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FOOTLIGHT NOTES

images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s

no. 696

updated
Saturday, 22 January 2011

remembering Patrick O'Connor (1949-2010)

'Ellen Pelly


a carte de visit photograph of Ellen Pelly (d. 1873), English ballet dancer,
who died as a result of her costume catching fire on
Saturday, 27 September 1873, at the Alhambra, Leicester Square,
during a performance of the ballet, The Enchanted Forest, principal dancer Giovanni Pitteri

(photo: Truckle & Brisco, New Bond Street, London, circa 1873)

'An inquest was held yesterday [6 October 1873] at the Charing-cross Hospital on the body of Ellen Pelly, aged twenty, who had died from the injuries she received through burning at the Alhambra [Leicester Square, London,] on the night of Saturday, the 27th ult. The deceased was a ballet dander, and on the night in question, when she was preparing to go on the stage as usual in the transformation scene, her dress caught fire. William Rogers, the gasman at the Alhambra, said that the deceased was behind her time, and hence the accident. It was a rule that all the girls should be in their places before the gas was lighted. The stage manager also stated that the poor girl had no right to be near the light from which her dress became ignited. She went on the stage on the wrong side. There were two wet blankets that night available for extinguishing fire. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, adding a recommendation to the management of the Alhambra Theatre to provide a greater number of blankets for use in case of accidents.'
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Tuesday, 7 October 1873, p. 4b)

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