t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Thomas Sumpter

John Child

The census of 1861 lists William and Elizabeth Sumpter as resident in the London borough of Finsbury. William is described as a cabinet maker with three children, Ellen and Edward born in the Midlands, and Thomas William born in Finsbury. A decade later, they had left the metropolis and were at Rochdale in Lancashire. William used his carpentry skills as a machinist at a local theatre, and the family were employed in the textile industry with Thomas described as a woollen piecer. William continued in the theatre and by 1874 was a stage carpenter at the Royal Amphitheatre (later the Royal Court) in Liverpool. This is probably where the young Thomas, who may have had some musical training, was introduced to the Rosa and eventually recruited to the chorus.
Thomas emerged from the chorus to sing minor roles and to play a major role in the administration of the company. He appeared as Lou Lou in the British première of Piccolino (Guiraud) in 1879 and Gabriel in Dame Blanche (Boieldieu) three years later and eventually became treasurer to the Rosa company and the Carl Rosa Memorial Fund whilst continuing with the chorus. He married Ellen Mary Melling, another Rosa chorister, in 1885. She also sang minor roles and was the Marchioness in Maritana, a pageboy in Lohengrin, and Melia in Masse’s Galatea. Thomas’ services to the company were appreciated with a presentation in 1892 and a benefit three years later when he resigned owing to ill health. He died at Preston on 7 September 1895 at only 34 years of age; Ellen, his wife died there in 1915.
The signed photograph depicts Thomas in his early Rosa years and is dedicated to the daughter of a colleague. The Carl Rosa Trust would like to thank Mrs Judith Jones for permission to use this photograph.

© 2023 John Ward

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