A float advertising the wigmaker Willy Clarkson, circa 1905
An unmounted silver gelatin print showing a float advertising the famous perruquier and make-up artist Willy Clarkson. According to an article in The Era (10 November 1900), ‘Not to know Willy Clarkson and his doings is to be out of the theatrical world. […] Scarcely any big production in London is undertaken without the aid of the owner of the Wellington-street wiggeries.’
The business was founded by Clarkson’s father in 1833 and for many years it was located on Wellington Street in Covent Garden. Willy took over the firm at his father’s death in 1878, later moving its premises to Wardour Street in Soho. The foundation stone of the new building was laid by Sarah Bernhardt in 1904. Today the ground floor houses a Chinese restaurant.
Given that the Wardour Street address appears on the float seen here, the photograph was probably taken circa 1905-1910.
The float incorporates an enormous model of Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory. This has been mounted on a horse-drawn cart provided by Leolyn Hart, variously described as a pageant designer and a set designer. Some productions in the West End had sets by Leolyn Hart and wigs by Willy Clarkson.
The street sign in the background indicates that the location is Latona Road in Peckham, southeast London.
Condition: the photograph is in very good condition. It has been skimmed off an album page.
Dimensions: the print measures 4.4” by 6.2” (11.3 cm by 15.8 cm).