The Irving Society Newsletter No 75

The Irvingite


Imogen Irving Lays the Wreath at the Statue of Sir Henry Irving
The Irving Society’s Chair, Frances Hughes, Addresses Members at the 21st Annual General Meeting.


Alan Stockwell with his Book, “What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage?”









The Society’s 21st Annual General Meeting was this year held on Sunday 12 February 2017. As in previous years, members assembled at the Irving Statue on Charing Cross Road from 2.30pm for the laying of the wreath (which was ceremonially laid at the Guv’nor’s feet by new committee member and Sir Henry’s great-great-great Granddaughter Imogen Irving).

At 3pm, the Annual General Meeting proceedings began at the Concert Artistes’ Association on Bedford Street. The Society’s Chair, Frances Hughes, led proceedings by thanking the committee, officers and Society’s members for another successful year. Particular thanks were recorded to Committee members and officers stepping down for the 2017 membership year, including Mike Ostler, Dr Varsha Panjwani (Honorary Treasurer) and Hilary Phillips. Thanks were also recorded to member Nick Bromley for his hosting of the Garrick Club dinner on 4 October 2017. The dinner was agreed by all to have been a great success, and it was noted in particular that Mr Bromley had been an excellent and engaging speaker.

Warm wishes were also extended on behalf of the Society to long-standing member Virginia Surtees on the occasion of her hundredth birthday.

Prospective activities proposed for the coming year included a lunch at the Two Brydges Club which could also, perhaps, dovetail with a historical walking tour of the area surrounding the club – the home to a number of 19th century theatres.

Members were encouraged to continue to submit articles and materials for the Society’s twice annual journal, First Knight, and to help with spreading the word to others who might be interested in joining as members.

The Chair’s report closed with a moment of remembrance for members who had passed away in the previous year, including Alan Wilson and the Society’s patron, John Irving. In particular, thanks were recorded to Angela Barlow who attended John Irving’s funeral on behalf of the Society and wrote a warm account of the Service for Issue no. 74 of The Irvingite.

After the business of the meeting had concluded, members were entertained by fellow member Alan Stockwell, who discussed his excellent book What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage. What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage tells the story of the Jonas and Penley Company of Comedians – a theatrical family of the Regency Era. The discussion was a great success – and all copies of the book which had been brought to the AGM sold out! Sincerest thanks to Alan Stockwell for travelling into London for the AGM and for leading such a fascinating discussion.

The day’s festivities concluded with refreshments and birthday cake in honour of Sir Henry.










On Sunday 9 April 2017, Robert Poulter’s New Model Theatre in association with Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust presented a special commission for The Irving Society, a performance of ‘Tis I.  The performance, an examination of the life and working practices of the great Actor Manager, constituted three parts and an epilogue and was performed at the Art Worker’s Guild.


On 12 April 2017, Radio 4 Extra aired two broadcasts of member Professor Jeffery Richards’ Lord of the Lyceum. First broadcast by Radio 4 in 1988, Lord of the Lyceum celebrates the theatrical life and achievement of our first knight, Sir Henry Irving. The programme is available to listen to on BBC iplayer through 12 May 2017.


The Committee of The Irving Society is delighted to share with the membership the news of three new committee appointments. Joining the committee from May 2017 are Jennie Bisset and Imogen Irving. Also joining the committee, as well as assuming the role of Honorary Treasurer, is Dr Kristan Tetens. A further introduction to Kristan in particular, including details of how she can be contacted, will follow shortly. In the meantime, we are very pleased to have Jennie, Imogen and Kristan join us and look forward to working closely with them in the coming months.

Grateful thanks are once again extended to the long serving committee members and officers who stepped down at the last AGM: Mike Ostler, Dr Varsha Panjwani and Hilary Phillips. Their presence on the committee will be sorely missed, but all have promised to remain active members of the Society and we look forward to welcoming them at future events and activities.



From Monday 15 May 2017 – Saturday 20 May 2017, a new play inspired by the Bram Stoker theatrical archive entitled Bram and the Guv’nor: Play and Archie Exhibition will be performed at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon.  The performance and archive display have been generously funded by Arts Council England and are free to the public.  More information can be found on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s website.

Friends of the Society at Lynchpin Productions have also asked that members be notified of a forthcoming Irving related production which should be of interest.  About the partnership between Henry Irving and Ellen Terry the play, Rotten Perfect, is securely based in factual research and also features Alice Comyns Carr.  It’s a fascinating insight into the dynamics and difficulties of making theatre work at the highest level of the day.  Conflict and humour abound to ensure a great evening.  Rotten Perfect was first performed in the Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place (home of Ellen Terry) in 2016.  Having been extensively revised, planning is now well underway for a new production by Artifice and directed by Kate Napier at the Watts Gallery, Compton which will run from 29 September to 1 October 2017.  The production will form part of the centennial celebration of the eminent painter George Frederick Watts – to whom Ellen was briefly married as a teenage girl.


The following messages have been received to the Society’s email inbox. Members and non-members wishing to get in touch should contact


Members of the committee have been contacted by a friend, Gail Naughton, who will shortly begin work on the Brodribb Genealogy.  Members who have any information or who might, perhaps, have done similar research in the past are encouraged to contact the Society so that this can be passed along – or so that they might be put in touch with Ms Naughton directly.



The Society has been contacted by a former member, Suz Winspear, who is in the process of selling off her large and impressive collection of Irvingiana. The centrepiece of the collection is the 1893 Blackwell bronze plaque. Ms Winspear notes that, whilst it isn’t in perfect condition due to the marble having split, that it could most likely be repaired. The collection also includes large quantities of programmes, souvenir-publications, postcards, books and prints.

Offers are welcomed, either for the entire collection or for individual items. Ms Winspear notes that she’s most concerned with the collection going to a good home where it can be thoroughly appreciated. Also up for consideration is a large collection of items related to Martin Harvey.

Members interested in finding out more are encouraged to contact the Honorary Secretary so that they can be put in touch with the seller.



The Society has also been contacted by an antique silver dealer in Dorset, Mr Henry Willis. He has recently acquired an American silver cup, which was presented by Henry Irving to Francis Cowley Burnand (playwright and editor of Punch Magazine) in 1901. The item is listed on his website.

Members who are interested, or who might have more information about this item which could be added to build the story, are encouraged to contact Mr Willis directly.



Finally, the Honorary Secretary has been in touch with member Sarah-Jane Harker Vivian, who wishes to share the following news with the Society:

The old Harkers Studios of my Great Grandfather’s and even where my Father worked are to be turned into luxury flats. Joseph Harker  worked with Irving and Stoker and indeed his Father worked with Irving as a young man.

I attach these articles from the Guardian and Spitalfields also:

At Joseph Harker’s Paint Studios

I hope to spread the word as much as possible before these studios are gone forever.


  • Members are invited to submit content for inclusion in either of the Society’s publications. Submissions should be sent directly to  Submissions for inclusion in The Irvingite will be considered by the Honorary Secretary, and submissions for inclusion in First Knight will be considered by the Editorial Sub-Committee.
  • And finally, as a reminder, should any members no longer wish to retain single or multiple back issues of First Knight, the Editorial Committee would be pleased to receive such copies to meet the needs of those seeking to fill gaps in their collection – lost or mislaid – or for the benefit of new members seeking to add to their collection.
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