Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Recent Acquisition: Letters of Charles McEvoy

In our village it is fairly well known that in 1910 the playwright Charles McEvoy turned the Old Malthouse into a theatre and used it to stage his play “The Village Wedding”, which starred villagers; the music was provided by some of the band members. A few years ago were were lucky to acquire an annotated script of the play.

We keep an eye on the internet for interesting Aldbourne items, and one such was a group of letters from Charles McEvoy being sold mainly for their autograph value. The description was minimal, but made it clear that some where typewritten and some handwritten. So we went ahead and purchased them, they are all interesting, but for me the star is the one below. Not only was it written shortly after the first performance, but it is on headed notepaper, which Charles must have had printed – I suspect that cannot have been very cheap – interesting as the whole production seems to have been put together as cheaply as possible using what was available in the village. It also shows that he was the licensee – this is nothing to do with alcohol, but it shows that Charles McEvoy had done what was required under the 1843 Theatres Act – new plays had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for his approval – this was a form of censorship, but was a more relaxed systemn than the Licencee Act of 1743. Under the earlier act the Lord Chamberlain could block the performance of a play for any reason, and he did not have to explain his ban. Under the later act he could only block the performance of plays if he considered that “it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do”

Photograph of a letter written on headed notepaper by Charles McEvoy to a friend shortly after the first performance of The Village Wedding
Letter written by Charles McEvoy to Mr Whelan

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