Rachel Kolsky remembers Hackney’s undisputed queen of Music Hall

2017 sees the 150th anniversary of the unveiling of the first London Blue Plaque commemorating Lord Byron.

First administered by the Royal Society of the Arts, the Blue Plaque scheme is now run by Historic England.

Over the past 150 years more than 900 plaques have been placed around our capital city.  You can go blue plaque spotting in Hackney to find its seven official signs. These are complemented by around 50 brown plaques erected by the borough.

The plaque at 55 Graham Road commemorates the home of music hall artist, Marie Lloyd.

Born Mathilda Alice Victoria Wood in 1870 to a theatrical family, she began performing at the Eagle Tavern, Hoxton.

At the age of 14 she was billed as Bella Delmere but a year later styled herself Marie Lloyd and had her first big hit, The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery.

Her rise to fame and fortune was swift but not without controversy. The lyrics of her songs often had her in front of the censors but she could transform innuendos into innocence and her songs continued to be sung.

She performed on all the major London stages and travelled around the globe. Her later hits included My Old Man (“…said follow the van”) and Oh Mr Porter.

When, in 1907, London’s stage performers went on strike for better pay conditions Marie supported them.

In response, the establishment punished her by excluding her from the first Royal Variety Performance  (1912). Marie’s answer was to hold her own variety performance billed By Order of the British Public.

Her personal life was marred by three ne’er-do-well husbands, although the middle one was a performer with whom she had a successful professional partnership.

At the age of 52 she was in ill-health and while performing in Edmonton, collapsed. She died a few days later at her Golders Green home.

Her funeral at Hampstead Cemetery was attended by nearly 100,000 people. A pub in Hoxton was named after her and when it closed a bar at the Hackney Empire was named in her honour.

Tour guide and historian Rachel is always seeking the human stories behind the buildings. You will spot her all over London carrying a large colourful fluffy flower and with a group of people following behind.

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