Eleanor Campbell-Orde: Obituary

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The Independent Online
Eleanor Campbell-Orde possessed a striking beauty and a love of art which enveloped her in a wide circle of socialites, writers, painters, actors and dancers.

During her years at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, Eleanor Watts enjoyed friendships with Osbert Lancaster, John Betjeman, Stephen Spender, Christopher Hawkes and Evelyn Waugh, whose wife eloped with her boyfriend. To avoid an excess of male pursuit she left Oxford early, forsaking history and taking up art at the Central School of Art and Design. During this time she became engaged to the actor Valentine Dyall. A long engagement ended when she spent a year studying in Florence.

During the 1930s she became a pupil of the Georgian painter Prince Scherbachidze and Mikhail Larionov and assisted them in painting backcloths for the Ballets Russes at Covent Garden and in Barcelona. About this time Prince George Galitzine introduced her to Anton Dolin and they became lifelong friends.

Eleanor Watts was born in 1908, at Cheadle Hume, near Manchester. Her father, Humphrey Watts, conducted a family warehouse business in one of the most impressive buildings in Manchester, now the Britannic Hotel. Eleanor was educated privately, enjoyed a country life and on occasion hunted. The family traditions instilled in her a thirst for history which led to Oxford and thence to the arts.

In 1938 she married Sir Simon Campbell-Orde at St Margaret's, Westminster. He was at the Bank of England but did not like office work. They lived in London raising a family and spending long periods on the island of North Uist, which Simon had acquired, and by the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyllshire where the Campbell-Ordes had lived for centuries. During the Second World War, while her husband served with the Lovat Scouts, a mounted yeomanry regiment, Eleanor campaigned for the return of ponies stolen from North Uist.

After the war she became involved with the Arts Educational Schools (originally the Colne-Ripman) at Tring and for many years served on their board of governors, while her husband became a trustee of the Royal Caledonian Schools at Bushey, Hertfordshire. To raise funds he organised the annual Caledonian Ball at Grosvenor House as well as a huge sale at the London Scottish Drill Hall in East London - also annual.

In 1947 the Campbell-Ordes established a market garden at Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire and continued their patronage of worthy projects. Eleanor assisted Yehudi Menuhin in launching his school of violin-playing, and became Chairman of the Harlequin Ballet Trust, for whom she designed and painted some attractive decors. The family later moved to the Little Boltons in London, where they entertained in style.

Eleanor Campbell-Orde was a Christian Scientist like her mother and grandmother. She led a rigorous life and was never ill. Though diffident by nature and sometimes vague, she possessed a remarkable ability to be in command of situations. Integrity, dignity and charm were her shining virtues. She travelled the world and was interested in many cultures. In old age she painted and exhibited her watercolours in local exhibitions in Dedham, Essex, where she had built herself a house adjoining her daughter's residence.

Towards the end she became immobilised but her unquenchable spirit never flagged and she continued to keep in touch with the organisations that had been so much a part of her life.

Eleanor Hyde Watts, painter and charity worker: born Cheadle Hume, near Manchester 25 August 1908; married 1938 Sir Simon Campbell-Orde Bt (died 1969; two sons, one daughter); died Dedham, Essex 18 May 1996.