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HMS PINAFORE: Society president shares comic opera’s fascinating link to Abbots Langley

 Published on: 15th June 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

This month, the president of the Abbots Langley Gilbert & Sullivan Society (ALGSS), Brenda Southron, got in touch to share an interesting link between the village and an iconic opera.

As part of the Abbots Langley Festival, ALGSS will transform the Henderson Hub into a Royal Navy ship for HMS Pinafore. This will be the first time in 65 years that a full-length Gilbert and Sullivan opera, fully staged and costumed, has been performed in the village.

HMS Pinafore has a surprising connection to Abbots Langley. William Henry Smith lived in Cecil Lodge, a large house on Bedmond Road facing the entrance to Abbots Langley High Street, from 1864 to 1870.

He was the son of W.H. Smith, who founded the famous newsagents. William helped his father expand the business and introduced the selling of books and newspapers at railway stations.

William became an MP in 1868 and, within 10 years, was made first Lord of the Admiralty, despite having no seafaring experience. In HMS Pinafore, W.S. Gilbert parodied Smith in the character of Sir Joseph Porter who, in his song, advises his listeners to “stick close to your desks and never go to sea, and you all may be rulers of the Queen’s Navy”. After HMS Pinafore was first performed, poor William was forever known in Parliament as Pinafore Smith.

ALGSS will perform HMS Pinafore at the Henderson Hub from June 13 to 15. To find out more and buy tickets, visit

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