Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928)

posted Mar 27, 2017, 5:03 AM by Terry Bird   [ updated Jun 30, 2017, 11:16 AM ]

Dame Ellen Terry


Ellen Terry spent her 80th birthday at the Red House, Wateringbury as the guest of Lady Mabel Egerton, receiving hundreds of congratulatory telegrams, including one from the King and Queen. A special programme about her was broadcast on the radio. Her birthday and stay here was a media event throughout the English speaking world.


Born Alice Ellen Terry into a family of actors, Ellen was a child and teenage actress who married, for the first of three times, at the age of 16.  She had two children and resumed acting in 1874, joining Henry Irving’s theatrical company in 1878.

She was the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She and Irving toured America with great success.

In 1903 she bought her own theatre but it was not a financial success. She carried on acting on stage until 1920, dying in 1928 at Smallhythe Place, near Tenterden.  

Smallhythe Place, which Ellen bought in 1899, is a 16th century house, now a National Trust property dedicated to her memory.