Portrait of a lady hides family feud

MISSING jewels and a family feud – that's the story behind the face of Isabel Darley– the Stamford Bridge 'lady of leisure' who features in a new exhibition.

Isabel, who was really a showgirl, married Yorkshire military man Lt Col Geoffrey Darley DSO in 1940 – and the couple made their home in Stamford Bridge.

However, after failing to adapt to Yorkshire life, the couple moved to the more exotic Monte Carlo – selling off the contents of the house, including family paintings and furniture.

Unhappy with this loss, the Darley family chased the couple unsuccessfully across France with a writ and after her husband died, Isabel continued to live in Monte Carlo in an apartment above the racetrack.

Two weeks before her death in 1994, the Darley family saw the jewels locked away in her safe but after her funeral, the safe in Monte Carlo was found open and the jewels gone.

Isabel’s story is just one featured in the Name to a Face display at Scarborough Art Gallery.

The exhibition includes leading 19th century artist Olivier Sarony, who put Scarborough on the map by building Europe’s largest photographic studio, Gainsborough House, in the town in 1857 next to St Martin’s church in South Cliff.

The history of Scarborough business is also reflected through the Lord family who had four generations running ironmongers shops in the town.

Simeon Lord and wife Hannah set up business in Newborough in 1790 selling items from candles to individual cutlery with Paul Francis Lord taking over the business in 1877 and had shops in Huntriss Row, Ramshill Road and Bar Street.

Scarborough’s seafaring past is highlighted and includes James Tindall, a member of the Scarborough Militia charged with defending the town against Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.

Captain Browne Bushell, who has an artillery platform at Scarborough Castle named after him and famously switched allegiances during the English civil war, is also featured.

Born in Whitby in 1609 he served the King of Spain in the war against the Dutch between 1632 and 1642 and took Parliament’s side in the English Civil War before changing sides in 1643.

This is the first exhibition that Jan Bee Brown, Curator at Scarborough Museums Trust, has taken control of since she joined the Trust in July, and she did not expect that her role would include private investigator:

“Like many people we were fascinated by the stories behind the portraits and we thought it would add depth to the exhibition if we could add a bit of personal history about some of the individuals featured. “

We'd also employed local artist Sarah J Venus to provide a contemporary illustration for some of the key portraits based on their individual backgrounds.

“Little did I know that this exhibition would involve me chasing around the borough interviewing descendants and raking around in skeleton stuffed closets.

The detective work revealed some unexpected twists and even a change of identity for the subject of one portrait.

Jan says: "One portrait is named as Elizabeth Darley in the latest Events and Exhibitions Guide for the Trust, because that is how she has always been known. On further investigation she actually turned out to be Isabel Darley and not Elizabeth at all.

“Instead of a genteel lady we have a showgirl who marries a Lord and runs off to Monte Carlo with the family silver.”

The exhibition will run until January 2010.