In trying to catch as many glimpses of Savile through the eyes (and words) of others, fate and as much as £4 brought The Story of Henlow Grange and I together. Addressed to Barbara and Scott it appears in a twist Fanny Carby (more on her and Pat Phoenix and Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop soon – it’s an important East-West London link) would no doubt appreciate, I may have inherited Barbara Windsor’s signed copy.
As with Savile and his connections to Cragg Vale and St John’s In The Wilderness, Henlow Grange was another favoured location steeped in history to stop off at while constantly touring the country. Henlow Grange Beauty Farm (now Champneys Henlow Grange) in East Bedfordshire, connected to Savile since it first opened its doors as a Britain’s much trumpeted <second> Beauty Farm in the early 1960s, after Leida Costigan’s first attempt at Pelham Lodge, Knebworth.
Published in 2009, two years prior to Dorothy Purdew’s own autobiography The Long Road to Champneys (2011), Purdew’s first book The History of Henlow Grange is a fascinating one and the author does well to make the place come alive.
Savile described his 40 year connections with Henlow Grange in The Story of Henlow Grange, praising the “tenants” for making it such a great place to de-stress:
“I first got involved with Henlow before the Purdews when I was invited by Leida (Costigan) to go down because they liked the idea of free publicity! Oh my goodness, it was a wonderful time! I went there three of four times and got on well with both of them – her husband designed aircraft, you know. Then the Purdew family came along and we kept it going from there. It’s been a sort of unbroken chain for about forty years. I’m the kind of fella who’s relaxed anyway but Henlow makes me even more relaxed. The grounds are terrific and so is the house and the food.
I don’t have any treatments because I’m not in a beauty competition – I don’t even swim there. The main exercise I do is put on my coat to go outside and have a cigar. I like running there because it’s nice and flat. Where I live in Yorkshire is hilly.
Most of the guests recognise me. Yes, of course I have some funny stories about that but not ones you could put in a book. I did get one woman who said, “I wrote to you twenty years ago on Jim’ll Fix It and I never got a reply.” I said, “That’s because you didn’t enclose an SAE.”
I usually go down once a year for a special occasion. The Purdews are very warm and welcoming unless you smoke cigars! They’re great “tenants” of the building because they’ve made it such a wonderful experience for anyone who is stressed.”
As it happens, Joe Costigan (or Fred, F.J.), the owner of Henlow Grange during 1961-1981 was a lot more than ‘an aircraft designer’ despite the title of his autobiography Adventures of an Aircraft Designer. From 1957-1966 the owner of Henlow Grange, Joe Costigan was the Chief Designer of Air to Air Guided Weapons at de Havilland nearby. In 1980, aged about 68 and just before selling Henlow Grange to the Purdews, Joe writes his autobiography before leaving. He was very ill at the time having suffered two heart attacks and Dorothy Purdew is concerned Leida might be expecting her and her husband, Bob Purdew, as the new owners to inherit Joe who is resident at Henlow Grange while Leida is at a new spa in Malaga!
Was it a special occasion in particular Savile went to Henlow Grange each year, as in an annual event? The Henlow Church fete each year appears to be quite important to Savile and possibly, very specifically, the return of the Llanthony Canons to St Mary’s Henlow Church due to the fact that it had remained an Anglican church since the reformation having suffered dissolution and so this was possibly viewed as symbolic of a piece of Roman Catholic history visiting an old home? I didn’t manage to watch the recent Champneys TV programme to find out if the Savile wing remains named the Savile wing, possibly not:
SIR Jimmy Savile’s posthumous disgrace will not stop the dead DJ’s name being commemorated at health spa Champneys. Owner Stephen Purdew named an entire bedroom block at his Henlow Grange resort after him.
Despite the allegations of sexual abuse against the former TV presenter, Purdew remains loyal to Savile. He tells me: ‘Jimmy was a very dear friend and he is not here to defend himself. He was never charged or convicted and the accusations go back to 1969.
‘I simply can’t believe he was so powerful and intimidating that he could prevent this sort of thing coming out in his lifetime.
‘I shall be keeping his name over the bedroom block, whatever people like Esther Rantzen say.’ [Sir Jimmy’s posthumous disgrace, Daily Mail, Richard Kay, 3 October 2012]
Chronology of Henlow Grange
Four books cover the history of Henlow Grange, two by former owner Joe Costigan and two by Dorothy Purdew. The majority of the information below is sourced from one of the books listed below.
- Adventures of an Aircraft Designer, F J Costigan (1980) [AAD]
- Leida and her Beauty Farm, F J Costigan ( ) [LBF]
- The Story of Henlow Grange, D Purdew (2009) [TSHG]
- The Long Road to Champneys, D Purdew (2011) [LRC]
In 1980 FJ Costigan, Joe, (or Fred according to Dorothy Purdew), published an autobiography called “Adventures of an Aircraft Designer” published by a local firm called Cortney Publications, 95 – 115 Windmill Road, Luton, Beds, LU1 3XS
In his Acknowledgements Joe Costigan states:
“I wish to express my warmest thanks and appreciation to all who have helped me to write this book, especially to my dear wife Leida, who has encouraged me and ‘tolerated’ my frequent absences from home whilst on my travels; to my sister Constance in Long Island, New York, who is my chief critic; to Nursing Sister Thompson, who worked in Singapore and West Germany and helped with my geography, and spelling! and recently nursed me through two heart attacks; and to Dr W.G. Baker of Edinburgh University, now retired, but who was a lecturer in English Literature, and has spent much time in correcting my phraseology, and grammar!
I am also grateful to ‘Flight Magazine’ for most of the illustrations; to Flight Lieutenant Finding of R.A.F. Henlow, for Security clearance; to the Librarian of the R.A.F. Museum at Hendon; and to my typists for their hard work – and their patience. The assistance of my Publishers, Cortney Publications has been greatly appreciated.”
1912: F Joseph Costigan born on 23rd December at a house in Tadmor Street in North Hammersmith, London. Joe is the only son of the family, with 5 sisters, Constance (‘Connie’) Costigan being his eldest sister, two more older sisters Dorothy, Esme and two younger sisters (Marian and Joan). His father was of Irish extraction, his grandfather lived and worked as a saddle-maker in Dublin for most of his life and then moved to Birmingham to carry on his work and raised 11 children with Joe’s grandmother.
Joe’s father becomes a prominent pioneering motor engineer living and working around Birmingham, Coventry and London. His father once held the land speed record of 60 mph “over a straight piece of road between London and Birmingham, wearing goggles, a flat peaked cap turned back to front and the car windscreen removed to reduce the wind resistance” (AAD p1)
[comment: The use of angles in problem-solving is demonstrated by Costigan’s pages of engineering diagrams showing various problems he solved in his career designing aircraft which is contained in an Appendix to the book – will post these to the bottom of the page shortly]
1914: WWI starts. Costigan’s father leaves the employ Mercedes.
“Then Major Gordon Watney offered him the post of General Manager of his firm, Weybridge Motor Engineering Company, a large engineering works near Addleston, which specialised in the complete strip-down and overhaul of cars and lorries. Their biggest contract was the large fleet of Esso road tankers and the conversion of ex-wartime vehicles into civilian use and other government work. They also did much work on racing cars from the nearby Brooklands racing track, and when there was something interesting there, Father took me along with him and explained it all in great detail.” (AAD p2)
The family move to a large house called “Sunnyside” at Weybridge in Surrey.
1917: Leida Peets is born at “Ryazan, South of Moscow in Russia, from Estonian parents who were then working for the Czar” (p.67); Year of the Russian Revolution; Parents escaped to home town of Tallin, Estonia
1918: Aged 6, Joe Costigan attends Weybridge High School, where his 3 elder sisters already attended. His father leaves Weybridge Motor Engineering Company and starts up his own Engineering Consultancy in London, “where he had his own offices and did very well until the Great Depression started in 1921, when his business folded up and he lost a lot of money. After that he suffered from heart trouble which had been caused by an earlier bout of rheumatic fever, he was no longer able to hold a full time job and he did part-time Consultancy work for Motor Insurance Companies.” (AAD p2)
1921: Leida, training to be a ballet dancer from a very early age, aged four/five
1925: Joe’s dad dies when he’s 13: ” When I was thirteen Father died of heart failure, leaving very little money. In my father’s day engineers were not paid well and few died rich, moreover he was a generous man and did a lot for Freemasonry, in which he eventually became a Grand Master, and at his death the Masons helped the family considerably and sent my two younger sisters to the Freemasons School at Rickmansworth.” (AAD, p3)
1926: Joe starts 5 year apprenticeship at Weybridge Motor Engineering Co. – his mother arranges this through Father’s old friend, Mr Dewer, who was then Works Manager.
1926/7: Joe’s mother dies leaving him an orphan.
1927/28: Connie, his eldest sister takes charge and moves them all to a bungalow in Walton-on-Thames.
1929/1930: Apprenticeship ends; family move again after 3 years in bungalow to a large house called “Meads” at Walton “which had an acre of garden and a proper grass tennis court.” (AAD p3) Great Depression
1930 (?): Aged 20 Works at Waterloo Sub-Station/ Engineering Dept of Southern Railway – gets job through friend of father, ‘Uncle Sam’
1931 (?): Hersham Motors, jig & tool draughtsman, made redundant within year?
1931/1932: Becomes a sports car designer, job through father’s friend again (not the same one); business dries up as re-armament gears up
1934/1935?: Aged 24/25 Works at Vickers Aircraft Co at Brooklands, Weybridge. Meets Chief Designer Barnes Wallace (geodetics), Vince Broughton is aircraft designer
Moves to Hawker Aircrafts at Kingston Upon Thames, aircraft design
1936: Returns to Fairey Aviation
1936: “Alan Tindall Lennox-Boyd and his family (he was married to Patricia Guiness come to live at Henlow Grange. Lennox -Boyd represented mid Bedfordshire in Parliament from the 1930s to the 1950s” (TSoHG p.92)
Lennox-Boyd decolonisation on a grand scale during the 1950s as Secretary of State for the Colonies and is a name known to anyone looking into the Mau Mau massacres in Kenya or the Hola massacre.
From wikipedia on Viscount Boyd of Merton (Alan Lennox-Boyd’s political career) who was MP from 1931 – 1960:
“Lennox-Boyd was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Bedfordshire in 1931 (at the age of 26), and was admitted to Inner Temple, as a barrister in 1941. He was a member of Winston Churchill‘s peacetime government as Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation from 1952 to 1954. In this post he once memorably opined that road accidents were the result not of the taking of large risks, but of the taking of small risks very large numbers of times.
In 1954 he became Secretary of State for the Colonies, where he oversaw early stages of decolonisation, with the granting of independence to Cyprus, Ghana, Iraq, Malayaand Sudan. He was in office during the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya, and was persuaded to stay in office by Harold Macmillan after being censured for the Hola massacre. He talked openly about independence for the Federation of Malaya, and invited the then Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Sir Abdul Rahman Al-Haj and his friends to Lancester House to discuss the possibility of Malaya’s becoming a sovereign nation.
Following the Suez Crisis of 1956, Lennox-Boyd appears to have made the initial approach to writer Ian Fleming about the possibility Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden‘s using Fleming’s Jamaican house, Goldeneye, for a rest cure given the precarious state of Eden’s health. Because of security considerations, he initially intimated to Fleming that he wanted Goldeneye for a holiday of his own and, when he resisted Fleming’s suggestion that his and Fleming’s wife (a close friend of Lady Eden) liaise over the arrangements, Fleming at first assumed that he was planning an extra-marital assignation.
In September 1960 he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Boyd of Merton of Merton-in-Penninghame in the County of Wigtown. This caused a by-election for his Mid Bedfordshire constituency which was won by Stephen Hastings. He was further honoured the same year when he was appointed a Companion of Honour. Being opposed to the line taken in Harold Macmillan‘s Wind of Change speech, he subsequently became an early patron of the Conservative Monday Club.”
1937: Aged 25, leaves Fairey Aviation Co disillusioned with making war planes, takes a pacifist turn and leaves for Philips & Powis (later Miles Aircraft Co) near Reading designing civil aircraft
1938/1939: Returns to Fairey Aviation Co in Hayes, Middlesex. Leida is 20, and has become a full ballerina at the famous Hellerau finishing school in Vienna
1 December 1939: Britain declares war (these are dates given by Joe Costigan – in contradiction to….
23rd December 1939: Aged 27, gains first patent. Hayes Fairey factory is being bombed, evacuated to Taplow, near Maidenhead
1940s / WWII
1940: Adrian, Joe’s son is born. [AAD] RAF Henlow is bombed by the Luftwaffe. Eight bombs fell on the airfield, damaging two hangars (TSoHG p.92)
Leida flees WWII through Eastern Europe to Balkans and eventually to Baghdad in Iraq, where a bad fall from a horse seriously injured her hip and this put an end to her dancing career. At about the same time, Russia invaded Estonia and took her parents off to Siberia and Leida was declared a Stateless person.” (AAD p.68)
Leida spends the war aged 22 – 27 in Baghdad, and uses her physiotherapy knowledge to help wounded soldiers in Baghdad hospitals; starts beauty business together with French girl, Elyan from Paris. During the war Leida marries an Italian Civil Engineer working for British Army in Baghdad who has a British passport.
1945: Aged 32, Joe leaves wife Iris and son Adrian. Leida moves to South Africa, Cape Town with her husband.
1949/50: Aged 33/34, Leida’s first marriage ends; she leaves South Africa and travels by sea to England to stay with Elyan and her husband, Maynard at their home farm in Warwickshire, quite near to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Here, Leida learns a peculiar Shakespearean English through translating plays with Elyan. Leida could already speak 8 languages before learning English (AAD p.68) (Estonian, Russian, Italian and…?)
In promotional literature distributed in the early 1960s it is stated Leida spoke 7 languages, including English “She is also a linguist and speaks English, French, German, Estonian, Russian, Italian and Spanish.” (TSHG p.60)
During this period I’m not yet clear on what Henlow Grange was used for during the war but presumably RAF Henlow being a Luftwaffe target meant the Lennox-Boyd family evacuated.
1950: “Lord Boyd of Merton gives the Boyd Memorial Field to the Parish when the family left the village.” Moves to Ince Castle in Cornwall
St Francis Shefford Boy’s Home is located on the High Street, attached to St George’s Roman Catholic Church as I understand. The history of St George’s will be of interest as Savile was visiting to pray.
St Francis Boys’ Home Sex Abuse Inquiry: Police reopen [BBC 8 September 2014]
Shefford St Francis orphanage abuse legal action [BBC, 12 August 2013]
During the 1950s and 1960s Savile is reported as being a frequent visitor to St Francis Boys home in Shefford, the longest serving children’s home of the poor in the country, established in 1868 and run by the Catholic Diocese of Northampton, it housed boys from 5 – 16 years old, closing only in 1974, over a 100 years after its foundation.
A series of official reports on the Home from the Home Office dating from 1962 can be found here
1951: Leida moves to England from South Africa, leaving her Italian husband with a British passport behind.
1954 – 1959: Lennox-Boyd becomes Secretary of State for the Colonies and oversees the early decolonisation progress
1955: Aged 42, Iris divorces Joe Costigan (JC) ; Meets Leida who is in London obtaining a Beauty Therapy Degree (p.68) now aged 37/8
1955 – 1960: Costigans purchase a beauty farm [called Pelham Lodge] in Knebworth, Hertfordshire (TSoHG p.59)
1956: JC moves to work at De Havilland Aircraft Co; now specialising solely in guided weapons – This is also the year Commander Lionel Crabbe goes missing.
1957: JC promoted to become Chief Designer of Air to Air Weapons; George Brown promoted to become Assistant Chief Engineer under Guy Gardiner; Visits Australia for Firestreak trials; on return trip diverts to Delhi, India to give lecture on Firestreak to the Indian Air Force (p.69)
April – June 1957: Leida, aged 39/40 gives birth to her and Joe’s only child, a daughter, Ann Costigan. Joe’s book AAD is dedicated to his darling daughter, Anne Kristina.
Excerpt from the article:-
“ The Background of Firestreak (Aviation Ancestry website)
de Havilland Propellers Ltd. took the decision to enter the guided-weapons field at a time when the company already possessed wide experience of electronic. hydraulic and precision engineering which had been gained over many years in the design, development and manufacture of aircraft propellers. This provided the nucleus of technical direction upon which a completely new team was built. Starting from a handful of engineers under the technical lead of Mr. G. C. I. Gardiner, the company’s Technical Director and Chief Engineer, an organisation of many hundreds has been built up. This staff, together with the manufacturing personnel, now totals several thousand engaged upon this work alone. There has also been a large addition to the company’s facilities for the design and manufacture of its other important products such as propellers, radar scanners and aircraft air. conditioning systems. The first members of the guided-weapons team were Mr. G. H. F. Brown, Mr. R. N. Hadwin, and Mr. J. Mullin, who had been until then respectively chief designer, chief vibration engineer and chief dynamicist of de Havilland Propellers Ltd.
When the Ministry of Supply awarded de Havilland a development contract for a turbo-alternator, a compact form of electrical power supply which was required by other companies engaged on the development of guided weapons, the company were encouraged to expand their equipment resources and to recruit further senior technicians. Key members of the team who joined at this time included Dr. G. H. Hough, now the chief systems engineer, Mr. C. de B. White, who is to-day the chief trials engineer, and Mr. F. J. Costigan, who came to the company with previous knowledge of guided-weapon design, and is now chief designer of air-to-air weapons.”
Daily Mirror 9th March 1959: A ‘glamour farm’ is being opened by Viennese born 41 year old Mrs Leida Costigan, wife of Chief Designer of Fireflash guided missiles, waiting list of titled women for £25 guineas a week.
Daily Mirror 22nd July 1959: Women-only Pelham Lodge open for 2 months only when woodworm was found in the top floor treatment rooms
1959: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-way-to-beauty Leida Costigan
Leida Costigan films “Britain’s first beauty farm” British Pathe film at Knebworth, Pelham Lodge
M/S showing Leida Costigan, who runs the beauty farm, exercising a client on a field in the garden or grounds of a country house in Knebworth; in the foreground is glamorous Brenda Lomax on a rowing machine. Both exercisers are wearing swimsuits. C/Us from the front and behind of BL rowing rather gracefully, and smiling; she is wearing a nice yellow swimsuit.
Henlow Grange is purchased and refurbished as a health farm by Mr & Mrs F Costigan (TSHG p.92)
“Leida first visited Henlow with her husband Fred in 1961 to consider its potential. It needed someone with vision since thousands of panes of glass had been broken by vandals and two huge elder trees had grown up through the magnificent wrought iron gates.” (TSoHG p.60)
To some people Joe Costigan must have referred to himself as Fred? Or perhaps Dorothy Purdew has got his first name mixed up with his middle name?
Ted Burgess (also known as Budge) the Churchwarden of St Mary’s Henlow proved to be invaluable to the Costigans in securing their property deals for both Henlow Grange and their house The Limes, along with furnishing Henlow Grange.
“Edward, otherwise known as Budge or Ted, was educated at Hitchin Grammar School.
In the second world war he fought in Burma.
He was a much respected member of the Henlow Village community where he was Churchwarden at St Mary the Virgin, Henlow for many years. He was also a longstanding member of the PCC [ed. “Parish Church Council”], holding its chair for some time. A community minded man, he worked at George Jackson & Son in Hitchin as a Chartered Surveyor and Auctioneer, and in this role he played a major part in the rejuvination of the town through his efforts to develop the market, which at its height was packed weekly with livestock sales which included everything from cattle, pigs sheep and a wide variety of small animals. Tuesdays, market day, became a major all-day event with local farmers decending on the town to buy and sell.
He oversaw a number of major property sales, and was trusted for his honesty by all who dealt with him. He negotiated the deal which saw the regeneration of Henlow Grange, originally the manor house is cited in the Doomsday Survey. It then became the 330 year home to Cistercian monks until Henry VIII put a stop to all that in the C16th. At that time its value was assessed at £16-13-10! In the last century the house was bought by the Gurney family from Norfolk (1909), and then in 1936 the Lennox-Boyd family.
It was in 1961, after years of being left empty, that the now derelict building was bought by Leida Costigan and her husband Joe. Eventually she turned it into her “Beauty Farm”, the best in the country, attracting the great and famous from all over the world. In his book, covering Leida’s life, Joe remembers “Ted” as a “very great friend”, “expert on antique furniture” and “head auctioneer at the famous furniture salerooms in Hitchin”. He ensured a fair price for the furniture Leida wanted, avoiding her tendancy to “bid blindly”, by keeping an eye out for furniture that both she would like and suit the beautiful house, and advising her of suitable top bids. Later he oversaw the sale of the Limes in Henlow High Street to the Costigans as their business expanded. Further details can be read in FJ Costoigan’s Book, “The Story of Leida and her Beauty Farm” (ISBN 0 904378 17 9), which also has detailed a history of the Grange.”
St Mary’s, Henlow history – a formerly Roman Catholic church which also owned a house for the Prior of Llanthony (Llanthony Priory near Gloucester) and a community of priests at Henlow Grange, now Anglican following the Dissolution.
St. Mary’s History
The earliest building consisted of just a Nave and Chancel, thought to have been built in the 11th or early 12th century. In the 13th century two low roofed aisles were added and the Nave lengthened westwards. The South aisle was built first with the North aisle following some years later. Late in the 14th century the Chancel was lengthened. Towards the end of the 15th Century the massive tower was built, the clerestory constructed and the upper part of the North Aisle rebuilt. Soon after the chancel arch was widened and the South aisle extended. Later the aisle roofs were raised enclosing the clerestory windows within the church. The vestry/organ chamber is a late Victorian addition.
A Charter of King John in 1199 confirms the earlier gift of the manor and church of Henlow to Lanthony Priory near Gloucester who provided clergy for the church until the Dissolution, the Prior of Lanthony having a house and a small community of priests in what is now part of Henlow Grange. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the Crown became the Patron, responsible for the appointment of incumbents to this day.
A plaque in the South Aisle, dedicated in 1989, commemorates Elizabeth, daughter of John and Joan Tilley, who was baptised here in 1607. All three were pilgrims to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
During 1994 the choir vestry screen was enlarged and crowned by a screen of glass. A floor and staircase were inserted and other facilities installed.
Henlow was originally in the Diocese of Lincoln. In 1838 it was moved to the Ely Diocese and was again transferred, in 1914, to the new Diocese of St. Albans.
In 1997 the Parishes of Henlow and Langford were brought together as a United Benefice, served by one incumbent. [extracted from “A Guide to the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Henlow” by James E. Burgess]
March/April 1961: Vicar of Henlow Church, the Reverend R Howerd had retired and starts to help with restoration of the Chinese wallpaper in the Peacock Room. Costigans employ a scenery artist from Elstree film studios who only charged £47 including materials. (TSoHG p.64) (St Mary’s, Henlow Church website states this: a Rev R Howard retired in 1968?)
Spring 1961: Costigans lobby Conservative Dame Irene Ward in the House of Commons who invites them to lunch in the Commons restaurant. Dame Ward speaks to the Minister of Housing (then Conservative MP for Tonbridge, Sir John Stanley, also a Privy Councillor) and full planning permission is granted 3 days later so that restoration work can start.
27th April 1961: Costigans exchange contracts to purchase – pay £6,000
Daily Mirror Monday 15 May 1961 p.9: Daily Mirror reports Viennese born Leida as stating “ a company has been formed. It is prepared to spend £20,000 on getting Henlow Grange on its feet – and this is just a start.” What is this company’s name and who were its shareholders?
10th July 1961: Within 2 1/2 months of work starting, half main house and half beauty treatment centre in the basement ready for use. Champagne party to celebrate. One of the first guests on opening night was Lady Cecil Douglas (TSoHG p.68)
- Lady Cecil Douglas was a niece of Lord Alfred Douglas, lover of Oscar Wilde, known for sneering at Canadian hospitality when evacuated during WWII
- Jane Bryce, Marchioness of Milford Haven (David, Lord Mountbatten’s nephews second wife), aged 24/25, comes to stay after birth of her first child, George (b. June 1961) “Her uncle, wealthy Mr John Bryce, promised her a mink coat if she got her weight back to normal after her first baby.”
Daily Express 14 November 1961: ‘The expensive art of unwinding’ by Rosalie McCrae – Leida’s age given as 44 year old and article reveals Costigans fight against planning permission granted for 40 houses to be built near Henlow Grange
Daily Mirror 4 December 1961 p.9: Leida upset due to appeal against planning permission for 40 houses to be built nearby – asked Ministry of Housing to block approval.
December 1961: Rest of main house & treatment centre restored and central heating installed in entire house. Restoration moves to North Wing.
Daily Mirror 12 February 1962: Marchioness of Milford Haven, (wife of David, son of Lord Mountbatten’s elder brother George) aged 22, loses ‘baby weight’ as above at Henlow Grange and Leida announces men only slimming week launched. Swimming pool built in basement, christened “The Dolphin Rooms”.
‘Men Seek Beauty’ at Henlow, Bedfordshire – British Pathe 1962
35 – 50 guineas on tap with all kinds of extras on offer besides – an operator who knows her stuff banish your wrinkles and your secretary will dine with you!
“Various shots exterior of Henlow Grange beauty farm. Various shots chief beautician Leida Costigan giving instructions to row of beauty experts in white coats. According to narrator Leida is explaining that the next batch of clients will all be men!
Various C/Us man on treatment bed, a masseur uses suction cup to massage his beer belly. Various shots another man on a treatment couch, a beautician gives him a vibro leg massage. Various shots man receiving a facial. Various C/Us man in foam bath, a beautician mops his brow. Various shots male masseur and beautician giving man body wax treatment to make his skin tighter.
Various shots male clients in bath robes eating fruit and drinking juice. Various shots male clients receiving a manicure. C/U man having scalp steam treatment, at the same time a beautician is massaging his wrists. The steamer is removed from his head and the beauticians massages his scalp, the other beautician massages his wrists.
M/S man with beer gut standing scales whilst having his wrists measured, the man is holding his stomach in. C/U the man’s stomach; he stops holding it in and puffs out into its natural state!”
Daily Express, Wed 19 September 1962: Reports Leida who runs beauty farm at Viscount Boyd’s old home is reported to be considering opening on the Riviera after a holiday there.
1963 – Celebrity Fetes and the mysterious death of a trainee beauty therapist
In 1963, Father John Ryan was Rector from 1963 – 1969 at St Francis Shefford Boys’ Home on High Street, Shefford not far from
Daily Mirror 12th May 1963 p.8: Local man (Luton) Tom Shriver becomes a trainee beauty therapist at Henlow Grange – reported as first man to train there, age of Leida given as 43
3 months before Russell Winterbottom’s death (suicide by self-immolation looks more and more unlikely despite newspapers trying to tie his death to either Buddhist protests or black magic in Hitchin) Henlow Grange is hosting Henlow Church’s annual fete on their lawn and starting to attract a regular clientele of celebrities, singers such as Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Eatha Kitt, Tom Jones, sportsmen (like interntaional tennis starts – TSHG p.72), DJs such as Alan Freeman, Pete Murray, Savile.
The Times 10th June 1963: Reports a tennis match taking place on lawns at Henlow Grange previous day (Sunday 9th June 1963)
In June 1963 Henlow church fete was held on the lawn. Joe Costigan writes:
” Each year we stack away our sports equipment so that the fete committee can bring in marquees, stalls and side shows, all run by volunteers from the village. Leida has usually found a well-known radio or television star to open each fete, which usually draws in crowds of around 500 people and raises hundreds of pounds towards the maintenance of St Mary’s parish church. The beautiful old Henlow Church was also in the possession of the Augustinian Canons of Llanthony up to the Reformation.” (excerpt quoted from Leida & Her Beauty Farm in TSoHG, p.72)
Rosina Everitt remembers: “Peter Murray was one of Leida’s favourites and also Jimmy Savile. We had Shirley Bassey who was lovely and also Dusty Springfield, who was a bit of a recluse and spent a lot of time in her room. Matt Monro was a regular too and went to the local pub a few times, sometimes to do charity events. Pat Phoenix used to come too – she was just as glamorous as you’d imagine. She loved the facials. Leida used to do all the facials personally for the celebrities.” (TSoHG p.108)
In an article dated 8th October 2012, The Sun quoted Savile’s former BBC radio colleague Pete Murray:
“Meanwhile, Savile’s former BBC radio colleague Pete Murray has told how the late entertainer used to invite young girls to his house even before he found fame.
Ex-Top of the Pops presenter Pete said Savile had two girls aged 16 or 17 in his living room when he arrived to spend a night there in the mid-60s.
The 87-year-old said he knew Savile “liked young girls” but never saw him do anything.
Murray, who expressed surprise at the abuse claims, said: “We all knew he liked young girls but that was it. Nobody knew if he did anything with them and I never asked him about it.”
Murray added: “The girls I saw him with were about 16 or 17. I certainly never saw him with any girl who looked younger than that but it’s hard to tell when girls wear make-up.
“I would be very surprised if he ever forced himself on anybody.” [Sun Campaign to strip paedo DJ Jimmy Savile of Sir knighthood, The Sun, 8 October 2012]
Joan Gallagher (aged 85 in 2009) recalls: “During Leida’s time, it was just me and Eartha Kitt for a few days. She was lovely. I’ve also talked to several other names including and Jimmy Savile” (TSHG p.103)
October – December 1963: The death of Russell Winterbottom, trainee beauty therapist
A curious event takes place in the autumn of 1963 that not one of the three books concerning Henlow Grange consider either worth including or comment-worthy but receives coverage in international press at the time. Joe and Leida Costigan certainly would have been aware and were probably concerned due to adverse publicity although not Dorothy Purdew unless researching the history of Henlow Grange using local press archives.
Friday 11 October 1963: 37 year old Californian Russell Winterbottom sets out for a run in his tracksuit from Henlow Grange Beauty Farm where he has paid a year’s fees in advance to train as a beauty therapist
Thursday 17 October 1963: A 37 year old Californian Beauty therapist trainee, Russell Winterbottom, goes missing after setting off for a run in his tracksuit. http://news.google.com/new spapers?id…costigan&hl=en
Tuesday 22 October 1963: North Beds Courier & Biggleswade Record reports “Missing Man – Search Off” stating Russell Winterbottom had been reported missing on Friday 13 October 1963.22oct1963
Monday 28 October 1963: “U.S. Male lost from Beauty Spot”. The Victoria Advocate. 28 October 1963
Tuesday 3 December 1963: Reported that Russell Winterbottom’s body is found, burnt, with petrol cans nearby, in Henlow Grange groundshttp://news.google.com/newspapers?ni…pg=
Daily Express, 3 December 1963: Student is ‘fire sacrifice’
Daily Mirror, 3 December 1963 Missing Beauty Farm Man found dead
Calif. Man found dead in England”. The Lewiston Daily Sun. 3 December 1963
Friday 6 December 1963: “Skeleton found in bed of nettles thought to be a missing American” announced the Biggleswade Chronicle Skeleton Found in Bed of Nettles
Tuesday 10 December 1963: “Skeleton identified” announced the North Beds Courier & Biggleswade Record – despite no date having been set for the coroners’ inquest – as reported in this article, the inquest opens 3 days later on Friday 13 December 1963 Skeleton Identified
Friday 13 December 1963: Biggleswade Chronicle, “Skeleton is identified” Skeleton is Identified
Tuesday 17 December 1963: “Beauty farm skeleton is named by dentist” Beauty Farm Skeleton is named by dentist
Friday 20 December 1963: “Skeleton identified by teeth”, Biggleswade Chronicle Skeleton identified by teeth
No news reports for 1964 as yet…still looking…
6 April 1965: Wilson’s Labour Government cancel the TSR-2 project – all airframes are scrapped. Boscombe Down’s official records of test flights were ‘lost’
Daily Mirror, 11 November 1965 p22: 14 Beauty trainees are paying £800 each for their training at Henlow Grange
1965: Alan and Evelyn Guard have their first stay at Henlow Grange (see guest comments from TSoHG below) – Evelyn comments that at this point there was only space for 32 guests at a time (not the 200 capacity it has in 2009).
Alan Guard, 72 (2009) and Evelyn Guard, guests at Henlow Grange since 1965: “It was much smaller in Leida’s time with fewer people. I certainly didn’t stand out because there were always other men there. We had a men’s room with three or four massage tables and a gym…Often we see the same faces but we don’t really speak to celebrities although we did talk to Jimmy Savile once.” (TSHG p. 104)
Evelyn Guard: “(Leida) made everyone feel very special. There were only thirty-two guests then, compared with 200 plus. We love Henlow because it makes us feel at home. We can relax. We have a photograph of ourselves with Jimmy Savile on our sitting room wall.” (TSHG p.104)
Barbara Windsor: ” I first went at the beginning when Leida owned Henlow. Someone recommended that I should go there because I had a lot of worry because of my personal life. I had gone to some other health farms but they were far away and I’d heard so much about Leida that I wanted to see what it was like. I loved it!” (TSHG p.95)
Daily Express, 31 March 1967: Down 10lb in 36 hours – more of an advertorial than an article (by Crawford White, photos from Harry Dempster) on Brian Close, Yorkshire’s cricket team captain staying at Henlow Grange to get fit
1966/67: In 1966 Wilson published a White Paper on Defence. Henlow Grange is doing rather well with celebrity support and Joe Costigan is now in his mid 50s and preparing a proposal for Dornier, a company famous for producing flying-boats, who were designing an amphibious flying boat for which they needed a retractable undercarriage so that it could come up on land. Joe is also doing Leida’s accounts for her businesses at night and develops a form of ugly skin blemishes on his hands arms and neck which were noticeable.
Despite Leida’s pressure to join her businesses full-time Joe says:
“Well, aircraft engineering was now well into my blood. It was my life and I could not give it up. Then suddenly without warning that world crashed about my ears. I was summoned to a Senior Executive’s office and he told me that they had been reviewing the top management and had decided to ask me to leave the firm that day. No other reason was given. I was utterly shattered. After 17 years service with the firm to be so ignominiously dismissed was abhorrent. I could not understand; so far as I knew I had done nothing to warrant such treatment, but later I did find the true reason.” (AAD p.95)
Sadly, Joe doesn’t share this true reason for his summary and very instant dismissal that he later discovers – one can only wonder what it was?
Daily Express, 21 August 1967 p.3: Leida snippet on opening wig shop at Henlow Grange
Daily Mirror, 1 April 1968 p7: Advertorial by Michael Hellicar on the beauty farm; Visitors include Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Bruce Forsyth, Pete Murray and Alan Freeman; Shrublands hydro James Bond in Thunderball mentioned in the article to encourage male visitors to beauty farms.
Daily Mirror 22 April 1968 p14: Patrick Wymark, actor, pictured skipping at Henlow Grange to lose weight for new role
Daily Mirror 13 August 1968 p.11: Leida quoted in snippet 70 guineas a week
Daily Express 28 February 1969 p.3: Lionel Bart leaves Henlow Grange after 2 days into 14 day stay because other guests complain about him humming into tape recorders to record tunes.
The Times, 18 April 1969: Advert for mature woman without ties aged 30 – 50 to manage Henlow Grange residential position
1970: Costigans research entire history of Henlow Grange, record and frame it in fine handwriting and mount at foot of main staircase. “Much of the material was gathered from the Reverend Howerd. It came from the church records and tombstones and partly from correspondence with Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester. Other sources were reference books that Mr Howerd recommended in Bedford Library.” (TSHG p.70)
1970: Rosina Everitt joins Henlow Grange as a 16 year old trainee hairdresser (TSHG p.106); Rosina remembers the pageants Leida organised “I’ll never forget one evening when the girl who was playing Miriam tripped and baby Moses (a doll) fell into the pool.”
“Slightly surprisingly, there were quite a few men there in Leida’s time. ‘Like the women, they were quite well off and came for a rest. SOme also wanted to lose weight. We had a men’s room where they could all sit. One of the men actually married a therapist although Leida never heard about it; relationships were strictly forbidden.'” (TSoHG p.108)
September 1971: 10th anniversary party held at Henlow Grange. Costigans bid for a house in the village, The Limes. (TSoHG p.73). On 25 November 1971, Ted “Budge” Burgess, Churchwarden of St Mary’s Henlow dies aged 53, having just recently assisted the Costigans to purchase The Limes.
Daily Mirror 30th September 1971: Leida Costigan joins Daily Mirror Slimmers’ panel for an article
11 June 1972: Savile makes a visit to Henlow Grange as per his BBC records (FOI from BBC)
Daily Mirror 7 February 1973: Chantal D’Orthez, model and daughter of Moira Lister and champagne importer spends a week at Henlow Grange to lose weight (n.b. separate note to follow up – Poulson Inquiry and Bar Council inquiry into Muir Hunter QC conduct when names given in court)
May 1973: Summer Press Ball, beauty students perform a Tableau of Beauty Through the Ages (TSoHG pp 74-75)
“Training students was a vital part of Leida’s work at Henlow. Several international exchanges took place as well as big events at the Grange itself.”
One such event was the Summer Press Ball in May 1973, when the students performed a tableau of Beauty Through the Ages. This involved months of research and costume-making, as well as sourcing and making props. Here is an account from Leida’s husband’s book:
“Was this the most sumptuous event Henlow Grange had ever seen? Guests were received in the main entrance hall and then were served cocktails in the Peacock Room. From here, they were escorted down to the Dolphin Room, where rows of chairs were arranged like theatre stalls facing the closed swimming pool curtains. After a brief introductory speech by Leida, she suddenly called ‘Open Sesame’ and the curtains were swept aside, revealing a completely dark stage around the swimming pool. A single spotlight representing the dawn, slowly grew in intensity and pinpointed Eve (Diana) just waking up beside the pool in a symbolic fig-leaf cloak; she was beautifully stretching herself, looking at her face in te water and stroking her hair with her fingers. The very first beauty treatments.
The red lights came on to represent the rising sun and the blue underwater pool lights then slowly came on to refelct the blue sku. As daylight came, all the stage lights came on one by one until the whole scene was fully lit, revealing all the stage furniture and treasures arranged around the pool.”
10 August 1973 The Times; advertising for an experienced beauty therapist
1973: Leida and her daughter Anne Costigan moves to Spain on a more permanent basis to establish spa abroad, still coming back to Henlow Grange
1974: St Francis Boys’ Home, Shefford closes
1976 – 1981: Leida now resides in Spain permanently?
Daily Express, 13 April 1976: Ann Cole reported as Director of Henlow Grange
Daily Mirror, Friday 30 April 1976 p.3: Edward Laxton reports residents at Henlow Grange threw a swinging party much to chagrin of resident Director, Ann Cole
1977/78: Wendy Mantle, daughter of convicted sadistic child abuser Jeffery Mantle is assaulted by Jimmy Savile while working at Henlow Grange as a chambermaid, aged 18.[Jimmy Savile molested me claims ex Henlow Grange chambermaid, The Comet ]
Daily Mirror 23 September 1978: Brisamer in Malaga has been established as a beauty farm already showing adverts giving telephone for Leida Costigan
The Times April 30th 1979: plug for Henlow Grange, mentioning Leida’s business in Spain
1980: Joe Costigan publishes his autobiography “Adventures of an Aircraft Designer” – still living at Henlow Grange to write it?; Officer cadet training ceases on April 24th at RAF Henlow. The station is passed to the Radio Engineering Unit.
1981: Bob and Dorothy Purdew buy Henlow Grange from Mrs Costigan
The Times Saturday 18 April 1981: Advert in The Times stating Henlow Grange back “once again under the personal of Mrs Leida Costigan” so for five years during Directorship it wasn’t?
Thursday 12 January 1984: 40 Minutes BBC2 documentary on Henlow Grange shown on TV
Daily Mirror 13 Jan 1984: Maureen Paton review of TV programme shown night before
1985: Sir Jimmy Savile opens the Savile Wing extension
Audrey said: “We thought he might be at The Grange as we knew he was a frequent visitor so we phoned the health farm and he was there, so we invited him to our celebrations. Mr Savile was very nice and said he would come along. He arrived on Sunday morning with two other men and agreed to be photographed with me and my husband. He stayed for a while, drew a poster for us and even made a donation”.
‘Mid-1980s’: Two Yemeni girls of 14 or 15 arrive (or ‘are delivered’), who are ‘clueless’ and there is no contact with their parents, only communication with a London doctor and they stay for 6 months, lose about 4 stone each and become fluent in English
“On another occasion in the mid-80s we had two teenage girls from Yemen delivered to us. A fleet of cars arrived with the pair of them and all their belongings. They were only aged about fourteen or fifteen and were really quite clueless so we had to look after their every need. Rosina became a kind of surrogate mother to them, even having to teach them about sanitary towels. I don’t know why they were over here , it was all very mysterious and whenever there were any problems or dramas we had to call this London doctor who acted as the go-between with their parents.
They ended up living with us for six months and it actually did them both the world of good. ” (LRC p.151)
1987: Bob Purdew retires from Quango (LRtC p159) he had been heading up
23 March 1988: BBC 2 Inside Story – Rosie Kendall reports on a 3 day stay at Henlow Grange
The Times 4 January 1989: Soaking up the pounds – Vivien Tomlinson speaks to a thin blond woman ‘one of the proprietors’ and finds her unhelpful and talking about skiing
The Times 16 May 1989: Lloyd Honeyghan, boxer takes up at Henlow Grange to train for a shot at world middleweight title
9 Jan 1990: Bob Purdew diagnosed with lung cancer
“His fear was the worst part. It was our friend Sir Jimmy Savile who once more came to our aid – or at least to Bob’s. Stephen had confided in him and arranged for another consultant to meet with Bob and me.”
Dorothy implies Jim fixed it for the new consultant to lie to Bob and tell him his cancer was curable, “It’ll take time but it will clear” (TSoC p.163)
They go on holiday coinciding with the Cannes Film Festival, but sadly Bob worsens.
“Once more Sir Jimmy moved things as only he can and he found a friend of his with a private plane to take Bob home. If only it was that easy. BUPA required a doctor’s clearance before he could fly and Sir Jimmy stepped in, contacting someone high up in BUPA who sent a doctor from Holland to examine Bob. I was impressed with this young man. He sat by Bob’s bed for three days and nights, checking his medication and feeding him.” (TSoC p.164)
“After three days the doctor delivered his verdict. A small private plane was not suitable for the journey home. It would be too uncomfortable for Bob. Instead BUPA arranged for six seats to be taken out of the business section of a British Airways plane to accomodate Bob’s stretcher. We had been there about 3 weeks in total – British Airways were kindness itself and did everything possible to make this journey as easy as it could be.”
May 1990: Bob Purdew passes away
August 1990: Ashby De la Zouch Springs opened by competitor
1991: Stephen Purdew first reports meeting Rebekah Brooks: ” I’ve known her since 1991. She was a journalist trying to do a story on [footballer] Paul Gascoigne and I got to know her really well. And I went to her wedding to [first husband] Ross Kemp, and I went on holiday with her and Ross.” [Stephen Purdew, Champneys Interview, The Guardian ]
1991: Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, in 1991 Springs purchased by Purdews; built by consortium in Midlands led by ex-financial director of competitors Ragdale; represented 15% market share at the time (but it had no customers?) (LRtC p.171-172) Stephen Purdew makes an appointment to view it when advertised in Financial Times as being in receivership
” He made an appointment to view on his way back from a day out hunting with the Meynell Hunt, of which Stephen was a member at that time (Prince Charles used to hunt with them and it was known for difficult countryside and jumps). ” (LRtC p.172)
A deal is negotiated, two sets of Birmingham lawyers sit round a table for 3 days:
“But finally after three days the deal was done. It was another odd purchase. Again there was no key and no cheque handed over but we had bought it. It was ours. We stayed the night and then in the morning we more or less handed the building over to a night porter and went home.” [ibid]
Fri 11 October 1991: BBC2 features Henlow Grange in a series on Health Farms
The Times 9 September 1992: 27 July 1992: Purdews win claim that formery employee Catherine seress-smith defamed them in a letter explainining to a social security adjudicator why she’d left her job
1993: BBC2 film a 40 minute documentary at the Grange – Beryl Downing, a travel writer from The Times, writes about it (TSoHG p.112)
1994: RAF Henlow was launched as a Defence Agency with the role of designing and installing ground and airborne electronic systems, such as communications and navigation aids. At this time the base supported 753 civilian posts and 818 servicemen with an annual budget of £41 million. (TSoHG, p.93). Purdews spend a £4m upgrade for a 25 metre half Olympic size swimming pool, a whirlpool, computerised gym, and separate sauna and steam facilities for men and women. (TSHG p.113)
The Times 2 August 1995: Oliver McCall stays at Henlow Grange before fight with Bruno
The Times 15 February 1997: Channel 4’s Cutting Edge is all about Henlow Grange
2001: In 2001 the Purdews briefly acquired Inglewood health hydro from agents of Saudi prince Mohammed bin Fahd. Six years earlier Inglewood had been the scene of allegations, published in the Guardian, that then defence minister Jonathan Aitken, a director of the spa, had tried to arrange girls for a Saudi prince and his entourage. The report led to the notorious libel action brought by Aitken ultimately culminating in his being sentenced to jail for perjury.
November 2002: Fire starts in the sauna (TSoHG p.86)
“Another programme of refurbishment begins – but in November, there is a serious fire which started in the ladies’ sauna. Henlow Grange is shut for six months and staff are found jobs in the other three Champneys spas: Tring, Forest Mere and Springs.” (TSoHG p.113)
2003: “Henlow Grange opens again after a major refurbishment. New facilities include a laconium ( a dry Roman heat room); additional treatment rooms; a rasul mud chamber; and a thalassotherapy pool. Luxury bedrooms are provided for Premier Guests and there is also a holistic studio, a herbal steam chamber and 35 treatment rooms. The wax bath becomes Henlow’s signature treatment. All the bedrooms are renovated and equipped with flat screen TVs and DVD players.” (TSoHG p.113)
July 5th 2003: Dorothy & Stephen Purdew hold a ball to celebrate the re-opening of Henlow Grange, at which Sir Jimmy Savile is the guest of honour.
Now then, now then, Sir Jimmy heads to the Royal Opera House [Telegraph, 23 August 2006]
Stephen Purdew, owner of celebrity health-club Champneys, is throwing a party at the Royal Opera House to celebrate 25 years of wrapping people in seaweed. Guest of honour will be his mother, Dorothy, with whom he bought his first health farm, Henlow Grange, in 1981. Two more followed until the pair bought Champneys in 2002. Among the 100-odd celebrities and royal guests invited are entrepreneurs such as John Caudwell, who has plenty of time to relax now he’s sold his Phones4U business, media bunnies Richard Desmond and Piers Morgan, and Purdew’s closest adviser, Sir Jimmy Savile. I hear the bank manager has also been invited, though an insider denies any corporate action is imminent. Still, the company has recently incorporated two new subsidiaries – Mayfair and Day Spa – which may indicate a face-lift.
2009: Dorothy Purdew publishes “The Story of Henlow Grange”
2009: Stephen Purdew gets married: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/18/champneys-spa-paul-stephenson-phone-hacking
“Rebekah Brooks was among the guests at Purdew’s wedding at Claridges in 2009, along with Liam Gallagher, Piers Morgan, soap actress Samantha Janus, Stephen Gately from Boyzone, a clutch of former Arsenal footballers, Frank Bruno and Jimmy Saville.
Reports at the time said Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, was also there, though his spokeswoman was not able to confirm that late on Sunday night.”
“Vaz’s daughter Anjali was a bridesmaid when Purdew, 52, married his longtime partner, blonde former model Isabele Cave, 30, two years ago.” [Sir Paul Stephenson Champneys Stephen Purdew friends high places, Daily Mail
Dorothy Purdew publishes ‘The Long Road to Champeys’ in 2011.
17 July 2011: Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigns over free 5 week stay at Champneys [Champneys Spa Paul Stephenson phone hacking, The Guardian, 18 July 2011]
11 August 2011: “The networker who made Champneys’ name: Spa owner Stephen Purdew likes to be generous to newspaper editors, sports stars … and sometimes policemen. They give the place a buzz, he says” [Stephen Purdew Champneys interview, The Guardian, 11 August 2011]
29 October 2011: Savile dies.
5th November 2011: :
”Jimmy was a regular visitor at Champneys health spa in Henlow, first visiting in the 1960s. He became a close friend of the owners, Stephen Purdew and his mother Dorothy. When a new bedroom wing was opened in 1985 it was named after him.
Stephen Purdew said: ‘He was a very significant family friend loved by everyone.
“Many people in the Henlow area will have very fond memories of this great man. My mother and I will miss him dearly.’” [Farewell to top TV Presenter, Biggleswade Today, 5 November 2011]
But despite scouring through the books I’m not so sure I’m any closer to answering the following questions:
- What was so important about Henlow Grange to Savile?
- Why no press reports of Henlow Grange during 1964? I must have missed some somewhere?
- Why did Joe Costigan get sacked from his job at De Havilland in 1966/1967 while working for Dornier?