North Laine History

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Peggy Ramsay

The North Laine, being so close to the mainline station as well as being in the heart of such an interesting town, has always attracted people associated with the West End theatre. One of these, who had a long and happy association with the North Laine in the 1960s, was Peggy Ramsay. Peggy was a playwrights' agent whose list of clients was a 'who's who' of the literary and theatrical world.

Among her clients were Windsor Davies, Simon Callow, Gunther Grass, John Lennon, Colin McInnes, John Mortimer, Muriel Spark and Joe Orton. Peggy used to like to keep her private and professional life well apart and her little house in Kensington Place provided her with ample opportunity to escape London for the weekend to her retreat at 34 Kensington Place.

Peggy was to be made famous in the 1987 Alan Bennett-scripted film 'Prick Up Your Ears', about the life and death of the playwright Joe Orton. It was Peggy who discovered the talent of Joe Orton and then helped him in his career before finally identifying his battered body in 1967.

Until the early 1960s Peggy would spend virtually all her waking hours in her office, running her agency from 6am to late at night but as she got older she began to spend weekends away. With money left to her by her parents and with £1000 given to her by the directors of the agency, Peggy bought 34 Kensington Place. From this time leaving London at 4pm on Fridays to travel down by train, Peggy began to get to know the North Laine as it was in the 1960s. She did not involve herself in the literary scene in the town (not liking one of the town's leading lights of the time - Laurence Olivier) but instead busied herself around the streets of the North Laine.

She must have enjoyed the bric-a-brac shops of the area (they still give a particular charm to the area) for her house was reputedly filled with what Joe Orton described as 'clutter'. In his diary entry for 29th July 1967 he says ''We went to Peggy's house......'her little place'. It was a nice old house in a back street. Built mid-nineteenth century. Peggy had it filled with bric-a brac. All of it interesting but really there was too much....She took me downstairs and showed me the garden...I liked the garden. Cluttered gardens are fun. Cluttered houses I'm not fond of.'' Two weeks later Joe Orton was to die.

Behind Kensington Place there is a little lane, Trafalgar Lane, where Peggy had bought a small cottage (which she called her hut) which she let her clients use. David Hare wrote most of 'Licking Hitler' here as well as 'A Map Of The World'. Having no telephone and being so close to London was ideal for writers.

Simon Callow unveiling a blue plaque on the house where Peggy Ramsay lived in Kensington Place

Joe Orton, who would visit Peggy in her little house in Brighton.