Residents Resurrected

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Residents Resurrected

First performed: 30/10/2015
Author: Ros Clow

The third production in 2015 “Residents Resurrected” was held in October using the sexton and the Grim Reaper as links between four monologues and one duologue, the Grim Reaper calling up spirits on Halloween. This time we put on three performances at the Phoenix Centre but later three of our characters, William Corden The Younger (Painter to Queen Victoria), Sarah Louisa Hopson (whose baby died in the Workhouse) and Herbert Finn (master at the Phoenix Brewery) reprised their roles in the cemetery in June.



Images from the Play

Script for the play

Below are links to the script or scripts used in the play. They can be downloaded or viewed on the web site.

Monologue for William Corden the Younger      Display

Red text refers to images displayed via Powerpoint. Son Victor appears to project them through an epidiascope.

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is very kind of your secretary to invite me along today to tell you something about my life which I hope you will find of interest. I intend to illustrate my little talk with this new invention, the epidiascope, and Victor, my son, whom many of you know – you will have seen him painting down by the river outside his studio -  will manipulate it for me, hopefully without calamity!

My wife and I came to Newbury in 1890 with Victor and his family soon after I retired from the employment of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. We had lived for many years near Windsor Castle at Datchet.(Victor projects image upside down)

I was born in Derby in 1819, and came to Windsor as a boy of ten years, whither my father, also William and an artist, removed to execute commissions for King George IV., (and afterwards for King William and Queen Victoria).

The journey by coach from Derby to Windsor was one of my vivid recollections - the furniture being carried all the way by barge, along the now almost forgotten system of canals, to the Thames.

After studying in London and working in the evenings at the Life-School in Clipstone-street, which has years ago moved to rooms near the Langham Hotel, and now combines the Artists' Society with the Langham Sketching Club, I went to Germany in 1844 with my father, who was sent by Queen Victoria to paint for her in Coburg. She wanted copies painted of portraits of her relatives – and Albert’s of course – they are cousins.

On my return the Queen purchased nearly all the sketches I'd made there, and from that time when I was 24 for nearly 40 years she gave me constant commissions for portrait and other work, at Windsor, Buckingham Palace, Osborne, and Balmoral. During these years I must have painted nearly four hundred pictures for the Queen. Here’s a copy I executed after James Roberts. The Princess Royal took the original with her to Berlin when she was married to Prince Frederick William of Prussia.

I addition I exhibited works at the Royal Academy for many consecutive seasons, the first being in 1846; in 1847 I exhibited "Early Grief," a child mourning over a dead dog, painted from my pet dog which had been killed. "Indecisions," "The Windmill Seller," and "Queen Mab”, were among other exhibited works.

Although I saw myself as a portrait and figure painter, I did a great deal of landscape work also, and attributed much of my knowledge and love of landscape to the friendship of James Stark, the well-known artist of the "Norwich School," who at one time was a neighbour, and worked a great deal in Windsor. Here is a copy of one of his landscapes

In 1848 I painted the portrait of the Duke of Brunswick, which hangs in the Waterloo Gallery at Windsor Castle, being assisted by the Prince Consort, himself a talented amateur, whose pencil sketches of details of uniform etc., were among my prized possessions. Besides many pictures for the Queen Dowager, and others for the Duchess of Kent (the mother of Queen Victoria), I painted a portrait of Lord Bridport, which was later engraved.

After this I was sent by Her Majesty to Lisbon, where I remained for four months. Originally I was asked to copy the portraits of the King (a cousin of Albert), and the Queen of Portugal. The portraits had been painted by Ferdinand Krumholz but after I arrived the Royal Couple decided they wanted me to execute new life-size portraits. These now hang in the galleries of Buckingham Palace.

I must tell you about an amusing experience I had there. Thinking a violin would increase my baggage, I had purchased what was then a new invention, a concertina, and had learned a few airs from an instruction book. Hearing of this new instrument the King asked to see it, and then insisted on dragging me into a room full of people, to play it before the Queen. Unable to think of anything to play I began the first air which came into his head, and had got half way through, when I was horrified to remember its anti-monarchical and revolutionary character - it was the "Marseillaise." It was too late to stop, but I often wondered if they thought it was done intentionally. This, too, was the summer of 1850, with the '48 revolution de février of Paris fresh in all minds.

About this time, when painting at Buckingham Palace, I frequently saw the Duke of Wellington, then a very old man, who died in 1852 a year memorable in Windsor by reason of a severe flood, which stopped the traffic on the South-Western Railway.

Among other portraits commissioned for the Queen was one of Prince Arthur, now the Duke of Connaught, in his first uniform, that of a Woolwich cadet. The prince arrived in the room one day for a sitting with a little fair boy pick-a-back on his shoulders, whom he introduced as "my nephew." That child was later to become the Emperor of Germany, and has now given up riding uncles!

As you know, Prince Albert died an early and unexpected death in 1861 which plunged Her Majesty into deep mourning. She arranged the bedroom they had shared as a memorial to the Prince Consort and commissioned a painting of it so that she could remember it wherever she travelled. Until then the Queen had been an enthusiastic and talented amateur artist in watercolours, and I like to think I helped and encouraged her in this endeavour.  However, on Albert's death, she vowed never to paint again and passed me her paint-box and brushes.  These I keep to this day, a memento of the close relationship we had enjoyed.

Working so much at Windsor, I witnessed many historic scenes, from the visit of the King of the French (Louis Philippe), and that of the Emperor of Russia before the Crimean War, to the inspection of the troops after the Ashantee campaign, in which Sir Garnet Wolsey first loomed large in the public estimation. We now of course refer to the area of Africa under dispute as the Gold Coast. Here is a newspaper picture from the time.

The first visit of a Khedive of Egypt (then alluded to as the Viceroy) to Windsor was in 1869 as he gained support for the construction of the Suez Canal. This was the occasion of a water-colour painting, now in the Queen's possession, of the Guards brigade crossing a pontoon bridge at Datchet, after the review in the Great Park. A replica of this is in the possession of my son, Mr. Victor Corden.

It is not often, perhaps, that three generations, following the same profession, can boast having done work for the same sovereign. My father, William, and my son, Victor, have all had the honour of the Queen's personal patronage.

My recollections and anecdotes of Windsor matters are numerous, and some of them may be of interest to you.

Windsor, in George the Fourth's time was very different in many ways from its present condition. Houses crowded up to the Castle walls in Thames-street and High-street, where the green banks now are, and an inn stood among them near the foot of the "Hundred steps," which is worthy of notice because of one peculiarity. Half of it was in the parish of New Windsor, and half in the parish of St George's, Hanover-square, London (St. George's Chapel and some part of the Castle being in some wonderful way a part of the metropolitan St George's!) The dividing line between the two parishes was marked on the floor of the parlour, and here gentlemen in difficulties would sit and smile at the bailiff, who, though in the room, could not arrest them unless they crossed the magic line, which of course, they postponed until Sunday, when no debtor could be arrested, and when they could walk out and take the air.

In those days and indeed as long as there was no railway to take people to a London Theatre, the leading actors and actresses often played on the boards of the Windsor Theatre. I could reel off a list of names – great names in their day, but now sadly forgotten.   But here's one you will recognise: when a boy I heard Paganini himself play at the Public Rooms in High-street, Windsor. His speed and agility on the violin was like no other before or since.

As a musical amateur myself, I like to think I achieved a reasonable standard on the violin and played for many years in the Windsor Society under the baton of Sir George Elvey, and frequently acted as leader of the orchestra. Here is the painting I did of Sir George and his wife Mary

One of my earliest concert recollections is of playing in this orchestra before King William IV, and Queen Adelaide in what is now the Albert Memorial Chapel in 1837. The old King went fast asleep most of the time, but the Queen did her best to make amends by requesting one of the items to be repeated.

My father passed to the Great Studio Above in 1867, and my dear wife, Elizabeth, went to her eternal rest just three years ago. We buried her near the Anglican chapel here at Newbury Cemetery.

On the other hand, our beloved Victoria, born in the same year as myself, will outlive us all, I'm sure.

At 81, I live quietly and contentedly now here in Newbury.  Few people know me but to those who do, I like to think I have an endless fund of interesting and humorous anecdotes. And I enjoy seeing the young children who live near me and like to think they see me as a cheery friend.

When I go, as surely I must, I shall pass the interesting objects I've accumulated to my son - a set of studies of some of the gems of the collection at Windsor, made during the intervals of work, by the verbal permission of the Queen, and various interesting portraits and autographs of different members of the Royal Family.

I've been so fortunate and had a fascinating life.  Enjoy yours and marvel at God's beauty.

And God Save the Queen.

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Copyright: ©Ros Clow (FNRC)
Monologue for Herbert John Finn      Display

Herbert John Finn (1843-1922)

[Actor, about  55-65, dress ~1890 wealthy, accent – maybe traces of Suffolk]


I can see you’re wondering about the angel. She’s beautiful, isn’t she? I had her imported from Italy, you know, for my wife Margaret – just as beautiful and she passed away so young. How could it happen? Again? I was so busy with the brewery, I didn’t notice that her health was failing and I should have done. You see it had all happened before. Maybe this was my punishment?

My name’s Herbert Finn, Herbert John Finn. I spent all my life in brewing. I started off by moving from Kent to Ipswich in Suffolk, where I was apprenticed at the Ipswich Steam Brewery.  The owner of the brewery was Charles Cullingham and he looked after me really well, him and his wife Eliza. It turned out I had a real talent and was a good judge of brews, and barley and hops. When I asked to marry his oldest daughter Elizabeth he was delighted (there were seven others by then!) and offered to make me a partner in the business. We were married in 1872, bought a lovely house with a garden and conservatory and had three healthy children: Cordelia in 1875; Marion in 1877 and Dudley Charles in 1880 – I think that’s right.

I was busy in the brewery making new brews, and beginning to be active in the town and church as well. Indeed I was a Churchwarden then. We never really knew what ailed Elizabeth. She started to feel ill and took to her bed. We called the doctor who told us her liver was inflamed, hence the jaundice, and she just faded away.

So suddenly there I was with three young children, Dudley not yet two. Yes we’d had servants but Elizabeth did all the childcare herself. The Cullinghams all offered to help but Margaret, then only 24, gave up her employment as a governess and gradually took over the care of her nephew and nieces. She was easy to have around and I counted myself very lucky to have her as part of my household.

The children loved her and after I had recovered from the loss of Elizabeth I began to look forward to spending my evening hours with her after the children were in bed. It felt right for her to be there. And the obvious next step was for me to marry Margaret.

But there was one enormous problem. At that time (and up until 1907) it was illegal to marry your dead wife’s sister! I took spiritual guidance whilst carrying out my church duties and also talked to my father-in-law Charles, also, of course Maria’s father and there seemed no way forward. We either carried on as we were, which seemed almost immoral, or Margaret returned home and gave up caring for the children she loved.

The only way to evade this legal impediment was to follow in the steps of others, who had circumvented this restriction by marrying abroad, for instance the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt. When we were considering doing that Charles was taken ill with a stroke. It incapacitated him for a while after which he told me of his decision. He wanted to sell all his businesses and properties and from the proceeds give me my share so that Margaret and I could start life again as a married couple where we were not known.

I was there with Charles at the auction in London. It was very exciting – though I’d rather not go through that again! To begin with no-one seemed interested. No bid at all for two minutes, it seemed like an eternity. Then gradually the bids started. At £63,000 the hammer was just about to fall when a new gentleman interposed and went on to purchase the Brewery and all its freeholds, copyholds and leaseholds for £65,300 on behalf of Hon Ranulph Tollemache the 10th son of Lord Tollemache. What a relief!

Thinking back the Tollemaches looked after it all well. They expanded the business, eventually in 1957 combining with Cobbolds brewery, known as Tolly Cobbold, till 2002. Ridley’s took them over and they still sell Tolly beers. I wonder if they are my old recipes?

After the Brewery business was wound up I sold my house and then Margaret, the children and I stayed for a while back in my family area of Kent. We married February 10th 1889 – in London where nobody knew us. I admitted to being a widower but as far as St Philip’s Church was concerned Margaret was a spinster.

Then it was a case of waiting for a Steam Brewery to become available and it did in Newbury in 1893. The Phoenix Brewery just down the road there and I was able to buy it. Margaret was still only 35 when we came here. We moved into The Brewer’s House, and I started making changes. It felt wonderful to be back in the brewing business again after so many years waiting.

I converted the beer house into offices and the malthouse into a store for grain. I moved the malting process out to the King’s Road. We had our own transport, a large dray and a two wheeled cart, with horses of course so it was easy to move the malted grain here.

In 1893 of course everyone drank beer – children as well. It was usually safer than water. We used water in the brewery but we never called it ‘water’ – we called it ‘liquor’, always, but it came out of the well, pulled up by a triple pump and we used lots of it – to make steam- it was a steam brewery – ha!

The steam powered all the parts of the Brewery, the pumps, the grinding mill, heating the copper, keeping the fermenting tuns at the right temperature for the yeast to work. The steam was made in the Cornish Boiler on the ground floor – right next to the well – and then was piped up to the Middle Floor where we had an old engine a 1865 single cylinder horizontal steam engine to be exact, which powered all three floors of the building. That way we didn’t have to employ so many men and were able to keep it profitable. In fact six other Newbury breweries had packed up by the end of the Great War, there were only four of us left.

Though I wasn’t much use by then – I’d been bedridden for years but my son Dudley did a good job keeping everything going well.

Mind you it wasn’t just about making the beer, every brewery had what’s called tied houses. That’s pubs which sell the beer you make. The Phoenix Brewery had 29 tied houses, all part of the purchase price. Some of them are still around – and still called the same – haven’t changed their names in all these years.

The nearest is ‘The Wellington Arms’ – just down at the roundabout (what a good invention they were!), and further down Bartholomew Street  ‘ The Globe’. And out in the country ‘The Blackbird’ at Bagnor, The Carpenter’s Arms at Burghclere and The Angel at Woolhampton – maybe that’s where I found my inspiration for this angel?

I worked my men hard but we tried to be fair. They did a six day week – had Sundays off to go to church. 5.30in the morning till 7.30 at night. They had a couple of breaks for dinner and tea and they had a beer ration – a pint four times a day, the first one at six in the morning, to perk them up for the day.  All except the poor apprentice. He was our taster so his palate had to be pure, poor lad!

And we gave them presents too, Margaret used to like to help with this. They’d line up on Christmas Eve, and Good Friday for bun money. And when the Michaelmas Fair came they all got a shilling to spend at the Fair.

Of course though I gave the men time off to go to church I never did once we came here. I’m not sure if I was angry because the church law made us leave all our friends and Margaret’s family behind in Suffolk or if I had a bit if a guilty conscience.

Margaret and I didn’t have any children of our own, it just didn’t happen. But she was a real mother to Cordelia, Molly and Dudley. She was a bit older than Elizabeth had been when her health started to fail. I didn’t take it in to start with. She had pains in her belly and then she started to swell up all over. The doctor tried some strange treatment called Southey tubes – dreadful. She was so ill. It was a merciful release but she was only 43.

Was it a punishment for us breaking the law? Of course we wondered about it but neither of us regretted what we’d done. Dudley was 21 so he had had a really loving childhood albeit with his aunt and not his mother. Margaret was an angel every bit as beautiful as this one.

Thanks for listening to an old man’s ramblings. It always helps to remember.


© Ros Clow March 2012

 |  PDF version for download
Copyright: ©Ros Clow (FNRC)
Monologue for Sarah Louise Hopson      Display

It’s all right – don’t be afraid – come closer. Can you see the names on these graves? HOPSON – that’s right, that’s my name but these graves are not mine, I’m not buried here but my baby is, not here exactly but in the common graves over there. I can still remember the day in May when we buried her.

My family come from Newbury – my gran is buried here too, somewhere here, not sure where. That’s the problem, if you can’t afford a gravestone how do you remember where to put flowers and my family certainly couldn’t afford anything like that. I was named after my gran, exactly the same name. Sarah Louisa Hopson, I was the first grand-daughter but I was born hundreds of miles from here.

I was born in 1880 up in Northumberland in a very big house called Cragside. Well Dad was only a groom there but he was real proud to have been involved in the works. By the time I was born Cragside was the first house – in the WORLD- to have electricity made by water! They dammed the burn up above the house, made lakes and then used the water flowing out of the lakes to make electricity – and then they used the electricity to light the whole house. They had central heating, a lift and a Turkish bath! Not that I remember but Dad was always showing off about it!

Course once it was all working they didn’t need so many horses or grooms any more but they were thinking of doing the same thing at a castle just up the road so Dad got a job there and we all moved to Alnwick. That was where my sister Emily was born. So then there was William (named after my dad and granddad, George and Charles), me (the oldest girl) and little Emily. We always moved around a lot. By the time Walter was born we were down South again – Hungerford, and the last two sisters were born here in Newbury.

I think maybe that we came back south as Dad wasn’t too well; at least there were family around here to help. Eventually he had to go into hospital and he died before our Edie was born. So then Mum was in charge and she found work as a Charwoman – scrubbing and cleaning. As soon as they left school my brothers got jobs, William as a shop porter, then George as a grocer’s apprentice so we had some money coming in – kept us out of the workhouse! Well then it did. Course as the eldest girl I had to look after the bairns so Mum could work. It were bloody hard work but unlike some families we all made it through and went on living into the 20th century.

I was like a mother to young Edie so I knew what hard work it was and I was in no hurry to have any of my own.

Like many others I went into service. Mum was in service in Reading as a cook when she met Dad so it was in the family. By the time I was 21 I was working out of town at Wickham House, for Mr and Mrs Hancock. They had lived in India where he owned a tea plantation in Assam.  Little Lilian was born out there.  Course with the new railway along the Lambourne Valley I could still get back to see everyone when I had a half day off. It was a beautiful house, right next to the church, with two canny bairns. But I didn’t have to look after them, they had their own governess – would you believe? And we had a cook as well – and a gardener Henry, but he didn’t live in.

Those were the best years of my life living in Wickham. Mr Hancock was always writing to his mother in Bath and his brother Charles and he had lots of friends back in India. I used to get sent to the post office a lot, and that’s where I met Louisa. We were the same age and we became firm friends. Her dad, James, was the postmaster and he was also the bandmaster. He even had a room built on the back of his cottage, Sunnyside, as a place for the band to practise. He played the cornet and his brother Teddy and nephew Tom were in the band too – and Louisa did all the paperwork for them. Course they all had jobs as well; some were thatchers and builders and lots worked in the brick kiln up the road.

Every year on St Swithun’s day, that’s July the 15th the band took the lead in the celebrations. First a parade then a service in the church then dinner at the Five Bells with speeches and toasts, sports all afternoon and other amusements and stalls and always a dance in the evening. I reckon a lot of babes were born round about Easter in Wickham!!

The biggest celebration I can remember was the relief of Mafeking, that was in 1900. Our band was asked to lead the celebrations in Newbury. There were thousands of people there. Everyone in the house was allowed to go into Newbury. First there were a procession starting at the Wharf, not too far from the station. The fire brigade was in charge and they had decorated their appliances. There were torches and fireworks, just as well the brigade was around! And people dressed in all sorts of costumes. Quite a few Baden-Powells cos he was the hero of the whole thing. Louisa was passing the collecting tin for the band and I helped her and it felt like everyone was cheering us.

Course there were sad times too. I remember when the old queen died, 1901 that were. They rang the bells in the church all day. Mr Hancock made me take refreshments across to keep them going. Somehow they’d made them quieter than usual as a sign of respect they told me.


[long pause while she considers how to continue]


It was in 1911 that my troubles started. I don’t think I meant to find myself in the family way. We had buried my lovely gran here in 1908. Maybe I wanted another Sarah Louisa to follow in her footsteps?

I went into the Newbury Workhouse long afore my time, in the January. To begin with I didn’t mind it at all. I was used to doing laundry so Emily had me helping out. They were just installing new washing machines –would you believe?


I was only five months gone so it was just like normal. They even gave me material to make a couple of new frocks to fit me.


Some of the people who came to us at the workhouse were really kind. Miss Talbot was lovely. She worked so hard to help the children.  That young Matilda Gale – she was sent off to the seaside for weeks – Miss Talbot saw to that. And her and Dr Heywood made sure all the children in the whole Union were vaccinated. That were to stop them catching smallpox. And Reverend Legg from St John’s church down the road used to come up and do a service on Sundays – even for us poor sinners

Course it were a time of change Old Age Pensions had come in so they stopped paying Out-Relief for them over 70. That saved a bit of money.

We wouldn’t starve there. I used to watch the supplies arrive. They was all the names I knew from the town: Gould’s the grocers, Whitethorn the baker for bread and flour, Piper for cake – yes we had cake sometimes, Adey for coal, Kimbers, Midwinters - and then Hopson’s, my own name, but no relation , more’s the pity.

They has a lying-in ward there – birthplace of bastards –that’s what it said on the birth certificate – under ‘name of father’ -  B… bastard. Well I suppose that’s right he were a bastard, wanted nothing to do with it once he knew I were “with child”.

In the event I didn’t call her Sarah I called her Alice – such a pretty little thing. She were born on the 2nd May 1911. Though I was gone 30 it weren’t too bad and to start with I thought maybe things would be all right. The guardians had paid for one young woman to emigrate to Australia last year. Maybe I could do that? And start all over again, pretend I were a widow?

Alice fed well and didn’t sleep too bad – I loved her so much. She were about two weeks old when it all began to go wrong. Her cry seemed different and she weren’t feeding so well – but I remembered little Edie had her moments. The Nurse Byard started to look a bit worried. She went to give her a cuddle and it made baby Alice cry more. It was all over in a day – she cried and cried – which was terrible and then she stopped – which was worse. She just lay there and faded away. She died when she was just 17 days old. Dr Thompson said it was meningitis.

So I came down here for another funeral, straight down the road from the workhouse.

I’m not sure what happened then. I just didn’t want to go on living. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I was so tired. I stayed in the workhouse till the end of July and then they sent me to the asylum. Miss Talbot took me and she promised she’d come and visit, which she did for many years. I had no home to go to and there were lots of others there just like me though sometimes their babies had been taken away for adoption.

I just stayed on, got used to it, helped in the laundry again and lived to a ripe old age. I missed my brothers and sisters of course - it was too far for them to come and visit much. Charles  (two years older than me)married and then served in the Great War and Walter (four years younger than me) –he married and got one of those lovely new houses in St George’s Avenue. His son Stanley died early though when he was 22 in 1935 but they got him a proper headstone with a big cross on it – it’s over there behind the Lodge.

I lived on till I was 78. I died suddenly, gave them a bit of a shock – they buried me in Wallingford near the Asylum. They called it Fairmile Hospital by then. And do you know they buried me on exactly the same day of the year as Alice Annie was buried here 47 years later. I never forgot her you know – my own little bairn.



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Copyright: ©Ros Clow (FNRC)

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