Joanna Lumley honours pioneer of Victorian acting in Kent

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Tom Savvides

Joanna Lumley has taken centre stage in Kent after becoming the patron of a unique theatre.

The actress was given a tour of the Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place near Tenterden.

It was followed by a visit to the neighbouring museum, which used to be the home of Dame Ellen Terry, a famous British actress from the Victorian era.

As well as become patron, Joanna officially opened a display of dresses belonging to Ellen Terry.

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Smallhythe Place has been turned into a museum by the National Trust, dedicated to the Victorian actress's memory.

Joanna says: "She [Ellen] just had some magnetic quality, her great skills as an actress I think is what it was. She was a huge star. And for those days, very well paid. So she'd be on what we call today, the A-list."

Ellen Terry Credit: ITV Meridian
Credit: ITV Meridian

Ellen Terry was able to buy lavish outfits because, back in the mid 1800s, she was earning thousands of pounds a week.

In 1882, Ellen Terry appeared on stage in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, for which she was paid £200 per week. That is the equivalent of £24,000 today, making her one of the highest earning women in the country at the time.

Credit: ITV Meridian

Joanna Lumley says she plans to perform at the Barn Theatre.

She says: "I'm only really the patron of the Barn Theatre, I can't claim the whole house, although later I'd like to. But the Barn Theatre next year I'm certainly going to come and do something live down here to raise money or to do a performance of some kind. It will be such a privilege. It's tiny and it's as cold as charity, because it's a real barn, but everybody knows that so everybody could come rugged up and sitting warmly."

Joanna Lumley spent much of her childhood in this part of Kent, where she will return next year to take centre stage at the Barn Theatre.

Credit: ITV Meridian