Herbert Beerbohm Tree Archive

Overview

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852 - 1917) was one of the great actor-managers of his day. He began acting in the 1870s, becoming manager of the Haymarket in 1887. In 1897 he helped fund the rebuilding of His Majesty's Theatre and ran it successfully until his death in 1917. In 1904 he founded the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and was knighted in 1909.

He married Helen Maud Holt (1863 - 1937) in 1882, herself an actress who often appeared as his leading lady; with whom he had three children, Viola, Iris and Felicity.

What the collection holds

The Beerbohm Tree Collection held by the Theatre Collection comprises two major archives of international importance, the Herbert Beerbohm Tree Archive and the Tree Family Archive, plus several smaller collections and individual items acquired by purchase and donation. It is one of the largest collections held by the Theatre Collection and its remarkable breadth and depth is almost unparalleled in British Theatre archives. It attracts worldwide attention from scholars.

The two major archives complement each other and add a depth to our understanding of this period. 

The Herbert Beerbohm Tree Professional Archive

The Herbert Beerbohm Tree Archive comprises the business and production records for Hebert Beerbohm Tree’s productions at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Her Majesty's theatres plus tours within the UK and abroad. As well as providing information about the productions themselves , the archive provides a full and detailed insight into the process of running a successful theatre during the period 1887-1917. It contains financial and administrative papers and 65 volumes of press cuttings, as well as prompt books, photographs, scripts, plots, scores, designs architectural plans, programmes and business correspondence. Following Beerbohm Tree’s death the archive was put in store by his executors and so it remains remarkably complete. The Tree archive was purchased by the Theatre Collection in 1973 with assistance from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund. 

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
HBT - Herbert Beerbohm Tree Archive

In the following years the Tree family made a number of subsequent donations to the HBT archive, and some of these remain uncatalogued. A summary list of all these accessions is available here

The Tree Family Archive

The Tree Family Archive comprises the personal records of Maud Tree, her husband, Herbert Beerbohm Tree and their children, Viola, Iris and Felicity Tree. It contains primary and secondary archive material, such as notebooks, poems, speeches, diaries, inventories, visual material (sketches, photographs etc) and official documents (birth certificates etc) plus souvenir programmes press cuttings and other printed material. There is a vast correspondence collection (c. 13,500 mostly comprising of letters to Maud Tree but also to her husband Herbert and their children, Iris, Viola, Felicity and other family members. 

Most of these remain uncatalogued, but a pilot study to assess the significant and range of the archive was commissioned in November 2007. 160 letters to or from Maud Tree were catalogued at this time, and they can be viewed here: HBT/MBT

Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Sir Herbert Tree in "Pygmalion" c.1914 Image credit: Library of Congress (WikiCommons)
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