Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cheltenham Jill - The Talismen, Midland Beat - 1960's Girl In The Bertoia Chair

What is the mystery surrounding 'Cheltenham Jill' who models for her photo around 1967-8 sitting in a Bertoia wire framed chair?  Who is Jill with her big eyes and dark hair, framed in a photo of over 40 years ago?

Jill was born in the early 1940's and lived with her parents in a large Cheltenham semi-detached house, built around the turn of the century.  Her mother liked cooking and home making, whilst her father worked in the packing department of Sarco Spirax, then based on St George's Road, Cheltenham, a company which is still in existence today.

Jill enjoyed the music paper 'Midland Beat' which featured bands from the Midlands, many of them, still famous names of today and also local bands of the time, such as The Talismen, from Cheltenham itself, who can still be heard on YouTube. They feature in a 'Midland Beat' magazine from 1964.

Jill became a secretary and went to work in London, near Regent's Park, at the London Graduate School Of Business, as it was then called and wrote home to her parents on headed paper from the college, to 'Dear Mum and Dad', in one letter, from March 1967, mentioning that when term has been wound up she will be 'Back in Cheltenham in time for dinner'..

In another missive from Jill, to her parents, she encloses what she calls 'Jill and Roger's Wedding Pressie List', containing the colour scheme for her life with Roger and the articles she is looking for as wedding gifts. She also mentions in one of her letters, that the Finance Director who is her boss, is going to work for Beechams.

All details left in the discarded Cheltenham house, a calendar on the wall from 1995, showing the last signs of life.  Mum made jam and read 'Family Circle' magazine whilst Dad enjoyed Meccano and had been a member of the Automobile Association (AA) in 1966.

Who was Jill and did she ever marry Roger or did she die before this event could take place? The feeling is that Jill died not so long after this photograph was taken, whilst her mother died in the1980's and her father died around August 1995,leaving the house as an abandoned treasure trove of memories.  There was no one to claim the Cheltenham house, so it was left.  Presumably, a solicitor somewhere has the keys.

But what happened to Jill, a young woman with a vibrant life full of hope before her? In the 1960's, when King's Road and Carnaby Street were the most fashionable places to be, many young people from the provinces moved to London and made a life for themselves there as Jill did, obtaining work and settling down in their new environment.

People say Jill looks sad in her photo, depressed, even.  We don't know if she ever married Roger, because, if she had of done, he would surely have claimed the Cheltenham house, which belonged to her parents, as her husband.  Where is Roger now?

There are various theories about Jill, but no one as yet has been able to 'crack' the photo.  Jill holds all the clues and although the theories about what could have happened to her abound, including that she may have been taken advantage of by the 'wrong sort of people', in London and disappeared, no one knows for sure.  

Yet she remains an enigma, a mystery, a 20th century Mona Lisa, a summer portrait of modern history, sitting on a very fashionable, 1960's Bertoia designer chair, in her sun dress, posing for the photographer, her head tilted back slightly, to show off her dark hair, curled at the bottom, a fashion statement of the late 1960's.

If I was going to date this photo completely, I would say that it is not 1966 as the hair is slightly longer than the 1966 lacquered fashion style and by summer 1969 hair fashions were going a little bit softer than the pronounced roller curl at the bottom, so I would run with 1967-8, to be on the safe side.