In 1951, our Society began with six people on the stage of Eagle Brow Schoolroom, Lymm. The play was “The Rotters” (no one has heard of it since) and the aforementioned six people were all in the play, as well as doing all the stage work, make up, providing all the furniture and properties. If anyone forgot their lines they just had to prompt each other. But, small though it was, Lymm Amateur Dramatic Society was born.
After the first two or three plays, we had enlisted a few more members and we began to “tread the boards” at the old cinema. This meant going to the second house on a Saturday night, so that we were there to take down the cinema screen when the film finished, then spend all day Sunday erecting the set and painting the scenery. Sadly Lymm cinema closed in 1962 and Rainbow Nursery now stands on the site.
However, our time at the cinema was not very profitable, so back we went to Eagle Brow, where we remained and progressed - albeit slowly - until 1968. During our years at Eagle Brow, the Society made many good friends and we especially thank our audience, who supported us so loyally in those early days. Without them, we just wouldn’t have survived all these years.
We cannot let memories of our years at Eagle Brow pass without paying tribute to two of our most devoted members, Sam and Elsie Owen. They were with us in our very first play and, after Sam died, Elsie remained with us and practically carried us about. When plays were in production, we filled her house with costumes and bits and pieces and nearly emptied it by borrowing much of her furniture for our stage set. It was a great loss to us all when she too died in 1968 and both she and Sam will always be remembered with gratitude and affection.
Unfortunately, our long stay at Eagle Brow came to an end in 1968 as they needed the hall for themselves and we suddenly found ourselves homeless. Our last play there was “The Captives” – a very moving play that will not be forgotten by those who saw it.
So there we were, nowhere to stage our plays, nowhere to store our scenery and equipment and all feeling very downhearted, believing that our Society had met its end. But every cloud has a silver lining, and our good friend, Bill Burrows, allowed us to store our goods and chattels in his old Smithy at Heatley.
Mr Hall from Heatley Station gave us some storage space in one of his old waiting rooms, and we finally managed to move ourselves out of Eagle Brow all in one evening.
As we couldn’t find anywhere in Lymm suitable for staging our plays, one of our former members suggested we approach the Vicar of Thelwall with the view of using the Church Hall. We were greeted with great enthusiasm and Thelwall became the new home for Lymm Amateur Dramatic Society.
After making a few alterations to suit our needs, we produced our first play at Thelwall in January 1969, “Bonaventure”.
We found the Vicar and officials at the parochial Church Council most helpful and co-operative, and our audience in Thelwall most enthusiastic. Since then we have grown our membership and audience. We are deeply grateful to all our loyal supporters who come from Lymm to see us and also to all our new friends from Thelwall and surrounding districts.
Once it became obvious that Thelwall was going to be our new home and we were there to stay, we decided to change our name to the ”Bridgewater Players”, this being the common link between Lymm and Thelwall in the form of the canal that runs through both villages. It was hoped that this might draw in more members and audience from both communities and over the years this has certainly been the case.
Sixty-two years after the Society’s start in Lymm, Bridgewater Players are still going strong at Thelwall Parish hall, entertaining the surrounding communities of Warrington and our 50th anniversary in 2002 was celebrated with a production of “Anyone for Breakfast” by Derek Benfield.
From the 50th anniversary celebration it was noted that the audience members as well the Society members were forever dwindling and it was touch and go to if this was the end of the era that was Bridgewater Players. The Committee even considered discontinuing the three plays a year slogan, and only going for two as we had fewer members than we had available parts to cover the three plays per season. The decision to stage a pantomime probably rescued that situation. “Cinderella” was a sell out, with 22 people in the cast. Gradually, if slowly, the membership increased.
Sadly for them, but fortunately for Bridgewater Players, the group once known as the Stockton Heath Playmakers were forced to disband and a number of their members joined our group in 2011 making our 60th anniversary one to remember where we were able to stage our third Pantomime “Aladdin.com” with 20 cast members and strong backstage crew to boot.
Presently our number of the Society members is relatively healthy but we always welcome new prospecting members with a warm welcome. We are currently in the process of applying for lotto grants to help to update some of our ancient equipment to ensure that Bridgewater Players are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Also, another venture which we are planning to research is making one performance of each play a charity fundraiser for local charities of Warrington.
As always, our main concern, of course, is to continue to entertain our audiences. We hope that in the past we have managed to amuse, to frighten and sometimes even to reduce the audience to tears, always in the hope we have always sent them home with a smile. In the meantime, we continue to make progress at Thelwall and have now performed over 165 productions, which we are extremely proud to have achieved.
In closing, may we thank all our members, both past and present, for all their hard work that is done both on stage and behind the scenes. Without their willing help and continuous support, The Bridgewater Players would not have reached the happy state we are in today. Last of all, we must also thank you, our faithful audiences.