Anna Welbourne: Stage designer at Norwich’s Maddermarket for three decades

A former stage designer, Anna Welbourne, who has died peacefully aged 82 at Kelling hospital in North Norfolk, helped to enhance the national reputation of Norwich's Maddermarket Theatre.

During her 18-year career, which spanned three decades, she designed, built and painted more than 180 sets, and worked alongside theatre director Ian Emmerson.

After her final production in the 1973 summer season, J B Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls,' she continued in theatre as a freelance designer and developed her artistic talents as a silversmith and lace maker.

She maintained her links with the stage with the Little Theatre, Sheringham, and also took part in productions for Anglia Television over the years.


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Born and raised in Cambridgeshire, her father was later Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After the Perse School, Cambridge, she went to Chelsea Art School and completed the full training. Then she worked in weekly repertory at Colchester as a 'very minor underling' before coming to Norwich in the mid 1950s. Her first task was the set for 'The Eagle has Two Heads,' when she joined the three-strong team of professionals with then producer, Frank Harwood, stage manager and wardrobe mistress. She built and painted sets 'from drawing board to the finished product on the stage,' which typically took between 10 days and three weeks.

Later, she also designed samplers of Norfolk's famous houses including Oxburgh, Felbrigg Hall and Blickling. She worked at the National Trust's textile workshop at Blickling Hall, where she is one of a team of gifted needlewomen restoring fabrics under the guidance of Miss Pamela Clabburn.

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She lived in north Norfolk for more than 40 years and became a churchwarden of St Mary's, Wiveton. A keen bell ringer, she was in charge of the six bells and was a member of the same band, which also rang at Holt. At her own request, an invited band of Norfolk ringers will undertake a memorial quarter peal of 1,260 changes, which should take about three-quarters of an hour before the funeral.

An enthusiastic and imaginative gardener, she also ran dog training and agility classes as well as teaching a voluntary art group for many years.

A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, December 20 at St Mary's Church, Wiveton, at 3pm.

Michael Pollitt

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