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Newsletter - September 2011


September lecture

Our September lecture brought our summer break to an end and Frances Hughes made our exploration of 18th and 19th century theatre a fascinating one. The social standing of the acting profession changed enormously in this period, starting when travelling players were considered rogues and vagabonds up to the time when Queen Victoria granted the first theatrical knighthood to Henry Irving in 1895.

David Garrick playing Richard III by Hogarth
David Garrick playing Richard III by Hogarth

Frances’ story started with the actor David Garrick, who was to transform the acting of Shakespeare; when Alexander Pope praised his performance, his career took off. Mindful of keeping himself in the public eye, he was painted 450 times by the greatest painters of the day, included Sir Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy. After Garrick’s death, Sarah Siddons, who had acted with him aged twenty, came to fame, and was the subject of a beautiful portrait by Thomas Gainsborough. The heritage was passed on through Edmund Kean, into the 19th century to Macready, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, whose great nephew was John Gieldgud and so into the 20th century. The lecture was peppered with amusing anecdotes of the actors and painters of the day and showed how art and the theatre were inextricably linked. A thoroughly absorbing lecture.

Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough

The First Actresses

If you are in the region of the National Portrait Galley any time between 20th October and 8th January, and you found the September lecture interesting, then pop in to the Gallery to see portraits of the first actresses by Reynolds, Gainsborough and many others. Senior tickets are only £9 on every Wednesday throughout the exhibition. CLICK HERE.

Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough

Holme Hale Hall

To read a brief report of the garden party at Holme Hale Hall and see a few pictures of the spectacular garden, CLICK HERE.

Our Charitable Donation

Danni Winteringham and a colleague came to our September lecture to say a few words of thanks for our 2011 charitable donation to the Puppet Theatre in Norwich and tell us how important our gift had been to the children. We funded a party of primary school children from Queen’s Hill Primary School to attend the theatre to see a performance and to make their own puppet. This is very often the first time children have the experience of theatre, and the workshops provide a great opportunity for children to use their creativity and create a character of their own invention. To read a report and see pictures of the day CLICK HERE.

Our TV Stars

Those who enjoyed the lecture about the first Duke of Newcastle by Dr Lucy Worsley may have also been watching the series on BBC4, Elegance and Decadence, the Age of Regency. Her lively presentation, which we saw during her lecture, was just as entertaining in this series and proved very popular. At the same time there was a re-run of her series If Walls Could Talk, an Intimate History of the Home, so on one day this month she was on the television on two channels on the same evening! (How do they do that?)

Anne Sebba, our May lecturer, was also in the press with news of her Channel 4 programme, Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters, which the press described as “a radical reassessment of the relationship between Wallis and Edward”.

With another TV star taking this year’s Special Interest Day, you can rest assured that we select the most charismatic and well-informed experts to be our lecturers!

Special Interest Day

There are still spaces for this day on 26th October, when Andy McConnell will guide us through 5,000 years of Glass. You are invited to bring unusual or interesting pieces for his appraisal and it should prove a illuminating historical journey. Please contact Liz Pierce at for further information if you have not got a booking flyer.

Eltham Palace

Stop Press

The Wensum Group have a few vacancies on a trip to Eltham Palace on Wednesday 19th October. If you are interested please contact and you will be sent a booking form.