In 1996, when the Society was being reinvigorated after a period of inactivity, a very welcome boost came from a quite unexpected quarter. Having just agreed with Maldon District Council to occupy the old park superintendent’s lodge at a nominal rent, Maldon District Museum Association was also being reinvigorated after several dormant years, and the exhibitions officer generously offered our Society the use of a room for a permanent exhibition.
Joyce Allingham took a very keen interest in the Society and in the Margery Allingham Collection. Joyce’s help, her kindness and her friendship were essential to us. The same can be said of Gloria Greci, once Margery’s secretary and later Joyce’s. Barry Pike, Roger Johnson and Jean Upton put together the collection that is on display at the Museum, but without Joyce and Gloria it could not have been done at all.
Campion figure and Allngham portrait
There are photographs of Margery and her family – her parents, grandfather and great uncle (all writers), her brother Philip (Phil), sister Joyce and husband Philip (Pip) Youngman Carter – and of the lovely house that she and Pip shared in the picturesque village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy. First editions of her books are on display, along with translations into Italian, Portuguese, Czech and numerous other tongues. Pip Youngman Carter’s original artwork for the books, stills from the films The Tiger in the Smoke and Room to Let, and portraits of Margery’s famous detective Albert Campion hang on the walls.
“Tiger in the Smoke” statue
In a display case are her awards from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and from the Crime Writers’ Association. The eye is drawn first of all to Jean Upton’s portrait of Margery Allingham, while the thin, amiable figure of Albert Campion keeps watch. We are very grateful to Essex Police Museum who kindly provided the dummy that became our Mr Campion, and lent an assortment of criminal and constabulary relics.
There was a remarkable new exhibit for 1999 – the figure of the Virgin and Child that was made for the movie version of The Tiger in the Smoke. And thanks to Joyce Allingham there was something fresh for 2000 as well: a screen that came from her bungalow, or rather from the part of it that used to be her brother-in-law’s studio. Joyce made up the screen as a sort of scrapbook after Margery’s death. Every piece of paper in the collage is either a page of typescript from one of her sister’s stories, or a review of one of the books. Like the statuette, it is unique and irreplaceable.
Text and photos © Chris Willis
Footnote: Sadly the exhibition has now closed.