Historian lifts curtain on dramatic connections

A reverend's daughter, who was the inspiration for a character in a classic novel, is just one of many high profile past residents of Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead.

The character of Katherine Clifton in the Booker Prize winning novel and blockbuster film, The English Patient, is understood to be based on Lady Dorothy Clayton East Clayton, ne Durrant.

Newlyweds Geoffrey and Katherine Clifton, although fictional characters, are widely recognised as literary versions of Dorothy and her husband Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton.

Dorothy was a talented sculptress, pilot and explorer, but her life was cut tragically short. She was widowed just six months after her wedding and died in a plane accident the following year.

She was born in Leverstock Green on September 26, 1906, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Arthur Durrant and his wife Alice Mable who had moved to the village in 1899.

Her grave in Leverstock Green's Holy Trinity Church lies alongside her parents.

The lively young woman had established herself as a talented sculptress when, in 1932, she married Sir Robert, a 24-year-old officer in the Royal Navy, whom she met on an ocean voyage.

The young couple decided to devote themselves to exploring and their high-society profile meant they and Dorothy's own family, were often the subject of the national as well as local news.

Sir Robert died in September 1932 having apparently contracted a form of polio while on an expedition to Libya.

The Gazette reported in the following February that Dorothy set off on her own search for a lost oasis in Libya, in an attempt to achieve what her husband had been unable to do.

Another tragedy was to follow when, seven months later, within days of her 27th birthday, Dorothy herself was killed when she fell from her own plane as it raced along the ground before take off.

Her demise made the pages of the national newspapers, including the announcements section of William Hickey's now famous society column in The Daily Express.

Racing Driver Peter Monkhouse lived on Pancake Lane in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Born in Beaconsfield, Peter launched the Monaco Motor and Engineering Company Ltd in Watford in 1935 and was co-driver in the 1938 Donington Grand Prix. He died in 1950 in a driving accident.

Star of film and TV and erstwhile James Bond, actor Sir Roger Moore lived in Tile Kiln Close in Leverstock Green during the 1960s.

At the time he was known for his role of Simon Templar in The Saint for which he filmed 118 episodes between 1962 and 1969.

Roger took over as James Bond in Live and Let Die in 1973. Amazingly the actor was born in 1927 and will be celebrating his 80th birthday on October 14 this year.

Hit 1970s television show The Adventures of Black Beauty starred William Lucas, who became an active member of village society after buying a farmhouse there in the mid 1960s.

He played Dr James Gordon in the show and has more recently been seen in The Bill and Coronation Street.

Helping to promote village ftes and fundraising activities were among the ways that William and his wife took an interest in the life of the village. His sons attended Leverstock Green Primary School and later Kings Langley's Rudolph Steiner School.

To find out more about dozens of distinguished and famous faces associated with Leverstock Green from the Middle Ages to present day, visit local historian Barbara Chapman's website at www.lgchronicle.net

Do you know of any famous people with local connections? Have you any interesting heritage-style stories?

Contact our Heritage desk on: 01442 898456.