Life on the London stage celebrated by City archives

The fascinating lives of some of London’s most popular entertainers provide the focus of an exhibition at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) next month.

Life on the London Stage, which opens at the City of London Corporation-owned LMA in Clerkenwell on 10 July, will use documents, prints, and photographs from its extensive archives to present the stars’ lives from the days of Elizabethan theatre to the 20th century.

The free exhibition puts the spotlight on a wide range of celebrated performers, including Edmund Kean, Dame Ellen Terry, Sir Henry Irving, Eliza (Madam) Vestris and Charlie Chaplin. It includes documents recording the tragic life of Edmund Shakespeare, William’s forgotten brother; Sir Laurence Olivier’s orders for bespoke boots made by one of London’s most prestigious firms; and letters written by Carry On actor, Kenneth Williams, to a young fan.

Graham Packham, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:

“Some surprising finds and extraordinary stories have come to light during the LMA’s research for ‘Life on the London Stage’, including how Edmund Shakespeare, of whom many of us know nothing, followed his older brother to London to work as an actor. 

"Visitors will also learn about the houses owned by Nell Gwyn, one of London’s greatest rags-to-riches stories; how music hall star, Marie Lloyd, alarmed the authorities with her routines; and Kenneth Williams’ advice about how he dealt with school bullies.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages London Metropolitan Archives, invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of culture after the government, the BBC, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Notes for Editors:

Life on the London Stage runs from 10 July to 6 December at London Metropolitan Archives, EC1. Admission is FREE. A selection of images is available for editorial purposes from Andrew Buckingham from the City of London Corporation’s media team (see below).

For further information, please contact:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / 07795 333060 /

About the London Metropolitan Archives:

London Metropolitan Archives is a public research centre which specialises in the history of London. The majority of items in an archive are unique, handwritten documents which cannot be seen anywhere else. LMA cares for, and provide, access to, the historical archives of businesses, schools, hospitals charities and all manner of other organisations from the London area. With over 100 km of books, maps, photographs, films and documents dating back to 1067 in our strong rooms, it is proud to provide access to one of the finest city archives in the world. Its users have a wide range of research interests, including family, community and local history, and we work with students, artists, producers and architects.

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB

Admission: Free, check websites for opening times.

The nearest underground stations are Farringdon and Angel.

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the 'Square Mile'. In addition, the City Corporation has three roles:

• We support London’s communities by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on economic regeneration, education and skills projects. In addition, the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust makes grants of around £20 million annually to charitable projects across London and we also support education with three independent schools, three City Academies, a primary school and the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

• We also help look after key London’s heritage and green spaces including Tower Bridge, Museum of London, Barbican Arts Centre, City gardens, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, and important ‘commons’ in south London.

• We also support and promote the ‘City’ as a world-leading financial and business hub, with outward and inward business delegations, high-profile civic events and research-driven policies all reflecting a long-term approach.

See for more details.