Famous people who have lived or had connections with Mersea. Mersea has never made the most of its historical connections. Where, for example is the Baring-Gould Bookshop, the Pierrepont Public House, the D'Wit's Diner or even the Mehalah Sharland Tea Rooms? The Island has quite a few famous connections that we can boast about.
Below are some of the more renowned residents of Mersea and some who have had close connections with the place. Please note however that West Mersea Town Council take no responsibility for the accuracy of this section.
Albert Victor Alexander, Earl Alexander of Hillsborough 1885-1965
Politician, First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister of Defence.
Once lived at Wellhouse Farm, West Mersea.
Minister of Defence in the Post War Labour Government under Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.
Alberto Semprini 1908-1990
Concert Pianist who lived on the houseboat L'Esperance during the 1960's/70's. People would pause by the boat to listen to him play - he also practised on a grand piano in a storeroom at Clifford White's builders shop in Barfield Road.
Archie White 1899-1957
Artist and Yachtsman. A fine Watercolourist whose paintings reflected his love of the East Coast, he was also known as a witty after dinner speaker.
Arthur Briscoe 1873-1943
Marine Artist and Print Maker (etchings) who worked and lived at Besom House, near the waterfront.
Flight Lieutenant Charles W.A.Scott 1903-1946
Lived for a while in Mersea, his parents had a house in Fairhaven Avenue. In 1934 Scott, with partner Captain Tom Black, flying a De Havilland Comet, won the MacRobertson Air Race to Australia.
Christina Foyle 1911-1999
Founder of the well known eccentric bookshop in Charing Cross Road.
The Foyles family lived at Beeleigh Abbey, Maldon, but they also owned a holiday home "The Thatch" at East Mersea, as well as one of the original Coopers Beach chalets, and would spend the summer here.
Sir Clive Sinclair 1940-
Well known for his spectacular failures, notably the Sinclair C5, an electric tricycle driven by a washing machine motor. He lived in Mersea Avenue and was often seen testing out this machine along Mersea's roads. Knighted by Thatcher's government he continues to produce innovative products from his London HQ.
Cynthia Payne 1932-2015
Often stayed at the White Hart. Mrs Payne was notorious in the 1970-80's as a Madam who kept a House of ill repute in Streatham frequented by Cabinet Ministers and High Court Judges and the like with strange desires. Mrs Payne later became an accomplished after dinner speaker.
Sir Edward Heath 1916-2005
Often sailed his Yacht "Morning Cloud" from Mersea, and no doubt had a drink or two in the Yacht Club.
Ernest A. Harnack (father of Fid)
Pioneer of the x-ray for medical purposes, he also lived in West Mersea for a while.
Fid Harnack 1897-1984
Eminent Marine Artist lived and worked in West Mersea.
George Ernest Studdy 1878-1948
Cartoonist and Illustrator. During the 1920's his Studdy Dog, named Bonzo, was known as "the most famous puppy dog in the world", appearing in adverts, children's comics and even as a neon sign at Piccadilly Circus. Studdy was a frequent visitor to Mersea before the War often dining at the old Social and Sailing Club (now The Coast Inn).
Lord Greenwood 1911-1982
Baron Greenwood of Rossendale, former Minister of Housing in the Labour Government 1965-70. He had a holiday house which stood on the site of the Old Ship Inn in East Mersea for more than thirty six years.
Wife of Leopold Hohenzollern was exiled to Spain during the war. She later escaped and eventually ended up in Mersea. The Hohenzollerns were a German dynastic family of former princes, electors, kings and emperors of Hohenzollerns, Brandenburg, Prussia, the German Empire and Romania.
Hugh Iorys Hughes 1902-1977
A quiet unassuming Welshman who once lived at Besom House, Coast Road. A Civil Engineer, he was a major player in the development of the wartime "Mulberry Harbours" large concrete pontoons which enabled ships to unload tanks, lorries and all the paraphenalia of warfare where there were no harbour facilities.
Jack Buchanan 1891-1957 and Cicely Courtneidge 1893-1980
Mersea between the wars became quite fashionable with the middle classes. A house overlooking the sea called 'Casa Pantis' was owned by a well to do Theatrical Impresario who held regular weekend parties for stars of stage and screen. Among the more famous visitors were Jack Buchanan and Cicely Courtneidge, they would arrive by chauffuer driven limo to partake of pink gins and sparkling conversation on the terrace. The house is still here.
Sir Jesse Herbert
Secretary to Herbert Gladstone (son of Prime Minister Gladstone) and Liberal Chief Whip in 1906. He lived at 'Shameen', a house which once stood at the south end of Seaview Avenue.
Lloyd George 1863-1945
Prime Minister 1916 to 1922 allegedly came to Mersea to stay at 'Shameen', an Edwardian mansion overlooking the sea in Seaview Avenue. He was the guest of the owner Sir Jesse Herbert. The house was pulled down in the fifties.
Margery Allingham 1904-1966
Crime novelist who lived at Tolleshunt D'Arcy. Margery and her family spent the summer holiday of 1921 in a house in Seaview Avenue - to pass the time they held seances where Margery claimed to have made contact with the spirit of a 17th century smuggler. This inspired young Margery to write an historical novel about Mersea called "Blackerchief Dick". She later wrote detective fiction featuring the character Albert Campion. She also wrote The Oaken Heart, the story of an Essex village (Tolleshunt D'Arcy) during the Second World War.
Maurice Griffiths 1902-1997
Author of 'The Magic of the Swatchways' and was Editor of 'Yachting Monthly'. As a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves he was awarded the George Medal for his work trawling for and defusing mines during WW2. Retired to Mersea where he died in 1997.
Prince Nicholas Galitzine
Often visited Mersea for the shooting during the 1930's.
Olive Guthrie Smith 1883-1956
Mrs Guthrie Smith, a Physiotherapist, lived at the mansion Orleans which once stood in Coast Road. She developed a suspension apparatus; a system of slings and pulleys to enable paraplegics to move and exercise.
Oliver Cromwell 1599-1658
Is reputed to have stayed at Bocking Hall during the Civil War.
Peggy Fortnum was primarily a book illustrator, designer for a textile firm, and part-time teacher. She was also the author and illustrator of "Running Wild", a book about her childhood. She is best known for creating the original image of the now famous Paddington Bear. In 1958 she married the artist Ralph Nuttall-Smith and they settled at Mersea in a house at the top end of Churchfields. She often gave away small impromptu sketches of Paddington Bear to local poeple.
Rev. C. Pierrepont Edwards
Whilst serving as a Curate in London's East End, Pierrepont was always ready to settle a dispute with his fists if necessary and thus earned the title "Fighting Parson".
He served with the Essex Yeomanry in the Boer War and during the First World War became Chaplain to the 5th Essex Infantry Brigade. The Reverend was awarded the Military Cross for his gallant efforts rescuing the wounded at Gallipoli. After the war he returned to his previous job - that of Clerk to West Mersea Parish Council.
Rayner Goddard 1877-1971
Lord Chief Justice of England, 1946-1958.
He was a frequent visitor to Mersea and came mainly for the shooting. Known as a harsh judge, he was markedly pro capital punishment. He gave a heavily slanted summing up of the case against Derek Bentley who was accused of the murder of a policeman, 19 year old Bentley was hanged despite his questionable guilt.
Sir Robin Day 1923-2000
Robin Day's parents had a house at the north end of Seaview Avenue and Sir Robin recalls happy holidays in Mersea as a child. Whilst waiting to be enlisted he briefly joined the Mersea Home Guard, which he describes in his book "Grand Inquisitor". He was also a temporary teacher at schools in West Bergholt and Wivenhoe and would cycle to work from Mersea.
Tessie O'Shea 1914-1995
Last of the "Big Momma" singers - she often came to Mersea. It was said that she had financial interests in some of the shipping that moored in the river at one time.
The New Seekers
Popular pop group formed in 1969. Over the years the group had many hits including the famous "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing". Members of the group, including singer Eve Graham, lived at Rewsalls Farm where they had a recording studio.
Sir Thomas Lipton 1848-1931
Tea magnate and grocer, he made five attempts at the Americas Cup with a crew mainly from Tollesbury and Mersea. His yachts, all called 'Shamrock', sailed the Blackwater Estuary.
Walt Disney 1901-1966
Rumour has it that during the 1930's a young Walt Disney paid a visit to England and played a round of golf at East Mersea golf course.
Winston Churchill 1874-1965
Churchill reputedly came to Mersea more than once during WW2 with some of his War Cabinet.
At this time Mrs W. M. Hone (a wonderful Cook) was mine host at the old Social and Sailing Club in Coast Road (now the Coast Inn). She cooked several sumptuous meals for Winston Churchill at the Club.
Winston Churchill was also said to have been a regular visitor to Besom House (corner of Victory Road and Coast Road) during the war.
West Mersea Town Council
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Colchester, Essex, CO5 8JD
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