Friday, 31 October 2014

The Ghostly Lady of Margate Theatre, Kent

The Ghostly Lady of Margate Theatre, Kent


The Theatre Royal at Margate was, in its day, one of the finest in England. Once the railway was built vast crowds of Londoners came down to Margate on day trips, weekend breaks and extended holidays. They brought with them pockets bulging with money to spend and long leisure hours in which to spend them. The large, 2,000 seat Theatre Royal was one of the places they came to spend that money.

The actor-manager here was the redoubtable Sarah Thorne who had been a big name on the London stage before in 1874 she bought up the Margate theatre and established a company of leading actors which put on some of the finest performances in the kingdom. Miss Thorne worked tirelessly. She not only supervised the productions but acted in them herself. She would also be on hand to welcome any guests of quality and went out of her way to tempt to her theatre any famous people visiting the town.

By 1899 the theatre was enjoying great critical acclaim as well as commercial success. That was when Miss Thorne died suddenly at the early age of 62. Soon afterwards the theatre lost its leading actors and reputation and the place slid slowly into being little more than a not very good provincial rep.

It was not to be expected that the doughty Miss Thorne could tolerate such a decline. Before long her ghost began to walk. Throwing open the doors at the rear of the auditorium she would sweep down the central aisle in one of her impressive Victorian evening gowns. As she approached the stage the phantom would raise a hand as if to admonish an actor to do better or to give some stage direction, but would vanish before she spoke a word. So regular had this ghost become by 1914 that it was becoming a nuisance. But the spectral Miss Thorne could do nothing to halt the decline or her beloved theatre. By the late 1930s the theatre had closed. It has since been a cinema, a furniture store, a warehouse and is now a bingo hall. But Miss Thorne still walks.

She seems oblivious to the fact that there are no actors nor stage hands for her to order about. But then ghosts so often seem to take no notice of the changing times and surroundings. They seem endlessly to replay events that they knew when alive. And so Miss Thorne carries on.

from HAUNTED PLACES OF KENT by Rupert Matthews

Get your copy HERE

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