Liverpool Repertory Company, founded in 1911, saw a golden age in the middle years of the twentieth century. Under the artistic directorship of William Armstrong, the company was to be the launching pad for the careers of a host of future stars. Robert Donat, Michael Redgrave, Rex Harrison, Cecil Parker, John Gregson, Lillian Braithwaite are just some of the illustrious actors who gained early experience with the Liverpool Rep. The outstanding success of the enterprise owed much to Armstrong’s astute choice of material and his ability to develop the raw talent that presented itself for his moulding. However, the other rock upon which the company was built was the superb management of its business by someone who gained a reputation as one of the region’s finest administrators. Surprisingly, for the times, this role was performed by a woman, Maud Carpenter.
Maud Carpenter was born in 1892, one of seven children of a bricklayer, in a small terraced house in Toxteth at 30 Lime Grove L8. She began her association with the theatre in 1911 as an assistant box-office clerk. Her capabilities must have been apparent as after serving as assistant to Smyth Pigott she was appointed manager of the theatre in 1923. This was a highly unusual step in the 1920’s, seen very much as ‘experiment’. Writing in his autobiography (Scaffolding in the Sky) the architect Charles Reilly, a board member of the company, concluded “it was not till we stupid fellows on the Board discovered the obvious thing, that a woman with her conscientious meticulous ways could do this kind of work far better and more thoroughly, that we were really happy”.
When the Liverpool Repertory Company celebrated its golden jubilee, Maud Carpenter also marked a half-century as a lynchpin of the Playhouse’s success. She retired in 1962, her announcement making the front page of the Liverpool Echo [22-1-1962] leaving behind a legacy of unmatched managerial and entrepreneurial skill which progressed not just the welfare of the theatre but also the standing of women in management. Her name features positively in virtually every work dealing with the theatre in Liverpool and she is mentioned in glowing terms in a number of actors’ autobiographies.
Her contributions to the life of the city were many and varied. She was stalwart of the Liverpool Soroptimist Club, serving as their first President. For many years she was the Vice-President of the Liverpool Poopy Day Appeal and as the local press records reveal she constantly gave of her time to charities and cultural groups. Her achievements were marked by the award on an Honorary M.A. by Liverpool University in 1951 and the award of an O.B.E. in 1954.
Retaining her maiden name for professional purposes, she married David Farrington, an officer of the Customs and Excise, in 1919. The couple had a variety of addresses in the inter-war years, 100 Edge Lane Drive L13 [c.1923-26], 96 Princes Road [c.1927-29], 19 Sefton Park Road [c.1930-35]. David Farrington died in 1952 and Maud later lived at 31 Kylemore Road L18. At the time of her death on 18th June 1967, she was living at 8 Crompton Court, Crompton Lane L18.
Maud Carpenter's family home at the time of her birth in 1892.
Maud and David Farrington's address 1927-29
Their home c.1930-35
Maud Carpenter's home 1950-60s
Her home at the time of her death in 1967..
There is a Wikipedia entry. The Liverpool Repertory Theatre 1911-1934 [Grace Wyndham Goldie, Liverpool University Press 1935] gives a detailed account of the early years of the company. There is a section on her in the more recent work Liverpool Playhouse: A Theatre And Its City compiled and edited by Ros Merkin [Liverpool University Press 2011]. . Scaffolding in the Sky [Routledge 1938] Charles Reilly’s autobiography recounts the formation of the Liverpool Repertory Company of which he was a board member.
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