History Focus – Some Teddington Celebrities

Last month’s edition on the lost Film Studios raised a few memories from readers and I thought it was time to take a closer look at some of the names in entertainment who have made Teddington their second home.

The death of Dame Diana Rigg immediately recalls the days when The Avengers was made in Teddington. In the early days of the Studios, there was no licensed bar on the premises and as a result, most of the local pubs did a roaring trade from the actors and production staff. I clearly remember one episode in which Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) had to fend off a “baddie” with a judo throw.

The baddie was wrestler Jackie Pallo, playing a rogue grave-digger, and the stunt went slightly wrong with Jackie ending up being knocked out in the grave! The resultant party in the King’s Arms (The Clockhouse) must have gone on all night.

The King’s Arms was home to another star when the show was revised as The New Avengers and Patrick Newell, who played “Mother” the head of M15 was frequently seen propping up the bar with Dennis Price after a day’s filming.

The series was originally devised as a vehicle for Ian Hendry who played Dr David Keel in a spin-off of his previous series Police Surgeon. Patrick Macnee was in a supporting role as John Steed but for whatever reason, Ian Hendry did not sign up for a second series and Patrick Macnee took over the main role. Ian had been known to hold court in “The Anglers” when not filming.

Another very long running TV series is Doctor Who and Teddington can claim several connections. Firstly,  Patrick Troughton who played the second incarnation of the Doctor.

He was put up for the part by William Hartnell, the original Doctor and went on the play 125 episodes in the part. At the time he and his family were in a cottage in Park Lane. Leaving the show to avoid becoming typecast, he continued to work solidly until his untimely death in 1987. 

He was attending a Science Fiction Convention in the USA when he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. His ashes were flown home to England where his widow scattered them beneath some newly planted trees in Bushy Park.

A few years after Patrick had left the show Jon Pertwee was in the role of the Doctor and a new adversary was added to the proceedings – The Master. After making a career of playing villains in most of the British adventure series of the day : Danger Man, The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Avengers and as Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in Sir Francis Drake, the actor with the surprising name of Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto or plain Roger Delgado to you and me, took on his most famous villain. Jon and Roger were close friends and were often seen at “The Tide End Cottage” after filming. During this timer, Roger and family were happily ensconced in Park Lane. Tragically whilst filming in Turkey, Roger’s car went off the road and into a ravine killing him and the two Turkish technicians. Jon Pertwee was so upset by Roger’s death that he did not agree to do another for another series.

Speaking of The Master, we must not forget the original Master – Sir Noel Coward. After a long search, it was confirmed that Sir Noel was born at Helmsdale, 131 Waldegrave Road on 16 December 1899. It had been previously numbered as No. 5. Unfortunately there is no account of his ever having visited Teddington. He does leave us with this Personal Reminiscence :

“I cannot remember

I cannot  remember

The house where I was born

But I know it was in Waldegrave Road

Teddington, Middlesex

Not far from the border of Surrey

An unpretentious abode

Which, I believe,

Economy forced us to leave

In rather a hurry.”

The truth of the matter was that his parents were broke and behind with the rent and a silent “moonlight flit” was necessary. The family left Teddington for Battersea in 1908 and never returned.

One actor who will be remembered by some of our older readers was Thorley Walters. He probably defined the English character actor although his parts were many and varied. He spent much of his life in Teddington and would frequently be seen walking the streets. His principle comedy roles were in : Carlton-Brown of the FO, Two-Way Stretch and the St Trinian’s films. He played the role of Dr Watson four times but never Holmes. David Croft offered him the role of Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army but he turned it down and it went to Arthur Lowe.

The proximity of the Film Studios brought many stars to Teddington and my brother and his mates used to play football regularly on a Sunday morning at Broom Road Rec with the likes of singer/actor Tommy Steele, actor Patrick O’Connell from The Brothers and Robert Powell. After the game the young lads went home Patrick and Robert went round to the public bar of “The Railway Hotel”.

We have been blessed with many famous and household names both living and working in Teddington and I will be reminding of some more of them next month.

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books.

howe64@btinternet.com 

020 8943 1513