A Japanese Mystery – Detectives Required

The museum has just acquired a new postcard. It’s a rather faded sepia print of fourteen people wearing ‘oriental’ clothing and holding fans and parasols.

Japanese troupe

There is nothing on the front to link it to our local villages, but the writing on the back clearly states, ‘The Market Lavington Japanese Troupe.

Japanese card back

The card has not been used postally, so we have no stamp or postmark to help us with a date. The group are clearly dressed up, rather than wearing their own clothes, which makes it hard to infer the period from the fashions. Our best guess is that the hairstyles look Edwardian, though the ladies could be wearing wigs, of course.

So, what was the occasion? Market Lavington and Easterton residents were renowned for dressing up, particularly for the carnival during Hospital Week, in the 1920s and 30s. (There is a display about this in the museum for 2019.) But the setting of the picture, with Japanese paper lanterns hanging in the garden, might suggest an event located there, rather than out in the streets. Could they be the cast of a performance, maybe The Mikado? If so, were they planning to act outside or in a large local building?

There is so little evidence to go on and we would be delighted to hear from anyone with local knowledge who can help us out.

Maybe you have other photographs of this garden with its distinctive trellis. To the right of the trellis, but hard to see, there is chicken wire, which is taller than the gentleman on the right of the picture. Maybe you had family members, fond of performing, and can match a face to a photograph in your possession. Maybe you are aware of the event and its date.

Do, please, add a comment to this post if you have any knowledge or ideas.





4 Responses to “A Japanese Mystery – Detectives Required”

  1. Marcia Graves Says:

    I have the same postcard among my grandparents’ memorabilia. My grandparents being Alice Louisa Alexander, born 1989 in Great Bedwyn and William Alfred Spencer, born 1883 in Market Lavington.

    It only has the words “Pearl is in this picture” written in my grandmother’s handwriting on the back. Pearl being Alice Pearl Spencer born 1889 in Market Lavington to Jacob and Emily Spencer; she was the younger sister of my grandfather.

    Unfortunately I do not know which of the women is Pearl Spencer. The only other photo I have of her is with Grandad and she looks to be in her 30s and the women look younger in the photo.

    My grandparents emigrated to Canada in 1929 so I assume that the photo was taken in the 1920s. In the 1911 census of Market Lavington Pearl is shown as “22” and a school teacher.

    I hope this helps a little in your search.

    Regards Marcia Graves Canada

    Sent from my iPad


  2. marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

    Thank you, Marcia

  3. Marcia Graves Says:

    I have found the original postcard. I made a few errors. The card is from Pearl Spencer and the date is 1911. She says Japanese Musical Troupe. I will send a copy if you give me an address, as the photos I attached do not appear to have been sent.


  4. marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

    Thanks to Marcia, we now know that the ‘Japanese Musical Party’ postcard was sent by Pearl Spencer to her relatives in Canada in 1911 and that Pearl is one of the ladies holding a parasol.

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