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THM/242 - Archive of Sandra Wells, Ventriloquist and Pantomime Artist
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Archive of Sandra Wells, Ventriloquist and Pantomime Artist

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This material is held at V&A Department of Theatre and Performance
Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242
Dates of Creation ca. 1934-1970
Name of Creator Sandra Wells
Language of Material English
Physical Description 86 files

Scope and Content

This archive contains a quantity of cuttings, photographs, programmes and audio recording all relating to the career of Sandra Wells in pantomime and Variety.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sandra Wells was born Ruth Lilian Clarke in Torquay in 1906. She was a versatile performer whose career on the variety stage encompassed music dance, ventriloquism and pantomime. She learnt her craft at the Theatre Royal Margate, and on tour with the last travelling folding theatre in the country, owned by Inmann's. Upon going solo she became the successful flamenco dancer Janita. After marrying Mark Bennett, director of the Bennett Brothers Variety Show in 1934 (they divorced in 1940) she adopted the stage name Joy Wilby. As Joy Wilby she began her career performing a touring song and dance act and during the second world war she performed with ENSA, playing xylophone and saxophone to the troops in England and, after D-Day to bases in Germany. After the war she adopted the stage name Sandra Wells and as such she became one of the very few successful female ventriloquists, developing an original act with her doll Horace Higgs and her two glove puppets Ernie and Elsie. In the 1950s and 1960s she specialised in pantomime as a pantomime cat, appearing amongst others with Richard Hearne, Bud Flanigan and Tommy Trinder. Her second husband, the violinist William Mclean, died in 1989 and Sandra Wells died on the 6th February, 1992.

Arrangement

This archive has been arranged into nine series, those being:

  • THM/242/1- Photographs
  • THM/242/2- Press Cuttings
  • THM/242/3- Programmes
  • THM/242/4- Sheet Music
  • THM/242/5- Audio Recording
  • THM/242/6- Games and tricks explained and handwritten by Sandra Wells
  • THM/242/7- Books and booklets
  • THM/242/8- Performance papers
  • THM/242/9- Stage props
  • THM/242/10- Personal papers

Conditions Governing Access

Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Conditions Governing Use

Archive material may not be photocopied. Arrangements can be made to photograph material in the search room using non-flash photography.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Sonia Murray, daughter of Sandra Wells, in July 1992.

Accruals

No further material will be added to this collection.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Sandra Wells may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photograph files.

Two vent figures (museum numbers S.2678-2010 and S.2679-2010) were also acquired from Sandra Wells, which were used for the double act Ernie and Elsie, performed by Sandra Wells. Further information about these two dolls can be found on http://collections.vam.ac.uk/.

Please ask for details.

Cataloguing Info

Title Archive of Sandra Wells, Ventriloquist and Pantomime Artist
Creation Created by intern using the cheshire for archives ead creation tool 2010-10-22
Revisions

Photographs

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1
Dates of Creation ca. 1934-1970
Physical Description 7 files

Scope and Content

Photographs which date from the early part of Sandra Wells career when she was dancing and playing the xylophone to the later part of her career when she performed as a pantomime cat.


Photographs of Sandra Wells performing as a pantomime cat.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/1
Dates of Creation ca. 1950-1969
Physical Description 21 items

Photographs of Sandra Wells performing her ventriloquism act with the ventriloquist doll Horace Higgs.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/2
Dates of Creation ca. 1940s
Physical Description 7 items

Photographs of Sandra Wells performing her ventriloquism act with the glove puppets Ernie and Elsie.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/3
Dates of Creation ca. 1940s
Physical Description 4 items

Photographs of Sandra Wells in various different performances.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/4
Dates of Creation ca. 1940-1970
Physical Description 10 items

Scope and Content

Also includes 2 photographs of her dancing when she was known as Ruth Lilian Clarke (labelled).


Photographs of Sandra Wells performing with a xylophone and saxophone.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/5
Dates of Creation ca. 1939-1945
Physical Description 5 items

Scope and Content

Sandra Wells was also using the stage name Joy Wilby at this time.


Large portrait in colour of Sandra Wells

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/6
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 1 item

Photographs of Mark Bennett, first husband of Sandra Wells.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/1/7
Dates of Creation 1934-1940
Physical Description 5 items

Scope and Content

Sandra Wells and Mark Bennett were married in 1934 and divorced in 1940.


Press Cuttings

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/2
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 3 files

Scope and Content

These press cuttings are from both English and German newspapers which have commented on the performances by Sandra Wells/ Joy Wilby.


Press cuttings relating to Sandra Wells and her ventriloquist acts.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/2/1
Dates of Creation 1958-1965
Physical Description 8 items

Press cuttings relating to Sandra Wells performing as a pantomime cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/2/2
Dates of Creation ca. 1950-1969
Physical Description 26 items

Scope and Content

Sandra Wells performed as the pantomime cat in Dick Whittington and Puss in Boots productions.


Press cuttings relating to Joy Wilby and Sandra Wells in various performances.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/2/3
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 2 items

Programmes

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 2 files

Scope and Content

These files contain programmes collected by Sandra Wells which show both her performances as a pantomime cat and a ventriloquist. There are also programmes which list Joy Wilby as the performer.


Programmes of performances in which Sandra Wells plays the pantomime cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 14 items

Scope and Content

These programmes show performances in which Sandra Wells performed as the pantomime cat. They are arranged in alphabetical order.


Cardiff New Theatre, Puss In Boots

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/1
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Chester Royalty Theatre, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/2
Dates of Creation 1959-1960
Physical Description 1 item

County Theatre Haverfordwest, Dick Whittington And His Cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/3
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Granada Brixton, Puss in Boots

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/4
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Hippodrome Stockton, Dick Whittington And His Cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/5
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Lewisham Concert Hall, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/6
Dates of Creation 1969
Physical Description 1 item

New Theatre Oxford, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/7
Dates of Creation 1966
Physical Description 1 item

Opera House Workington, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/8
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Pavilion Theatre Glasgow, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/9
Dates of Creation 1962
Physical Description 1 item

Playhouse Bury St. Edmunds, Dick Whittington And His Cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/10
Dates of Creation 1956
Physical Description 1 item

Playhouse Theatre Colchester, Dick Whittington And His Cat

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/11
Dates of Creation 1955
Physical Description 1 item

Royalty Theatre Chester, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/12
Dates of Creation ca. 1950s-1960s
Physical Description 1 item

Sunderland Empire Theatre, Puss in Boots

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/13
Dates of Creation 1965
Physical Description 1 item

Swansea Grand Theatre, Dick Whittington

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/1/14
Dates of Creation 1967
Physical Description 1 item

Programmes of Sandra Wells ventriloquist act, programmes which list Joy Wilby and other roles played by Sandra Wells.

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/2
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 8 items

Scope and Content

These programmes were collected by Sandra Wells and show the performances she starred in with her ventriloquist act. There are also programmes which list Joy Wilby as appearing. They are arranged alphabetically by the name of the theatre and also state the name of the performance, after the theatre, in the title if it was listed.


Bournemouth Follies

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/2/1
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 1 item

Scope and Content

Sandra Wells is listed as playing Connie Olive.


Felixstowe Three Arts Club, The Sign of Good Entertainment

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/242/3/2/2
Dates of Creation ca. mid 20th century
Physical Description 1 item

Scope and Content

The performance is listed as The Sign of Good Entertainment and Sandra Wells plays Sylvia.