That's the way to do it! World's longest-running Punch and Judy show notches up 150 years

It’s as synonymous with the British seaside as the bucket and spade or fish and chips. And now one family is celebrating 150 years of Punch and Judy.

Passed down three generations, the show is run by Jacqueline Millband-Codman after she inherited it from her great-grandfather who started the tradition in 1860.

Mrs Millband-Codman, 67, said she has tweaked the slapstick comedy only slightly – cutting the duration by half due to ‘parents’ attention spans’ – over the years, but it remains true to the traditional plot.


Family tradition: Jacqueline Millband-Codman and her son Jason operate the Punch and Judy show from Llandudno, North Wales

Although that has raised concerns from some mothers – who have deemed the ‘hanging’ storyline ‘too violent’.

The 35-minute show still uses the original solid oak puppets which were carved from driftwood more than 150 years ago by her ancestors.

Grandmother Mrs Millband-Codman now operates the show with her son Jason, 41, three times a day, delighting crowds on the pier at Llandudno in North Wales with the, ‘That’s the way to do it’, catchphrase.

‘Punch and Judy will always be as popular as it was back in the day my great-grandfather started it,’ Mrs Millband-Codman said.

‘We want to keep that family tradition going and who knows it could go on for another 150 years - and so it should.

‘Some young mums have told us it's too violent for the kids but it's been going for so long now we're not going to change it.


First generation: Richard Codman started the Punch and Judy show in 1860

‘We run the traditional version with the hanging scene and everything and we wouldn't do it any other way. It's a part of history so why cover it up.’

Mrs Millband-Codman’s grandfather Richard Codman set up his ‘Professor Codman's Wooden Headed Follies’ show in 1860 after his ancestors - a Romany family of travelling actors - arrived in the UK from Hungry.

He died in 1909 aged 79, handing over the reigns of show to his son Bert who ran it for 52 years until 1960 when his son John took over.

John ran it until 1980 before Mrs Millband-Codman and her husband Morris took over.

Mrs Millband-Codman said: ‘It's as popular now as it was years ago.

‘The only reason our show is 35 minutes long compared to the original one hour 10 minutes is because of the parents' attention spans - the kids could watch it all day. 

‘Most of them want the traditional version with the hanging scene.

‘The parents are a bit worried sometimes but no kids are ever upset, they say, “Pull the string, pull the string”.’ 

The Punch and Judy show’s roots trace back to 16th-century Italy and it was first performed in Britain in 1662.

The plot usually involves Punch killing the ‘baby’ or Punch killing ‘judge’ before being hanged by Jack Ketch.

Gwen Roberts, senior tourism officer for Visit Llandudno, said: ‘The May Bank Holidays are always busy so it's a perfect time to celebrate the Codman Punch and Judy show's 150th anniversary.

‘To reach such a milestone demonstrates that traditional seaside shows have a place in the hearts of domestic and foreign holidaymakers.’


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