Tag: notley abbey

Vivien Leigh’s Friends: A Call for Help

photography the oliviers

Vivien Leigh’s Friends: A Call for Help

*Shouts into the Internet void* HELP!

In my last post I wrote about my efforts to preserve Vivien Leigh’s snapshot albums for posterity. Now I’ve reached the stage where I’m attempting to identify the unrecognisable (to me) people in the images. This is part of the cataloguing process. The goal is to record as much information as possible about the content of the images whilst digitising them. Unfortunately, very few of the images have identifying information written on the back and the handful of people I have shown the albums to have also been unable to supply any names.

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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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photography the oliviers travel

Return to Notley Abbey

31 Days of the Oliviers {Day 7}

I mentioned in a previous post my friend Zsazsa’s visit from Hungary. Because she had missed the Weekend with the Oliviers back in May, we decided to take a trip out to Notley Abbey. I admit I was a bit nervous about doing so, for fear there would possibly be a wedding on. I needn’t have worried. All was quiet save for a few couples driving up to view it as a possible wedding location. The day was windy and overcast, but Autumn was definitely definitely set in, turning Larry’s Lime Walk to a brilliant yellow and brown. The various trees around the house were splashed with fiery reds and oranges.

I’ve already written about my experiences at Notley, so I asked Zsazsa if she’d like to write about her own, and will post her account later. For now, she’s given me permission to post some of the photos she took. As you may already know, Zsazsa is a brilliant photographer, and she perfectly captured the aura of romance and history that surrounds Vivien Leigh’s and Laurence Olivier’s former country estate.

See more of her work here.

Photos in this post © Zsazsa Ribai.
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events the oliviers travel

Destination: Notley Abbey

Although A Weekend with the Oliviers officially ended on Sunday the 29th, there was still one last treat in store for those who were free on Monday morning. I think it would be accurate to say that the one place many Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier fans want to visit is Notley Abbey, the 15th century country estate near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. The Abbey was bought by the Oliviers with Larry’s salary from Henry V just before the end of the war. It has been widely reported that Larry loved the house from the beginning but it took some time before it started to grow on Vivien. It had been in a state of neglect and was in desperate need of refurbishment.

Over the years Notley became a weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of busy London but the glamorous life was never far behind. The Oliviers hosted their famous fashionable parties for the who’s who of the entertainment business. You weren’t famous unless you were invited for a weekend at Notley. But it was also a place that offered quiet solitude when needed. Vivien’s heartbreak at the idea of having to sell the Abbey  gives a good indication of just how much it meant to her:

On top of all this it seems as if Notley is sold. I can hardly write the words. A Canadian couple saw it some weeks ago, made an immediate and perfectly good offer and want to move in at the end of April. It doesn’t seem possible, does it? Of course it is looking particularly beautiful. We have had the most glorious crisp and dazzling winter days…I walk from place to precious place and gaze at the beloved views with tears pouring down my face. What memories for all one’s life—such unbelievable rare happiness, sweetness and quietude there has been here. I don’t forget the other times too, but they seem to me outweighed by blissful togetherness. Dear God it is a heartache…the fact that we have known for some time now that it would have to go doesn’t seem to help in the least.It is fifteen years—a great part of one’s life…Oh the hundreds of times my beloved Larry and I have wandered here in wonder and grateful amazement at the beauty all around us—the feeling that we were a little responsible for creating it too made it all so doubly dear. It is hard to imgine life without such an oasis.

Today Notley Abbey is a wedding venue, which means the inside is more like a hotel than a home. The outside, however, retains its old-world romantic charm. Many of the touches that made it such an “oasis” still remain: the lime walk drive, Vivien’s folly, rose bushes and exotic trees. The beauty of the countryside is like something out of a Jane Austen adaptation. The canopy of trees hangs over you as you walk down the long gravel drive. The lazy river with its reeds and lily pads meanders through the pastures. Vines of flowers cling to crumbling garden walls. If you listen closely, you might just hear the ghosts of the past whispering in the spring wind.

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