Joyce Allingham was born at Layer Breton in Essex and educated at Chelmsford and Cambridge. She went on to have a variegated career as a secretary for the American publisher, Doubleday, in London; as assistant to her brother Philip, who made his living as a travelling cheapjack; as a photographer; as a breeder of show dogs; and as business manager and later director of the company administering her sister’s work. During the Second World War and for some years after, she served with the Wrens, in Africa and Singapore. In recent years she became an ‘angel’ for West End shows, investing money, partly for the fun of the gamble but also from a sincere desire to support new ventures in the theatre.
When the Margery Allingham Society was founded in 1988 by Pat Watt, Joyce was both delighted and alarmed: the former for obvious reasons, the latter because she was essentially a private person who did not seek the limelight. Despite her fears for her privacy, she gave us her blessing and, as time passed, came to value the Society and appreciate greatly its work in keeping alive her sister’s reputation. She gave us every support and eventually became our Patron.
Two things in particular gave her great pleasure: the plaque on D’Arcy House, Margery Allingham’s home in the Essex village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, and the exhibition of her sister’s work in the museum in MaldenMalden, the neighbouring town.
Unveiling the plaque at D’arcy House, 20 May 1992
Left to right: The owners of D’Arcy House,
Pat Watt, Joyce Allingham
The plaque was mounted on D’Arcy House on 20th May 1992, which would have been Margery Allingham’s own 88th birthday (and was Albert Campion’s 92nd, he being exactly four years older than his creator), Joyce arranged an alfresco champagne party in the D’Arcy House grounds, where the plaque was unveiled before being placed on the house. The village attended in force and Joyce gave an excellent speech to the assembled company. When the Maldon Museum committee broached the idea of an Allingham exhibition as a permanent feature, Joyce again played her part nobly. She contributed generously to the cost of setting up the display room and she provided much of the material that went on show. At the time of her death, she was the Museum’s Patron.
© Chris Willis
Joyce was a true villager, keen to promote the welfare of Tolleshunt D’Arcy and its people (in the tradition of Margery Allingham, who did so much for the village during the war). She planted a wood as a permanent memorial to her sister and her famous creation, naming it Mr. Campion’s Wood. Latterly, she lived in a bungalow adjacent to D’Arcy House.
Joyce Allingham died in hospital in Colchester on 29th March 2001, after a short but severe final illness. Her last appearance at a Society event was at Mr. Campion’s 100th birthday party in May 2000, when she charmed all who met her and contributed greatly to the success of the occasion. She was a true friend to the Society and we are much in her debt. She will be greatly missed.