Mabel Archdall Vicars

Mabel Archdall Vicars, who lived at Old Tanyard Farm during and after the Second World War, was born in Clapham in 1868, the daughter of a prosperous fancy-embroidery manufacturer.  She was the third of four children born to William and Elizabeth Archdall Vicars.  Her grandfather, John Vickers, was a carpenter and cabinet maker who moved to London where he married Margaret Archdall in 1836.  Their four children were Mary Louisa, William (Mabel’s father), Henry Archdall and John Edwin.

By the time of his marriage to Elizabeth, on 30th September 1865, William had double barrelled (but not hyphenated) his surname by adding his mother’s surname.   By the time of the 1881 Census, William’s family were all calling themselves Archdall Vicars but his siblings appear not to have aggrandised their surname in this fashion.

Mabel became an actress, appearing in amateur and professional productions, dropping ‘Vicars’ from her surname for professional purposes.  She performed in plays, revues, sketches, farces, operas and operettas.  Her name started to appear in newspaper reviews in 1891, one of her earliest performances being in an end-of-the-pier revue in Lowestoft.   She was a soprano and at one time her singing coach was Henry (later Sir Henry) Wood of Proms fame.  She appeared on Broadway and was for a time a member of Ethel Barrymore’s company.  In the 1920s she acted in four films.  She also wrote plays and books and was one of the first woman drivers in the country.

Mabel’s sister Edith, who in later life decided to call herself ‘Gypsy,’ was widowed in 1927.  By 1937 Mabel and ‘Gypsy’ were living in Old Tanyard Farm, both of them having ‘lost’ seven years from their ages.

Mabel, whose deafness caused her to use an ear trumpet, was a keen swimmer and had a concrete swimming pool on her property which was replenished by the River Kird when it rose and which she allowed local children to use as long as they asked permission. Miss Archdall’s deafness sometimes made this a problem as Ian Champion and Den Peacock remember: “Miss Archdall was very deaf and used a hearing horn.  She would let us children use the pool but we had to ask permission every time.  Sometimes she forgot her horn and we had to shout.”

After ‘Gypsy’ died in 1949  Mabel moved to Loxwood where she died on 19th January 1957 age 87.  She remained a keen swimmer until she was 85.  Following her death, Mabel’s body was cremated at Putney Vale Cemetery where her ashes were buried and where her father and stepmother are also interred.

Andrew Strudwick

 (This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in the Wisborough Green Village History Society’s newsletter of October 2022. The newsletter is free to all members of the Society.)


Posted on

29th May 2024