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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Lady Docker

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monuments to Lady Nora Docker and Felicity Callingham, St James The Less Churchyard, Stubbings, Pinkney's Green, Maidenhead Berkshire.

The term 'Lady Docker' is also used in a derogatory way in the north of England, to describe a woman who has pretensions to be of high station but who in reality is anything but.

Nora Royce Docker nee Turner was born in Debry, Derbyshire on 23 June 1906 in a flat about a butcher's shop to Sydney and Amy Turner nee James. Sydney, a mechanical engineer was a self made man who after beginning his working life as a shopfitter for ther chemists Boots, eventually invested in motor cars, setting up his own showroom in Birmingham.

Sadly in 1922 when Nora was 16 years old, her father suffered a nervous breakdown and commited suicide by throwing himself from the ferry between Holyhead and Dublin.

- "The Turners had to sell their car showroom and release their servants. Amy Turner invested in a pub – the Three Tuns at Sutton Coldfield – but Norah found it so difficult to adjust to her new life that she could not bring herself to work behind the bar.

She was even more dismayed when her mother decided to leave the thriving business to invest in another pub – this time the Swan Hotel at Tenbury Wells. This business quickly failed and the Turners were forced to return to Birmingham, now in financial difficulties.

This brief flirtation with poverty made Norah determined never to experience it again. Just before his suicide, her father had made her promise that she would take care of the family, should anything untoward happen to him."

In 1924 aged 18 Nora left for London to seek her fortunes and became a dancer at London's fashionable Cafe de Paris. It was here that she meet her first husband Clement Callingham, head of Henekeys wine and spirit merchants. They soon set up home in Maidenhead, despite the fact Clement was waiting for a divorce from his estranged wife. In 1938 when Nora was 32 they married at Chelsea registry Office. In 1939 their son Lance was born and later joined in 1943 by their daughter Felicity.

Tragically Felicity was to pass away at the tender age of nine months old. Her resting place is directly behind that of her mother.

In July of 1945 Clement Callingham became ill and shortly after passed away.

A year after the death of her first husband Nora married his friend Sir William Collins, President of Fortnum & Mason. He too passed away in 1948.

Nora was married a third time in 1949 to Sir Bernard Docker, chairman of Birmingham Small Arms, Daimler and a director of the Midland Bank, Anglo-Argentine Tramways and Thomas Cook and Son.

Unfortunately due to their excesses and as Nora felt, the attentions of the press and paparazzi, the couple were not well liked.

Bernard passed away in 1978 and Nora moved to Majorca, yet she frequently visited England and her beloved son Lance.

In December 1983, Nora was discovered dead in her room at the Great Western Royal Hotel in London. She was 77 years old and she had lived life to it's fullest.

She now rests peacefully in a small Berkshire village churchyard along with her daughter and two of her three husbands. Almost forgotten.

For more Taphophile Tragic posts, please stop by Taphophile Tragics Blog.


  1. How ironic, then, the expression 'Lady Docker' as used in the North of England. Over here we use 'Lord & Lady Muck', but I thought that was originally British.

    I guess her life did stumble from one disaster/tragedy to another. However, she did seem to keep her eye to the main chance as far as marital unions were concerned.

    Lance was a smidge taciturn with his inscripton. However, I admire the font and the sculpting on his mother's headstone. i also like the flowers/animals on the headstone of his baby sister.

    I do hope that Lance was not infected with his mother's pretensions.

    Now to go and try to link up with you on FB ...

  2. SHe was a woman of many means or maybe I should say many men.... glad that she found her way out of poverty, and had happy memories!

  3. Another socialite made more famous for her behaviour than her goodness!
    I wonder if there was more to 'the family' than just her and her mother (and if she did indeed look after her mother once she had moved up in society)?

  4. What an interesting post. We humans are so funny, aren't we? And never funnier than when we put on airs...

  5. Rather ironic that a larger than life character has such a simple gravestone.

  6. What a roller coaster life! In some ways she reminds me of "Lady" Paris Hilton! Strange that her loved son Lance features but not her mother or any other relatives.

  7. Was the derogatory term of Lady Docker for her? I bet she was pleased!

  8. This should be a movie starring Joan Crawford. Or the latter day equivalent. Interesting reading. Hadn't heard the term "Lady Docker" but will keep my ear out for it. Can't think of an American version except maybe "Miss High and Mighty" which is a pretty dated.

  9. This post and the story of Nora is made all the more interesting by the "Lady Docker" slur. Was it her life that started it? I don't begrudge people (women or men) raising themselves out of poverty by any means, but it's perplexing when they then think it's license to look down on others. Nouveau riche aren't that well liked anywhere, are they?

  10. A super interesting post. Thanks for finding more info on this lady! She will not be forgotten today.

  11. most interesting post! And I learned a new word!

  12. I'm not familiar with the term "Lady Docker," but I was fascinated by the story of this woman.

  13. yes, i also wonder whether lady docker is after her?
    never heard that before!

  14. This is a blast from the past. My fav Lady Docker stories were where she turned up in the limousine in fur coat to the World Marble Championships and won to the anger of the working class girls and her "war" with Prince Ranier of Monaco, he had them both banned from the entire Riviera when she tore up a Grimaldi Flag.
    Is Lance still alive?
    Thanks for this post.


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