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photography vivien leigh

Tickerage Mill: A private view

Tickerage Mill farm

A view of Tickerage Mill from the farm owned by Vivien Leigh

Last week I posted some rare candid images of Vivien Leigh taken by Jack Merivale that showed the woman behind the star image; photographs her fans would likely never have seen had Merivale not graciously lent them to one of her biographers. Several of them showed Vivien at her recently-purchased home Tickerage Mill. The photos in today’s post highlight the same setting. These, however, were intended for public consumption.

British actor Dirk Bogarde told journalist and biographer Alan Dent how Vivien came to own Tickerage in early 1961:

When Vivien had left Notley she once came down to my house, and felt utterly sad because she no longer had a garden…she adored mine, which was rather marvelous. Suddenly she said: “I want a little house…with a view like this, but by water…on a lake or a stream…and with trees…” and I had seen the exact house three days before. I told her, and she was off in a flash and found it to be the very place of her idea…that’s how she got Tickerage Mill. I had wanted it very much for myself, but it was a bit too far from town, I thought, and too small for me. Viv was instantly at home there.

In the summer of 1962, Vivien invited professional Surrey-based photographer Thomas A. Wilkie to photograph her at Tickerage. She had been away for a year and was only now settling in and making the Queen Anne-style house in Sussex a true home.

The photos are part of a larger set that was intended for a magazine but, to my knowledge and the current owner’s, were never published. I first came across the original prints in a famous theatre ephemera store in London back in 2005. I was a college student at the time and couldn’t afford the asking price. “Vivien isn’t cheap, you know,” the shop owner said to me. I went away believing I’d never see them again, so it was a great surprise when Terence Pepper from the National Portrait Gallery asked me to come in and meet a local collector called John who had some Vivien photos to donate for an upcoming exhibit, and there they were. John inherited the photographs from a friend who recently passed away, and I am so grateful to him for letting me share some of them  here at

The photos offer an intimate glimpse into Vivien’s home and, like Jack Merivale’s snapshots, show a woman making the best of life after her divorce from Olivier. So many of Vivien’s endearing qualities come through in these pictures: her love for animals, her exquisite taste in interior design, her love of work, and her loyalty. I especially love the photo of her and her dog, Sebastian. It’s not perfect, and she probably wouldn’t have approved it for publication, but the expression on her face is adorable.

Inside Vivien Leigh's Tickerage Mill

I just love this centuries old fireplace. It reminds me of a cozy English pub.

Tickerage Mill sitting room

Tickerage Mill sitting room

The sitting room

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill 1962

 Talking about her upcoming musical, Tovarich

Vivien Leigh and her dog Sebastian

Playing with her poodle, Sebastian – a gift from Jack Merivale

Vivien Leigh and her gardner at Tickerage Mill

“Gardening – my great love.” Talking to Cook, who was head gardener at Notley Abbey for eight years and left there in order to remain in Vivien’s service.

Vivien leigh at Tickerage Mill 1962

I simply love this photo

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The Roman Spring of Kendra and Anthony (Part 1)


One of the most rewarding things about maintaining this website is meeting kindred spirits. Anthony and I met through years ago and had a passing acquaintance on Facebook. We finally hung out in person when I moved to north London two years ago. He and his partner lived nearby. We immediately bonded over our love for Vivien Leigh and classic cinema. He studies film, as well, and knows more than I do about a lot of stars of Hollywood’s golden age. He is also really good at impersonating film characters. When he started quoting The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (not just Warren Beatty, but Vivien Leigh and Coral Browne, too) I laughed so hard I cried. We became instant friends.

Anthony has been studying abroad in Rome since October and this week I finally got a chance to go and visit him. It was my first trip to Italy, and because we share so many of the same interests, I was happy to let Anthony show me around! Here are photos from day 1 of my visit.

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An afternoon at Notley Abbey

photo essay photography the oliviers

An afternoon at Notley Abbey

It’s officially spring, but winter still reigns in England. With freezing temperatures and even snow on occasion, it hasn’t been a very pleasant time to be outside. However, I recently treated myself to a new camera lens and was eager to try it out. As I was going to visit Robbie near Buckinghamshire anyway, I had a spur-of-the-moment idea (as usual) of going out to Notley Abbey for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, they were booked up with bridal viewings on Sunday, so I went this past Monday, instead, and was met by my friend Zara who came up from London.

I’ve been to Notley a few times now in various seasons, but am always struck by the beauty that surrounds it. Walking around the manicured grounds, it’s equally easy to imagine Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in their heyday, and why they loved this place so much. I tried to capture some of the old world charm in my photographs. It really is a stunning house.

All photos © Kendra Bean, 2013

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An ode to Coco

Coco the Siamese cat

It’s rare that we get everything that we want at the same time. Sometimes, happy occasions are counteracted with sad ones. I handed in the manuscript for my book this past Saturday. That same day, I got a text from my mom saying that my beloved Siamese cat, Coco, had to be put to sleep. I had known this was coming since Christmas, but knowledge and distance didn’t make the news completely easy to take.

Coco and I had been through a lot together. Some of you may remember me posting photos on here when I first got her. I adopted Coco from the Southern California Siamese Rescue in May 2009. I was in my post-college-trying-to-figure-out-my-life phase and was going through a bit of depression and loneliness. I decided I wanted to adopt a cat, and so started looking online for those available in my general area. Then I saw Coco’s picture on the SoCal Siamese website, and was immediately won over by her beauty and obvious diva-ish attitude. Also, come on, Coco? Coco Bean? It was destiny.

I drove two hours to Burbank where she was being fostered by a British couple. They told me that she was very timid, had been abandoned, had some dental work done, and had been in a few foster homes previously because she didn’t get along with other cats and had a tendency to hide a lot. I went into the bathroom and found her huddled behind the toilet. She had nowhere to run but she let me pet her and I took her home with me. It took her a few days to start warming up to her new surroundings, but from then on, we were pals.

Then, about five months in, she stopped eating, began sleeping all day, and was drooling quite a bit. A trip to the vet revealed that she had an unfortunately common problem with Oriental cats: stomatitis. Her gums became so infected that within a few months, I was faced with the option of giving her back to the shelter and having her put down, or paying for a very expensive surgery to have all of her teeth removed. The stress of the situation was overwhelming. I didn’t have enough money to pay the vet bills – I wasn’t expecting a sick cat right off the bat – but I had promised to be her “forever home.” So, I turned to tumblr and twitter for help, and amazingly, total strangers reached out to chip in. Within a week, I’d raised enough money to pay for her surgery. Talk about tears of gratitude on this end. After a bit of a rough recovery, Coco was like a completely new cat – still skittish and only let me pet her, but definitely not as reclusive as she had been.

When I got accepted to grad school and moved to London, I took Coco up north to live with my parents and she ended up taking to my dad. Not surprising, considering he’s basically an animal whisperer. But she still remembered me when I came home for visits, and every weekend when I Skyped with my parents, I’d ask for a Coco report.

A few months ago, my dad said she had started limping. She was older so we thought maybe she had arthritis. The limp didn’t go away and when I was home for the holidays, an x-ray revealed she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her arm. I was devastated by the diagnosis. I’d only adopted her four years ago and she’d had a rough life. It wasn’t fair that this should happen to this poor little creature. We decided that, given the circumstances and cost, we would forego amputation and let life take its course. I’d been home for three weeks and although she let me pet her when she was sleeping it was only on the very last night I was home that she came and curled up next to me on my bed like she used to.

My heart aches, but I think my mom was right when she said that I’d given Coco the best four years of her life, and I’m so glad I got to say goodbye. We’re lucky we found each other.

So, RIP, pretty Cocobean. May your sassiness reign in the next life.

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