The Shorthouse Children (2)

Burnley News sat. May 20, 1916.


Yesterday, at Burnley Police Court, Wm. Thomas Shorthouse (35), of Burnley, who described himself as a music hall artiste, was brought up for arrears of payment under an order under the Married Women’s Maintenance Act.
Mr. Mossop, who represented Elizabeth Ann Shorthouse, the defendant’s wife, the total amount due under the order, which was made on November 4th, 1914, for 8s. per week, was £33 17s. 6d. Shorthouse had paid no money under this order.
Mr. Mossop asked the bench to issue distress warrants, which would not be executed if the man would agree to a fair amount weekly to reduce the amount. Shorthouse described himself as an Egyptian illusionist, and was formally a moulder employed ar Messrs. Butterworth and Dickinson’s works.

Mrs. Shorthouse, living at 1 Bulcock street, Burnley, gave evidence as to the order.
Mr. Mellor (to the defendant): What are your means? How much do you make?-Just a living.
How much did you make last week? – I was not working.
Then the week before? – £9, to be divided between nine of us.
It was explained that the defendant had certain furniture besides stage properties, and as he made no offer of payment the magistrate granted distree warrants.


Express Advertiser May 20, 1916
Artiste and His Wife.

William Thomas Shorthouse (35), a music hall artiste, describing himself as “Comita, the great Egyptian illusionist,” was charged with being in arrears under a married woman’s maintenance order, the amounts owing being given as £5 4s, and £28 14s 6d. Mr. Mossop who appeared for the complainant, said the application was to enforce payment of certain arrears which had become due under an order made in that Court on the 4th of November, 1914. The man had wilfully neglected to maintain his wife, and an order for 8s per week was made and certain costs amounting to £1 15s. 6d.Not a single penny had been paid, either on the order or towards the costs. Upon being served with the order the accused wrote to his wife complaining about her having to obtain and order against him, but since then she had not had a line from him. He was formally a moulder at Messrs. Butterworth & Dickinson’s, earning, with overtime, about 38s. per week. He left this work in January, 1913, evidently thinking he could do better on the music-hall stage. He had been on the stage ever since. Defendant said he would pay when he was able. His earnings were uncertain

William Thomas (Tom) Shorthouse
Tom was born in Wigan in the autumn of 1880 and according to the parish records he was not baptised until 24 February 1887 at Lyons Par. Church (Hetton le Hole) Son of Frederick and Annie, Miner.

The 1901 census shows Tom at age 20, working as a hotel barman in Throston (Hartlepool). The Holy Trinity Throston, Hartlepool parish records 10 July 1902, show that Thomas Shorthouse 22 married Charlotte Russell 20, Publican both of Arch Street, Fathers Frederick Shorthouse and Samuel Russel, Witnesses to the wedding were Harry Odell and Jennie Shorthouse. Samuel Russel was a boilermaker by trade; both he and his wife Charlotte (Steele) were from Ireland.

Tom and Charlotte had one child, Hilda born 28 June 1905 in Arch Street Throston. Charlotte died in the summer, 10th. Jun.  1907, aged 25, in Hartlepool.
The following notice is from The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, June 11th. 1907:

SHORTHOUSE – At the Sun Hotel, Hartlepool,
On the 10th. Inst. Charlotte, the beloved wife of Thomas Shorthouse. – Interment at Hartlepool Cemetery on Thursday, 13th. Cortege leaving at 3 p.m. All friends please accept this (the only) intimation.

Tom married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ann Wilson in Burnley the winter of 1910, in 1912 they had a son George who unfortunately died in 1913 before his first birthday. They were living in Burnley at the time of WW1, he is listed on the “Burnley in the Great War” website as being a survivor of the war as a private in the Durham Light Infantry Reg. # 39131. Towards the end of the war (mid 1917), he was transferred to the Labour Corps Reg. # 59979.  The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the “A1” condition needed for front line service.

Tom was 38 years old and had served 9 months with the D.L.I, the last three months were served in the trenches in France. He was diagnosed with “Trench Fever” on the 5th. June 1917 and after treatment (shown as 2 days), he was transferred to the casualty clearing station (#17 CCS) at Remy Siding.

Trench fever was a major medical problem during the war and after research by both British and American medical experts, they determined it was caused by new bacterium spread by body lice. The only solution the army could find was to control the lice population and they instigated fumigation of clothes and baths weekly. The fever could be treated but they found that the bacteria remained in the body and the victim could relapse particularly if re-infected by the lice.

Tom was awarded both the Victory and British medals at the end of the war.

Their residence is shown as 1 Bulcock St Burnley. Lizzie wrote a letter from this address to the Shorthouse family when Joe died in France in 1916.
His aunt Elizabeth Want (formerly Nicholls, nee Osborn) wrote in one of her letters to her sister Anne Shorthouse: “I was surprised to see about Tom and Lizey in the paper we did not know one word until we saw it in the papers how is he gone on”.

The troubles Elizabeth referred to were that Tom decided to quit his job as an iron moulder in 1913 and try his luck on stage in the Music Halls. He abandoned Lizzie and daughter Hilda in February 1913 and made no effort to provided support for either. In July, Lizzie took Hilda to live with her grandmother Annie Shorthouse, who brought her up. Lizzie went to court to legally force Tom to make maintenance payments. The following articles from local newspapers tell the story.


Burnley News Sat. Nov.1, 1914.
A summons for wife neglect was heard against William Thos. Shorthouse, a former moulder, who subsequently embarked on a career as head of a company of entertainers. Mr. W. Mossop appeared for the complainant, Elizabeth Ann Shorthouse.

Mr. Mossop asked for a separation order on the ground of the husband’s wilful neglect. Defendant now styled himself “Comita, great Egyptian illusionist.” The parties were married in 1910 and up to 1913 they lived together in Burnley. Defendant was them a moulder and was earning on an average from 32/- 38/- a week. He was giving his wife 5/- a week for the maintenance of a child of his by a former marriage. Defendant went away in February, 1913 and in July she took his child to his mother. From Christmas 1913 up to now, defendant has never sent his wife a single penny. Complainant had been able to work a little, and had, on the average obtained 4/5 a week, during the last eight weeks but, fortunately; an uncle and aunt had supported her. Defendant had said he had a troupe in Newcastle, and was getting good money.
The bench found the case proved and made an order for maintenance of 8/- per week, and the costs.

He earned nothing last week, bur £9 the week before. Elizabeth Ann Shorthouse now living at 1Bulcock st., gave evidence as to the order having been made, and said her husband had paid nothing. The magistrates ordered the arrears to be paid, in default a distress warrant.


Express Advertiser May 27, 1916
Artiste and His Wife.

William Thomas Shorthouse (35), a music hall artiste, describing himself as “Comita, the great Egyptian illusionist,” was charged with being in arrears under a married woman’s maintenance order, the amounts owing being given as £5 4s, and £28 14s 6d. Mr. Mossop who appeared for the complainant, said a portion of the money had been recovered through the sale of furniture under a distress warrant. Defendant had agreed to pay 10s. per week and asked the magistrates to make a committal order to be suspended so long as the 10s. a week was paid. The magistrate made a committal order for 31 days, to be suspended as suggested.


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