From Portables to Palaces

... being a blog dedicated to British Theatre History in general, and to my late father, Bertram Dench, in particular. Bertram started as a child actor in portable theatres at the end of the 19th century. By the time he retired in the late fifties, he had achieved success in the West End, toured the country, and worked with many famous and respected actors.

My Photo
Location: St Ives, Cambs, United Kingdom

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An introduction

It's probably time for some explanations and introductions. My father, like many actors, was an inveterate hoarder of memorabilia and ephemera. I suppose it might have something to do with the acting lifestyle: living a life where you are always on the move, staying in different towns day after day, week after week, probably leaves you with the kind of disposition that wants to accumulate memories, to ensure that nothing, as far as possible, is lost. Having inherited some of that disposition from him, I can sympathise.

But I digress. During his life my father gathered a remarkable amount of memorabilia: photographs, cuttings, programmes, letters, it's all there. He even left an incomplete set of memoirs that have proved a fascinating source of memories, infarmation, and anecdotes for me. It has long been my intention to do something useful with all this, but what to do? - that was the problem. The amount of information always seemed too vast, the amount of organisation required too insurmountable, that I ended up doing virtually nothing.
And then I had the idea of putting stuff into a blog. That way, I wouldn't have to worry about the structure myself, at least for the time being. While it wouldn't quite have the diary structure that many blogs do, I would at least be able to get some of this down.

So here we are. This blog will contain snippets about my father, about the people he worked with, and about a theatrical world that is long gone. There won't be much in the way of order, but what there will be, hopefully, are a lot of good stories, a lot of nice pictures, and some interesting information for anyone interested in British theatre history. It's going to be fun, so I hope that you'll join me.

One last thing: let's put some dates on this, just to place it in historical context. My father was born in 1891, and died in 1980. His first part on the professional stage was when he was 4, anad he spent his childhood years working portable theatres and stocks with his parents and brother and sister. He retired from the stage in 1958. In all that time, I don't think he was out of work for more than six months: as I said, he worked in a theatrical world that has all but disappeared today!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

This is a publicity photo of my father, probably taken some time in the mid-thirties, though I can't be sure. This image would have been much used at the time, in theatre foyers and photo-boxes outside the theatre, and so I thought it would be a suitable photo to use for the first photo in this blog.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Welcome to my latest blog. I expect this blog to get underway properly
over the Christmas period, 2004-5. No real content yet.