Winifred Ashton (pseudonym Clemence Dane) 1888-1965 Timeline

This timeline is extracted from my working notes and as such is unfinished. Where possible I have added in the sources of my information in abbreviated form. 

Thatched farmhouse and driveway
Winifred Ashton's house near Axminster

1888 Feb 21, Winifred Ashton born Westcombe, Westcombe Park Road, Greenwich, London, the daughter of Arthur Charles Ashton, commission agent, and his wife, Florence Bentley [ODNB] in Blackheath Kent, England, in 1888 [IMDB]. Seems Florence died when she was young (3?) just after the birth of her younger brother, and Arthur married Lydia (her mother’s sister). ‘Brought up in the country and educated at three big schools in England’ (Adcock, 1928, p. 34)

1891 Census address Shooters Hill Road, Carlton, next Woolwich, Kidbrook, London. Her father was a widower and she and her brother were being looked after by Elizabeth Tidman 28yrs, from Wales, and Florence Bamber 24yrs the cook from Lincolnshire and the nurse Matilda Lealey 24yrs and under nurse Alice Norton 16yrs.

1903 After spending a year in Dresden (Adcock, 1928, p. 34), at age 16, she was hired to teach French in Geneva, Switzerland [ODNB]

1904–6 she returned to England and studied art for three years at the Slade School London [ODNB]

1906-7 Then another year of painting in Dresden, Germany [ODNB]

1907–13 she gave up her art career to accept a position as a teacher in Ireland.

1911 At the Census date she was at home with her father, Lydia Aston (his second wife), her brother Charles and a cook in Cranbourne, 140 Widmore Road, Bromley.

1913–15 She left that position for a career as a stage actress, and did that for several years until World War I broke out. Her stage name as an actress was Diana Cortis, her début was in H. V. Esmond’s ‘Eliza Comes to Stay’.

1912  April The Stage said she (Diana Cortis), was clever as Lady Alethea

1912 October DC played in Mr Esmond’s farcical comedy ‘Sandy and his Eliza’ in Cheltenham

1913 February DC played Mr Esmond’s farcical comedy at the Criterion, London in February

1913 March 5, DCs geranium dress is featured in The Tatler– ‘Highway of Fashion’, in an article which includes Lucile

1913 April 10, Flying Matinee of ‘Sandy and His Eliza’ at the Kings Portsmouth  reported the Portsmouth Evening news 28 March

1913 Sept 27 Diana Cortis played Baronne des Herbettes in ‘This Way, Madam’. Farce in three acts adapted by Sydney Blow and Douglas Hoare from ‘Aime/ des Femmes’ by Maurice Hennequin and George Mitchell, Queens Theatre. Then plays Sidonie. Reports papers of Bognor Regis, Worthing, Yarmouth, Theatre Royal, Surrey, Kingston Empire.

1914 October 22 On Monday there were large audience including many billeted in town Swindon DC played the Parisian Actress, Sidonie ,‘ charming portrayal’ in ‘Oh I say!’ The Stage. She had played the part for over 100 nights at the Criterion Theatre, said Herne Bay Press 8 August.

1914 November 10 Diana Cortis is a brilliant Sidonie Grand Theatre Hull Daily Mail.

1916 Agreement for first novel, Regiment of Women. dedicated to a female companion, E. A

1917 Agreement for second novel First the Blade

1919 June 5 agreement for Legend gives CDs address as The Cottage, The Mount, Sydenham SE26. The stage adaptation of Legend was The Way Things Happen was produced 1923, published 1924.

1920 Agreement for Bill of Divorcement played following year starring Katherine Cornell.

1920 July 14 was staying at The Dower House, Sonning-on-Thames with Violet Trefusis (who was in love with Vita Sackville West). In a letter of October 28 Violet Trefusis says she consulted her on her book.

1920 Nov 29 Violet Trefusis (who had finished her book) is going to CD’s at 4pm

1921 Agreement for Will Shakespeare: An Invention  play

1921 June 15 Leeds Mercury says ‘Shy Clemence Dane. I hear that Clemence Dane, the authoress, has fled from London in the height of the season and staying quietly in the country. She is the most difficult celebrity to secure at a party not because she is booked up, but because she really shrinks from social publicity.’

1921 June 19 [1921 census, cannot find her]

1921 July 6 at the Royal literary Fund dinner “Court Circular.” Times [London, England] 8 July 1921: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1921 Nov 11 to 7 Jan 1922 Shaftsbury Will Shakespeare 62 performances Flora Robson’s stage debut

1921 Oct 10 to March A Bill of Divorcement at George M Cohan’s Theatre and Times Square Theatre 173 performances. Staged by Basil Dean with Katharine Cornell  as Sydney, Janet Beecher as Margaret, Charles Waldron as Gray Meredith and Alan Pollock as the luckless Hilary 

1921 CD to attend the League O Nations meeting Central Hall on Friday “Armistice Day.” Times [London, England] Wed 9 Nov. 1921: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1921 Nov 22 GB Shaw to CD addressed to Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn, Herts

1921 Sept 2, Author of the play The Terror, Liverpool Echo announcing autumn season at The Playhouse.

1922 CD will speak at Six Point Group at the Queens Hall with Lady Rhondda and others “News in Brief.” Times [London, England] 9 Mar. 1922: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1922 CD suffering from severe over strain and unable to fulfil engagement at present. “Court Circular.” Times [London, England] 15 Mar. 1922: 15. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1922 “Femina Vie Heureuse Prize.” Times [London, England] 29 Nov. 1922: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018. Announcement – CD was a judge- met 4 times in the year. Dane attended the committee meetings 18 Oct 1923, 18 Mar 1924, 12 Nov 1929, 20 Nov 1929.

1923 Plays for boys Shivering Shocks

1923 Agreement for Wandering Stars

1923 Jan 1 to March, Will Shakespeare 80 performances at the National Theatre (NY) Otto Kruger as Will, Katharine Cornell  as Mary, Haidee Wright  as Elizabeth

1923 She presided over a debate at the London School of Economics on “The Drama and Commercial Theatre” with St.John Ervine and C.B. Cochran in aid of London Hospitals Appeal fund. Dublin Evening Telegraph 5 May 1923. Was published in book form by Brentanos, 1924

1923 18 October Dane attended Femina prize committee meeting

1923 The Way things Happen first performed Broad Street Newark New Jersey 24/12/23

1924 Jan 2 CD is at 26 Castellain Mansions, Maida Vale (Dean, JRL)

1924 Jan 28-Feb The Way Things Happen based on her novel Legend(?), 24 performances at Lyceum Theatre NY,

1924 Feb 2 The Way Things Happen UK Ambassadors 2/2/24-29/3/24 65 perf

1924 Oct 26? Hunthay, nr Axminster, Devon – letter says passing through town next Thursday, back again November (Dean, JRL)

1924 Letter to The Times for a school for artisans’ children – The Caldecot school raising money for a boarding school for working men and womens’ children. We are, Sir, yours faithfully, PERCY ALDEN. CLEMENCE DANE. W. HAMILTON FYFE. A. LIVERPOOL. EDITH LYTTELTON. W. MANCHESTER. A. MANSBRIDGE. SACKVILLE. J. ST. LOE STRACHEY. H. COSTLEY WHITE. “A Public School For Artisans’ Children.” Times [London, England] 28 Mar. 1924: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1925 May 2 newspaper reporter in Tonbridge school interviewing Dane who was there are the invitation of her secretary’s brother the headmaster (Elsie Arnold ? could be Tonbridge school headmaster H. N. P. Sloman 1922–1939?)

1925 Agreement for Granite  play

1925 Naboth’s Vineyard, West End dramas

1925 CD Contributed to the Christmas number of Eve.

1926 March 8-16 The Cenci by Shelley at the Empire, CD read “Discourse” before each of the 4 performances

1926 Sept 29 Wednesday Hunthay, nr Axminster, Devon letter to Mr Clift (Dean, JRL)

1926 The Women’s Side, collection of essays on women’s role. In the agreement simply Woman

1926 Granite Ambassadors June 15-August 7 62 perf- loved by amateur theatricals

1927 St John Ervine’s article on Dane is quoted in Western Morning News and describes Old House, Hunthay which she renovated from ‘derelict’ with the income from ‘A Bill of Divorcement’. It describes her rockery, orchard and garden running down to the river and her bathing pool. David Knapman (pers corres cites Copyright registration cards says she was at that address 1924, 1930, 1932, 1934. Picture of the house here

1927 Plays for boys Mr Fox,

1927 Mariners, bankable West End dramas Mar 28- April 16 performances at Plymouth Theatre NY

1927 Agreement for The Babyons

1927 Granite Feb 11 – April, 70 performances at American Laboratory. Staged by Richard Boleslavsky

1927 Nov 26 CD give lecture on ‘The Ghost in Literature’ 92, Victoria Street. S. W

1927 December 7 CD promised to attend the National Book Council Annual Dinner at Frascati’s restaurant Oxford Street W1. Tickets cost 10/6

1928 May 25 c/o Mrs Addinsell, Chute House, Andover, Hants (Dean, JRL)

1928 June 2 Argument between Comedy and Tragedy and the Producer by Clemence Dane performed by Andrew Leigh producer, Peggy Pickard, comedy, Nancy Eastwood tragedy (JP. Wearing cites Old Vic archives)

1928 new agreement for The Way Things Happen

1928 A Traveller Returns, bankable West End dramas

1928 Enter Sir John with Helen Simpson

1928 Agreement for Adams Opera musical with Richard Addinsell.

1928  January 27 CD met Stella Benson and began a friendship at the English Speaking Union, In London [Source Catherine Clay]

1928 May 3 CD at Hunthay, Nr Axminster (RUL Bell letter)

1928 Jun 18, establish workers circulating library and seek donations. letter to the Times JOHN GALSWORTHY. A. HAMILTON GRANT. HUGH WALPOLE. W. B. MAXWELL. MERCER STRETCH. C. S. EVANS. EVELEIGH NASH. ALFRED C. BOSSOM. CLEMENCE DANE. KATHARINE ATKINSON . The Workers’ Library Society. “Libraries In Factories.” Times [London, England] 18 June 1928: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1928 February to November Clemence Dane was writing her assessment of Walpole’s oeuvre in Tradition and Hugh Walpole

1929 Agreement for The King Waits

1929 Tradition and Hugh Walpole,

1929  middle-class matinée plays Gooseberry Fool.

1929 received £250 for Enter Sir John from H&S. Detective novel written with Helen Simpson

1930 May 9 CD is at Pavilion Royal, St Germain-en-Laye, Seine-et-Oise, France for the next week – have been moving around a lot. (BBC WAC)

1931 March 24, Dane’s episode of The Scoop broadcast, muddle over the final version

1931 received £250 for Printer’s Devil from H&S. Novel written with Helen Simpson

1931 Agreement for Broom Stages novel

1932 Re-Enter Sir John with Helen Simpson. Received £250 in 1933

1932 Clemence Dane Omnibus with Heinemann

1933 Diary of trip to Hollywood starting January in NY

1933 April 20 2140 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Hollywood, Calif. Letter enclosing diary V&A

1933 Wild Decembers, middle-class matinée play

1933 BBC wanted to broadcast Wild Decembers but Dane said not til the run in the theatre was over. (BBC WAC)

1933 Agreement for The Moon is Feminine

1933 November 29, sailing on Bremen from Southampton other passengers were the diarist Henry Channon the writer and his wife Ruby and the painter William Ranken

1934 Jan 12 – Feb 10, 35 performances Come of Age at Maxine Elliot’s Theatre musical with Richard Addinsell (London has a Garden p.. 121) on in NY with Stephen Haggard and Judith Anderson

1934 April 4. Will Shakespeare to be broadcast – preliminary meeting with principals she requested in April

1934 October 3, from Southampton in the Majestic with William and Ruby Alexander, William was a director (perhaps not of films?)– both have same visa date.

1934 Moonlight is Silver, middle-class matinée play

1934 Nov 3 to Dec 58 performances Broadhurst theatre adaptations L’Aiglon from Rostand, 1934; 

1935 Signs her Preface to her short story collection Fate Cries Out Cowden, it is in the  Sevenoaks district, Kent.  However she also is on the electoral rolls at 12 Tavistock Place in 1935 and 1937.

1935 Feb. 21, Salka Viertel and Clemence Dane did script. Anna Karenina Val Lewton, Clemence Dane and Salka Viertel. Val Lewton synopsis 2/12/35 and sets

1935 screenplay The Tunnel (or Transatlantic Tunnel, 1935, with additional dialogue by Kurt Siodmak and L. D. Peach

1935 she adapted Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (also released as Love) for Greta Garbo

1935 short stories Fate Cries Out 

1936 January, Granite revival 8 performances Vanderbilt

1936 August 15 CD writes to Macmillan from Lower Holywych, Cowden, near Edenbridge, Kent seeking permission to reprint Iduna’s Apples by A&E Keary in her anthology of fairytales

1936 adaptation The Happy Hypocrite from Sir Max Beerbohm,

1936 adaptation Herod and Mariamne from Hebbel.

1936 With Edward Knoblock screenplay The Amateur Gentleman based on Jeffrey Farnol novel

1936 Agreement for Fate Cries Out

1936 Dane writes on ‘American fairy Tale’ for the North American Review

1937 Address for Femina Committee Lower Holywych, Cowden, nr Edenbridge, Kent

1937 Feb 6 sails to NY with Leslie Powell director (perhaps not of films?)– on 6 Feb on the Andania.

1937 with Patrick Kirwin Farewell Again (or Troopship, 1937),

1937 with Sergei Nolbandov a classic star vehicle, Fire over England (for Flora Robson, 1937),

1938 St Martin’s Lane (or Sidewalks of London, 1938), about buskers – difficulties with Erich and Miss Lethbridge’s book.

1938 Sept 5, 12 Tavistock St to Erich memo of conversation – he wants Hitchcock to rough out his own version of the middle section

1938 March 3, sails on the Paris from Southampton. Her address is 20 Tavistock Place.

1938 Oct – CD ill

1938 July 11 Date of entering nursing home (THM120/5/2)

1938 July 13 Date of operation (THM120/5/2)

1938 July 29 left nursing home (THM120/5/2)

1938 August 12 went on first visit – Gladys (THM120/5/2)

1938 August 18 Charles Laughton 2 or 3 times came down for the day she estimates date (THM120/5/2)

1938 August 24 went to London for first time (THM120/5/2) Was in town when Pommer returned

1938 Virginia Woolf said Dec 1938 diary that gossip at Kenneth Clarks (director of National gallery) was she, Clemence Dane and Dame Laura Knight ??? in line for OMs (order of merit). In fact none got them.

1939 Register gives her address as 20 Tavistock Street (Note: was it renumbered?)

1939 Agreement for The Arrogant History of White Ben. CD read Mine Kampf before writing it (Hartley)

1939 Herod and Marianne published.

1939 She signs her copy of The Arrogant History of White Ben Cowden November 1938, St Germain-en-Laye 1939

1940 The Shelter Book, 1940

1940 March 18 onwards ENSA half hour broadcast including Hugh Walpole, Clemence Dane and Irene Vanburgh

1940 March postpone party due to friends coming down with German measles

1940 CD from 20 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden writes to The Times suggesting a British Painters exhibition “Points from Letters.” Times [London, England] 25 Apr. 1940: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018.

1940-41 For radio Clemence Dane wrote The Saviours: Seven Plays on one Theme (1940–41),  ‘Savours’ of England e.g. Merlin, Queen Elizabeth etc. rehearsed at Manchester 1940 – she goes up to help. Cathedral Steps celebration of Englishness and England on St Pauls – written/compiled by Clemence Dane

1940 Trafalgar Day, poem

1940 England’s Darling, 1940; Cousin Muriel, 1940; middle-class matinée play

1941 Feb 5 Speech to Welsh at Tonypaddy QEI

1941 The Golden Reign of Queen Elizabeth middle-class matinée play

1941 Oct 30 Drinks with Noel Coward after court fine £200 for US money

1942 with Elizabeth Baron Salute John Citizen (1942),

1942 Agreement for The Nelson Touch

1942 Agreement for The Saviours: seven plays BBC

1942 She said to “Mail” representative Hull Daily Mail – Saturday 15 August that she is not only back to her old job but back to touring as in the last war.

1942 April 24 letter to CD by Bill MacLurg addressed to Lower Holwich, Cowden, Kent

1942 July 27 CD letter to Janet Quigley from Risley

1942 07 30 to 08 01 Bull and Royal Hotel, Preston CD on tour

1942 08 03 to 08 09 The Grand Theatre Halifax CD on tour

1942 08 10 to 08 17 The New Theatre, Hull, CD on tour

1943 with Richard Addinsell Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass from Lewis Carroll, 1943 and 1948),

1943 The Lion and the Unicorn, middle-class matinée play

1943 New Year’s eve at Boulestin’s – spotted by Janet Quigley (WAC letter 14 Jan 1943)

1943 Jan 18 CD writes to Janet Quigley that she is getting off 3 stone in a nursing home (WAC letter)

1944 October 18 Tempsford Hall at Dr Hales meeting with Lady Eva Balfour and Mr Friend Syles from Wiltshire [Bedfordshire Times and Independent 20 Oct 1944]

1944 Agreement for He Brings Great News

1945 with Anthony Pelissier Perfect Strangers (or Vacation from Marriage, 1945),

1945 May 8 Noel Coward cold food and drinks at CDs

1945 June 16 Noel Coward at CD all afternoon

1945 Aug 22 Noel Coward party at CDs

1945 Dec 23 White Cliffs – Noel Coward there and CD and Gladys (GB Stern?) arrived

1946 Feb 21 Noel Coward visited CD who is upset he took Addinsell’s material out of the review

1946 Aug 15 O Bowen-Davis writes to Miss Wilshin that CD is in America and she is not expecting her back for another two months or so. Adds in another letter that she will be coming back in October to a rush of work and can’t take on anything for 6 months after that

1946 Sept 16 Basil Dean writes ‘I hear you are still in America but expected home shortly.’ DEA 1/2/470 JRL

1946 Nov 10  Noel Coward and CD at Del Giudice’s party and drove back

1946 Dec Noel Coward dinner with CD. There is a change. (NCs diaries – unfinished up to here)

1947 Call Home the Heart, 1947 middle-class matinée play

1947 October CD goes to  America

1947 December 14, London to New York on the aircraft Nc-90922.

1948 May CD is in America

1948 She also wrote Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948). 

1948 with Richard Addinsell  Through the Looking-Glass.

1949 with Cyril Hume and Michael Hogan Bride of Vengeance (1949)

1949 July 25 CD doing the narration work on the two BBC broadcasts of Wild Decembers (Curtain Up Wednesday and Saturday)

1949 Clemence Dane. “Mr. Polly And Uncle Jim.” Times [London, England] 11 Feb. 1949: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 2 July 2018. Defends film of Mr Polly

1950 with Karl Hartl and Franz Tassie Angel with a Trumpet (1950).

1953 Val Geilgud returns to CD the script of ‘Light of Britain’ from The Saviours to Pendean, Midhurst.

1953 June 25 Basil Dean writes to CD at Pendean, Midhurst.

1954 Henry VIII (adapted from Shakespeare, 1954), 

1954 Val Geilgud writes to CD 22 Sept hoping ‘the German visit was a success’.

1955 Don Carlos (adapted from Schiller, 1955),

1955 Dec 16 Basil Dean to CD at 20 Tavistock Place proposing trip to theatre if she is well enough 1/2/484

1958  Scandal at Coventry, her last radio drama, the story of Lady Godiva (1958).

1958 Eighty in the Shade Dame Sybil Thorndike and Sir Lewis Casson

1958 her script for Till Time Shall End was broadcast on BBC television.

1959 Agreement with Heinemann for Collected Plays

1959 Agreement with Heinemann for Eighty in the Shade: Play

1959 Agreement with Heinemann for reprints of Broome Stages and Regiment of Women

1959 June? Undated but 6 weeks after 12 May CD writes to Janet Quigley from 1 Draycot Place SW3 ‘I’ve reluctantly moved; they have turned my beloved Covent Garden house into an annex for servants at the Strand Palace. I can’t bear it, my lease had run out so there was nothing to be done.’ Refers to ‘last year’s bad heart attack’

1962 Nov 13 Basil Dean writes to CD at 1 Draycott Place, London, asking her if she is over her bronchitis and thanks her for offering to help him with his lecture next Saturday

1963 she was one of 47 British playwrights refusing to allow their plays to be performed in Theatres where there is racial discrimination. Birmingham Daily Post – Wednesday 26 June 1963

1964 The Godson play

1965 March 28 died in London at age 77 1 Draycott Place, Chelsea. Left £8745 pounds. £8745: probate, 23 Sept 1965, CGPLA Eng. & Wales. One of her executors was Olwen Bowen-Davies