Saturday, 10 July 2010

Rosa Lewis 'Duchess Of Duke Street'

Leader of the Teddy Bares' Picnic, Rosa Lewis, converted a whole generation of the conservative British to alcohol in sauces, as well as yelling at a young Winston Churchill (sneaking into the kitchen to pinch cakes); '"Op it, coppernob!!". Her life was dramatised in the 1970s as the television series The Duchess of Duke Street and I always felt, in walking up and down Jermyn and Duke Streets, that there was insufficient commemoration of her there. The old hotel is long gone and a tower block has taken its place - but still called the Cavendish Hotel. So I stirred up Westminster City Council in 2005-2006 and persuaded them to erect this plaque, which I am very proud to say I composed and persuaded the actress Gemma Jones (who had appeared in the TV series), to unveil in November 2006. It is situated near the entrance to the old hotel in Jermyn Street, where Rosa had used to stand, goblet of champagne in hand, 'watching the trot'.

Sadly, I was not able to be at the unveiling and I cannot locate the photographs of the ceremony but it turned out that the Deputy Mayor of Westminster (who was also present), had been at school with Miss Jones and one of the Councillors who attended the unveiling could actually remember having stayed at the old Cavendish with her parents and having been taken by Rosa on shopping trips to Fortnum & Mason, where Rosa's dog, Kippy, used to cock his leg against the stacked biscuit tins. When the staff "Ahemed!" and mentioned this to Rosa, apparently, she replied: "I know, he's my dog!" Next time that you pass the plaque, going up or down Jermyn Street, please stop and raise your hat to the memory of this tremendous, incorrigible and irrestible English character.

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