FAMOUS PEOPLE of MILL HILL
Click on any of the names below to find out more about them.
Dani Behr Rodney Bewes Betty Box Sidney Box Ian Carmichael Nan Clark Peter Collinson Russ Conway Judy Craymer Francis Crick Graham Crowden Sir Henry Dale The Die Hards Richard Dimbleby Terry Downes David English Celia Fiennes Sir Charles Flower Tommy Flowers Bruce Forsyth George Fox Michael Frayn John Gregson Graham Hill Damen Hill Tina Hobley G. L. Jessop The Laing Family Lord Levy Margaret Lockwood Jasper Maskeleyne Patrick McGoohan Tony Mould Sir James Murray The Nicoll Family Sigmund Nissel Leslie Phillips Sir Stamford Raffles Zoe Rahman Marion Rhodes Peter Rogers Edmondo Ros Lord William Russell Peter Schidlof Richard Seifert James Stevens Richard Swift Patrick Troughton Cardinal Vaughan William Wilberforce John Wilkes
Dani Behr (b.1974)
Dani Behr is an English singer, actress and television presenter who was born in Mill Hill. She started dancing at the young age of three, always knowing she wanted to perform. Years later at the age of 14, she signed her first big music contract with WEA, whilst attending one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the UK.
During her two-year music career in the all-girl pop band ‘Faith Hope & Charity’, Behr realised it would be more interesting and exciting introducing the band, instead of being the performer. At 16, Behr's realization became reality, when she was chosen from thousands of hopefuls to host what became one of the highest-rated late night shows on British TV – ‘The Word’ (1990). Behr has hosted over 30 shows all over the UK and US networks. She has diversified into radio, hosting a daily 4-hr live drive-time show on Kiss FM, gone back to her acting roots and taken to the stage in London's West-End for ‘Moby Dick’ and appeared in ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at the Old Vic, London. Her acting career has featured many roles in TV sitcoms and British movies.
Alongside all of the above, she has one of the most recognisable voices in the UK, having a successful 15-year career in voice-overs; recording for TV & Radio commercials, animation, trailers, video games and so much more. Maxim named Behr ‘Best Television Presenter of 2002’. In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles, California, and after a short period relocated to Sydney, Australia in 2006. Recent appearances have been in ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!’ (2008) and Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine with Me’ (2009).
Rodney Bewes (b.1937)
Rodney Bewes is an English television actor and writer who is best known for playing Bob Ferris in the BBC television sitcom ‘The Likely Lads’ (1964-66) and its sequel ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’ (1973-74). There were also various radio series based on them (1976-68 and 1975) and the big screen film ‘The Likely Lads’ (1976). Subsequently Bewes has been involved with television, radio and films and these are well documented on his Wikipedia. Rodney lived in Flower Lane, Mill Hill, from 1964/65, but now he lives in Henley-on-Thames
Betty Box OBE (1915 – 1999)
Betty Evelyn Box was a prolific film producer, she is considered one of the best of her generation, with a flair for making genuinely popular British Films. She entered the motion picture business in 1942, joining her brother Sydney Box and his wife Muriel at Verity Films where she helped produce more than 200 wartime propaganda shorts. Following World War II she made an easy transition to feature films joining Gainsborough where her brother made her Head of Production where she made 10 films.
After 1949 Betty Box moved to J Arthur Rank’s Pinewood Studios, where she collaborated with director Ralph Thomas on some thirty-odd films, including the successful ‘Doctor’ series, beginning with ‘Doctor in the House’ (1954) Box was awarded the OBE in 1958. She was married to Peter Rogers, producer of the ‘Carry On’ film series from 1948 till her death. The Box family had connections with Nan Clark’s Lane, Mill Hill.
Sidney Box (1907 – 1983)
Sydney Box was a British film producer and screenwriter, and brother of British film producer Betty Box. In 1940, he founded the documentary film company Verity Films with Jay Lewis. He produced and co-wrote the screenplay, with his then wife Muriel Box, for ‘The Seventh Veil’ (1945), which received the 1946 Oscar for best original screenplay. Their career continued with the Rank organisation, running Gainsborough Studios, the two being merged in 1949. Sydney and Muriel divorced in 1969. Box ended his cinema career to concentrate on TV work from 1958.
Ian Carmichael OBE (1920 – 2010)
Ian Gillett Carmichael OBE was an English film, stage, television and radio actor who lived in Nan Clark’s Lane, Mill Hill. Carmichael was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire and trained as an actor at RADA. He made his stage debut as a robot at the People’s Palace in Mile End, East London in 1939. With the outbreak of World War II his acting career was interrupted by service with the Royal Armoured Corps as a commissioned officer in the 22nd Dragoons. He reached the rank of major before leaving the Army in 1947.
Carmichael portrayed serious characters in ‘Betrayed’ (1954) and ‘The Colditz Sory’ (1955). However he made his name playing in a series of films for the Boulting brothers including ‘Private’s Progress’ (1956), ‘Brothers in Law’ (1957), and ‘I’m All Right Jack’ (1959), as well as similar films for other producers like ‘School for Scoundrels’ (1960). During the 60’s and 70’s he was successful on television including Bertie Wooster. He also played Lord Peter Wimsey in several drama series based on the mystery novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.
We could not let a reference to Nan Clark escape, as her ghost is allegedly seen ‘frequently’ in the Rising Sun (c.1665), and she is also said to appear at midnight in the lane that bears her name. In the 17th century, an alehouse called the “Three Crowns” stood at the corner of Nan Clark’s Lane. Parish records show that in 1698, Ann Clark was granted a renewal of her victualler’s licence for this inn and in 1700, there is a record of her petition to license an alehouse. There is an earlier record that about 1690, a victualler, was forbidden to allow card games, backgammon or bowls “in her house, yard or backside” or to admit anyone during church service or sermon.
There are various versions of events and evidence that are worthy of study – one suggests that Ann Clark, a spinster of Hendon and Edward Clark, a citizen and carpenter of London, purchased the Inn from John and Mary Nicholls. It is not clear whether Edward was Ann’s father or brother. The legend is that Nan Clark was murdered by her lover and that her ghost has haunted the village ever since…
Peter Collinson FRS (1694-1768)
Peter Collinson came to live in Mill Hill in 1749. His wife Mary Bushell, whom he married 25 years earlier, had inherited Ridgeway House and Dollis Farm from her father. Collinson had shown an interest in botanical specimens while still living at Peckham, where he had inherited from his grandmother a famous garden. At Mill Hill he was able to assemble and develop the botanical collection and carry out the research that considerably improved the English horticultural system. He is also remembered for his contributions to the Society of Antiquaries, the Sir Hans Sloane Museum, the British Museum; his friendship with Benjamin Franklin, and for the simplicity of his character which he owed to his Quaker upbringing.
Peter Collinson was born on 14th January 1694, near Windermere. His parents, who were members of the Society of Friends, lived on the paternal estate of Hugal Hall. They were especially known as “purveyors of men’s mercery.” Collinson, in partnership with his brother, extended his father’s business and developed trade with the American colonies.
From an early age he showed interest in natural history, and made a special study of the metamorphosis of insects. While still a young man he attracted the notice of some of the greatest naturalists of the age, and especially Sir Hans Sloane.
Collinson had a keen interest in the antiquities near his home. He was a founder member of the reconstituted Society of Antiquaries, and a frequent contributor to its meetings. It was prior to his marriage in 1724 that he left the Society of Friends, although he continued to maintain their standards of conduct for the rest of his life. Collinson was elected to the Royal Society in December 1728. The relationship of the family firm with America had allowed him to make contact with the scientific men of the colonies. When in 1730 plans were laid for a subscription library in Philadelphia, Collinson was consulted about its organisation. One of the committee members of the library was Benjamin Franklin, and in 1745 Collinson sent him details of electrical experiments being carried out in Germany. This was the first information that Franklin had received about electrical research in Europe and he repeated and developed the experiments.
By 1740 Collinson had built up a considerable reputation as a botanist and following his advice American settlers started industries that led to the growing of flax, hemp, sisal and vines. It is known that he was considered for the post of curator of the botanical division of the British Museum, but was never appointed.
Collinson brought to Mill Hill some 170 new plants, mainly exotica from America. He exchanged seeds with a correspondent in Philadelphia and sent them all over the world, including Kew Gardens and Ken Wood. Many of his own trees planted in the Mill Hill garden (around the present Mill Hill School) are believed to be still in existence. The great Swedish botanist, Linnaeus, stayed at Mill Hill, where Collinson tried to dissuade him from his belief that swallows spent the winter under water!
Peter Collinson lived in Ridgeway House from 1749 to his death in 1768. In 1843 L. W. Dillwyn privately printed: “Horus Collinsonianus: plants cultivated by Peter Collinson”, and Dr. Fothergill wrote and published a biography in 1771.
Russ Conway (1925 – 2000)
Russ Conway was born Trevor Herbert Stanford in Bristol and was a British popular musician largely self-taught on the piano. He had 20 piano instrumentals in the UK Singles Chart between 1957 and 1963, including two number-one hits. Conway was a fixture on light entertainment TV shows and radio for many years, appearing at the London Palladium on a number of occasions and becoming a regular on the Billy Cotton Band Show for several seasons. Russ Conway lived part of his life in Marsh Lane, Mill Hill.
Judy Craymer MBE
Judy Craymer is an English producer of musical theatre, who has achieved international popular success in particular for her work on ‘Mamma Mia!’ Craymer graduated from the Guildhall School of Music in 1977 and has since worked extensively in the theatre, film, television and music industries. She worked as a stage manager for the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, the Old Vic Theatre in London, and on the original production of ‘Cats’ for Cameron Mackintosh and the Really Useful Theatre Company. The idea of ‘Mamma Mia!’ was originated by Judy who in 1996 formed Littlestar Services Ltd to produce the stage musical. There have been some 34 productions round the world.
In 2002, Judy Cramer was presented with a Woman of the Year Award in recognition for her international success with ‘Mamma Mia!’ The same year the show was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. In the Queen’s birthday honours list of 2007, she was honoured with an MBE for her contribution to the music industry. There have been other nominations and awards. She produced ‘Mamma Mia! The Movie’ starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, that became the highest grossing musical film worldwide. Recently she was delighted to become a patron for the Everywoman’s Modern Muse project, showcasing successful women of today in all walks of business life. Currently Judy is producing VIVA FOREVER, a musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls.
The Craymer family are no strangers to MHPS; her mother Betty Craymer was Secretary to the Mill Hill Preservation Society for many years, and similarly her father was the Society Solicitor.
Francis Crick OM FRS (1916-2004)
Francis Harry Compton Crick was an English molecular biologist, biophysicist, neuroscientist, being most noted as a co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 together with James D Watson. Crick, Watson and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material”. Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist and played a crucial role in research relating to revealing the genetic code. During the remainder of his career, he held the post of J. W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Crick worked right up until his death.
Francis Crick was educated at Northampton Grammar School and, after the age of 14, Mill Hill School (on a scholarship), where he studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry. He shared the Walter Knox Prize for Chemistry on Foundation Day, 7th July 1933.
Graham Crowden (1922 – 2010)
Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor, best known for his many appearances in television comedy, drama and films, often playing eccentric “offbeat” scientist, teacher or doctor characters. He also had a long and distinguished theatrical career, most notably at Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre. Crowden was cast in some 33 films. Near the end of his career from 2005 – 2008 he starred in the BBC Radio 4 sci-fi comedy ‘Nebulous’ as Sir Ronald Rolands and in 2008 he appeared as a guest star in ‘Foyle’s War’. For many years towards the end of his life he lived in Hammers Lane, Mill Hill.
Sir Henry Dale (1875 -1968)
The Medical Research Council was established in 1913 as the Medical Research Committee.
One of the first decisions of the Medical Research Committee was that a central institute in London was essential, and the MRC National Institute for Medical Research was founded in 1913 as the first Institute of the Medical Research Council. The Institute moved to its current location on the Ridgeway at Mill Hill in 1950. The building at Mill Hill was designed by Maxwell Ayrton, also the architect of the then nearby Wembley Stadium, and construction began in 1937. When war broke out in 1939 the uncompleted building was handed over to the Women’s Royal Naval Service. After the war it was handed back to the scientists in the autumn of 1949. Sir Henry Dale, the first Director of the Institute, retired in 1942.
The official opening ceremony took place on the 5th May 1950, when their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Mill Hill. This occasion was the culmination of the efforts of many people, including Sir Henry Dale, who was involved in the planning stages of the new Institute.
The scientific researches by Sir Henry Dale were recognised by the joint award of the Nobel Prize for 1936, given on account of the discoveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve impulses. In addition to numerous articles in medical and scientific journals which record his work, Sir Henry is the author of ‘Adventure in Physiology’ (1953), and ‘An Autumn Gleaning’ (1954).
The Die Hards
(1st Battalion formerly the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot – raised 1755)
The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) was a regiment of the British Army. It was formed in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms when the 57th (West Middlesex) regiments of Foot were amalgamated with the country’s militia and rifle volunteer units. On 31st December 1966 The Middlesex Regiment was amalgamated with three other regiments to form The Queen’s Regiment. The latter regiment was itself subject to a merger in 1992 to form part of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.
The phrase ‘Die Hard’ was used during the Battle of Albuera (16th May 1811) in the Peninsular War. During the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel William Inglis of the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot was wounded by a canister shot. Despite his injuries, Inglis refused to retire from the battle but remained with the regimental colours, encouraging his men with the words “Die hard 57th, die hard!” as they came under intense pressure from a French attack. “Albuera” was the principle battle honour on the Middlesex Regiment’s colours.
The Middlesex Regiment was based at Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill East, and their memorial is now located opposite St Paul’s church on The Ridgeway, the church they used as their Regimental chapel.
Richard Dimbleby CBE (1913 – 1965)
Frederick Richard Dimbleby was an English journalist and broadcaster widely acknowledged as one of the greatest figures in British broadcasting history. Dimbleby was a boarder at Mill Hill School throughout his education. He did not go to university. After attending Mill Hill School he began his career with the family newspaper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times in 1931. He later worked for the Bournemouth Echo and Advertisers Weekly.
In 1936 Dimbleby joined the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a news reporter. In 1939 he accompanied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France; after Dunkirk Dimbleby reported from the frontline in Egypt and Greece. He also flew 20 missions with RAF Bomber Command. In 1945 he was the first reporter to enter Belsen Concentration Camp.
After the war Richard Dimbleby became the main commentator on state occasions. This included the funerals of George VI and Winston Churchill. He was also managing director of the family newspaper business (1954-65) and presenter of BBC's Panorama (1955-63).
Richard Dimbleby died of cancer in London on 22nd December 1965.
Terry Downes BEM (b.1936)
Terry Downes BEM is a retired British middleweight boxer. He was nicknamed the ‘Paddington Express’ for his aggressive fighting style. He held the world middleweight boxing title for ten months from 1961 to 1962, a title he won by beating Paul Pender at the Empire Pool, Wembley on 11th July 1961. His last fight was against Willie Pastrano for the World Light-Heavyweight Title in Manchester – November 1964. His record was 44 fights, 35 wins including 28 KOs and 9 losses. After his boxing career Downes occasionally acted between 1965 and 1990. Terry Downes used to live on Milespit Hill.
David English CBE, MBE, OSCA
David English, former manager of The Bee Gee’s, and founder organiser of the Bunbury English Schools Cricket Association under 15 cricket festivals, was honoured with an MBE in 2003 and a CBE in 2010, for his services to cricket and charities. In 2004 he was presented with the Lifetime Outstanding Services to Cricket Award (O.S.C.A.) by the England and Wales Cricket Board at Lords Cricket Ground.
Born and educated in London, David left school in 1963 with the ambition to play cricket for England. He worked in newspapers and in 1971 became press Officer for the Decca Record Company, handling publicity for such names as Tom Jones, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues and Gilbert O’Sullivan. In 1973 he became the first President of RSO Records responsible for worldwide recordings of Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees amongst others.
English’s acting career began with his film debut in 1976 in ‘Lisztomania’, followed by an appearance in ‘The Lady Vanishes’ with Elliot Gould. He also starred in Sir Richard Attenborough’s ‘A Bridge Too Far’ in 1977. His television Credits include ‘Emmerdale’, ‘Bergerac’, ‘Secret Army’, Ripping Yarns’ with Michael Palin and ‘Casualty’.
English has played for Middlesex County Cricket Club and M.C.C. He is the first President of Berkshire Youth Cricket, a Lords Taverner and Captain of the charity ‘Bunbury’ cricket team, which he founded in 1986. The team, which fields such legendary cricketers as Bill Wyman, Gary Lineker, Ian Botham, Rory Bremner, Eric Clapton, Viv Richards, Shane Warne, Audley Harrison, Lawrence Dallaglio, Ian Wright, Phil Collins, Sam Fox and Barry Gibb, has raised over £14 million for different charities since 1986. His other contributions to cricket and related charities are far too extensive to list here, except his work in connection with the Bunbury E.S.C.A. Festival, the biggest and most important week for under fifteens cricketers in the country. Many of England’s test stars were discovered at this festival – including Atherton, Gooch, Gower, Gatting, Ramprakash, Botham, Stewart (A), Hussain, Thorpe, Trescothick, Bell, Vaughan, Flintoff, Swann, Collingwood and Finn.
David English’s autobiography “Mad Dogs and the Englishman – Confessions of a Loon” was released on Virgin Books in 2002.
Celia Fiennes (1662 – 1741)
Celia Fiennes was an English diarist and traveller who lived at Highwood Ash, Mill Hill, from 1713 – 1737. She was the daughter of an English Civil War Parliamentarian colonel. Fiennes never married. She travelled around England between 1684 and about 1703 – at this time the idea of travel for its own sake was still novel and Fiennes was exceptional as an enthusiastic woman traveller. Sometimes she travelled with relatives, but she made her “Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall” of 1698 accompanied only by one or two servants. Her travels continued intermittently until at least 1712 and took her through most of England. Whilst she worked up a travel memoir - she never published it. Robert Southey published extracts in 1812, and the first complete edition appeared in 1888 under the title ‘Through England on a Side Saddle’. A scholarly edition called ‘The Journeys of Celia Fiennes’ was produced by Christopher Morris in 1947, and the book has been constantly in print in a variety of editions.
Sir Charles Flower (1763 – 1835)
Sir Charles Flower was a Government provisions contractor by occupation, who rose to be Lord Mayor of London in 1809 when he was 46 years old. He was married to Anne Squire and had six daughters and 2 sons. In 1809 he was created 1st Baronet Flower. Belmont, the late 18th century yellow brick, 3-storey mansion, built in 1772 by James Paine Jnr., was the home of Sir Charles Flower (who gave his name to Flower Lane). In 1820 Flower, who was then recorded as a mill owner purchased the estate known as Belmont Farm, and added more land in 1821 and 1826, so that by 1828 his estate comprised 441 acres and stretched from Hale to the Totteridge boundary, including Lawrence Street, Uphill and Bittacy farms. Flower left his estate to his son James, who died in 1850. By 1889 the estate had been split up. (Belmont is now a junior school, and part of the Mill Hill School Foundation.)
Tommy Flowers MBE (1905 – 1998)
Thomas “Tommy” Harold Flowers was a post office engineer, with a degree in electrical engineering. During World War II Flowers designed Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, to help solve encrypted German messages, working at the government’s Bletchley Park codebreaking establishment 50 miles north-west of London. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in June 1943.
The Colossus machine was designed to crack a high-level German cipher generated by teletypewriter in-line cipher machine, the SZ40/42, called “Tunny” by the British. It was a much more complex system than Enigma. Flowers’ design incorporated 1,800 thermionic valves (vacuum tubes) and without the support of the management he proceeded on his own, providing much of the funds for the project himself. Before ‘Colossus 1’ was completed, ‘Colossus 2’ was started incorporating 2,400 valves! The Mark 2 version was put into service at Bletchley Park on 1st June 1944, and immediately produced vital information for the imminent D-Day landings. Some 11 Colossus were built in all, but they were all finally decommissioned in 1959-60. Tommy Flowers work in computing was not fully acknowledged until the 1970s. His family had known only that he had done some ‘secret and important work’.
Tommy is commemorated at the old Post Office Research Station Site, which became a housing development, with the main building converted into a block of flats with an access road called Flowers Close. Tommy Flowers lived in Sunnyfield, Mill Hill.
Sir Bruce Forsyth (b.1928)
Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson, commonly known as Bruce Forsyth, or Brucie, is an English TV host and entertainer whose career spans some 72 years. Bruce was awarded an OBE in 1998, a CBE in 2006, and was knighted in 2011. He became famous through the 1950s series ‘Sunday Night at the Palladium’, going on to present television series such as ‘The Generation Game’, Play Your Cards Right’, ‘The Price is Right’ (UK), and ‘You Bet’. As of 2012 he is hosting the 10th series of top rated show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. He once lived in Uphill Drive, Mill Hill. Due to his love of golf, his main residence is near Wentworth golf course Virginia Water, Surrey.
George Fox (1624 – 1691)
Founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as ‘Quakers’ or ‘Friends’, often visited ‘Rosebank’ – the former Quaker Meeting House on the Ridgeway, Mill Hill.
Michael Frayn (b.1933)
Michael J Frayn is an English playwright and novelist, who is best known as the author of the farce ‘Noises Off’, and the dramas ‘Copenhagen’ and Democracy’. His novels, such as ‘Towards the End of the Morning’, ‘Headlong’ and ‘Spies’, have also been critical and commercial successes – his work often raising philosophical questions in a humorous context. He has received some 18 awards for his writing which includes 12 novels, over 30 plays and many works of non-fiction.
Frayne was born in Mill Hill, grew up in Surrey, and was educated at Kingston Grammar School. Following two years national Service he read Moral Sciences (Philosophy) at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, graduating in 1957. He then worked as a reporter and columnists for The Guardian and The Observer where he established a reputation as a satirist and comic writer, and began publishing his plays and novels.
John Gregson (1919 – 1975)
Harold John Gregson was an English telephone engineer who dabbled in amateur dramatics and went on to become an accomplished actor. He worked on stage, in films and on television, and he was credited in 40 films between 1948 and 1971 and on television from 1960 until his death playing Commander Gideon in ‘Gideon’s Way’ amongst other roles. He was often cast as a police inspector or as a navy or army officer, or for his comedy roles in Ealing and other British films.
His most famous comedy role was in the film chosen for the Royal Film Performance in 1953, ‘Genevieve’, also starring Kenneth More, Dinah Sheridan and Kay Kendall. His final television role was in the Southern Television serial ‘Dangerous Knowledge’, which was broadcast posthumously in 1976. John Gregson lived in Marsh Lane, Mill Hill.
Graham Hill OBE (1929 – 1975)
Norman Graham Hill OBE was a British racing driver and team owner from England, who was a double world Formula One champion and remains the only man to have won the triple crown of world championships: Formula One, Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24-hour race. Aged 46 at the time of his retirement as a racing driver, Graham Hill held a record breaking 176 Grand Prix starts and a total of 14 victories. He was awarded the OBE in 1968.
Graham Hill died when the aeroplane he was piloting crashed in foggy conditions, on Arkley golf course in North London. Hill and five members of his racing team were returning from car testing at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and were due to land at Elstree Airfield. All six on board were killed, of whom some were members of the newly formed Embassy Hill motor racing team.
Graham Hill and family moved to Mill Hill when his son, Damon, was born in 1960, living here until 1972, during which time Graham achieved his best results. On 16th September 2003, Damon Hill ‘came home’ to Mill Hill to unveil a new English Heritage Blue Plaque in honour of his father Graham Hill OBE (1929-1975) – the plaque is at 32 Parkside, Mill Hill.
Damon Hill OBE (b.1960)
Damon Graham Devereux Hill OBE is a retired British racing driver from England, being son of the late Graham Hill who moved to Mill Hill (see above). His father died in an aeroplane crash when Damon was 15. Damon Hill started racing on motor-bikes, then progressed his way up through single–seater racing cars to the International Formula 3000 championship by 1989. He became a test driver for the Formula One Williams team in 1992, and was promoted to the Williams race team the following year, taking the first of his 22 victories at the 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix. Damon Hill retired from racing after the 1999 season, with a record that comprised the 1996 Championship, a total of 122 races (with 115 starts) for Brabham, Williams, Arrows and Jordan, amassing 22 wins and 42 Podium Places.
In his retirement Damon has kept in touch with the motor industry in various guises and in 2006 succeeded Jackie Stewart as President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. He has written in various magazines and made various appearances on television including Sky. Hill has been interested in music from an early age and formed his own band at school. Later he was able to play with various musicians including George Harrison, Def Leppard to mention a few. He has abandoned his guitar being “too busy doing school runs and looking after pets”.
Tina Hobley (b.1972)
Tina Hobley is an English actress who is best known for her role as feisty ward sister Chrissie Williams in BBC medical drama ‘Holby City’. Hobley has had an extensive career including a number of roles in a variety of television dramas, such as Coronation Street as Samantha Failsworth, Harbour Lights and The Bill. Hobley is a supporter of seriously ill children through The Starlight Foundation. She also supports both Barnado’s and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Tina Hobley was born in Mill Hill.
G. L. Jessop (1874 – 1955)
Gilbert Laird Jessop, the well-known cricketer, was born on 19th May, 1874. He was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School and went up to Cambridge from 1896 to 1899, captaining the University cricket eleven in his final year. He played for Gloucestershire from 1894 to 1914 and captained the team from 1900 to 1912. During his career he played for England in five test series at home and toured Australia twice.
Jessop was noted as a brilliant county captain, a hard hitter and excellent fielder; his exceptionally accurate returns from the covers saved many runs and rarely failed to find their mark. He was nicknamed ‘The Croucher’ because of the position he adopted at the wicket. He was a fast scorer and in 1907 at the Hastings Festival he hit 191 runs in one and a half hours. Jessop’s greatest achievement was in 1902 when England were faced with defeat in the final test match at the Oval against Australia. Coming in in the last innings with the score at 48 for 5, he made a brilliant 104 and England went on to victory. Jessop died in 1955 at the age of 81. Jessop lived at 3 Sunnydale Gardens, Mill Hill from 1924 -1936.
The Laing Family
The Laing Family was connected with Mill Hill for some considerable time.
Sir John William Laing (1879 -1978) was a British entrepreneur in the construction industry. He inherited his father John’s building business – that is now known as John Laing plc with operations in the UK, North America, Europe and Asia – in the early 1900’s. Sir John moved the company to Mill Hill in 1926 and lived in Marsh Lane. A deeply Christian man, John William Laing gave the company its evangelical direction, which included pioneering ideas that nurtured staff, such as paid holidays and annual outings, in the early part of the 20th century. He retired from business in 1957, was knighted in 1959 and died in 1978.
Sir John Maurice Laing (1918 – 2008) rose through the ranks of the Laing companies and, after his father’s retirement, worked with his brother to continue to expand the business and turn Laing into a household name. The company constructed houses, 53 miles of the M1 and the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, as well as numerous bridges, balloon barrage stations and RAF bases. When In 1926 the firm moved to Mill Hill, John Maurice Laing attended St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, before joining the business as a trainee in 1935, aged 17.
He was, however, desperate to serve in the RAF for military service. He managed, despite imperfect eyesight, his father’s disapproval and the illness of his wife, Hilda, whom he had married in 1940. Laing returned to the firm in 1945 to devote his attention to the civil engineering work. He interested himself in ventures overseas and developed an understanding of the principles of economics and management, which resulted in him becoming a director of the Bank of England in 1963. Trade missions to the Middle East in 1953 were followed two years later by similar visits to Egypt, the Sudan and Ethiopia. This work led to his appointment in 1956 to the Board of Trade Advisory Council on Overseas Construction and to the Export Group for the Constructional Industries, of which latter body he was chairman in 1957-59 and later president.
For some years from 1959 he was on the Minister of Works’ national consultative council, and was a member of the National Economic Development Council from 1962 until 1966. He was chairman of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors; and he was the last president (1964) of the British Employers’ Federation and the first to hold that office with its successor, the CBI, in 1965. He was an advocate of the value of self-generated effort in national economic welfare. Within the firm, Laing became second-in-command and in 1976, by arrangement, he changed places with his brother, Kirby, as chairman of the Laing Group, serving until 1982 when he was appointed life president. He was knighted in 1965 after the completion of the first motorway in Britain, the M1, the construction of which had been organised by his firm.
Shrewd, enterprising and generous, Laing made an exceptional contribution to State and industry. As a past chairman of the Civil Engineering Contractors, he played an important part in the early 1970s, with his brother, as chairman of the National Joint Council for the Building Industry, in bringing together under one hat as the Building and Civil Engineering Joint Board, the rival unions representing the Building and the Civil Engineering Operatives, and so ending a history of leapfrogging of wage rates.
Lord Levy (b.1944)
Michael Abraham Levy, Baron Levy of Mill Hill (1997), is President of Community Service Volunteers (CSV) Jewish Care, Jewish Free School (JFS) and Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade (JLGB). Levy is a Labour Member of the House of Lords. A long-standing friend of former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Lord Levy spent nine years from 1998 to 2007 as Tony Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East, being replaced by Gordon Brown’s appointee, Michael Williams, from September 2007. Levy was member of the Labour Party Donations Committee 2002-07. Since this time Levy has strongly advocated increased state funding of political parties.
Having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1966 and set up a successful practice attracting a great number of clients in the music and entertainment industry, Levy became a specialist in international copyright and licence. Among his clients were The Foundations, Vanity Fair, Roger Greenaway and Barry Mason among many others. Levy founded Magnet Records in 1973 and this became one of the most successful independent labels. Magnet Records was sold to Warner Brothers in 1988. Then Levy set up M&G Records with backing from Polygram. The company was eventually sold in 1997.
Margaret Lockwood CBE (1916 – 1990)
Karachi-born Margaret Lockwood CBE was an English actress, notable for her performances in the 1940s Gainsborough melodramas such as ‘The Man in Grey’, ‘Love Story’ and ‘The Wicked Lady’. She was educated in London and studied to be an actress at the Italia Conti Drama School. Her first moment on stage came at the age of 12, when she played a fairy in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1928. She had a bit part in the Drury Lane production of "Cavalcade" in 1932, before completing her training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Her film career began in 1934 with ‘Lorna Doone’ (1934) and she was already a seasoned performer when Alfred Hitchcock cast her in his thriller, ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938), opposite relative newcomer Michael Redgrave. Due to the success of the film, Margaret spent some time in Hollywood but was given poor material and soon returned home. In between playing femmes fatales, she had a popular hit in the 1944 melodrama Love Story (1944) as a brilliant but fatally-ill pianist. However, her best-remembered performances came in two classic Gainsborough period dramas; the first of these, ‘The Man in Grey’ (1943), co-starring James Mason, and the second (again with Mason) as the cunning and cruel title character of ‘The Wicked Lady’ (1945). Some additional 15 films followed and in 1955 she received a BAFTA nomination for Best British Actress in ‘Cast a Dark Shadow’.
As her popularity waned in the 1950s she returned to occasional performances on the West End stage and appeared on television, making her greatest impact as a dedicated barrister in the ITV series ‘Justice’, which ran from 1971-74.
Margaret Lockwood lived in Marsh Lane, Mill Hill.
Jasper Maskelyne (1902 – 1973)
Jasper Maskelyne was a British stage magician in the 1930s and 1940s. He was one of an established family of stage magicians, the son of John Nevil Maskelyne. He is most remembered, however, for his entertaining accounts of his work for British military intelligence during the Second World War, in which he claims that he created large scale ruses, deception, and camouflage. His ‘Book of Magic’ (1936) describes a range of stage tricks including sleight of hand, card and rope tricks, and illusions of “mind-reading”. A 1937 Pathe film, ‘The Famous Illusionist’, was made of Maskelyne looking dapper and apparently eating a boxful of razor blades – one at a time.
Maskelyne’s claimed wartime trickery is fascinating. He joined the Royal Engineers thinking his skills could be used in camouflage, and seems to have convinced sceptical officers by creating the illusion of a German warship on the Thames using mirrors and a model. He was trained at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham Castle in 1940. He found the training boring, but the storey goes that he was “rather unsuccessful” at actually camouflaging “concrete pill boxes”. Accounts vary as to how successful his efforts were – but to be kind we could go with his account – claiming that his team produced “dummy men, dummy steel hats, dummy guns by the ten thousand, dummy tanks, dummy shell flashes by the million, dummy aircraft … “ He ended the war being transferred to ‘Welfare’ (1942) – in other words entertaining soldiers with magic tricks. Maskelyne lived in Sunnyfield, Mill Hill.
Patrick McGoohan (1928 – 2009)
Patrick McGoohan was born in Astoria, Queens, New York of Irish parents who had immigrated to USA to look for work. Shortly after he was born his parents returned to Ireland and then 7 years later the family moved to Sheffield. Following the outbreak of World War II he was evacuated to Loughborough, before returning to Sheffield at the age of 16 where he worked as a chicken farmer, a bank clerk and a lorry driver before getting a job as stage manager at Sheffield Repertory Theatre. It was from here that he launched his acting career.
In 1955, McGoohan starred in a West End production of a play called ‘Serious Charge’ where he was spotted by Orson Welles. Other parts in the theatre followed, then films and television. Highlights of his career included the television series ‘Danger Man’ and ‘The Prisoner’ in the 1960’s; the movies ‘Ice Station Zebra, ‘Silver Streak’, and ‘Scanners’ followed in the period up to 1980’s – during which time he worked in, wrote some and directed others of the series ‘Columbo’ with which he was involved in some capacity or other from 1974 to 2000. McGoohan retired from acting after his fourth appearance in ‘Columbo’ in 1998, returning only to provide voice-over work in ‘Treasure Planet’ (2002). Of course all his films roles, plays and TV series are too numerous to mention in their entirety.
We are not sure when he moved to Mill Hill, but he lived in Northcote on the Ridgeway. In 1968, when The Prisoner series was ending, McGoohan left Mill Hill, to live in Switzerland after the local council refused him permission to fence his house off from prying eyes. In 1973 he moved to California. He died in Santa Monica after a brief illness 13th Jan 2009.
Tony Mould (b.?)
We have not been able to find much background information on Tony Mould, except we know he lived in Limes Avenue, Mill Hill. Sgt E.A. “Tony” Mould was Red leader of A flight No. 74 Squadron, flying a Spitfire on 8th July 1940 when he shot down the first German Bf109 over England. From his flying report…”After two bursts smoke or vapour came from the radiator beneath his port wing and other bursts appeared to enter the fuselage. He eventually landed with his wheels up as I fired my last burst at him in a field near Elham. The pilot was apparently uninjured and I circled round him till he was taken prisoner.”
Sir James Murray (b.1837 – 1915)
At the top of Hammers Lane, near its junction with Mill Hill Ridgeway, is a white-washed, slate-roofed house named Sunnyside. On its wall is one of the familiar blue circles which tells any passer-by that Sir James A. H. Murray lived here. That is not a name which everyone immediately recognises.
James Augustus Henry Murray, a Scot, was a historian, geographer, natural historian and philologist. He wrote a book on Scots dialect and edited the poetry of a 15th century Scots herald, David Lyndesay. It is on none of these things, however, that his fame rests. He was renowned in his own day, and is still remembered now, as a maker of dictionaries, a lexicographer.
He lived for 15 years at Sunnyside, opposite the Three Hammers Public House and taught at Mill Hill School. The School had been founded in 1807 for Protestant Dissenters. In 1866 it nearly failed, but was refounded and revived through the efforts of its headmaster, Dr. Weymouth, the first D. Litt of London University. One of Dr. Weymouth’s great attributes was his ability to choose outstanding masters. Two of his best appointments were a mathematician, the Rev. Robert Harley, and the young Scot, James Murray.
Officially Murray taught history, geography and English, but according to one of his pupils, in his classes “you learnt everything under the sun”. A great pastime at Mill Hill in those days was trying to find a subject about which he knew nothing – no one ever succeeded. He might start a lesson on geography, and end up talking of Norse roots or Anglo-Saxon vowel sounds. He was an expert of international repute on the origins of language, the history of place-names and similar subjects.
That did not make him a dry-as-dust academic. Homeliness, friendliness and a real liking for the boys he taught seem to have been James Murray’s characteristics. He started the school Natural History Society, helped to edit the school magazine and loved to read the Lessons in chapel. He was as interested in a strange stone that a small boy showed him as in the latest learned journal. “He never had to keep order”, said a colleague, “he just keeps their interest”.
In 1879 the Clarendon Press proposed the publication of ‘The New English Dictionary’. Murray did not edit the whole of it; he was responsible for A-D, H-K and the letters O, P and T. It was he, however, who conceived the grand design and settled the scope of the whole project, which was considered the greatest lexicographical achievement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Dr Murray (he had become an LL.D of Edinburgh in 1874) did not at once leave Mill Hill when he started work on the Dictionary, but carried on as an assistant master too. Into his Scriptorium, where he worked on the dictionary in his ‘spare time’’, there began to flow the stream of facts which hundreds of readers were scouring libraries to provide. These were actual examples of the use of all the words in the English language, with exact quotations and the precise place of origin of each quotation. One helper – and many Mill Hill boys did help with the early stages of the Dictionary – estimated that three tons of paper slips arrived to be sifted from every part of the world over a period of six years.
Because of Dr Murray and his Dictionary, Mill Hill came to be known wherever English was spoken. By 1885, however, it was impossible to keep both jobs going. James Murray removed himself to the quieter air of Oxford, and devoted himself entirely to the Dictionary. He left his Scriptorium to the School, who used it as a reading room until 1902 when it was burnt down. Mill Hill Old Boys later subscribed to a new Scriptorium to commemorate Dr. Murray, who was knighted in 1908.
Murray lived at Sunnyside, Hammers Lane, Mill Hill from 1870 – 1885
The Nicoll Family in Mill Hill (1321 – 1920)
The earliest record of the Nicoll family is in the Black Survey of 1321 where Stephen Nicoll is cited as a freeholder having a messuage (dwelling house with adjoining buildings and lands) of 15 acres, and another of 12 acres. The Nicolls were men of property, a family whose branches were to own other estates at Ridgeway, Highwood, Hendon Place and Cowleaze Farm. The name appears hundreds of times in deeds, surveys, court rolls, registers, and apart from the Nicolls of Hendon Place, their coat of arms all bear a pheon or dart.
In 1637 Randall Nicoll erected a sturdy new house in Page Street. Constructed of red brick with curved stone copings, its central flat front was flanked by gabled wings. The entrance in Page Street was across a cobbled courtyard, on one side of which were stables, while from the north side a grass avenue led to Wise Lane. Known as Copt Hall, it stood much as it was in the days of Charles I, well into the twentieth century. At one time the site seems to have been called Borgers mead, for in the deed of 1717 we read ‘Borgers mead’ – otherwise Copthall’.
Apart from normal 17th century village life, for Randall and his wife Susanna and their children Randall, John, Thomas and Susan, there were also exciting links with the city. One of them was William Nicoll of Ridgeway (to whom there is a brass plaque in Hendon Parish Church) who was citizen and grocer of London, and ‘one of the clerks of the cheque to the fourty messengers in ordinary of Charles the first’.
Randall lived at Copt Hall through the critical years of the Civil War, the Commonwealth and the Restoration, and died in 1665, the year of the great plague. He and Susanna were both buried in Hendon churchyard. Randall, his son, inherited the property, while the daughter Susan married into the Highwood branch of the Nicolls. Many of the Nicolls married into other well-known local families, the Kemps, Marshes, Pages, Downers, all of them landowners.
The Nicolls held many positions of responsibility in the neighbourhood: 1644, Ralph Nicoll, Collector: 1645, Richard Nicoll, Head Borough; 1648, Randall Nicoll, Constable. They were also active on behalf of the poor. The Churchwardens’ Accounts for 1676 list Randall Nicoll of Page Street as a subscriber to a relief fund for the people of Northampton, and Thomas Nicoll, also of Page Street, provided six almshouses in 1696 for the use of the Poor. (The Nicoll almshouses are situated just off the Ridgeway opposite Angel Pond.)
In the latter part of the 19th century, Copt Hall passed to Mrs C. R. Hodgson, the only daughter of Thomas Nicoll, and thus the surname no longer survives in this branch of the family. The block of flats that has supplanted Copt Hall knows the Nicolls no more, for Hendon, once isolated from the city, is now enveloped in the sprawl of London.
The site of the residence of the Nicoll Family from 1321-1920 was Page Street, junction with Bunns Lane, Mill Hill, London NW7
Sigmund Nissel (1922 – 2008)
Sigmund ‘Sigi’ Nissel was an Austrian-born British violinist who played second violin in the Amadeus Quartet and served as its administrator (see also Peter Schidlof below). He was born in Munich to a Jewish family from Vienna and began playing the violin at the age of 6. Nissel was evacuated from Vienna in 1938 to Great Britain. During World War II, Nissel was interned as a ‘friendly enemy alien’ on the Isle of Man where he met violinist Peter Schidlof and later violinist Norbert Brainin. With British cellist, Martin Lovett, they would form the Amadeus Quartet. Following the death of Schidlof in 1987, the Amadeus Quartet disbanded and Nissel became a teacher of young quartets at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and Musikhochschule in Colgne. Sigmund Nissel lived at 40 Hale Lane, Mill Hill.
Leslie Phillips CBE (b.1924)
Leslie Phillips is a much-loved English actor who became famous for playing plummy, quintessentially English stereotypes. Leslie Phillips' heart was in acting from a very young age making his first film appearance as a child in the 1930’s. He was born 20th April 1924 in Tottenham and for part of his life he lived in lived in Barnet Way. He has completed nearly 160 films including voicing the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter movies. Originally known for his work as a comedy actor, Phillips subsequently made the transition to character roles. Renowned radio work included The Navy Lark (1959 – 1977) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy alongside many television programmes.
Sir Stamford Raffles LL.D F.R.S. (1781 – 1826)
In Barnet Town Hall, there stood the statue of a man who also was a clerk, and who rose to be a colonial administrator, founder of Singapore and of the Zoological Society of London – Sir Stamford Raffles.
Thomas Stamford Raffles was born at sea in 1781, aboard his father’s merchantman which carried slaves to the Caribbean and returned with rum, sugar and cotton. The War of Independence was about to deprive Britain of her American colony, but the baby on that trader would one day establish a new colony in the East and become the friend of William Wilberforce, the emancipator of slaves.
At 14 Raffles obtained a clerkship in the East India Company in Leadenhall Street, and supported his widowed mother and sisters on his salary of £70 per annum. Ten years later he was appointed assistant secretary at Penang, Malaya, and during the five month journey there with his wife Olivia, learned Malay, an indication of his interest in the land and its people.
England was at war with France, who had annexed Holland and occupied the Dutch East Indies. Raffles perceived the threat to British trade and in 1811, with the support of Lord Minto, planned and affected the conquest of Java. For the next four and a half years he was Lieutenant Governor of Java, and it was here that Olivia died.
On the return journey to England he visited the captive Napoleon at St. Helena, the man who for so long had dominated the European scene. Welcomed in London, Raffles was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and on publication of his history of Java was knighted by the Prince Regent. He married Sophia Hull and their daughter Charlotte, like her father, was born at sea on the long trip to his new appointment at Bencoolen, Sumatra.
After the battle of Waterloo, no danger threatened from France, but the Dutch, back in the East Indies, aimed at excluding British shipping from the Calcutta-Canton trade route. Once more it was Raffles’ foresight which grasped the outcome of their policy, and he determined to establish a permanent British base in the area in order to break the Dutch monopoly. With the backing of the Governor General of India, but without the authority of the East India Company, he landed in Singapore in 1819, securing a gateway to the East for British Trade.
It was not long before tragedy hit the Raffles family. Four of their little children died, leaving one daughter, Ella. Sir Stamford himself became ill, and in 1824 they decided to sail for home. On board the ship was his vast collection of natural history specimens, ancient maps and manuscripts, and extensive notes for his future books on Sumatra and Borneo. Fifty miles out the ship caught fire and the precious work of years was lost.
Back in England he bought the 112 acre estate of Highwood, Mill Hill, adjoining the property of Wilberforce. Here with his family it seemed as though he would have years of peace and fulfilment. He worked at founding London Zoo, and was elected its first president. But he was not spared to see the realisation of his dream.
Sir Stamford died at his home in July, 1826. The funeral at Hendon was not conducted by the Vicar, the Rev. Theodore Williams, whose private income derived from a slave plantation and who, therefore, was not enamoured of Raffles and Wilberforce. Nor would Williams sanction a memorial, and it was not until St. Mary’s was enlarged in 1915 that Raffle’s coffin was discovered and an inscription put up. Ella died at the age of 19. Alone Lady Raffles stayed at Highwood till her death in 1858. Westminster Abbey, the National Portrait Gallery and the London Zoo all commemorated Sir Stamford Raffles, as does the home in Mill Hill where he lived and died. Sir Stamford lived at Highwood House, Mill Hill, London N.W.7 from 1825 to 1826
Zoe Rahman (b.1971)
Zoe Rahman is an English jazz composer and pianist. She studied classical piano at the Royal Academy of Music, a music degree at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, and won a scholarship to study jazz performance at Berklee College of Music, Boston, where she studied with the inspirational pianist JoAnne Brackeen. Zoe recorded her 5th album ‘Kindred Spirits’ in 2012.
Zoe has worked extensively throughout the UK and internationally and in 2011 she toured Italy, Sweden, Ireland, France and Bangladesh with her own projects and also toured Australia (including Sydney Opera House). She’s been invited to play at many international jazz festivals in recent years including North Sea, Molde, Barbados, Cork, Palermo, Estonia.
Aside from working with her own groups, she has toured and recorded with a diverse range of other artists, including: George Mraz; Courtney Pine; Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra; Danny Thompson; Martha Wainwright; Soothsayers (with reggae legends Johnny Clarke and Michael Prophet); Larry Stabbins; Clark Tracey; James Carter; Natacha Atlas; Keziah Jones; Mekaal Hasan among many others.
She has been a featured artist on numerous TV and radio programs, including BBC4 (Women in Jazz; Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake), BBC2 (Jools Holland; Desi DNA), Channel S, Bangla TV, Meridian TV, BBC Radio 4 (Front Row, Woman’s Hour, Loose Ends) BBC Radio 3 (World on 3, Late Junction, In Tune) BBC Radio 2 (Jamie Cullum, Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Charles Hazlewood) and is frequently invited to sit on high-profile panels – most notably, the Mercury Music Prize, Nottingham International Jazz Piano competition, Philharmonia’s Groove Search Competition. Zoe shares her passion for music through teaching in a variety of contexts, inspiring musicians of all ages and abilities.
Her other records include ‘The Cynic’, ‘Melting Pot’, ‘Where Rivers meet’ and ‘Zoe Rahman Trio (live)’ and she has been nominated and shortlisted for many awards, and won the ‘Perrier’ award for Young Jazz Musician of the Year with 1999.
Zoe Rahman was prominent in the recent ‘Save Sanders Lane’ campaign.
Marion Rhodes R.E. (1907-1998)
Painter, etcher and aquatint engraver of landscapes and architectural views – Marion Rhodes was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in 1907. She was enrolled at the Leeds College of Art when her father was killed in an accident. With no intention of abandoning art, she nevertheless found it prudent to fulfil the requirements for a teaching certificate, which at that time included a course on etching.
After some years of teaching in the provinces, she found an art teacher’s job in London that she was able to combine with part-time evening studies under William Robins at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Economic necessity kept her in teaching, but a career in etching had become her primary goal. Determined not to let teaching interfere, she resisted all temptation to advance in the ‘education hierarchy’: “You can’t be a head mistress and go on with your work”. For fourteen years she taught only part-time because she wanted “the middle part of [her] life to be productive.” At West Ham High School, she could finish at 3.30 and then go, twice a week, to the Central School. At the Enfield County School, where she taught subsequently, she found a “good atmosphere” that allowed her to keep up with her art. She retired from teaching in 1960.
Though still a recent convert when etching went out of fashion, Marion Rhodes never ceased producing plates. Between 1928 and 1940, with hardly a market and no financial incentive, she had produced about 150 etchings, aquatints and soft grounds. Nor did she slow up during the disruptive period when her school was bombed during the Second World War. She even secured a special permit to needle an etching of St. Paul’s during the German blitz. Marion Rhodes was elected member of the Society of Graphic Art in 1936. In 1941, aged thirty-four, she was elected an associate Royal Etcher and in 1953 she became an R.E.
Until at least the end of the 1970s, she continued to work in the older style of the 1920s and never missed a chance to exhibit in the annual exhibition. However, she only ever illustrated one book. Some of her plates were fully editioned, but she never tried for a “one-man” show or sought an agent, a road that, as she saw it, was “all right if you want to make a living at it.” During her lifetime she exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the Paris Salon, where she won gold, silver & bronze medals. Her work is represented in several public collections, the British Museum and the V&A.
Marion had not, in 1980, “retired from the etching press.” In fact, she had bought a small press to be able to work at home. Comfortable with her own modest lifestyle, she chose to put low prices on her prints believing etching was “for ordinary people to have an original at a reasonable price,” - she wanted to share this enjoyment with others. Marion kept on working into her old age and printing her own etchings of the locality, these being sold through the art shop in the Broadway run by John Maxfield. When John Maxfield gave up the lease and retired he passed on the Marion Rhodes images of the locality to the Mill Hill Preservation Society with the rights to duplicate and sell them to raise funds for the Society.
Marion used to live at 2 Goodwyn Avenue and died here in Mill Hill in 1998.
Peter Rogers (1914 – 2009)
Peter Rogers was a British film producer who was married to Betty Box. He is best known for his involvement in the making of the ‘Carry On’ series of films.
Edmundo Ros OBE (1910 – 2011)
Edmundo William Ros OBE was a Trinidadian musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader who made his career in Britain. From 1937-42 he studied harmony, composition and orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music. Later he directed a highly popular Latin American orchestra ‘Edmondo Ros and His Rumba Band’, had an extensive recording career and owned a London nightclub (In 1951 Ros bought the Coconut Grove on Regent Street and renamed it Edmundo Ros’s Dinner and Supper Club). He had many tours abroad and broadcast regularly for the BBC. He last performed in 1994. In 2000 Ros (then aged 90) was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and turned 100 on 7th December 2010.
Edmundo Ros lived for some time in a large house he had built in Page Street, Mill Hill
Lord William Russell (1639 – 1683)
William Russell, Lord Russell, was an English politician. He was a leading member of the Country Party – forerunners of the Whigs – who opposed the succession of King James II during the reign of King Charles II, ultimately resulting in his execution for treason.
Russell held a passionate hatred for and distrust of Catholics once stating “I despise such a ridiculous and nonsensical religion” matched with an intense love of political liberty, and he opposed persecution of Protestant Dissenters. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for Tavistock in 1660, first speaking in the House in 1674. His downfall was the Rye House Plot, a plan to ambush Charles II and his brother James near Rye House, Hoddesdon, on their way back to London from Newmarket races. Russell refused to escape to Holland, and was accused of promising his assistance to raise an insurrection and bring about the death of the king. He was sent to the Tower of London where he was tried and convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, afterwards commuted to death by beheading.
Lord William Russell lived in Nicoll House, now the site of Highwood House, Mill Hill.
Peter Schidlof (1922 – 1987)
Peter Schidlof, the violist of the much-honoured Amadeus Quartet lived in Hale Lane, Mill Hill. Born in Vienna, Schidlof fled Austria for England following the Nazi Anschluss in 1938. Following the start of World War II he was interned in the Isle of Man as a ‘friendly enemy alien’ – where he first met Norbert Brainin and Siegmund Nissel. Later in 1946 he met Martin Lovett and together they former the famous string ensemble giving their London debut on 10th January 1948. Benjamin Britten wrote his third quartet for the group. They produced roughly 200 recordings – among them are the complete Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms quartets. The Amadeus Quartet made its last New York performance at Carnegie Hall in March 1987.
Richard Seifert (b.1910 – 2001)
Reubin Seifert, normally known as Richard Seifert, was a British architect best known for designing the Centrepoint tower and Tower 42 (previously the ‘NatWest Tower’). Seifert is widely recognised for having influenced and shaped 1960s and 1970s London architecture in much the same way as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster would do in the 1980s and beyond. There are many examples of his work remaining – principally hotels and office blocks – generally around London, but his practice also worked in other major British cities – notably Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.
Back in 1946, when he returned from the army, Seifert bought himself a modest semi-detached house in Milespit Hill, Mill Hill, which was to remain his home until his death. During his most active years, he enlarged it by the simple expedient of purchasing and demolishing three neighbouring properties to make room for expansion. The Practice also undertook some projects in Mill Hill – an office block in Bunns Lane and Angel Cottages (1964) on Milespit Hill.
James Stevens (1923 – 2012)
James Stevens was a composer of orchestral and chamber works alongside pop music, jazz, film and television scores and stage musicals. He was born in Dalston, East London, and lived in Devonshire Road, Mill Hill.
He studied initially with Benjamin Frankel at the Guildhall School of Music in London and with Darius Milhaud, Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Honegger at the Paris Conservatoire. A lifelong pacifist, he was imprisoned during the Second World War for conscientious objection. He embraced the cause of CND during the late 1950s and was later involved in the movement for peace in Vietnam. In 1995 he was chosen by the Musician’s Union of Japan to represent English artists at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki 50th anniversary memorial ceremonies. Eclectic is an understatement of Jimmy’s work. The BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra premiered his 4th Symphony, and his Buddhist requiem Celebration for the Dead was played by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The Brecksville Bees Marching Band from Ohio performed his work at the old Wembley Stadium for the England v. Argentina match in 1980.
Richard Swift (1616 – 1701)
Richard Swift, a nonconformist clergyman, who lived in Edgware at the time of The Restoration found himself dispossessed of his living, among four hundred and fifty other nonconformist clergy of the country. The Ridgeway was the centre of Mill Hill in those days and there were some well-known dissenters living in this quiet village; Paul Nicoll, the Hayley family and the Hubberstys, who were later to take a leading part among the growing Quaker community. Swift was in great poverty and probably these fellow dissenters came to his rescue, for he moved to nearby Jeanettes, a house that stood next to Littleberries on the Ridgeway.
Here Swift started a boarding school for boys, sons of like-minded dissenters and this might well have been the first nonconformist school of the country. Mill Hill was outside the restrictions imposed by the Five Mile Act, which forbade dissenters to preach within five miles of any town. Swift combined his duties as schoolmaster with that of Independent minister, holding meetings in his house and later, as his supporters grew, in other houses in the village. Swift was imprisoned in Newgate more than once for holding ‘illegal’ gatherings. His School had important social implications because Grammar schools were closed to dissenters of any kind. Whilst the school was closed for a time due to an outbreak of smallpox, Swift carried on undaunted and the school regained its pupil numbers.
Patrick Troughton (1920-1987)
Patrick George Troughton was an English actor most widely known for his roles in fantasy, science fiction and horror films, particularly in his role as the second incarnation of the Doctor in the long-running British science-fiction television series ‘Doctor Who’, which he played from 1966 to 1969. He was also the first actor to play Robin Hood on television. Patrick Troughton lived in Uphill Road, Mill Hill.
Patrick was born in north London and was educated at Mill Hill Public School. He attended acting school and won a scholarship to the Leighton Rallius Studios at the John Drew Memorial Theatre on Long Island in New York. He returned to England when war broke out and attained captaincy of a gunboat in the North Sea. When he was demobbed in 1945 he returned to the theatre, working with the Amersham Repertory Company, the Bristol Old Vic Company and the Pilgrim Players at the Mercury Theatre in Nottingham.
He played British Prime Ministers in two separate ITV historical drama series – Benjamin Disraeli in ‘Jennie; Lady Randolph Churchill’ (1974) and Clement Atlee in ‘Edward & Mrs Simpson’ (1976). Mill Hill School named their theatre after him in his memory.
Patrick Troughton was born in Mill Hill, and lived in Uphill Road, NW7.
Cardinal Vaughan (1832 – 1903)
Herbert Alfred Vaughan was an English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Westminster from 1892 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1893. Vaughan was the founder in 1866 of St Joseph's Foreign Missionary College, known as Mill Hill Missionaries, opened in 1869. He also founded the Catholic Truth Society. In 1871 Vaughan led a group of priests to the United States to form a missionary society whose purpose was to administer to freedmen in the South. In 1893 the society reorganised to form the US-based St. Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart. Vaughan also founded St. Bede's College, Manchester. As Archbishop of Westminster, he led the capital campaign and construction of Westminster Cathedral with the result that the foundation stone for the cathedral was laid in 1895. Vaughan died in 1903 and his body was interred at Mill Hill, but was later moved to the Cathedral.
William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833)
The great days of William Wilberforce were not spent in Mill Hill. “This restless spirit, ever on the move” (a friend’s description) came to North London only towards the end of his 74 years. He bought Hendon Park and 140 acres of land in 1825, when he retired from Parliament, and there he lived until 1831, with a large household containing, among others, two married sons and their families.
Wilberforce’s permanent place in history is as champion of the slaves. He dedicated nearly the whole of his public career to that cause. First, after 20 years of dogged persistence, this slight, delicate man succeeded in stopping the ocean trade in slaves by British ships; then for a further 20 years he battled for the complete emancipation of slaves in every British possession. Where Wilberforce led, Britain eventually followed; and after Britain came the world. Reginald Coupland, the historian, later described the moment at midnight on 31st July 1834, when 800,000 slaves became free, as “one of the greatest events in the history of the world”. No single man had done more to produce that event than William Wilberforce.
He had strong allies: Burke, Pitt and Fox were all on the side of the angels in that battle. But the reason he had such friends, who went on helping him through setback after setback, was his own charm, persuasiveness, determination and sincerity. Of all the great political figures of the end of the 18th century, Wilberforce stands out as an independent Member of Parliament who refused peerages and never sought nor apparently wanted to hold office. Another historian, G. M. Trevelyn, said of him, “He could not have done what he did if he had desired office… with his talents and position he would probably have been Pitt’s successor as Prime Minister if he had preferred party to mankind. His sacrifice of one kind of power and fame gave him another and nobler title to remembrance…”
William Wilberforce was born in Hull on 24th August, 1759, an only son. He was a small, frail child who sang well and had a beautiful speaking voice – something he was to turn to great advantage in politics. His first-ever literary effort was a letter, at the age of 14, to the Yorkshire Gazette, condemning slavery. After schooling at home, he went to St. John’s College, Cambridge where “there was no one like him for powers of entertainment.” It was a time for youth; at 21 Wilberforce became MP for his home town, Hull – a year before William Pitt entered the House. The two young members became very friendly. “They were exactly like brothers,” said one contemporary; and Pitt wrote to Wilberforce, “The sentiments of affection and friendship which I bear towards you… are engraved on my heart and will never be effaced or weakened.”
In 1784 Wilberforce became MP for Yorkshire. He represented the county from then till 1812, when he became the Member for Bramber. James Boswell heard him speak during an election and wrote “I saw what seemed a mere shrimp climb upon the table; but as I listened he grew and grew until the shrimp became a whale.” At 25 Wilberforce was “converted” to religion by Isaac Milner, a clergyman and first Professor of Natural Philosophy at Cambridge. He became a leading member of the Clapham Sect – a group of wealthy, influential, practical, philanthropic Evangelicals – the “Saints” as they were called. A committee had been formed for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, mainly by the Quakers, and someone was needed to champion the cause in Parliament. Wilberforce was the man.
Despite the opposition of immensely strong vested interests, by 1788 Wilberforce and Pitt had seen to it that Parliament was committed to a full discussion of the Trade. Each year from then till 1806 Wilberforce proposed motions or sought leave to introduce anti-slave Bills, making powerful and moving speeches in which he showed up in all its horror the “Middle Passage”, when human cargoes were transported from Africa to the Caribbean in unspeakable conditions. Each year he was defeated, either in the Commons or the Lords.
In 1807 a Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was introduced first into the Lords, where it gained a majority of 64. It came to the Commons, and passed by 283 to 216. The House gave the Member for Yorkshire – who was in tears – an ovation “The like of which had not been heard before”.
There was much more to be done: registration of slaves, introduction of naval patrols to prevent slave running, pressure to be brought on other countries to follow Britain’s lead. Slowly it became clear that abolition of the trade in human beings was not enough: what was needed was emancipation – the freeing of every slave, so that slaves could not only no longer be ‘traded’, but also no longer ‘kept’.
Wilberforce continued the struggle until, in 1825, ill-health caused him to retire from Parliament. He passed the torch of anti-slavery to Foxwell Buxton. It was on his death bed in 1833, at a cousin’s house in Cadogan Place, that Wilberforce heard that the measure he so desired had been passed, and that slaves would henceforth be free throughout the British possessions. While he was living in Hendon Park Wilberforce had built, to his own design, a private chapel, which was later to become the Mill Hill Church of St Paul’s. One of the first services in the new church was a tribute to his memory, conducted at the moment that he was being buried in Westminster Abbey. His statue stands in the Abbey’s south aisle, a few feet from that of Stamford Raffles. They had been neighbours, too, on Highwood Hill.
Wilberforce lived at Hendon Park, Mill Hill, from 1826 – 1831
John Wilkes (1725 – 1795)
John Wilkes spent much of his early life with friends at The Hell Fire Club. Bored by his life of pleasure, Wilkes decided to become involved in politics and in 1757 he was elected MP for Aylesbury. In 1762 he established ‘The North Briton’, a newspaper that severely attacked the King and his Prime Minister. In 1963 he was prosecuted for seditious libel, but the Lord Chief Justice ruled that as an MP he was protected by privilege, and Wilkes left the court as a champion of liberty.
Subsequently Parliament changed their view on ‘member’s privilege’ and Wilkes was taken to Paris. After having returned to England in 1768 he was re-elected as a Radical candidate for Middlesex. However, he was arrested and taken to King’s Bench prison and in spite of extensive support from the people he was imprisoned for 22 months and fined £1,000. Wilkes was expelled from the House of Commons but in February, March and April, 1769, he was 3 times re-elected for Middlesex, but on each occasion Parliament overturned the voting, and decreed that the beaten candidate should take up the seat. Wilkes supporters formed the Bill of Rights Society, which went to concentrate on a radical programme of parliamentary reform. Wilkes was released from prison in 1770.
In 1774 John Wilkes was elected Lord Mayor of London, and in the same year was elected to represent Middlesex in the House. Wilkes campaigned for religious toleration and in 1776 he introduced the first motion for parliamentary reform, arguing that working men should have a share in the power to make laws. During the American Civil War of Independence Wilkes condemned the Government’s policy towards America. He was also a passionate opponent of the harsh criminal code. As Wilkes grew older he became more conservative, radical supporters grew dissatisfied and in the 1790 election he lost his seat. Once retired, Wilkes took no further part in the growth of radicalism in the 1790s.
John Wilkes lived in Belmont, Mill Hill. (see also Sir Charles Flower)