‘Jersey Lily’ a woman of her time who captured audiences in Great Yarmouth
- Credit: Archant
Since the 1850s, Great Yarmouth has been a popular holiday destination.
Audiences packed out the town’s theatres and music halls including the visitors who flocked to see golden sands each summer, feasting on the rich hauls of fish from the sea.
The town and port attracted the rich and famous too, leading to the building of “lodging-houses” and hotels to cater for their special visitors who demanded the best.
Whilst writing his novel David Copperfield in 1847, Charles Dickens stayed at the grand Royal Hotel, which had opened in 1840 in Marine Parade and originally called the Victoria Hotel.
But one of its most famous guests was the Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII – who was a regular visitor with his mistress, the beautiful Lillie Langtry, throughout the 1890s.
In her time, actress socialite Lillie Langtry - billed as Jersey Lily - was known as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Lillie and her Prince, fondly nicknamed Bertie, had first tasted the opulence in the early 1870s at Shaddingfield Lodge described as a gentleman’s holiday retreat, which stands today as the Grosvenor Casinos in Marine Parade.
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No doubt the Prince’s mother, Queen Victoria was not amused by her eldest son’s dalliance.
It was convenient for when Lillie Langtry was on stage at the Royal Aquarium - today the Hollywood Cinema.
Bertie probably had fond memories of the Lodge as he later stayed there after his coronation as Edward VII.
Lillie had also fascinated audiences at the 1898-built Hippodrome on the seafront.
Another leading Victorian actress was Ellen Terry whose daughter Edith Craig was a brilliant costume designer.
In the published memoirs of Edith, Edy was a Lady by Ann Rachlin, Lillie Langtry is described as being “always very generous but she did not get on too well with her fellow actors in the theatre.”
Edith writes: “Although she was not a very good actress, she adored the theatre, as if she had not, she could not have lived in it and worked in as she did.”
Edith Craig went on to follow her mother’s profession on stage and in silent movies working alongside many illustrious names of the day including Lillie Langtry.
Today, Lillie Langtry would rank alongside some of film and TV’s most glamorous and sought-after stars but Ann Rachlin said she wouldn’t dare compare her to any one of them.
“She was unique and very definitely a woman of her time - not ours!
“It was a different world when Lillie bestowed her charms, both on and off stage.
“In her heyday there were different rules and different customs.”
Edy Was a Lady by Ann Rachin, published 2011 by Troubador Publishing.