Events at Abbey House


Events are often held in the grounds on Abbey House, we will keep you updated on any events coming in 2024…

Coming to Abbey House on Saturday 8th June 2024 at 7.30pm, open from 6pm for you to bring your own picnics. Tickets can be found at www.therudes.co.uk

 The Dressing Book

This original play by The Rudes is a comedy for six actors, but gentle, poetic and tender, using material we have garnered with the help of The V&A. It is set in the late 18th Century, but plays games with time and social status and has a twist in the tale.

It follows the ‘social round’ of Maybelline Erstwhile who records which dresses she wears for each event in her ‘dressing book’ – and the men she encounters while wearing them. The play opens a window on the way clothes were a means by which men could control the separated public and private worlds of women. Through a process of magic realism the action changes to the 1960’s and her clothes, which had been her prison, now set her free. 

The story

Mrs Erstwhile, Maybelline to her intimates, has a dilemma. The wife, now widow, of Sir John Rump MP, known to virtually no intimates (because she had none) as Augusta, was bounding up the path in her durable bombazine widow’s weeds (with a hint of sunlight), quite visibly without a calling card! 

There had been a tiff. Indeed a spat concerning a gown, examples of which both women had worn to The Pantiles Annual Ball in Tunbridge Wells – a damask robe à la française with sleeves finished in a ruffle of dimity and fine English net lace. Allegedly bespoke by Greenfield and Tuck, no less, of Oxford Street! Bespoke indeed! 

Mrs Rump was furious! – Who wouldn’t be? – And would have made the point that very night but for the fact that Sir John had been shot through the heart in a duel with his mistress’s husband. Quite snookered in fact!  Distracted by the obsequies her rage had been bottled up, but now ‘dear Jack’ was safely in the ground she was about to explode like Vesuvius itself at Maybelline’s very door.

But Maybelline would not give up her claim to the gown lightly because that night she had met Edward, Mr Ashby, that is, a doctor from Sevenoaks, and the trace of his presence still lingered on its sleeve where he had daringly touched her arm. She had carefully recorded the facts in her dressing book, where she chronicled in her tiny elegant hand all her encounters – and the gowns that she had worn. The impossible possibilities. The pathways always not quite crossing. Thwarted by social obligation, or time, or geography. 

“In turn hilarious, touching & provocative, the play shows how social expectation, especially relating to how women should look, both in their body shape and their clothes, is still as relevant today as it was in 1795.” 


General events information

  • † Events list is subject to change.
  • † Bring your own chairs and warm clothes. It can get cold.
  • † The show is aimed at adults, but mature children will enjoy it.
  • † Please do not bring babies. However much we love them, they do distract.
  • † Quiet dogs are welcome; please take out dogs that want to join in.
  • † We do not continue in heavy rain. If the show is cancelled before curtain up money will be refunded.