Curiosity piqued by the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, goes in search of a Ladywell link – and finds one!
My historical curiosity was piqued recently when I passed by the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.
Peter Pan creator and local resident J M Barrie was inspired by Kensington Gardens and commissioned Sir George Frampton to build the statue which has been a favourite feature of the gardens since 1912.
But I had a residual sense that somewhere there was a Ladywell link to Peter Pan so when I returned home I pored over my trove of cemetery research and established a familial link!
The first appearance, anywhere, of Peter Pan, which had its genesis in the 1902 novel “the Little White Bird” inscribed by J M Barrie to his closest friend and literary agent.
Arthur Addison Bright (1861-1906) was a theatrical agent, most famous for his close friendship with J.M.Barrie, but who also acted for a number of successful playwrights including Arthur Conan Doyle, E.W. Hornung and Stephen Phillips.
Bright was more than an agent to Barrie – he was a close friend and confidential adviser and played a key role in persuading Barrie to take up play writing.
It was Bright who introduced Barrie to the Broadway producer Charles Frohman (who later perished with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania), who was ultimately responsible for the production of Peter Pan in Britain and America.
In 1906 it was discovered that Bright had embezzled royalties from many of his clients, including Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle.
In spite of the financial loss, Barrie staunchly supported his agent. Bright, however, found the prospect of legal proceedings too much to bear and on a trip to Lucerne, ostensibly to take the air, he committed suicide.
Barrie wrote a short but loving obituary for Bright, which appeared in the Times on June 1 1906.
Arthur’s brother Reginald was a Theatrical agent who had a famous live encounter with the playwright George Bernard Shaw (reported right)
J M Barrie who had suffered heavy financial losses due to the swindle bore the Bright family no ill will and accompanied Reginald Golding Bright to Lucerne to identify the body.
Later that year Golding Bright became Barrie’s theatre agent and remained so for the rest of the author’s life.
So we arrive at the Ladywell link !
The headstone above is that of Dr John Meaburn Bright d.1899 in Forest Hill (photo taken by author left) it lies aside the outer pathway in Ladywell cemetery close to Ivy road.
A popular GP and a man of some erudition, he was the father of Addison and Reginald Bright. His obituary appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1899.