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Jessie Matthews and the Brontosaurus

Probably best I explain from the beginning, Jessie Matthews was an actress, dancer and singer of the 1920s and 1930s, whose career continued into the post-war period. Following a string of hit stage musicals and films in the mid-1930s, Jessie developed a following in the USA, where she was dubbed “The Dancing Divinity”. The studio she was contracted to was reluctant to let go of one of it’s star performers, which resulted in offers for her to work in Hollywood being repeatedly rejected. After the decline of her film career, she achieved a comeback when she took over the role of Mary Dale in the popular BBC Radio serial Mrs Dale’s Diary.

A Brontosaurus is a big dinosaur.

A big Dinosaur

And what links these two rather strange bedfellows together? A pub in Soho called the Blue Posts.

Berwick Street Market Circa 1930

The blue posts sits at the entrance to Berwick Street Market and the pubs earliest mention comes in 1790, as a meeting place for the local Masonic Lodge while the market itself dates back to 1779. The market became famous for its foreign cuisine and “exotic” ingredients, like olive oil. There has been a Jewish presence in Soho since the 17th century, but the area changed when more Jewish people came to the UK in the 19th century to escape persecution. Many settled in Soho and Jewish community was formed. The area around Berwick Street Market became predominantly Yiddish speaking. More than 70% of all shops and stalls were owned by Jewish people in the 1930s.

The Blue Posts

Jessie Matthews was born into a large family in Berwick Street in 1907 above the Blue Posts. She made her name in theatre and in the 30’s was Britain’s favourite musical film star. Post-war her career flagged but in 1963 she got the title role in the long-running radio series “Mrs Dale’s Diary” and became a household name all over again.

Oh I nearly forgot, my favourite anecdote concerning the pub. The Blue Posts was once attacked by a marauding Brontosaurus. It’s true!

If you take a look on YouTube there is a film called The Lost World, made in 1925 it’s a silent classic made long before Jurassic Park, apparently the films animators used to be regulars in the pub. If you scroll through to about 1 hour five minutes and watch from there and you’ll see I’m telling the truth, honest.

During my research on the area I looked at Jessie Matthews’ life. Although we share the same surname, it would a wild leap to think that we had some type of family connection. Strangely however, I found that in later life she moved to and later died in the same north west London suburb as I was born and grew up in.

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