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Mapperley Says Farewell To Actor Peter Bowles

Mapperley can proudly lay claim to the career of actor Peter Bowles, who died recently at the age of 85. Bowles was best known for the hugely popular sitcom ‘To The Manor Born’. He made a success of playing the posh villain or the cultured cad. He played characters that were suave and charming but which hid either nastiness or a wide-boy underneath.

Local historian Brian Binns told us about Peter Bowles’ Mapperley roots.

‘Sad to hear of the death of actor Peter Bowles, most famous for his role in the TV comedy series To the Manor Born. Peter’s family moved to Nottingham when he was six years old. He attended Mapperley Plains School and then High Pavement Grammar School, where he was introduced to literature and drama by English master Stanley Middleton (our Booker Prize winning novelist). Although 7 years before my time at High Pavement, I know from “The High Pavement Society” that he was very proud of his Nottingham education.’

How did Nottingham produce this archetypal British gentleman? Here’s a summary of what the Guardian news site said about him.

Even off-stage Peter Bowles was always impeccably dressed in pronounced pin-stripes and high, starched collars. This was a result of his background. Both his parents were in domestic service, but only, as they used to say, ‘to the quality’.

Bowles was born in Northamptonshire near Banbury, the only child to Sarah Jane (nee Harrison) and Herbert Bowles. Herbert was valet to Drogo Montagu, son of the Earl of Sandwich. Sarah was nanny to Lady Jeanne Campbell, Lord Beaverbrook’s granddaughter, whose mother married the Duke of Argyll.

No wonder Peter learnt how the aristocracy talk and behave. He learnt from his parents.

In 1940, the Bowles family moved to a two-up, two-down (with outside lavatory) in Nottingham, where Herbert now worked for Rolls-Royce.

The Guardian confirms that Peter went to High Pavement Grammar School where he showed an aptitude in school plays. Like two former pupils, Philip Voss and John Turner had done, he entered the acting profession, securing a scholarship at The Royal Academy of Dramatics Arts in London.

At Rada, Bowles shared a flat with Albert Finney, who went on to play the role of Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night Sunday Morning. Bowles was also at Rada with Peter O’Toole, Richard Briers and Alan Bates.

Bowles made his professional debut in Julius Caesar at Nottingham’s Repertory Theatre in 1955. Their shows were at the old Playhouse, in the building at the junction of Goldsmith Street and Talbot Street. The following year, Bowles landed a part in Romeo and Juliet, playing in London and New York.

He was taught by Nottingham author and teacher Stanley Middleton. High Pavement Grammar School was then on Gainsford Crescent, off Arnold Lane in Bestwood.

Middleton lived not far away in Sherwood. There is even a plaque to remember him on his house at 42 Caledon Road.  

In 1980, Middleton talked about Peter’s days at High Pavement Grammar School.

This was for the TV programme This is Your Life that celebrated Peter Bowles life and career and Middleton talks about him at 9m 45s.

Peter leaves his wife of over 60 years, Sue, and their three children, Guy, Adam and Sasha.

Thanks for being part of our history Peter.

The full Guardian News obituary is here

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