Peggy’s younger years

Despite Peggy’s entry for December 27th her diary doesn’t start properly until January 1st, so in the meantime I thought I’d provide a little background about her life.

Born on February 22nd, 1920, in London, Peggy was brought up by her parents, Sylvia Hughes d’Aeth (pronounced Death) and Edgar Newgass, who had shortened his name to make it a little less Jewish (we think from Neugasser).

Sylvia was an only child and a champion archer who grew up largely at her family home Keele House, now Keele University, which was sold to the nation to pay death duties. Edgar was a self-published poet, born in Langton Green, in Kent. He was a ‘senior’ member of the Christian Science ‘church’ and a regular contributor to their world-wide journal the Christian Science Monitor. He had a motorboat called Fantasy, which he mostly kept moored in Teddington, having been built in Tough’s boatyard in the opposite Wharf. One day he sailed it to the Isle of Wight and moored up in a harbour for the night. The harbour-master came to him late in the evening and asked if he would not mind sharing the mooring, as he was getting short of space. Edgar agreed and his mooring-buddy turned out to be his younger brother, Harold! Harold had a family, including two daughters, and spent the last decades of his life in Stafford House in Dorset, now owned by Julian Fellowes, writer of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey. Fellowes went to Webber Douglas drama school, which Peggy had attended around 30 years previously!

Peggy had a younger sister, Joy, and another sibling who would have been a middle child, but didn’t survive pregnancy. Sylvia was forced to carry her deceased child to full term and give birth naturally, due to Edgar’s religious beliefs. They divorced when Peggy and Joy were young – a rare thing to happen in the 1920s/30s – with Edgar going on to marry one of Peggy’s nannies. The sisters had several nannies, provided by each of their parents.

Peggy was sent to various boarding schools, including Claremont Fan Court in Esher, which was started as a girl’s school called Clear View, by Christian Scientist families wanting to “establish a school for their daughters that advocated the seeing of good in all inspired by the principles of Christian Science.”* The other schools Peggy went to would have been C of E, including Luckley (now Luckley House School) near Wokingham, and Roedean, a well-known and prestigious school in West Sussex, which she attended until she was 11. Being dyslexic she failed her exam to the senior school. Children with dyslexia were labelled lazy or stupid back then. She was very sporty as a child, whereas her sister Joy was more arty, and became an artist in later life. Peggy went to drama school, as mentioned above, before WW2, and became a chorus girl afterwards, until she married and had her son (my father).

*taken from https:

This photo of Peggy (right) and Joy (left) was published in the Daily Mail on January 7th, 1924
Peggy – second from the top on the ladder – posing by ‘Fantasy’

Published by derynjames

British author and voiceover.

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