The Daily Telegraph
"Bindy" Lambton, who died last Thursday aged 81, was the wife of Lord
Lambton, the former Conservative Minister, and a favourite subject, because
of her large-boned and angular beauty, for portraits by her friend Lucian
Born Belinda Blew-Jones on December 23 1921, Bindy - as she was always
known - was the daughter of Major Douglas Holden Blew-Jones, of Westward Ho,
a tall, handsome officer in the Life Guards with size 24 feet. Her mother,
Violet Birkin, was one of three daughters of the Nottingham lace king, Sir
Bindy dearly loved her father, but her relationship with her mother was
never close. Violet Blew-Jones drank too much, and proved a bad mother. She
abandoned the infant Bindy to the care of her beloved aunt, Mrs Freda Dudley
Ward, who was shortly to become engaged in a secret romance, conducted
throughout with the utmost discretion, with the then Prince of Wales (a
lesson which Bindy never forgot).
As well as being passionately fond of her Aunt Freda, Bindy idealised
Freda's daughters, Angie and Pempie Dudley Ward, and strove to be as
beautiful and popular as these two dazzling paragons; Angie married
Major-General Sir Robert Laycock, the Second World War commando leader,
while Pempie went on to become a famous actress and the wife of Sir Carol
Reed, the film director.
Bindy had no education, since she was expelled from 11 schools for various
wildnesses, only one of which is recorded - that of putting a bell-shaped
impediment under the headmistress's piano pedal.
Right from the start, however, Bindy's extraordinary individuality, handsome
good looks, high spirits and original wit began to attract an army of
life-long admirers. When she was 18 she met and married Tony Lambton, son of
the fifth Earl of Durham, and embarked enthusiastically on married life.
After producing her first daughter, Lucinda, she was told by many eminent
doctors on no account to have more children; but Bindy bravely produced four
more daughters, and the family moved to Biddick Hall, a perfect red brick
Queen Anne house on the Lambton estate in County Durham.
Having endured a rather sad, precarious childhood, Bindy Lambton was
determined that her own children should enjoy a perfect idyll. All her
fantasies of the ideal were brought into play, with lavish Christmases,
birthday parties, ponies and horse shows; later there were trips around
Britain and the Continent in a 50ft caravan, drawn by a Land Rover with
Bindy Lambton at the wheel, and often Lady Diana Cooper as second driver.
Blackpool illuminations were an annual treat, and to ensure privacy at
beauty spots she trained her army of children to fight and be naughty, to
see off the other tourists. Stately mansions, unused to caravans, were not
spared these visitations; but, because it was Bindy Lambton, all gates were
opened and all arms outstretched.
In the early 1950s Lord Lambton entered politics, as MP for
Berwick-upon-Tweed, with the backing and encouragement of Bindy. They
acquired a haunted Georgian house in Mayfair, 11 South Audley Street, which
Bindy Lambton furnished with notable good taste, and where the couple led a
glamorous life, providing her with the opportunity to give free bent to her
genius for lavish entertainment.
Never a martyr to the humdrum, Bindy Lambton created a fairyland of
joyousness which few could resist. The list of friends and admirers was
endless: Ari Onassis, Judy Montagu, Nancy Mitford (who described Bindy as
"blissful"), David Somerset, Jai and Ayesha Jaipur, Richard Sykes and also
such American illuminati as Jock and Betsy Whitney, Babe and Bill Paley,
Stash and Lee Radziwill, David O Selznick and his wife Irene, Jack and Drue
Heinz, Paul Getty and even Bing Crosby. All fell under her spell.
It was at this time, too, that she posed for the famous portraits by Lucian
Freud, with whom she watched the racing every afternoon on a flickering
black and white television set.
She also entertained generously at Biddick Hall, with a famous shoot and
wonderful food prepared by Berta, the cook, while lions and leopards which
the local butcher kept in the gardens roamed the bedrooms. Then, in 1961,
the longed-for son and heir Ned arrived.
Shortly thereafter the shadows began to fall.
First there was Bindy Lambton's go-karting accident, resulting in badly
shattered legs which had to be pinned together bone by bone by a
ground-breaking surgeon who was so frowned upon by the British medical
establishment that Bindy Lambton had to discharge herself from hospital to
be treated by him at the Dorchester Hotel. Then, just as her legs healed,
she drove into the path of a lorry on the A1.
This time virtually every bone in her body was broken, and she was not
expected to survive. But with characteristic fortitude she pulled through.
Encased in plaster like an Egyptian mummy - in which state she was
affectionately sketched by the great New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams -
Bindy Lambton was confined to a wheelchair for almost two years, which
probably laid the foundations for her arthritis and extreme lameness in
In 1966 she bought 58 Hamilton Terrace, a house suggestive of an Odeon
cinema built by Aunt Freda in the 1930s. Here Bindy installed a
butterfly-shaped swimming pool and created a beautiful garden. But the
family was never happy in this house.
Her marriage to Tony, perhaps under extreme pressure from the years of
infirmity, was beginning to disintegrate.
For a while it looked as if Bindy Lambton might follow in her mother's
footsteps, but her strength of character, unquenchable high spirits and zest
for life pulled her through, and she moved on to the final phase.
In 1970 her husband, who had succeeded as the 6th Earl of Durham, gave up
the peerage to retain his Commons seat. But two years later he resigned as
Under-Secretary for Defence in the Heath Government following a call-girl
scandal, and went to live in Italy.
Bindy Lambton moved to 213 Kings Road, formerly the home of her cousin
Pempie Reed. Here Bindy Lambton found a new lease of life, attracting
legions of friends and admirers from new generations: Shimi Lovat, Leigh
Bowery, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, and, most importantly of all, in her
later years, the musician Jools Holland and his entire big band.
She also became adept at deep sea diving, initiated into that dangerous
sport by the Olympic medallist, Vane Ivanovic. After watching her deep sea
diving off the Barrier Reef, the American conservative publicist, William F
Buckley jnr, wrote: "I have never met a braver man than Bindy Lambton acting
as bait for sharks."
In her last years, almost entirely blind and totally crippled, Bindy
Lambton's joie de vivre remained undimmed. So assiduous was her attendance
at Jools Holland's concerts that, at one point, he invited her in her
wheelchair to sit next to the guitarist on the stage at Newcastle City
Hall - for all the world as if she were a paid-up member of the band.
Although her attendances at Durham Cathedral services were less frequent,
these too could be notable. One recent Bishop is unlikely to forget how,
after an Easter Sunday service, Bindy Lambton followed him down the aisle in
her wheelchair, with headlights blazing, cheerfully proclaiming "Christ is
Bindy Lambton never wished to be thought of as "eccentric", for she always
strove to be - and imagined herself to be - a pillar of respectable society.
Her cheerfulness survived to the end.
In hospital on the day of her death, just before being given a morphine
injection, she amazed both the doctor and nurses by singing and acting out a
favourite 1940s song:
Cocaine Bill and Morphine Sue
Strolling down the avenue two by two.
Won't you have a little sniff on me,
have a sniff on me.
Those were her last words.