Partner Vera Sargent

Queer Places:
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, 62-64 Eton Ave, Belsize Park, London NW3 3HY, UK

Gwynneth Thurburn (1899–1993), by  Patrick Edward Phillips (1907–1976) Gwynneth Loveday Thurburn "Thurbie" (July 17, 1899 - March 20, 1993) was a Central School of Speech & Drama teacher. She was the Principal Central School of Speech and Drama from 1942 to 1967. Her companion of more than 50 years was Vera Sargent. 'Sarge' was her Registrar and strength during her years as Principal.

Among her students were Robert Helpmann who went to her for help when he moved from dancing Hamlet to playing the role, and several other Shakespearian parts, at Stratford-upon-Avon (she regarded him as the most conscientious and assiduous pupil she had ever had), and Laurence Olivier also sought her help when, as Director of the National Theatre, he took on the immense challenge of Othello and was able to add several notes to his voice.

For 48 years, first as a student then as teacher or principal, Central was her life. But whereas the school's founder, Elsie Fogerty, had been a constant presence through Thurburn's first three years as Principal, when Thurbie retired, she retired absolutely.

She and Sarge retired to the Suffolk village of Darsham; Sarge organising meals on wheels and creating a garden packed with roses - with a bit raised to table height at which Thurbie could sit and weed after the second of the accidents that incapacitated her last years.

When the great storm of 1987 tore down a loved tree and the ladies realised in a rush that the house had become too much, they moved into Leiston Old Abbey, where they were able to keep a few books and pieces of furniture in the sitting-room overlooking a mournful but splendid kitchen garden.

She died Leiston Suffolk on 20 March 1993.


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