The Windmill Players was formed just after the second World war, and takes its name from Thornton’s famous landmark, Marsh Mill. Jimmy Bradshaw, the group’s founder, got together with a few like-minded individuals who wanted to contribute to the local community by entertaining them with live theatre, and the first production was “Ma’s Bit O’Brass” in January 1946.
Our home for 55 years was Thornton Parish Church Hall on Meadows Avenue, and during that time Jimmy Bradshaw handed over the Chairmanship to Bill Croker, who led the Players forward until he retired after 40 years. After the Church Hall was sold in 2001 we began a new era with Thornton Little Theatre becoming our present performance space. We currently rehearse at Starlight Stage School, which also houses our Props and Costume departments, plus the Workshop, where our dedicated team of skilled volunteers creates our sets and scenery.
Throughout the last 70+ years we have produced well over 200 plays (3 per season), and have been lucky enough to have an enthusiastic following resulting, with the help of our dedicated patrons, in playing to full houses.
We were also supported for many years by local actress Violet Carson, who our more mature readers will remember as playing the character Ena Sharples in ‘Coronation Street’. In turn, we support a number of local charities, and in addition to the plays at the Little Theatre, we also perform Murder Mysteries in local libraries, amongst other activities.
We have been fortunate to have many talented Producers and Directors, and have won many awards from NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) over the years for Acting, Production, Sound, Lighting and Scenery.
We have always aimed for the highest standards of amateur theatre, whilst maintaining a fair-minded approach to all our members. Our first reviewer, in 1946, wrote “some members of the company have previous experience, and some are new recruits….this savours well for future shows” and we continue to offer opportunities to newcomers as well as more experienced members, both on-stage and behind the scenes. From small beginnings we have grown into the company you see today. We owe our longevity to the enthusiasm of our members and the support of our audiences, and we look forward to the future of The Windmill Players.
*Photo taken at our 100th play party in 1979. Left to right
Constance Bradshaw (Founders Wife)
Violet Carson OBE (Hon. Patron)
Bill Croker (Founder Member)
**Marsh Mill is an 18th-century tower windmill in Thornton, Lancashire, England. It was built in 1794 by Ralph Slater for local landowner Bold Hesketh.