“Time, like an ever-rolling stream,”*

Image: (Wikipedia) “former Church of St Alban the Martyr, Teddington, Ferry Road, Teddington, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames TW11. Architectural type French Gothic. The design of the new church, which was built in 1889 and consecrated in 1896, was commissioned by its first vicar, Rev. Francis Leith Boyd, who had been appointed as Vicar of Teddington in 1884 when he was 28, officiating at the parish church of St Mary. The congregation had attempted to build a massive church, based on the Notre Dame de Paris…The building, which is Grade II* listed, is still owned by the Church of England but is now leased to the Landmark Arts Centre for use as a venue for concerts and exhibitions.”

*from “Our God, Our Help” (1708), by ISAAC WATTS

From: Noel Coward – a Biography (1995), by Philip Hoare:

“…to be ‘finished’ at a bleak nunnery outside Brussels. Here Violet became ill; she was delirious for days and no one did much about it. After the fever subsided, Violet found she had become slightly deaf…It provoked a distrust of religion which her son inherited. It also indirectly bequeathed another legacy to Coward: precise enunciation, his speech clipped for her benefit…

…But the great Mecca of all musical ambition in that part of London was further up the river, on the banks of Teddington Lock. Teddington society – a shade grander than its downstream counterpart – centred on the new parish church (pictured) of St Alban’s, dubbed ‘the Cathedral of the Thames Valley’ by John Betjeman, who described it as looking like a little piece of Westminster Abbey stranded up-river. Built in 1887 by a local architect, William Niven (father of David Niven and a neighbour of the Veitches at Udney Park), this grandiose Victorian gothic pile rose above the river at the lock. Its vicar was Francis Leith Boyd, who was given to ‘furious outbursts’ from the pulpit; he was popular enough to fill the church to overflowing when he delivered his fiery sermons…


…It was in the St Alban’s church choir that Violet Veitch met Arthur Coward…

…bickering which would resurface in Coward’s dramas as echoes of family rows. To these he contributed in the clipped speech he had adopted, not only for his mother’s benefit but to overcome a slight lisp…

…Coward’s childhood was marked by a series of dramatic accidents. In Teddington, a horse lunged at his head…1909 was a miserable year for Coward…However, Coward the performer was developing apace. Noel’s voice gained strength…and soon he was performing at the church garden party at St Alban’s in Teddington…

(In 1919)…Coward’s status as a writer proper was reflected in his move from the attic at 111 Ebury Street to a room on the floor below. Able now to return hospitality, he gave tea parties, to which Gertrude Lawrence brought the succession of Guards officers for whom, like Ruby in The Rat Trap, she had a well-known penchant; they had also a certain attraction for Coward. These stage-door johnnies sat about ‘puzzled by the theatrical conversation, but securely wrapped in regimental poise’. Other guests included the Wynne-Tysons, Mrs Astley Cooper, Lorn Macnaughtan, Betty Chester, G.B. Stern and Sheila Kaye-Smith. On the housemaid’s afternoon off, Arthur was drafted into service, ‘waltzing into the room with the tea-tray’. Some found the idea of one’s father serving tea odd; with ‘Bohemian geniality’ Noel ‘tried not to intercept the ironic glances that any strangers present exchanged with each other’.”

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