– 50 – local history

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My daily walks with Lilli the ferocious beast are a slow affair.

She sniffs everything.  I remember specifically asking for a female dog because I didn’t want one that stopped at every lamppost, if you know what I mean… and karma rewarded me with one that has to smell every blade of grass, every gate post, every flipping inch of the pavement.

The upside to this ‘slowness’  is that I have plenty of time to look around and take in what’s going on… from the little old lady with badly died hair and an enormous fleece jacket decorate with wolves faces… to the students who never wear coats even in the dead of winter… to the new mums proudly pushing shiny prams…(people watching is fascinating)…

I’ve also started to notice the little plaques on the walls of old houses and being as nosey as I am… I started taking pictures and looking into their story.

A ‘Blue Plaque’ is a sign installed on a building to link it with a particular famous person or event; it’s a historical marker.  They first started in London in the 19th century.  William Ewart a politician at the time launched the scheme in 1863 and it has since expanded throughout the United Kingdom.  (According to Wikipedia… take it as you will)

There 59 of them in this town alone.  (She smirks… be prepared… just saying…)

I love a blue plaque.  I see it as a link from the past to the now and to the future and also who doesn’t like a good bit of trivia?

Of course for every rule… blah blah… some historical plaques are not blue… whatever.

The latest one is actually quite close to my house, and it’s bronze… but the dribble from the rain stained the Cotswold stone of the building blue so we’re ok.

William Charles Macready was an ‘actor’ born in London in 1793, son of a theatre Agent in the Bristol circuit (so not far from here) and had all intention of studying law but when his father went to prison for debt he had to abandon is dreams and step into the family business.

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Some say this is what made him bitter and arrogant and a little bit difficult to work with (I’m paraphrasing… some of his fellow actors weren’t so polite!).  He was a popular actor and played a lot of Shakespeare (for which he reverted to the original text, rather than the bastardised versions popular at the time) and by all accounts he made Covent Garden history by being the first actor to be summoned to a  curtain call by an enthusiastic audience.

He also ended up managing the Covent Garden Theatre and the Drury Lane theatre and to his credit was a champion of ‘modern’ British Theatre, although he was more and more frustrated by the resistance he encountered.

Twice he toured the United States very successfully but his second trip was marred but the tragic events of Astor Theatre riots.  He had a huge ongoing rivalry with the American actor Edwin Forrest and their reciprocal fan clashed violently… the police got involved and 17 people died.  Tragic.

I guess the modern equivalent would be… what?… George Clooney’s army clashing with Brad Pitt’s fan?  Blood bath at the Oscar’s?  Bonkers.

The last line in Macready’s diary after his last stage appearance was: “Thank God”.  Thank God for all he had achieved?  Thank God it was over?   We’ll never know.

 

Anyway, there you have it.  Tuesday history lesson.

Have a good day.