Birth: 1890, 7th February in Battersea, Wandsworth, London, England
Death: 1971, December in Waltham Forest, London, England
Jessie Belmore was the third of four children born to the actor and stage manager George Belmore, and the actress Jessie Danvers, both of whom were from families with theatrical and performing arts legacies. George Belmore passed away in 1898, when Jessie was only 8 years old. Her mother remarried quickly so Jessie Belmore soon had a step father, an actor and writer called Gilbert Heron. The family were living at Tulse Hill in Lambeth, London at the time.
Life in Theatre:
1910, Jessie arrived in Southampton from Cape Town on the ship ‘Garth Castle’ with her eventual husband to be, Louis Hector Niblett, although their boarding at Cape Town was recorded separately. Louis Hector was an actor, singer and fight choreographer, specialising in fencing. Several other actors were on this ship also, suggesting that a company tour took place.
From The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 29th 1911:
“THE REAL NAPOLEON.
“Edwin T. Heys produced a new historical drama built around the stirring events in the life of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, by Juan Buonaparte, great grandson of the great dictator, and Arthur Shirley, at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester. England, March 9. The play is called The Real Napoleon and the title role is played by Juan Buonaparte. From Manchester the play goes on tour through Blackburn. Dublin, Belfast. Cork, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Newcastle, arriving in London for Coronation week. The company includes Jessie Belmore, Jessica Black, Cecily Wade, Miss More-Dunphie, Charles Ashwell, Val Gully, Paul Lovett, Charles Barrett, Lawrence Grove and Alfred Richards.”
Around 1912, Jessie’s career become very prolific. At the Trocadero she performed as one of the Tiller Girls, a long running dance troupe first formed in 1890 by John Tiller in Manchester. They were famous for routines with high-kicking, arm linking, and highly trained precision at a time when dancers on stage were popular but were often spoiled by a lack of discipline. The Tiller girls grew in number, with up to 80 troupes. They became well known overseas, and continued performing on stage and later on television until 2009. At the time of writing, there are plans for a re-launch of the Tiller Girls, and they appeared on BBC1’s The John Bishop Christmas Show on the 23rd of December 2013.
- The Real Napoleon at Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, a historical play by Juan Buonaparte and Arthur Shirley
- The Barrier, at Theatre Royal Leeds, alongside produced by H. Armitage and Arthur Leigh. Jessie’s plays the role of Necia, the daughter of the lead character.
1913, Jessie at age 23 married Louis Hector Niblett, 24, and had their first child on the 1st of April in London. Their daughter was given the name Necia Lydia Niblett, perhaps after Jessie’s recent acting role in The Barrier. Necia was conceived before her parents married. Jessie, Louis Hector and baby Necia all appeared at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool later in 1913.
- The Barrier, at Kelly’s Theatre, Liverpool, alongside Louis Hector, adapted from the novel by Rex Beach, of life in Alaska
- Lamb Among Wolves, Surrey, alongside brother George Belmore, a comedy-drama written by Ivan P. Gore
- Pete, at Grand Theatre, Blackpool, alongside Louis Hector and baby Necia, previously performed at Lyceum, London, written by Hall Caine and produced by H. Armitage and Arthur Leigh.
1915, Jessie and Louis Hector had a second child on April 13th in London, Charles Louis H Niblett. Shortly after this point, Jessie and Louis Hector split up from each other. Louis pursued an acting career in the United States and left Jessie behind.
- The Silver Horde, at Grand Theatre, Blackpool, alongside Louis Hector and two year old daughter Necia. Rex Beach’s romance of the Great North-West, adapted by Philip E. Hubbard from the novel of the same name
1920, Jessie’s son Charles is sent to a home for sufferers of epilepsy.
1921, Reginald Gilbert is born at Tulse Hill in South London to Jessie. Ralph Stevenson was named as the father in later documentation, but Jessie is still married to Louis Hector. Soon after this in 1923, the family moved to 59 Loughborough Park, a house with about 14 bedrooms. Jessie Danvers and Gilbert Heron, Jessie’s stepfather, are the senior family members. Jessie Belmore and other were in and out of the house all the time on tours and other engagements.
- A Night of Temptation, at Lyceum, a Melvilles production
- The Orphans, at Lyceum, a Melvilles production
- The Padre, at Lyceum
- The Right Age to Marry, at The Playhouse, a comedy by H. F. Maltby
- What Money Can Buy, at Lyceum, produced by the Melville Brothers
- Padre, at Lyceum, adapted from Mon Curé Chez les Riches, produced by the Melville Brothers
1932, Jessie divorced from Louis Hector Niblett by the Royal Courts of Justice. A previous divorce attempt failed due to a lack of named correspondent. Louis Hector went on to become a big star in U.S. theatre.
- Heritage, at St Martin’s Theatre, with brother George Victor Belmore and stepfather Gilbert Heron. This play was written and produced by Josiah Oliver Twiss, later to become the second husband of Jessie.
1933, Jessie’s illegitimate son Reginald Gilbert is legally adopted by his grandparents Jessie Danvers (Jessie Belmore’s mother) and Gilbert Heron at age 12. Reginald had been mostly raised by his grandparents prior to this time anyway, due to Jessie Belmore’s continued touring.
- She Loves Me Not, at Adelphi Theatre, London
- She Loves Me Not, at Adelphi, directed by Harry Lindsey
- Heritage, at Fortune, with brother George Victor Belmore
In 1939, Jessie married actor and writer Josiah Oliver Twiss in July. With Twiss she became a co-manager and writer of plays also. Twiss wrote and performed farces, particularly at Whitehall Theatre which was well known for the genre. They lived together on Charing Cross Road in the heart of London. This was also close to the Actors Equity / Actors Benevolent Fund shop on Greek Street where Jessie worked as part of this organisation.
Jessie was also a friend and frequent visitor to Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, the lifetime collectors of theatrical materials which were eventually transferred to the Bristol University Theatrical Collection in 2010 by the collection’s trustees.
1966, Jessie’s second husband Josiah Oliver Twiss passed away.
Jessie died as Jessie Belmore Twiss in July 1971 at age 81, in the District of Waltham Forest. She was survived by her daughter Necia Lydia Goide, married to Eric Samuel Goide, and Jessie’s sons Charles L H Niblett and Reginald Gilbert Heron.