John Hulley - British Olympic Founder

By Ray Hulley


The ‘On-Off-On’ wedding of John Hulley and Miss Georgiana Bolton


We have heard a strange story of the interruption of a wedding, which had been arranged to come off yesterday between a well-known illustrator of the doctrine of  “men's sana corporo sano”, and the only daughter of one of our wealthiest merchant princes.  The affair has caused quite an acusation, and the names of the parties have been freely mentioned. 
There are various versions of the strange affair current.  Several of these stories are mere idle gossip; but that a marriage was intended, and from some cause suddenly prevented between the parties alluded to is beyond all question.  It seems that a well-known Gymnasiarch has been for some time paying his court to Miss B----, only daughter of a gentleman residing in Aigburth-road.  The lady’s family is wealthy and well-connected, her uncle having bee mayor of Liverpool; and her father regarded as one of the most successful and opulent of merchants.

From some cause Miss B----‘s relatives were not in favour of the Gymnasiarch’s suit; in fact, her father and mother, it is stated,  have been decidedly adverse to it.  It would be very ungallant to attempt to indicate too closely, the lady’s age.  Suffice to say she is not a minor, and has reached those years of discretion when as “Mrs Candour”  says, a lady in a love affair is certainly able to “take care of herself.”  But, rightly or wrongly, some of her friends thought otherwise, and seemed to have thrown impediments in the way of the match.  The lady seems, however, to have preferred her lover to her friends’ counsel, and is said to have expressed a firm determination to marry him with or without their consent.  She was not, too, without some female friends to take her part.  They observed that she was quite decided as to the course she should adopt, and, thinking that opposition was useless - if they ever decide to oppose - they espoused her cause, and gave her that sympathy, which females under such interesting circumstances are so generally glad to afford to each other. 

The wedding of the Gymnasiarch and the lady was fixed to take place yesterday at the Ancient Chapel (Unitarian), Toxteth-park.  A special license had been duly obtained, but by whom has not transpired.  The Rev. Charles Wicksteed, one of the ministers of Hope-street Unitarian Chapel, was requested to perform the marriage ceremony; and we believe the reverend gentleman, with  his usual courtesy, obligingly came from Wales, where he was staying, to Liverpool, to make the Gymnasiarch and the lady “one”, but the Fates - although the circumstances of uniting the discipline of Hercules with the merchant's daughter, must have been inviting -  were cruelly adverse.  The gods were against the Gymnasiarch, and they decreed  that, potent as he is, his wedding should not take place at least yesterday.                                                                                                

The secret of the projected wedding seems, like all such “Ladies Secrets”, to have oozed out.  The lady’s father appears to have got wind of the affair, and made up his mind to prevent it.  What steps were taken to prevent the lady from communicating with her knight is not known, but there is something spoken of which leads one's thoughts back to those days of romance when gentlemen made such doughty efforts to release ladies from the thraldom of stern fathers who interfered with their daughters love-making and marriage.  Mr B---- is reported to have thought the best plan of defeating the matrimonial designs of his daughter and the Gymnasiarch was to shut up the former in his residence.  The lady is said to have been forbidden to leave her father's residence.  But when was lover prevented from communicating with forlorn damsel thus immured? “Stone walls do not a prison make," especially when the person confined is in love; and the Gymnasiarch could surely hold converse, with his betrothed? At all events it is said by neighbours and gossips - for even in Toxteth-park, puritanical as may be its reputation, there is a “School for Scandal” – that the lady, despairing of leaving her mansion with the pomp and ceremony of said that on Monday night two faithful friends of her lover were waiting near her father’s mansion, and that a bundle containing some portion of the lady’s wardrobe was thrown out to them from one of the windows; that she intended to follow as soon as possible; but that her father, who was up, seeing what had occurred, and having his suspicions
aroused, determined to prevent her leaving the house, which he succeeded in doing.

The next scene in this singular drama is – to use stage parlance - removed to the Ancient Chapel of the Dingle.  At 11 o'clock, the chapel was opened, and it was soon filled, chiefly by gaily dressed ladies; for the news of the expected wedding and its attendant circumstances had penetrated the bowloirs is of the fashionable neighbourhoods of Princes Park, Aigburth, and Garston, and the ladies were naturally anxious to witness the interesting event.  The bridegroom, accompanied by a well-known local brewer, as his “best man”, and a few friends, was seen about 11 o'clock, approaching the chapel on foot.  The “happy man”, and his friends were dressed in suitable costume, and there was quite a flutter of excitement as the parties smilingly entered the chapel.  Mutual congratulations were exchanged, and a short time was pleasantly spent in looking upon the interesting building and its fair occupants.  But, agreeable, as even this may sometimes be found, it gets tiresome, if protracted, at a wedding ceremony.  The church, if it was not “decked at a morning tide” and if the tapers did not  “glimmer fair”, as they are sometimes said to have done on a like romantic occasion, yet presented a beautiful appearance, filled, as it was, by a bevy of fair ladies on tiptoe of expectation, to witness the approach of the blushing bride.  But she came not.  She, however, might be detained a little arranging her bridal wreath, or by some trifling affair of that kind, and would no doubt soon arrive.  These and other anticipation were indulged in; but, as the time wore on and as she did not come, strange misgivings began to enter the minds of the spectators, and the smiles of the bridegroom's party gave way to looks of despondency, and at length to blank despair.  After waiting about an hour the people began to leave the chapel, evidently feeling that the ceremony would not come off that day.  About 12 o'clock there was nobody left but the minister, his assistant, the Gymnasiarch, and his friends.  At length the officials, being tired of waiting, closed the shutters of the chapel; and the bridegroom and party, evidently, despairing of the lady coming, left the chapel, not looking quite so spruce and gay as when they entered, but (as a spectator expressed it), as cheerful as could be expected under the circumstances.

The absence of the lady from the chapel is accounted for in this way: - It is said that when the hour at which the ceremony was to have taken place approached her father went to her apartments and locked the bride-elect up in her room, and peremptorily refused to allow her to leave his house to get married.  Whether the lady continues imprisoned is not known; but it is said that if she persists in the match, her parents threatened to “cut her off with a shilling”.  The approaches to the house, too, are guarded, it is said, by stalwart servants, and if the Gymnasiarch approaches the abode of his lady love he may be roughly handled.  But he despairs not, at least if his conduct yesterday afternoon be any indication of his feeling.  He was seen repeatedly in the neighbourhood of Park-road, wandering listlessly, but with a hopeful look, near the mansion where his bride was probably pent up and pining.  He may be yet hopeful. 

There have been worst disappointments than his.  The lady may yet be free to wed the man of her choice, and then, no doubt, the Ancient Chapel of the Dingle would be crowded by the beauty and fashion of the district, and the Gymnasiarch would leave it with his bride a happier man than he appeared yesterday morning.

1869 Jul 16    Leeds Mercury - The Gymnasiarch and the "Cruel Parent"

On Tuesday, a large and fashionable company were assembled in one of the Unitarian chapels at Liverpool, to witness the marriage of Mr Hulley, director of the Liverpool Gymnasium (and well known as the Gymnasiarch), with Miss Bolton, the daughter of a wealthy local merchant.  The bridegroom and all present were, however, sadly disappointed.  No bride appeared, and it transpired that the "cruel parent," objecting to the match, had prevented her leaving the house by the old plan of locking her up in her room.

1869 Jul 17    Liverpool Mercury - Marriages 

Hulley -- Bolton July 16, at the Ancient Chapel (Unitarian), Toxteth-park, by the Rev Charles Wickstead, B.A., Mr John Hulley to Georgiana Bolton. 

1869 Jul 17     Liverpool Mercury - Marriage of the Gymnasiarch

The aristocratic and usually quiet  locality of the Dingle was in a state of unusual excitement yesterday morning.  It was rumoured that, notwithstanding the opposition he had encountered in his suit, Mr John Hulley, the Gymnasiarch, was to lead to the hymenial altar Miss Georgiana Bolton, the only daughter of Mr Robert Lewin Bolton, merchant, Laurel-Mount, Aigburth-road, and granddaughter of the late Mr Thomas Bolton, who was, in 1840, Mayor of Liverpool. 

About half-past ten there were little signs to indicate that so interesting an event was likely to come off.  About a quarter to 11, however, the doors of the Ancient Chapel (Unitarian) in the Dingle were thrown open, and soon afterwards the Rev. C. Wicksteed, accompanied by the chapel keeper, Mr Forrester, and Mr Chambers, the registrar of marriages for the district, arrived.  The news that the wedding was to take place seems to have been widely circulated, although it was said that there was a desire to keep the affair as secret as possible, for in a short time the Chapel was filled by a fashionable audience, chiefly composed of ladies. 

A few minutes before 11 o'clock the bride (Miss Bolton) entered the Chapel, leaning on the arm of Mr C. E. Rawlins, and was accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Trimble, Miss Avison, and other ladies and gentlemen.  Soon afterwards, Mr Hulley arrived alone.  After a brief delay, the bridal party took up their positions in front of the communion rails, and the marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. C. Wicksteed, the bride and bridegroom giving the responses in a firm and clear voice. 

After the marriage, and when the happy couple were at the communion table, the reverend gentleman - as is customary on such occasions -- addressed a few suitable words of admonition to them.  Addressing the bridegroom, he said the lady whom he had taken for his wife had separated herself from her family, and have perhaps made some sacrifice of position; but he hoped that in their wedded life he would never give cause to regret the step she had taken.  The bride and bridegroom next signed the certificate of marriage, Lieutenant-Colonel Trimble being the witness.  The bridal party then left the Chapel; and as they drove off, were cheered by a large crowd that had assembled outside, the bridegroom lifting his hat in acknowledgement of the salutation.

It is understood that the happy couple will spend their honeymoon in Paris.  Detective-Inspector Carlisle, Detective Scaife, and a few officers were present to preserve order, but their services were not required.

1869 Jul 19    Glasgow Herald (from the Liverpool Courier) -  A MARRIAGE UNDER DIFFICULTIES.
Some a few days ago it was whispered, so loudly as to reach the ears of the greater portion of the scandal-loving section of the population of Liverpool, that an intention of marriage in the fashionable and ancient Unitarian Chapel, Toxteth Park, had been frustrated by the intervention of the lady's indignant and dissent papa.  Supplementing this whispered rumour said that the bride elect was the fair and accomplished daughter of one of Liverpool's wealthiest and most honoured merchants, and the “Alonso” of her affections the well-known Gymnasiarch. 

The unromantic but needful provision of obtaining a special license was accordingly attended to, and the Rev. Charles Wicksteed, of Asaph, North Wales, consented to perform the ceremony, which was fixed for Tuesday.  The lady was prepared, and more than willing, to accompany the gentleman to the hymeneal altar, and the Gymnasiarch had in waiting, under the umbrageous shades of the stern papa’s “ancestral oaks”, a carriage and pair, but, alas!  while John stood flicking the flies from the glossy coats of the gallant greys, a change came across the spirit of the lovers’ dream.  The father by some means had learnt of the design afoot, and at once put in force parental authority to prevent its being carried out to its full fruition.  The means taken for this purpose were of the most effectual character.  The lady was detained in her chamber, and to all her entreaties “the father was flint and the mother was stone”. 

The chapel filled with people expectant of the pleasure of witnessing the interesting event; the bridegroom was present, receiving the congratulations of his friends; but time past and no bride came.  Waiting was protracted until its uselessness came apparent, and eventually it was known that on that day at least, no marriage could take place.  The crowd the dispersed, the chapel was closed, and bridegroom was left lamenting but not despairing.  The lady does not appear to have been kept in durance vile for any protracted period, as on the same day she left her father's residence and went to stay with Mr and Mrs Avison, friends who are opposed to the projected marriage, sympathised with the young lady in circumstances which, in so cruel a manner, tested her affections. 

On Friday morning it became known that the marriage would undoubtedly take place, the lady proving faithful to her plighted faith and obdurate to the entreaty of relatives and the advice of friends, having at least been left to pursue her own untrammelled inclination.  Shortly after 10 o'clock, therefore, an expectant crowd assembled within and around the Ancient Chapel, and just before 11 o'clock their curiosity was rewarded by the appearance of bridegroom and bride.  The lady came in a cab, accompanied by the friends whose names we have mentioned, while the bridegroom came upon foot and unattended.  The lady was plainly attired, the marriage trappings of wealth in which she might have been arrayed had the marriage occurred under other auspices being wanting.  The bridegroom looked nervous and ill at ease, perhaps fearful of an interruption of the ceremony; but of this the result proved that he need have no dread. 

The service was rendered more than usually impressive by the evident feeling shown by the rev. officiant that he was celebrating marriage under circumstances different from the ordinary current of events, and the major portion of the assembly appeared to sympathise with and participate in the feeling.   It is understood that the newly married pair left Liverpool in the afternoon for London en route for France and Switzerland, where they will spend the honeymoon.

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