Birth: 1872, in England
Death: 1901, January 17th, in Warwickshire, England
Lillian Belmore Garstin was the sixth child of the great 19th century actor George Benjamin Garstin, stage name George Belmore, and his wife from a family of circus performers and proprietors Alice Maude Mary Ann Cooke. She was preceded by three brothers and two sisters, the first of which, George Belmore, was born 9 years before in 1863. In June 1875, they were joined by a younger brother who would be the final child.
In 1875, Lillian’s father died of illness at just 45 years of age while in the United States. However, with Lillian and her siblings all still young, and in some cases at various stages of school education, they and their mother Alice were all in London when this occurred, and unable to attend their father’s funeral in New York. Instead a ‘performance and testimonial benefit’ was arranged in London, attended, organised and contributed to by many famous actors and people involved in theatre who knew and worked with George Benjamin Belmore.
A Life in Theatre
In 1884, at age 12, Lillian made her first appearance on stage in a small part in ‘Claudian’ with the Wilson Barrett theatre company, at the Princess’ and Olympic theatres in London. Story by Henry Herman. This was with several members of her immediate family in the cast. William Lionel Belmore, an older brother. Alice Belmore, an older sister, Alice Cooke, Lillian’s mother, and also Henry Cooper-Cliffe, who wasn’t part of the family at the time but later married Alice Belmore.
- The Golden Ladder.
A short time after this, Lillie Belmore (her professional stage name) was playing important parts at the Criterion theatre and elsewhere, later re-joining Wilson Barrett’s group full time.
In 1889, Lillie travelled across the Atlantic ocean with the Wilson Barrett company of actors from Liverpool to New York. This was on a ship called ‘City of New York’. Their tour of the USA took them to Boston for three weeks.
- Ben-My-Chree at Tompkins’ Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. A dramatization of Hall Caine’s “The Deemster”. Also starred Wilson Barrett, Lillie’s brothers Lionel and Paul, her sister Alice and Alice’s husband Henry Cooper-Cliffe. Lillie took over the role of the harvest festival “Corn Queen” called Kittie from Lila Garth, who fractured an ankle early in the performance’s run.
- The Silver King, at Tompkins’ Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. Also starred Wilson Barrett, Henry Cooper-Cliffe, and Lillie’s mother Alice Cooke.
- Nowadays, at Tompkins’ Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. Written by and starring Wilson Barrett. Henry Cooper-Cliffe had a role in this play also.
- The Good Old Times, at Olympic Theatre, London.
- Kitty Grey, at The Vaudeville Theatre.
- The People’s Idol, at Olympic Theatre. With brothers Lionel and Paul, sister Alice, and mother Alice Cooke also performing.
- The Silver King, at Olympic Theatre. Also starred her brother Paul Belmore.
- The Stranger, at Olympic Theatre. Also starred her brother Paul Belmore.
- Cecelia, at Gaiety Theatre. Possibly also starred Lille’s mother Alice Cooke.
- Tommy, at Olympic Theatre.
- Ben My Chree.
- Father Bunoparte, with Lillie’s mother Alice Cooke.
- Chatterton, at Gaiety Theatre. With Alice Cooke.
- The Acrobat, at Olympic Theatre. With Lillie’s brother Paul Belmore.
- The Miser.
- The Crusader, at Avenue Theatre.
- The Reckoning, at Globe Theatre.
- On an Island, at Avenue Theatre.
- Niobe, at Prince’s Theatre, Bristol. Written by Harry Paulton. This show ran two seasons with Lillie, with the second taking place during 1893 through to early 1894. Some considered Lillie’s ‘Audrey’ in this to be her best performance.
- Custom House, at Vauderville Theatre. Also starred her brother George Belmore.
- The Noble Art, at Terry’s Theatre.
- The Postman, at the Strand Theatre.
- Clairette, at Opera Comnique in Liverpool. This was Lille’s first performance in this city.
- Don Juan, at Gaiety Theatre
Mr. George Edwardes, proprietor of theatre groups and manager of Gaiety Theatre, saw Lillie Belmore and arranged for her to be in his acting companies. The Gaiety Theatre was traditionally known for burlesque farces, but was about to try hosting more story-driven comedy dramas.
- The Shop Girl, at Princess’ Theatre and Gaiety Theatre, with the Wilson Barrett company. A musical comedy by H.J.W. Dam, that achieved more than 500 performances, which was a record at the time for this type of show. It was written in the entertainment press that “Miss Belmore’s scenes with Arthur Williams invariably provoked roars of laughter”. It followed on from a series of shows that included The Dancing Girl, A Gaiety Girl, and The Wrong Girl, and succeeded by the shows My Girl, The Circus Girl and The Runaway Girl.
- As You Like It, at The Prince of Wales theatre, a play performed by women only. Later in the year this show transferred to Gaiety.
- Gay Parisienne, at the Duke of York theatre in London. This musical comedy in two acts premiered at the Opera House in Northampton in 1894. In London it ran for 396 performances, and later it toured abroad.
- My Girl, at Gaiety. The show transferred to Theatre Royal in Birmingham later.
1897, Lillie sailed to South Africa with the touring George Edwardes company, and returned via the West Indies, arriving in Southampton, England. The ship on the return journey was called The Atrato, and was a Royal Mail package transport ship. She was with her brother Herbert Belmore, and her husband Charles Claude William Wallace.
- The Forty Thieves, at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. A Children’s Pantomime that commenced on Boxing Day night. Written by Arthur Sturgess and Arthur Collins. This show also starred the successful music hall comedians and actors Dan Leno and Johnny Danvers, who had become related to Lillie via the marriage of her elder brother George Belmore to Jessie Danvers. Lillian played the part of Cogia. On the opening night, The Forty Thieves was under-rehearsed.
- Kitty Grey, at Prince’s Theatre, Bristol, and King’s Theatre, Glassgow. A musical comedy directed by George Edwardes.
- Cinderella, in Liverpool.
Lillian Garstin Belmore died in 1901, on the 17th of January, at just 29 years of age. Heart disease was the cause. Shortly before this, she was engaged to play the part of Arethusa in Cinderella at the Prince of Wales theatre in Birmingham, but due to illness she had to withdraw from doing so after a few performances, even though she had brought success to the play. Although still young, Lillie had achieved a 17 years long theatrical career.
In the Harborne Parish Churchyard the remains of Miss Lillie Belmore were laid to rest, named as Lillie Wallace. The funeral procession started at the Hen and Chickens Hotel in Birmingham, where Lillie had been staying. One striking emblem among the floral tributes, of which there were about fifty, had an inscription made from violets that said ‘To Niobe’, in reference to Lillie’s role in the 1892-1894 play of the same name.
Not much is known about Lillie’s family life beyond the Belmores. It doesn’t appear as though she had children, and the date of her marriage to Charles Claude William Wallace is not known. She did sign her name as Mrs. Charles Wallace sometime near 1890.
In 1950, in the United States, her brother Herbert Belmore and his successful actress wife Bertha adopted Clifford Wallace. Clifford was said by Bertha to a newspaper to be the son of Herbert’s niece Doris Wallace, who died in an elevator accident, which would make Doris a daughter of Lillie. Yet the Wallace name came from Clifford Wallace’s father, who abandoned Doris and Clifford. A possibility is that Clifford was descended from someone else in Charles Claude William Wallace’s family, possibly one of his brothers, and the relationship was simplified when it went to print. While Bertha and Herbert cared a great deal for young Clifford Wallace, it doesn’t appear as though the Belmore and Wallace families had much to do with each other beyond their connection with Lillian. Sadly Herbert and Bertha Belmore died in 1952 and 1953 respectively, so their time with Clifford wasn’t long either.