Mrs. Isabella Singer and her children moved from Oldway Villa into the Wigwam where she was joined by her sister Jane, Master Fred Boyer and her maid. A few years later Jane married Sir Robert Synge of Paignton and left the Wigwam. Mrs Singer's cousin Mrs Cushworth and her husband who had been Mr Singer's secretary, also moved in. More staff were engaged to cook, clean, sew and wait on the family and guests who came to stay. The children were educated by a governess, with a Tutor for the two eldest boys, and a nanny who was in charge of the nursery.

Mr.Ward who had been Singer's "top man" with the horses, taught the children to ride their ponies with the help of his daughter and a stable hand. As the boys grew older they were taught the skills of fencing and boxing and sons of members of the staff were paid 1 shilling (or 5 pennies) to spar with them.

Work continued to complete the estate. Between the Wigwam and the Pavilion a round glass and iron work Gardinique was erected with entrances to the ground floor and the first floor. It had a high domed roof which was the same height as the Pavilion. Palm trees, exotic shrubs and plants were grown inside. A banqueting hall with windows along one side overlooking the old road, was built attached to the Pavilion, with stabling beneath for seventeen horses. Like the Pavilion it was built on a slope. In front of the banqueting hall and attached along one side, a conservatory was built of glass and fancy ironwork. They were attached to the Pavilion by a square red brick tower and at the far end a second tower was built with a pointed roof.

In 1879 the Wigwam was completed! Mrs Singer was now 38 years old, a rich young widow with a growing family. They were still ignored by the gentry of Torquay and she knew there was no chance of titled marriages for her daughters, so she decided they would return to Paris. Yard Eastley their solicitor, was left as a trustee of the estate to arrange for a caretaker and staff to take charge of the Wigwam.

Mrs Singer, Mortimer aged 15, Wineretta aged 14, Washington aged 13, Paris 12, Isabelle 10, and Franklin 9, returned to their home in Paris where Mrs Singer was soon accepted as a member of the Parisian society and welcomed into their homes. She was the widow of the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Soon after her return, she met and was courted by a Luxembourg Noble with a title but no money, in search of a wealthy lady. He proposed marriage to Mrs Singer, who accepted and they were married. They became the Duc and Duchess of Camposelice and settled down to their life in Paris. Once they were married the Duc discovered his wife did not inherit the Singer fortune as he had expected.

Before Mr Singer died he had altered his will and added a codicil which stated that if his wife should remarry she would only receive one and a half Million Dollars in stocks and shares in the Singer Company. The rest of his fortune would be held by the Trustees until their six children came of age. He left over 13,000,000 dollars and 8,000,000 dollars in stocks and shares in the company to be divided between his acknowledged 22 children, the boys to get more shares than the girls.

There were of course more children, two of Mary Ann's had died whilst only toddlers and her eldest daughter Violetta was married, and her husband had a good position with the Singer Company so she had no need of the shares.

William and Lillian, Mr Singer's children with Catherine his first wife, received 10,000 and 500 dollars only, because they had spoken for their mother in court against their father during the divorce proceedings.

Catherine, his mistresses and mothers of his other children, received nothing in his will. Mortimer, Washington, Paris and Franklin each received six parts, Winneretta and Blanch five parts each in stocks and shares, and also their homes in Paignton and Paris.

© copyright Dorothy Atkinson

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