In 2017, an Essex–born actress - who had throughout the span of her illustrious career conquered a stammer, dyslexia, episodes of panic and anxiety – was elevated to the film industry’s list of the “Top 40 Unforgettable Actresses”, and in that instant joined a pantheon of acting greats including Bette Davis, Marlene Deitrich, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe.
That artiste was Sarah Miles, born in Ingatestone on New Year’s Eve 1941 to Vera Remnant and John Miles who came from a family of noted engineers. Her parents remained
unmarried as her father was unable to obtain a divorce from his first wife, a detail which enabled Sarah to later identify with her maternal great-grandfather Prince Francis of Teck
(through whom she is related to the Queen), when she entitled the first part of her autobiography “ A Right Royal Bastard”.
Sarah was enrolled at RADA at the age of 15 having been expelled from four schools, one of which was the prestigious girls’ public school Roedean.
Miles’ debut was in the 1962 film Term of Trial which featured Laurence Olivier with whom she was to embark upon an on/off relationship for over 20 years, even rekindling it when Lord Olivier was in his 70s and in declining health, a period during which she nursed him for a short time.
In 1970 she joined the stellar cast of Ryan’s Daughter (written by Robert Bolt) which included John Mills, Trevor Howard and Robert Mitchum with whom she later had an affair.
Many years after she said of him, "I've been a very privileged woman in my life. I've met all the greats, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Greg Peck, you name them, I met them. But
nobody was like Robert Mitchum. He was bigger than he is on the screen. He had this huge presence. You couldn’t walk anywhere with Robert Mitchum without people knowing that
walk," She also claims it was Mitchum who “corrupted” her by encouraging her to drink and smoke!
Miles was rarely out of work. Subsequent films included Lady Caroline Lamb and The Hireling (both 1972), The Big Sleep (1978), Hope and Glory and White Mischief (both 1987).
Although throughout her career, Miles was linked to other leading men, it was playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Bolt that she married in 1967 (until 1975) and then
again in 1988 when she nursed him through his final illness. Bolt, who wrote the screenplays for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and A Man for All Seasons, passed away in February 1995.
Miles may possess impish-but-innocent features, but she is no stranger to scandal and
controversy. In 1973, whilst filming The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, her business manager David Whiting, who had developed an obsession for her, was found dead in circumstances
that have never truly been resolved and about which Sarah has always declined to comment.
She also became the victim of a campaign of abusive telephone calls when she called the police to an incident involving her heroin-addict son Tom, who was subsequently
imprisoned. As she says, “It was tough love and the only way to stop him killing himself”. It obviously worked. Her son is reconciled to Miles and has now made a success of his life.
Much of Miles’ strength is derived from her well-documented spiritual experiences. (Robert Bolt is actually buried at the bottom of Sarah’s garden where she is able to converse with
him). She is no longer an atheist, has made a peace with her Maker, and claims that the world’s cheapest, most effective facelift is to work daily on kindness, forgiveness and
Vanity and good looks aside, these are three values that the world definitely needs more of.
She also says, "There's a little bit of hooker in every woman. A little bit of hooker and a little bit of God".
Ah. There’s the Essex Girl!
For a town with less than 200,000 residents, Southend has profited from a relatively large
number of local philanthropists and generous benefactors of whose legacy the continues
to receive benefit and enjoyment.
One of these was Edward Cecil Jones (known as Cecil), son of another great local benefactor
who owned the famous High Street jewellers – R.A. Jones. Cecil inherited both his father’s
fortune and his generous spirit.
Born in Stoke-on-Trent, before the family moved to Southend, Cecil was subsequently
educated at London Road Boy’s High School and Southend Technical College (both now
He joined the Essex Yeomanry and at the outbreak of the Great War became a Southend
Special Constable attaining the rank of Sergeant before being commissioned into the Royal Field artillery where he was awarded the Military Cross having been severely wounded
twice whilst serving in Northern France.
Cecil also inherited a great love of sports from his father who had provided the Victory
Sports Field, Jones Memorial Ground and Priory Park for the town’s leisure and recreation.
He was such a fine athlete that he only narrowly missed out on selection for the Pentathlon at the proposed 1916 Berlin Olympics, which were subsequently cancelled anyway due to The War.
Cecil Jones, who once said, “I shall stick to Southend til my dying day”, threw himself into
improving the town and enriching the lives of its inhabitants.
He gave much of his fortune to the town. He made donations to Southend Hospital, founded
the Darby & Joan club to which he gave a house in Avenue Road, set up the local branch of
the British Legion, organised Poppy Day, founded a Scouts Group at St John’s Church and gave 10 acres of his own land to commemorate young people of the town who had been lost in both World Wars. He also found time to serve the Sunshine Home for Crippled Children, the local NSPCC, Southend Swimming Club, Southend Harriers, and Southend Dramatic Society and to function as a JP. He continued to run the family business and improved the lives of his employees through the creation of a Trust Fund which ensured that all of them benefited financially from the business and its profits.
In 1955, having already received an MBE, he was honoured to be made a Freeman of the
Borough as his father had been before him.
Various buildings around the borough are named after his generosity including Cecil Jones Academy in Eastern Avenue. The original Darby & Joan “club “is now an organisation providing long-term and respite care for the elderly and those living with Dementia. They own three properties across the borough and welcome residents from all over Essex and the London Boroughs.
Before he died in 1967, Cecil Jones said “It has been a privilege and joy to serve the town”.
Southend subsequently afforded him the greatest honour – that of being buried alongside
his illustrious father beneath the cross near the cloisters in Priory Park……
It was only about 10 years ago, despite the fact we grew up together, that my closest
friend and I discovered we had something else in common. We both had ancestors who
had been members of a small, local Christian movement – The Peculiar People.
James Banyard was born in Rochford on 31st January 1800, the son of a local ploughman at a time when the area was entirely agricultural and its population broadly composed of
Sometime before 1837, Banyard - drunkard, frequenter of local fairs, poacher and composer of burlesque songs – having spent all he had at Paglesham Fair, was persuaded by his despairing and desperate wife Mary to attend Rochford’s local Wesleyan Chapel.
Whatever he heard that day, whatever he experienced, who can know? But it had such a profound effect on him that not only did he immediately become a teetotaller and regular
church-goer but subsequently a very reputable – and zealous- preacher around the South
In 1838 he and his colleague William Bridges went to London to hear Robert Aitken, a powerful Christian orator from the North of England. The effect Aitken had on Banyard would forever change the religious landscape of this corner of the South East. On returning to Rochford, Banyard took a lease on a property in West Street and set up a church for a break-away group of highly puritanical Christians who named themselves The Peculiar People, a name derived from 1 Peter 2:9 in the New Testament which reads, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people”.
The Peculiar movement grew in such numbers that by 1842 the church had outgrown its premises and moved to Barrack Lane.
Although religious services tended to be loud, lively and dynamic, life outside the church building was rigid and very strict. The sect was scrupulously honest, wholly teetotal and pacifist. They believed in a literal interpretation of the King James Bible. Indeed, during both World Wars, the Peculiar People tended to be conscientious objectors, believing that war is contrary to the teachings of Christ.
The programme of worship as laid down by Banyard - who accepted no money at all for his
preaching - was a prayer meeting at 5 a.m. every day before work, evening worship twice a week and four services on Sunday. Members were expected to attend them all.
Despite its restrictive constitution, the Peculiar movement grew at an astonishing pace and at one point had 43 chapels across Essex and East London.
One Sunday, a Mr William Perry of Southend was at prayer, when he believed he heard instructions from the Lord to seek out the elders of the Church so that “prayers of faith” could be said over him and that these would cure his consumption, a leading cause of death in the 19th Century. The following Sunday, Perry was helped to the chapel at Barrack Lane and told Banyard of his experience. Although reluctant, Banyard prayed over Perry and it is recorded that the very same afternoon Perry walked from Rochford to Paglesham.
The consequence of this transformation led to The Peculiars converting to Faith Healing as a form of treatment and they subsequently rejected all forms of medical intervention. There are other noted instances of Faith Healing being successful as a cure but, inevitably there were incidences which resulted in death. Those recorded at the time include cases of hooping cough, measles, diphtheria and various lung conditions. A number of small children were amongst the casualties and public opinion turned against the Peculiars.
This resulted in some parents being prosecuted under the Law and imprisoned or sentenced to hard labour because of their actions (or lack thereof).
In 1855, Barnyard’s second wife – from a family of local land-owners – persuaded James to call out a doctor to their sick son. As a direct consequence of this betrayal, Banyard lost the leadership of the movement and the congregation switched to Daws Heath.
Banyard continued preaching however, moving to align himself more fully with traditional Methodism. He died from an infection in 1863 and is buried close to the south wall at St Andrew’s Church, Rochford.
In 1956, the movement, which had been decreasing in number, changed its name to the Union of Evangelical Churches and still has 16 churches across London and the South East including Southend, Shoebury, Eastwood and Daws Heath.
Probably one of the most famous of the Peculiar People is Bernard Cornwell, author and creator of Sharpe and the fictional South Essex Regiment, who was the adopted son of a Peculiar family at Daws Heath.
As a guest on Desert Island Discs, he cited that his childhood memories were ‘very ugly’. No television, cinema, comics, unsuitable books or music. He also “lived” under the threat of eternal damnation and recalled a “mercy seat” at the family’s church for those that had not yet been converted and were awaiting the “divine call”. Cornwell left at the age of sixteen and never returned home.
In the 21st Century, it is not at all difficult to see why the creative, thoughtful Cornwell
disliked this extremely rigid and restrictive lifestyle, but Dennis Morgan (a childhood
member of the movement), writing in the Southend Standard in 1974, had this to say:
“I realise after the passage of years that their firm religious beliefs, their great kindnesses
not only to each other but to those who needed them, and, above all, their sincerity and peace of mind, gave them a certain something for which we have all been searching ever since”.
More information in available in “The Peculiar People” by Mark Sorrell, which can be found online.
A dedication service has taken place at the Dutch Cottage Museum on Canvey Island to commemorate the 1944 doodlebug tragedy and was attended by Castle Point Mayor Colin Riley, Southend Mayor and Mayoress John and Pat Lamb, local MP Rebecca Harris and representatives of several local schools and Canvey-based organisations.
“Mr Canvey “ Ray Howard who still bears the shrapnel scars of the attack, of which he bore the brunt, still has some of the flying glass in his shoulder which even now cannot be removed over 75 years later.
Mr Howard who served Castle Point and Essex County Council as a Tory councillor for over 50 years lost two of his brothers in the attack as well as a cousin and his mother also lost the baby she was carrying.
The doodlebug, which landed on two homes in Deepwater Road, injured nearly thirty people and damaged 150 houses and a local church.
The marble plaque which was supplied by Stibbard’s Funeral Directors last year was laid during a service conducted by the Rev Marion Walford, Team Vicar for the Parish of Canvey.
Remembering the attack Mr Howard said “I feel very lucky to be alive”.
When Mr Howard, who has a street named after him, lost his seat in the council elections, local Tories said of him, “Ray Howard has been the greatest voice and loudest champion for Canvey for the past 50 years.
“No-one has secured more investment or improvements for the island in its history. “Fighting for Canvey is in Ray’s blood and I have no doubt that even after tonight he will keep on fighting for the island he loves and the residents he has given his life to serving”.
The Dutch Cottage Museum was built in 1618 and is now run, on the Borough Council's
behalf, by the Benfleet and District Historical Society. in 1952, it was restored, repainted and
had its conical roof re-thatched ready for opening as a museum in 1962. The rooms of the
cottage, which include a living room, passage and large and small bedrooms, now contain a
variety of exhibits that illustrate the history of Canvey Island, including models of the types
of sailing craft which passed the Island from Roman times onward.
Sir Teddy Taylor - Elected 1980 - A much respected and outspoken local MP who came up through Thatcher's ranks. First achieving the Southend West seat fro Sir Stephen McAdden in 1983. He retired from politics at the 2005 election handing his seat to James Dudderidge..
Sir Teddy was born on 18 April 1937. He was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, and started his career as a journalist in Glasgow.
He first entered Parliament as MP for Glasgow Cathcart in 1964 and became MP for Southend East in 1979.
Sir Teddy in his political career was known for his fierce loathing of the Common Market, later becoming the European Union, supporting the death penalty and Enoch Powell's campaign to stop immigration.
Because of his hatred of the Common Market which led to his resignation as a junior Scottish minister in 1971 over Edward Heath's decision to take Britain into Europe.
, James Duddridge, succeeded him as Conservative MP for Southend East
Taylor died on 20 September 2017, in Southend hopital having been ill for some months. He was 80 years old.
Sir Teddy is survived by his widow, two sons and a daughter.
- Vivian Stanshall (born Victor Anthony Stanshall; 21 March 1943 – 5 March 1995) was a singer songwriterm painter, musician, author, poet and wit, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his surreal exploration of the upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and for narrating mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.
The Stanshall family moved to Leigh-on-Sea. Vivian managed to earn some money doing various odd jobs at the Kursaal fun fair. These included working as a bingo caller and spending the winter painting the fairground attractions.
Stanshall studied at Walthamstow College of Art, where he met fellow students Ian Dury and Peter Greenaway.tales.
Stanshall was found dead on the morning of 6 March 1995, after an electrical fire had broken out as he slept in his top floor flat in Muswell Hill, North London. His private funeral service was held at the Golders Green Crematorium, North London. A few days later his memorial service was held at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square.
A memorial plaque was unveiled in the Poets' Corner of Golders Green Crematorium on 13 December 2015, opposite that of his friend Keith Moon, by his widow Ki and his daughter Silky.