Adelaide Wale

This is a 
painting of the wedding of Adelaide Wale that took place in a society wedding at Little Shelford New Hall in 1881. 

Memories of the day have been found in some old diaries written by Mrs Isabella Martha Willis which are still held by members of the Wale family and transcribed by one of the family, Patricia Altham.


The clergyman Sherlock Willis married Isabella Martha Wale, the eldest daughter of General Sir Charles Wale and Isabella Johnson, in 1834. Sherlock and Isabella had seven sons and one daughter. The sixth of these sons was Reginald Willis, born in Paris in 1848, and the daughter was Isabella Martha Willis, always known as Isa. Isa was also born in Paris, in 1847. Mrs Isabella Martha Willis was an assiduous writer of her diaries, and we have many of these journals from 1830 to 1890? They are quite hard to read, but I particularly liked the diary for June 1881, for its description of The Wedding between her son Reginald and his cousin Adelaide Wale.

Who was Adelaide Wale? She was usually known as Aida, and was one of the two daughters of Captain Frederick Wale. Alas, Captain Frederick was killed in the siege of Lucknow in 1857, but his two little daughters, Aida and Minna, escaped by being hidden in the back of a bullock cart, presumably with their mother, who was also called Adelaide.

Frederick Wale and Mrs Isabella Willis were two of the children of General Sir Charles Wale, but by different mothers. ( Sir Charles Wale married three times, and fathered twelve children.) The year 1881 was an exciting one for Mrs Isabella Willis, as the weddings of both Isa and Reginald took place then. In June 1881 Reginald Willis married Adelaide Wale and in due course their daughter Cecil Willis (always known as Fiorella) married Captain Edward Altham RN, and they had children John and Psyche Altham. John and Psyche spent much of their childhood at The Hall, Little Shelford, by invitation of their great aunt Isa, who had married Jack Eaden but had no children. Fortunately for us today, my father in law John kept all these diaries of the mother of his great aunt Isa, who had played such an important role in his childhood.

By the time of the wedding, Isabella Willis was a widow aged 72, living in London at 5, Foulis Terrace. In coming to Little Shelford for the wedding, she was returning to the scene of her childhood, where several members of her family still lived, including her half brother Robert Wale who lived at the Hall. (What is still a mystery is the name of her 7th son, and why he was not present at the wedding....perhaps he had died by 1881? Adelaide’s sister Minna married Major Marshall soon after this wedding.


6 June, Monday.

Left home at 5m to 4. No crowd this Whit Monday — found all very merry at Shelford, except poor Mother Adelaide. I was to be put up at Robert’s.......

8 June, Wednesday. Fine morning but very cold. Got Aida and Reginald to my room and gave them affectionate allocution of my deep and fervent Blessing —they both seemed touched and were most loving, affectionate and reverential. Wedding presents brought over from Long Melford.....

9 June, Wedding

“150 people — and Dance in the Evening in spite of the cold sitting out at night until 4 in the morning!!” I find only this in my Diary — but this always so, when one feels most,one details least— but now that more than a Month has past— I may well write down a few particulars— which at this time I did for Horace and Emily at Montreux I am — or at Chateau d’Oex where they see my letters.

The day was tolerably fine — smattering of rain now and then— also sun breaking out between and as we went to and fro’ Church it shone out. A number of course came from Cambridge and the Prest party were in the house, Isa also— and Mr Law— and others helped to give bedrooms.

We breakfasted in the large tent which had been put up at the end of the Conservatory— and all except Adelaide and her sister and I think Reginald were at it — but it was a dropping in of course and quite informal.

Some of the Hyde Parkers, and Martyns came over from Long Melford. At 11.15 we began to go over to the church, which Isa and the girls had well decorated with flowers about the chancel and Communion Table. Mary sat at and played the organ. The Uncle Henry J. Wale and Mr Martin (in gloves)! officiated. Bride given away by Robert— we the near relations stood nearest and the Eaden children.

Aida looked a sweet modest pretty little bride— and my Reginald as fine a specimen of a young and happy bridegroom as one would wish to see— his brothers Armine, Sherlock, Harry, Cecil were, with himself 5 of my sons present! only two missing of the Band of 7 brothers—one is not! — the other Horace, with his wife and children in Switzerland (?).
Isa looked gay in a light Pomona green silk dress with white hat — the Bride in an Ivory brocade ..... a Net veil and orange blossoms prettily fastened on by Miss Hyde Parker. Her bridesmaids were 5. 1, Fanny Wale, 2, Freda Wale, 3, Annie Williamson, 4, Maud Wale, 5, Blanche Wale. bridesmaids’ dresses were Ivory White material? embroidered by themselves in gold colour and green, straw hats trimmed with white lace and a few flowers— they were pretty enough being uniform, but scarcely worth the trouble they had given. Reginald gave each bridesmaid a golden fibula brought from Rome! He wore the customary frock coat, greyish trousers and a sort of ivory white and gold cravat—which sounds bad but looked well as is the fashion! My costume was the inevitable black (but new) silk dress — a white crepe de chine Mantelet and an Ivory white bonnet with lace trimmings and deep red roses without leaves— Parasol Ivory satin and lace guipure. The church was very crowded with villagers, and the church gate. Aida had herself chosen a nice hymn which was sung in the church — which I give. One thing to be remarked was the outspoken tone with which Reginald pronounced his “I will”!

Our soul shall magnify the Lord

In Him our Spirit shall rejoice

Assembled here with one accord

We praise Him with our heart and voice.

May we the Christian law fulfil

And bear each other’s burden here

And thus unite to do Thy Will

In perfect love and Holy Fear.

Grant that our union here begun

May ever firm and lasting be

Around Thy throne May we be one,

One with each other, one with Thee.


A very nice breakfast was ready in the Dining room. Tables of all sizes, and none very large, were placed for parties to make themselves up. It was very pretty, very well done, and very abundant. Robert and Mr Martyn would NOT allow the old custom of health to Bride and Bridegroom to be foregone— so Reginald was rather taken aback for his speech which was a very short one — and Mr Martyn much wanted more healths — but was not allowed to propose them. By the way, we all walked back from Church, it was so fine and pretty to see.

Then came the viewing of the presents, and the Bride’s dressing for their journey, and then they were off in Robert’s carriage with the pair of Isabelle’s to Cambridge to meet the train for Lincoln — subsequently to York, and in a few days to Norway! Of course Major Marshall had a place alongside of Minna and both were very happy. after the pair were gone, Great rush to throw ??? ?? at both ?? made by the whole flight of young ones. We elders went upstairs and the others set to changing their clothes.and went to Lawn ?? The Military Band also was on the Lawn, and the dance and under the trees the ? danced — and it was very gay—till at 9 or so all was lit up and we all came down, arrayed for the Ball, which lasted
till Daylight was fairly set in— a good dancing band they had and they made them play!! I went to bed at 4 — they were still dancing!

May God have blessed them who left their parents this day!


10 June. All late of course.