Though Norah Turner was born in a flat about a butcher's shop in Derby she was used to wealth by the time she was in her teens. Her dad owned a car showroom and there were servants at home. However when he suffered a nervous breakdown and threw himself from the ferry between Holyhead and Dublin things turned sour. The showroom business was sold and soon the money was gone through her mumís poor investment in pubs. This brief flirtation with poverty made Norah determined to never know it again. She was vivacious and beautiful and would only marry millionaires. There were three and the last one was a knight. Sheís better known as Lady Docker and here I am at the hotel where she died alone with money running low.
Aged 18 Norah left home for London to find fortune. This happened quickly as she soon met her first husband London's in Cafe de Paris where she was a hostess. He was the boss of a wine and spirit merchants (and already married) and struck by Norahís striking looks and a perkiness. They set up home in Maidenhead and over the years a son and daughter were born (the latter dying a nine months old.) Her husband died and aged 40 and Norah married his friend who was the boss of Fortnum & Mason and 69. He soon died and quite quickly she married wealthy Sir Bernard Docker who was chairman of Birmingham Small Arms, Daimler and a director of the Midland Bank, Anglo-Argentine Tramways and Thomas Cook and Son.
For the next thirty years the gossip columns crackled with tales of their colourful life. Lady Docker loved publicity and lapped up the thousands of squares miles of newspaper and magazine articles about her wanton spending. Sir Bernard commissioned a series of Daimlers to be built to her wifeís specifications (they're now in museums) One had zebra skin upholstery because Lady Docker said "Mink is too hot to sit on." The Press loved her due to an undeniable charm and sense of frivolity. After the monochrome post-war years they seemed to forgive her anything. The Dockers were the reality superstars of their day, dripping in wealth and glitz. Not many weeks passed without The Dazzling Dockers reaching the newspapers. At parties they rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy, Marilyn Monroe, Ian Fleming, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. They had holiday homes all over the world and a yacht anchored off the Riviera. Having a trim figure and bonny face was one thing but Lady Docker had †the common touch. In 1954 after a visit to a coal mine she invited several of the miners to a champagne party on the Dockers' yacht Shemara where she danced the hornpipe. She won a marbles championship at a charity event while wearing a sequin dress and diamonds.
As Sir Bernardís health declined she appeared less in front of the Pressís camera bulbs. Sir Bernard was sacked from his chairman role at BSA for spending company money to fund his own luxuries. In the Sixties the couple moved to Jersey to escape the taxman. In 1978 Sir Bernard died and Nora moved to Majorca, often flying back to the UK to visit her son. As money was getting low she moved into the Great Western Hotel in Paddington and lived there for a few months. At the time it was a downmarket hotel and a bit budget for her. One Sunday morning in December 1983 the 77-year-old socialite was found dead in her room. It was sad and lonely end for a woman who was once seemed to have it all.
It was difficult to get a good photograph of the hotel as the street was built-up and busy. I did a salute to a bit of glitz well-needed in austere times and then left.
Claridge House in Mayfair where the Dockers had once lived (behind the famous hotel)...
The Dockers liked their play toys...