst of her screams for her child, the building fell in with a fearful crash; from that moment her mind was in blank, reason had forsaken her, and even the sight of her infant (which had been saved long before the mother) failed to repair the awful shook. For many months Mrs. Chester remained in this state, even the sight of a lighted candle would bring on a fearful paroxysm, and fears were for a time entertained that she would never regain her reason. Mrs. Chester left India, and resided for a long time in Hobart Town, where she slowly recovered her faculties, and in her strictly retired position, and private life, endeared herself to all within the circle of her acquaintance. Mrs. Chester afterwards returned to New South Wales and introduced here from Van Diemen's Land the talented family of the Deanes, and afterwards resided with her husband at Newcastle, but an attack of paralysis has now entirely incapacitated her from further professional exertion. Destitute, and a widow, Mrs. Chester now appeals to the sympathies of the musical public, and we heartily turst that her appeal will not be made in vain. Mrs. Chester is now desirous of returning to her friends in England; we hope that her benefit at the Exchange Rooms, tomorrow evening, will furnish her with the means of doing so. We have only to add thate the programme is one most attractive, and will be patronised by his Excellency the Governor-General, Sir George F. Bowen, Governor of Queenaland, and the Masonic body of Sydney.

[News], Empire (24 November 1859), 4

As a musical entertainment, the Concert of Mrs. Chester, at the Exchange, on Tuesday evening, waa undoubtedly one of the best of the season; and this, as well as the peculiar cause for which it was given - aid to so deserving and unfortunate a member of the musical profession - makes us regret that it was not more successful in a pecuniary point of view. That a concert of this description should not have been better supported, does not say much for the musical taste of Sydney, now endeavouring to take its place in the musical world by means of a number of musical societies. One thing is also apparent from the limited attendance, that the system of patronage no longer succeeds in materially contributing to the success of an entertainment; many seemed disppointed at the non-appearance of the two Excellencies. Nearly the whole of the programme of Tuesday evening was artistically and spiritedly executed, and though totally opposed to the practice of compelling artists to do double duty, and of unnecessarily lengthening an already long programme by repeated encores, yet we must acknowledge that on this occasion they were richly merited. Every musical connoisseur will readily concede the palm of excellence to Osborne's duo concertante for the pianofortes (part II., No. 1), executed by Messrs. Charles S. Packer and F. Ellard. It excited a burst of enthusiastic applause, but owing to the length of the piece, the encore was judiciously declined. The piece is not threadbare, but comparatively new to the Sydney Concert Boom, and will prove a favourite. One oould not help admiring the easy and elegant style and slightness of touch displayed by Mr. Packer - there is no mistaking in him the genial artist, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of music. The part-song "Oh hills, Oh vales," (Mendelssohn), admirably sung by the members of the People's Vocal Association, though not encored, deserves next in order to be warmly mentioned. The light and shade in the execution was beautifully kept up. The duett, " Sainted Mother," from Wallace's opera of "Maritana," was exceedingly well sung by Miss Brady and Mrs. Cordner; it was encored, but the piece substituted was less effective. Frank Howson sung a German ballad by Schondar, "When the quiet Moon," with great taste; he was encored in this, as also in the famous buffo song from Rossini's Cenerentola, "My Tormentors," proving Mr. Howson still to be one of our most favourite concert vocalists. The other encores were Madame Flora Harris in Mrs. Nortons "Juanita," a song which, by her beautiful rendering, she has made quite her own. Miss Nina Spagnoletti in Linley's ballad of "Ever . of Thee," charmingly executed, and wisely substituted for the hacknied scena from "Robert le Diable," the vocalist giving for the encore Wrighton's "Sweet Home," equally well sung; and Mr. R. Kohler's concertina solo, which was rapturously received. Mr. Packer's "Hunting Song" was also very artistically given by the chorus. Mr. F. Ellard sang Balfe's ballad "The Bells," with excellent voice, but provoked the risibility of the audienca by the display of some of his peculiar eccentricities, real or affected. In consequence of indisposition, Madame Jaffa was compelled to conclude her pianoforte solo (the Rondo from Beethoven's Concerto in E flat) very suddenly. This was much to be regretted, as, from the talents of this lady, in this particular style of music, it would otherwise have undoubtedly proved one of the gems of the evening.

"AMUSEMENTS", Empire (13 December 1859), 3

. . . In other amusements we have had the concerts above-mentioned, with poor vocal, but very good instrumenal music, the result of the union of two orchestras. The oratorio of Judas Maccabeus, very well given by the Sydney Vocal Harmonia Society; an extremely successful complimentary benefit to Mr. J. H. Black; and a concert on behalf ot Mrs. Chester, ono of our oldest vocalists, formerly Miss Crawford, of London, and wife of the Duchess of Buckingham's brother; who has been suffering severely from paralysis, and is about returning to England.

"DEPARTURES FOR ENGLAND", The Sydney Morning Herald (13 January 1860), 9

December 20. - Blackwall, ship, 831 tons, Captain Stewart, for London. Passengers - Colonel and Mrs. Percival, 2 children and servant, Miss Hodson, Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell, Master Mitchell, Mr. and Mrs. Rossiter, 3 children and servant, Mrs. Clarke and 2 children, Mrs. Farras and 6 children, Mr. Wainwright, Mr. and Mrs. Barnett, Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins, Mr. and Mrs. King, Master Pratt, Mr. and Mrs. Travers, Mrs. Chester ...

? London, England - 1861

Melbourne, VIC - 1861

[Advertisement], The Argus (3 August 1861), 8

COMPLIMENTARY BENEFIT And LAST APPEARANCE On the Stage of Mrs. CHESTER, For many years a member of the Theatres Royal, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, Dublin, &c.; also, of the Royal Victoria Theatre, Sydney; and the Theatre Royal, Melbourne.

In consequence of the prolonged Indisposition of the above lady, so well known for many years on the Victorian stage, several gentlemen belonging to the profession, as well as amateurs of the Garrick and Histrionic Clubs, have offered their services gratuitously on her behalf, at the Theatre Royal,

On MONDAY evening next, the 5th inst.; the use of the theatre having also been most kindly and gratuitously conceded by Mr. Kyte, and it now only remains for the admirers and supporters of the drama in this city, by their patronage on this occasion, to render the event substantially beneficial to an actress who in at present, through bad health and other suffering, in the most pressing need of assistance.

The Performances will commence with Bulwer Lytton's play of THE LADY OF LYONS.
Claude Melnotte ... Mr. Hayward.
Colonel Damas ... Mr. Harwood.
Beauseant ... Mr. Buckingham.
Glavis ... Mr. J. W. Manvers.
Gaspar ... Mr. Donald.
Deschappelles ... Mr. Weedow.
Landlord ... Mr. Nealor.
Pauline ... Miss Emma St. Clair.
Madame Deschappelles ... Mrs. Phillips.
Widow Melnotte ... Mrs. Chester.
Jeanette ... Miss Jones.

Dance ... Miss Amy Chambers.

To be followed by A PETITE CONCERT, In which Miss OCTAVIA HAMILTON and Mrs. FREDERICK YOUNGE, who have with, great kindness given their valuable aid, will appear.
Duet (From "The Rose of Castile") Mrs. Frederick Young and Miss Octavia Hamilton.
Spanish Song, "Sweet Love Arise," Mrs. Frederick Younge.
Favorite Ballad, Miss Octavia Hamilton.

To conclude with TEDDY THE TILER.
Lord Dunderford ... Mr. J. Manly.
Teddy the Tiler (on this occasion) Mr. J. Simmons.
Henry ... Mr. R. Campbell.
Frederick ... Mr. Collingwood.
Notary ... Mr. Wilmot.
Richard ... Mr. Smith.
Tim ... Mr. R. A'Beckett Evans.
Lady Dunderford ... Mrs. Chester.
Oriel ... Miss Bush.
Julia ... Miss R. A'Beckett Evans.
Flora ... Miss St. Clair.

Marriage of Robert ROLLAND and Marian Maria Chester, VICTORIA BDM - 1861/3140

"DEATHS", The Sydney Morning Herald (21 November 1861), 10 

CHESTER - October 26th, Sydney Yates, eldest son of the late Mr. William Chester, of Newcastle, New South Wales, aged 24 years.

Newcastle, NSW - 1867

"DEATHS", Empire (26 August 1867), 1 

ROLLAND - On the 18th instant, at her son's residence, Wolfe-street, Newcastle, of Asthma, Mrs. M. M. Rolland, aged fifty-one years, mother of Mr. E. S. Chester, of that city.

"RECOLLECTIONS OF THE THEATRE ROYAL", The Argus (21 March 1872), 7 

Mrs. Chester, an excellent actress of old women, who played Mrs. Candour, is, we believe, dead.


Hall 1951-54

Beedell 1992

Hall and Cripps ("Osric") 1996

Skinner 2011

Bishnupriya Dutt and Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, Engendering performance: Indian women performers in search of an identity (New Delhi: SAGE, 2010), 28-33

Chapter 1: Actresses of the colonial space; English actresses in India (1789-1842), 3-46

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2017