Tom Arnold

Photo:Photo of Tom Arnold OBE 1897-1969

Photo of Tom Arnold OBE 1897-1969

From the private collection of Trevor Chepstow

The King of Pantomime

By Trevor Chepstow

The impresario Tom Arnold will be best remembered by the people of Brighton for producing some of the most exciting post-war ice spectaculars the town has ever seen. His name was known the length and breadth of Britain with some of his most lavish and expensive ice shows ever produced being shown at the Wembley Ice Stadium.

Although born in Yorkshire, Tom Arnold considered Brighton his second home and owned five different houses in the town during his long stay here with his family.

Dubbed the "King of Pantomime", his business activities were extensive and included opera, classical plays, films, revues, American rodeo and variety, ice spectaculars and circuses. His empire extended to the continent and South Africa. He was undoubtedly the most versatile and successful theatrical businessman of his day.

Tom Arnold and the Sports Stadium
At the end of the Second World War, Tom Arnold acquired the lease of the Sports Stadium and brought his first production to the town. "Hot Ice", starring Armand Perren, Len Stewart and Sheila Hamilton, delighted visitors to Brighton in the summer of 1945.

This was followed by "Ice Caprice" under the direction of Gerald Palmer and featuring Armand Perren and Olive Robinson. "Hello Ice" followed in 1947, starring British champion Daphne Walker. Some of his most popular shows at the SS Brighton were the summer "Ice Circuses". Many of these featured circus animals such as dogs, seals, ponies and monkeys, and many other circus animals including bears!

In one of the shows, a bear owned by Elizabeth Vogelbein the trainer bounded across the ice and leapt amongst the audience. Chased by Vogelbein and various members of the staff, the bear ran up and down the gangways before finally running into the orchestra area, from where he ambled quietly back into his cage!

A lifetime's achievement
Tom Arnold passed away February 2nd 1969 at the age of seventy-two in St Mary's Hospital, Paddington after an illness of only a few days.

Below are just a few of the ice shows staged at the Sports Stadium in West Street, Brighton during Tom Arnold's  ownership.

  • Ice Rhapsody
  • Aladdin
  • Dick Whittington
  • Ice Express
  • Sleeping Beauty on Ice
  • Rose Marie on Ice
  • Chu Chin Chow
  • Seven Summer Ice Circuses (from 1951)
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Is this the same Tom Arnold that produced shows in the Isle of Man during the late 1940s?
By Valerie Kinrade (17/08/2005)
Valerie Kinrade - Tom Arnold did produce shows in the IOM and many European cities and as far away as South Africa etc.
By Trevor Chepstow (09/11/2005)
I was born and brought up in Brighton. My best friend was a girl called Micheline Andrews (changed to Michelle I believe) whose mother, Amy Andrews, sang in the American Bar in SS Brighton. Micheline skated downstairs while her mother worked, they were escapees from Paris at the beginning of the War. Micheline went on to star in several Ice shows and I believe toured with Hot Ice later. I am now 73 so I am talking about the war years and the late Forties and early Fifties.
By Jocelyn Everest (22/01/2006)
I am very glad I found Mr. Arnold. He was the producer of many shows for my stepfather Reg Dixon (Confidentially yours..) I met him once, a wonderful gentleman.
By Toni Mayer-Dixon (18/03/2006)

I remember as a kid going with one of my aunts to see Rose Marie on ice. One of the girls in the show was a sister of Alan Jones, a neighbour from the street I lived in, Bennett Road. I am not sure if she played Rose Marie or not, time makes memories a bit hazy.

By Mick Peirson (06/11/2006)

Tom Arnold and Gerald Palmer productions in the UK were great. I was in Snow White and the Sevens Dwarfs on Ice in 1967.

By Claude Lebrun (11/12/2006)

The very best of all Ice Show Productions was indeed Snow White at the Empire Pool Wembley. This show staring Carol-Anne as Snow White, broke all box office records in the history of the Pool. 13 shows per week for over three months with sell out performances of 12,000 people each show.

By Michel Henri (15/02/2008)

My parents had a Guest house in Chesham Road in Brighton, and I remember some of the cast staying with us.

By Jackie Soutar (nee Gladwell) (08/04/2008)

I have just found your piece on Tom Arnold who my mother knew in the late 1930s. She was one of The Goater Twins skated at the SS Brighton in several of their summer spectaculars and were on the rink's professional staff. With the help of her cuttings book and my aunt (known as Little Iris Goater - now 76) I am trying to put together a brief biography of the twins. I am hoping you may be able to help.

By Susan Dewing (01/05/2008)

Hi Susan. Sorry, I was just a child at the time and don't have any information on the twins.  Regards.

By Jackie Soutar (Gladwell) (05/05/2008)

Yes those ice shows were fantastic. I best remember 'Around the World in 80 Days' at Wembley complete with enormous hot-air balloon descending from the roof. And I saw "Ali Baba" twice (in South Africa it played theatres as 'Chu Chin Chow').

By Duncan Gillies (27/08/2008)

Hi Folks.  If I can help on any information on the SS Brighton please contact me at this email address.  Sports Stadium Brighton Archive.  ssbrighton@hotmail.com

By Trevor Chepstow (01/12/2008)

A flood of wonderful memories swept over me as I read Trevor Chepstow's article about Tom Arnold "The King of Pantomime". I was in several of Tom Arnold's pantomimes on ice in the early 1950s. They included one in Brighton, some on the Continent and his trademark spectaculars at Harringay and Wembley. During this time I met Mr. Arnold several times. He was always the gentleman, and a great boss.  I shall always remember those Tom Arnold spectaculars and the many friends I made doing them. My fondest memories are from the shows Dick Whittington, Rose Marie (starring Barbara Ann Scott) and Sleeping Beauty.  The last Tom Arnold show I skated was Sleeping Beauty at Wembley for the 1952 Christmas season.  Thank you all for reminding me.

By Marion Fleming-Howard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA (12/04/2009)
Trevor, I have only just read this page and it has confirmed a story that my mother used to tell regarding the bear escaping. My late father, Jack Sturgeon, was working at the SS at the time of the incident as a general hand and scenery shifter and he was one of the staff who chased after the bear. Apparantly the bear was called Yoli and my first teddy bear was named in honour of him.
By Leigh Sturgeon (20/07/2009)

My Mother and Father both worked in several Tom Arnold productions. My Father - Peter Lawrenson (Lawson) skated at Brighton and Wembley in Tom Arnold's shows (I particularly remember Around the World in 80 Days), usually as a clown or on a uni-cycle. I remember my parents speaking about a show in South Africa and also 'White Horse Inn'. My Mother - Whilma Lawrenson - worked on the costumes in the Wardrobe Department. When my parents separated, my Mother worked in the Wardrobe Department at the old Ice Rink (this would be about 1955) while I was at school at St Paul's just around the corner. She later worked in Floral Street, London, at the main Wardrobe store and travelled to various ice shows, pantomimes and summer shows around the country. I remember that she and her colleagues held Tom Arnold in the highest regard, but do not recall meeting him (I was only a small child then).

By Jill Smith (16/11/2009)

Hi, I am trying to find information about Patricia Stringer who was born in 1934 and who worked as a professional ice skater with Tom Arnold's Company certainly in 1960. If any one can remember her or has information please could you contact me at t.anderson36@btinternet.com Many thanks.

By Tim Anderson (06/01/2010)

I first met Tom Arnold when I auditioned for the ice show at the Stoll Theatre in London. I had previously worked and learnt to skate at the Sports Stadium and appeared in many shows there as a teenager. Tom Arnold was a real gentleman, and Gerald Palmer who produced so many of his shows gave me away at my wedding at St Mary Magdalens in Upper North Street, Brighton under an archway of skates. At that time my husband Paddy and I were appearing in the Tom Arnold show at Wembley so got married on a Sunday to avoid missing the performances! We travelled with Tom Arnold Ice shows all over Great Britain before being taken over by Holiday on Ice and going to Europe.

By Pat Hannon nee Bessent (28/03/2010)

I am trying to locate one of the dancers who travelled with Tom Arnold and eventually left to join Armand Perren for shows in Switzerland. I think her name was Sylvia.  Please email me at dbhhall@adam.com.au if you have any information.  Thanks.

By David (07/05/2010)

I was in ice-shows in Stockholm, Brussels and Zurich with Armand Perren; there was a Sylvia Victor in the show also - this was roughly from 1947 onwards to 1950 when I then went to Australia for 2 years playing in an ice show.

By Barbara nee Harris (02/09/2010)

For Susan Dewing (01/05/2008) Reference to comments on the web. Iris Goater was my father's younger sister - he had two other sisters, Olive and Joyce, the former married Kurt Schier a German national, see Hansard report. He committed suicide just after the outbreak of war in 1940. I would be pleased to hear from any other relations.

By Tony Goater (28/12/2011)

My dad, Thomas Philcox skated in Puss in Boots on ice 1950(?) for Tom Arnold. He remembers the leading lady as Jacquline Bisset. Does anyone have any memories? I would love to hear from you. penny.goldsmith6373@gmail.com

By Penny Goldsmith (06/01/2012)

My mum Eunice Busby was in the chorus of Rosemaire, Sleeping Beauty, Circus on Ice al-l in the early 50s. Does anyone remember her?

By Sarah Cornwall (18/03/2012)

To anyone who my be interested I have started a facebook page called Wembley Ice Shows ( Tom Arnold Productions) and members have kindley shared photos, programmes and posters also personal memories and we would love more members. Katriona (Moss) Sherwood.

By Katriona Sherwood nee Moss (24/04/2012)

My parents are Joan Rose (nee Hudson) and George Rose they were in Rose Marie, Choo Chin Chow, Puss in Boots. My mum remembers Eunice Busby, she was good friends with her, I have a photo of my parents and Eunice doing a spot of Archery. I have quite a few programmes from Tom Arnold Ice shows. If anyone would like to contact my parents please e mail me with details. (I wish this type of Ice Show good come back, they were brilliant).

By Julie Lansdown (24/04/2012)

I was a chorus boy in Tom Arnold's ice shows from 1962-1969 and would love to get in touch with any skaters from the old Brighton SS days who may remember me and my cousin Vi Mileham/Hook, also a show skater.  My e-mail address is thompsontony196@yahoo.co.uk if any skaters would like to contact me.

By Tony Thompson (18/12/2012)

@Susan Dewing...Iris Goater is my Grandmother.

By MIke (05/01/2013)

I worked with Tony Thompson in Snow White in Tom Arnold's South African tour.

By Morinja (17/07/2013)

Hi Sarah, Yes I remember your mum Eunice. I skated from 1951 until 1956.

By Aldyth Fletcher (Nee Watts) (25/10/2013)

My mother, Pamela Gaye, was an ice skater with Tom Arnold's ice shows. She played Rose Marie in Rose Marie on Ice and at the Stoll theatre. She was born in Hove in the 1930s.

By Shani Steer (01/11/2013)

I skated in Tom Arnold Ice shows from 1946 to 1956 at the Stoll Theatre and Brighton. I was in three ice shows at the Stoll Theatre: 'Stars on Ice', 'Ice Cascades' and 'Ice Vogues'. I have heard there was a fourth show - maybe one before 'Stars on Ice' or later? If anyone knows please email me:  jeanshg@aol.com   Thanks

By Jean Upton (12/01/2014)

In reply to Shani Steer:
Hi Shani, I remember your mother Pamela, although in those years I was just a pre-teen. I often visited the SS as for some years my mother worked as a dresser to the skaters in the Ice Shows. This of course gave me access to the cast dressing rooms where I met many of those glamorous ladies.
Your mother at that time was a beautiful blonde Lana Turner look alike. I have in my possession a photo signed by her to my mother. If you wish a copy you can contact me at  bobcatt289@googlemail.com  I can send it to you as an email attachment.
Another skater I remember so well who I believe may also have been a local girl was Colleen MacCarthy (or M'Carthy)?

By Bob Catt (13/01/2014)

Hi, I'm trying to find out about a Tom Arnold ice show at the Coventry theatre/Birmingham hippodrome starring the Swiss skaters Frick and Frack, which ran for two weeks in September 1938. Does anybody have any info?  You can reach me at piudasgupta@hotmail.com

By Piu Das Gupta (17/06/2014)

For MIke (05/01/2013). Intrigued so you are either Beverly or Mark's son? I am regularly in touch with Angela so your ears may be burning. I would love to have news of Auntie Iris. susandewing29@yahoo.co.uk

By Susan Dewing (25/01/2015)

Didn't Tom Arnold run a Circus at one time?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (25/01/2015)

Tom's shows at Wembley lived on after he did.  My adagio partner, Joop, and I skated in Sleeping Beauty (Christmas 1972), and Aladdin 1974, and they were still billed as Tom Arnold Presentations. Wonderful shows and always a lovely cast.

By Carie Richardson (30/01/2015)

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