Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, on holiday in Malta which is late father ‘visited’ on a dangerous convoy in World War Two, discovers, on his return, a surprising link to a famous Maltese shipowning family in Ladywell cemetery.
A couple of years ago I spent a week in Malta ( the Island where my late father ‘visited’ during the Second World War on one of the dangerous convoy runs to the besieged Island)*.
The hotel I stayed in Sliema was situated close to the 19 century neo-classical Capua Palace (originally called Selma Hall but now a boutique hotel). It was built in the 1830’s by a local banker and shipper called Biagio Taglioferro (d.1862).
He was a Genoan by birth but settled in Malta, and gained his wealth by specialising in the Russian Black Sea grain trade. Malta became a British crown colony in 1814 and gained independence in 1964.
The Capua Palace was named after the Bourbon Prince of Capua who took up residence in the palace with his wife and gave it his name.
Thereby hangs a truly romantic tale for the Prince of Capua then eloped and married the Irish born Penelope Smyth in Gretna Green, (Scotland) which caused him to be exiled by his brother King Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies (for those readers interested in the scandalous affair of Princess Penelope this link offers an excellent overview).
Biagio Tagliaferro (1765-1862) master mariner, shipowner and banker, belonged to one of the most famous of the ship-owning families of Malta
In 1812 he set up the company B.Tagliaferro & Figli and he bought a fully rigged ship ‘Strangier’.
Biagio became very prominent to the local maritime scene and has been termed the father of Maltese maritime shipping.
The Crimean War brought prosperity to the Tagliaferro’s and to Valletta’s ports. The empire that Biagio built was a family affair, trading under the family name. Biagio was at the helm helping his sons Giacomo, Girolamo and Simeone.
In November 1862 Biagio died in Valletta and Girolamo (Count Tagliaferro) assumed the command of the family business.
The title was presented to Girolamo Tagliaferro, a banker (founder of the Tagliaferro Bank that later became known as the National Bank of Malta), Merchant and a Philanthropist on the April 15 1892 by Pope Leo XIII.
So it was a more than a serendiptous surprise when poring over cemetery burial records recently to stumble upon the name of a James Napoleon Tagliaferro (1857-1939), the grandson of Biagio and the son of Giacomo Tagliaferro.
James was ‘a noted mathematician’ who worked at the University of Malta and undertook ‘scientific research’ on the ‘ossiferous caves and fissures’ of the Maltese Islands. (Source: Oxford Handbook of Public Archaeology)
Although other on line records from 1881 suggest that he was a patent sash manufacturer! I rather prefer the former career pathway.
James Napoleon Tagliaferro who died in Lambeth Hospital aged 82 years was interred in Ladywell cemetery on the September 7 1939 – also recorded as buried in the same plot are his wife Hannah Jane (d.1911)
My late father, Denis served aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious as a Royal Marine during ‘Operation Pedestal’ (August 1942) So when I located the name Tagliaferro on cemetery burial records with its past maritime connections to Malta it certainly evoked some wistful and proud recollections of his wartime service.