A TREASURE trove of Northwich’s pantomime history has been found by a woman clearing her family home.
Valerie England has uncovered a host of her childhood costumes from Kitty Oakes’ pantomimes at Northwich Memorial Hall between 1961 and 1964, as well as programmes and photographs from the performances and rehearsals.
She found them while clearing her mum and dad’s house, in Mayfield Drive, before it is sold this summer.
“I’ve got such fantastic memories,” said the 62-year-old.
“I started ballet dancing when I was about five and went for classes at Kitty Oakes’, where Joan Pierpoint is now.
“Then I took up stage as well and the pantomimes started when I was about nine.
“They happened every January after Christmas so it was something to look forward to.
“It was a thrill for a little girl.
“We rehearsed and it was on for four or five nights.
“After it all finished I used to cry in bed because I was so upset it was finished, I enjoyed it so much.”
As a member of Mid Cheshire School of Dancing, Valerie was in Babes in the Wood in 1961, Dick Whittington in 1962, Aladdin in 1963 and Cinderella in 1964.
Each cast member was fitted for their costumes, which were made professionally.
Valerie, from Castle, said her discovery was particularly poignant after the demolition of the memorial hall.
“It’s all those memories of what was there,” she said.
“All those famous bands that played there – we were on the stage where the Beatles had been.
“I was a little bit too young to appreciate the Beatles but it was still quite something.
“The dressing room was underneath the stage and was very claustrophobic.
“The committee ladies did all our makeup, we wore grease paint, eye makeup and lipstick.
“There was grease paint everywhere.”
Valerie’s mum and dad, Renée and Edward Percy England, who have since passed away, were both on the committee and have kept reviews from the Guardian and Chronicle as well as the costumes and photographs.
Valerie is looking to move away from the area and said if anyone would like the costumes they should email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Did you take part in one of Kitty Oakes’ pantomimes or attend Mid Cheshire School of Dancing? Do you have any memories or photographs to share? Contact the Guardian by ringing 01606 813624 or email email@example.com.
VALERIE has also discovered her mum’s wedding dress while clearing the house.
The story of her parent’s meeting and marriage is particularly romantic.
Her mum Renée was French and lived in the Middle East during the Second World War when her dad Edward Percy, known as Percy, was a sergeant in the Army, posted in the Middle East.
Valerie said: “They met and fell madly in love but when he came home on leave all her friends said ‘you’ll never see your English sergeant again’.
“But he went back with a wedding dress and a wedding ring in his kit bag and they got married in Beruit.”
The couple bought their house in Mayfield Drive, in Cuddington, when it was newly built.
Percy went on to run EP England Painting Contractor and House Decorator, which became a well-known painting and decorating firm in the area.