DCS Local Event : The Shanks of Moscow 1852-1917 (How a British business thrived in Moscow and the family was embraced by the Russian cultural elite) - a talk at Darwin College by Dr Guy Roberts

Saturday 1st March 2019 Return to Alumni Events

On Saturday the 1st March members of Darwin College Alumni met in college to hear Guy Robert's talk on "The Shanks of Moscow : 1852-1917". Guy is a member of the Alumni Committee and has been researching the history of this part of his family for some years. His talk was absolutely fascinating and is summarised below.

Guy began by talking of the family history beginning with Robert and Anne Shanks, married in 1852. Robert become a partner of London Coachmaker, Robert How and the business flourished. When Robert died his son Frederick continued but his son James used his part of the money to go into partnership to found "Shanks and Bolin" in London then to Moscow in 1852 to start a shop named the "Magasin Anglais" selling high-cost-end jewelry and some clothes. Later James's cousin, Allan Bowe opened a shop opposite in partnership with Fabergé, so the 2 shops worked closely together. James had married Maria and had 8 children. Their eldest son James (junior) continued in the business and married Isabella but 3 of the sisters (Louise, Emily and Mary) made up the second part of the talk, the cultural heritage.

Mary translated all the novels of Tolstóy into English and married Aylmer Maude, also a prolific writer on Tolstóy. Tolstóy became a very good family friend. Emily studied at the School of Art in Moscow, winning a prize for her work. She followed, and eventually was only the second woman to be elected into a group of realism artists who rebelled against the official art. Her paintings are in galleries across the world and are still admired in Russia. Mary was also a painter and a Tolstóy expert although she was expelled from Russia because of her "Tolstóyan activities." Finally, following the threat of the First World War and the increasing unrest in Russia the family decided to leave Russia.

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