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By Patricia Adam


In the autumn of 1851 my great great grandparents, William and Jane Macarthy, arrived in Todmorden to set up a theatre in the Odd Fellow’s Hall. The following extracts are transcribed from THE ERA, a newspaper, published in London, which began as a racing paper but later began to report the activities of the theatrical community.  Miss De Ville “of the London theatres” who came at short notice to fill the gap when the stars didn’t turn up is, I think, my great great grandmother’s sister who arrived in fact from a season in Skipton. However she was born in London so there is an element of truth!


The Odd Fellows Hall in 1902

by kind permission of Roger Birch


An evening’s entertainment usually consisted of three parts, a serious play, a comic play and another entertainment, sometimes singing or dancing, sometimes another play. There was often a different programme every night. If the company did well it was described as a “bumper”.



Oct 26th. 1851 The Odd Fellow’s Hall has again been converted into a theatre, under the management of Mr W Macarthy and will open on Wednesday, the 29th, with an entirely new company, scenery, and wardrobe. In fact, no expense has been spared by the manager and his wife (who are favourites here) in catering for the public. We understand the pieces for the opening night will be The Hunchback, a Nigger divertissement, and The Lottery Ticket.  Great business is expected here. As the opening has been delayed owing to the County Court being held in the Hall on the 28th, the preparations will not be completed until the last hour available.

Nov 2nd.  This establishment opened on Wednesday but owing to a non-arrival the pieces were changed. Mr J Wood engaged with the manager for the services of himself and his wife, for six nights, to “star” it, but they did not arrive. Business has been good.

Nov 9th   Since the opening night business has improved. The want of Mr Wood was not felt as supposed, his place being filled by Mr Clarkson, from Dublin, who, since his arrival, has become a favourite here. The Lear of Private Life and Valsha, the Slave Queen, were produced on Wednesday, under the patronage of the Humility Lodge of Odd Fellows, when a bumper was the result

Nov 16th. Business here has improved. During the past week the pieces played have been Macbeth, Tom Cringle, William Tell, Lady of Lyons, Richard the Third, Ambrose Gwynett, Black Eyed Susan, Married Bachelor, Slasher and Crasher, Shipwrecked Cockney and A Day after the Fair. The Claude Melnotte of Mr Clarkson pleased the audience, as did the Pauline of Mrs Macarthy. The manager has entered into an engagement with Miss De Ville, of the London Theatres. There is still room for an addition to this company of a juvenile gentleman and a second low comedian.

Nov 30th.  Business has been good since the engagement of Miss De Ville. Her benefit was a bumper. The manager has secured the services of Miss Ellen Stanley, a very talented child, only eleven years of age who opened in young Norval. Mr R Hughes and Mr & Mrs Harding, appear on Monday next, when Miss Stanley will appear for the first time in Shylock.

What happened in December I don’t know as the reports for Todmorden ended here!

Patricia Adam © 2008