Theatrical Memorabilia Performing Arts Collection Fred & Joshua Mead


For the past 50 years, I have been collecting memorabilia relating to the Performing Arts. The Collection comprises of approximately 8,000 items relating to Theatre, Opera, Ballet, Magic, Music Hall, Pantomime, 'Mystery' Plays, English Folk Drama, Kabuki, Noh, Guignol, Circus, Fairground and Puppetry.

The Collection also houses items relating to Folklore, Morris Dance, Mumming, other British Traditional customs, Krampus, together with Christmas, Easter and Halloween memorabilia and even Witchcraft! 

My son, Josh, is also an avid theatre enthusiast and helps to maintain and collate the collection.  He studied Technical Theatre at the Brit School and currently works at The Royal Opera House as a Flys Automation Technician.


We should be delighted to hear from fellow collectors or enthusiasts of the Performing Arts.
Fred and Josh Mead. Upminster, Essex UK

Member of APAC

[Association of Performing Arts Collections]

Click here to send us an email. We would love to hear from you!

Josh's Instagram

A link with the Theatrical Past

I think the thrill of a theatrical evening begins the moment you secure your ticket and lasts until the final curtain call, or possibly longer. 

Theatrical performances are by their very nature, ephemeral experiences , that is what makes them so exciting. While each performance is expected to adhere to; the same text, movements, choreography and direction, it is undeniable that every performance possesses a unique essence making sure that no two performances are identical. In some way I believe it makes the experience personal to you.  

Weather it’s a Musical, Grand Opera, Mime or Ballet, your emotions can be affected in one way or another. Ultimately the goal is to be entertained and experience emotions. Happy, sad or a mixture of both!
As the final curtain falls and the cheers and clapping dissolve, it’..s time for the trudge home, probably whilst looking at your programme. But for some of us (the theatrical ‘anoraks’! ) this isn’t quite enough. 

Some of us (I guess not many of us?!) try to perpetuate that theatrical ‘magic’ for a little longer. This is a hard thing to achieve, but perhaps possible by collecting and preserving Theatrical Souvenirs.  

Not just the ubiquitous programme, but maybe a souvenir pen or badge bought at the theatre, or for the more dedicated, a personal artefact connected with the performance; A piece of costume or prop used by the actor that very night! These otherwise insignificant items then become the only other tangible evidence of a theatrical memory or experience.  

Happily, others before me have also collected and saved some amazing mementoes. However trite these little items may have seemed at the time, they have now, to some, become valued and cherished theatrical relics, providing a small  connection to the theatre of the past.

Image: Exhibition of some of the author's collection at the Brentwood Theatre, Essex, 2010

Exhibition of some of our collection at the Brentwood Theatre, Essex, 2010

The collection includes:-;

Circus Clown’s costume worn by Jackie Sloan, Romeo costume worn by Rudolf Nureyev,  table drape used by Houdini, A 'production box' used by Chung Ling Soo, Charles Stratton's Calling Card, George Robey’s Walking Cane, water colour by Dan Leno, costume worn by Joan Sutherland in Faust, Antique Punch & Judy Puppets, Wayang Puppets, a wooden toy theatre dating from 1900,  letter written by Joseph Grimaldi, Ellen Terry’s stage necklace, costumes from the Royal Opera & Ballet, costume worn by Conchita Supervia, John Ringling’s walking cane, brass plaque that hung in David Devant’s hospital room in 1937, fan used by Nellie Melba, chair from Richard Wagner's House, Anna Pavlova's shoe stretchers, Ballet Russes costumes, Tito Gobbi's Scarpia Tie and belt buckle worn as Rodrigo and costume worn in Simon Boccanegra, 1671 Drury Lane theatre pass, a piece of metal ‘rescued’ from the demolished Alhambra Theatre, London, wooden stage dagger used by Edwin Booth,  a shawl and shoes worn by Gertie Gitana, costume worn by Florrie Forde, caricatures drawn by Enrico Caruso, a silk stage drape from  The Great Raymond's magic show,  Parchment scroll presented to  Henry Irving at the Tremont Theatre,  Boston, in 1894, pedestal used by Marcel Marceau in "The Mask  Maker",  the last [an un-published] photo taken of Aristied Bruant, costume worn by Yasmine Smart, 'Neon' sword as swallowed by Hannibal Hellmurto, costume worn by Anastasia IV in "the Circus of Horrors", original nails and wood fragment from Anne Hathaway's cottage, Royal Italian Opera costumes [c1880];,  autograph of Paolo Pergetti-the last castrato to sing on the London stage, A 19th Century Mummer’s Horse skull [the skull was left behind at Hooton Pagnell Hall, Doncaster, after a group of Mummers had performed at the house],  Morris Dancer Tatter costumes, ceramic pots made on stage during the 1914 production of Chu Chin Chow; head dress worn by Beryl Grey; Ross Adam Sanger’s Clown cap, tin plate from Francis Willard & Glynn Falkenstein’s “Spirit Cabinet”, Bertram Mills Circus memorabilia, Billy Smart Jnr. Circus costume, 60 original gouache designs [c 1910] for Madame Butterfly, souvenir silver posey holder for the Command Performance of Money at Drury Lane 1911, vintage Indonesian Barong Mask, Fanning deck used by Cardini, Master William Betty medal, First edition of Philip Astley’s book, - “Astleys’ System of Equestrian Education”, jewellery worn in Aida by Beniamino Gigli plus a bolero worn by Gigli in Un Ballo in Maschera, Riding crop used by Eva Turner in Un Ballo in 1938, Ring worn by Constance Shacklock in The Sound of Music, Sash worn by John Hanson in The Student Prince, stage sword used by Walter Midgley, Walking cane owned by the English bass Robert Radford,  Jack Earl souvenir ring, Joanna Southcott refutation leaflet 1815, Bud Flanagan’s straw boater, Barbette (Van der Clyde Broodway) ostrich fan used at Bertram Mills Circus Olympia, Lord of Haxey Hood Staff of Office 2008, a metal plate taken from the Armadillo’s cage at Bostock & Wombwell’s menagerie 1932,  York Mystery Play- Angel costume 2006,  Billy McComb’s thumb tip collection, Table Drape used by Okito (Theo Bamberg), a tail hair from Bertram Mills Circus elephant ‘Manjoulah’, a Russian banknote with original pen & ink drawing by Bakst of Ida Rubinstein – the note also autographed by Debussy [the note was once owned by Colette], Liberace’s rhinestone broach and jewelled bow tie, Jacket worn by Kalanag (Helmut Schreiber); watercolour by Louis Weirter once owned by Chung Ling Soo,

 medal presented to Edmund Kean by the Philanthropic Institution 1827, Tosca- a unique silk programme presented to Milka Ternina at Covent Garden 1900,  vintage wooden Kent Hooden Horse, Billy Waters [King of the Beggers- c1778-1823] plaster figure, Firebird- headdress from Sadler’s Wells Ballet c1954, waistcoat worn by Geraint Evans as Dappertutto,  Isaac Van Ambrugh- blue ceramic jug 1845, The Great Raymond [Maurice Raymond Saunders 1877-1948] silk stage drape, scroll presented to Henry Irving at the Tremont Theatre Boston 1894, autograph of Frederic Gerard (Pere Fede) of the Lapin Agile, Cinderella’s slippers from Old Vic 2007, Fairground wooden pillars from  Waltzer owned by Randall Taylor of Scotland,  Derek Hammond-Stroud’s waistcoat worn as Fanninal, Denys Ilchenko [Hercules-Circus strongman] shirts worn in performance and  two bent 6” nails, MS  notebook on singing exercises by the German soprano Frieda Hempel, drum used in the 1923 production of Madame Pompadour autographed by Evelyn Laye, Pantomime costume worn by Berwick Kayler, Silver plate presented by Ellen Kean to John Harley, Agatha Walker ceramic figures, Britannia Coconut Dancer costume, Harry Blackstone’s stage assistant’s costume, Harry Blackstone stage shirt, piece of cloth from “The Earl of Rone’s” horse,  Vintage  Pantomime Harlequinade Clown’s costume, a lock of hair from the Operatic Contralto Louise Homer, stage jewellery worn by Tetrazzini, 78rpm records of artists such as Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt, Caruso, Melba, Tamagno, and the castrato Alessandro Moreschi.

Folklore, Morris Dance, Krampus Memorabilia.

Image: Professor Ronald Hutton CBE FSA FRHistS FLSW FBA at the Animal Guising and the Kent Hooden Horse Exhibition (conceived and organised by James Frost), Maidstone Museum 2023, with three items from our collection.

Professor Ronald Hutton CBE FSA FRHistS FLSW FBA at the Animal Guising and the Kent Hooden Horse Exhibition (conceived and organised by James Frost), Maidstone Museum 2023, with three items from our collection.

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