Some of the guests at Elvira’s cocktail party went on to a small gathering at 5 Mulberry Walk. Ruth Baldwin who lived on the ground floor and Olivia Wyndham , also resident at the time, went straight there. Brian Howard, Anton Altmann and Sylvia Coke joined them after dining at Brice’s on Wardour Street. Howard said the purpose of the soiree was to admire the newly completed murals by John Banting. Banting and Howard had collaborated on the pictures for the Bruno Hat hoax – an iconic moment in the Bright Young People saga
5 Mulberry walk was really a block of flats, designed by Clifton R. Davy in the “stripped mannerist style” in 1913 for the artist and anthroposophist,Baron Arild Rosenkrantz. It was also home to the illustrator Claude Shepperson.
by Shepperson (left) and Rosenkrantz (right)
In the early twenties the unbelievably wealthy Marion Barbara “Joe” Carstairs purchased it for £3000. Prices in Mulberry Walk today are around the£8 million mark. Joe Carstairs was an eccentric, very masculine character with a great zest for life. She was a leading speedboat racer in the golden age of that sport and after Radclyffe Hall probably the best known Lesbian in England.Her larger-than-life personality is encapsulated perfectly in Kate Summerscale’s biography “The Queen of Whale Cay”.
Carstairs was cited by one of the William Mews chauffeur’s wives as having been at the Barney cocktail party. a claim very bluntly denied in a letter to the police. It is likely that the person witnessed was actually the equally formidable Ruth Baldwin. Ruth Baldwin was Joe’s “secretary” and main lover and the woman who gave her the famous Steiff doll, christened Lord Todd Wadley, who became Carstairs’constant companion and whose name was emblazoned and mounted on a plaque by the front door of number 5 alongside Carstairs’ and Baldwin’s.
Baldwin and Wyndham were almost certainly lovers and very close to Olivia Wyndham was the photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer ( confidante of Edward Burra and sometime resident of Mulberry Walk). Ker-Seymer is a good candidate as an attendee of both the cocktail party and the Mulberry Walk party.Whether Edward Burra (greatly taken with both Ruth Baldwin and Joe Carstairs) was there is moot – but, due to his ill-health, he was rarely an attendee t partiesaalthough he lovingly recorded all the gossip fed back to him by Ker-Seymer and others. Banting may have been present too as he often stayed at Howard and Gathorne-Hardy’s shared flat at this time. Banting was, however, such an out-of-control character that it seems unlikely that he would not have been noticed had he been around.
The Mulberry Walk gathering shows, at least,Elvira’s close proximity to the fastest,artiest, gayest, not to mention the most alcoholic and drug-addicted set in London at the time .