William J. Handley (1832 - 1896)

William James Handley was a professional horn player employed by Her Majesty's Theatre and the St. James Theatre, London. He was born in Westminster. Middlesex, England to John and Harriett (Mullen) Handley1, and received his early musical training as a military musician. By 1860 he was employed as third horn at Her Majesty's Theatre, in a section comprising Steglich, Keevil, Handley, and Waterson. The 1864 catalog for Raoux-Labbaye lists him among the players of their instruments. In 1867 he was principal horn in a massed performance of Handel's Messiah at the Agricultural Hall.
On October 17, 1864 Mr. Handley was principal horn in the inaugural Promenade concert of the new Strand Musick Hall (right). 2 

The Musical World, October 16, 1864

The Strand Musick Hall later the Gaiety Theatre
One year later, on October 14, 1865, Mr. Handley was heard in a performance of the popular "Huntsman's Chorus" from Weber's Der Freischutz, as recorded by his brother-in-law, Edward Willis Fletcher's manuscript of horn excerpts.

On February 4, 1871 was featured in the "ever-welcome" Schubert Octet on the Saturday Popular Concert at St. James Hall. A few weeks later on February 24 he was once again a soloist at St. James Hall in a concert  conducted by Charles Gounod in aid of the Subscription Française for the victims of the Franco-Prussian War. In 1874 he gave the first performance in England of the Spohr Septet at St. James Hall. The same year The Musical Times advertised a horn for sale by Leconte of Paris "with set of detachable pistons, 10 crooks, and extra B flat master crook. Has been tried and approved by Messrs Standen and Handley of Her Majesty's Theatre. Cost very recently £14.14s., price net cash £6." Composer Hamilton Clarke dedicated his Romanza for Horn, op. 149 (March 5, 1876) to "His friend William Handley." 3   In 1878 he was still playing with Her Majesty's Theatre and said to be one of the "principal artists from Sir Michael Costa's Orchestra." Still very active at the age of fifty-five he performed a solo at Mr. J. Winterbottom's Annual Vocal and Instrumental Concert at New Pier, South Parade, March 19,  1887.4

Around 1858, Mr. Handley married Ellen Watts (1838-1907), and together they had the following children: William J. Handley, jr. (ca. 1859- ), Ellen F. Handley (ca. 1861- ), Arthur L Handley (ca. 1864- ),  Horace Handley (ca. 1866- ), and Emma Handley (ca. 1870- ).  In their later years, William and Ellen Handley moved to Fulham live with their son Arthur and family. William James Handley died in Fulham in ca. 1896, and Ellen died there ten years later.

Special thanks to my good friend John Humphries for supplying performance data for Mr. Handley and the title page for the Clarke Romanza..

1.  Genealogical data for Mr. Handley's family is incomplete and the available evidence somewhat contradictory. It is fairly clear that his mother was Harriett Mullen who was born in Brompton, ca. 1803, the daughter of carpenter James Mullen, and who married John Handley at St. Mary's, Lambeth, Surrey on May 2, 1827. From census data it appears that the couple had four children: Catherine Handley (ca.1831- ), William James Handley (ca.1832-1896), Selena Charlotte Handley (ca.1834- ), and Harriett Emma Handley (ca.1836-1902). Subsequently John Handley died and on January 25, 1838 Harriett married Joseph Thornell, also at St. Mary's, Lambeth. Joseph was a corporal in the 1st Regiment Foot Guards, and having also been widowed, had a daughter, Charlotte Thornell (ca. 1834- ). Harriett and Joseph had a daughter of their own, Mary Ann Thornell (ca.1849- ) and the 1841 census lists Harriett Thornell, Cathr. Handley, Selina C. Handley, Mary Ann Thornhill [sic], Charlotte Thornhill [sic], and Harriett Handley living at the Tower of London barracks of the 1st Battery Grenadier Guards. William J. Handley is not included with them, however a William J. Handley, born ca. 1832, is found living nearby as the son of a William and Ellen Handley. It is plausible to assume that, after the death of his father and remarriage of his mother, young William James was sent to live with a relative, perhaps an uncle. By the 1851 census Harriett Thornell was once more a widow and living in St. Johns, Westminster with her children William J., now a musician with the army, Selina, and Harriett Handley, and Mary Ann Thornell. Later marriage records for his sisters, Harriett and Selina, however, are contradictory in naming their father. In her marriage to Edward Willis Fletcher (September 9, 1861), Harriett Handley states that her father's name was William Handley, a soldier, whereas Selina Handley in her marriage to Charles Jenkins (December 23, 1860, witnessed by Harriet Handley), states that her father was John Handley, also a soldier. It is certainly possible that, in the four years between the birth of Selina Handley and her marriage to Joseph Thornell, Harriett Mullen Handley was also married to a William Handley, but no record has been found to support that, nor has evidence that her first husband was named ambiguously John William Handley. Unfortunately, no record has been found that directly names the father of William J. Handley, hence it is inferred that he was the documented John Handley.

2. Unfortunately the Strand Musick Hall was closed after only a couple of months. The archaic spelling of the word "music" was intended to convey a sense that the fare of the new hall would be of a higher nature than that commonly seen on the East End variety stages. The Strand Music Hall Company was incorporated on July 4, 1862 under a memorandum and articles of association. Money was borrowed for the construction of the hall and bonds issued to the creditors. In April 1864 an additional £5000 was borrowed from the Credit Mobilier Company to be repaid by October 10, 1864. Before that date, however, Credit Mobilier sold the notes to European and American Finance Corporation, with whom a new loan agreement. In November the Strand management posted a notice on the doors of the Musick Hall blaming "certain ill-disposed and mischievous persons" for spreading the rumor that drinking and smoking would be prohibited, and as a result it had cost them £500 in lost business in the first month. Smoking was indeed discouraged in the vicinity of the balcony "nobility" stalls and the Royal Box, but patrons were assured that the Hall had a patent system of ventilation "expressly for fumigatory purposes."  In December the Strand's officers applied for a renewal of the £5000 loan, plus a further loan of £2700. The humor magazine Punch (February 11, 1865) wrote that the Strand Musick Company owed "a trifle of  £45000" which was "punishment for bad spelling."  The Sheriff ordered the Strand Musick Hall Company into liquidation but the the official liquidator refused to repay the European and American Finance Corporation, citing improprieties by the directors of Strand in securing loans beyond their authorized limit. The Court, noting the vagaries in the wording of the articles of incorporation and that the notes were unsigned by the directors of Strand, found in favor of the Finance Corporation, and ordered the notes repaid.

3. This piece was almost certainly written to be played on natural horn. Clarke wrote a manual on orchestration in which he expressed  his dislike for valves. In the same year of this composition (1876), a William James Handley was arrested along with Mr. Robert Sabine on a charge of "Larceny by Servant and Receiving." Mr. Handley, apparently the "receiver", was released on his own recognizance and fined "£20 & one in surety in £20 to appear for judgement when called upon." Mr. Sabine was apparently the "servant"  who committed the larceny (trafficking in stolen crooks and mouthpieces perhaps?) for which he was imprisoned for ten months. Four years earlier in 1871, at the age of thirteen, he was already serving time as juvenile offender.  In 1882 the incorrigible Mr. Sabine was once again given ten months; in 1884, eighteen months plus two years police supervision, and in 1892, three years.

3. John Winterbottom (1817-1897) was a composer, conductor, pianist, bassoonist, and entrepreneur. He began his musical career as a bassoonist in the 1840s in Louis Antoine Jullien's promenade orchestra. In the early 1850s he moved to Australia where for several years he catered to the mixed public of Melbourne and Sydney "by giving promenade concerts, in close imitation of M. Jullien, to vast audiences, and with corresponding profit to himself." Upon his return to London he became known as one of the most skillful bassoon players in London and the provinces. In addition he was bandmaster of the Royal Marine Artillery, Portsmouth, a post he held for twenty-one years until his retirement on March 31, 1892. He then became conductor of the band of the Artists' Volunteer Corps ("Artist Rifles") of London. 

The Musical World, various issues

The Illustrated London Magazine, various issues

Reports of Cases Heard and Determined by the Lord Chancellor and the Court of Appeal in Chancery, July, 1865

National Census of England and Wales, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901.

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