Tribute: Peggy Batchelor

Peggy Batchelor passed away peacefully 18 July at 4 in the morning, in Leicester, at the magnificent age of 103.

Peggy was the subject of a Local Face in October 2007, see which touched on her wartime experiences as a member of the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA), including spells in the Far East entertaining the Forgotten Army celebrated on VJ-Day, 15 August 2020.

This Tribute appeared on Facebook aimed at the Southend area where she was a major influence on speech and theatre for 30 years:

After working in Ealing with young people for a few years, in 1955 Peggy founded and remained Principal of the Ridley Studios in Leigh Road, Leigh-on-Sea, named in honour of her Guildhall Professor, Frank Ridley. For many, many years it was an establishment of excellence and its students a force to be reckoned with in local music and drama festivals. This was the era of elocution lessons and many of Peggy’s pupils wanted to speak the Queen’s English rather than Essex. Many pupils also found places in London shows and further afield. Later, her pupils discovered that she could also teach different accents. Her training as an actress was thorough and a facility with accents is always useful to someone who treads the boards. The theatre and entertainment industry are still well dotted with ex-pupils as actors and directors from the glory days of Ridley Studios.

As well as the work at the studios Peggy and her staff also ran the Ridley Theatre Workshop on a Friday night at Chalkwell Schools which produced experimental work as well as sell out shows once or twice a year at the Palace Theatre and later at the Cliffs Pavilion. She also established the first Children’s Theatre in the Borough. Its past students became teachers as heads of Drama at many local schools and some also became renowned adjudicators here and abroad.
When a young actress herself, Peggy was one of the first to be invited to join ENSA at the start of WW2, bravely agreeing and going off on a troop ship to she knew not where. She exhibited the same faith in the importance of the arts when as an external examiner for Guildhall she volunteered to examine drama students in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles.

She married retired Air Commodore Arthur Clegg on 1 September 1984 and moved to Wendover. After his death she returned to performance including voiceovers for monsters in Dr Who and appearing as old women in Casualty. Finally she became too frail to look after herself so she moved to be closer to her step-daughters.

Many who read this will have fond memories of Auntie Peggy and the Studios. If you would like to send them to he will ensure that they are forwarded to Peggy’s step-daughters Jennifer and Sue.