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The Setty Case

This is a famous, and in many ways unique, case from 1949.  The Background Stanley Setty was born as Salman Seti or Salik in Baghdad in 1903. The family moved to Manchester in 1908 where his father was a cloth merchant. Stanley worked in the business until 1920 when his father abandoned his wife and children and went to live in Italy. To earn a living, Stanley set up a shipping business with his brother David and when that failed, worked on his own account as a cloth dealer. Unfortunately, he lost a great deal of money gambling and was declared bankrupt in 1927. To avoid his creditors, Stanley left the country in December 1927 to stay with his father in Milan. He returned in April 1928 and at his bankruptcy hearing it was said Stanley bought cloth on credit, selling it cut price on the same day, and not paying the suppliers. That August he pleaded guilty to multiple offences under the Bankruptcy and Debtors Acts. When the judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison, Setty’s mother had t
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Arthur Prince the World Famous Ventriloquist

Arthur Prince, with his dummy Sailor Jim, was the most famous ventriloquist of his era. Arthur was married three times, all to actresses and singers who had been partners in his stage act. When he died in 1948, he was buried locally in the Hampstead Cemetery in Fortune Green Road. This is the most detailed account of his life. Most sources say Arthur Prince was born in 1881, but he gives his date of birth as 17 November 1880 in the 1939 Government Register used to record everyone in England and Wales when registration cards were issued just before the War.  In interviews he said he was born in Marylebone, and started by performing conjuring tricks in public at the age of 13. A few years later he began his professional career with another comedian as the Elrabi Brothers, an act with humorous songs, card tricks and magical illusions. Arthur took up ventriloquism after seeing the well-known Fred Russell’s act with his dummy Coster Joe. Fred gave 17-year-old Arthur advice, and introduced h

Nicholas Winton – One Life

‘One Life’ is a new film directed by James Hawes, starring Antony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Flynn. The title comes from a line in the Talmud, translated as; ‘Save one life – save the world’. It tells the amazing story of Sir Nicholas Winton who rescued 669 children from the Nazis. Antony Hopkins in One Life Nicholas Winton was born as Nicholas George Wertheim. The Wertheim family originally came from Prussia, (part of the German empire). Grandfather Nicolas was working as a clerk and living in Manchester in 1871. By 1895 he had moved to ‘Stonecroft’ No.5 Cleve Road in West Hampstead, where the family remained until 1933. His son Rudolf, a bank manager, took over the house in the early 1900s and Nicholas George was born here on 19 May 1909. Because of growing anti-German feeling, the family changed their name to Winton in October 1938. Nicholas lived briefly at 5 Belgrave Road Marylebone, and he was at 20 Willow Road in Hampstead by 1938.  In December 1938, twenty nine ye

Enid Bell, the last of the Gaiety Girls

The story begins with the opera singer ‘Arturo Salvini’ who was born as Arthur Alexander Borrows in Glasgow. His family moved to New Zealand and in 1875, aged about 18, Arthur first performed in Sydney. In 1879 he went to Italy to study singing and he made his Italian debut as the tenor Arturo Salvani on 26 July 1881 in La Scala, Milan.  Following this success, he came to England and worked with the Royal Opera Company in Covent Garden. Here he met the actress and singer Agnes Delaporte and they married in Belfast while on tour in 1883. They had two daughters: Rita (Agnes Marguerite Borrows) who was born on 27 July 1884 at 83 Albert Street in Camden Town, and Enid (Lilian Enid Addelshaw Borrows), born on 30 July 1887 at Hersham Road, Tooting. Miss Agnes Delaporte, 1886 But the marriage was not a happy one, and by 1891 Arthur had left Agnes with the two young children and returned to New Zealand. Agnes and the daughters were living with her father at 6 Clifton Villas in St John’s Wood.

Joss Ackland in West Hampstead

There were many tributes to this well-known actor who died yesterday, aged 95.  He spent some of his childhood in West Hampstead which he wrote about in his autobiography ‘I must be in there somewhere’ (1989) Hodder & Stoughton. Born Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland in 1928, Joss Ackland was three years old when his family moved from North Kensington into the basement flat at No.86 Hillfield Road. He wrote: ‘I was a young boy in West Hampstead where I could travel from my house to the foreign lands of Mill Lane - to the outer space of my primary school (Beckford) with the exciting knowledge that the great planet of West End Lane was in the distance, and my spaceship was eventually able to take me by bus to the fantastic world of the cinema, near Golders Green’.  Then there was the massive State Cinema on Kilburn High Road, where the film was preceded by an hour’s variety show of ‘ventriloquists, high wire acts, musical saws, conjurors and always lines of beautiful high-kicking girls’

‘Nell has cut her throat and I have cut mine’! A Willesden tale of suicide … or was it murder?

Many of our blog stories have recalled the hardship and pain caused by the tough living conditions among Victorian working people in Kilburn and Willesden, where illness, poverty and poor housing were the norm for many streets. For some people, the festive season over Christmas made little difference to their lives and may even have made matters worse. James and Ellen Doggrell In December 1893 (George) James and Ellen (Eleanor) Doggrell were at 10 Steele Road off Acton Lane, close to the Grand Union Canal. They had no children and rented a single room on the ground floor of the small terrace house which has since been demolished. James was born in 1858 in Bath, Somerset. His father George was an agricultural labourer and he had moved his family to Acton by 1881, to a district generally referred to as ‘Lower Place’. It’s hard to imagine Willesden or Acton and Harlesden as rural neighborhoods, with country lanes and fields divided by hedges or ditches. But that was the case in the 1880s