Jacqueline Du Pre and Margot Fonteyn former home


Running off the bottom of Hyde Park in London are quiet streets full of mansion blocks and houses. I went to look for a house with a blue plaque with two names on it - ballerina Margot Fonteyn and cellist Jacqueline Du Pré. They both lived there but at separate times. I found the correct street but was surprised to see a security lodge and barrier at its neck. Though Knightsbridge is expensive I didn’t think it was exclusive. Could I walk down the street? I posed this question to the security guard who was foreign and didn’t understand me - nor what a blue plaque was. I showed him a photo of a plaque and he allowed me to walk down the street, adding “but you must stay in my view all the time.”


I found the house near the bottom of the dead-end street. In 1975 it was owned by world famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn. She was living in another part of London and it was empty. That year she visited New York and heard that cellist Jacqueline was there too. At 28 Jacqueline had when struck down by multiple sclerosis and was America to see if she would ever get out of her wheelchair. Three weeks of tests revealed she’d never walk again nor improve. On returning to the UK she was almost completely paralyzed and put into hospital. When Margot returned to London she heard the bad news and offered the ailing genius and her husband her house. Margot knew all about paralysis as her husband was paraplegic having survived an assassin’s bullet.


The house was modified - a ramp outside the front door of the house and a lift fitted inside. Jacqueline and her husband moved in but found the place wasn’t wheelchair friendly. Jacqueline couldn’t get into the lift on her own and the kitchen tops were too high (meaning she burned herself.) As time passed she couldn’t stand unaided, dress herself, cook meals or travel freely.  A full-time nurse was installed though Jacqueline preferred to be alone. I don’t know how long she lived here but she died 12 years later aged 42 in another part of London.


I found the mews house in a quiet courtyard (leaving the sight of the security guard who was watching me.) Years ago it was probably occupied by staff who serviced a grand adjoining house. Nowadays these houses are worth millions of pounds but they were once a mishmash of servants quarters, blacksmiths and stables. I was expecting someone to come out of the house as I took photos but nobody did. It can’t have been fun for Jacqueline living here. She visited the doctor daily and a physiotherapist a few times through the week but knowing privately she was doomed.


Before I knew it my reverie was over. The panting security guard had followed me down the road and wasn't happy. "I told you not to go out of my sight!" he reprimanded but I'd satiated my appetite and got some photos. I'm not sure why the street was fronted with security. What's down there - an MI5 safe house, a member of Royalty? I'm not sure. The Consulate General Of Turkey is down there but surely that doesn't warrant such security. I did a salute and left.