Lady Walpole succeeds late husband as seaside theatre president

Lady Walpole at Mannington Hall. She is taking over her late husband's

Lady Walpole at Mannington Hall. She is taking over her late husband's former position as president of Sheringham Little Theatre. - Credit: Richard Batson / SLT

Lady Laurel Walpole has become president of Sheringham Little Theatre, the position her husband, Lord Robert 'Robin' Walpole, held for 48 years until his death last May.

Lady Walpole, of Mannington Hall, south of Sheringham, said she aimed to see her famous family name reach a 50-year milestone as the figurehead of the arts venue.

Lady Walpole said taking the role - which was approved at the theatre's recent AGM - would be an "honour and a pleasure".

Lady Walpole with a portrait of Lord Walpole.

Lady Walpole with a portrait of Lord Walpole. - Credit: Richard Batson / SLT

She said: “It is something we always did together – bringing the children to plays and pantos, and coming ourselves to see other events including the summer seasons.

"It is such a friendly place, the standard of productions are so high."

Lady Walpole said she had been a lifelong lover of the theatre - going to see plays at Swindon as a child with her parents, student trips to Stratford and then outings to the ballet in London when she worked at the University of Reading.

Lord Walpole was president of Sheringham Little Theatre for 48 years. 

Lord Walpole was president of Sheringham Little Theatre for 48 years. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

She said: “I love all live theatre and look forward to trying to encourage and enthuse others to visit the Little Theatre to sample it themselves if they’ve never been.

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"The size and intimacy of the auditorium makes you feel really involved in live productions there – more so than big city theatres."

Lady Walpole has been visiting the Little Theatre since 1980, said she remembered when the venue had no bar of its own – so the audience popped across the road to the Robin Hood pub for interval drinks and had to be summoned back by a theatre helper ringing a bell.

Among the contributions made to the theatre by Lord Walpole - a descendant of Britain's first prime minister - was securing the services of West End farce legend Brian Rix for a fundraising drive. 

Lady Walpole said he stayed at their home Mannington Hall overnight and “not being used to country life, brought his own hot water bottle”.

At the AGM, theatre chairman Richard Ellis praised Lord Walpole for his “extraordinary service not just as a figurehead but a hard-working and active supporter of the theatre".

Collections in Lord Walpole's memory have raised around £1,000 for the theatre's funds.