Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes it is!
So it’s the time of year where families go to see pantomimes throughout the land. Some are in small village halls and others are in theatres of the West End in London. For some of us it’s the only time a year where we go to a theatre for others it’s just another visit. For me it was a massive family outing on New Year’s Eve to the City Hall in Sheffield to see the brilliant panto by Manor Operatic, one of the largest amateur theatre companies in Britain.
This got me thinking about how few theatres there are in Sheffield, my home town, as opposed to when my Great Grandparents were young in the city.
So I decided to look into this. Who knew there was a website dedicated to the theatres of the past? You can see this site at: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/index.html
I didn’t just look at this site though I knew there were other theatres which were not listed on this site. So I looked through the picture archive at Picture Sheffield at: http://www.picturesheffield.com/ I searched for theatres and found pictures of even more.
So in total I found Sheffield has had 31 theatres over the years. Most of them were found in the city centre and they had a habit of changing their names so it may appear there were more.
The oldest theatre I found was opened in 1773 on Tudor Street. It was called the Theatre Royal. It remained open until 1935 when the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently demolished. In its time the theatre was thought to be one of the best outside London, but I’m sure most places felt theirs were the best. For those of you who know Sheffield the current Crucible Theatre in Tudor Square, home of the World Snooker Championship, sits on the site of the Theatre Royal.
The most recent theatre to be built was in fact the Crucible Theatre on the site of the Theatre Royal. In some ways this is nice as it means the site has been used for entertainment since 1773. Admittedly the Crucible didn’t open until 1971 so there was a mere 36 year gap, but who’s counting. The Crucible theatre has several stages with the main one having a capacity of 900.
The theatre which had the largest capacity was the Alexandra Music Hall, which had also been called the Alexandra Theatre and the Adelphi Theatre. This theatre was opened in 1837 and remained open until 1914. The building was subsequently demolished to widen a road. The theatre was at the junction of Furnival Road and Blonk Street close to where Ladys Bridge is. At its height the auditorium could hold between 3000 and 4000. Considering the population of Sheffield in 1861 was 161,000 it’s not actually that many residents could go at once, but even so.
Sheffield has a tiny theatre. It’s called the Lantern Theatre. It was built by a rich industrialist as his private theatre and was used by his children to put on performances. It was built in 1893 in the Nether Edge area of the city. It holds a huge audience of …..84. The theatre is still in use today.
Currently in Sheffield there are only 7 theatres remaining, not including the massive arena, which hold over 13,000. These are the Crucible, the Lyceum, the Library, the Montgomery, the City Hall, the Merlin and the Lantern. The thing that amuses me though is that the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Library theatres are in the same square.
There are more plays going on though. Church halls throughout Sheffield hold amateur plays throughout the year as well as school halls and other venues.
I suppose with the advent of cinema the theatres couldn’t compete and they shut, although many of the Sheffield theatres became cinemas and some did maintain small theatres in them. Then telly came along and started to kill off the cinemas as well. Most people of my parent’s generation went to the cinema every week and most suburbs of the city had a cinema. Where I grew up the cinema building was half mile walk away. It’s a pub now and was a supermarket when I was a kid. These days in Sheffield there are only huge multiplex cinemas. I don’t really know since the last film I saw at the cinema was Jurassic Park in 1993!
So how we are entertained may have changes, but I know one thing for sure. My Great Grandparents had a lot of options on where to go and see plays and music hall.
I really believe that children need to learn about their ancestors. These days we don’t live close together as families like our ancestors did and so were may not know as much about our forebears.
So since its Christmas time there is a good chance that families will be getting together and meeting up with family members they haven’t seen in ages. Kids tend to get bored at these gatherings. So why not set them the challenge of finding out more about their ancestors.
I remember as a kid having to ask questions of my Grandpa as part of a school project. I had a sheet with my questions on and Grandpa wrote down his answers in my Fraggle Rock note book as I sat with him in his bedroom and asked the questions.
I was trying to decide what the questions were and I think they must have been:
1. Where did you live growing up?
2. How many rooms were there in your house?
3. How many bedrooms did your house have?
4. Who lived in the house?
6. What was used for cleaning the house?
7. How did you do the washing?
8. How was the house heated?
9. What was there in the kitchen?
10. What furniture did you have in your bedroom?
11. What was in the bathroom?
12. What furniture was in the sitting room?
So from here I decided to compile a list of questions children could ask their parents, grandparents and if their lucky enough great grandparents (I was lucky I knew both my paternal great grandma’s).
1. What is your full name?
2. When and where were you born?
3. Did you have a nick name?
4. What were your parent’s names?
5. When were your parent’s dates of birth?
6. Where were your parents born?
7. What were your siblings called and when and where were they born?
8. Where did you live?
9. Where did you go to school?
10. What was you highest qualification?
11. Who did you marry?
12. Where did you meet your spouse?
13. When did you get married?
14. Who were your bridesmaids and best man?
15. Did you have any children?
16. What did you do for a living?
17. Who were your grandparents?
18. When and where were they born?
19. What were their occupations?
20. Did you know your Great Grandparents?
21. What can you tell me about them?
22. When and where did they die?
23. Where were they buried or cremated?
They could take a list of questions with them to the family gathering and ask away. Once they’ve got all their answers they could spend the rest of Christmas writing the story of their ancestors. Or they could have one of the many blank ancestor forms from the Internet download and printed and then file them in. There is a great selection at: https://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/
They could also have a blank family tree printed out and filed in or even better make one. All you need to do is draw a tree and place small printed out photos of your ancestors and stick them on. Then write their names underneath. Alternatively use one of the many blank family trees which can be printed out that don’t have photos on.
Who knows what impact going through this process may have on the kids. They may develop an interest in genealogy. This may lead to a lifelong passion for the subject and who knows where they may end up. They may up being a professional genealogist like me. This could also lead them to a passion for history in general as a hobby and it’s well know a knowledge of the past can help in future.
Another quick thought is to get a cheap diary and get the kids to write all the birth, marriages and deaths of their ancestors in it so they can wish a happy birthday to them.
So enjoy Christmas however you spend it and if you can get some genealogy into it then that’s brilliant.
Merry Christmas to all for Family History Research England.
In the whole of the monarchy of England/Great Britain only 4 Kings have ever abdicated. These were Edward II in 1327, Richard II in 1399, James VII (II in England but you use the highest regnal number and he was James VII in Scotland) and finally Edward VII on the 11th December 1936. So most of us will have probably a living relative to either lived through this period or knew someone who did.
Edward VIII was born on the 23rd of June 1894 at the White Lodge, Richmond Park, London. He was the first child born to the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). He was the grandson of the King at the time Edward VII. Edward’s full name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. Within the family he was known as David.
On Edward’s 16th birthday in 1910 he was created the Prince of Wales after his father ascended to the throne of Great Britain. He was invested as the Prince of Wales at Caernafon Castle in Wales on the 13th July 1911.
Edward attended Naval college (but never graduated) and during WW2 he joined the Grenadier Guards. He wanted to fight but as the heir to the throne this was not allowed. Edward eventually took to flying and became a qualified pilot.
As Edward got older he became known for enjoying life shall we say. He had a string of mistresses, and it is through one of these mistresses, Lady Furness, he met the woman who would change his life and impact greatly on the country as a whole.
In January 1931 Edward was introduced to an American woman by the name of Wallis Simpson.
Wallis Simpson was born in 1894 in Pennsylvania, USA. She was named Bessie Wallis Warfield by her parents Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague. Wallis married her first husband Earl Winfield Spencer in 1916 in Baltimore, USA and the divorced in 1927. She married secondly in 1928 in Chelsea, London to Ernest Aldrich Simpson. It was while she was married to him she began the affair with Edward. In fact it wasn’t until 5 years after she began the affair with Edward that she divorced him. During this period the relationship between Edward and Wallis became somewhat of a scandal for the King and Queen. They had no fondness for Wallis at all and would not accept her as she was a divorcee and under Church of England law a divorcee could not marry in church, and since Edward was heir to the throne he would have needed to marry in church, as the monarch could not marry a divorcee (this has since changed).
The problems for Edward got worse in January 1936. On the 20th January his father King George V died thus making Edward King Edward VIII. When he was proclaimed King of the Realm Wallis was by his side. The couple were seen together a lot and even holidayed together. They famously, or infamously visited Germany and met with Adolf Hitler.
In October 1936 Wallis divorced her second husband and Edward made it known he wished to marry her. Parliament at the time were against such as marriage as marrying after a divorce was against church laws, and as King Edward was head of the Church of England. Also they felt the people would never accept Wallis as Queen. The Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin gave Edward 3 choices. Not marry Wallis, marry her against parliament’s wishes or abdicate.
Edward signed his abdication on the 11th December 1936. Those present were his 3 brother, Prince Albert, Duke of York, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince George, Duke of Kent. The next day Edward made a radio statement to the nation in which he stated “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love”. On the 13th December Edward and Wallis left England for Austria and he was now known as the Duke of Windsor.
Edward and Wallis finally married in France in 1937 with Wallis then becoming the Duchess of Windsor. The couple stayed together until Edward died in France in 1972 just days after a private visit from his niece, Queen Elizabeth II. Edward was buried at Frogmore, Windsor where Wallis would join him in 1986. The couple never had any children.
So in 1936 Great Britain had 3 monarchs in King George V, King Edward VIII and the newly crowned King George VI who was Edwards’s brother and had been known as Prince Albert, Duke of York. And all for the love of a divorced woman. Now it wouldn’t matter at all!
On the 2nd December 1697 the new St Paul’s Cathedral in London was consecrated after being rebuilt following the great fire of London in 1666. This new building is believed to be the 5th church to stand on this site. If you had any London based ancestors they may have seen the Cathedral being built and have witness the opening day.
The old St Paul’s cathedral was begun in 1087 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. It took until 1240 for the building to be completed and consecrated. The church was built in the gothic style and had features including pointed arches and large window. It’s most impressive feature was said to be the wooden vaulted ceiling. The building was not maintained over the years and by the time of King Henry VIII (1509 -1547) the church was in disrepair. The old St Paul’s suffered during the reformation (1536-1541) when all the iconography and shrines were removed. Then next tragedy to befall the Cathedral came in 1561 when the spire was struck by lightning and destroyed. Then came the year 1666.
During the great fire of London much of London was destroyed by the fire including 87 religious buildings. St Paul’s was gutted in the fire as the wooden ceiling acted as a wick to move the fire throughout the building. The decision was made to rebuild the Cathedral rather than repair.
Once the decision to rebuild was made plans were submitted for the new building. The winning entry came from Christopher Wren, the man who just before the fire was given the job of renovating the old St Paul’s and who was to rebuild many of the other lost churches in London. He was commissioned in 1669. By 1670 the old building was being removed and the site cleared. In 1675 building work began on the new Cathedral. The building wasn’t finished until 1711, but the statues on the outside of the building were not installed until the 1720’s.
St Paul’s Cathedral has some impressive statistics. The building is 158m long, at its widest point the transept it is 75m and the height of the building to the top of the dome is 111m. The dome itself is really impressive with it being the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St Peter’s in Rome, Italy. The diameter of the dome is 34m and you can go up to the base of the dome on what is called the whispering gallery. On this walk way if you stand against the wall and whisper something it can be heard on the other side of the dome perfectly.
The Cathedral has 12 bells and 3 bells for the clock. The largest clock bell is Big Tom which is rung on the death of a member of the Royal Family. It was last rung in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died.
The final cost of the rebuild was stated in 1719 as £1,095,556 which in today’s terms is about £127,202,268 and would probably have cost millions more.
The Cathedral was hit twice by bombs in WW2 with damage to the alter area and the north transept. It’s survival during the war gave hope to the city that London would survive.
There have been over 200 people buried or commemorated in the crypt of the cathedral. Probably the most famous is that of Sir Christopher Wren himself. His memorial plaque is just genius. It reads ‘Reader if you seek his monument, look around you’. I suppose what better memorial to the man than his own designed Cathedral. Also buried in the cathedral include The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. The funeral of Winston Churchill was also held in the Cathedral.
So St Paul’s Cathedral may not be the main church of London, that’s Westminster Abbey, but it is the one we know the most about as we have pictures and records of it being built. We can see the original plans Wren submitted and can see the records of what was used to build it.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!