There’s No Business Like Show Business..

… like no business I know!

Having recently been a round of the more popular musical comedies and revues, I am at a loss to know where the loveliest clothes are to be seen-on the stage or in the stalls. (Theatre Journal 1925. Vol.11.No.10 November:83)

Miss Marion (Marian) Dorothy Bishop
Miss Marion (Marian) Dorothy Bishop

Miss Marion (Marian) Dorothy Bishop, born c1902, was a Bristol artiste working during the 1920-30s. She was a soprano and performed in, concerts, operas and oratorios. The flyer,  Accession No. NA1240-59 (Bristol City Museum) above advertising Bishop gave two addresses of contact: Studio 74 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol and 4 Woodhill, Portishead, Somerset. The flyer has a portrait of Bishop with press notices, critiquing the various performances she gave.

Pirates of Penzance Mabel
Pirates of Penzance Mabel

Closer inspection of the press notices did reveal some interesting finds. Bishop performed in the “Pirates of Penzance” at the Lyceum Theatre, Taunton. She played the part of Mabel. It classes her as a Bristol Professional ‘she possesses a well…. Soprano voice’. She was also part of The Monday Music Club singing Liszt’s “Die Loveli” and Borodin’s “Sleeping Beauty”. It is uncertain if this was the Bristol music club or Portishead.  The Pullman’s weekly news describes Bishop as Maid Marion. She also played in “The Snow Maiden” (Rimsk Korsako), the part of Coupava ‘she not only sang well, but acted with naturalness and charm’.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian
Robin Hood and Maid Marian

The Lyceum theatre opened in 1913 with a seating capacity of 678 and was designed by architects H. Walcott Stone and J. Lloyd. It was an early cine-variety house, designed for both silent films and live theatre. It housed mainly live shows, until the end of 1931 when it was closed for modernisation. It was converted into a full-time cinema and re-opened on 4th January 1932. This means that Bishop played the part of Mabel in “The Pirates of Penzance” during 1919-1931. The picture used on the flyer also indicated a style typical of 1920-30s.

Shingled Hairstyle
Shingled Hairstyle

The hair style in particular could help to speculate when Bishop was born. Her hair is bobbed and she had a small short fringe. The dress she is wearing has a trimming with embroidery around the neck and sleeves. The hair styles of the 1920s began as bobbed and after 1923 shingled, and in 1926 the shingle was succeeded by the Eton crop (cropped hair closely as a schoolboy) (Laver 1964:12). This reveals that the hair style in the flyer dates to around 1923, although it is possible that Bishop still styled her hair the same way as she was an actress; however the date does tie in with the fact that she would have performed at the Lyceum before 1931.

Votes Badge
Votes Badge

The law stated that women in 1928 had to be 21 to vote and in 1918 aged 31. At Somerset record office, Taunton the election register for 1932-1933 reveals the occupants of 4 Woodhill, Portishead, Somerset. The register named Marion’s mother and father as: Charles Henry Bishop and Martha Emma Bishop. It also revealed Marion’s full name which was: Mari[an] Dorothy Bishop.

North Street, Bedminster is one of Bristol’s oldest suburbs. The early 1900’s saw it develop from a separate rural village to an industrial suburb within the city boundary.  The population increased as more and more people came to work in Bedminster resulting in the rows of terraced houses leading off the main shopping streets.

Star Inn is now called Salt 4-6 North Street and Bishop lived at 74.

Bishop made her own costumes, which required fabrics and dress trimming. In 1989 unused fabrics and trimmings were donated to Bristol City Museum, Queens Road, Bristol by a friend of Bishop, Mrs Jones. The trimmings are now located at Georgian House, Bristol in the textile store (not on view to the public).

dress Trimming
Dress Trimming

One specific trimming, Accession No. Na1241 (Georgian House, Bristol), which provides vital information is pictured above. It is a length of cream machine embroidered, scalloped edging with a repeat fan design. It would have been used to finish off the edge of a garment around the hem line or possibly on the cuffs of a sleeve. There are small holes or hooks which suggest that it may have been sewn to the very edge of fabric and then moved freely rather than being completely stitched down. Scalloping is a finishing for the edging of a garment. It allows a decorative touch to finish, perhaps the hemline of a garment.

Trimming Label
Trimming Label

The trimming, Accession No. Na1241 (Georgian House, Bristol), is held together by a label: ‘Summer/clearance/ Jones & Co Ltd. Wine St’. This evidence reveals that Bishop bought trimmings from “Jones” at 56-58  Wine Street, Bristol.

Jones 56-58 Wine Street
Jones 56-58 Wine Street

Sadly, Wine Street suffered from the Blitz on Sunday 24th November 1940. This means that Bishop bought the trimmings some time before 1940.

Research into Mrs Jones and Bishop’s addresses during 1989 revealed that Mrs Jones lived at “Treetops” Portishead and her full name was in fact Betty Doreen Jones. It also revealed that Bishop was living at the time of the donation. Marion. D. Bishop appears to be living at 57 Woodhill Road with a couple and 2 other women.

If only we could step back in time.  Just think all the stories Bishop could tell us about life in Bristol before WWII and life as a singer / actress.

Life is but a dream!

If you would like to view the dress trimmings mentioned please contact Karin Walton, Collections Officer – Applied Art, on 0117 922 3588 or email karin.walton@bristol.gov.uk.

The Georgian House Museum Great George Street, Bristol, BS1 5RR.

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