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The Life and Times of the Dibdin - Aglio Family
A summary setting the family in a historical context
1745 - 1925

Taken from  The Life and Times of the Dibdin - Aglio Family

Summary and Reflections

This article has been assembled very rapidly, not just from the existing family archives, but with the help of continual reference to the internet. Without that facility it would have taken hours of research, reading and probably travelling to collect the information required to make the connections and sometimes assumptions about life for the members of the family at their time in history.

 It seems that some members of the family specialised in bankruptcy or near poverty although not poverty as seen amongst many in some areas of London during that period of time.

 Charles Dibdin grew to be a success and took on big ventures in partnerships that failed. He had a somewhat excessive lifestyle with a wife, three mistresses and God knows how many children and seems to have the ability to upset significant numbers of people. He ended up supported by charity.

 Thomas John also of dramatic disposition took on grand ventures in the theatrical word and went bankrupt over the re-opening of the Surrey Theatre that his father had started as the Royal Circus. He entered debtors prison twice.

 Agostino Aglio, admitted himself to be inadequate in business matters and had the unfortunate experience of going bankrupt after tying himself up for a number of years with Kingborough  who himself went bankrupt because of overreaching himself with the Mexican Antiquity Project. Kingsborough ended up in debtor’s prison in Ireland and Aglio had, earlier in his life, entered prison for none payment of debt, probably rent.

Thomas Colman Dibdin became a successful painter but did not quite hit the highlights as did other painters of his era. Although living in central London most of his life he did seem to move out of the central expensive area later on.

William Joseph Dibdin had an exciting early life in Australia and demonstrated himself to be a very capable and then got a senior job within London County Council. Unfortunately for him because of his perfectionist nature and his battles with corruption within the system he had to resign. It was probably his perfectionism that prevented him being highly profitable during his time as a consultant and entrepreneur.

There is much written about the lives of individual members of the Aglio and Dibdin Family, however there is little that strives to put each person into the context of their local or national environment and history. Whereas the Rowntree family had its roots in the North of England particularly Yorkshire, this family was centred in the South of England and especially in London.

The 170 years covered by this booklet, ie 1745 to 1915, were a period of considerable turmoil and it is interesting to strive to look at it through the eyes of those in the creative world not just with the traditional historical approach concerning the power struggles of the time.

Other creative names associated with the era are:

Goethe, Shubert, Berlioz, Pagannini, Rossini, Shuman, Lizst as well as the names referred to in the main chapters.

A study of these individual’s lives opens up further ideas about how people in Europe saw the world.

This recent study has opened up a considerable amount of new information regarding the lives of the family. Looming large is the issue of debt and prison experienced within a life of fair comfort or gentility.  Although they did not live at the level of extreme poverty experience by many of the time, none of the family referred to in this booklet, could hold onto money and accumulate wealth from their work.

The debt acquired by Thomas Dibdin of £18,000 in 1822 represents in present day terms somewhere in the region of £1,500,000.

It seems that the following members of the family experienced debtor’s prison

Thomas John Dibdin - twice
Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin
Agostino Aglio
and although Charles Dibdin ( senior ) did not seem to enter debtor’s prison, he did die in poverty.

Up to now, there has been no reference to Agostino Aglio’s time in prison or that one of his children died very early in life and another was born to a Jane Tomlinson in the same month that Augustine was born.

Frederico Sacchi’s biography of Aglio attends mainly to his work activity and sadly his own autobiography only occasionally makes reference to his personal life and observations.

As will be appreciated, much of this booklet have been derived from a mass of family archive material as well as from the internet and it would be interesting and not impossible although very time consuming to assemble it all with a much more academic approach.

The effort to explore the environment in which the family lived has been fruitful in so far as it has drawn out the problems and dramas of the times as well as pointed to the technological developments. Aglio joined the revolution that had started in France and he like many other artists and creative people express themselves in one way or other about the injustices of the period. Beethoven in Austria had strong views about the corruption of aristocracy and then was torn apart by the arrogance of Napoleon. Charles Dibdin and his son Charles Mungo were aware of the injustice of slavery and wrote songs about it, just as Turner a few years later painted the picture of the slave ship. These people all had to make a living from the ‘well to do’ of the society of the time, but many seem to find ways of expressing their dissatisfaction. It is salutary to draw a parallel with our world now. Who are those that try to express dissatisfaction with the injustices that exist and the suffering imposed on so many. Perhaps it is now the comedians and singers of the day, as well as the news commentators?

Three of the family experienced debtor’s prison, and some must have seen the poverty as portrayed by Dickens or drawn by Gustave Dore. William Joseph Dibdin confronted corruption within the London Council Council and the Gas Supply Companies, corruption that is no different from that confronted today within statuary organisations and private companies.

Are the past experiences any worse than some of what is experienced throughout the world today and in some instances the injustices experienced in England ?

It is worth mentioning, perhaps, that whereas many of the family and those referred to in this booklet, seemed to have been working as creative artists in the broad sense of the word and so their impact on the world would have been indirect through observation and reflection, there were one or two that had a more direct effect.

William Joseph Dibdin’s work must have done much to improve life or at least the infrastructure for life in London and it is noteworthy that Agostino Aglio’s daughter married a man, Francis Augustine Walsh, the son of a special friend to Aglio, who according to records devoted time to directly helping with the desperate needs of the poor in Manchester.

About Francis Augustine Walsh


In 1831 he was appointed to assist a friend, Mr Hyatt, Secretary to the Irish Distress Committee and remained in the service of that committee till the close of their labours in August of the same year. Upwards of £50m/ was raised and distributed in the shape of provisions to the starving population.

In April 1832 was appointed Secretary to the Manchester Board of Health - appointed to deal with the visitation of Asiatic Chlolera in Manchester during that year and remained with the board till the [completion] of their labour in January 1833. 1335 cases occurred of which more than half (674) proved fatal.

A brief assessment of this booklet indicates how inadequate it is at achieving the goal of planting the family into a historical perspective.

A few names from the artistic or creative world have been mentioned but much of the immense change that occurred in the two centuries has not been referred to.

Charles Dibdin must have been aware of the  rise of Empire and Agostino Aglio of the changes that were immanent as the Regency and Georgian romanticism faded during Queen Victoria’s reign.

Augustine Aglio will have seen radical changes within society with the introduction of technology and the move towards modern art and more challenging music.

No mention has been made of the scientific advances towards the end of Augustine’s life and during that of William Joseph.

The work of Faraday was obviously significant and at the turn of the century we saw the growing understanding of nuclear physics and the technology of radiation.

Poverty by Floodlight

In how many ways were the lives of our ancestors different from the lives of us today and how many of the issues are the same?

Are the scenes so graphically drawn by Gustav Dore really very different to those of today.

History is there for us to learn from; will we?