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IMAGE CREDIT: BBC: Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere CVO OBE

Who was ‘Mr. Lobby”?

He was Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere, a Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation and pioneer of outside broadcasts

Bay Life has published a number of accounts of his time here in Pevensey Bay, in the form of letters we have received and a little of our own research.

One of our readers, Deborah Sadki,  discovered his association with the area may well have begun with his schooldays, which were in nearby Eastbourne.

The story of his early still film work in Pevensey Bay has become of interest to researchers into the early days of the BBC.

What we appear to be seeing with “Mr. Lobby’ is some of his earliest pioneering work with film, where perhaps, he began to learn how to practice his art.

In this latest account here, posted to us by Pat Martin (30 June 2018), we have a first hand record of not just work with still images, but also film and scripts, dating back to the 1930s, with work done in Pevensey and Pevensey Bay.

You can browse the original article about Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere, and his activities here Pevensey, from an account sent to us in 2017.
Pevensey and Pevensey Bay identified as being at the birth of outside broadcasting by the BBC
24 July 2017

Wiki explains that “MR LOBBY was Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere CVO OBE (21 October 1905 – 6 November 1984).

“Known as Lobby, he was a Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation and pioneer of outside broadcasts. He is recognised as developing the technique of sports commentary on radio and subsequently television, and he masterminded the televising of the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Christopher Martin-Jenkins wrote of him that he was a towering figure both physically and mentally, the physically referring to his height of six feet eight inches”.

These wonderful memories come from Pat Martin, talking to her mother, the latest account that we have received about ‘Lobby’ in Pevensey and Pevensey Bay.

To the editor

On researching Seymour Lotbiniere on the internet I came across an article in your newsletter dated 24 July 2017  by Chris Haley. I may (or should I say my mother) may be able to shine some light on what is going on. She knew Mr Lotbiniere, but does not know who Toby West is.  He could have been a local child.

My mother (Ellen Jones nee Nash) was born in 1924 in Stepney in the East End of London.  She attended St Johns Church, Halley Street, Stepney. She is now 94 years old, living in Wolverhampton, and vividly remembers her holidays at Pevensey with fondness.

Mr Lotbiniere was a patron of St Johns Church and attended many services there.  For 2 weeks every year from approximately 1932 until 1939 the children of this church were taken to Pevensey for their annual holiday.

Children of the east end paid in weekly, the cost being 10 shilling including the train fare from Victoria to Pevensey Bay Station.

They set up their camp site in a field close to Pevensey Castle, there were a few houses close by and a river at the bottom of the field, (where they used to get water in a bucket to wash each day) with a water tap, just as you entered the field, where the boys collected the fresh water from.

Boys from the east end when down there the week before and the week after in order to put up and dismantle the tents after the two weeks holiday.

The visit was arranged by the Vicars of St Johns Church Father Walter and later, Father Johnson (whether these 2 had any connections with Pevensey and why it was chosen for the venue is not known).  However, the verger Mr Grey and his wife would accompany the children and organise events and make sure the children were fed.

They were all given chores to do.  Boys stayed in tents one side of the field and girls the other.

Some mothers of the east end children also accompanied them. My mother says she went for 4 years from approx. 1935 to 1939, (her brother who was 2 years older, went for a longer time and helped with the tents), there were no more visits when the war started, and St Johns church was bombed during this time and no longer exists.

My mother does remember Mr Lotbiniere taking lots of photos during these times and in particular remembers him making a film whilst there.

He provided a script and it was all about a wedding.

Where he got script from she does not know but he got the children to act a wedding out in the field where they were camping, probably about 20 children. She thinks it was 1939 which was the last camp before the war started. My mother said she was a bridesmaid in a blue dress. It would be interesting if this film was still in existence, or any photos of these times, as there are no photos of my mother as child as they were all destroyed in the war.

She says Mr Lobby was always taking films of what you were doing. They would do activities on the camp site and walk to beach which was about a mile away.

There was a big marque on site which turned into a church and they had small services every day. They had a big bonfire the night before they went home and the villagers were invited and they all came and had a singsong and roasted potatoes.

Mr Lobby, as the children knew him was not there all the time, but his cousin Miss Helen Mildmay) stopped the duration of the 2 weeks watching over the girls and slept in the tents.  Also visited for one day was her brother Tony, (who was a jockey).

She states Mr Lobby was a very kind and thoughtful man and respected by all the people of the East End connected with St John church and the area surrounding.

She remember him saying to her one day “do you like being on the stage?”  She said “I don’t think so”. “Just interested” he said. What might have happened if she had said YES? He used to attend the church regularly on and off during the year and brought scripts for us when doing the Christmas nativity.

During the war he had some overseas visitors (an American and Canadian) from some broadcasting place and asked us to meet him at Stepney Green station (where he had brought them to) to take them to party which was being put on for the children of the east end from the church at Christmas, in order to make a recording of it and broadcast it to America, this was about 1940/41 but do not know if it was recorded or not.

He said when the party finished would we take them back to station and on the way back we passed a sweet shop and the American said you have been so good can we buy you some candy and we started to laugh and they asked why, and we said we couldn’t get sweets because they are on ration, all the boxes in the window were empty.

They laughed as well. One was called Al and the Canadian man did the filming of the parachuting drop on Arnhem.

Hope this may be of interest to you and would love to hear of any research you have done.

Thank you

Mrs Martin

UPDATE: Pat Martin added in a further lovely note (3 July 2018)

Thanks for your email, very nice of you to reply positively. Mum has no problems with you publishing any of the info in the email.

Mum was very fond of Pevensey and was a place I continually heard about during my childhood. She really looked forward to her holidays, as she didn’t go anywhere else.

She has quite a good memory for being 94 and remembers well her time there. Although your article was about the story of Mr Lobby, I think it must be bore in mind that there is another story of how the villagers of Pevensey welcomed the children from the east end, some who were very poor, into their midst. I would imagine without their consent and support the holidays would never have taken place.

Mum has mentioned a few extra things to add to her stay there.

She said they would go down to the beach in the morning and then go for walks in the afternoon. Mr Lobby, when he was there, would accompany them and tell stories on their way. She said he was an excellent story teller. The children had to behave themselves and if they didn’t they would be sent home. She does remember one boy who went scrumping in the Vicar’s garden and was immediately sent home.

After looking for the Canadian they met at Stepney Green station, she confirmed it was Stanley Maxted, who appears to have worked for the BBC during the war.

She also said she remembers about a dozen children going to Mr Lobby’s flat near the BBC in the 30s. The theatre show starring Lupino Lane was being recorded for TV, they all watched it on his TV sitting on the floor with drinks. It was the first time the children had seen a TV.

On reflection she presumes the children were being given a taste of things that he was used to.

Her brother and a few other children who knew him, attended his funeral. Unfortunately my mother did not attend as she lived a distance away. After the family was evacuated to Goring on Thames for the duration of the war, she had joined the ATS and met my father (who came from Wolverhampton) whilst stationed at Ealing. She never returned to live in the East end of London.

About 10 years ago I took her on a coach holiday to Eastbourne and Pevenesey Castle was one of the tours, she thoroughly enjoyed seeing it all again.

I hope your readers will enjoy her memories.

Pat Martin