An emotional roller coaster of family history awaited the actor when he appeared on BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? as he discovered a rogue one in his family tree
Warwick Davis was the latest to have his past examined on BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? The actor wasn't necessarily expecting to unearth anything too surprising - big mistake!
Exploring his maternal family line, the first major revelation for Warwick was an ancestor who was married to two women at the same time. Postman, Frederick J Durban lived a double life in Croydon and Deptford, much to Warwick's amazement.
Digging a little deeper, Warwick was reassured by a genealogist that bigamy was more common than he might imagine during Victorian times. Divorce was yet to become mainstream so if a relationship fell apart there were few options available if you wanted to move on with your life. It turned out that Durban went on to marry his second wife twice, after his first wife died, so that the marriage was fully legitimate.
Tragic Irish Roots
Next, Warwick delved into the Manning family on his father's side. Having played a leprechaun in seven different movies, he always wondered if he had any Irish connections.
His Irish connection was confirmed when he uncovered Dennis Manning, an Irish munitions builder who worked at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. Unfortunately, this family story wouldn't end well. Manning was admitted to an asylum, where he would later die after a syphilis infection affected his mental health.
At the outset of his journey, Warwick dismissed the thought of discovering anyone from the entertainment world in his family history. He was wrong.
Dennis Manning Snr, was revealed as an accomplished violinist who performed with the renowned Pell's American Opera Troupe. His talent even afforded him an audience that included the Queen. While tracing this accomplished ancestor, Warwick viewed articles from two of our historic newspapers -
Northampton Mercury and The Era.
Northampton Mercury 12 June 1858Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
After a journey full of mixed emotions, Warwick reflected on what he'd discovered:
I've got a great deal of respect for all of the people in the stories that I've told
A poignant end to an eye-opening experience for the actor.
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