**Warning: This post is image-heavy
I woke up this morning with every intention of going to the library and studying. Instead, Sammi Steward and I took an impromptu trip to Sussex to snap some photos of Vivien Leigh’s final resting place. The weather was perfect: 65 degrees and sunny. What better thing to do on a sunny spring afternoon than go to the countryside?
We met up at Victoria Station and boarded the next train to Croydon where we changed (and missed the hourly train to Sussex by literally 30 seconds) and headed to Uckfield. Sussex is a beautiful area. I remembered how I’d loved it when I did a summer abroad in Brighton my junior year in college. How time flies! On the train down, Sammi and I were having a discussion about Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier something or another when suddenly, the man in the seat across from us said, “I take it you’re going to Tickerage Mill?” How did he know? Apparently our indoor voices aren’t that quiet. He introduced himself as Duncan, the mayor of Uckfield. He said his in-laws very nearly bought the house next door to Tickerage Mill, and was very kind in not only telling us the easiest way to get out there, but arranged a little meeting between us and his friend who runs the Picture House cinema in town–apparently it’s one of the oldest indie theatres in England. Duncan also told us a lovely story about his friend’s claim to fame: Said friend had been up in London for work and had had a few drinks before catching the train back home. As Uckfield is the end of the line, he was roused out of his nap by a shake on the shoulder and a man saying, “I think you’re getting off at Uckfield.” The man was none other than Sir Laurence Olivier on his way to visit Vivien Leigh (conveniently, Uckfield is just between Brighton and London), and he offered Duncan’s friend a ride home in his hired car. We knew Larry went to visit Vivien on occasion!
It was quite lucky that we stopped by the Picture House before taking a cab out to Tickerage because when we got there we had trouble discerning the foot path that goes through the pastures on the outskirts of the property. Thankfully, there was a really nice man out mowing the lawn at the cottage next door and we told him what we were about, and asked how we could reach the correct path. As it turned out, he’s the owner of Tickerage Mill and was extremely generous, letting us have a walk around and snap photos. Thank you so much, Ken!
Vivien loved Tickerage Mill and it was so easy to see why. Tucked away in a little valley amidst woodlands and green pastures, the Mill is so peaceful and extremely beautiful in the spring. A courtyard with a lovely landscaped pond, and a wall covered in wisteria sits on one side of the house. It’s called Vivien’s White Garden. When in bloom, all of the flowers there are white, corresponding with Vivien’s favorite color. In the front of the house, there is a big yard with lots of wildflowers and daffodils growing here and there. Up on a little hill sits a crescent-shaped hedge with a stone bench in the middle. We were told that Vivien loved to sit there and catch the last rays of sunshine before they slipped behind the rolling hills in the distance.
On our way back, we decided to walk to Blackboys Inn for a drink and a meal. I wonder if Vivien ever went and mingled with the locals. It seems like her kind of place–or maybe it’s just my kind of place (they served Crabbie’s ginger beer, my favorite!). People in the country are so nice. Our spur-of-the-moment decision turned out to be serendipitous, and those are always the best kinds of adventures, don’t you think?
VivAndLarry.com is an historical archive and film blog dedicated to preserving the memories of classic screen and stage stars Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and to the discussion of classic Hollywood and world cinemas. The site is designed and edited by Kendra Bean, a film scholar, writer and photographer living in London. What you'll find here: A cabinet of curiosities brimming with vintage articles, video footage, the largest archive of Vivien Leigh and/or Laurence Olivier photos on the Web, and much, much more.
This site is updated frequently, so pull up a chair and stay a while! Or, subscribe to be notified whenever new posts are made.
The current header was designed and drawn by the brilliant Laura Loveday.
Read Vivien Leigh: Becoming Scarlett by Kendra Bean in issue no. 75 of Bright Lights Film Journal
Read Kendra's article Style Icon: Vivien Leigh at The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower
My running list of films watched in 2013.