Frank LASCELLES (1875–1934)
The Manor House, Sibford Gower, near Banbury
Frank William Thomas Charles Stevens was born in 1875 to the Revd Edward Thomas Stevens, vicar of Sibford Gower. He attended the village school, went on to read English at Keble College, Oxford and was a leading light in undergraduate dramatics. He became an actor, appearing 1904-06 at His Majesty’s Theatre where Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was actor-manager. It was at this time that he adopted the name Lascelles.
Pageants embodying the spirit of local and national pride were the fashion of the day and Lascelles made his name directing them. He came to be known as ‘the man who staged the Empire’. Some of the pageants and celebrations he devised are as follows:
- 1907 The Oxford Historical Pageant
- 1908 The Tercentenary of Canada at Quebec
- 1909 Bath Historical Pageant
- Union Parliament of South Africa celebrations at Cape Town
- 1910 Pageant of London with a cast of 15,000
- 1912 Coronation Durbar at Calcutta with over 300,000 participants
- 1924 Pageant of Empire at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley
He was also a sculptor: among his subjects were the Prince of Wales, Earl Grey and the Aga Khan. A memorial to his mother in the church at Sibford Gower is his work. He contributed prose and verse to periodicals and inspired the tribute of a volume of essays, entitled Our Modern Orpheus, from Earl Darnley in 1932.
Lascelles aspired to a grandiose persona and adopted the title Lord of the Manor of Sibford Gower. He built a new manor house (above) where he entertained friends such as Ivor Novello lavishly. He was devoted to Sibford Gower. He put on plays for the village and built a new village hall as well as serving on the Parish Council and the board of Town Estate Trustees.
Towards the end of his life he was beset by financial difficulties and died in poverty in 1934 in rented rooms in Brighton. His dying wish that his estate should be used by his friend Frank Brangwyn, the painter, to set up a “School of Nations’ where children from all over the world could study, was not able to be realised.
Source: Information researched by Dr Deborah Ryan in preparation for a forthcoming biography of Lascelles
The plaque was unveiled at the Manor House, Temple Mill Road, Sibford Gower on 24 October 2003 by Sheila Walsh who, as a girl of 15, had taken part in the 1924 Pageant of Empire in London.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
Frank William Thomas Charles
writer, painter, sculptor
The man who staged the Empire
Built and lived here
Sibford Gower Parish Council