Mrs Jarley’s Waxwork show will be returning to Lostwithiel next week on November 18 and 19 at the Social Club, Fore St.

In November 1890 the extraordinary, the far-famed, the genuine and only Mrs Jarley’s Waxworks (as patronised by Royalty) were part of the entertainment for the opening of Lostwithiel’s Working Men’s Institute – and now, 133 years later, they’re back.

Inspired by a comic character in Charles Dickens’ novel The Old Curiosity Shop, Mrs Jarley’s Waxworks – a tableau with living people often impersonating wax dummies – became a popular Victorian amusement.

Characters depicted in the 1890’s Lostwithiel waxwork show, staged in the Institute’s library, included musicians, an Egyptian mummy and the newsworthy Scotsman, Robert Carlisle, who in 1879 had pushed a wheelbarrow from Land’s End to John O’Groats .

Organiser Merryn Threadgould said the moment she found out about it, she knew she had to put Jarley back on the stage.

“Mrs Jarley and her wax dummies were a popular part of Victorian social life,” explains Ms Threadgould, a TV Producer by trade. “Mrs Jarley is a show woman with a great line of patter. Everyone would have known that a Jarley show would be funny, interesting and, frankly, bizarre! In the 1880’s there was a touring version doing the rounds in West Cornwall with characters called Chang the Chinese Giant and the Giggler.

In our new show Mrs Jarley presents characters drawn from Cornish history and mythology. Prepare to be amazed by their extraordinary realism! Half-price admission for children and servants.”

Working men’s clubs were a Victorian innovation aimed at helping to educate workers away from the public house, and the land for building in Lostwithiel was gifted by Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock.

The club opened on Wednesday, November 12, 1890, when, as was reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette: “The town was decorated and church bells rung. Lord Robartes, in a downpour of rain, opened the door with a silver key and declared the institute open to a round of cheering”.

The November show has 10 performances over the Institutes birthday weekend of November 18 and 19, at what’s now the Social Club in Lostwithiel. Adults £8 and children £4.

The waxworks will be complemented by other period attractions: a hiring fair, an exhibition of local curiosities and the “Ship and Penguin” paintings of Victorian adventurer, Captain D Luck of Par, resulting from a traumatic shipwreck in the Arctic.

A tea treat is also offered for modest remuneration. The public are asked to leave their horses and other farm animals outside.

The event had been funded by FEAST, Cornwall Community Foundation, Cornwall Council and Arts Council England.

Any proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the restoration of the Social Club, which after 133 years is beginning to show its age.

Tickets are now on sale (with timed entry for the waxworks and curiosities), through the novel agency of Mr Babbage’s celebrated Difference Engine, aka the internet at and for more information visit and

For more information: Merryn Threadgould on 07478 715800 or [email protected]