Matlock station was awash with admirers
of the world famous film star Anna Neagle from around 10.30 in
the morning of Monday 2nd July 1951 when female fans of all ages,
some with small children, began to congregate in
anticipation of her arrival on the 1.24 p.m. London train.
According to the Matlock Mercury, the assembled crowd had
swelled to several thousand by one o'clock. Miss Neagle, who was
then playing the role of Florence Nightingale in the film "The
Lady with the Lamp", was due to film scenes at Lea Hurst
that re-enacted Miss Nightingale's return from the Crimean War
(she had arrived unannounced, having walked from the station). "The
Lady with the Lamp" was one of many movies directed
by Miss Neagle's husband, Herbert Wilcox, that starred his wife
and these were the final scenes to be shot.
Anna Neagle was a top box-office draw in the early
1950s. Her previous roles had included playing Queen Victoria,
Odette Churchill, Edith Cavell and Amy Johnson. She had made the
film "Odette" not
long before (1950), which perhaps explains the large number of
fans at the station. Autograph hunters abounded and one fan reportedly
shouted "Congratulations, Odette". The actress is said
to have called out "I'm so sorry I can't speak to you all" from
her car as she continued her journey to the Nightingale's former
home at Holloway.
On reaching Lea Hurst everyone had to wait for the
weather to improve, and there were more autograph hunters waiting
for Anna. Photographers, both professional and amateur, were on
hand to record her obligingly posing for pictures on the balcony,
on the steps and in the doorway. The stunning pictures on this page
are just a few of the ones taken.
She spent the night in Florence's room at Lea Hurst and the top
picture shows Anna in costume, seated beside Florence's dressing
The second day of filming coincided with the sale of Lea
Hurst by Marchant Brooks at their Causeway Lane saleroom.
Before the couple returned to London Herbert Wilcox apparently
asked where he could buy Bakewell puddings and the Mercury staff
promptly phoned the Bakewell pudding shop with an order. The specially
baked puddings were made by the proprietress, Mrs. Needham, and
were delivered to the station and presented to Mr. Wilcox and Miss
Neagle by two young girls on behalf of the Matlock Mercury Ltd.
(Matlock Mercury, 7 July 1951).
Anna Neagle and her husband Herbert Wilcox at Matlock station.
Anna Neagle and Herbert Wilcox greeted by Matlock's station master.
He was wearing his gold braided "royalty" hat, according
the Matlock Mercury
Outside Lea Hurst. Another version of this picture is provided
elsewhere on this web site. See: "One
Man's Photographic Memory
|For the scenes shot at Lea Hurst Anna Neagle
was dressed in a coffee coloured cloak with a velvet border
and a fitted dress under which was a flounced
petticoat and long pantees. The dress was fastened with Florence
Nightingale's brooch, presented to her by Queen Victoria.
The actress's hair was covered by an auburn wig and worn in
a small bun. She wore a brown bonnet with
an inner frill of lace. Similar lace can be seen around the
cuffs of her dress. She carried a fringed parasol and a small
reticule. On her feet were a pair kid boots, made to a design
worn by Queen Victoria.
Matlock Mercury, 7 July 1951
Charles Limb,deep in conversation with Anna Neagle.
One Holloway man who took a great interest in the visit of Miss Anna
Neagle to Lea Hurst is sixty-eight year old Mr. Charles Limb, the estate
manager, whose cottage lies beside the Park gates. Miss Neagle listened
eagerly whilst 'Charlie', as he is known to his many friends, gave his
personal recollections of Miss Nightingale. As a boy he had joined parties
of schoolchildren who used to visit the house to sing for her whenever
she was in residence and had scrambled for the nuts and sweets she would
throw down for them from the balcony outside the room in which Miss
Matlock Mercury, Saturday, 7 July 1951.
Anna Neagle and Herbert Wilcox, surrounded by the film crew, in the grounds
of Lea Hurst.
Taken during a break from filming. It is possible that the female behind
the wall (to the right of Anna Neagle)
was a fan watching the proceedings.
They were photographed by J Marchant Brooks of Bakewell and the image
was included on a calendar for
1952, with the picture featuring on the page for June.