St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

D is for Dracula - Walworth A to Z

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 Strand, appropriated 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 productions. 
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. 
Signatures including Joseph Harker's painted on wall of the former studio

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.

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