D is for Dracula
One of the main characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel goes by the name of Jonathan Harker. Stoker, also the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in the
the surname from his close friend and theatre colleague Joseph Harker. Joseph
Harker was one of the most eminent British scenic artists of his time providing
backdrops and scenery for numerous West End stage
Joseph Harker and Bram Stoker
During the late Victorian and Edwardian period he designed the sets, vistas and in some cases bill posters for plays starring and produced by Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum, or for the Australian actor producer Oscar Asche. When those West End shows became international tours to the
USA, Europe or
the Commonwealth, 400 cubic tons of Harker’s scenery was also shipped along
with the cast. These same
backdrops continued to be used for decades after his death. In 1904 Harker
designed and painted the auditorium ceiling in the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. In
that same year, a two storey purpose-built studio was
erected in Queen’s Row, Walworth where Harker continued his prestigious work
until his death aged seventy two in 1927.
Harker's studio - a listed building in Queen's Row
On one occasion at the studio, a few family members and associates painted their signatures onto the brickwork – still there today and protected by a sheet of glass.
Fittingly, for many years Harker’s Studio has been home to Flint Hire & Supply, one of Walworth’s hidden treasures providing theatrical goods for stage and television. Joseph Harker’s son Gordon features in the 1935 Will Hay movie, Boys Will Be Boys. His granddaughter is actress Polly Adams, and two great granddaughters are the actresses Susannah and Caroline Harker.