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Mrs. Butterworth

One of the attendees at Elvira’s cocktail party is named as “Mrs.Butterworth”. She was not interviewed by the police  and I have no real idea who she was. I know who I’d like her to have been, though.

Working on the assumption that we are looking for someone relatively unconventional, living at a fashionable and/or Bohemian address and with some connection to the “faster” aspects of pre-war culture then I offer you Elizabeth Werner Butterworth as a possible candidate.

She was born in 1907 and was the daughter of the publisher Thomas Werner Laurie. T.Werner Laurie Ltd.  was a very successful company. Its mainstays were books like T.Francis Bumpus’ Cathedrals of series but their catalogue included Oscar Wilde (when he was still a taboo name), Guy de Maupassant ( considered rather racy) and they were the first English company to pick up on Upton Sinclair’s hard- hitting The Jungle. Less nobly, but very profitably, they employed the services of George Riley Scott, whose books boasted titles such as Curious Customs of Sex and Marriage: An Inquiry Relating to All Races and Nations from Antiquity to the Present Day, A History Of Corporal Punishment: A Survey of Flagellation in Its Historical, Anthropological and Sociological Aspects and A History of Torture, all of which inevitably found a sizeable niche market.

Elizabeth, known as Betty, and her younger sister Jean, grew up in a peculiar household. Both parents were petty much alcoholic and her father, a cultured man but a philanderer and something of a tyrant, eventually set up home with a much younger woman with whom he fathered a further four children.

In 1929 Betty married Reginald Butterworth. The couple had met in a pub near to the hospital where, allegedly,  they were both receiving treatment for venereal disease.

Reginald “Reggie” Butterworth will be known to students of Wisden as the cricketer R.E.C. Butterworth.One of the finest amateur all-rounders of his era, he was captain of Harrow School and played for Oxford University and Middlesex. He was also a regular member of Sir Julien Cahn’s XI, the great private team of the age and one as well known for its champagne teas, post-match parties and fashionable female followers as its cricket. He is described as “very handsome and an absolute bounder” by Dick Laurie and Aidan Crawley remembers him at Harrow as a frequent after-hours returnee to his rooms.  Crawley, a cricketer, M.P. and co-founder of ITV, cites Butterworth  along with Cecil Beaton as the two most instantly recognisable boys in the school.Arthur Jeffress and Eliot Hodgkin would also have been contemporaries.

Bev Lyon, R.E.C. Butterworth and Learie Constantine

The Butterworths lived in Chelsea throughout the 1930s,  firstly in Bywater Street and then Paultons Square. At some point Betty moved to France to live with a married doctor and then went to the States where she became a photographic stylist for Good Housekeeping. Her sister,Jean,was a Knightsbridge resident,she never married and  latterly shared a home in Cadogan Street with a woman called either Eirne or Ioani Edwards. Reginald was killed in action in 1940.

Jean Werner Laurie by Ethel Walker 1927

If the name Werner Laurie rings a bell, it is probably on account of Betty’s half sister, Joan. Joan was a journalist and reviewer (books and magazines seem to have been in the Laurie genes) and the first editor of the influential women’s  periodical She (1955 onwards).Equally notably, she and Nancy Spain were the nearest the 1950s got to an “out” Lesbian couple.  Nancy Spain was one of the best known personalities in the post-war media, known to millions as a TV panellist (What’s My Line, Juke Box Jury etc.) and her weekly column in the Daily Express. She also wrote a series of detective novels with a strong gay subtext,for those in the know (see Nancy Spain ).  My favourite work of hers is The Nancy Spain Colour Cookery Book (1963) which, unselfconsciously, evokes the spirit of the early sixties in the same gauche way that old Shadows or Eden Kane records do. Nancy and Joan’s story is told with much relish in Rose Collis’ charming biography “A Trouser Wearing Character – The Life and Times of Nancy Spain.

Nancy Spain with Denis Norden

By a happy coincidence, in the early 1950s Nancy and Joan shared a house in William Mews. It was at Number 20, which was just a garage in 1932. So they were either next door to Elvira’s old abode or it could even be the same address.

Betty lived to a ripe old age. As I said at the beginning I have no real indication that she was around on the fateful night, but I have a feeling that she inhabited a not dissimilar social space and any excuse to mention cricket and early television personalities suits me fine.

Cecil Beaton and sisters at Eton versus Harrow match, 1926

More on the Cartens

I have posted on the remarkable Carten siblings before (see and elsewhere).

Waveney and Audrey Carten

Here are a few extra snippets concerning them.

Audrey and Kenneth Carten, along with Tallulah Bankhead and Gwen Farrar, formed one element of the wilder and more mischievous wing of the Bright Young People ; Elizabeth Ponsonby  and her close friends another. Both groups overlapped at times and both were acquainted with Elvira and/or her associates.

I felt I hadn’t done justice to Kenneth Carten, seeing him as a minor actor, primarily linked to Noel Coward’s revues. The reason his acting career is fairly low-key was, I now realise, because he abandoned performing and became a Theatrical Agent. He achieved great success in this latter calling and had a long career. His clients included Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward and Googie Withers. He also “discovered” and represented the much loved Peter Sallis. In the 1940s, Carten was a London representative for the very powerful and influential  Myron Selznick corporation, which put him at the heart of British film and theatrical life.

Googie Withers 

(Before becoming one of the most popular film stars of the 40s, Withers had been a dancer at the Kit Kat and Murrays as well as appearing in Midnight Follies at the Mayfair Hotel)

It was from Selznick’s office, in early 1949,  that Kenneth Carten wrote to the ailing Hugh Wade. It is a fascinating letter, upbeat, full of references to stars of the day (Jessie Matthews, Patricia Roc, Stewart Grainger) and some waspish (but accurate) comments concerning the quality of certain  performances (Margaret Lockwood in the lamentable Cardboard Cavalier). He casts doubt on the likely success of Terence Rattigan’s new play Adventure Story, and was to be proved right. Kenneth is solicitous towards Hugh (“if there’s anything you want just ask” etc.) but the general tenor is one of friendly gossip between two showbiz “insiders”.

For many years Kenneth lived ,with his sister Audrey,at Paultons House, on the corner of King’s Road and Paultons Square. Paultons House was where Jean Rhys wrote the beautiful but, at the time, neglected, Good Morning, Midnight. Rhys had left No.22, to begin her long sojourn in  alcoholic obscurity by the time Kenneth moved into No.5 (and sometimes 6) .There was a third resident throughout the 1940s, the aristocratic socialite and actress,Lady Caroline Paget.  A beautiful and captivating free-spirit, who is often seen in photographs with Cecil Beaton, she was perhaps best depicted in a number of exquisite portraits by  a love-struck Rex Whistler (see Rex Whistler).

Unfortunately for Rex, she appears to have preferred Audrey, the two becoming “close friends and travelling companions” for a number of years. Caroline’s cousin, David Herbert, who (inevitably) knew all parties involved, has this to say,

“Caroline had made a number of new friends during her days in the theatre, the most important being Audrey Carton (sic), who many years before had written a play with Sir Gerald Maurier called The Dancers. It was in this play that Tallulah Bankhead made her first London appearance. As we all know, Tallulah went from strength to strength and became one of the foremost actresses of that period. Audrey faded into the background as a figure in the theatre, but owing to her beauty, intelligence and caustic wit remained a great personality in that particular world.


She was a bad influence on Caroline: they set up house together in Panelton (sic) Square. Caroline drifted away from her own world and, apart from the family, saw only a small group of friends, chiefly women. I suspect that Audrey was the real love of her life, though she had many affairs with men. Eventually she married my cousin, Michael Duff. This was an arrangement beneficial to them both.”

Audrey Carten c1929

Audrey, although never quite fulfilling her early promise as an actress, did find success throughout the 20s and 30s  as a playwright, working in partnership with her sister Waveney. However her later years were unhappy. After Caroline married, it appears that, the already rather eccentric Audrey became increasingly unstable and house-bound and was very dependent on Kenneth to take care of her.

“Late One Evening”  Audrey and Waveney Carten 1933

Waveney, known as “George” according to some sources, was married in 1922 to Ronald Trew, a singer. He earns his place in the marginalia of twentieth century history for two reasons. Firstly, it is alleged that he got Tallulah pregnant at a party held on the Thames in a boat belonging to “Jo” Carstairs (whose then girlfriend would have been Gwen Farrar). Secondly he is the man that the psychotic murderer Ronald True gave as an alibi/doppelganger/mortal enemy in one of the 1920s’ most notorious trials (see Ronald True ) . Waveney remarried in 1932. Her husband, Vladimir Provatoroff,  was an SOE operative in the Second World War. The couple lived firstly in Portland Place and later in Harley Street. They were still married at the time of his death in 1966.

Kenneth’s friendship with Tallulah remained undiminished over nearly forty years. He gives her residence as a forwarding address on his various travels to America in the 1950s. The two would have had some choice tales to share about the “party years”, of that I have no doubt.




Tallulah Bankhead


I’m sure that there is much more to be uncovered about this decidedly unconventional trio. There are copies of  “Happy Families” (1929) by Audrey and Waveney and their translation (for Noel Coward) of Deval’s “Mademoiselle” still knocking around, but not much else. The BFI has a copy of Birds of Prey (1930) a crime film directed by Basil Dean which starred Audrey (sometimes spelt Audry). Kenneth’s legacy is even more intangible but fans of “Wallace and Gromit” or “Last of the Summer Wine” may want to raise a glass to his memory.

Audrey Bicker Caarten (1900- 1977) d. Hastings

Waveney Bicker Caarten (1902-1990) d. Sandwich

Kenneth Bicker Caarten (1911-1980) d. Kensington

Avril Marries Leveson-Gower

This photo of Elvira’s younger sister (see )can be found at Other Images . The year is 1934.

In 1948 she married Ernest Simpson (of Duchess of Windsor fame) and was described in the press as a “sportswoman and socialite” (see Miami News 1948 ). I think Elvira would have rather envied such an appellation.

There is a page of Barney related photographs here Murderpedia. Most of them I’ve already posted but they are worth looking at together.

The series includes a rare alternative photo of Michael Scott Stephen

It’s getting harder and harder to find different images to brighten up this blog. Not having access to a scanner doesn’t help. As ever, all suggestions (apart from the obvious – just buy a scanner) welcome.



Just a quick update on Leonie Fester ( see )

“On the 19th October 1932 Mrs. Leonie Fester was cautioned by the MPS (on advice from the DPP) for unlawfully obtaining prescriptions, and in turn unauthorised supplies of morphine, from two doctors.”  (cited in Harm Reduction in Substance Use and High-Risk Behaviour edited by Richard Pates, Diane Rile)”

Whether this is the same incident as  this – “At Marlborough Street Police Court, on January 30, Marcella Leonie Fester (35), Goodge Street, Wi, was charged with being in possession of a ” dangerous ” drug without being authorised”.(Chemist and Druggist Mar 33). She was bound over for three years with a residential condition and had to pay £6 costs.”  – I don’t know, but it does not appear to be.

This, remember, is the woman described as Elvira’s “very closest friend”. The prison doctor’s confident assertion of no evidence of drug use looks even more doubtful than ever.

I can find no anecdotal and precious few references of any kind to Leonie.  Someone must know more about her.

Her 1932 addresses are worth noting. She moves from King’s Road to Goodge Street (i.e. Chelsea to Fitzrovia). This may mean nothing, but as I have mentioned before there is a Fitzrovian connection with some of Elvira’s acquaintances in the “post-party” years (notably Napper Dean Paul). Goodge Street retained a Bohemian image well into the 1960s ( viz Donovan’s “Sunny Goodge Street”) but all that is, sadly, long gone.


PS. Leonie Fester Inheritance London Gazette 1932