Starring Robert Henderson Bland

R. Henderson Bland

(Born 10 March 1876)

An obituary notice written on 22 August 1941 reads:

"Captain Robert Henderson-Bland whose death in London was announced yesterday, was associated with some of the greatest actors and actresses on the British stage.
    He acted with Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree during the great days of Her Majesty's Theatre; accompanied Lily Langtry on her tour of South Africa, and acted with Mrs. Brown Potter, a noted beauty of the period.
    Captain Henderson-Bland played "Christ" in the film "From Manger to the Cross" a film he regarded as the greatest work of his life.
    It was Beerbohm-Tree who recommended him to play the part, saying that the only man who could play "Christ" was a poet."

The obituary above, I found pasted into a copy of R. Henderson Bland's book - 'From Manger to Cross' - published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited in 1922. This book details his experiences leading up to and during the filming of 'From the Manger to the Cross',which was produced by the famous Hollywood film director, the Canadian Sidney Olcott, in 1912. Henderson Bland became world-famous because of his excellent portrayal of Christ. The book forms an answer to the general question "What would an actor think and feel, when playing the role of a major religious figure, such as Christ?".

I have made an electronic version of "From Manger To Cross". The original book was dedicated to my aunt - Mrs Maud Henderson Bland (nee Hyde). I have included a portrait of her on his dedication page. Also before a small collection of his poems, I have inserted portraits of three of his brothers in First War Army uniforms. These portraits were sent independently to me by two of their relations, Antony Crofts and Richard Bland. The only other significant difference is that I have reformatted the text for A4 and thus had to re-do the page numbers and indexing.

The full pdf version of 65 A4 pages, including 27 illustrations is at:
FROM MANGER TO CROSS - PDF document (1092k)

I have also included the individual sections/chapters in pdf format below for those who only wish to view a portion.

1)     Preface & Contents Index - PDF document (242k)
2)     'Unconscious Preparation' - Chapter 1. - PDF document (208k)
3)     'The Call' - Chapter 2.- PDF document (174k)
4)     'En Route' - Chapter 3. - PDF document (156k)
5)     'En Route' - Chapter 4. - PDF document (158k)
6)     'The Task' - Chapter 5. - PDF document (160k)
7)     'The Task' - Chapter 6 - PDF document (223k)
8)     'The Task' - Chapter 7 - PDF document (138k)
9)     'The Task' - Chapter 8 - PDF document (299k)
10)     'A Tribute' - Chapter 9. - PDF document (134k)
11)     'A Sheaf of Verse' - PDF document (175k)
11)     'Letters' - PDF document (161k)
11)     'Press Opinions' - PDF document (162k)

William Charles Bland

R. Henderson Bland's family background.
William Charles Bland b.1828, d.1890 (Henderson's father) was married to Frances Maria Baker (b.1838 d.1911).
They had seven children: Rosetta (b.1861 d.1942), Clara Elizabeth (b.1864 d.1935), Charles Edward Evans ( b.1866 d.1938), Spencer William (b.1872 d.1945), Percy Richard (b.1874 d.1917), Robert Henderson (b.1876 d.1941), Leopold Grosvenor Bland (b.1877 d.1947).

On May 6th 1835, Henderson's Grandfather, William Henderson Bland, a tea merchant, became an owner in R & W Fullwood, Bland & Co. This firm, originally established circa 1785, sold products associated with cheese making, such as vells which are dried calf stomachs. They are a rich source of the enzyme rennin used to coagulate milk in the first stage of cheese making. Farmers would add a small piece of vell to the milk. Later a purified rennin extract was sold.

Another product was a reddish vegetable dye made from annatto seeds imported from Jamaica. The seeds were crushed, and the dye extracted then used in particular for coloring cheese, fish and leather goods. A horse-operated mill was installed in 1800, to grind the seeds into a paste. This mill remained in use for 130 years.

Henderson's father, William Charles Bland, also became a part owner of R & W Fullwood, Bland & Co probably after the death of his father in 1865. He also became circa 1877 a partner in Gillett and Bland - Clock and Bell Founders, Croydon, Surrey. In 1868 it was one of the first steam powered clock factories in the world. It later manufactured the 72 bell carillon - the largest in the world - for John Rockefeller Jnr, to be installed in New York.

After the death of R. Henderson Bland's father in 1890, Henderson's eldest brother Charles Edward Evans Bland, continued with the family's business interests.

The brief historical note above was compiled from information supplied by Antony R. Crofts, who is a professor in Biophysics & Computational Biology with the University of Illinois, a grandson of Spencer William Bland; and Richard Bland who runs a company selling farm machinery in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England and is a grandson of Percy Richard Bland, who was killed in WW1 in the Battle of the Somme.

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