So what have Robert the Bruce, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton and the Titanic in common with this Benfleet artist and poet?
(Marjorie) Elizabeth Hayklan (Nee Cochrane) was born in 1900, (a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce), and was educated at the North London Collegiate School for Girls, where she met and became life-long friends with the authors Marjorie Allingham and Stella Gibbons. Her talent however lay in the field of art. Rather than take up a place at the Royal Academy, she opted for the London Polytechnic, where in her first year she was awarded the Industrial Arts prize for design.
Other claims to fame include lunching with her parents at the Captain’s table aboard the Titanic, the day prior to sailing and being on Hitler’s death list should an invasion have been successful.
“Jeri” of the Daily Sketch
She was the creator of the first pocket cartoon, “Impossible People,” and composed a daily cartoon for the Daily Sketch under her pen name “Jeri”, between 1922 and 1942. She produced over 5600 cartoons, of which a selection were published in book form (“Impossible People”) in 1938.
Later Artistic Life
She later earned her living as an illustrator and from commissions for both portraits and landscapes. A founder member of the Estuary Group, she exhibited at the Royal Academy and other leading galleries.
Personal Life in Benfleet
In 1933 she married Michael Hayklan and had six children. From about 1954 she lived in “The Old House,” a five bedroomed, black-boarded house, reputed to have been built by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn and later visited by Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. At the turn of the 19th/20th century it was purchased by another artist, the Austrian, Peter Paul Hupner.
In 1971 Elizabeth, often referred to as Mama Hayklan, offered to sell the house to the council, hoping that they would use it as a museum, library and meeting place. The noise of traffic in the station carpark was no longer conducive to her painting and she feared the possibility of listed status, which might reduce its value. The house was demolished to make way for the bottom exit of the station car park.
Michael Hayklan is listed in the telephone directories for 1970 and 1971 as living at 85 High Street, which was the postal address for the Old House. Previously the family had lived in “The Terrace” when they were railway worker’s cottages. Coincidently it was Stefan, Elizabeth’s elder son who replaced them with the current houses. Later Stefan was to win an architectural award for the design of the houses built in the grounds of the Old Vicarage in Vicarage Hill (where else !). Elizabeth died in Norfolk in 1995.