News

Treasures from Worcestershire’s Past: ~7~ Vesta Tilley scrapbooks

  • 10th January 2014

This week’s Treasure is a series of scrapbooks compiled by Vesta Tilley, which are brought to us by Adrian Gregson, County Archivist:

Vesta Tilley scrapbook

Vesta Tilley scrapbook

The Music Hall star, Vesta Tilley, was born Matilda Alice Powles in Worcester in 1864. She went on to be a hugely successful star of the music and variety halls at the end of the Victorian, start of the Edwardian era, here and across the Atlantic. She toured America at least twice. She toured Britain continually, from the age of about 7, and finally retried in 1920.

The Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service holds her personal scrapbooks and photographs, while some of her costumes are held at Hartlebury Museum. They were purchased a number of years ago from a family who had bought them at an auction of material from her house, around the time of her death in 1952. They remain the only known extant personal material available for research and interest.

It is the 150th anniversary of Vesta’s birth in May 2014. Look out for special events and activities around this date.

The document of particular treasure is one of several scrapbooks which Vesta compiled of letters sent to her, meticulously collected over many years. The letters are fan mail, from young and old, rich and poor, societies and individuals, from the UK and around the world. Painstakingly conserved and digitised by WAAS they represent the very personal recollections of a star who was as huge then as any of our modern pop stars. We’ve had several people travel from overseas to see the archive, as it is really significant for anyone studying the history of Music Hall in this period.

Vesta spent the First World War years campaigning for new recruits to the services and working tirelessly for charities, particularly for injured servicemen. She married Walter de Frece who was later knighted and elected MP for firstly Ashton under Lyne and then later for Blackpool. After his retirement she lived for most of the year as Lady De Frece in Monte Carlo.

Vesta Tilley performing during WWI in army uniform, specially made for her, and with a captured German helmet

Vesta Tilley performing during WWI in army uniform, specially made for her, and with a captured German helmet

Her most famous songs are probably ‘Jolly Good Luck to the Girl who loves a Soldier’, Burlington Bertie’ and ‘Following in Father’s Footsteps’ and she was immortalised in the film ‘After the Ball’.

More of the Vesta Tilley collections can be found in our Original Documents Area at The Hive at reference 899:1400 BA 13801 and BA 14233. You can also find out more on our website.

We also have blogs about the Christmas cards sent to Vesta, and a Vesta Tilley walking trail of Worcester.

 

Christmas card sent to Vesta Tilley

Christmas card sent to Vesta Tilley

 

Page of Vesta Tilley scrapbook

Page of Vesta Tilley scrapbook

 

Letter to Vesta Tilley, thanking her for a performance

Letter to Vesta Tilley, thanking her for a performance

 

Vesta Tilley bollard in the Cornmarket

Vesta Tilley bollard in the Cornmarket

 

Comments are closed.

Related news


  • 10th June 2022
Nine Months as a Trainee Archivist

This week marks the last of my archivist traineeship with Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service. For the last nine months, the archive team have taken me on as a Trainee Archivist – training me up in all the key aspects of what makes an archive function, and allowed me to discover why archives function, the...

  • 2nd June 2022
HM The Queen’s Visit to Worcestershire 1957

We look back to The Queen's visit to Worcestershire in 1957. Within the archives we have two boxes of documents and correspondence from the Lord Lieutenant about the arrangements, telling the story behind organising a Royal Visit.