1 Jun 2023

Esteemed readers of the BOV Blog, I ask you this: 

When considering which departments are the most integral to maintaining the fine reputation of Bristol Old Vic, I presume that Producing, Marketing or perhaps Development might be your top assumptions?  

Well, this (unnamed) employee is here to make the case for Heritage probably being the most important department that exists today and indeed at any point over the theatre’s 257 year history. Hear me out…

We, in the Heritage department, are the custodians of the historic, star-studded, scandalous, often problematic and exceptionally unlikely history of the longest-continuously-running-theatre-in-the-English-speaking-world. 

Top that!

Occasionally, these magical and mortal stories from our past reach us when we least expect them, in the form of donations from YOU, the general public. Clearing out your attics, sorting through your boxes, you stumble across materials relating to our heritage out in the wild and dutifully return them to us.

Until today we’ve selfishly been hoarding these tiny moments of joy to ourselves but no more! 

Without further ado, distinguished readers, the heritage department brings you our BRAND NEW feature:


Kicking us off is an original Victorian whalebone crinoline petticoat...

the crinoline in question...

Historical Significance: 8/10

The crinoline petticoat is iconic.

Long before the miniskirt liberated ladies’ legs, crinoline was laying the groundwork. Georgian ladies were restricted by layers and layers of hot and heavy petticoat to achieve that exaggerated hourglass shape. When cage crinoline came onto the scene in the 1850s, women were blessed by more room to move – even if they did have to learn how to do so without accidently flashing an ankle.   

Aesthetic: 9/10

Our gifted crinoline skirt is a thing of beauty. Wide enough to give the wearer the desired shape, though not to exaggerated that one might accidently catch fire by underestimating how far they need to stand from open flame. (considering most other Georgian theatres burned down after 17years, we’re keen to avoid fire hazards at all costs).  

Age rating: 9/10

The theatre had only been going for around 80 years before the crinoline came centre stage, giving it a big age rating for originating from our first century.  

Rarity 10/10

This is the only one we’ve ever been donated so we’d say that’s pretty damn rare by BOV Heritage Dept. standards. 

Celebrity Rating: 7/10

Just think of the Theatre royalty that would have donned the crinoline in Victorian Bristol. While the petticoat came a little too late for our very own Theatre Manager Sarah Macready, legend of the stage Ellen Terry – who joined the Theatre’s stock company in 1862 – no doubt donned it in her famous renditions of Portia, Beatrice and Titania.  

Backstage Gossip: 6/10

In 1885 Sarah Anne Henley – presumed but not substantiated theatre-goer – entered Bristol folklore when she jumped off Bristol Suspension Bridge in a bid to end her life, but survived the 246ft drop. Rumours spread that it was in fact her crinoline petticoat that saved the day by catching a gust of wind and floating her to safety – Mary Poppins style (not to be attempted - ever.)


The crinoline petticoat is a high-scoring, highly-desirable heritage donation. This fabulous number was donated by Dr Susannah Temple who is also one of Bristol Old Vic’s Orange membership holders, looking to give it a new life on the stage. It was passed down through the generations of her family and was donated by our benefactor ‘…with love and gratitude for Old Vic Entertainment’.

Well, to that we say THANK YOU for donating such a rarity, may it be enjoyed for many generations to come.  

And with that we lock our heritage vaults for another month. Until next time gentle reader…

….keeeeeeep donating.