Lena Ashwell Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains nine scrapbooks relating to Lena Ashwell's career. They mainly contain press cuttings and correspondence she received throughout her life.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lena Ashwell (real name Lena Margaret Pocock; married name Lena Margaret Simson, Lady Simson) was known for her theatrical career and involvement in political movements throughout her life. Born 1872, she trained as a musician at the Royal Academy of Music before deciding to follow a career in acting. Her first role was in a production of The Pharisee by M. Watson and Mrs L. Wallis in March 1891. In 1906 she took on the management of the Savoy Theatre and in 1907 she established the theatre, Kingsway, in Great Queen Street. The opening and running of these two theatres coincided with Ashwell's very public involvement with the suffragette movement, becoming an active campaigner in the Actresses' Franchise League in 1908 and setting up the Three Arts Club which offered affordable, safe accommodation to women working in the arts. Ashwell was also involved in social causes, petitioning for a National Theatre and setting up concerts for the troops throughout the First World War which toured as far as Egypt. This initiative saw Ashwell appointed a CBE in 1917. After the First World War Ashwell embarked on the third and final chapter of her theatrical career, setting up a theatrical company in a Notting Hill theatre which she renamed The Century Theatre. The Lena Ashwell Players became a training centre for many young performers before financial problems caused the group to disperse in 1929 and Ashwell to retire from the theatre. She died in 1957.

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

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

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.