Legendary woman-about-town is back
DO YOU remember Lavender's Column?
It remains legendary within the Grimsby Telegraph and, indeed, among those who recall buying this newspaper simply to read about who had attended what dance, and which army officer was marrying a titled daughter.
The feature – which ran from December 1916 to 1969 – became the best read in the Grimsby paper's long history, and built a social ladder upon which the aspiring took a first step and the prosperous flourished.
The very private woman behind it was journalist Dorothy Clapham. She always wrote under the Lavender alias, having inherited the column, aged 30, from Australian Eugenia Doughty, the wife of Grimsby MP Sir George.
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Miss Clapham went on to found most, if not all, of the women's organisations in the town.
Like all good gossip columnists, she realised the value of a title.
In the 1920s and 1930s, all present at big social events would be listed.
Weddings, births, christenings and so on were all remarked upon as were the holiday arrangements of anyone prominent in the town.
Nowadays, the columns make vintage reading. Lavender harks back to an age of gentility, when chronicling the teal silk dress worn by Miss T Smith, of Grimsby, at an annual dinner was de rigeur.
Telegraph columnist Peter Chapman recalled: "She was a slight figure, eventually slightly stooping, her face pale with powdery make-up, always dressed in black, never without a hat.
"Apparently stern, she was the opposite. Her weakness (if it can be called so) was gin. At a dance she would occupy a solitary table near the door, an observer known to everyone yet alone save for a bottle of Gordon's – and ice and lemon – and not much tonic.
"When the last waltz was played the bottle was empty. But the notebook was full. Miss Clapham had gone. It was to be a long wait until her column confirmed her – and your – attendance.
"The 1960s were not, in truth, Miss Clapham's territory. The years of Gay Gordons and Congas and Dashing White Sergeants of tulle and organdie, of lace and taffeta, were forfeit to a new age.
"And the number of Generals and Canons and assorted big shots who had enlivened her paragraphs were dreadfully absent. Grimsby was changing."
Miss Clapham died in 1969, at the then undisclosed age of 83.
Peter added: "Here and far away, Grimsby people meet and yarn and reminisce to this day. And they still talk of Dorothy Clapham and Lavender's Column."
Today, we imagine Miss Lavender to be a mixture... part Kirstie and Nigella, with a dose of Beeny and, of course, the Duchess of Cambridge.
So, embracing that spirit, it is being resurrected – in a manner of which we hope Miss Clapham would wholly approve.
We present to you Lavender, woman-about-town with her finger on the pulse, lover of all things vintage and retro, yet entirely modern.
She knows what's hot and what's not, and isn't afraid to speak her mind.
We'd like to thank Amy Woods, an illustrator in her third year on the BA Design course at the Grimsby Institute, for creating this wonderful image of Miss Lavender, peeping over her glasses, ready to report on all things lifestyle.