Lyn Harding, renowned actor, movie star and even director, brought a touch of glamour to the village of Leverstock Green in the 1920's. Born in Wales on October 12th 1876, his full name was David Llewellyn Harding. He had long since moved away from Leverstock Green by the time of his death on August 1st 1952.
BY the time he moved of Leverstock Green sometime during WW1, he had been a stage star for nearly forty years, performing mostly in the West End. Some of his best known roles were playing villains such as Moriarty and Grimsby Rylott in "Sherlock Holmes" plays and films. At the time of his residence in Leverstock Green he was a well-known figure on the London Stage, and frequently appeared in the society gossip columns of the national newspapers.
Perhaps one of his greatest roles before launching into a career as a major supporting actor in Holywood movies, was that of Grimsby Rylott in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stage play "The Speckled Band." Doyle had taken a 6 month lease on the Adelphi Theatre London where "The House of Temperly" a play based on Doyle's novel "Rodney Stone!" was running. As the play was about Boxing, and boxing was at the time illegal in England, this led to difficulties and the play closed after only two months. Needing to salvage his financial losses at the Adelphi, Doyle wrote the stage script of "The Speckled Band" and had it cast and under rehearsal within a week of Temperly closing in 1910. Lyn Harding was cast as the arch villein of the story Dr. Grimsby Rylott, and was also appointed Producer. Harding & Doyle were firm friends at first, but started to fall out as Harding wished to make more of Rylotte's villainy that Doyle had originally intended. In the end it was the intervention of J M Barrie (author of Peter Pan), who was a friend of both men, who persuaded Doyle to let Lyn Harding have his way. The play was a roaring success, and Doyle sent Lyn Harding a congratulatory message as an apology. Although Lyn Harding didn't move with the play to The Strand Theatre after its run at the Adelphi, he was to play the same staring role twenty years later in the film version of The Speckled Band where he played opposite Raymond Massey as Holmes.
Lyn Harding's principle fame as a film actor came during the 1930's, long after he had left Leverstock Green. However, it was while he was resident here in the 1920's that he first started making films with perhaps his best known early role being that of Henry VIII in the 1922 film When Knighthood Was in Flower.
Below are extracts from the Gazette concerning Lyn Harding during his residence in Leverstock Green. It is uncertain precisely which year Lyn Harding moved into Leverstock Green.
12th & 13th February 1919 - Fund raising entertainments for the Parish Room were reported the following Saturday in the Gazette:
FOR LEVERSTOCK GREEN PARISH ROOM
Two very unique entertainments were given in St.. Mary's Hall and the Canteen Apsley, on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, organized by Captain Herbert Grimwood in order to raise funds for a Parish Hall at Leverstock Green. ...........................It was a great disappointment that Mr... Lyn Harding, the well known actor, was unable to assist in these entertainments, owing to his present engagement at the Garrick Theatre, but he had very generously promised to forward Captain H. Grimwood £5 towards the expenses. The able accompanist was Mr... Victor Booth. [Gazette 15/2/1919 p.8]
Saturday 31st May 1919 - There was a presentation in the village, reported the following week as follows:-
"On Saturday 31st May a presentation was made to Mr... W.C. Child as an appreciation of his good work in the parish of Holy Trinity, Leverstock Green , as Sunday School teacher, people's warden, and organist for many years. The presentation took the form of a gold watch, with inscription, and an illuminated address, with list of subscribers." Included in the list of subscribers were:. Mr... & Mrs... Lyn Harding.
5th February 1920 - A beautiful memorial brass, dedicated to the boys of Leverstock Green School, who had fallen in the war, was unveiled at the school.
Mr. Ford went on to record in the school log book for 16th Feb. 1920 that:-
" Mr. P. Webster (Manager) & Mr. Lyn Harding visited this morning re memorial".
Mr. Percy Webster lived at Sibleys Orchard, (click here for his biography) was a London Antique Dealer and a great expert on antique clocks, as well as a pillar of the church and Leverstock Green society; Mr. Lyn Harding lived in Tile Kiln Lane (Logandene) and was an actor who at the time was receiving excellent notices for his performances in the London theatres.. [ S73, Gazette April 16th 1920, S115]
Saturday 14th August 1920 - The Gazette featured both with an advert and a long article, on a rather splendid Garden fete which took place that afternoon at Bennetts End Lodge (previously known as Orchard Lea) in Tile Kiln Lane. The Garden fete was to include a variety of entertainments including a play The Constant Lover which had previously been performed in front of the King and Queen. :
The Garden Fete at Bennetts End Lodge today (Saturday) promises to be an exceptionally popular affair. In addition to the many side shows and attractions the programme arranged by Mr. Lyn Harding for the platform is of unusual strength, including as it does, Mr. Pope Stamper the tenor, Miss Catherine Nesbitt and Mr. Jack Hobbs both of whom are now are now appearing at the Ambassadors Theatre London, and who will present the one-act play The Constant Lover which s delighted their Majesties at the recent fete at the Earl Hague's Garden Party; also Mr. Arthur Helmore the humorist . In addition to these great favourites are those who's names have been announced and will positively appear;- Miss Renee Meyer the Wendy of Peter Pan, Miss Sylvia Grimwood, Mrs. K. Pearson, Mr. Leslie Styles, Mr. Henderson Bland, Mr. E W Nicholls and Mr Lyn Harding. Miss Jesse Winter and Mr. Austin Melford are unable to come along owing to their appearance twice daily at the Coliseum London.
It should be mentioned that refreshments will be on sale to visitors and that Mr. Ashley has given a pig as a prize in the greasy pole contest. Click here to view advert for play The Constant Lover [Gazette 14th August 1920]
21st August 1920 - The Gazette gave a lot of column inches to the right-up on the previous Saturday's garden fete, which proved a great success, but not free from mishap:
HIGH CLASS PERFORMANCE AT LEVERSTOCK GREEN
With an array of talented artistes such as we have seldom witnessed before in the district, the enthusiastic promoters of the garden fete held on Saturday last at Bennetts End Lodge (by kind permission of Mr... F.W. Wright) could have experienced no doubting forebodings as to the success of the event other than that of the behaviour of the Clerk of the Weather. Certainly his idiosyncrasies of late tended to give rise to much anxiety, but with King Sol claiming his rights to reign supreme upon a typical August day the Leverstock Green Parish Hall Fund was assured an appreciable advance as a result of the fete.
If Bennetts End Lodge is perhaps a little obscure to all but the villagers of Leverstock Green, we find it a most charming venue for such an occasion as this and the huge company who were comfortably seated on the lawns during the musical and dramatic performances basking in brilliant sunshine positively reveled in the delightful surroundings as well as the efforts of the artists.
An improvised platform had been erected at the door of the Lodge and from this a number of celebrities in London musical and theatrical circles gave an entertainment that provided a rich treat for all lovers of music and drama. The commencement was delayed a little owing to the lateness of Mr... Lyn Harding, the other artistes being reluctant to open without their colleague, to whose efforts the matinee was due. However, Mr... Harding did not arrive until Mr... Nicholls had won the ready applause of the audience by his pianoforte selections, and an oration he well deserved. Mr... Lyn Harding briefly apologized for his lateness and called upon Mr... Keith Harding...................
(there followed a list of each individual performer and the item they performed)..........
..........The house rocked with unrestrained laughter during Mr... Arthur Helmore's "sermon" upon Old Mother Hubbard, the cupboard, the bone and the dog, his impersonation of clerical oratory being cleverly humorous.
A great disappointment now awaited the audience - Mr... Lyn Harding announced that owing to the properties of the play "The Constant Lover" having been lost between Euston and Bennetts End, Miss C. Nesbitt and Mr... J. Hobbs would be unable to repeat their dramatic item which had won the arm appreciation of their Majesties the King & Queen on the occasion of The Earl Hague's garden party. However there was a deal by way of recompense for this in the items given by the two artistes...............
(There followed more about the various items.)
............Every item during the afternoon was well up to the expectations of the visitors who vastly enjoyed the programs. To Mr... Lyn Harding who was practically responsible for organizing the committee of the fund for which the proceeds are devoted was a debt of gratitude, but Mr... Harding's modesty takes no praise for himself. He frankly confessed that but for the loyalty of his friends in coming down from Town he would not have known what would have happened for Friday was a very busy day ending in a motor breakdown at 11.30pm. a number of miles out which meant his staying the night and delaying his return.
The concert over the visitors repaired to the grounds for tea.....................later on the evening was given up to "all the fun of the fair". Leverstock Green united to give one and all a good time.........................
.......The proceeds totalled £84 - 1s - 9d and there is some more still to come in.
[Gazette 21st August 1920]
28th August 1920 - the following note concerning one of Leverstock Green's better known residents was reported in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette:
"AN IDEAL EXPONENT":-
When Ethel Irving appears in "La Tosca" in a few weeks time she will have almost an ideal exponent of the villenous and sinister Scarpia in Lyn Harding1, says the London Press. He has the voice and the commanding presence for the part, and has never yet played anything badly. Scarpias, other than the operatic variety, have been rare in London. In fact is it doubtful if one has been seen since Sir Johnston Forbes-Robinson at the Garrick, to the Tosca of the late Mrs... Bernard Brere, and that was a long time ago. :[Gazette 28th August 1920; S303]
28th March 1921, Easter Monday - A Carnival and Fancy Dress dance was held in the Parish Hall in aid of the Parish Hall Fund. There was a record attendance, and each person was given a coloured balloon, tickler and ribbon streamer. Mrs. Durrant's orchestra provided the music and the actor and local resident Mr. Lyn Harding gave the vote of thanks. [Gazette 2nd April 1921]
5 November 1921 - The following article appeared in the Gazette concerning a famous Leverstock Green resident:
MR LYN HARDING
On Thursday of last week in the "Daily Sketch" "Matt" selected Mr. Lyn Harding for his cartoon of famous people, as he sees them. The characature at first blush does not favour Mr.. Harding, but is wholly redeemed by the jolly smile the artist has given him, which undoubtedly is one of his most striking facial characteristics and gives immediate point to the portrait. The letterpress accompanying the sketch says:
"Lyn Harding the actor, is a Welsh man, and his first name a contraction of Llewelyn. First appeared on the stage at Bristol in 1887 and played everything from Shakespeare to "The silver King". Appeared with Tree at His Majesties, notably in The Darkening of the Gods and "Colonel Newcome"" Has the best speaking voice on the stage today, but is not the best dressed actor off it. So conscientious when playing Bill Sikes smoked shag every night to get the right atmosphere. Got it; so did others. Is a practical farmer down in Wales and walks his own meat to market. [Gazette 5 November 1921]
26 November 1921 - The Gazette once again carried a long article about Lyn Harding:
ANOTHER TRIUMPH FOR LYN HARDING
The adventures of Sherlock Holmes never fail to provide a thrill of excitement to the reader who desires adventure combined with mystery. The elucidations of the apparently baffling problems so easily unraveled by the mastermind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes leave one aghast at their amazing simplicity. As always difficulties become simple when explained by on who has mastered them, and the dramatized version the adventures of "The Speckled Band" now running at St. James Theatre is no exception. Mr. Lyn Harding is responsible for the production and his exceedingly fine performance of a retired Anglo-Indian surgeon, DR Grimsby Rylott leaves nothing to be desired. A man of commanding personality, Mr. Lyn Harding, portrays the role of the villainous step-father, who with a veneer of simulated gentleness endeavours to cover his lust for the wealth of his stepdaughter and ward which can only become his upon her death. He has already covered his tracks in such a manner that no suspicion may fall upon him in the matter of the death of an elder girl, and with the curious reasoning of the criminal brain seeks to recreate his former success in a similar fashion. The familiar figure of Mr. Sherlock Holmes is cleverly represented by Mr.. H A Sainstbury who by his deductions discovers that a snake of particular poisonous variety was the cause of the first death, and in the guise of the new butler, arrives on the scene in time to prevent a repetition of the previous tragedy. The furious reptile, robbed of its prey, falls upon its master with fatal results. The caste is extremely well balanced, the characters equally well presented and the drama is in no wise overdone. A light touch is added by Holmes valet Billy, whose humour of the typically Cockney type does not fail to raise a laugh. To thoroughly appreciate the plot and the methods of Sherlock Holmes in elucidating the problem also the particularly fine portrayal of the parts by Mr. Lyn Harding and his company, it is necessary to see the play. For the convenience of readers contemplating a visit it may be mentioned that the nearest Tube stations to the theatre are Piccadilly and Dover-Street, also that St.. James' is in King Street SW1 and easily accessible form either station. [Gazette 26 November 1921]
6th January 1923 - Leverstock Green's most famous resident of the time was about to embark on a new part in the West End:
"MR LYN HARDING
We understand that Mr.. Lyn Harding has accepted the invitation of Mr. AB Limpers to play the principle part in his new play "Trespasses". Mr. Harding will commence rehearsals as soon as the run of Peter Pan at the St.. James Theatre is ended. His many local friends will wish Mr. Lyn Harding who lives in Leverstock Green every success." [Gazette 6.1.1923]
22 March 1924 - The Gazette reported the return of Leverstock Green's most famous resident:
The many friend of Mr. Lynn Harding were very pleased to welcome him back from the US. A writer of "Stage Gossip" states: The best bit of news in the London theatre world this week is the intimation of the reappearance on Tuesday of Lynn Harding. He came back form the States with the Edward Knoblock, the author of Conchita".......London & New York are always calling him. Now that he is here - with him will be Tallulan2 Bankhead and Mary Clare - I hope that the metropolis will see that he stays with us for the j rest of the year. [Gazette March 22 1924]
19th April 1924 - It would appear from an advert in the Gazette that Leverstock Green's resident star Lyn Harding was selling up and moving as an advert was placed in the Gazette for the sale of his property Logandene. Logandene was part way down Tile Kiln Lane, diagonally opposite Orchard Lea. For the house's exact location see the 1925 OS map extract of Tile Kiln Lane.
With vacant possession
Leverstock Green, Herts
Messrs Broad & Patey will sell by auction at the London auction Mart 155 Queen Victoria St. EC on Thursday May 8th 1924 the charming detached Country FREEHOLD RESIDENCE known as LOGANDENE, Bennetts End 2 ½ miles from Boxmoor Station & 4 miles from St.. Albans. It contains 5 bedrooms, bathroom (h & c) 3 reception rooms, excellent domestic offices, delightful pleasure grounds, orchard, paddock, lawn, small farmery, garage, all in about 5 acres......
[Gazette April 19th 1924]
23rd May 1924 - Having sold Logandene, a further sale took place at Logandene of any property not required by Lyn Harding. There was no further comment made in the Gazette other than the presale advert of 10th May. In the year 2001 if such a sale of such a well-known personality would have attracted many memorabilia hunters. Click here to view advert. [Gazette 10 May 1924]