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Annie Horniman Papers

Date range: 1890s-1980

Medium: Archive

Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman (1860-1937) was a pioneer of the modern repertory theatre movement.

Her involvement with the theatre began in 1894 when she financed a season of plays at the Avenue Theatre, London, which saw the first public production of plays by W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. As a result of her friendship with Yeats, in 1904 she agreed to fund the opening of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin as a home for the Irish National Theatre. The Abbey, with regular subsidies from Miss Horniman, quickly established a wide reputation for its performance of new Irish plays and for the high standard of its acting.

Following disagreements with the Abbey, in 1907 Miss Horniman transferred her activities to Manchester. She established a theatre initially at the Midland Hotel, and in 1908 she took over the Gaiety Theatre and transformed it into what is generally regarded as the first full-scale modern repertory theatre.

The Gaiety's stock of plays was enormously varied, from Euripides to Shaw, but the theatre was most closely associated with writers of the so-called 'Manchester School', such as Harold Brighouse, Stanley Houghton, Basil Dean and Allan Monkhouse. Unfortunately the enterprise collapsed after the First World War and in 1921 the Theatre was sold to a cinema company.

The Annie Horniman Papers comprise four separate accessions. Miss Horniman herself donated to the Library in 1918 ten scrapbooks containing press cuttings relating to the Abbey Theatre (1903-1918), and in 1921 a further seventeen relating to the Gaiety Theatre and the repertory movement in England (1907-1921). These chart the history of the theatres in the form of reviews, reports, features and articles from a broad range of local and national publications.

The Library also holds a collection of almost one hundred programmes for productions at the Gaiety Theatre (1908-1920), donated by Julian Peacock in 1934.

Finally, an important collection of letters, photographs and other papers, both personal and professional, relating to Miss Horniman (1904-1979) and amassed by her cousin, Mrs Marjorie Garrod, was purchased by the Library from Mrs Garrod's daughter, Elizabeth Cade, in 1984.

There is a substantial number of letters to Annie Horniman from authors, journalists, playwrights, critics, actors, managers and other well-known figures of the day. Correspondents include J. M. Barrie, Arnold Bennett, James Bridie, Harold Brighouse, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, John Galsworthy, St John Hankin, C. H. Herford, Emmeline Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw, Marie Stopes, Sybil Thorndike, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, W. B. Yeats and Israel Zangwill.

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Further information:

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


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