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Cricklewood not Hollywood

In 2012 the actor Peter Capaldi made a BBC4 film called ‘Cricklewood Greats’ about a fictious film studio. But in fact, for many years there was a real studio in Cricklewood which made silent films. Sir Oswald Stoll (1866-1942) was born in Melbourne as Oswald Gray, the son of Irish parents. After his father died when he was three years old, Oswald and his mother Adelaide left Australia for Liverpool, where she married John George Stoll, the Danish owner of a small music hall. Oswald left school to help his mother and older brother run the business when his stepfather died in 1880. Oswald showed good business skills; first he purchased a theatre in Cardiff, later expanding to buy theatres in towns up and down the country. In 1899 he merged with his main rivals to form Moss Empires, who controlled most of the theatres in the country. In 1904 Stoll built the Coliseum, still the largest theatre in London. Oswald Stoll, 1922 Oswald Stoll had over 30-years’ experience of music halls and thea
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The Bogus MI5 agent, and Gus Dudgeon Record Producer

In 1949 by chance, Paul Doyle met Gladys Davies on the Underground and they both got off at West Hampstead station. Gladys worked as a secretary in the West End. Over time, they developed a relationship and Paul visited her home at 31 Lyncroft Gardens. He said he was an MI5 army major undertaking highly secret work with the Special Branch. He left her house punctually at 10.00, telling Gladys he had to take a car from West Hampstead police station (then near the Underground station), on a regular journey to Scotland Yard where he was working on attachment. They planned to get married and Gladys lent him money which he needed to contest his mother’s will. He said he would get between £7,000 and £12,000 when the case in the High Court was resolved. He received over £4,000 from Gladys and her friend Ada Webster who lived in the same house. By 1955, Gladys had only £3 16s 11d left in her bank account when she went to the police. After investigating the ‘major’, Chief Inspector James

Sports in Kensal Rise

In this story we move away from our usual area to look at a large stadium which was built in Kensal Rise before developers created the modern streets. In 1890 All Souls College Oxford leased 27 acres of their land and the grandly named National Athletic Grounds were built close to Kensal Rise Station. The stadium soon became known locally as the Kensal Rise Athletic Grounds and it lasted to the end of WWI. The stadium and grounds were impressive. There was a banked velodrome track for the rapidly growing sport of cycling of 586 yards, or three laps to the mile. Inside there was a 440 yards cinder running track and also a 240 yards straight track. Spectators watched from a grandstand pavilion which could seat 1,000 people. The first meeting took place on the Whit Monday Bank Holiday 26 May 1890 and attracted 3,500 visitors. Admission was 1s, to the enclosures 2s and the grandstand was 3s. All tickets were half-price when bought in advance. The Hon Sec. was Sydney Lee, an auctioneer who

Looking for Lillie Langtry

‘A Jersey Lily’ by John Everett Millais, 1878 Lillie Langtry, known as the ‘Jersey Lily’, was a mistress of Bertie the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. It is widely believed that she lived in South Hampstead and today her name is remembered by Langtry Road which runs off Kilburn Priory, Langtry Walk in the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, and the Lillie Langtry pub at 121 Abbey Road, on the corner with Belsize Road. The Lillie Langtry was built in 1969 to replace a demolished Victorian pub, The Princess of Wales, named in honour of Alexandra, Edward’s wife. In 2007 it was briefly called The Cricketers before the name reverted to The Lillie Langtry in 2011. Lillie Langtry’s address is given as Leighton House, 103 Alexandra Road which is now demolished and lies under the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. It was thought that Bertie visited her there during their affair which lasted from about June 1877 to June 1880. The dates are approximate as there is little evidence of