Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill

featured photo essay vivien leigh

Summer at Tickerage Mill

Vivien Leigh’s country estate, Notley Abbey, was sold in 1960 pending her divorce from Laurence Olivier. While on the hunt for a new country retreat, her friend, the actor Dirk Bogarde, told her of a gorgeous Queen Ann-style house in the Sussex downs. It was too small for him, he said, but she might love it. Love it Vivien did, and she moved in with Jack Merivale in 1961.

Although Tickerage was very much a private space, Vivien occasionally allowed photographers into her country life. Thomas Wilkie and George Douglas were two such photographers. I profiled Douglas here last summer when it was announced that his archive had been discovered by Shan Lancaster and Guardian photographer Roger Bamber in Brighton. Since then, I’ve had the privilege to get to know Shan and follow the great work she and Roger are doing to raise George Douglas’ profile.

In a mutually beneficial effort to help spotlight Douglas’ wonderful work, and because everyone likes pretty pictures, here is the full set of Douglas’ shoot of Vivien Leigh as found (thus far) in the George Douglas Archive. (Getty Images are also licensing some of Douglas’ color photos from this shoot via the Popperfoto collection.)

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

“Good news of Tickerage every week, which I long to see again.” – Vivien Leigh to Radie Harris, February 6, 1962

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

“Tickerage Mill was just as romantic a setting as Notley, if on a smaller scale. The lake close to the house provided for her the essential ingredient of water always present, and she assured me that she was comforted by the knowledge that it was there, even when obscured by the mist of autumn, the winter fogs. There was also a miniature wood filled with carpets of anemones and bluebells that she had planted, which burgeoning in the spring might have been created for Titania [the character Vivien played in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1937]. Like my mother, Vivien had green fingers, and in an enviously short time, the garden, which had been sadly neglected till the arrival of the new owner, took on a blossoming look of someone who knows that she is cherished.” – Godfrey Winn, 1965

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

“Another beautiful album of Tickerage for Vivien! It really is stunning and she is delighted with it, as I have no doubt she has told you in the letter which Jason and I have just walked up the lane to post…All is well here I think. We have had our dramas; the Cooks, who have been with Vivien for eleven years as gardener and ‘help’, upped and left and the cottage has been empty for a month. However the replacements arrived yesterday to start work to-morrow and if they are satisfactory we shall at last be able to go to the big city for a few days and catch up on some shows. We have hardly left the place for weeks. Also the poodle ran away last week and got run over for his pains poor chap. Luckily not much damage done except that he was concussed and had amnesia. He came back yesterday from the kennels in Buxted and seems fairly all right. I say ‘fairly’ because we think he still has a touch of amnesia since he forgot himself in the kitchen before lunch in a pretty substantial way.” – Jack Merivale to Arnold Weissberger, October 10, 1965

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill© George Douglas/Topfoto

Kendra has been the weblady at since 2007. She lives in Yorkshire and is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, and co-author of Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press). Follow her on Twitter @kendrajbean, Instagram at @vivandlarrygram, or at her official website.

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Comments (19)

  1. Thanks, Kendra! Great fun reading and looking at the pictures! So nice to see pictures of Vivien without the ever present cigarette for a change!!!!

    1. Hi Liz,

      Yes, agree about the cigarette (although she no doubt had them nearby!). I love these photos so much and am grateful to Shan Lancaster/the GD Archive for allowing me to put them up!

  2. I love these! Especially the one in the doorway and on the stairs! She looms very slim and youthful in those. And all of them are just so relaxed and happy! So nice to see something like that from her last years… It wasn’t all moping and turmoil, there were some genuinely happy times for her even then! Thanks so much for this!! Can’t tell you how happy i get to see photos i’d never seen before!!!

  3. I’ve always loved the few photos I’d previously seen from this group, and these new additions are even more amazing and wonderful. Truly some of the best photos taken of Vivien during the 1960s (imho, of course). Many, many thanks for sharing these with us, Kendra, and to Shan/GD archive for allowing you to do so.

  4. A great discovery and some amazing photos,well done.
    I must say that for a woman in her fifties, and having gone through what she went through,she looks amazing…any surgery would have just killed those ravishing looks! She also looks genuinely happy too.
    Well done Kendra and thanks for letting us see these photos.
    (p.s something of interest has popped up BBC radio iplayer. “Great Lives Vivien Leigh”,from 2004.Check it out.)

    1. I completely agree tat she looks wonderful in these photos and that surgery would have ruined everything (as it does so many people!). I’m guessing that Tickerage had a calming effect on her. Will check out BBC iPlayer although I don’t think I can watch anything here in the US. Thanks for the tip, though!

  5. Dear Kendra, this must be my Vivien Leigh week… we just found a 1950 negative of her with Theodore Bikel, who has just passed. Image number 1382065 on The two are reading a congratulatory telegram from Laurence Olivier as Bikel got to star opposite Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire after the lead was ill and Bikel was the lucky understudy. Flora

      1. I did 🙂 Been reading posts today as she would have been 103!
        Wish she’d have made more films, or recorded some of her theatrical performances. But that’s the selfish fan in me 😉 Rather hope she had a measure of happiness at her end.

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