Star who brought West End to Filey

James and Kim Hodgson with the plaque
James and Kim Hodgson with the plaque
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It was a showbusiness haunt on the Yorkshire coast. Long before it welcomed holidaymakers to the bay, the White Lodge Hotel at Filey was the private home of a near-forgotten theatrical Dame and her entourage.

Its former life will be celebrated later this month by the unveiling of a blue plaque bearing the name of its long-time owner, Margaret “Madge” Kendal.

The plaque to Dame Madge Kendall

The plaque to Dame Madge Kendall

A celebrated Shakespearean performer and husband to the actor-manager William Hunter Kendal, Dame Madge acquired the premises for £2,300 in 1896, in a deal that included “all green houses, coach houses, stabling, outbuildings, yards and gardens”.

The couple kept it as their home for some 40 years, entertaining society acquaintances from the West End circles in which they moved. Among Madge’s most celebrated friends was Joseph Merrick, the Victorian freak show exhibit who became known as the Elephant Man. In the film version of his life story, Madge is portrayed by the actress Anne Bancroft.

The blue plaque bearing her name will be unveiled on September 20 by Filey’s mayor, Jacqui Houlden-Banks, whose father used to own the hotel.

Its present owners, James and Kim Hodgson, bought it four years ago and have made a mini-industry from its past, hosting theatrically-themed dinners with period menus.

Mrs Hodgson said William and Madge, who hailed originally from Grimsby, “would retreat to Filey for the summer holidays with their five children, and became very popular with the community”.

Madge died at 87 in 1935, and the building was left to an actress friend. Known at the time as the South Crescent Villa, it became a hotel in 1938.