Iris Murdoch Deemed Top Pick for Next Chiswick Blue Plaque

Author was former resident of Eastbourne Road

Dame Iris Murdoch. Picture: BBC

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The competition to nominate a Chiswick author for a blue plaque has been won by Jill Apperley, a former English lecturer who proposed Dame Iris Murdoch. The Booker Prize-winning author was brought up at 4 Eastbourne Road W4, where her parents lived for almost 30 years.

The competition was launched after English Heritage turned down Burgess’s home in Glebe Street W4 for a second time. That decision was debated at the Chiswick Book Festival last month, by a panel including Anna Eavis, curatorial director of English Heritage, who administers the blue plaques scheme.

In her entry, Jill wrote,“Iris Murdoch: philosopher, academic and one of the most original and influential novelists of her generation. Undoubtedly one of the iconic literary figures of the twentieth century.”

She was one of three people to nominate Iris Murdoch, including Alex Houseman, who now lives in the Eastbourne Road house, and entered after reading an article about the competition.

He submitted Murdoch’s name to English Heritage last year and has been told that she has been shortlisted for a plaque, though not necessarily on her Chiswick home. The author’s third proposer, Susan Dani, wrote, “Iris Murdoch of course. (If she hasn’t already got one.) She has had an enormous influence on me and many of my generation.”

“We were delighted to learn that Iris Murdoch is already in the running for a blue plaque” said Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, who chaired the judging panel. “The reason we chose Jill Apperley as the winner was not just her succinct, yet comprehensive, entry but also her detailed research into Murdoch’s life in Chiswick, published earlier this year.”

The Eastbourne Road house in which Iris Murdoch lived
The Eastbourne Road house in which Iris Murdoch lived. Picture: Google Streetview

Jill Apperley wins a first edition of Devil of a State by Anthony Burgess, donated by Stephen Foster of Foster Books, another member of the judging panel (together with Bridget Osborne, editor of The Chiswick Calendar).

Two entrants, Guy Fairbank and Roger Squire, were jointly chosen as runners-up for their nominations.

Guy Fairbank, a Blue Badge guide who organises the Festival’s Chiswick Writers Walks, suggested, “Geoffrey Household (1900-1988), 29 Strand-on-the-Green. Rogue Male author and former banana salesman, Household lived in Strand from 1949 to 1954. While there he once roasted a whole deer on Oliver’s Eyot for the Coronation!”

Roger Squire wrote: “I nominate my Grandfather Sir John Squire (1884-1958) for a blue plaque. He lived at Swan House, Chiswick Mall W4 2PS with his family from 1913 to 1925. Poet and Man of Letters, who edited the London Mercury for nearly 20 years, sharing the work of well-known writers and young writers often giving them their first opportunity to be published.”

A new biography of Sir John (JC) Squire by John Smart is being published this week by Troubadour Publishing. The publishers write: “J.C. Squire (1884-1958) was, amongst many other things, a poet, journalist, editor of the New Statesman and the best-selling magazine the London Mercury. He was both loved and detested, Evelyn Waugh satirised him in Decline and Fall. Lytton Strachey called him ‘that little worm.’ T.S. Eliot was an implacable foe, but he enjoyed the friendship of Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, and ruled the roost over literary society for the best part of twenty years”.

Two other strong nominations were ruled out as ineligible.

Robin Knight, a former competition winner, wrote: “My suggestion would be John Osborne (died 1994). No idea where he lived in Chiswick, but his historical importance in the English theatre is undeniable – ground-breaking social realism in its era (mid-1950s to mid-1960s).”

Colin Lavelle wrote, “I wish to nominate Harold Pinter for a blue plaque in Chiswick as he lived at 373 Chiswick High Road and it is reported he wrote The Caretaker whilst living there.”

Responding, Torin Douglas said, “Osborne and Pinter are two of Chiswick’s greatest writers and feature prominently in our Writers Trail and Chiswick Timeline of Writers & Books.

“Osborne lived on a houseboat in Cubitt Yacht Basin and in May this year was commemorated with a blue plaque at his previous address in Caithness Road, Hammersmith. Pinter does not yet qualify because English Heritage plaques can only be awarded 20 years after the subject’s death – but we very much hope he will be celebrated this way when that time comes.”

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October 19, 2021

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