“I Went to a Marvellous Party”

Pictured: Victorian wall post box at corner of Teddington Park and Waldegrave Road, Teddington. (Historic England): “Boxes from the reign of George V account for about 15% of the total. There are smaller numbers, in descending order, of boxes from the reigns of George VI, Victoria, and Edward VII. From 1857 wall box-type post boxes came into use for fixing into existing walls.”

From: A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London (1962):

“…According to Letitia Hawkins, Twickenham had lost its title of classic when her father, Sir John Hawkins, moved there in 1760, but it was ‘still the abode of many distinguished persons’. Although the village lost the unique character of its 18th-century fame, the big houses continued to be occupied by persons of fashion and note. Pre-eminent among these was the Countess Waldegrave (d. 1879), whose Saturday to Monday parties at Strawberry Hill were a dominant feature of the London season for many years from 1856.”

From the website of English Heritage:

Birthplace on 16th December, 1899, of Noel Coward:

“Number 131 (formerly 5) Waldegrave Road, Teddington, a suburb of south-west London, is a late Victorian semi-detached villa. The house, then known as Helmsdale, had been the home of Noël’s parents, Arthur and Violet, since their marriage in 1890. His mother and father were both musical and had met in the choir at nearby St Alban’s Church; it was there that Coward was christened in February 1900.

Eighteen months after his birth, the family left Helmsdale – ‘An unpretentious abode/ Which, I believe,/ Economy forced us to leave/ In rather a hurry’, wrote Coward many years later – and moved to another house close by. They left Teddington altogether in 1904, a year that marked the start of a series of short sojourns in various south London suburbs. Eventually in 1917 they moved to Ebury Street, SW1, on the fringes of Belgravia, where Violet Coward took on a boarding-house.”

From Wikipedia:

“The lyrics of I Went to a Marvellous Party are a first-person description of five parties attended by the singer on the French Riviera. The character of the song is humorous and giddy. It has been suggested that the activities described in the lyrics were typical of the “frantic, addleheaded search for amusement” of the Train bleu society, which flocked to the Riviera each summer in the 1920s and ’30s.
Noël Coward composed this song after he and Beatrice Lillie attended a beach party given by Elsa Maxwell in the south of France, an event which his memory placed in either 1937 or 1938. The lyrics in the first stanza are based on a real life experience of Coward and Lillie: The two were invited to “come as they were,” but on arriving they discovered the other guests were formally dressed. Perhaps this explains why the singer claims it was hell to stay dressed as they were. “Poor Grace” in the first stanza is a reference to Grace Moore, the opera singer and movie actress, who was also a guest. The song was first sung by Bea Lillie in the revue Set to Music in 1939.”

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