Luton Hoo reverts to Merrie England with Douglas Fairbanks Jnr

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TO celebrate the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, a magnificent production was staged on the Luton Hoo estate.

In a natural amphitheatre in the grounds of the stately home, a joint professional and amateur performance of Merrie England was put on.

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As it was Coronation year, Arthur E. Davies, conductor of the world famous Luton Girls Choir as well as Luton Choral Society, came up with the idea.

Nearly 1,000 performers presented Edward German’s operetta on an outdoor stage, with the audience seated on a gentle slope on the other side of the lake.

Among the guests invited to the event was Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who is in the main picture (centre) with members of the cast and, far left, Luton Hoo owner Sir Harold Wernher.

In the smaller photo (above), the actor is sharing a joke with Sir Harold’s wife, Lady Zia Wernher, shortly before the start of the production.

Eddie Grabham’s book From Grand To Grove, a history of cinemas and theatres in Luton, Dunstable and the surrounding area, tells how the water became an integral part of the action as Good Queen Bess was brought by boat to the huge stage.

The setting re-created the outer walls of Windsor Castle and thousands of people enjoyed a memorable evening of music, theatre and spectacle. Popular singers Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were among the professionals who were joined by Luton’s leading amateur players.