THE DRAMATIC history of a Dorchester cafe is now on display for all customers to see.
Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford came to unveil the new history board at the Horse with the Red Umbrella in High West Street after owner John Fiori had spent the past 18 months tracing the venue’s fascinating past.
With help from Dr John Travell, Mr Fiori was able to delve into the building’s previous existence as the Loyalty Theatre and its links with the renowned actor Edmund Kean as well as Dorchester’s famous literary son Thomas Hardy.
Mr Fiori said when he first started looking into the cafe’s past he thought it would take him three or four weeks but it ended up taking him 18 months as there was so much to explore.
He thanked the Dorset County Museum for its help with his research and Studio Print for putting together the display board that now takes pride of place in the cafe.
Mr Fiori said: “I have always wanted to know the story of the Horse with the Red Umbrella and its history and I think this does tell the story.”
The Loyalty Theatre opened in 1828 and remained open until 1843.
The building was taken over by Godwin’s Glass and China Stores and was used as a warehouse store before it became the Horse with the Red Umbrella in 1970.
The name comes from the play The Horse with the Red Umbrella, which was apparently the last production staged at the Loyalty Theatre before it closed.
At the unveiling of the history board, Alistair Chisholm read a specially written ode before Lord and Lady Fellowes pulled back the curtain to reveal the display.
Lord Fellowes said he was ‘delighted’ to be asked to do the unveiling as he had an interest in Edmund Kean as well as a fascination with Georgian theatres and believed that the loss of the Loyalty Theatre all those years ago was ‘one of the great sorrows of this town’.
He added: “It’s marvellous having lost it that, for all our sorrow, at least we know where it was and now we can remember its story and remember the people of Dorchester enjoying theatre at that time.”