I’m just gutted because despite all my wheedling, I’ve missed the opportunity to get my hands on tickets for this amazing operatic event, which is showing next week at Bath International Festival. Marking Handel’s death and the year of an important naval battle (1759), Alcina Chorus and Ensemble, with some help from Portsmouth Model Boat Display Team, are actually recreating the Battle of Quiberon Bay in one of the historic Roman baths. Expect ‘sea shanties, music from Handel's operas (directed by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conductor Robert Howarth) and Handel's Water Music, radio-controlled models of 18th-century ships, fireworks and more’. It’s sold out, so if you don’t already have tickets in your clammy hands, then you’ll miss this awesome event. Booo!
Excitement abounded in my household this weekend when details of this year's Tercentenary Celebrations in Lichfield zoomed into my inbox. The annual Johnson supper is a rather steep £45 per head, and dinner dress is required, but given it will probably be my last year as a member of The Johnson Society, I'll be making the most of it. The programme is below.
Friday, 18 September
From 6.30pm onwards - Reception and Get-together for all members, including visitors. This will be held in the GUILDHALL (not the Birthplace) as we are expecting a larger crowd than normal. There will be light refreshments and some readings.
From 8.00pm onwards everyone will be able to enjoy a son-et-lumière presentation in the Market Square, on the Market Square and Market Street faces of the Birthplace. Of course this part of the evening’s entertainment will be open to all members of the public.
Saturday, 19 September
10.30am Birthplace Museum - Civic Party, distinguished guests and Johnson Society Council attend cake-cutting ceremony.
11.30am All members are invited to assemble in the Guildhall, Bore Street, to join the Civic Party and guests when they process to the Market Square where the traditional wreath-laying takes place.
11.50am The Mayor of Lichfield will place a wreath on the Johnson Statue. There will be a short service during which the assembled crowd will hear Johnson’s Last Prayer sung by a local youth choir. Musical accompaniment will be provided by the musicians from King Edward VI School (Johnson’s old school).
Then, Society members are invited to return to the Guildhall where the Mayor and Civic Party will be present and a Toast will be drunk to “the immortal memory”.
12.30–4.30pm Following the formalities there is a piece of cake for the first visitors to the Birthplace and Intimate Theatre will be performing in the Market Square.
Information sheets will be available explaining where and when different activities are taking place in and around the City.
Saturday, 19 September - The Supper
6.30pm Drinks Reception in the Guildroom (beneath the Guildhall).
7.00pm Tercentenary Celebration Supper of the Johnson Society in the Guildhall in the presence of the Mayor and other Civic leaders, the Society’s President, Mr John Byrne, President-Elect, the Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield and the Chairman and officers of the Society.
Sunday, 20 September
During the morning there will be an opportunity for those who wish to have a guided walk around the City sites associated with Johnson and his friends.
The Society has arranged for a Buffet Lunch in the Visitors’ Study Centre within the Cathedral Close. Lunches (two courses and including a glass of wine) will cost £16.50 per head. Please fill in the enclosed form and return with payment if you wish to attend.
3.30pm A Special Service of Choral Evensong at the Cathedral. The ‘Johnson Sermon’ will be preached by the Rt Rev Richard Chartres (Bishop of London).
6.00pm Melstock Band will be performing at the Guildhall. They will be playing a variety of music including some with an 18th century flavour. Tickets should be booked through Lichfield Arts who will have details of prices on 01543 262223 or online at: www.lichfieldarts.org.uk and not through The Johnson Society.
Monday, 21 September
11.00am Wreath-laying and Penance Commemoration at Uttoxeter Market Place will be attended by the Society’s new President and any members who wish to be present.
(Lichfield members will be able to offer lifts to Uttoxeter and to other surrounding places of Johnsonian interest).
We hope you will be able to attend some of these functions and help make this very special weekend a resounding success.
Well, after a busy week I've finally got time to conclude our Shugborough visit of last weekend. Above and below are shots of the Tower of the Winds, completed in 1765. It's usually open until 4.30pm, but despite leaping on the miniature railway to comically chug just a few metres down a bridle path, we found the doors locked.
It's a replica water clock which was once used as a dairy by Lady Anson (the 1st Earl of Lichfield was supposed to have had a gambling den upstairs) and was originally surrounded by a lake, with bridges reaching to the porches. There's a fantastic drawing of it as it once was here.
It's based on the original Tower of the Winds in Athens, which, given my boasting about The Classical Language of Architecture I should have recognised straight away as Greek Revival (a much less embellished style altogether). As Summerson says in that book: 'The first Greek Doric buildings built in England were built more or less as curiosities, exotic souvenirs, in the form of temples and porches on gentlemen's estates' - this is a perfect example.
Oh, and we couldn't pass by the tea rooms without stopping for some fantastic chocolate courgette cake (below, foreground), which concluded our trip nicely. We'll be back some other time to check out other parts of the park that we missed: the Lanthorn of Demosthenes, The Triumphal Arch and The Doric Temple.
I live in the English cathedral city of Lichfield, which, despite having a population of fewer than 5,000 during the Georgian period, was home to many important artists and intellectuals including Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Erasmus Darwin. I generally blog about the short 18th century (1715-1789), feisty Georgian ladies and Lichfield's 18th-century heritage. If you have any comments, feel free to email me at woffington [at] gmail [dot] com.
Virtually forgotten today, Margaret Woffington (also known as Peg or Peggy) would rise from humble origins to become one of Georgian London’s most famous actresses, sharing the stage with the likes of David Garrick and excelling in so-called ‘breeches roles’. Born around the year 1720 in Dublin, her childhood years were marred by the death of her father, which plunged her family into poverty. Having reputedly sold watercress barefoot in the streets of the Irish capital, she was soon talent-spotted by a tumbler known as Violante, who staged populist entertainments in booths around the city. Violante had a troupe of child actors called the Liliputians, and before long Woffington was making her debut as Polly Peachum in their version of The Beggar’s Opera. Moving to London, she gained plaudits for both her outstanding beauty and her talent – particularly in comedy – appearing at both Covent Garden and Drury Lane. Known for her quick wit and no-nonsense attitude, she had high-profile affairs with Garrick, Lord Darnley and Charles Hanbury Williams; she was also a generous benefactor, supporting her elderly mother and may even have endowed some almshouses in Teddington, where she had settled at the height of her success. She died, unmarried, in 1760, having suffered a long wasting illness, and is buried in Teddington's parish church of St Mary’s.
Step into the past...
Click on the shoes for a highlight from the archive.
Any copyrighted excerpts on these pages are intended as Fair Use, that is to say, for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, but will be removed at the request of copyright holder(s). I do not advertise on this site, but from time to time I post links to products on Amazon.co.uk which may earn me a small referral fee via the Amazon Associates Program. However, I am selective about endorsing products and choose only those that are of genuine interest to my readership.