The name Codman’s Punch and Judy immediately conjures up memories for generations of Liverpool people. Many have laughed, cheered and booed at the show.
Codman’s Punch and Judy booth, previously on display in Wondrous Place gallery
Professor Codman first brought Punch and Judy to Liverpool in the 1860s. Codman’s theatre was originally located in Lime Street, then later at Williamson Square.
A member of the Codman dynasty, Paul Codman recently came to view items in the Museum of Liverpool's collections related to the family business.
We have the original booth with proscenium arch, Mr Punch, Judy, The Judge and Mr Crocodile puppets (previously on display in the Wondrous Place gallery and in The Museum of Liverpool Life), along with pamphlets and tickets. Seeing the objects brought back some strong memories for Paul. As a 12 year old schoolboy in the early 1970s he helped his grandad Richard Codman and Uncle Ronnie to do the shows. They performed in schools, fetes and parks across the city in the summer holidays, including Newsham, Sefton and Walton Hall Parks. They also played at The Liverpool Show. He was paid a grand total of five bob a day.
Leaflet in the Museum’s collections
Ronnie Codman drove all of the props, including the booth, around in a Morris Minor Shooting Brake. On a few occasions they sadly had props stolen from the car so one of Paul’s jobs was to act as lookout, fortified with a glass bottle of lemonade and some crisps.
He remembers his grandad, Richard, being strict and using ‘theatrical’ show language passed down through the family. In his home in the original terraces of Farnsworth Street, Kensington, they had a cast iron doorstop in the shape of Punch which Paul remembers being scared of as a young child (who can blame him!).
Paul’s family lived close by in Albany Road.
After his grandad’s death in 1985 his Uncle Ronnie and Cousin Robert were the last Punch and Judy practitioners in Liverpool. Sadly, they both passed away in 2015. The show survives in Llandudno with Jason Millband-Codman, the last remaining Codman Professor.
Paul enjoyed looking at the pamphlets which included photographs of his family members and performing dogs which lived with the family. These successions of dogs over time were always called Toby. Bert Codman, brother to Paul’s granddad, bought a dog in St. John’s Market, Liverpool, in 1949 for 7/6d for his Llandudno show.
Codman’s Punch and Judy performing with MP Bessie Braddock
In the Museum’s collections there is even a ticket for the Mardi Gras Club from the 1970s where Professor Codman’s Punch and Judy were on the bill with performers Keef Hartley Band, plus Tear Gas and Strife. Tickets cost 75p.
It was great to show Paul these items and bring back some fond memories for him.