Panto for the Workhouse in 1888

Photo:Mrs Ellen Nye Chart

Mrs Ellen Nye Chart

Mrs Nye Chart arranged special performances

By Maureen Brand, North Laine resident

When you next go to the Theatre Royal, take a look at the illuminated address, framed and hanging on the wall half way up the stairs to the Royal Circle.

Special pantomime performance

It dates from 28th April 1888 and records the appreciation of the staff and inmates (their term) of Brighton Workhouse, which was in the building we know today as Brighton General Hospital. Every year Mrs Nye Chart, proprietor of the theatre, arranged a special performance of the annual Christmas pantomime for them. It must have been a great source of colour and entertainment in what they acknowledge as the 'necessarily dull routine of workhouse life', which we today would see as a severely ordered regime. The address records their fears that many inmates would be within the 'world of shadows' by the time of the next pantomime.

Text of the Address

The text of the Address (as it appears on the testimonial) is as follows:


The Proprietress of the Theatre Royal, Brighton
Mrs H Nye Chart


of the Brighton Workhouse wish to express to you our grateful Sense of the Kindness which has prompted You for Many Years past to invite us to see your Annual Christmas Pantomime.

How eagerly the visit is Anticipated by Inmates for weeks beforehand and how it stands forth As One of the few Bright Spots in the necessarily dull Routine of Workhouse Life can be realised by none but those who live among them and sadly witness how little joy enters into their Lives.

Were each one of Us (upwards of Eleven Hundred in number) To sign this TESTIMONIAL, it would become of inordinate bulk and of no greater value.

WE have, therefore, selected Eight Officers and Eight Inmates to sign on Our Behalf: trusting that You may live Many Long and Happy Years to gaze upon it with Pride and Pleasure.

Many of Us will - on the next recurrence of your Invitation - Be in the World of Shadows : But when we meet at the Last Grand Transformation Scene These Things which you have done to the poor and friendless Will be written in LETTERS OF GOLD above your Head.

Dated this 28th Day of April, One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Eight.
Signed on behalf of 38 Officers and 1080 Inmates:

Officers:  Edward Sattin, Emma Sattin, Edith Sattin, Arthur Sattin, William Davis, Rose Davis, Berry McMartin, Mr Patching

Inmates:  Samuel Rutherford, Alexander Hambelton, Robert Wright, Henry Richman, Elizabeth J. Passaqham, April Aldridge, Elizabeth Herbert, Louise Parsons

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 193, July/August 2008]

This page was added on 03/08/2008.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.