LLOYD, Marie (1870–1922)
Plaque erected in 1977 by Greater London Council at 55 Graham Road, Dalston, London, E8 1PB, London Borough of Hackney
Music Hall Singer
Music Hall and Radio Comedy
MARIE LLOYD 1870–1922 Music Hall Artiste lived here
The music hall performer Marie Lloyd became famous in the late 19th century for songs such as ‘A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good’. She is commemorated with a blue plaque at 55 Graham Road in Dalston.
EAST END TO WEST END
Born Matilda Wood in Hoxton, Marie Lloyd made her stage debut at the age of 14 and met with immediate success. During her career she inspired enormous affection in Hackney and later became a star of the West End stage, performing songs such as ‘My Old Man’ and ‘A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good’.
Her songs often reflected the realities of working-class life, especially for women. One song titled ‘It’s a Bit of a Ruin that Cromwell Knocked About a Bit’ tells the story of a woman who loses her money after ‘sitting in the grass with a commercial traveller’.
In 1887, aged 17, she married a racecourse tout, Percy Courtenay (1862–c.1933), by whom she was already pregnant, and in 1888 they moved into 55 Graham Road. Courtenay relied on Lloyd to support him, and she typically performed in three shows a night in London. She also made long tours of the provinces, once even performing in New York in the autumn of 1890.
Generous and gregarious, Lloyd filled her home with family, friends and fellow performers such as Dan Leno and Harry Relph, known as ‘Little Tich’. Courtenay felt excluded from this extended ‘family’, and the marriage quickly fell apart. On the back of Lloyd’s successful excursions into pantomime, they moved to a larger house in Lewisham in 1891, but separated three years later and were divorced in 1905.
In 1894 a feminist campaigner called Laura Ormiston Chant persuaded the London County Council to erect screens around the promenade outside the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, where Lloyd was a regular performer. Chant believed that the lewd content of the music hall shows was making the area attractive to prostitutes, but the screens provoked outrage among the general public and they were swiftly torn down. Winston Churchill was among the objectors, and even used the occasion to make his first political speech.
After Chant made further public protests Lloyd was eventually hauled before the Licensing Committee to answer the charge that her material was vulgar. Never short of repartee, she acquitted herself ably, performing two innocent songs followed by a version of Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Come into the garden, Maud’, reportedly nibbling her pearls to emphasise each innuendo. Despite shocking the panel, she was able to continue her shows.
During the First World War Lloyd gave performances for factory workers and soldiers, but in following years suffered abuse at the hands of her third husband, Bernard Dillon, and her health deteriorated. She died at her home in Golders Green on 7 October 1922, aged 52.