Letting in the Light: The Leonard Evetts Archive

This is an online version of the exhibition Letting in the Light: The Leonard Evetts Archive, which was on display in the Marjorie Robinson Library Rooms, Newcastle University prior to the closure of the Library due to the current Coronavirus situation.

Many thanks to creators Cathleen Burton and Paul Campbell, our placement students in Special Collections last year (2019) as part of Newcastle University’s Career Development Module.   Working on the recently acquired Leonard Evetts archive, they helped to catalogue, re-package, and research this fascinating collection. The collection and its catalogue was scheduled to be open to the public by the end of 2020, and this unfortunately may now be delayed, but in the meantime here is Cathleen and Paul’s exhibition…


This exhibition showcases the archive of world renowned artist and designer Leonard Evetts (1909 – 1997), whose archive has been donated to Newcastle University Special Collections.  A designer, painter, calligrapher, author, and teacher, Evetts is perhaps best known as a master in the design of stained glass windows.  The most prolific English church window designer of the 20th Century, he created over 400 works of stained glass in his lifetime.

Evetts firmly believed that windows should ‘let the light in’ and disliked the dark effect of the traditional Victorian windows found in many English churches.  He conceived his windows to show the play of light and shade at different times of day, with the different shifts in the weather, and even the seasonal changes in the trees and foliage surrounding his windows. 

On receiving a tentative criticism that ‘all the other windows look so dark in contrast to yours’ Evetts replied ‘Oh well, I don’t mind that as long as you’ve noticed the difference!’

Proposed design for a Memorial Window to Lieut. Hugh Walton-Wilson, Church of St John, Snod’s Edge, Northumberland
Proposed design for a Memorial Window to Lieut. Hugh Walton-Wilson, Church of St John, Snod’s Edge, Northumberland, circa 1939.

Born in Newport, South Wales, Evetts spent most of his working life in the North East – working at Newcastle University for 37 years where he was latterly the Head of the School of Design.  Although he was commissioned by churches throughout England, many wonderful examples of his work can be found locally in the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland as well as the surrounding countryside.

Plan for repair of East Window, Church of St Edmund, Sedgefield
Plan for repair of East Window, Church of St Edmund, Sedgefield, 1970.
Proposed Figure of Christ in Majesty, St Bede’s Church, Town End Farm Estate, Sunderland
Proposed Figure of Christ in Majesty, St Bede’s Church, Town End Farm Estate, Sunderland, 1968.
Proposed West Window, Church of Our Lady and Saint Oswain, Tynemouth
Proposed West Window, Church of Our Lady and Saint Oswain, Tynemouth, 1994.
Design for Newcastle General Hospital Chapel
Design for Newcastle General Hospital Chapel, 1979.

While much of Evetts’ work was commissioned within the UK, in the late 1950s and 1960s Evetts designed the windows for All Saint’s Church in Apia, Western Samoa.

Communication (by unreliable postal service!) was difficult during the project.  Several setbacks occurred, including Evetts falling ill with influenza, delays in the receipt of important information, and one case of stained glass arriving damaged.   However, the windows were eventually completed, combining images of saints and symbols of Samoa. Two of the windows were later chosen for special edition Christmas stamps on the island.

Photograph of the construction of the church, 1952, sent to Evetts before design began
Photograph of the construction of the church, 1952, sent to Evetts before design began. Evetts would create stained glass for the windows in the background.
Photograph of the stained glass window above the Alter, Evetts’ interpretation of the Last Supper
Photograph of the stained glass window above the Alter, Evetts’ interpretation of the Last Supper.
Christmas Stamps
Christmas Stamps, 1972

Although most known for his glass work, Leonard worked in many media and was a skilled watercolour artist.  These examples from the archive show how he retained his distinctive style in these works, making skillful use of colour, line and atmosphere to bring out the true essence of the scene.

Quick sketch of trees
Brinton, 1994
Sketch of a castle
Sketch of a castle, no date.
Sketch of Cruck Barn, Lydham
Cruck Barn, Lydham, 1970.

Leonard Evetts saw himself as a designer, and this is reflected in the range and scope of his work.  As his wife Phyl Evetts commented “each commission was of equal importance to him, whether designing an amusing milk carton or a crozier for a bishop. He loved a challenge and nothing was too small or too mighty for him to tackle.”

Proposed Alter Frontal, Church of St George, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne
Proposed Alter Frontal, Church of St George, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1988.

Proposed Alter Frontal, Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1989.

Leonard Evetts’ connection with Newcastle University was longstanding. After a period lecturing for the College of Art in Edinburgh, Leonard Evetts began working for King’s College Newcastle in 1937, lecturing in art and teaching students to design and produce stained glass pieces.  When in 1963 Kings College became Newcastle University, Evetts became head of the School of Design and remained in the post until retiring in 1974.

‘Soliloquy for Assiduous Grozer’.  This short poem was written by Evetts in the 1960s.  It was to tease a student who often did not cut his glass correctly, and needed to “groze” the edges to reduce its size.
‘Soliloquy for Assiduous Grozer’. This short poem was written by Evetts in the 1960s. It was to tease a student who often did not cut his glass correctly, and needed to “groze” the edges to reduce its size.
Newcastle University Shield of Arms
Newcastle University Shield of Arms.

The shield of arms was first used by Kings College in 1938, and became the shield for Newcastle University when it became independent in 1963.  This 1964 letter from G Ashley, Assistant Registrar, thanks Evetts for his help preparing the Shield of Arms.

1964 letter from G Ashley, Assistant Registrar, thanks Evetts for his help preparing the Shield of Arms

This exhibition was designed by Cathleen Burton and Paul Campbell, 2019.  Cathleen and Paul were Special Collection placement students, whilst undertaking Newcastle University’s career development module.

Many thanks to both for their dedication and hard work.

Window design, Church of Our Lady and Saint Oswain, Tynemouth
Window design, Church of Our Lady and Saint Oswain, Tynemouth, 1994.

Aurelia Musso – The Exchange, Newcastle – December 2018

One of the very special images we have within our ‘Local Illustrations’ collection is this picture: Exchange by Aurelia Musso.  Unusually for the prints that remain of this artist, it is a picture of a civic building, the Exchange on Newcastle Quayside (now known as the Guild Hall).

‘Exchange’, by Aurelia Musso and dedicated to David Landell, c. 1783 1793 (Local Illustrations, ILL/11/165). The Exchange is located along the Newcastle Quayside, now known as Guild Hall.

 

Aurelia Musso was a prolific artist, and highly regarded within Newcastle society in the late 18th Century.  Born in Piedmont in Italy in 1758, she moved to Newcastle in 1783 with her husband, fellow artist Boniface Musso, and their two children.  The early history of the Musso family is fairly scant, but Aurelia (nee Grezzini) appears to have had family links in Newcastle, with various members of the Grezzini family involved in wood carving trades and the making of high quality toys in the City.

Axwell Park by Aurelia Musso, commissioned by the Clavering family of Gateshead. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Jesmond Mill by Aurelai Musso, commissioned by the Brown family of Benton. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Aurelia Musso specialised in prints and her work was highly valued among the wealthy and powerful in Newcastle.  She was commissioned by several prominent families, including the Clavering family of Axwell Park, (Gateshead), John Bigge of Carville Hall (Wallsend), William Lamb of Ryton Hall (County Durham) and Ralph Carr of Dunston Hall (Gateshead), and often Musso’s images remain the earliest prints of these family estates and houses.  She appears to have been very much a part of this elite circle and was certainly a very fashionable artist during this period.

The image of the Exchange was presumably created whilst Aurelia lived in Newcastle, and can therefore be dated to between 1783 – 1893.  Not very long afterwards, in 1809, the frontage of the building was radically altered to the designs of architects William Newton and David Stephenson.  Whilst the interior and rear of the building remained intact, the old steeple and staircase were entirely taken down, and the present front was erected, with the clock placed in the front, largely obliterating the original Italian architectural style seen in Musso’s print.  The print below, dating from 1829, shows the building with its new facade, which remains to this day.

‘Guild Hall or Exchange’ 1829, William Westall (artist) and Edward Finden (engraver), held by Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Musso family, although nowadays far less well know than during their lifetimes, play an important part in Newcastle’s history.  Aurelia’s husband Boniface was the tutor for a short time of architect John Dobson (link to profile), as well as the artist John Martin (link to profile).  John Martin moved to Newcastle initially in 1803 at the age of 14 to take up the post of apprentice to a coach-builder to learn heraldic painting.  Meeting the Musso family in 1804 however he was taken on by them, receiving classical art instruction.  After Aurelia’s death, Boniface moved with the family to London taking John Martin with him – although Martin proved to be a somewhat wayward apprentice and the apprenticeship was later terminated!

Aurelia died in 1793, only 35 years old, cause of death unknown.  She was buried on 17th September 1793 in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Newcastle.

Many thanks to Pat Halcro for her research for this piece.

A Day in Newcastle – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 15

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 15

Spending a day in Newcastle doing some Christmas shopping? What’s changed since the description in this 1887 guide to enable visitors to the town to see as much of it as possible in a few hours? Maybe there’s something new that you’ve never noticed before…

Back and front covers of 'A Day in Newcastle and its Jubilee Exhibition'

Back and front covers of ‘A Day in Newcastle and its Jubilee Exhibition‘, 1887 (Edwin Clarke Local Collections, Clarke 298)

“To the visitor,
It is assumed that you have arrived in Newcastle by rail and find yourself standing outside the portico of

THE CENTRAL STATION
Directly opposite are situated the Inland Revenue, Bankruptey, and Post and Telegraphic Offices; also the extensive offices of the River Tyne Commission, where until recently stood one of the towers of the old TOWN WALL. Turn to the left, past St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral to the CATTLE MARKET.

Pass down between the two divisions of the Sheep Market. The large building on the left is the INFIRMARY. Go straight on to Scotswood Road, on the left side of which is that portion of the market appropriate to oxen, etc…”

Text take from pages 9-10

Illustration of Central Station taken from 'A Day in Newcastle and its Jubilee Exhibition'

Illustration of Central Station taken from ‘A Day in Newcastle and its Jubilee Exhibition‘ (Edwin Clarke Local Collections, Clarke 298)

Read the full book on CollectionsCaptured.

Butcher’s Market – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 8

#CollectionsCaptured
Door no. 8

Butcher Market, Avenue

Butcher Market, Avenue (Local Illustrations, ILL/11/206)

General plan of the Butcher and Vegetable Markets

General plan of the Butcher and Vegetable Markets (Local Illustrations, ILL/11/206)

These two illustrations depict the interior of the Butcher’s Market, which is now known as the Grainger Market in Newcastle. A great place to visit to pick up some unique Christmas gifts!

Grainger Market opened its doors in 1835 and is named after Richard Grainger (1797 – 1861) the builder, developer and entrepreneur behind the Market.  At the time it was the largest in Britain covering two acres with 12 entrances and 243 shops and stalls.

Originally it was a meat and vegetable market but the flesh-market section was optimistically large and so other goods like baskets and pottery were introduced.

On October 22nd 1835 a celebratory dinner was held in the market attended by 2000 men including John Dobson (1787 – 1865) and Grainger. Over 300 women were allowed to watch the feast in a specially constructed gallery!

Newcastle Beer – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 5

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 5

'Newcastle Beer' from Newcassel Sangs (Crawhall 12)

‘Newcastle Beer’ from A Beauk o’ Newcassel Sangs (Joseph Crawhall II Collection, Crawhall 12)

“When fame brought the news of Great Britain’s success,
And told at Olympus each Gallic defeat,
Glad Mars sent to Mercury orders express,
To summon the Deities was plac’d
To guide the gay feast,
And freely declar’d there was choice of good cheer;
Yet vow’d to his thinking,
For exquisite drinking,
Their Nectar was nothing to Newcastle Beer.”

Joseph Crawhall II was born in Newcastle in 1821 and was the son of Joseph Crawhall I, who was a sheriff of Newcastle. As well as running the family ropery business with his brothers, he also spent his time illustrating, making woodcuts and producing books.

Interested in more from Joseph Crawhall II? Find more in the Joseph Crawhall II Collection and Joseph Crawhall II Archive.

Grainger Street Local Illustration

#CollectionsCaptured
Door No. 15

Illustration of Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne (Local Illustrations, 030 ILL)

This illustration depicts Grainger Street during the 19th century, showing the hustle and bustle of central Newcastle with horse pulling carriages, looking down towards Grey’s Monument.

Find out more about our Local Illustrations.

Andrew Wilson’s An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery, 1777 – October 2017

For many of us, autumn is synonymous with falling leaves, darker nights, and wrapping up in warmer clothes. It’s a time when the clocks go back, and we can enjoy the last of the sunny days before winter sets in. However, in the Eighteenth Century, autumn was also synonymous with something altogether less pleasant: ‘autumnal dysentery’.

Dysentery was common in Newcastle and wider Tyneside during the Eighteenth Century, but reached epidemic levels during the autumns of 1758 and 1759. There were also significant outbreaks in 1783 and 1785.

Andrew Wilson (1718-1792) was a Scottish physician and medical writer, who studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 1749. He set up a practice in Newcastle a short time after and stayed in the city until 1775 or 1776, when he moved to London.

Wilson was in Newcastle during the 1758 outbreak, and ‘the conceptions that I then formed of the nature and genius of the Autumnal Bloody Flux, and of the true indications of cure to be adhered to in it’ (pp.1-2), he put into his Essay. The Essay was first published in 1760. The second edition that we have in Special Collections was published in 1777. Considering Wilson’s Edinburgh connections, it is unsurprising that he dedicated the tract to Dr John Rutherford, Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh, ‘my respected Master, my Patron, and my Friend’.

Title page from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery’ (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 WIL)

Wilson went into considerable detail discussing the causes, symptoms, and treatment of patients with dysentery. He offered a fairly gory description of the symptoms, which may not be suitable for those of squeamish dispositions…:

‘This disease is called the Bloody Flux, because more or less blood is generally, tho’ not always, mixed with the slimy fetid stools which are discharged during the course of it. The bloody discharge may be attributed to different causes, according to the degree, malignancy and continuance of the disease; such as, the vehemence of the inflammation, stretching the vessels opening into the cavity of the intestines, and straining red blood thro’ them, which does not naturally pass that length undissolved; the acrimony of the humours which are discharged into these guts during the inflammation, fretting and corroding the blood vessels…’ (pp2.3)

Page 2 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery’ describing the symptoms of the disease

Page 4 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentry’ describing the time of year that dysentery spread

Wilson also mentioned how ‘This disease, like all epidemics, is… more frequent in cities and towns than in the country; among the feeble than among the strong…’ He also claimed that dysentery was ‘more frequent among the poor and labourers, than among the wealthy, and those who live better and pay more attention to their health’. As for the reason for this, he suggested that ‘indigence, but much more especially negligence in the article of cooling after heats by labour, exercise etc., exposes the lower class of people prodigiously to this and many other diseases’. (p.28)

Page 31 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentry’ describing the signs of danger when treating patients

The second edition of the Essay, there is also the hint of medical controversy. In the ‘Introductory Discourse’ (which was new to the second edition), Wilson mentioned some of the recent publications on dysentery since his work was first published. Of particular interest to Wilson was a study by the Swiss physician Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann, titled A Treatise on the Dysentery. Zimmerman had been made Physician in Ordinary in Hanover to George III in 1768.

First iii of the ‘Introductory Discourse’

Zimmermann’s book was of such interest to Wilson because, in the course of reading it, he ‘discovered that he had made use of my Essay, and totally supressed his knowledge of it, while he was very profuse in his references to every other latter English writer on the subject’. Wilson argued that he ‘would be sorry to mention this circumstance upon presumptive evidence only, but he has extracted a pretty long case verbatim from my Essay, which was to be found nowhere else…’ Wilson found this ‘a very strange way… of extracting from a writer upon the very subject he was treating of, while he was, almost in every page, citing other authors who had written in English as I had done…’ However, drawing back from a full accusation of plagiarism (perhaps because of Zimmerman’s relationship with George III), Wilson left the question open, and stated: ‘I make no remarks upon it’. (p.V)

Title page from Zimmerman’s ‘A Treatise on the Dysentery’ (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 ZIM)

Newcastle University’s Special Collections have both Wilson’s and Zimmerman’s books here in Special Collections. Reading them and deciding whether there has been any wrongdoing might be a nice way to spend a dark autumn day, but only if you’ve got the stomach for it.

———————————–

Item references

Andrew Wilson, An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery (1777) (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 WIL)

Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann, A Treatise on the Dysentery: with a description of the epidemic dysentery that happened in Switzerland in the year 1765 (1771) (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 ZIM).

Cataloguing the Collector: The life and career of Frederick Charles Pybus

Exhibition now open to the public March – August 2017.
Level 1, Philip Robinson Library, Newcastle University. 

The text and images below are from the exhibition, ‘Cataloguing the Collector: The life and career of Frederick Charles Pybus’. Items within this exhibition are taken from the Frederick Charles Pybus Archive.  


Exhibition talk: ‘The Life of the Collector: Frederick Charles Pybus

 

ALL WELCOME

Date: 29th March 2017
Time: 5.30-7pm
Location: Room 152, Level 1 of the Philip Robinson Library

A talk on the exhibition will be given by our archivist Alex Healey hosted by the Friends of the University Library.

 


Frederick Charles Pybus is arguably best known for his collection of historic medical books, held here in the library. However, items from his personal archive reflect his medical career and personal interests, demonstrating that collecting was only one aspect of his personality.

Pybus the Surgeon

fp-1-3-9-1

Surgery team including Pybus ready for theatre in the Fine Arts department at Armstrong College, 1st Northern General Hospital, c. 1915 (Professor Frederick Pybus Archive, FP/1/3/9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the start of the 20th century, medical developments relating to antiseptics and anaesthesia allowed surgeons to perform more elaborate and lengthy procedures on their patients.

Frederick Charles Pybus entered the profession, registering as a medical student in 1901 and graduating in 1906. He was to remain associated with the medical profession for over 50 years, until his retirement in 1961.

Pybus not only witnessed the development of surgery in this period, but himself conceived and undertook experimental processes on his patients, contributing directly to the development and improvement of surgical procedures, including tonsillectomies and the removal of cysts.

With the exception of a brief stint in London after his graduation, Pybus’ career both as a student and a practitioner was spent working in medical institutions here in Newcastle, including the Royal Victoria Infirmary, the Fleming Hospital for Sick Children and the Newcastle General Hospital.


Pybus the Veteran

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) were responsible for the wellbeing of all military personnel during the First World War. As well as serving overseas, members of the RAMC worked on the home front. Suitable buildings were requisitioned as hospitals to accommodate the huge number of wounded soldiers returning from the trenches.

Pybus received his papers placing him on reserve duty in 1910. When war arrived four years later, he helped requisition Newcastle University’s Armstrong College for use as the 1st Northern General Hospital.

Over 1000 operations were performed by Pybus at the 1st Northern, at least some of which were performed in what had been the Fine Arts department. Many surgeries were attempts to correct the damage caused by gun-shot wounds and it was during this period that the field of plastic surgery was developed.

Image included in patient notes for removal of a bullet from Private J. Shrubb of the Inneskilling Fusiliers, Sept 1914 (Professor Frederick Pybus Archive, FP/1/3/3)

Image included in patient notes for removal of a bullet from Private J. Shrubb of the Inneskilling Fusiliers, Sept 1914 (Professor Frederick Pybus Archive, FP/1/3/3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pybus and Children’s Medicine

After the First World War Pybus was appointed Assistant Surgeon at the Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children, located at what is now Princess Mary Court in Jesmond.

The early 20th century was a period of change for children’s hospitals, in which their status was shifting from being seen as the last resort of impoverished families, to places in which modern medical techniques, tailored to the needs of children, were delivered by skilled practitioners.

During this period, Pybus’ publications and research interests became focussed on the treatment of children. This culminated in the publication of his book The Surgical Diseases of Children: A Handbook for students and practitioners in 1922. The book was published in England and North America, and was received favourably by the medical press.

The Surgical Diseases of Children: a handbook for students and practitioners, 1922 (Pybus J.I.11)

The Surgical Diseases of Children: a handbook for students and practitioners, 1922 (Pybus J.I.11)

Pybus and Cancer Research

At the start of the 20th century improved understandings of the causes of cancer caused this long known illness to become a focus of public debate. The understanding that environmental factors could directly cause cancer made the illness a social issue as well as a medical one.

As a result of this, research into the identification of carcinogens became increasingly popular as the 20th century progressed. Having spent some time at cancer specialist hospitals early in his career, Pybus established a Cancer Research Institute in Newcastle in 1925.

The Institute used animal testing to research bone tumours and was one of the first to suggest that atmospheric pollution could be a major contributing cause.


Pybus the Collector

Arguably, Pybus’ most well-known legacy is the Pybus Collection of historic and rare medical texts. He became interested in such books after an encounter with a ‘really handsome book’ at the first meeting of the Association of Surgeons in the early 1920s. He later recalled that this encounter with the ‘magnificent’ plates of a Vesalius folio ‘wetted his appetite with a vengeance’.

Frontispiece from 'De humani corporis fabric' (Fabric of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius (Pyb.N.v.10)

Frontispiece from ‘De humani corporis fabric‘ (Fabric of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius (Professor Frederick Pybus Collection, Pyb.N.v.10)

Despite offers from book dealers and American universities to purchase parts of the collection, Pybus donated it in its entirety to Newcastle University Library in 1965, where a dedicated reading room was established in the old library. The collection is now held by Special Collections here in the Philip Robinson Library, and is included on the library catalogue.


Pybus the Person

Photograph of Professor Pybus, c. 1913

Photograph of Professor Pybus, c. 1913 (Frederick Charles Pybus Archive)

Much of Pybus’ life was taken up with his medical career and hobby of collecting medical texts. His archive demonstrates that these were the dominating aspects of his life. Nevertheless, there is evidence of other interests.

Other items in the archive hint at Pybus’ other interests. These include involvement with lecture societies, membership of Masonic organisations and an attempt to resurrect the historic Company of Barber Surgeons and Tallow Chandlers of Newcastle upon Tyne.


Other Resources

Interested in Pybus’ book collection. Find out more about the Professor Frederick Pybus Collection.

More about Pybus our blog:

Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal – May 2016

Shakespeare performed by Children

May 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Newcastle has played host to the bard’s plays ever since – in more recent times, the Royal Shakespeare Company performed almost annually at the Theatre Royal by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1977. Unfortunately, they will not be returning in 2016.

Our Theatre Royal Playbills (RB 792 (4282) – NEW) feature many notices for performances of Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal on Mosley Street between 1770 and 1820, including this one by a Georgian/Victorian theatre sensation and her two sisters.

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

Clara Fisher (b.14 July 1811, London, died 12 November 1898, Jersey, U.S.) was an Anglo-American actress who inspired an enormous following in the United States. She made her stage debut in 1817, at the age of six, in a children’s adaptation of David Garrick’s Lilliput at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Her performance in that and in excerpts from Richard III captivated the audience. She then began a 10-year period of touring up and down Great Britain, winning popular acclaim in a variety of child’s and adult’s roles.

By the time she and her sisters Amelia and Caroline started their three-night engagement at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on 17 May 1819, Clara would have been only seven years old. On the opening night, she played the leading role in  ‘Shakespeare’s Historical Tragedy, called KING RICHARD THE THIRD; Or, The Battle of Bosworth Field. Clara was known for her ‘breeches parts’ (men’s roles), including Hamlet on at least one occasion. At the Theatre Royal, her sister Amelia was Henry VI, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, was played by Caroline Fisher.

On the second night, she played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and then, on a lighter note, performed ‘A COMIC SONG. (IN CHARACTER)’.

The third, and supposedly final, night was Shakespeare-free.

Such was the success of the Fisher girls’ engagement that they were held over for an extra performance on Friday 21 May, 1819, performing ‘some of the best scenes from the most popular Plays . . .’. This included acts four and five of King Richard the Third, with the sisters reprising their ‘breeches parts’ of the previous Monday.

Fisher went to the United States in 1827 and made her debut in New York City that same year. She was a sensation – her name was given to babies, racehorses, stagecoaches, and steamboats – and she was regarded as America’s leading stage actress. Her last performance was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1889.

This performance, and about 240 others, is promoted by notices in one volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills collection, a bound collection of ‘posters’ for the ‘old’ Newcastle Theatre Royal in Mosley Street. The bills were printed in 1819 and 1820, and are typical of the early nineteenth century –  i.e. very small compared to the modern-day concept of ‘posters’ –  and utilising revolutionary display typefaces which had begun to be manufactured in about 1810 for advertising.

Fittingly, the bill was printed by Edward Humble, at the Shakespeare Press. Humble was a respected local printer, and a proprietor of the County Durham Advertiser.

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see playbill and others from the collection…

# This item is held within a volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills (Ref Code RB792(4282) NEW.

# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be RB 792 (4282) – NEW – Theatre Royal Playbills.’

Newcastle Illuminated, 1814 – May 2014

Two hundred years ago this month, on the evening of 10th May 1814, the town of Newcastle was flooded with light in celebration of the defeat and abdication of Napoleon and his exile to Elba, perceived to signal the end of the Napoleonic Wars which had seen the country at war for more than ten years.

This broadside advertised the illumination event. It was seemingly well-organised by town officials who were anxious to preserve the peace and ensure safety, forbidding the letting-off of guns and fireworks and appointing Peace Officers to patrol the streets. Participants were also warned not to harass any Quakers who might abstain from the celebrations on religious grounds, being pacifists.

The event was universally held to be a great success. Local newspapers printed lengthy and effusively-worded accounts. The Newcastle Advertiser said, “At half-past eight o’clock in the evening the signal was given from the castle for lighting up, and, as if by magic, the whole town appeared in a few minutes one blaze of light”. People from all classes of society took part by lighting up their home or premises, “every one striving to excel his neighbour in testifying his joy at the return of peace, after a sanguinary war of unusual duration”.

All of the light displays were patriotic and many incorporated transparencies, pictures made from translucent paints on materials like calico, linen or oiled paper and lit from behind with candles.

Highlights included Messrs Farrington of the Bigg-market who filled the arched gateway in front of their warehouse with a large transparency of the Duke of Wellington attired as Mars, presenting Peace to Britannia; and Messrs Brumwell and Dobson, chemists, Sandhill who exhibited a large painting representing the inside of a laboratory and the Devil pounding Bonaparte to powder in a mortar. Mr Waters’ Floor-cloth manufactory was singled out as being especially brilliant, incorporating a giant lit image of an anchor, nearly 40 feet high. The doorway of the Theatre Royal was lavishly lit and occupied by the Newcastle arms with a Latin inscription which in translation means, “May Newcastle flourish into eternity, nourished by abundance and peace”. Also mentioned is a certain Mr Dobson, architect, of Mosley Street who displayed a transparency of Britannia seated, with the British Lion defiantly pacing the shore. Displays such as that at the Dun Cow public house on the Quayside, “a neat, though small transparency, exhibiting the Sailor paid off, and the Soldier returned to this wife and family” hint at the social and economic disruption that the Wars had brought.

It would seem the town officials’ precautionary measures paid off, as the Advertiser reported, “We did not hear of a single disturbance or accident”. According to the Chronicle, the only negative element to the proceedings was “the carelessness and indifference of the coachmen, who were driving the carriages of those who chose to view the exhibition of the evening in that manner; as, by their negligence, were often endangered the lives and limbs of the pedestrians.”

Of course, these celebrations would prove to be a year premature, as ten months later Napoleon escaped from Elba and reassumed power over France until his eventual defeat at Waterloo in June 1815.