Marie Lloyd in “Dick Whittington”

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Marie lloyd & Fred Griffiths 1898

MARIE LLOYD & THE CROWN THEATRE PECKHAM

Today I acquired a programme from 1898. It is “Dick Whittington” and starring in the title role was “The Queen Of The Music Halls”- Marie Lloyd.

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It is a humbling feeling to handle a document so fragile it is falling apart in my hands, knowing that the person who first held this almost 120 years ago actually saw this pantomime, and thought it so memorable that they kept the programme. They stored it away through two world wars, through the decline of Music Hall and Variety, the emergence of Radio and Television, and somehow, even in its fragile state, it still evokes feelings of awe!

London, Peckham, Crown Theatre - showing vintage horses and carts

Marie Lloyd was a huge star- the biggest and highest paid “Queen Of Comedy”. Born in 1870 she was in her prime, and had appeared at The Drury Lane Pantomimes among others alongside Dan Leno.

She lived in fashionable St John’s Wood in London,at her home, “Granville Lodge”, and could perform in any central London pantomime she wished, and yet here she in a theatre that had just been built away from the bright lights.

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Centre: John Wood, Matilda Wood & Marie Lloyd (Seated) Back Row: Daisy Wood, Rosie lloyd, Johnny Lloyd Grace & Alice Lloyd. Front Row: Anne, Maud and Sydney.

The reason was family, and the belief in Marie’s mind that Charity begins at home.

The Wood family as they were, were a very large theatrical clan. There were nine children, and Marie’s siblings appeared in theatres following in her wake.

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In this pantomime programme you can see that Marie’s sister Daisy Wood played opposite her as Alice Fitzwarren. Daisy was engaged to be married to the new Theatre Director, Donald Munro. Marie’s appearance in Pantomime there would be a huge boost to the success of the theatre, and the finances of her future Brother-In-Law.

Daisy was the only one of the Wood theatrical clan to retain the family name- the others changed their names to the Lloyd brand name.

daisywood1  download

The Stage commented:

“The choice of Miss Marie Lloyd was a good one that this clever lady has already justified. She partakes in all the fun with zest, sings with her well known vigour, and throughout exercises the charms of Marie Lloyd over the audience.

Miss Daisy Wood- a bright and vivacious dancer, makes so dainty an Alice that Dick’s affection is easily understood”

 Daisy Wood had planned to retire after her marriage, as fashionable and well to do ladies of the theatre often did upon meeting an Earl or a Duke. Donald, who also ran The Pavilion Whitechape, had money. Marie grumbled that o Daisy began to affect airs once she became “Mrs Munro”. They were married the following year. Daisy did retire, but returned to the theatre and became a big star in the USA from 1908 onwards.

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This was to be the first of Three Pantomimes Marie appeared in at The Crown,- in her career she appeared in a total of eight- and her name on the bill brought in her many fans.

“Encore” reported:

Her true inwardness of genius was never more demonstrated than in this production, and I was not surprised at being told that patrons from far away Highgate, now that the all night trams are in full swing, come down to see the show”

 Miss Lloyd also wore some very short tunics- dangerously short, that did not hurt the publicity. The programme shows us that a new song “Holloa!” was specially written by popular writers George Rollit and George Le Brun.

 Typically, it was a naughty but nice song, about folk up to shenanigans in parlours and hot houses! One verse runs:

A lot of things we perpetrate are very nice, no doubt,

Until we’re, by some blunder, unexpectedly found out-

For instance, take the fellow who at Ball or Garden Fete

Retired to the conservatory to have a tete a tete with Kate..

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Marie’s latest hit song she loaned to Sister Daisy, “Everything in the garden’s lovely”, although she did feel it was a little too gentile for her own use!

Playing Old Tom, Dick Whittington’s cat was Fred Griffiths. He and his brother Joseph had played Cow in  the Drury Lane “Jack and The Beanstalk” with Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. The Dame- called Mistress Pansop (too early for Sarah The Cook to have become the norm) was played by Tom Fancourt.

This pantomime featured an aerial ballet and a speciality from The Royal Welsh Glee Singers! It featured a Harlequinade, even though these were going out of fashion. The tradition of following the pantomime with the comic skits and dances were dropped by Augustus Harris at Drury Lane almost ten years previously.

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Marie’s eight pantomimes were one each at Hoxton and Liverpool, three each at Drury Lane and three at The Crown Peckham.

The following year 1899 Marie Lloyd  returned to The Crown Theatre but this time without Daisy. Her Sister Alice played Cinderella, with Marie starring as Prince Heliotrope. She made an impressive entrance on horseback, in full riding costume. During the Pantomime she wore “nine different costumes, each one more costly and becoming as the last” (The” Stage”)

 After extensive touring abroad, Marie returned to The Crown Theatre in 1902 for what was to be her last Pantomime- “Aladdin”. This time it was the turn of her Sister Rosie Lloyd to join her. She was twenty two. The Pantomime ran at Peckham until the end of February, and then played a week at Stratford East London in March 1903.

So, having marvelled at this fragile piece of history- I’ll frame the centre pages to preserve them better- I realised that History has come even closer. I’m writing this article in Ilford, East London. It was at the Ilford Hippodrome in 1944 that Rosie was taken ill during a performance of “Cinderella”,the third performance of the day, and was taken to hospital where she died. She was aged Sixty-Five.

Her  daughter took over her role for the last performances.

This from my Brother Vivyan’s website on Theatres:

Extract from “Entertaining Ilford”- Page 60

(available online at www.overthefootlightd.com)

(1943) The year ended with  a two week run of  Dick Whittington with the well known comedian Hal Monty making his first ever appearance in pantomime, playing Idle Jack.

1944 was to be the last full year in the history of the Hippodrome.  It started with the second pantomime:  a two week run of  Cinderella with Alice and Rosie Lloyd (sisters of the famous Marie Lloyd).  During the third performance on Saturday 15th January Rosie Lloyd complained of feeling ill, and, after the show,  was taken to Sutton and Cheam Hospital near her home.  She underwent an operation on Sunday.  For the two shows on Monday Alice Lloyd brought her own daughter to cover the shows for the rest of the week.  Rosie died on Tuesday evening

Curiously the Hippodrome staged a third pantomime the following week, this time Aladdin with Georgie Wood as Wishee Washee .  This played just one week of twice nightly, but with matinees every day, and was followed by a variety bill headed by 24 year old Betty Driver, billed as the radio and stage star (and whose career would last until 2011 and include 2,800 episodes of TV’s Coronation Street, famous for Betty’s Hotpots!)

A year later in 1945 The Ilford Hippodrome was bombed during a performance of Pantomime, and was later pulled down.

gaumont Palace Peckham  Gaumont Peckham

The Crown Theatre in Peckham didn’t survive the days after Marie Lloyd was the bill topper. By 1912 it had closed, and was later used to show early silent pictures.The magnificent building, renamed The Peckham Hippodrome was demolished, and in 1935 a Gaumont Cinema was built on the site.

Site Of Crown Peckham

This cinema closed in 1961 and was demolished. A modern block of apartments taking their name from The Gaumont stands there today.

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The legendary Marie Lloyd died in 1922, aged fifty two. Thousands lined the streets for her funeral. Her songs are still sung and remembered to this day- “My Old Man”, “Oh Mr Porter”, “The Boy In The Gallery” and many more can still be recalled.

Daisy Wood retired in 1928.

All this from one fragmented theatre programme!

 

 

 

 

 

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