We have enjoyed a busy and enjoyable week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (C.H.A.C) near Yeovil.
So far, we have loaned a set of display boards to our District Council planning colleagues, organised a Victorian-themed Half-Term Trail and enjoyed the company of a local Scout troop, earning their history badge – more on this in our next BLOG.
One of the recent highlights came in our talk with Keinton Mandeville Women’s Institute. Staff looked at two ‘self-made’ Keinton Mandeville men. The first was Oliver Chalker, a local quarry owner and known as the ‘Keinton Mandeville Strong Man’ – with some justification; as the photograph we have of Mr Chalker is believed to show him as a 91 year old possibly in the 1920s lifting a wooden wheel barrow laden with weights around 250kgs.
The second ‘self-made’ man was the more recognisable, Henry Irving; the great theatre actor, born in Keinton Mandeville in 1838. Henry’s father worked in the village for a drapery business. In 1842, the family moved to Bristol where there was more work available. Henry went on to become one of this country’s greatest stage actors at the Lyceum Theatre in London and appeared in many plays with the equally renowned Ellen Terry. However, the really striking element which came out of staff research for the talk was Irving’s connection to perhaps one of the greatest gothic novels of the late Victorian age.
Staff passed around Henry Irving’s portrait and then asked for reactions to the image. These included ‘brooding’ ‘mysterious’ and ‘like Oscar Wilde.’ Staff then explained that the connection was fitting, given the rather stormy, windswept night and the proximity to Halloween. One of the members then made the connection and said: “Dracula.”
Indeed this is the case as Henry Irving’s stage manager at the Lyceum Theatre was none other than Bram Stoker and it is said that Stoker based his now legendary character on Irving and so therefore (perhaps rather loosely!) we can say that Dracula came from Keinton Mandeville!
Staff also re-dressed the all-male balance by highlighting Lady Lucy Houston, the primary funder of the first ever flight over Mount Everest, achieved by two Westland Aircraft in April 1933, which was named (in her honour) as the Houston-Westland Expedition.
The 2018 Yeovil Calendar is now available from the Courtyard Café, Market Street, Yeovil – thank you!
A set of Great Western Railway Buttons reflecting our Victorian-themed Half-Term Trail!