Philip Gibbons collection of William Squire materials

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a large number of letters and greetings cards sent to Philip Gibbons from William Squire (1937-1988) as well as sets of letters sent to Squire from various friends in the theatre and arts worlds (1946-1985) and his nieces (1955-1962), personal photographs of Squire (ca.1942-1953), a copy of a print of Squire as Oberon in an RSC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1949), excerpts from Gibbons's diaries (1937 and 1953), national press cuttings relating to Squire's career and death (1953-1989), a number of fringe venue theatre programmes (1937-1976) and a handwritten make-up list for William Squire as Menenius Agrippa in Coriolanus (1954).

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in 1920 in Neath, Wales, William Squire began his working life in a bell foundry before winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Following graduation and a five-year spell in the Royal Navy during WW2, he joined the Old Vic Company and began his stage career, staying for two seasons and touring America with them.

Squire's first performance on stage was in 1937 with the Bedford Guild of Players in a production of Jerome K. Jerome's The Passing of the Third Floor Back. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1948 and played Laertes to Paul Scofield and Robert Helpmann's Hamlet in his first season. Performances in Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline and A Midsummer Night's Dream followed. His Christmas performances as Ratty in Toad of Toad Hall proved popular, and he continued to play the role at both Stratford and West End theatres well into the 1950s.

Leaving the RSC, Squire worked seasons at both the Bristol Old Vic and London's Old Vic, where he played Horatio to Richard Burton's Hamlet (he was later to replace Burton as King Arthur in Camelot on Broadway in 1963). He played the role of Vladimir in the original London production of Waiting for Godot (1955) and appeared in a production of TS Eliot's final play, The Elder Statesman (1958).

During a varied career he also played Captain Cat in Under Milk Wood (1956), Teddy Lloyd in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1966), Headmaster Sunstroke in Spring Awakening (1974) and Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (1976).

His television work included the BBC series Callan and film roles ranged from Aeschines in Alexander the Great (1956) and Roy Martin in The Battle of the River Plate (1957) to the voice of Gandalf in the animated version of The Lord of The Rings (1978).

Married twice, Squire died in 1989.


This collection has been organised into the following series:

  • THM/116/1 - Correspondence from William Squire to Philip Gibbons
  • THM/116/2 - Mixed correspondence to Philip Gibbons
  • THM/116/3 - Photographs and images of William Squire
  • THM/116/4 - Philip Gibbons diary excerpts
  • THM/116/5 - Press cuttings
  • THM/116/6 - Theatre programmes, flyers and newsletters
  • THM/116/7 - Make-up list for Coriolanus

Access Information

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: .

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed by Philip Gibbons, 1989.

Separated Material

The following items have been integrated into the Theatre and Performance collections:

  • S.825-1997 - Pen and ink drawing, entitled First Night, showing a theatre box at the Old Vic, by Eric Atkinson, 1952
  • S.36-2011 - Painting of the actor William Squire (1916-1989) in sailor costume.
  • S.3024-2013 - Costume design by Ralph Adron for Corbaccio in Volpone, created for a project at Slade School of Fine Art, 1960
  • S.3025-2013 - Costume design by Ralph Adron for Corvino in Volpone, created for a project at Slade School of Fine Art, 1960
  • S.3026-2013 - Costume design by Ralph Adron for Voltore in Volpone, created for a project at Slade School of Fine Art, 1960

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: .

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

A number of theatre programmes for West-End (London) and Stratford-upon-Avon theatres have been removed and added to the core collection of the V&A Theatre and Performance archives.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to William Squire may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, and photographs files.

Please ask for details.