Wednesday 22 November 2017

Actress Felicity Kendal: being 'a goer' is in my genes

Felicity Kendal
Felicity Kendal

Sam Marsden

FELICITY Kendal has said being “a goer” is in her genes after discovering her great-grandmother was thrown into a workhouse for becoming pregnant.

The actress is still best known for playing goody two-shoes Barbara Good in The Good Life, but admits she has “been around the block” and had affairs when she wanted.

She suggested that if she had lived in the 19th century she “would have been in the same boat” as her mother’s grandmother, Mary Liddell, who gave birth to her tenth child in the workhouse in 1891 after being thrown out by her husband for adultery.

Kendal, 66, who discovered her family’s dark secret while researching a television programme, said her ancestor was “absolutely a goer”.

"I really do believe there are things passed down. Behaviour, not just DNA. Psychological make-up. You can see it in dogs. If you want to breed a calm dog, don't get two fighters,” she told The Sunday Times.

The actress found out that her great-grandmother had raised nine children with her husband, John, in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, over 18 years of marriage.

But her affair led to her being banished to the workhouse, where she may have been forced to wear a yellow and black striped outfit to mark her out as an adulterer.

After giving birth to her tenth child, Albert, Mrs Liddell got a job as a maid for a few years by claiming she was a widow.

However, it appears that after the 1901 census revealed that her husband was still living down the road, she was sent back to the workhouse, where she had a second illegitimate son, who later died aged 18 months.

Kendal compared her great-grandmother’s treatment to the way that her personal life was publicly discussed in great detail when she left her husband for Tom Stoppard, the playwright, in the early 1990s.

“What we've come from is covering up everything we don't like the look of - send it to the workhouse, banish it away - so we can pretend we're all proper people,” she said.

“Now, we are at the other extreme. 'Ooh, look what she's done, look what he's done, how naughty!' We've gone to the other extreme of wanting to wash everybody else's knickers in public. We've turned it too much on its head.”

- Secrets from the Workhouse starts on ITV on Tuesday at 9pm.

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