LAST MODIFIED Wednesday 27 May 2020 12:14

Sidney Nelson and family

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Sidney Nelson and family", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 31 May 2020

NELSON FAMILY (family of Sidney Nelson)

Arrived Melbourne, VIC, 23 September 1852 (per Statesman, from Portsmouth 28 June)

Active Australia, 1852 to c. 1859 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Sidney (Sidney NELSON; S. NELSON; Sydney NELSON)

Composer, songwriter, pianist, actor, music publisher (pupil of Isaac Nathan and Domenico Corri)

Born London, England, 1 January 1800
Arrived Melbourne, VIC, October 1852
Departed Melbourne, VIC, 18 February 1861 (per Marco Polo, for England)
Died London, England, 7 April 1862 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony) (NLA persistent identifier)

NELSON, Sarah (Mrs. Sidney NELSON)

Born Southwark, London, England, c. 1809
Died Hyde Park, London, August 1880, aged 71

NELSON, Eliza = Mrs. H. T. CRAVEN

Actor, vocalist

Born Bloomsbury, London, England, c. 1827
Married Henry Thornton CRAVEN (1815-1905), Edinburgh, Scotland, 17 May 1852 (while engaged at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh)
Died Eastbourne, England, 21 March 1908, aged 81 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Alfred

Vocalist, actor, professor of elocution

Born ? UK, c.1830
Died London, England, 5 March 1894, aged 64 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Marie (Maria; Miss Marie NELSON; ? Mrs. Alexander HENDERSON)


Born Lambeth, London, England, c. 1836
? Married Alexander HENDERSON, c. 1855-56 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Carry (Caroline; Miss Carry NELSON; Carrie NELSON; Mrs. James Frederick McFADYEN)


Born Lambeth, London, England, 1836
Married James Frederick McFADYEN, ?
Died London, England, December 1916, aged 79/80 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Sara (Sarah; Sara Minnie)


Born Lambeth, London, England, 1839 (Sarah)
Died Tunbridge Wells, England, 15 February 1913 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NELSON, Robert (Master Bobby NELSON)

Vocalist (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)


England (1800-52)

[Advertisement], Kentish gazette [Canterbury] (9 August 1811), 4

IN honour of the Prince Regent's Birth-day, Monday, the 12th of August, 1811, will given a GRAND CONCERT AND BALL, and to be continued every Monday evening during the season.
VOCAL PERFORMERS, MASTER NELSON and the rest of Mr. Nathan's Pupils . . .

[News], The morning chronicle [London] (21 September 1812), 2

On Saturday night, Master Nelson, who we understand to be a pupil of Mr. Nathan, was introduced to the public at the Lyceum Theatre. He sang Mr. Braham's celebrated Death of Abercrombie, between the Opera and the After-piece. Although he is only between twelve and thirteen years of age, his voice is a counter tenor. His action and expression were good, the cadences were well executed, and he displayed great taste, promising, as far as we can form a judgment by this first experiment, to be a considerable acquisition to the stage.


On Thursday, the 6th of May last, the Governors and Friends of this Institution held their Anniversary Dinner, at the City of London Tavern . . . Messrs. INCLEDON, TAYLOR, PYNE, BAYLIS, SMITH, And Master NELSON, contributed, by their vocal exertions, to the entertainment of the company, who consisted of near 300 persons, and departed at a late hour, highly gratified by a scene which reflects the highest honour on Christian and Jewish benevolence.

{Advertisement], The morning post (20 April 1816), 2

NEW MUSIC . . . "O Ella dear, those eyes of light!" the admired Song as sung at the Nobilities' Concerts, the maiden production of Master S. Nelson, Pupil of D. Corri, 1s. 6d. . . . Published at Williams's Music Warehouse, No. 29, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden . . .

[Advertisement], The Kentish gazette (29 November 1816), 4

On TUESDAY, December 3d, 1816, there will be
THE CONCERT will, in part, consist of the HEBREW MELODIES, composed by Messrs. BRAHAM and NATHAN,
the Poetry by the Right Honourable LORD BYRON.
Principal Vocal Performers, Miss NELSON (Pupil of Mr. Nathan), Miss COPELAND.
After the CONCERT A BALL. Admission 4s. each.
The Rooms to opened at seven o'clock, and Concert begin precisely at eight.

1841 Engand census, Middlesex, St. George's Hanover Square, Hanover Square, District 4, 27; UK National Archives, HO 107/733/2 

Conduit Street / Sidney Nelson / 40 / Music publisher / [where born] GB
Sarah [Nelson / 30 / GB
Eliza [Nelson] / 14

"CERTIFICATES", The Jurist (31 July 1847), 304

Sidney Nelson, New Bond-street, Middlesex, music seller

1851 Engand census, 30 March, Middlesex, St. Pancras, Tottenham Court, 16, 822; UK National Arcives, 

65 Tottenham Court Road / 3 Crescent Place / Sidney Nelson / Head / 50 / Composer of Music / [born] City Aldgate
Sarah [Nelson] / Wife / 42 / Surry [sic] Southwell
Eliza [Nelson] / Daughter / 22 / Mddsx Bloomsbury
Maria [Nelson] / Daughter / 15 / Surry Lambeth
Caroline [Nelson] / Daughter / 13 / [Surry Lambeth]
Sarah [Nelson] / Daughter / 10 / [Surry Lambeth]
Alexander [Nelson] / Son / 6 / Mddsx St George's HS
Isaac [Nelson] / Son / 6 / Mddsx St George's HS
Lucy Haines / Servant / 40 / General Servant / Surry Southwell
Jane Samuel / Visitor / 22 / Dressmaker / Mddsx ? Hill

"DRURY LANE", The Musical World 29 (1 February 1851), 71 

Australia (1852-61)

Index of unassisted arrivals, per Statesman, September 1852; Public Record Office of Victoria 

Nelson, Alfred [sic], 50
Nelson, Alick, 6
Nelson, Alfred, 21
Nelson, Isaac, 3
Nelson, Caroline, 12
Nelson, Maria [sic], 47
Nelson, Maria, 16
Nelson, Sarah, 11

"MUSICAL", The Argus (6 October 1852), 4 

Mr. S. Nelson, the composer of the "Rose of Allandale," "The Pilot," "The Flag that braved a thousand years," and other popular and favorite ballads, has just arrived in this Colony. It is Mr. Nelson's intention to give a concert shortly and also to commence a course of instruction in music and singing.

[Advertisement], The Argus (30 October 1852), 8 

THE NELSON FAMILY. MR. S. NELSON, the popular composer of "The Rose of Allandale," "The Pilot," "The Flag that Braved a Thousand Years," "Madoline," several Musical Operettas, &c., &c., has the honor to announce that he will give his First Musical Entertainment, at the Protestant Hall, on Monday next, November 1st assisted by Miss Nelson, Miss Carry Nelson, and Mr Alfred Nelson. Doors open at half-past seven; to commence at eight o'clock precisely. Tickets, 5s each; to be had of Mr. Wilkie, Music Saloon, Collins-street, Mr. Jacobs, Victoria Bazaar, Collins-street, and of Mr E. Arnold, bookseller, 56, √člizabeth-street, Melbourne. For particulars see programmes, and Monday's advertisement

"MUSICAL", The Argus (30 October 1852), 5 

It is one of the most encouraging features of these stirring times that amongst the crowds of newcomers seeking our shores a very considerable amount of talent of every sort is daily arriving amongst us. As one instance of this, we lately alluded to the arrival of Mr. Nelson the composer of many popular pieces. It is the intention of Mr. Nelson to give a concert on Monday evening at the Protestant Hall; at which nearly the whole entertainment will consist of music of his own composition, and the entire performance will be conducted by himself and members of his own family.

[News], The Argus (20 March 1860), 5 

How many have attempted, and how few succeeded, in the production of a national hymn? How numerous have been the efforts to improve the national song of Britain, and with what unanimity have they all been rejected? The high and holy inspiration, the fire of genius by which the national song of a people is created, has been given to but few since song itself began. While the passion which creates song is all but universal, and patriotism is a passion in every poet's heart, the fact that so few of our poets have succeeded in producing national songs or hymns which the great heart of the people could recognise and cling to, may be taken as the best of all proofs of how peculiarly difficult it has been found to write a true song of the people - a national hymn. If, therefore, the author of the Hymn for Victoria, which lies before us, has at all approached success in the effort he has made to write a national song for this colony, he must be pronounced to have done well. Mr. W. W. Wardell has modestly inscribed this song to the people of Victoria, as "an attempt at a national hymn," and as such we pronounce it to be creditable, and a work of which he needs not to be ashamed. It is spirited and simple, as all songs must be to touch the hearts of men. We take exception to one line only - the 8th of the 1st verse - as it contains a hackneyed idea, unworthy of a place in a patriot's song. That that removed, the song will possess good claims on public attention. The music is by a well known and successful composer, now resident amongst us - Mr. S. Nelson - whose taste in lyrical music is pure and thoroughly English. In this instance he has been very successful.

[News], The Argus (7 June 1860), 5 

The performance by the Melbourne Garrick Club in aid of the Shakspeare Memorial Fund took place last night, at the Princess's Theatre, in the presence of a crowded audience . . . The overture followed, and the curtain rose, without a moment's delay, upon Shakspeare['s] "Merchant of Venice" . . . Lorenzo was sustained by Mr. W. H. Williams, who in the course of the piece introduced a new serenade to Jessica, written expressly for the occasion, by Mr. S. Nelson. The song is written in the veteran composer's best style, the melody is flowing and sweet, and the accompaniment effective. By most persons familiar with Mr. Nelson's ballads the new serenade will probably be considered superior to "Madoline," notwithstanding the popularity of the latter. Mr. Williams by no means did it justice, and the band completely spoilt the accompaniment, by playing it far too loudly . . .

[Advertisement], The Argus (9 June 1860), 7 

NEW SONG, SHAKSPEAREAN SERENADE, by S. Nelson, superior to Madoline; with a beautiful title and portrait of Shakspeare. Profits to Shakspeare Fund. All music sellers.

"THEATRICALS AND MUSIC. THEATRE ROYAL", Bell's Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle (15 December 1860), 2 

. . . On Wednesday, "Still Waters Run Deep" was tho attraction; and, on Thursday, Mr. S. Nelson took a farewell benefit previous to his departure for Europe. This gcntlcmim has been connected with music, and the Drama for half a century, and is the composer of many pieces of music that have taken a firm hold of the popular ear. He has been resident of Melbourne for the last six years, and is now about to leave for Europe. We were glad to see that the house was crowded, though we could not help mentally contrasting the manner in which the public showed their appreciation of Mr. Nelson, and the way they answered the appeal, made some time since, in behalf of Mr. Whitehead. Still, we do not grudge Mr. Nelson his success . . .

[News], The Argus (19 February 1861), 4 

Yesterday a few of the friends of Mr. S. Nelson, the well-known composer, met him at the rooms of Mr. Wilkie, music-soller, Collins street, prior to his embarkation for England, and presented him with a purse of 50 sovereigns, as a small parting token of the esteem which he had won during a long residence in Melbourne. Mr. Nelson sailed a few hours afterwards by the ship Marco Polo.

After 1861

"OBITUARY", The Gentleman's Magazine (May 1862), 656

In Russell-pl., Fitzroy-sq , of apoplexy, aged 62, Mr. Sidney Nelson, musical composer.

1861 (2 Nov report from NY in ERA 24 Nov) Sara and Carrie Nelson, Mr A Nelson and Maria Henderson are at the Theatre Royal Montreal.

[News], The Argus (13 June 1862), 5 

We regret to leam, by letters from England brought by the last mail, that the hand of death has fallen suddenly on one who was long resident amongst us, and well kuown, and who only left Melbourne at a recent period to spend the evening of his days in his native land - we allude to Mr. Nelson, the well known composer. After a very protracted voyage - the ship, the Marco Polo, in which he had embarked, having met with a misfortune at sea - Mr. Nelson landed in Liverpool in May last year. Taking his old familiar place in musical circles amongst his early friends, his name was again becoming known to the public of England as a conductor of popular concerts of the Jullien character, and as composer. In March last, he signed an engagement for the appearance of the Misses Nelson (now in America) at the Lyceum Theatre, and immediately afterwards, just as he was leaving the theatre, he was suddenly struck down by apoplexy, and died instantly.

"APRIL", The era almanac (1868), 4 

[April 7] "Sidney Nelson, the musical composer, died 1862, aged 62.

"OLDEST ACTRESS DEAD", The Ballarat Star (2 May 1908), 7 

{News], The Era [London, England] (20 December 1916), 8

The death is announced of Miss Carry Nelson (Mrs. MacFadyn), the once-popular actress, who has died in London at the age of seventy-nine years. The daughter of Sydney Nelson, composer of "Mary of Argyle," etc., she began her stage career a child of eight by singing a song in Drury Lane pantomime, and by a curious coincidence her final visit the theatre was to see the Drury Lane pantomime last year. In 1851 she went abroad, touring through Australia, America, and Canada for ten years with great success. On her return to England she acted the St. James's.

Bibliography and resources:

James C. Dibden, Annals of the Edinburgh stage (Edinburgh: Richard Cameron, 1888), 431-33 

James Cuthbert Hadden, "Nelson, Sydney" [sic], Dictionary of national biography 40 (1885-1900), 212-23,_Sydney_(DNB00) 

NELSON, SYDNEY (1800-1862), composer, son of Solomon Nelson, was born in London on 1 Jan. 1800. Evincing musical ability when quite young, he was adopted by a gentleman who gave him a good musical and general education. He was for some time a pupil of Sir George Smart, and eventually became a teacher in London. He was in partnership with Jeffreys as a music-seller until 1843, when he was elected an associate of the Philharmonic Society. Subsequently he became a music publisher, but, being unsuccessful, he arranged a musical and dramatic entertainment with members of his family, and went on tour in North America, Canada, and Australia. He died in London on 7 April 1862, and was buried at West Ham. He was a prolific composer, and claimed to have written about eight hundred pieces, some of which were published under an assumed name. He composed a burletta, "The Grenadier," produced by Madame Vestris [q. v.] at the Olympic; "The Cadi's Daughter," performed after "Macbeth" for Macready's farewell benefit; and "The Village Nightingale," words by H. T. Craven, his son-in-law. He had a grand opera, "Ulrica," in rehearsal at the Princess's under Maddox's management, but, owing to some dispute, it was not produced. He was the author of "Instructions in the Art of Singing" (London, n.d.), and composed many duets, trios, pianoforte pieces, and songs, some of the latter, such as "The Pilot" and "The Rose of Allandale," having attained considerable popularity. [Information from his son, Alfred Nelson, esq.; Baptie's Musical Scotland, p. 207.]

James Duff Brown and Stephen S. Stratton, British musical biography (Birmingham: S. S. Stratton, 1897), 295; 

Neidorf 1999, passim (DIGITISED)

Skinner 2011, 324-27 (DIGITISED)

Kurt Ganzl, "Sid, the songsmith to the stars", posted 12 July 2018 

My thanks:

To Kurt Ganzl (2018) for kindly sharing his research findings on the Nelson family.

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2020