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Meet Belita, iconic skater and holywood star

NISA Historian Elaine Hooper introduces female ice skating icon, Belita Jepson-Turner

 

The 1930's was a golden age for British skating, with British World Championships in men's and ladies' form.

 

It was also an age of elegance in ladies' skating.  One of the most elegant was the enigmatic Belita Jepson-Turner, who was one of the few that were known simply by a first name. She featured regularly in the society columns as just Belita.

 

She was not only a successful skater but also a ballet dancer and a Hollywood actress. I was excited when Ryan Stevens told me that he was writing the story of her life, as I really wanted to know more about her.

Wanting to discover more and to take some photographs for Ryan I made the short drive to her childhood home in Nether Wallop (the location of St Mary Meadows in the Joan Hickson version of the Miss Marple TV series).

 

Save for the closure of the shop and pub very little could have changed since Belita and her brothers were brought up in a local country house. The brick and white-washed thatched cottages still line the narrow winding streets.

 

The friendly local people are well aware of their once famous resident, and tell that she still brings visitors from abroad to this small Hampshire village.

 

One of the village ladies took the opportunity to show me around the village and to the grounds of the ancient church to view the Jepson-Turner family grave.

 

She also suggested that I would be warmly welcomed if I went to the house, which is still in the family.

 

I was slightly nervous as I drove along the very long driveway to the house, but as predicted I was warmly received by the husband of Belita's late nice. 

 

He treated me to afternoon tea while recounting anecdotes of his wife's aunt, who he said enjoyed behaving outrageously.

 

He showed me round and explained that the rooms and furniture were very much the same when Belita and her brothers played in them, and ran wild in the large, well-kept grounds.

 

He suggested that I walk around and take photographs to pass on to Ryan and left me with tales of Belita's last few years, heartbroken following the death of her husband.

 

Ryan has had access to first hand material for his work and I look forward to reading it.

 

Elaine Hooper

NISA Historian

June 2017

 

To read the life story of Belita, click here.