The 6 best resources for researching the history of music hall

By Guest, 4 September 2019 - 10:41am

Sharon Osbourne discovered her grandmother was a music hall star who fell on hard times on Who Do You Think You Are? We've picked the best resources for discovering the history of Britain's first mass-market entertainment

Sharon Osbourne's grandmother and grandfather music hall
Sharon's grandmother Dolly (left) performed in music halls with her sister and husband 

In the 19th century living and working conditions for much of the population were hard, and our working-class ancestors actively sought out a means of escape from the grim reality of their lives. Music hall provided the antidote.

Greeted with a riot of colour, noise and most importantly alcohol, for a few pennies our ancestors could immerse themselves in an evening of spectacle.

From comic songs to performing animals, dancing to sword-swallowing, the music hall showcased them all.

Discover the history of music hall in our latest issue, on sale now

On Who Do You Think You Are?, music mogul and media personality Sharon Osbourne discovered her family’s roots in showbusiness.

Her grandmother, Dolly Shaw, was part of a music hall act known as The Hewson Trio with her husband and sister before being plunged into poverty.

We picked the best websites, archives and books for researching the fascinating history of music hall – and seeing if you have a performer in your family tree.

 

1. ArthurLloyd.co.uk

Arthur Lloyd

This website is full of information about the history of music hall, including singer Arthur Lloyd.
 

2. British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper Archive

This online newspaper archive includes thousands of adverts and stories about music hall stars - you can find more by searching by location, date, hall or artist. Access is also included as part of a Findmypast Pro subscription. One of the papers included in this online collection is The Stage where Sharon Osbourne found a review of her grandparents' troupe, The Hewson Trio, featured in March 1912.
 

3. British Pathé

British Pathe

The newsreel archive includes footage from music hall, variety and musical theatre. An example of chorus girls dancing the Pony Trot (as featured in Sharon Osbourne's episode) can be seen here: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/peeps-at-the-fun-of-the-fayre-london-pavilion
 

4. British Library

British Library

The British Library in Kew holds the Evanion Collection of material relating to Victorian entertainment and everyday life. This includes posters, adverts, notices and handbills.
 

5. British Music Hall Society

British Music Hall Society

The society’s London archive includes ephemera such as song sheets, posters and even some costumes. Access by prior appointment only.
 

6. British Music Hall: An Illustrated History

Music hall

Richard Anthony Baker's detailed look at music hall includes contemporary illustrations and artist profiles.

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Five things you might not know about Sharon Osbourne
previous blog Article
Sharon Osbourne finds out her grandmother was a music hall star who was arrested for theft on Who Do You Think You Are?
next blog Article
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