The Musical Rose family

The Musical Rose family

Robert Rose ‘The Father of Music in Bedford’.
Robert Rose was born on 17 October 1814 in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, the son of Robert and Priscilla Rose. He was baptised on 17 February 1815 at the ‘Independent’ church there, a Non-Conformist denomination which had included the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to America in 1620 and had been at its height in the 1650’s at the time of Oliver Cromwell who was a member. Its members later became known as the Congregationalists until 1972 when it merged with the Presbyterian church under the new name of the ‘United Reform Church of England and Wales’.

His family ran a successful grocer’s shop and Robert was expected to join the family business. For some time his family resisted his wish to pursue music, warning him to concentrate on business, and he would steal out of his uncle’s grocery warehouse where he was ‘drudging’ to play the organ in a nearby chapel. Eventually, aged 21, he moved to Bedford and began an illustrious musical career.

Spreading the love of music.
With great enthusiasm to spread his passion for music he gave singing lessons and ran choirs in many parishes around Bedford. He was often in demand as organist for special occasions especially weddings and funerals. He promoted music through many concerts. Typical was an advertisement in the Bedford Mercury’s edition of 24 January 1857: ‘Grand Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music’ in the Assembly Rooms, Bedford, (now the Harpur Suite). ‘Mr Rose begs to inform the Nobility, Gentry and the public generally of Bedford and its vicinity that he intends giving a concert’….. ‘Eminent artists engaged’.

Organist and Choirmaster Positions
He was appointed organist at St Peter’s Church in 1835, where the Reverend Gustavus Barnaby was the vicar, and continued in this post for over 50 years. He was later appointed organist at St Paul’s, replacing John Nunn, which post he continued to hold until June 1887. At St Paul’s he was credited with improving and enlarging the organ and taking along his young son Henry who joined the choir as an alto singer. On his retirement he was presented with a silver salver in recognition of his many years’ service with St Paul’s choir. He was acknowledged for his role in achieving the high standard of church music in Bedford and the county.

Bedford Musical Society
He was one of the ‘quartet’ responsible for the founding of the Bedford Musical Society in 1867. His fellow organist, Philip Diemer, organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church on Bromham Road, who had studied under Robert in his early days, was one of the four. The other two were Dr Steinmetz, a teacher of German at Bedford Grammar School, and Mr John Day, a successful builder and architect who later became choirmaster at St Paul’s. With Philip Diemer as Conductor Robert was the organist and choirmaster of the new society for 23 years, until 13 May 1890.

R.Rose & Co. Music Shop
In 1840 Robert opened a Music Warehouse on the High Street, which grew into the Bedford Pianoforte and Music Warehouse, on the corner of St Peter’s Street and the High Street. The family are recorded as living there on the 1871 census and it became a feature at the top of the High Street for many decades. It sold, hired, tuned and repaired pianos, as well as dealing in harmoniums, organs, violins and other instruments. It offered the service of ‘A staff of lady assistants’ ….. ‘to wait on patrons’. His colourful cart, below, was well known in Bedford.

Robert’s cart. (Photo courtesy of The Higgins Bedford, where it is part of the collection and in storage for safe keeping.  Image Mike Benson)

Local directories show that the shop was still trading under the Rose name after the death of the last family member until at least 1929, when the then residents’ occupation from 1930-1934 were listed as ‘singing and voice production’. In 1936 evidence of music had disappeared, with the premises occupied by a milliner. Today the premises are occupied by ‘Newsfayre’.

R.Rose & Co. Music shop

At the Bedfordshire Music Festival, in the Corn Exchange annually and held again in March 2022 after the pandemic, the Rose family is remembered with the award of the R. Rose & Co. Cup, below.

Family Life
On 12 July, 1835, he married Frances Osborn, and by the 1841 census 3 children had been born: Emma, aged 6, George, aged 4 and Fanny, aged 2. They were living on Priory Terrace, in Bedford. He is recorded as ‘Organist’ and the census shows that he had taken on an ‘organist apprentice’, George Garratt, aged 18, living with his family. Sadly Fanny died in December 1846 and was buried on 9th at St Paul’s, aged 6. Another tragedy struck when his wife, Frances, died in 1850 and was buried at St Peter’s on 17th May, aged 43 He is recorded on the 1851 census as ‘widower’, aged 36, living on the High Street with his daughter Emma, now 14, son George, now 13, and 2 other sons born after the 1841 census, John aged 6 and Frederick aged 2. His occupation is now ‘Professor of Music’.

Second marriage
On 17 October 1852 he married Eleanor Russell at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, then in Surrey. She had been baptised at the same church on 15 May 1822. In the 1861 census the family were living at 107 High Street, Bedford where Robert’s occupation is ‘Organist and teacher of music’. Emma was now 24, Frederick 13, and Charles, who had been living with his grandmother, Priscilla Rose, in Newport Pagnell in 1851, possible to relieve the pressure on the newly widowed Robert, was back in Bedford with his father aged 14. Robert and Eleanor now had a son, Henry, a half- brother to the other children, who was 7, and would inherit his father’s love of music. Also in the household was another organist’s apprentice, William Kipps, born in Greenwich, then in Kent.

In 1871 Robert’s occupation was ‘Professor of Music and Organist, aged 56. Living with Eleanor his second wife at 123 High Street, the only children recorded are Emma, his daughter from his first marriage, aged 34 and her half-brother Henry, still a scholar, aged 16. In 1881 Robert was still living in the same place with his wife Eleanor and unmarried daughter Emma, listed on the census as ‘Professor of Music and Music seller’. By 1891 he was a widower, as Eleanor had died on 7 September 1881, aged 59, soon after the 1881 census was taken. He is recorded as ‘Music Seller’ and living only with his daughter Emma.

Death In March 1898 he succumbed to bronchitis, which developed into pneumonia and, before the days of antibiotics, often proved fatal. He died on 21 March at his home on de Parys Avenue, which he had named ‘Tenterden’, paying homage to his love of music. ‘Tenterden Street’, Hanover Square was the first location of the RAM and the building Robert would have known, as it only moved to its present premises on Marylebone Road in 1911, after Robert’s death. Today the house on de Parys Avenue is simply number 28. His funeral took place at St Paul’s on 25 March, conducted by both the vicars of St Peter’s and St Paul’s, reflecting his associations with both churches, followed by interment at Foster Hill Cemetery conducted by a previous vicar of St Paul’s, a friend with whom he had served for many years as organist.

Robert and Eleanor are buried in adjoining graves. Both gravestones are badly eroded and originally had crosses on top like that on Robert’s daughter Emma’s gravestone. (see later)

Robert’s Grave Ref: E 2 195                                            Eleanor’s Grave ref: E 2 186
Inscription: ‘Father in thy gracious keeping               Inscription: ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping’.

Robert’s children
The Bedfordshire times reported, on his death, that he had many children, but only Emma and Henry were present at the funeral.

-At least 3 children are known to have pre-deceased him: Fanny in 1846, Frederick in 1864 and Charles in 1894

-At least 2 others are known to have emigrated. George, born 1836, went to Canada and his marriage to Caroline Horshall is recorded at Haldimand, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Erie, on 22 April 1860 when he was 21. He and Caroline had a number of children, including Kate, Robert John and Charles Henry, recalling the names of George’s grandfather, Robert, and his children. George and Caroline are both recorded on the Canadian census of 31 March 1901. George died aged 63, ‘printer,’ on 16 September 1901, then a widower, suggesting that Caroline predeceased him soon after the 1901 census was taken. They have a joint gravestone in Strathroy Municipal Cemetery in Ontario.

Caroline and George Rose’s gravestone in Ontario, Canada

John, born 1845, went to America. His death is recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 10 March 1903. He was married but his wife and any children are unknown. He died of heart disease aged 58 and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Henry Robert Rose, Robert’s best- known son in Bedford  was the Organist of St Pancras Church in London, and Fellow and Professor of the Royal Academy of Music.

Early life
Henry was born in Bedford on 6th May 1854, the son of Robert and his second wife Eleanor. From an early age he was encouraged by his father in his love of music and was known to accompany him and assist him at choir practices and services. His knowledge of the organ dates from his early years when his father was the organist at St Peter’s and St Paul’s churches. Educated at Bedford Grammar School, he was an original member of Bedford Musical Society and sang alto at its first performance. He became an accomplished performer in many areas of music including as a violinist and played the organ in a number of local churches.

Royal Academy of Music (RAM)
He became a student at the RAM then was made a sub-professor in 1877 and full professor in 1879. He was later made a Fellow of the RAM, his certificate signed by the President, the then Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son and fourth child.

Other Honours
He was made an examiner of the Associated Board of Music and in 1900 accepted the professorship of pianoforte at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1875 he was awarded the first prize for organ at the RAM, presented to him by HRH Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s 6th child. In 1879 he was selected from 300 candidates to replace, on his death, the famous composer, organist and hymn writer Henry Smart as the organist of St Pancras Church in London, and held this position for many years. He and his wife moved the family to London to fulfil their duties there but returned often to Bedford for music. On 20 May 1885 he was sufficiently well known to announce his move to 3 Gordon Place, Gordon Square, London W.C. in the London Evening Standard. His appointment as ‘Grand Organist’ at the investiture of officers at the Festival of Freemasons was reported in the 30 April 1896 edition of that newspaper.

Organ recitals and dedication of new church organs
There followed many invitations to give organ recitals, sometimes along with the dedication of a new organ, and local newspapers were full of advertisements announcing these in many parts of the country. As examples, in October 1888 the Sheffield Independent advertised a service for the reopening of St Mary’s church at which the Archbishop of York would be the preacher, Henry Rose the organist, and, after the service, Mr Rose would give a recital. The Derby Mercury of 26 July 1899 announced proudly the dedication of a new church organ at Wirksworth church, Derbyshire, at the cost of £1,200, followed by a recital by ‘Mr Henry R. Rose F.R.A.M. organist of St Pancras church, London’.

January 1892 The opening concert of the new Bedford Grammar School
The main building was now completed and Henry, as an old boy of the Grammar School, organized the opening concert with some notable musicians, including members of the Carrodus family. Both he and Clara were leading performers and the Bedfordshire Mercury reported that the audience were still enjoying the concert well after 11 pm, in spite of the planned earlier ending on the advertisement: ‘CARRIAGES AT 10.15’.

The Advertisement in the Bedfordshire Times and Independent

October 1900 Inauguration of Corn Exchange Organ An especially proud moment for the people of Bedford and the surrounding area was the opening ceremony and concert to mark the installation of a new organ in the Corn Exchange, Bedford. This was the culmination of a project which had been underway for 20 years, starting with the proposal by Sir Frederick Howard, President of the Bedford Musical Society in 1880. After much fundraising £1334
had been raised and Messers Hall and Son, London were instructed to build the organ. In the presence of the Bedford dignitaries of the day, the Mayor, Councillors, Mr Phillpotts, Headmaster of Bedford Grammar School, and the leading members of Bedford Musical Society there followed a grand concert of organ and choral works with Henry Rose as the organist and Philip Diemer conducting the choruses. One of the choral works was by Henry Smart whom Henry Rose had succeeded as organist of St Pancras church, London and no doubt in his memory as a great musician.

Death Having returned to live in Bedford he is recorded as living at 4 Conduit Road in the 1911 census. He died there shortly after the census was taken, on 5 September 1911.

Grave Ref: F 5 6
Inscription: ‘Credo in Cruce Christi’ (‘I believe in the Cross of Christ’)

Henry’s Wife: ‘Madame Clara Samuell’.
Henry married Clara Samuell on 28 December 1880 at St Pancras church, London. She too became an acclaimed musician and performed in many towns as a mezzo-soprano vocalist and in concerts together with Henry.

Early life and musical education Clara was born near Manchester in 1856, the daughter of George Simpson Samuell ‘Gentleman’ according to Clara’s marriage record, and Alice Clague, originally from the Isle of Man. Her musical education began in Manchester and she made her debut there in 1874 singing Arthur Sullivan’s ‘Guinevere’. She then studied in Milan before winning the Parepa-Rosa scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. This was a scholarship endowed by Carl Rosa, founder of the Carl Rosa Opera Company, in memory of his wife, Euphrosyne Parepa, the renowned operatic soprano.

Successful career Clara’s first appearance in London followed soon after, as did a brilliant career in which she was in great demand at many of the London and provincial choral societies, including the Bedford Musical Society. Local newspapers are full of notifications of many concerts in which she starred in London. One such appearance was in 1884, at the Crystal Palace, a celebration of the centenary of the famous German musician, Louis Spohr’s birth. Another was her performance at Steinway Hall with the well- known pianist Isidor Cohn in 1898. She served as a Professor of Singing and a Fellow of the RAM. She was also in demand as an adjudicator for prizes and, as an example, in 1891 she chaired the examiners for the awarding of the Rutson Prize for a promising singer at the RAM.

Return to Bedford and Death By the time of the 1911 census Henry and Clara had moved from London back to Bedford, to 4 Conduit Road. An interesting comment on the times is that in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses she is simply classified as ‘wife’. In the 1911 census she, like Henry, is classified as ‘Musician at the RAM’. Following Henry’s death in 1911 she continued to live at 4 Conduit Road, Bedford. Her death on 9 January 1920 following an operation in a London hospital, aged 61, was widely reported in many of the local newspapers in towns where she had been a popular performer. Interment followed at Foster Hill Road Cemetery attended by her two children, Nina and Robert, and she was buried with her husband where they share a gravestone. Grave Ref: F 5 6

Her details are inscribed on the base of the joint gravestone, above, with the words: ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

Emma Rebecca Rose
Emma was Henry’s half-sister and the oldest child of Henry’s father, Robert, and his first wife, Frances. She was born in Bedford on 6 August 1836 and was christened at St Paul’s church on 16 September 1836. She is recorded on the census, in 1841, aged 6 and living with her parents, younger brother George and sister Fanny, who sadly died in 1846. In subsequent censuses she was living on the High Street with her father, stepmother and siblings, when she is simply noted as ‘daughter’.

Occupation In 1891 she was living with her widowed father Robert on de Parys Avenue and for the first time is given an occupation as ‘Music Seller’, as her father was similarly recorded. She had gradually taken over from her father the running of the Rose Music shop on the corner of the High Street and St Peter’s Street. By the 1901 census, her father having died in 1898, she was the head of the household in de Parys Avenue, her occupation is described as ‘Pianoforte and Music Dealer’ and she has an ‘Assistant in Music Shop’ living with her and 2 servants. The 1911 census described her in the same way.

Death She died on 23 October 1918, shortly before the Armistice of the Great War on 11 November, 1918. Probate records show that she left £8,493, a substantial sum which reflects the success of the Rose music business.

Grave Ref: E2 204
The cross is intact unlike on Robert and Eleanor Rose’s gravestones.
The inscription on her gravestone reads: ‘In Christ shall all be made alive’.

Henry and Clara had 2 children: children: Alice Nina Clara and Robert Henry Edwin Steggall

Alice Nina Clara Rose, the older child who continued in her mother’s musical footsteps.

Early life Known as Nina she was born on 20 March 1889 at 3 Gordon Place in London and was baptized on 6 May 1889 at St Pancras church where her father, Henry, was the organist. She was living with her parents at Gordon Place in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, joined by her younger brother, then aged 3, in 1901. By 1911 her parents had moved back to Bedford, her brother was boarding at school and she was living in Willesden, North West London, aged 22.
Singing Career She was then following her mother, Clara Samuell’s career and developing as a gifted vocalist. She was awarded a 5 year scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and studied under the famous musicians Alberto Randegger until his death in 1911, and Dr. George Henschel. The Bedfordshire Times proudly reports her debut in Bedford at the Corn Exchange in May 1912 noting her ‘soprano voice of great brilliancy and compass’. She is referred to professionally as Nina Samuell Rose, a reference to her mother’s maiden name, Samuell, and professional name, Clara Samuell. She was in demand in prestigious venues before the First World War, including the Crystal Palace and the Queen’s Hall in London. In November 1914, with World War 1 underway, in a concert at the Corn Exchange, Bedford, she sang solos in the Messiah ‘Rejoice greatly’ and ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’, ‘the audience composed entirely of soldiers, khaki and kilts’ according to the Bedfordshire Times. The ‘kilts’ was a reference to the Scottish soldiers who were training in Bedford and a Private in the 4th Cameroons sang the bass solos in uniform.

Marriage and Tragedy On 22 April 1916 Nina, then aged 27, married Ivan Thorold Grant, aged 29, at Christ Church, Brondesbury, North West London. Her address at the time of her marriage was 23 Cavendish Road, Brondesbury, which was the address given for her mother when she had her operation in hospital in London and subsequently died in 1920.
Nina’s husband: Ivan Thorold Grant was the son and grandson of clerics in the Church of England. His Grandfather, the Venerable Anthony Grant D.C.L. was the Archdeacon of St Albans, Chaplain to the bishop and a canon of Rochester Cathedral. His father, Cyril Fletcher Grant read theology at Oxford before becoming an Honorary canon of Rochester Cathedral and serving as vicar in Aylesford and then in Guildford. Ivan was born in Aylesford, Kent in 1887, and after being educated at Wellington College left for Canada. He is on passenger lists bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1911 and 1913, recorded as ‘Farmer’. When World War 1 broke out he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and back in England secured a commission in the Royal West Kent Regiment, as Second Lieutenant.

Death, Killed In Action. Sadly, he was killed in action on the Somme on 9 October 1916 and has a gravestone in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme. He and Nina had only been married for 5 and half months. Probate was concluded in Canada as well as England, which suggests that he had land or assets in Canada. Nina never married again and there were no children.

Life as a widow Nina seems to have curtailed her performances after the death of her husband (1916) and mother (1920) as there are few references to her in local papers. One reference notes that she came from London to perform at a concert in Bedford in November 1927. It appears to have been a charity fund-raiser in aid of the ‘Dumb Friends League’. Another reference advertised in several local newspapers notes her participation in a concert on the ‘wireless’ in April 1928, the ‘wireless’ in its early days as a new medium in 1920s. In 1931 she was still living in Brondesbury, where she had married, but by the 1939 register she was living in a Nursing Home in Hove, Sussex. In 1949 she experienced the sadness of her younger brother’s death abroad and was the executor of his estate.

Death Nina remained living in Hove until her death on 31 May 1972, aged 83.

Robert Henry Edwin Steggall Rose was the only son and younger child of Henry and Clara.

Early Life and Education He was born on 21 March 1898 and baptised on 13 May at St Pancras church where his father Henry was the organist. Henry’s musical background is noted in the name ‘Steggall’ given to the infant, a tribute to Charles Steggall, the eminent musician and hymnologist. He had been appointed the first holder of the position of Professor of Organ at the Royal Academy of Music in 1851 and no doubt tutored Henry when he studied there. Robert followed in his father’s footsteps in his education at Bedford Grammar School and is recorded in the 1911 census, aged 13, boarding at 27 de Parys Avenue. The boarding house is still in use today and is now named ‘Phillpotts’ after the headmaster James Surtees Phillpotts who had retired in 1903.

Career He did not follow the family into a musical career, instead joining ‘British and American Tobacco’ and entered a lifetime of travel to different parts of the world. Aged 22, in May 1920 he sailed to Chile on the ‘Ortega’ and in November that year arrived in Virginia U.S.A. He was back in England by 1922, on the voter’s register in Fulham and in time for his wedding.

Marriage and Divorce On 2 August 1922, aged 24, he was married at Hinde Street Methodist church, Marylebone, to Beatrice Churchill Strapp, aged 20, whose family was from South Africa and whose father was a physician. They had a son Anthony Robert Rose, born on 30 May 1924 and baptized on 11 July in Durban, South Africa. Sadly the son died on 24 October 1943, aged 19. The marriage failed at some point and there is a record of his ex-wife, then a ‘divorcee’ aged 32, marrying a David Charles Lewis aged 34 in Durban in October 1934. It seems that they later emigrated to the U.S.A., recorded on a flight list to New York from ‘London Airport’ as it was then, on 22 June, 1948.

Robert’s later life and death He continued his life of travel. He lived in Uruguay for a while, arriving back in London on the ship ‘Highland Patriot’ on 13 September 1934 from Montevideo. He died at Tarkwa in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, West Africa, on 19 February, 1949 aged 50, leaving his estate to be administered by his widowed sister Alice Nina Clara Grant.


Censuses 1841-1911
Bedfordshire Times and Independent
Bedfordshire Mercury
Bedford Record
London Evening Standard
Musical Times
Sheffield Independent
Derby Mercury
Bedford High Street Heritage Gazeteer
‘Bedford Musical Society’ by Michael Benson
The Higgins Museum Bedford
Bedfordshire Festival of Music and Drama
Family Search
Free BDM
HSGBI (Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland)
Global Find a Grave Index
UK Find a Grave
Church of England Parish Registers
Methodist/Independent Church Registers UK
South Africa Methodist Parish Registers
South Africa Civil Marriages
Migration Passenger lists and Passenger lists UK and Ireland
CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
Forces War Records
National Probate Index of Wills and Administration