The “Greatest British Actress”, Sarah Siddons, 1755 – 1831
Sarah Siddons (nee Kemble) was the eldest of 12 children of Roger and Sarah Kemble, a Worcestershire family who led a troupe of travelling actors. Through her mother’s care in sending her to the schools in the towns where the company played, Sarah received a remarkably good education, even though she was accustomed to making appearances on the stage while still a child. She and her brother attended Thorneloe House in Barbourne, Worcester.
Aged 18 and newly married to a fellow actor, she was playing Rosalind in As You Like It in a barn in Worcester when theatrical producer David Garrick offered her an engagement. When she appeared with him at Drury Lane, London, she suffered from stage fright and was a failure, but in 1782 she appeared again to great acclaim and for many years played tragic roles to perfection, never comedy.
William Hazlitt wrote that “passion emanated from her breast as from a shrine. She was tragedy personified.”
The Blue Plaque above the coffee shop opposite the Guildhall celebrates the location of the ‘Barn’ where she performed, in the yard of the King’s Head public house. The plaque was unveiled on 12th August 2020 by the Mayor of Worcester, Councillor Jo Hodges.