Opera and Drama – Geddington’s cultural heritage

A new production from our much admired village players takes place next week. ‘Wind in the Willows’ will be another successful production from GADS in what is their anniversary year.

GADS has been in existence for 60 years now and there is a real story to tell there….but first we’d like to take you back to the time when Geddington’s own Operatic Society was providing cultural entertainment for the village and surrounding community.

Geddington Operatic Society was at its strongest in the years preceeding the second World War. According to the Northampton Mercury and Herald it was the result of the enthusiasm and influence of Mr Francis Montagu Douglas Scott that the society was formed and was able to get together a body of musicians and actors to produce many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas which quickly gained national interest.

At the same time Miss Constance Croot, daughter of the landlord of The Star, was well known for her interest in dramatic art, particularly in connection with the WI, the drama class of which won ‘notable awards’.

The first record of the society’s activities seems to be 1934 when it was reported that Geddington Operatic Society had successfully produced and performed the Gilbert and Sullivan opera ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. There was however, clearly a strong sense of fun running through the company because it was also noted that their next production would be ‘The Pirates of Northants’  and this script was to be written by ‘a resident’.

In 1935 it was the turn of ‘The Mikado’ to have its outing on the Geddington stage. The Mercury and Herald headlined the report ‘High standard of singing at Geddington’ and went on to say that it was performed in front of a crowded audieImage result for pictures of mikadonce to great acclaim and added that the cast, with very few exceptions was made up entirely of villagers.  Mr R Wicksteed was President of the Society and, in this case, Francis Scott  the stage manager, supported by Charles Olive from Kettering who produced the show and Mr Harry Richardson a musician who had played several times with the D’Oyly Carte company.

Arthur Tayburn led the cast which included amongst others Cyril Hyde, Gordon Hopkins, Mrs Ernest Goode, Florence Coles, Sybil Catt, Olive Crick, Harry Blanchard and Frank Clipstone.

The costumes, lighting and stage sets were recorded as ‘outstanding’ and the singing and music was acknowledged to be of a very high standard. The orchestra members included Mr P. Woolston and Mr T Blunsom and Mr. E.T. Howlett. The piano was played by Miss Joyce Hancock.

Other support was given by Mr. E. Spence, perruquier (wig provider) Miss C. Croot, who was the prompter, John Ambrey, the call boy and lastly, but in a spirit of village entrepreneurship, the Misses Mabel and Mildred Patrick who were the souvenir sellers!!

Further productions followed;  ‘HMS Pinafore’ in September 1936 with a cast of village names including Dix, Ambrey, Goode and Swingler.

‘Iolanthe’ was performed in January 1937 and ‘Yeoman of the Guard’ in 1939.

Newspaper advertisement for the production

The productions were widely advertised locally and well regarded across Northamptonshire. The society was described as ‘go-ahead’ and was able to draw on local expertise and support from local dignitaries. In 1939 Francis Scott of The Priory was still President, Mr De Capel Brooke had been the Vice President and the Duke of Buccleuch, family and friends attended the performances. For those with their own transport the advertisements advised ‘cars at 10:30pm’ – a more modern version of Carriages at 10:30pm’  and, for those reliant on others, special bus services from Kettering were laid on.

‘The Yeoman of the Guard’ was as well received as other productions.  Mrs Goode and Mr Gordon Hopkins took the lead roles in this production which had a very successful run and then was performed again at a special event for the Duke, his family and other guests including Mr Gotch and John Profumo, prospective parliamentary candidate for Kettering, who had been unable to attend on the previous occasion. The Duke was very appreciative of the talent, both dramatic and musical, within the company and hoped there would be many more similar performances in the future.

Though the Duke could not be sure of it in May 1939 when he gave this speech of thanks, Europe was on the brink of another war which would demand the lives of men from the village and severely limit the opportunities for future performances. Francis Scott died in 1942 but he left a legacy of dramatic tradition and fun; a baton that was picked up again in 1957 when a small group got together to share their ideas on reviving amateur dramatics in the village.


The website team would be delighted to hear from you if you can add to this story.

Do you have souvenir tickets, or photographs, recognise any of the names or even perhaps know who ‘the resident’ was who was writing the alternative ‘Pirates of Northants’?

We hope you have enjoyed this post. We will be starting a series on GADS next month in honour of their 60 years of village entertainment which will look back at each decade of their history.

2 comments on “Opera and Drama – Geddington’s cultural heritage

  • Lynette Litman says:

    Great research, Janet… really interesting… what an amazing community Geddington was… and still is.

    • Thanks Lynette, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I certainly found out a lot I hadn’t known before and I’m delighted to spotlight such remarkable talent!

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