James Percy Talbot Notcutt

Author: Miles Mader (Great-grandson)
Date published: 21/12/2014
© Miles Mader

James Percy Talbot Notcutt – A Biography

Compiled by Miles Mader (great – grandson)

James Percy Talbot Notcutt was born in Northampton in 1862. His father, John Talbot Notcutt came from a well-known East Anglian family and was a respected townsman who ran a family business described as a ‘bookseller and stationers’. John Talbot Notcutt eventually moved to Leamington Spa where he opened a new shop recorded as a ‘printsellers, stationers and library’*. When he was old enough, Percy had the opportunity of working in the shop before he moved to London.

In London, Percy began to work as a photographer. He met his wife-to-be, Blanche Caroline Clement, a daughter of a newspaper editor, William Clement. They married on the 23rd April, 1883 and, subsequently, had three daughters – Florence, Dorothy and Barbara. Barbara, the youngest, died in infancy.

Percy initially formed a business partnership with a Frederick Kingsbury under the firm of Kingsbury & Notcutt of 45, St. George’s Place, Knightsbridge. This was dissolved by mutual consent on the 1st November 1889. He later became Managing Director of Lombardi and Co. and was at one time Business Manager at Walery Ltd.

Percy also had a major interest in music and organised concerts in London as well as other parts of the country and later in South Africa**. In June 1894 he started a new venture called ‘The Music Exchange’. The object was to supply musicians with a meeting place, where business could be transacted and appointments made. The premises for this were at George Street, Hanover Square, London. The club comprised ‘a spacious general club room, grill, billiard and smoking rooms, rehearsal and dressing rooms and a ladies’ drawing room.’

Additionally, he wrote reviews and articles about current musicians and became a leading critic of the day. One such article in the Musical Exchange Journal, of which he was the proprietor, included a list of singers in a programme. A certain professional opera / concert singer by the name of Miss Ella Russell, was placed third on the list when she thought she should have been placed first. For this small mistake, made by Percy unwittingly, she took the step of suing him for Libel. ? A woman scorned!? He was ordered to pay £100 damages*** by Justice Grantham. The case was taken to the Court of Appeal but was overturned. It attracted national press coverage and became known as ‘Russell v Notcutt’.

Following the case, Percy wrote an article in the London Standard **** warning others in a similar situation to him, whereby the law states that any concert giver and proprietor of any newspaper in which an advertisement of a concert appears are jointly responsible for all the artists’ names being placed in strict order of merit – the dilemma being - who is to judge the merits of the artists? Furthermore, how would one list two artists of equal merit?

Undeterred, Percy continued his interest in the music world and in 1895, gave up his photographic responsibilities to become a full-time concert agent. He enjoyed huge success with his concerts, all of which received unanimous praise and admiration from the public. Artists he enlisted included famous musicians such as Sims Reeves the foremost English operatic, oratorio and ballad tenor vocalist of the mid-Victorian era and the world-famous Spanish violinist of the day, Sarate, who was accompanied by his accomplished, concert pianist wife, Madame Berthe Marx.*****

Percy’s work involved travel and he and his wife visited India around 1902. His daughters remained in England with his wife’s parents. This visit, however, was to be a fateful event, for, his wife Blanche contracted typhoid and pneumonia and died in Calcutta on 27th December, 1902 aged 38.

Percy returned to England and records show he worked as a journalist. It is unknown how he came to be living in the Newbury area. At the time of his death in 1916, however, he was residing at a farm-house in Chieveley called ‘Brazier’s Farm’ occupied and owned by a widow, Mrs Kate Blyth (née Foster). It must also be noted that Percy was interred in the same grave as Kate Blyth’s mother, Letitia Foster (d. 1901) in Newtown Road Cemetery, Newbury.


Sources:The Leamington Spa Courier, The Era London, The Derby Daily Telegraph, The Standard

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