From Martin Lloyd
(who worked with theatre Director Brian Styles (his future father-in-law)
on many Student Players shows
In 1974, the lighting
box was unheated and during panto's we welcomed the darker scenes in
order to generate heat from some of the Strand resistance dimmers and
the huge master dimmer through which one could switch the circuits if
needed. There was no insulation and the roof felt and tiles was all
there was between you and the elements.
On the ledge in
front of the window, would be an old tobacco tin into which Brian would
tap out his pipe.
I remember one performance
during a panto, Brian would be smoking his pipe and also would often
have a nip of whisky to keep the cold at bay. As usual, he placed the
glass on top of the grille which surrounded the master dimmer. The dimmer
was set about half (50%) so heat was rising nicely from the resistor
elements when Brian knocked his glass of whisky over sending the contents
cascading down over the hot elements. Vapourised whisky rose from the
dimmer leaving us both waving our arms madly to disperse the concentrated
The view of the
stage from the lighting box was through two small glazed windows cut
through the lathe & plaster wall at the rear of the gallery. The lighting
operator and assistant would almost touch heads if both wanted to look
at the same time.
There were 36 circuits
(channels) each with a Strand dimmer. Each dimmer measured roughly 3'
tall and they were set in three rows in front of the operator. Each
dimmer was contolled by a 3-way switch, the position of which decided
whether it was independent of the Master, linked to the Master or isolated.
the stage manager & orchestra was by cue lights and an ex MOD field
telephone on which you had to wind the handle to ring the bell at the
All spare lighting
equipment was carried from the lighting box to the stage and back. This
was laborious and lamps blew more frequently as a consequence.
There was only one
FOH lighting bar. As I remember the first 'sophisticated' lighting equipment
was the colour wheels on the FOH bar which required additional controls.
From an Introduction
to Edward the Second by Christopher Marlowe
Oxted, England, the Holywell Players, directed by Kenneth Johnstone, performed
Edward II with an anonymous cast at the Barn Theatre on 2 April 1928.
Rolph remembers going in 1970 to the Plaza Cinema in Oxted with Lionel Pearson,
Jack Wettern and a lorry to collect the seats for the theatre. They cost 3/- (15p)
programme produced by the Acstede Players in the 1920's
for The Surrey Mirror, whose local office was in Lloyds Bank Chambers; John Ferguson,
Radio and Electrical Engineer; G.H. Lunn, High-Class Confectioner and Tobacconist;
W.Suter, Photographer whose phone number was Oxted 167; R. Collyer Hamlin, Auctioneers,
Valuers, House, Land and Estate Agents; Sevenoaks Chronicle where it cost 1½d
per word to place an advertisement, minimum 12 words; F.H. Skinner with milk straight
from Park Farm, Limpsfield; G. Bateman from Titsey Corner, Limpsfield with finest
quality grocery and provisions.
a programme produced by the Oxted and Limpsfield Players in 1930
Oxted and Limpsfield Players have never aimed at being a profit making Society,
but on this occasion the performance of "Twelfth Night" is being given
to raise money. We now wish to build our own rehearsal rooms, store rooms and
workshops and to have a central place where our members can meet. Almost £700
has been raised and we can now make a start. A plan which involves and has the
wholehearted co-operation of the Barn Theatre Co. Ltd. is to be expounded at the
Annual General Meeting of the Society, to be held on Thursday, July 10th 1930,
at 8.30pm at the Barn Theatre. Any non-member interested in this plan will be
heartily welcome at this meeting and donations will be most gratefully received
by the Hon. Treasurer, Mr. H.G. Whitmore, Pilgrims Hatch, Oxted. The whole building
which can be erected in sections will require approximately £1,700.
can remember coming with my father to see a show put on by the Canadian Seaforth
Highlanders for three nights in 1943. There was a total smoking ban in force and
my father handed over his matches and cigarettes at the door before we went into
the theatre. The theatre was packed and there were soldiers sitting and lying
along the beams. I remember it as being a funny variety show with soldiers in
drag, which as an 11 year old I didn't understand.
about 1950 I appeared in a pageant called (I think) Through the Ages - Family
Album. I wore a circa 1860 wedding dress which belonged to a dentist who lived
in Detillens Lane.
a programme produced by Community Theatres (Croydon) Ltd. in 1939. [A repertory
company who produced a series of plays at the Barn]
in the car park on Saturday nights has been rather heavy and so we have engaged
an Attendant and your kind co-operation with him will, we are sure, enable you
to leave your car in a safe position and, when the show is over to get away with
the minimum of delay.
have a sneaking fear that as television finds its way into the homes of playgoers,
their loyalty to the old love will be very severly tested. [Attributed to the
programme editor who had borrowed a television during a bout of flu].
Alan Dell who was evacuated to Oxted during the war
was evacuated to Oxted in September 1939, with other boys from Haberdashers Aske
School. I arrived about 2 weeks after everyone else and was billeted in Monkchester,
Blue House Lane, Limpsfield with two other Askeans. We were with an elderly lady,
two servants and a pekinese at the far end of the house. The main part of the
house was occupied by a Colonel Lawrence and his wife, who had a young servant
who fed us in the kitchen, largely on baked apples! We slept on matresses on the
floor of the 'Ballroom'. On Sunday evenings we had to be ready at 7pm to be admitted
to the Drawing Room to sing and play Monopoly and card games.
before Christmas we asked to be billeted elsewhere and were moved to a house called
Pollards Oak in Red Lane. To get to school at the Barn Theatre meant a walk across
a field with a herd of heifers and inevitable cow pats to catch the steam train
for the short journey to Oxted. There were Nestle chocolate and nuts and raisins
machines on the platform at Oxted. Then we had another short walk to the Barn
Theatre, which Askes occupied in the mornings. One day there had been a heavy
snowfall and having walked all the way to 'school' we were sent home again immediately.
The teacher used to stand on the stage in the gloom.
dug the ground between the theatre and the school in lines to create an allotment.
I was a member of the School Cadet Corps and we paraded in the theatre grounds.
The officer in charge at the time was Major F R Wright (known as Fritz) who lived
at Midway opposite Granville Road.
final night of the very first Operatic Society production 'The Yeoman of the Guard',
the Andreas of Tandridge Court brought their party to the production in full evening
dress - wonderful'
another performance, the whole lighting system fused and Frank Sowerby made a
plea from the stage (in the middle of the show) "Is there an electrician
in the house"!
the production of 'Veronique', we borrowed a donkey from the farm at Staffhurst
Wood. A ramp was built from the men's dressing room to the stage for the donkey
to ascend (even he/she/it couldn't climb the stairs!) and of course, no oats before
From my Kitchen
Window (Matte Breminer at 74, Bluehouse Lane, Oxted)
When I grow up I want
to be a builder. A roofer to be exact. What a life!
could bask in the sun, top up my tan. Every now and again I could scale a ladder
to get a better view of things - and maybe a better reception for my mobile phone?
I could spend days talking
to all my many friends - who, presumably would also have to be roofers.
could listen to music, chat to my mates. Shift a few tiles when the urge came
over me, which would not be very often. If it rained, I could sit on a pile of
tiles under a cosy canopy, drinking tea and putting the world to rights with my
colleagues. I could eat lunch any time, which would obviously be quite often.
I could play football with an empty drinks can if the fancy took me or have a
little read of a magazine. What a life that would be.
bit like being a housewife really, but without the chores.
see all sorts. Year sevens, eights, nines, tens etc. Sixth formers, teachers secretaries,
technicians. You name them, I've seen 'em.
They have three things in common
as far as I can tell:
1. They all have a fag in their mouth
2. They are
all hiding from the school (or should that be 'skiving'?)
3. They all hang
out on the Theatre steps
I study them with moderate interest. It passes the
time while I do the dishes. I examine body language, I laugh at their sillyness
and pranks. I feel for their consciences, I hope for them they go undetected -
especially that biology technician, he always looks so sad and lonely.
then, then ... I can hardly contain my indignation; YOU go and cover the steps.
You build an extension. MY steps are now indoors. I can't see them any more. They
are simply no longer there. Where shall I now get my distraction, my daily dose
of voyeurism? Have you no respect? Have you no consideration?
Oh, how could
so cute, those young men. They are really only boys. They turn up in their cars.
It is usually around three in the afternoon in the Theatre car park.
they are there to impress the girls. They have the music blaring (at least it
is only for a short while). They show off, they joke and prance around. Just being
young men, really.
I can always tell when a boy has just got his first car.
Usually it doesn't look particularly roadworthy, but his pride and joy is obvious.
The others gather round. They look under the bonnet, they listen to the engine.
They try the driver's seat, they sit in the back, they check the boot.
then they always do something which, in all these years (more than 15), I have
never understood; they kick the tyres. They walk around the car, kicking the tyres
one by one. Why? are they checking the tyre pressure? are they looking for loose
nuts? are they seeing if the car will collapse? are they trying the toe of their
new boots? are they showing off to their mates?
Someone tell me please?
day the doorbell rang. It was that nice guy with the beard from the theatre, asking
if I had a small 'ladies mirror' he could borrow. The problem was the plumbing.
He couldn't see behind the basin if the pipes were okay and thought a small mirror
would do the trick.
I knew I had one. A mirror, that is. I looked for it.
In my hand bags, in the bathroom cabinet and many other places. But no mirror.
After a while the nice guy with the beard said he had better return to work. He
could use a piece of card with silver foil on it, maybe.
I gave him a piece
of kitchen foil.
Two days later I finally found my mirror. By then the plumbing
was fixed - I presume - there was nobody at the Theatre. I now keep my little
mirror handy at all times, just in case.
the Theatre drive and the house next door, there is just one single raised kerb
stone. It is, I suppose, a fairly standard two or maybe three foot long.
either side of it the kerb slants downwards to meet the raised level of the two
driveways. It is amazing the size of car you can park in the max 3ft space.
I have seen Rovers,
Volvos, huge estate cars and even vans parked there. I also see the chaos it causes
to the general traffic situation in and out of the Theatre and the inconvenience
to my friends in no. 23.
Do these parkers think their cars become invisible?
Do they, like Cinderella's ugly sisters, imagine they can fit the slipper just
by squeezing hard enough? Or do they not think at all? Are they blind? The questions
are many, none of them particularly flattering, though.
Me? Oh, I don't care,
it is all grand entertainment from where I stand.
out the mud and dirt from under the stage. This needed to be done every so often
as it was prone to flooding.
opening night in 1947 of the 'Yeoman of the Guard', an audience of 300 (there
were more seats than now) and the magnificent set of the Tower of London.
failure of the lights in 'Yeoman of the Guard' and the request for an electrician.
Fortunately there were only three people on stage at the time and luckily there
was an electrician -Heath Robinson, Head of the Electric Board -in the house who
was able to sort things out.
a full sized Jeep on stage for 'Teahouse of the August Moon'. A ramp was built
and it was brought up through the double doors that were then in the centre of
the stage at the back.
'Merrie England' wearing heavy Elizabethan costumes on a very hot Monday evening
in May with the top lights and footlights on. We thought we were going to expire
but luckily the week cooled down.
cuts during one show when we requested the audience to shine torches on stage.
Unfortunately, when it was a proper blackout, on came the torches.
the car park of snow to let the pantomime cast and audience in.
noisy toilets in the dressing rooms which reverberated round the Theatre. You
were not allowed to flush them during the show unless it was a very noisy bit.
I first appeared
at the Barn in October 1938 in a Cubs and Scouts "Gang Show" where the
Cubs did a sword dance and the Scouts performed a piece from "Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs". Don Jeal performed with the Scouts.
the land for the theatre was purchased from Mr Charles Hoskins Master (Lord of
the Manor of Oxted) in 1923, the design had to be submitted to a special committee
for approval. Hoskins Master himself was a member of this committee and whilst
permission for the building was granted, they refused to allow alcohol to be sold
at the theatre. This was to safeguard the sales in the nearby Hoskins Arms. This
situation continued until 1980 when permission was finally granted and the bar
letter from Flora Robson who appeared with the rep. company the July Players in
working at the Repertory Theatre in Oxford and this was a summer vacation where
I was pleased to be asked to act for this group of friends from Oxford. Tyrone
Guthrie was also at the Oxford Rep. at that time ... I was in a one act play in
verse written by Christopher Scaife... The play was a sort of morality play called
'The Triumph of Death'. A poet (Christopher Scaife) longed for love and a woman
who had a suicides death for love (that was me). I longed to return to where I
had come from and was unfaithful so that he could hate me and I could go back.
Death was played by Tyrone Guthrie. The Inn Keeper, my other lover was Robert
Speaight and another was Cecil Bellamy. All the others in the cast were Oxford
had all our expenses paid and were housed by kind hosts. We shared any profits
and made about £3.00 each. It was a glorious summer, we ate in inns and bargained
for our food, which was delicious and cheap. Shops round lent us furniture and
carpets at ridiculously low prices, that was how we made it a holiday with work
not really a professional company but it gave Mr Amner Hall the idea of starting
play productions. So something very big came out of it.
had one startling incident there. When the poet turned on me and said he hated
me, "as loathsome as a corpse from a grave", I turned and hid my head in a curtain.
A death's head mask was then fitted to my face, so that when I fell into the Inn
Keeper's arms, I was a skeleton! (Green light). We made the mask ourselves. We
had the 'Girl Drowned in the Seine' piece of sculpture and made a papier mache
mask on that. The dress rehearsal was long and I wanted to watch the end of the
play, so I did not lie there dead, I got up and watched from the front. So that
on the first performance, I fell and then found, very soon, I had made no nose
holes to breathe through! The mask fitted tight around my chin and I could hardly
breathe and was soon heaving. I did not want to spoil the effect that I was dead.
Luckily, before the magic entrance of Death, the lights dimmed very low and I,
lying in the shadows, very slowly moved my hand and pushed the mask up so that
I could breathe again. Just think, I might really have been a corpse when the
curtain call came!
Marjorie Mack in the book Hannaboys Farm (now Gincox Farm) on the occasion
of a demonstration of Country and Morris dancing (in 1924) in which Christopher
old oak beams and plain whitewashed walls of the theatre, which was indeed a barn
that had been moved piecemeal from its original site, made the nicest kind of
background to the old dance and the old tune. The lighting too - sunlight and
green grass seemed almost to be conjured up; but then the lighting of the Barn
Theatre had been designed by one who was also an artist.
(Scaife) was so impressed with the lighting in the theatre he arranged with Muriel
Whitmore to hire it for three days towards the end of July 1924. He and his friends
from Oxford University Dramatic Society wished to perform a dramatic poem he had
written called Triumph of Death. The cast were accommodated in the cottages of
some friendly folk in the area. As the play progressed it reached the part where
Death had brought the Woman (played by Flora Robson - see letter above) back from
her grave. She stood close to the folds of the curtain and turned aside her face,
pale with doom but turned to face the audience again seconds later as a leering
skeleton. There was a shriek from the back of the house; up in the gallery which
was filled with pupils from the girls boarding school, someone had fainted. Throughout
the theatre there was sensed a silent but violent, almost a hysterical commotion.
Nobody was breathing in the ordinary way. A few moments later we were all pouring
out of the theatre, trying to laugh it off, trying to account for it. What sort
of acting was it we had just seen, that had unnerved us, moved us all so unexplainably?
Who were they, these July Players? Besides Christopher himself, they were Tyrone
Guthrie, Molly McArthur, Robert Speaight and Flora Robson.
Michael Tippett in his autobiography "Those 20th Century Blues"
5th April 1930, I organised the first ever concert of my own works at the theatre.
The performers were a mixture of Oxted Singers and some professional soloists
and an orchestra with David Moule-Evans as conducter. I designed the programme
myself, but absent mindedly omitted my own name as composer.
main problem was that there was no orchestra pit. But by opening up the front
of the stage it was possible for the orchestra to play underneath it, with myself
sitting on the floor to conduct. Unfortunately, the players were then slightly
under water and had to come in wellingtons! More seriously, the singers found
it difficult to hear the orchestra, so we had to drill 'hear-holes' through the
stage floor and every so often the singers went to them and cupped their ears
Tippett. Those 20th Century Blues. 1992
The Times on April 7th 1930
in Oxted Barn Theatre'
"Five works by a local composer, two of them settings
of words by local poets, were last night performed with some outside assistance
by the local players and singers here in the Barn Theatre, which has already acquired
a more than parochial reputation for native artistic effort. The composer is Mr.
Michael Tippett, who conducts the Oxted and Limpsfield Choral and Orchestral Society;
last night however, he handed over the direction of the larger works in the programme
to his friend and neighbour Mr. David Evans".
the Morning Post on April 7th 1930 in the review of weekend concerts
concert of works by Michael Tippett, given on Saturday by the Oxted and Limpsfield
Players in the Barn Theatre at Oxted, afforded one of those glimpses into the
hidden musical activities of this country that gives hope for the future and are
so stirring. Of course, this sort of thing - compositions by a young composer,
performed by friends - is often to be discovered, though not all young musicians
have the remarkable gift of Michael Tippett. The programme was made up of a concerto
for flutes, oboe, horns, strings, three songs, pianoforte variations, a string
quartet and a psalm for chorus and orchestra. Mr. David Evans conducted effectively
and with understanding. All the performers were attentive and willing, models
of what helpers in the finest causes should be".
the war the dressing rooms became kitchens and the auditorium sleeping quarters
for over 100 Canadian soldiers from the First Canadian Division. After the soldiers
left, the theatre was taken over by the Education Authority and the Aske School
was evacuated from London. It was subsequently used for lessons and meals and
the pupils followed the example the soldiers had set by leaving their names scribbled
on the inside of the box office, dated 1941.
Gillian Antrobus (nee Sowerby) who visited the theatre as a child with a group
determined to restore the theatre to its pre-war condition.
went with them on this expedition of exploration and can remember how dark and
musty it was. The place was covered with dust and cobwebs, the war period had
caused devastation in the Barn Theatre. The stage was covered with old trestle
tables from the canteen, only a few theatre seats were available. The interior
was delapidated, dressing rooms and lavatories were filthy and the heating system
was rusted and out of action. In no way did the building conform to the requirements
of Surrey County Council for a licence for public usage."
first production after the war was to be 'Yeoman of the Guard' by the Oxted Singers.
At the last minute, the Council refused to grant a licence for the theatre on
the grounds of some small technicalities regarding the refurbishment. As the production
had been advertised everyone was reluctant to change the venue and someone hit
upon the idea of a 'board of friends'. The Oxted Singers became the Oxted Operatic
Society and for a joining fee of 5/- (25p), members were entitled to see the production
free. With this idea, no licence for public usage was necessary.
the early years there was no scenery, but Dr Andreae produced some naval sailcloth.
Frames were made and flats were subsequently produced but as the cloth was still
covered in oil they proved very difficult to paint
Barn Players were formed in 1948 and later that same year they featured in the
national magazine 'Today' (No 19) under the heading of 'Amateur Actors'.
the 1950's footlights were installed in the theatre. They replaced the old method
of a candle in a biscuit tin. In 1956 the lighting switchboard which had been
controlled from a box at the side at the stage was moved to the rear of the gallery
which allowed the operator to see the stage.
the early days, although the theatre was designed to seat 300 people, the seats
were pushed together to accommodate 350. Now it seats 248.
1926 the yearly membership fee for an acting member of the Crichton Dramatic Club
was 10/- (50p) and a non acting member 5/- (25p).
of the timbers in the theatre came from oak trees growing at the time of the Norman
Mrs Muriel Whitmore who started the Oxted and Limpsfield Players prior to
the Barn being built
the theatre was built, this society had a membership of nearly 300 with a minimum
subscription of 2/6 (12.5p).
dances were held in the theatre, all the seats were moved to the sides leaving
a clearing in the middle and the band played on stage.
first two productions presented in the theatre, only a week after it opened in
May 1924 were 'School for Scandal' and 'As You Like It'.
A.G.G. in 'The Nation' on May 31st 1924
had the pleasure of witnessing one of the performances given this week to celebrate
the opening of the Barn Theatre at Oxted. The plays presented were 'School for
Scandal' and 'As You Like It'. Both were given by the villages of Oxted and Limpsfield
and the rending of Sheridan's comedy which I saw was admirable ....... costumes
and scenery alike were of local production and the whole affair was a remarkable
tribute to the village drama movement which the British Drama League is encouraging."
Crichton Players who were one of the first companies to use the theatre were named
after their first production.
1948 a repertory company hired the theatre. They had nine permanent players and
also used local people and actors from London with Harold Norway as the producer.
They played weekly for a while but audience numbers were small and they eventually
left Oxted greatly in debt to local shop-keepers and tradesmen and to the Barn
Theatre. The man in charge of the financial side of this repertory company subsequently
spent some time in prison as a result.
the past the theatre has been used for auctions, eisteddfods, drama festivals,
musicals, operas, operettas, concerts, horticultural society shows, plays, pantomimes,
art exhibitions, dances, literary debates, barn dances, parties, wedding receptions,
dancing school and Country and Morris dancing shows, canteen, school room, barracks,
evacuation dispersal point and a nursery school in the Little Barn.
Britten played at the Barn on Wednesday 25th March 1957 together with Peter Pears
in an Oxted and Limpsfield Music Society Concert.
1949 the cost of a programme was 6d (2.5p)
1950 the pantomime included flashes when the Slave of the Lamp entered. These
were created by Mr. Muggeridge, Chairman of Edenbridge Bonfire, using a bucket
of sand and a firework.
dancing girls performed the can-can in the Student Players Pantomime 'Dick Whittington
and his Cat' in 1951 in costumes made entirely of black-out material and bandages.
Greta Hammond Smith
remembers competing with all the school choirs in the area from 1940 and also
taking part in school dramas throughout the war.
many years the frontispiece to the Amateur Stage (magazine) consisted of pictures
of the Barn Players Merrie England in 1950.
1957 it was suggested that badminton and indoor cricket might be suitable activities
to be held in the theatre.
the Archives of All Saints Church
July 6 1927 came the day Father Lang had been waiting for. All Saints Church,
Oxted was consecrated and the papal flag was flown from it's roof to mark the
occasion to passers by. The ceremonies began at 8.30 a.m. after an overnight vigil.
Afterwards there was a lunch at the Barn Theatre for the Bishop, 19 priests and
about 80 other guests.
the Autumn of 1938, the Croydon Repertory Company appeared at the theatre. It
was sponsored by the Andreae family of Tandridge but unfortunately was not well
1940 the Womens Junior Air Corps used the Little Barn and forecourt for drill.
1941 the theatre was used for a youth club organised by John Ferguson senior.
1942, ENSA used the theatre for concerts and Red Nicholls and Glenn Miller entertained
the Canadian airmen stationed in the area.
a programme produced by the Stranger Players on 9th February 19?
Ticket, 6s. 3d., entitles holder to a book of eight vouchers (transferable), each
of which can be exchanged for one ticket at half-price for any performance. By
15th December a season ticket cost 12s. 6d., and held sixteen vouchers.