The Twickenham Museum
People : Actors and Actresses

Margaret 'Peg' Woffington
Actress and outstanding personality
1714 - 1760

Margaret 'Peg' Woffington

Early Career

Actress Peg Woffington was born in Dublin and began her career as a street singer. At the age of 10 she made her stage debut in a Juvenile production of 'the Beggars Opera'. She made her name in Ireland as Ophelia in a 1737 production of Hamlet and came to London in 1740. There she was an immediate success. One of her most celebrated roles was as Sir Harry Wilder, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She caused quite a stir in this part by wearing breeches.

Beautiful and celebrated she met and fell in love with the actor David Garrick and they planned to marry. For whatever reason she left him in 1744.

Peg moves to Teddington

After leaving Garrick, Peg seems to have moved to Teddington. Where she stayed is not known: the suggestion that she occupied Teddington Place, owned by the Earl of Feversham is not supported by any evidence. Likewise, She could have moved into what are today two cottages on the opposite side of the road. These, also owned by the Earl were originally a terrace of three earlier known as Margaret Woffington Cottages. However, the date stone between two of them, 1759, the year before her death is not useful evidence. What is certain is that she led a relatively peripatetic life, spending time in Paris and Ireland before returning to Covent Garden in 1754.

She continued to work as an actress, occasionally with Garrick and also with Brinsley Sheridan.

The first play she presented here was 'The Distressed Mother'. She used this play in an attempt to launch her sister Mary (usually known as Polly) as an actress, giving her the leading role. The play opened to a packed house but it seems that Polly not very good in her part. She was upstaged by actress George Anne Bellamy, who was at that time unknown but went on to become a famous actress in her own right.

It seems that Peg had many arguments with Mrs Bellamy and with another actress Kitty Clive. These carried on almost up to Peg's death.

David Garrick

Peg Woffington's legacy

Peg appeared on stage at Covent Garden on 27 May 1757. She became paralysed while speaking the epilogue to As You Like It. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that "she retired to the home she had purchased some time in the 1740s in Teddington, where she lingered under the caring attendance of Colonel Julius Caesar (d1762), an army officer. Although she died in Queen Square, Westminster, on 28 March 1760, she was taken for burial to St Mary's, Teddington."

Further reading:

Daly, A., Life of Peg Woffington
Molloy, J. F., The Life and Adventures of Peg Woffington.

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