Richard Matthews Collection of E. Martin Browne Materials

Scope and Content

This collection contains materials relating to the career of E. Martin Browne, including production materials (notes, correspondence, photographs), published and unpublished works and essays, a typescript of Browne's book The Making of T.S. Eliot's Plays and collected research materials for Richard Matthews' dissertation on Browne; E. Martin Browne, His Life and Work.

Administrative / Biographical History

E. (Elliott) Martin Browne (1900-1980) was a British theatre director and writer. Born in Zeals, Wiltshire in 1900, Elliott Martin Browne was educated at Eton and Oxford where he studied History and Theology.

Following his graduation he worked as the religious drama advisor for Kent county council. In 1924 he married Henzie Raeburn, with whom he had two sons. She was involved in his work and appeared in some of his productions. In the 1920s he worked for a time as warden of an educational settlement in Doncaster and was later appointed Assistant Professor of Drama at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (USA).

Returning to England in 1930 Browne began work as the director of religious drama of Chichester. A collaboration between Browne and T.S. Eliot at the request of George Bell (Bishop of Chichester) produced Murder in the Cathedral, which after playing at the Canterbury Festival transferred to London and enjoyed a successful run which lasted almost an entire year. The two would continue this working relationship for the next 20 years, with Eliot as poet-playwright to Browne’s director. Browne succeeded Bishop Bell as President of RADIUS, the Religious Drama Society of Great Britain.

In 1939 Browne directed Eliot’s The Family Reunion in London and with help from the Arts Council launched his own touring theatre company; The Pilgrim Players. They toured until 1948 with a repertoire dominated by the works of Eliot.

In 1945 Browne took over the running of the Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill and spent the next three years directing modern verse plays there, including works by Christopher Fry. From 1948 to 1957 he was director of the British Drama League, and in 1951 became the director of the first major production of the York Mystery Cycle since the sixteenth century, a job he repeated in 1954, 1957 and 1966.

Browne spent some of the 1960s as drama advisor to Coventry Cathedral, and directed the medieval mystery plays there in 1962 and 1964, later working as director at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. He was appointed a CBE in 1952 and remarried in 1974 following the death of Raeburn. He died in 1980.


This collection has been organised into the following series:

  • THM/380/1 - Production-related materials
  • THM/380/2 - Publications
  • THM/380/3 - Typescript of The Making of T.S. Eliot's Plays
  • THM/380/4 - Published essays written by Browne
  • THM/380/5 - Richard Matthews: dissertation materials

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

Gift of Richard Matthews, 2010.

Separated Material

The following books, publications and prompt-books have been separated and added to our library or prompt-book collections:

  • Prompt-book: The Family Reunion; Westminster Theatre. Annotated and includes stage action diagrams, 1939.
  • Prompt-book: Coriolanus; Old Vic Theatre, starring Alec Guinness and John Clements. Annotated, 1948.
  • Prompt-book: The Firstborn; produced at the Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh as part of the 1948 Edinburgh Festival. Annotated and includes light and curtain cues, a stage plot diagram, a cast contact list and technical stage information, 1948.
  • Prompt-book: The Way of the Cross; Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, North Carolina (USA). Annotated, includes stage diagrams and rehearsal schedules, 1959.
  • Prompt-book: The Family Reunion; Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Annotated and includes stage action diagrams, 1969.
  • Book: Robert Speaight, Drama since 1939 (London: Longmans, 1947).
  • Book: J.C. Trewin, Drama 1945-1950 (London: Longmans, 1951).
  • Book: The Year’s Work in the Theatre, 1949-1950, (London: Longmans, 1950).
  • Book: P.W. Turner: Cry Dawn in Dark Babylon – A dramatic meditation for a cast of four men and four women, (London, SPCK, 1959).
  • Book: E. Martin Browne: Verse in the Modern English Theatre, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1963).
  • Book: Henzie Raeburn: Beginning of the Way, (Boston: Baker’s Plays, 1960).
  • Pamphlet: A Brief Historical Sketch of the Religious Drama Society of Great Britain, 1959.

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.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to E. Martin Browne, as well as the Pilgrim Players Theatre Company may be found in several collections including the biographical, productions, and company files, as well as the library and costume design collections.

Please ask for details.