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Rochdale Observer - - SCHOOL NEWS -

LUNCHED at the Gar­rick Club once, the guest of a mem­ber who shall re­main name­less. For mine host, it was a reg­u­lar bolt­hole from the de­mands of life in cen­tral Lon­don, but for me, sit­ting in the grand Milne Room of that sto­ried ac­tors’ home from home in the heart of the West End, it was mem­o­rable.

When not star-spot­ting with dis­creet glances, I could still see dozens more thes­pi­ans star­ing down at me from the walls, for the club owns an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of 18th and 19th cen­tury the­atri­cal por­traits.

The club’s archive con­tains more than 1,000 paint­ings and thou­sands of draw­ing and prints as well as sculp­tures, 10,000 books and manuscripts on the his­tory of Bri­tish theatre and a host of the­atri­cal mem­o­ra­bilia and ephemera.

Less well known is the club’s col­lec­tion of the­atri­cal ce­ramic fig­ures and that it was cu­rated by Rod­ney Bewes, of BBC sit­com The Likely Lads fame.

As the first an­niver­sary of his death ap­proaches – he died on Novem­ber 21 last year – Sal­is­bury, Wilt­shire auc­tion­eers Wool­ley & Wal­lis has an­nounced the sale of his per­sonal col­lec­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, fig­ures mod­elled as 19th cen­tury ac­tors and ac­tresses dom­i­nate. They will be sold among 18 lots on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 16.

In com­plete con­trast are 21 lots of 20th cen­tury fur­ni­ture and de­sign with which he fur­nished his 1960s-built home in Hen­leyon-Thames. They will be sold the fol­low­ing day.

It was his love of 18th and 19th cen­tury pot­tery and porce­lain that led Rod­ney to cu­rate the ce­ram­ics at his beloved Gar­rick Club.

Wool­ley & Wal­lis spe­cial­ist Clare Durham says the role nat­u­rally in­tro­duced him to the auc­tion­eers.

“He was fiercely pro­tec­tive of all the club’s ac­qui­si­tions, and with a wealth of knowl­edge... his en­thu­si­asm for the­atri­cal pot­tery and porce­lain fig­ures was in­fec­tious,” she says.

“His per­sonal col­lec­tion fo­cussed more on the char­ac­ters of the 19th cen­tury ac­tor John Lis­ton, along with other items that caught his keen aes­thetic eye, and vis­i­tors to his home were of­ten treated to a tour of his favourite pieces.”

John Lis­ton (1776-1846) tried to be an ac­tor in tragic roles but failed to make his mark.

In­stead, he turned to com­edy and found his forte. An in­tro­duc­tion to Charles Kem­ble, a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Welsh act­ing dy­nasty, led to Lis­ton’s first comic role and he went on to be­come the high­est-paid comic ac­tor on the English stage.

BORN in Bin­g­ley, West York­shire, Rod­ney Bewes made his act­ing de­but aged 13 on BBC Ra­dio’s Chil­dren’s Hour. Af­ter be­ing ex­pelled from RADA and a two-year break for Na­tional Ser­vice, a decade in reper­tory es­tab­lished his love of theatre.

In his day he com­manded a salary greater than a trage­dian, earn­ing be­tween £60-£100 a week with Madame Vestris’ com­pany at the Olympic Theatre. He re­tired in 1837 af­ter a ca­reer of more than 30 years.

Per­haps his most fa­mous role was the lead in Paul Pry, a farce by John Poole, which pre­miered at the Hay­mar­ket Theatre in 1825.

The play was so well re­ceived that pic­tures of the two char­ac­ters be­gan ap­pear­ing in shop win­dows and on silk hand­ker­chiefs and snuff­boxes.

The pop­u­lar­ity of the im­ages prompted ce­ram­ics man­u­fac­tur­ers in Stafford­shire and at Rock­ing­ham, Derby and Worces­ter to pro­duce fig­ures of the two, a num­ber of which fig­ure in Rod­ney’s col­lec­tion.

One late Derby ex­am­ple shows the ac­tor as Pry, his um­brella tucked un­der his

BBC TV ap­pear­ances fol­lowed in Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, but the role for which he is best known – as Bob Fer­ris op­po­site James Bo­lam in The Likely Lads – fol­lowed, run­ning from 1964-66. He reprised the role in the 1973 arm, while an­other in Stafford­shire porce­lain de­picts Lis­ton in his role as Van Dun­der in John Poole’s com­edy ‘Twould Puz­zle a Con­jurer, first pro­duced at the Hay­mar­ket Theatre on Septem­ber 11, 1824. To­gether, they are es­ti­mated at £150-250.

An­other two in pearl­ware dat­ing from around 1830 show Lis­ton in his comic cos­tume as Van Dun­der, and Madame Vestris as the Broom Girl.

Lu­cia El­iz­a­beth Vestris (1797-1865), made a name for

AL­THOUGH TV work dried up in later years, he con­tin­ued to tread the boards, tour­ing a num­ber of one-man shows. He was 79 at the time of his death.

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