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Stage and screen actress

Dame Flora Robson in 1970

Doyenne of the British stage

After WWII. many stage and screen actors and actresses came to live in Brighton.. Among them was Flora Robson, doyenne of the British stage and screen for many decades. Flora was an actress renowned as one of the great character players, and one of Britain’s theatrical grandes dames. She was born in South Shields, Durham, England and made her stage debut in 1921.

Character roles

Lacking the glamorous looks of a leading lady, she specialised in character roles, notably that of Queen Elizabeth I in both Fire over England (1937)

Dame Flora Robson plaque

and The Sea Hawk (1940). At the age of 32, Robson played the old Empress Elizabeth in Alexander Korda’s Catherine the Great (1934). Although she had great film success in Hollywood, it was the stage which was her first love.

Made a Dame in 1960

She was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1952, and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1960, an award which was partly for her charity work, largely unnoticed, which she carried on until her death, often for small and rather obscure charities rather than the grand ones which would have given her more publicity. She was also the first famous name to become President of the Brighton Little Theatre.

Well loved locally

Never showy or stuck up, Dame Flora was well loved in her adopted town. She lived in Marine Gardens during the sixties and seventies when she was still active on the stage. Later she moved to Wykeham Terrace near the Clock Tower, and seldom turned down an invitation to open a fete or garden party in aid of charity. She was also a regular bingo player when the Hippodrome in Middle Street was owned by Mecca Bingo.

Wykeham Terrace


Comments about this page

  • My auntie Betty (now 91 and living in Cornwall), lived a few doors away from Flora Robson when Wykeham Terrace was not quite so salubrious as it is now. I believe Flora lived with her sister, but was fairly low-profile whilst there, and just a nodding acquaintance. Probably more anxious to get to Mecca rather than chat!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (29/07/2012)
  • Dame Flora is an unlikely part of a trio of people who have two blue plaques in B&H as well as a bus named after them! All contemporaries … but imagine a dinner party conversation between Sir Winston Churchill, Max Miller and Dame Flora!

    By Geoffrey Mead (29/07/2012)
  • Flora is 46 years older than me but ever since I saw her in ‘The Seahawk’ I thought she was tall and beautiful, and still do. God bless Flora.

    By Craig (18/12/2012)
  • When I was 7 years old, my sisters and I presented Dame Flora Robson with some flowers at a local Community Centre, We were dressed in ballerina outfits and ballet shoes. We can’t remember who arranged this but there were a lot of people in the hall. I didn’t have any photos of this, but would have loved to have had some; all I knew at the time that she was a really famous lady.

    By Ann (10/02/2013)
  • I used to work in the main Post Office in Brighton. Dame Flora Robson always came to my queue – she said she liked talking to me as I always had a big smile, which she appreciated!

    By Simon Hastings (26/06/2013)
  • One Sunday morning when in my teens in the early ’60s, I was on my way home from a night out. I went into a little shop on the corner of Bedford street for something or other. As I was paying for my goods in popped Flora Robson in her dressing- gown, slippers and big curlers. She was very charming and said good morning to us. There was a little chit- chat – about the weather probably – and off I went. She then came out of the shop and disappeared down a little alleyway toward the seafront. A pleasant surprise for me. I was used to seeing film stars around my area like Larry Olivier and Michael Wilding and a few others whose names escape me. 

    By Mick Peirson (27/06/2013)
  • I found out a couple of weeks ago that Dame Flora Robson was my Great Grandfathers Sister. I now see the Robson resemblance (we are a complicated family) but it’s truly wonderful to now know, at the same time a pity to not have known her when she was alive.

    By Rochelle (14/08/2019)
  • How thrilling, Rochelle. I once served Dame Flora when I was a catering student. The college in Pelham Street had a restaurant to which the public was admitted, and students undertook the cooking and service. I remember Dame Flora wore bright green with a very striking hat.

    By Janet Beal (14/08/2019)
  • When I was on school holidays as a teenager in the 1950s I worked as an extra postman during one Christmas period and Dame Flora Robson was on my postal route in Chalfont Heights. She was always very charming when I had to ring her doorbell with a parcel (which were many) and on Christmas Eve she gave me a huge Christmas bonus of 10 shillings. Another actress on my route was Phyllis Calvert, also generous with her tip.

    By David Bowley (06/12/2019)
  • I’m related to Flora through my mom, she also looks just like her! Weirdly enough my moms name is Laura. Wish I could have met her!

    By Missy (09/05/2020)
  • My grandmother was Dinah Robson who was a sister to David Robson.

    By Darlene (14/02/2021)

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