Mander & Mitchenson
Sounds like an old Music Hall act, doesn’t it. And you wouldn’t be far off at that.
Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson were a pair of young actors who, when they met in the London Docklands Settlement in the late 1930s, knew they were soulmates. Passionate about theatre, they bonded both professionally and personally, and between them amassed a huge collection of theatrical memorabilia – from programmes and scripts to costumes and props.
It was useful for them that they counted among their friends some of the great luvvies of their day – Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Noel Coward and Sir John Gielgud just some of the luminaries that gave them stuff for posterity.
They kept it all in their place in Sydenham. My imagination sees Number 5, Venner Road as a delightfully bohemian jumble of the banal and the beautiful, the worthless and the priceless, all muddled together with a louche, Kenneth Williams-esque post-war Britishness.
It all became scarily full, and a compulsory-order purchase on the house by Lewisham Council in the 1970s provided the catalyst to turn the collection, which by now included books and papers by Mander & Mitchenson themselves, into something a bit more official.
A trust was formed, headed by Lord Olivier, and the collection moved to Beckenham Place Park for 15 years – until Lewisham Council decided to sell the grade II listed building…
After a brief stint at the Sally Army headquarters, the Mander & Mitchenson Collection was given a grant by the Jerwood Foundation and is now yet another of Greenwich’s ‘secret museums’ about which no one seems to know. In case you’re wondering, it’s in the Jerwood Library at Trinity College.
It’s not really a ‘public’ museum, but it can be visited, generally if you’re a researcher – you have to arrange to go – details here.
There’s an online catalogue – which is where I found out about the museum in the first place, (trying to google historic son et lumieres, as one does…) But the more I find out about Greenwich’s ‘secret’ museums, the more I realise that there are quite a few of them. I daresay there are collections yet to be discovered…