“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Florence Broadhurst and the Broadhurst Academy

Posted: December 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

I came across a reference the other day to Florence Broadhurst and the Broadhurst Academy in 1920s Shanghai which obviously intrigued me.

Florence Broadhurst, an Australian from rural Queensland, spent just a year in Shanghai in 1926. She came as a dancer/singer and worked with the Carlton Follies at Louis Ladow’s Carlton Cafe on the Ningpo Road (Ningbo Road today) and also with a group called the Frothblowers, who appear to be an amateur song and dance revue outfit. However, she found time to establish the Broadhurst Academy (Incorporated School of Arts), basically a finishing school, offered classes in  in violin, pianoforte, voice production, banjolele (taught by Broadhurst herself and claiming to make you proficient in just six lessons which probably wasn’t very difficult – there’s one below!), modern ballroom dancing, classical dancing, musical culture and journalism. Jean Armstrong, another Australian from New South Wales and a journalist in China, taught journalism and story writing at the Academy.

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Most of the music and dancing classes were taught by Broadhurst (herself an exponent of both the Charleston and the Tango) or one or another classically trained White Russian. Professor Kaurnitz Bulueva taught piano and his wife, Madame Bulueva, taught classical dance. I know nothing about these two I’m afraid and the spelling of the surname may be incorrect). Daniel Melsa taught violin and he is somewhat more well known and I’ll blog on his remarkable story tomorrow.

You can see a wonderful picture of Florence Broadhurst here. While in Shanghai she joined the British Women’s Association (by virtue of being an Australian) and was a regular in the society pages of the North-China Daily News, China Press and other Shanghai newspapers.

2_Florence_Broadhurst_060606110537787_wideweb__300x427Florence (Bobby) Broadhurst around the time of her arrival in China…

She ran the Academy from premises at 38 Kiangse Road, on the corner of Nanking Road (Jiangxi Road and Nanjing Road), on the 2nd floor over Admiral Lane (that lane is still there, but I can’t remember what it’s called). That corner was a busy one . Weeks & Co, Ltd – outfitters, milliners, carpet and furnishing warehousemen, fancy goods dealers – occupied the ground floor close by Brewer & Company’s Shanghai offices (who I think sold canned milk for mothers).

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Florence Broadhurst launched her career after winning a singing competition in Australia in 1915. That somehow led to a tour with the Globetrotters troupe to India around 1922 and the Far East (Bali, Japan, Thailand and Singapore as well as Manchuria and elsewhere before finally reaching Shanghai) and her sojourn and Academy in Shanghai, at just 28 years of age. There is a lot more on The Globetrotters here). She was reportedly a great contralto. I think she eventually decided to leave Shanghai after the bloody events of 1927.

After Shanghai Broadhurst moved to London and reinvented herself as Madame Pellier (she’d been known as Bobby in her hoofing days), running a dress salon at 65 New Bond Street in 1933 (now a Geneu skincare store – below). After a decade in London she returned to Oz and launched her wallpaper business, which is still going today (though Florence was murdered sadly in 1977 in Paddington, Sydney). There is a documentary on her life.

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One Comment on “Florence Broadhurst and the Broadhurst Academy”

  1. 1 Hoi-to Wong said at 6:06 pm on December 21st, 2015:

    Brewer & Co., established by Walter W. Brewer (a former manger of Kelly & Walsh), was a bookseller, stationer, newsagent, piano and music dealer, tobacconist etc.


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