This newspaper article written was written shortly after Elizabeth Ponsonby’s death is not, I imagine, untypical.
The narrative is familiar enough, apart from this sentence.
“She served for a time behind the bar at the Melody night club, run by Irene Meyrick of the famous night club family but she lost her job when she started drinking heavily again.”
This, if true, raises a couple of questions.
In Taylor’s “Bright Young People” he quotes Arthur Ponsonby from 1939 on his daughter’s recent acquisition of a job as a “manageress” -“she seems to have some curious club job”. Taylor goes on to say “Two months later Arthur gave Elizabeth and her employer (” a showy pretty friend who runs her club”) tea at the House of Lords”. This “friend” is presumably Irene Meyrick.
Gwendoline Irene Meyrick was the youngest of Kate Meyrick’s daughters. In 1939 she would have been 24 and got married in the May of that year to the Earl of Craven (most of Mrs.Meyrick’s daughters married into the aristocracy – often accompanied by controversy – see Kate Meyrick’s Children ).
Irene Meyrick (1914- 2002)
The Melody Club was at 19 Wardour Street and is listed in directories from 1937 to 1939 and as the New Melody to in 1941. If Irene ran it then the received wisdom that the Meyrick involvement with clubs ended with Kate’s death (1933) cannot be true. If she was a friend rather than just an employer, we can add another name to Elizabeth’s post-BYP circle.
Elizabeth and Denis Pelly – wedding day
The story of Kate Meyrick, her children and her clubs, has been told repeatedly, but there are several unresolved issues. I have always wondered about the number of custodial sentences – fines were the usual thing for licensing offences. Her involvement with police corruption, drug scandals, Soho villains and the whole “hostess” thing suggests a criminality beyond merely serving a few drinks after-hours. On the other hand, her clientele was by and large wealthy and prestigious and she was held in high regard by many West End night-owls, dance-band musicians in particular.
Her own autobiography, probably ghost-written, is relatively unrevealing, self-serving and little more than a list of famous names. Much more informative is the section in Judith Walkowitz’s Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London (see Walkowitz Nights Out ).Immortalised in Brideshead Revisited as Ma Mayfield, the proprietor of Dalton’s, the 43, the Manhattan, the Silver Slipper and one or two more venues does have a real claim to be the “Queen of Night Clubs” and merits a full of biography.
Party at Silver Slipper
There don’t seem to be any surviving anecdotes associated with the Melody Club, so whether it was a dive, an exclusive drinking-club, had a band or a pianist, I can’t say. My guess is that it was a fairly small members’ club typical of the area and the era.
There was a 1950s club of the same name in Maddox Street, Mayfair but I doubt there’s a connection. In that same decade the Russian Spy Gordon Londsdale had a flat at 19 Wardour Street and today N.19 is the the “Old 97” , a Chinese Restaurant, much favoured as a late night eating-spot.