Point of Interest

Bronze Plaque to Nellie Stewart Singer and Actor

Australia / The Pacific

The bronze memorial plaque to Nellie Stewart (1858-1931) is in the Garden of Memory of the Royal Botanic Garden, a cameo portrait of the actress by H.C. Eccles, set in a pergola.  It was given by the Nellie Stewart Old Drury Club and unveiled by Lady Wakehurst, wife of the Governor of New South Wales, on 11 June 1938.

Nellie Stewart is hailed as the most popular performer Australia ever produced.  She was beautiful, intelligent, artistic, and widely appreciated and loved. People still refer to her as ‘Our Nell’ or ‘Sweet Nell’.   She was born as Eleanor Towzey Stewart in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, on 20 November 1858.   She built a successful career in operetta and in Gilbert & Sullivan operas.  One of her particular successes was in the title role, performing in Sweet Nell of Old Drury, and she continued to perform in comedies and drama throughout the 1920s.  She formed a long association with the theatrical manager, George Musgrove (1854-1916) and they had a daughter together.  When the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall & York (later King George V & Queen Mary) came to Australia to open the Commonwealth Parliament in 1901, she sang the ode ‘Australia’ at the Grand Concert in Melbourne.  In 1910 she raised £3,000 to buy radium for Sydney Hospital and award was named after her.  She held the affection and respect of the Australian people until her death on 21 June 1931.

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