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So Long, Rodney Archer

November 22, 2015
by the gentle author

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of Rodney Archer – one of Spitalfields best-loved residents – yesterday morning at St Bartholomew’s Hospital where he was admitted on Friday

Rodney Archer, the Aesthete of Fournier St

When I first met him, Rodney Archer kindly took me to lunch at E.Pellicci, but – before we set out – I went round to his eighteenth century house in Fournier St to take this portrait of him in front of his cherished fireplace that once belonged to Oscar Wilde.

One day in 1970, Rodney was visiting an old friend who lived in Tite St next to Wilde’s house and saw the builders were doing renovations, so he seized the opportunity to walk through the door of the house that had once been the great writer’s dwelling. The fireplace had been torn out of the wall in Wilde’s living room as part of a modernisation of the property and the workmen were about to carry it away, so Rodney offered to buy it on the spot.

For ten pounds he acquired a literary relic of the highest order, the fine pilastered fireplace with tall overmantle that you see above, and which became a shrine to Wilde in Rodney’s first floor living room in Fournier St. You can see Spy’s famous caricature of Wilde up on the chimneypiece, but the gem of Rodney’s Wilde collection was a copy of Lord Alfred Douglas’ poems with pencil annotations by Douglas himself. Encountering these artifacts in this environment – that already possess such a potent poetry of their own, amplified by their proximity to each other – was especially enchanting.

Rodney allowed the patina of ages to remain in his house, enhanced by his sensational collection of pictures, carpets, furniture, books, china and god-knows-what, accumulated over all the years he lived in it, which transformed the house into three-dimensional map of his vigorous mind, crammed with images, stories and all manner of cultural enthusiasms. In Rodney’s house, anyone would feel at home the minute they walked in the door because the result of all these accretions was that everything arrived in its natural place, yet nothing felt arranged. It was a relaxing place, with reflected light everywhere, and although there was so much to look at and so many stories to learn, it was peaceful and benign, like Rodney himself. Yet Rodney’s style can never be replicated by anyone else, unless you became Rodney and you could live through those years again.

Rodney made his home in London’s most magical street in 1980. It came about after his mother fell down a well at The Roundhouse and broke her hip while visiting a performance of “The Homosexual (or The Difficulty of Sexpressing Yourself)” by Copi in which Rodney was starring. It was the culmination of Rodney’s distinguished career of just eight years as an actor, that included playing the Player Queen in Hamlet at the Bristol Old Vic in a production with Richard Pasco in the title role and featuring Patrick Stewart as Horatio.

After she broke her hip, Rodney’s mother told him that her doctor insisted she live with her son, much to Rodney’s surprise. Gamely, Rodney agreed, on the condition they find somewhere large enough to live their own lives with some degree of independence, and rang up his friends Ricardo and Eric who lived in Fournier St, asking them to keep their eyes open for any house that went on sale. Within three months, a house came up. It was the only one they looked at and Rodney lived there happily ever after.

Thirty years ago, Spitalfields was not the desirable location it is today, “My mother thought I was joking when I told her where I wanted live,” declared Rodney to me, raising his eyebrows, “Now it would nice if there were more people living here who were not millionaires. I visit people in houses today where there are ghosts of people I used to know and the new people don’t know who they were, it’s sad.”

Rodney’s roots were in East London, he was born in Gidea Park, but once his father (a flying officer in the RAF) was killed in action over Malta in 1943, his mother took Rodney and his sister away to Toronto when they were tiny children and brought them up there on her own. Rodney came back to London in 1962 with the rich Canadian accent (which sounded almost Scottish to me) that he retained his whole life, in spite of the actor’s voice training he received at LAMDA which imparted such a mellifluous tone to his speech. After his brief years treading the boards, Rodney became a teacher of drama at the City Lit and ran the Operating Theatre Company, staging his own play “The Harlot’s Curse” (co-authored with Powell Jones) in the Princelet St Synagogue with great success.

“When I retired, I decided to do whatever I wanted to do,” announced Rodney with a twinkly smile, at that point in his life story. “Now I am having a wonderful third act. Writing about that time, my mother, the cats and me…” he said, introducing the long-awaited trilogy of autobiographical fiction that he was working on, in which the first volume would cover his first eight years in Spitalfields concluding with the death of his mother in 1988, the second volume would conclude with the death of  his friend Dennis Severs in 1999 and the third with the death of Eric Elstob. (Elstob was a banker who loved architecture and left a fortune for the refurbishment of Christ Church, Spitalfields.) “There is something about the nature of Spitalfields, that fact becomes fiction – as you become involved with the lives of people here, it gets you telling stories,” explained Rodney, expressing a sentiment that is close to my own heart too.

Then it was time for lunch and, as we walked hungrily up Brick Lane that day towards Bethnal Green in the Spring sunshine, the postman saluted Rodney and, on cue, the owner of the eel and pie shop leaned out of the doorway to give him a cheery wave too, then, as if to mark the occasion as auspicious, we saw the first shiny new train run along the recently-completed East London Line, gliding across the newly-constructed bridge, glinting in the sunlight as it passed over our heads and sliding away across Allen Gardens towards Whitechapel. “This is the elegant world of Rodney Archer,” I thought.

Turning the corner into Bethnal Green Rd, I asked Rodney about the origin of his passion for Wilde and when he revealed he once played Algernon in “The Importance of Being Earnest” at school, his intense grey-blue eyes shone with excitement. It made perfect sense, because I felt as if I was meeting a senior version of Algernon who retained all the wit, charm and sagacity of his earlier years, now having “a wonderful third act” in an apocryphal lost manuscript by Oscar Wilde, recently discovered amongst all the glorious clutter in a beautiful old house in Fournier St, Spitalfields.

Rodney in his study

Rodney and his cat Fitzroy (portrait by Chris Kelly)

Rodney played Edward II for the Save Norton Folgate Campaign

Rodney sings ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ at Pellicci’s Christmas Party (portrait by Colin O’Brien)

Rodney – “I come to Pelliccis every Wednesday and Saturday. On Wednesday I am the gay mascot for the Repton Boxers and on Saturday we bet on the horses.” (portrait by Colin O’Brien)

You might also like to read these other stories about Rodney Archer

A Walk With Rodney Archer

Rodney Archer’s Scraps

The Seven Ages of Rodney Archer

At 31 Fournier St

76 Responses leave one →
  1. Ros permalink
    November 22, 2015

    So very sorry to hear this news. I really enjoyed the few occasions I met Rodney whether in the street or hosting an event at his house, as well as in his recent role as Edward II. He was always kind and good-humoured, and you have written a fine tribute.

  2. Erica W. permalink
    November 22, 2015

    My condolences on the loss of your friend. I enjoyed reading about him in the past on Spitalfields Life and seeing photos of his home.

  3. Richard permalink
    November 22, 2015

    So sad to hear about Rodney who I have met only in these pages. Condolences to you GA.

  4. November 22, 2015

    He will be sadly missed, a great character and a good friend to so many. a man with heart and understanding, and a fine sense for art. Valerie

  5. November 22, 2015

    Oh Rodney, I’m so very sad to hear of your passing. I have so many lovely memories of your wonderful teaching at City Lit and our catch ups in your favourite cafes and your magical home on Fournier. May you rest in peace beautiful soul. Love Jo Crilly x

  6. linda salter permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Had privilege of being in the house and buying a small piece of silk weaving pattern. I feel I should voice thanks. RIP.

  7. Desmond Auguste permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Very sorry to hear this news,such a lovely man used to really enjoy our conversations about acting and life,my condolences to his Sister and all his family and friends R.I.P Rodney Archer.

  8. November 22, 2015

    Rest in Peace dear Rodney Archer.

    I am so very grateful that I came to know you, came to enjoy the loveliness of your charming eclectic abode and to witness – in all of its splendor – the remarkable fireplace and mantelpiece once loved and leaned on by Oscar Wilde ~ All of these things (and more) through the words and pictures that our Gentle Author shared with those of us in different distant places upon the globe. ~ So now, in my mind’s eye, I am sure I can see Mr. Wilde welcoming you – with a most urbane and eloquent toast – as you make your first grand entrance into Act One of your new life.

  9. Sonia permalink
    November 22, 2015

    So very sad to hear this news. Such an interesting man who always had time for a chat should you meet him walking around Spitalfields.

  10. November 22, 2015

    This is so very very sad. I last saw Rodney a month or so ago at Spitalfields Market as ever he was on fine form- well and joking and teasing as ever, what very sad and sudden news.

    We first met when we had our Gallery in Columbia Road, became friends with Rodney and when we moved the Gallery to Burnham Market in Norfolk we made (as often as possible) a weekly trip to Spitalfields Market on a Thursday to see the antiques and see Rodney.
    We shall miss our chats over a cup of coffee in his little kitchen lit by gaslights. Rodney was one of those people you meet in life who was extraordinary in every way – he was perhaps one of the last great characters of Spitalfields a generation who transformed the area- oh how i wish i had been around during this time. This is a life of joy taken away from us so suddenly, I am shocked and sad. RIP

  11. November 22, 2015

    Dearest Rodney
    A good friend and neighbour we have known for 25 years, a lovely man, all our family will miss you, your warmth, character and good cheer.
    You have gone to your happy hunting grounds Rodney, one day we shall join you, with all our love we will live our lives with some of your extraordinary spirit.
    A quote from Robert Frost,”the woods are lovely dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”
    Rodney we love you, we will not forget you.
    Thank you TGA for your tribute you capture him well…

  12. November 22, 2015

    This is the saddest news. Such a wonderful, clever, witty, generous, puckish, kind-hearted man, Rodney you will be sorely missed . So long lovely friend x

  13. Andrew Plume permalink
    November 22, 2015

    and me too, very sad news

    I briefly (and it was very brief) met Rodney last year when his garden (and that of others) were open as part of The NGS

    needless to say, I wouldn’t have both met him nor visited the other gardens without your blog post on here


  14. Jude permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Sad news today! I only met Rodney for the first time in July so the news took me by surprise. Am sure he was a bit of a character and no doubt willed be missed throughout the area. X

  15. November 22, 2015

    You will surely feel the loss of such an engaging neighbour. The way you have written about him over the years, leaves a deep impression of a man of authentic bohemian sensibility, who was able to find peace and contentment in the not so narrow streets of Spitalfields. .

    Rodney’s house looks amazing, a treasure trove of cultural artifacts. Whoever moves in next could never represent the spirit of the area in such unique way but I hope they will be neither too rich or too bland and that they will bring a little magic of their own to your unique and rather special part of London.

  16. Vicky permalink
    November 22, 2015

    This is such a shock. I’ve only met him on a few occasions and he was always extremely friendly with that big smile of his and I went away feeling uplifted. Recently, during a quiet moment helping out in his kitchen at an event in his home he listened to my telling of a recent tragedy. In other circumstances this would not have told but he was such an empathetic person it just came out. He thanked me for sharing saying it a brave thing to do. It wasn’t me being brave, it was Rodney being, well, just Rodney.

  17. Pat permalink
    November 22, 2015

    So Sorry to hear this news. I believe I saw him when, we were joining hands for Norton Folgate.

  18. November 22, 2015

    What sad news — and so unexpected. I’m sure there will be a torrent of tributes to this lovely and charismatic man. I had the great pleasure of meeting Rodney several times, and I can sincerely say that his warmth and wit shone through, making me simply happy to be in his company. He will be sorely missed.

  19. Patricia Celeveland-Peck permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Really sad news and so unexpected. Rodney was so much part of the Spitalfields we love that it is almost impossible to imagine that we won’t see him again. He was one of those people one wants to be around for ever. We only met him a handful of times – mainly to talk about his beloved garden – but he had such charm and humour that we, Dennis and I, thought of him as a friend. He will be missed by many

  20. Buzz permalink
    November 22, 2015

    A wonderful tribute to a very interesting man. I remember visiting his house a few months ago.

  21. November 22, 2015

    From Trevor Newton, Curator, 31 Fournier Street:

    The extraordinary, wonderful and unique house which dear Rodney created over the course of a third of a century is a sad place today. As he said of its magical interiors, ‘it takes years to build up the atmosphere of a place, but only half an afternoon to get rid of it.’

    With poignant irony, tomorrow was to have seen the official launch of our splendid new website showing the house in all its current glory and maturity. Please visit the site, enjoy the words and pictures, and remember dear, kind, warm and witty Rodney Archer, the undisputed King of Spitalfields.

  22. November 22, 2015

    So sorry to hear about Rodney. I enjoyed reading about him on your blog. My condolences to you, Gentle Author.

  23. November 22, 2015

    I never met him. But I knew him well through Spitalfieldslife. I think we’ve lost a Special Person, an Aesthete, a Collector, a Lover of Beautiful Things. — Mr Rodney Archer R.I.P.

    Love & Peace

  24. Mark Webb permalink
    November 22, 2015

    I never met Rodney or indeed had never heard of him until I read this charming and moving eulogy for him today. Now I feel doubly sad knowing that now I never shall.

  25. Max permalink
    November 22, 2015

    So sad to hear. I knew Rodney from his years at City Lit. And even though he left many years ago, his optimistic, dramatic and warm character will always be missed. Always full of life.

  26. Tanya permalink
    November 22, 2015

    A beautiful post about a man who played an important role in my early life. I was one of Rodney’s students at the City Lit in the 1980s. It was a golden period of fun and theatre then. And I remember we visited his house on Fournier street, not long after he had moved in. It seemed like a very bold step to live there at the time. Turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for him. And thanks for all the other posts you’ve written about Rodney. I’ve enjoyed them all.

  27. November 22, 2015

    I have read the blogs on Rodney from here, though I only met him once, very briefly when I did a quick painting of his house.

    He was polite and kind to me, also very decent to an elderly homeless women keeping me company while I worked.

    I promised myself I would go back to hopefully run into him again. Sadly that’s not going to happen.

  28. November 22, 2015

    Condolences to the Gentle Author, and to Trevor Newton, curator.

    I only met Rodney Archer because of the wonderfully-detailed entries here on the blog.
    You captured his joy so well that I couldn’t resist following all the past entries about him.

    I have shared this sad news with some friends here in Toronto–(imagine how enriched Toronto would have been had Mr. Archer remained here!)

    Lucky folks who actually met ‘the King of Spitalfields’! May his joy live on.

  29. acadarchist permalink
    November 22, 2015

    A lovely eulogy G.A. My condolences to those that knew him, and it`s sounds like they were all the richer for it. RIP Rodney.

  30. Jackie Keith permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Adding my condolences, I was similarly moved by your articles and the messages here. Thank you GA for bringing this remarkable man into our lives with your remarkable pen portraits.

  31. Kate Majid permalink
    November 22, 2015

    What sad news. I had the pleasure of meeting Rodney several times at the exhibitions held in his wonderful home. It was a privilege to visit such a remarkable place and share in the history he created at Fournier Street. Such a warm man who welcomed people into his home and took the time to chat and share an amusing story. I will remember him with fondness.

  32. Milo Bell permalink
    November 22, 2015

    I didn’t get to meet Rodney but every day i am away from London i miss the characters i used to meet and i despair i’ll never find them again.
    In a world where it is being forced upon us to be more suspicious of each other when we would – naturally – want to cling together the death of non judgemental, smart and charismatic…character is very much to be mourned.
    Plus, he was (and IS) an actor. I’ve never met an actor i didn’t love.

  33. November 22, 2015

    What sad news your post today contained. I felt that through your blogs I knew him and was so pleased that I met him and his cat only this year at his garden open day. He seemed a gentle soul and was happy for me to look at his lovely home. What a great character of Spitalfields I am sure that Fournier Street will not be quite the same without him.

  34. Georgina Briody permalink
    November 22, 2015

    I am so sorry to hear of the sad passing of Rodney. I met him for the first time this year when he opened up his garden for the public to see. As I was leaving, he was sitting on the stairs and asked if I would like to see what was behind the door. I said yes and could not believe the sight of Huguenot silk safely framed. I had hoped to visit his home with a NZ friend,Sue, in the summer but it was cancelled at the last moment. The last time I saw him was at the dedication of the Huguenot tiles, I never thought for one moment he was ill. I feel so fortunate to have met him.

  35. Kendra Natoli permalink
    November 22, 2015

    Tears running down my face as I write, having just opened my email. OH, Gentle Author, so grateful you’ve profiled Rodney so prolifically. He was my acting teacher for the year I spent in London in 1978-79, and it was from him that I first learned to respect my own uniqueness and not worry what others think. He was demanding, harsh sometimes, but always encouraging, asking us to dig deep inside ourselves, and use that as a fount of conviction in all we did on stage – and even in life. I had last visited him in 1997, sharing his homemade Shepherd’s pie in his lovely home. He was as brilliant as always. I’ve so enjoyed keeping “up” with him through your posts; he and I had shared letters for quite a while, and I still have them, scrawled in his strong, distinctive hand.
    But life got in the way, and I unfortunately let our one on one communication lapse. I’ve been happily thinking all this time he would live to a ripe old age. I’m so very glad he was able to use his third chapter of life to create and surround himself with people and causes and art so meaningful to him. He was an artist through and through. He truly was unique, and I’m so much richer for having had the opportunity to meet him and work with him, be inspired and encouraged by him. He was gifted. I hope he was with friends and family during his last days/hours. Please, can you update us if Rodney was sick, or was this something sudden?
    Bless him and thank you again for sharing. Rodney, love you always!!! KN

  36. Pauline Taylor permalink
    November 22, 2015

    What a truly special man Rodney must have been, and although I was never fortunate enough to meet him, I feel so sad after reading all the tributes paid to him here. My condolences to all his many friends and especially to you gentle author. May he rest in peace.

  37. November 22, 2015

    Oh I’m sorry to hear he has died.
    I met him because of you GA, like another reader I bought some of the lovely silk weaving patterns, what a nice man he was.
    Many condolences to you and his other friends and neighbours xx

  38. Julie Jordan permalink
    November 22, 2015

    From the other side of the world, can I please add my condolences, to those closet to him & his community. Through this wonderful blog I feel I have come to know Rodney & am greatly saddened by his passing.

    Adelaide, South Australia

  39. November 22, 2015

    So sad to hear about Rodney. I have been to 31, Fournier Street a few times. One of the most amazing and interesting homes – he was such a gentleman and one of life’s wonderful and dignified characters. I will very much miss him and his beautiful home.

  40. November 23, 2015

    Sunday September the 6th this year was the first time I had visited Rodney Archer’s amazing house in Fournier Street and the last time I saw Rodney.
    In December 2012 Rodney sang ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ to an enthusiastic audience at Pellicci’s Christmas Party. The photographs I took of him that day will always remind me what a gentle and generous man he was.

  41. Haydn Spicer permalink
    November 23, 2015

    So sad to hear this. I would often see Rodney at Spitalfields Market on Thursday mornings searching out beautiful and interesting objects. A “one off” whom will be missed by many.x

  42. Victoria permalink
    November 23, 2015

    Rodney’s unique gift of finding a person’s soul remained with me ever since we met first time around at City Lit in the 90s. And earlier this year I was fortunate to be reacquainted with him and that despite the passing of time, I once more felt the warmth that radiated from him, the razor wit, the compassion, the nurture and his unfaltering commitment to Spitalfields. He was to so many, the dearest and most treasured of friends. The loss of RA is a personal chasm that over time will heal, a little. I am among the most privileged to have known Rodney.

  43. Nick permalink
    November 23, 2015

    Thanks for this. I knew Rodney when I was a student on the two year acting course at the City Lit with Rodney and Powell Jones teaching – I didn’t know of his life in Spitalfields and was fascinated to read this. Sad to hear he’s passed away.

  44. Alice Radosh permalink
    November 23, 2015

    I first met Rodney when he came to visit his Brooklyn family. He was dearly loved by his sister, Elayne; brother-in-law, Cliff; nephew, Carlo; and niece, Dana. Visiting him in London a few years ago and getting the full tour of his house and neighborhood was a highlight of my trip. A wonderful man.

  45. Annie S permalink
    November 23, 2015

    Sad news.
    What a great character he was and I’m sure never forgotten by those who knew him
    RIP Rodney.

  46. Viky permalink
    November 23, 2015

    Really sad, I’m sorry never to have met him but pleased to have read the interviews posted here. Very best wishes xx

  47. Thierry permalink
    November 23, 2015

    Only knowing Rodney a few years it was a privilege and a constant source of a smile to see him walking into the shop. A peice of London has died with him.

    A loss for everyone who knew him but far greater for those that didn’t. I’m sorry I’ll never get to have a conversation with Rodney again but crying happy tears that I got the chance.

  48. mark phoenix permalink
    November 24, 2015

    Rodney taught me at the City Lit and later I became a teacher alongside him. A lovely man, humorous and an inspiration to many. He shared his passion with wit and a twinkle in his eye. He will be sorely missed.

  49. Andrea Murphy permalink
    November 24, 2015

    Although I only knew Rodney through your posts about him, G.A., I feel saddened and a little shocked to read of his passing. Thank you for telling us about him. Condolences to all who knew him.

    Andrea Murphy
    Ottawa, Canada

  50. Juliet Prague permalink
    November 25, 2015

    I’m really shocked and saddened to read this. I knew Rodney from City Lit where he was my manager, although he managed with a very light hand. He felt more like a wise friend who guided and listened and learnt as much from me as I from him. I visited him a couple of times in his amazing home and always meant to go round again whenever I was in the area. How foolish of me not to make that effort.

  51. John Perkins permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Very sad to hear of Rodney Archer he was a great teacher and had a compassionate heart and a great character
    Rest in Peace dear sweet Rodney.

  52. Wendy MacLeod permalink
    November 28, 2015

    “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
    ― Oscar Wilde

    Rodney was my teacher many years ago when I was an American student in London. He and Powell were unfailingly generous, yet persistent. They challenged me not to observe and comment on a character but to live within it. Although I’m now a playwright, not an actor, I continue to challenge myself in this way.

    I’m so grateful for these photos—how I remember that particular tie of the scarf! Rodney was one of the most handsome men I have ever known.

  53. Gill Evansky & Nell Brown, National Garden Scheme permalink
    November 28, 2015

    We met Rodney whilst searching for gardens in Spitalfields to open for the National Gardens Scheme some years ago. We managed to persuade him that his garden would be a wonderful addition to the Spitalfields Gardens Group, and he rewarded us by being a kind and welcoming host and generously giving of his time to the visitors, explaining the history of the house and introducing in time another lovely garden to the group. We always found him charming and gracious, and usually with a funny anecdote to tell us. We are so grateful for his support and enthusiasm and we shall miss him so much. It was a pleasure to have known him.

  54. andrew plume permalink
    November 29, 2015

    details of Rodney’s service are here:

  55. Brenda Foulds permalink
    December 3, 2015

    Such sad news. I knew Rodney for many years while working at City Lit. He was a good friend and I will remember him for the fun and laughter we shared. A very kind and lovely man.

  56. Marnie Sweet permalink
    December 5, 2015

    I’m very sorry to hear of Rodney’s passing. I wonder what has happened to his beloved black cat and his cherished Wilde mantel.
    Will his house become a museum?

  57. December 5, 2015

    Such a sad loss of a vital, wise and wonderful man.
    I have great memories of being taught by Rodney ten years ago, a very cathartic time in my life. A time of great healing, fun,confidence building and meeting and making life long friends that I met whilst being taught by him. I will always be grateful for that time and was totally in awe at Rodney’s unbelievable memory and creative mind.
    Thank you and go well on the next part of your journey.

  58. Duncan Chapman permalink
    December 7, 2015

    So sad to hear this.
    Rodney was one of the most wonderful people I have met.
    Such a generous and beautiful spirit that will be missed by so many people.

    I have great memories of recording his house for “Spitalfields Speaks”.

    R.I.P Rodney

  59. December 7, 2015

    Darling, darling Friend….
    …enchanted moments shared for nearly 30 years…. best most luminous of times spent at Fournier st…nibbling lunches that lasted light-years… we shared the same birthday..I was so smitten and had a crush on you from the very first moment…
    ..So cross with myself; though you and I would talk this through…last time we met you said ” We should do this more, shouldn’t we…?” and somehow a year passed… but we will do it more; won’t we darling, Rod? More and More and Always and Always…. We’ll trip the light fantastic…. I know we will, so many thoughts to be discussed, stories to tell, ideas to be mulled over, we’ll have more chats; I love you forever
    Diana xxx

  60. Marco M permalink
    December 8, 2015

    I knew Rodney over a period of time when we both worked at City Lit. A nice, lovely man and a fascinating character. I distinctly remember his contagious smile and positive attitude to life after all these years. Very sad to hear the new.

  61. Philip B permalink
    December 11, 2015

    I’m saddened by this news. I worked with Rodney for nine years at City Lit and recognised a true professional, both as an actor and a wonderful dedicated teacher; plus a kind and caring person. One special recollection is from when I had once mentioned I was holidaying in Malta with family. Rodney told me about his father having been killed in WW2 and that his name was on a war memorial in the centre of Valetta, but Rodney had never got there to see it. I found the memorial and took a video to present to Rodney when I got home. Rodney was moved to tears when he saw it. Farewell to a good person. Thank you for a wonderful obituary to him.

  62. Philip and Pete permalink
    December 15, 2015

    Dearest HotRod ….for all those times you made us cry with laughter after some flirtatious remark about our attire or the firmness of our labourers buckets, or the fanciful eyebrow raising stories you would weave about friends and neighbours as we chatted on the street. You were, and always will be, one in a million. A sweet soul and a perfect gentleman, you are very sadly missed. The street just won’t be the same without you. PnP xx

  63. Victor Gardener permalink
    December 31, 2015

    My very dear friend ,I’ll miss you deeply thank you for inspiring me and being my champion.

  64. anthony murphy permalink
    January 9, 2016

    So sad to hear of your parting. We enjoyed great and memorable times together. We always will remember to our dying days the all-encompasing parachute that you protected us with when you directed us in a production of THE CHANGELING at the CITY LIT circa 1976.

  65. Astrid Richardson permalink
    January 10, 2016

    Darling Rodney, such a charismatic, warm and inspiring teacher and friend.

    I was just about to get in touch after many years but sadly it is too late now. What a sad loss.

    I will try even harder when performing in his memory.

    ‘All that remains of us is love’

    So long,

    Astrid Richardson
    Class 1999 City Lit 2 year Drama Course

  66. Jason Dowler permalink
    January 14, 2016

    I am so very sorry to read this sad news just now. A treasure trove of golden memories rises up and my eyes fill with tears of fond remembrance and of the joy of having known Rodney – and Phyllis too – in my Spitalfields years [1983 to 1988] when John Gaze and I restored and lived at 37 Fournier Street, just a few doors away. After I left in July 1988 John stayed on for another two or three years.

    Rodney and Phyllis were such wonderful friends and neighbours and I shall always cherish the times we spent in their excellent company. Although our paths occasionally in the following years, either at funerals or elsewhere by design or chance, I never forgot him or any part of those years. I do not know what inspired me to send him a birthday card last summer for the first time in over 25 years but I am glad that I did.

    Gentle Author, you have written such a beautiful and moving tribute to dear Rodney which, together with all the other touching memories shared above and the wonderful photographs, is so affecting. Thank you so much.

  67. John Watts aka Paul Hellyer permalink
    January 18, 2016

    It happens all the time, then you regret it and it’s too late: I lost touch with Rodney soon after he and I were at University of Toronto (I hailed from the UK and returned there to theatre school) in a production of the two-act version of N.F. Simpson’s ‘A Resounding Tinkle’ (anyone remember the one-act version which had some longevity?). Rodney played a scientist (geneticist?) who presented an elegant lecture on the nature of laughter. The play was wildly funny, involving a suburban couple worried about their new pet delivered to them in the garden, a couple of clowns who kept appearing in their hatch, and a critics’ circle who discussed the play ‘so far’. Rodney’s was a solo stand-up turn, performed with aplomb and discipline.
    Thank you, Rodney, for the fun – I hardly knew you but through the above I feel ‘caught up’ a bit!

  68. January 28, 2016

    I last saw Rodney just before he passed. He was my first acting teacher/guru in London and inspired me to go to drama school. In his class at city lit I met one of my best friends and feel absolutely owe him the world.
    I actually phoned him in December to invite him to my show at the Royal court. I wondered why he never called back. He always did!
    Rodney you were a magical and wonderful teacher. We will miss you! Austin x

  69. Fraser James permalink
    February 16, 2016

    Have only just heard this sad news. Interestingly from one of my fellow classmates who Rodney taught acting and improvisation at City Lit 1988/9. We’ve only just reconnected via social media and when we met for coffee last week for the first time in over twenty years we were both gushing over how good Rodney was as a teacher. His class prepared me in the best way possible for drama school and I’ve always carried with me the fearless attitude he instilled in me for just jumping into the magic space without consideration or fear. I’m feel very sorry now that I never managed to say thank you. Thank you Rodney. Rest well. Fraser x

  70. Garry Brooking permalink
    June 22, 2016

    I’ve just read this news of Rodney’s passing while writing about the people who inspired me with their teaching. Back in 1974 it was Rodney and his colleague Powell Jones at the City Lit who first challenged me to take risks and encouraged me to be myself and give it a go. Just two years later, I joined Stirabout Theatre Company, performing comedy in prisons. Then I worked for years with Professor Dogg’s Troupe, Inter-Action’s community theatre company. In both situations the skills Rodney gave me were essential for ad-libbing and interacting with audiences. He gave me the start I needed. I now work as a drama teacher and I hope I am passing on the light that Rodney sparked off in me. Thank you so much. With Love, Garry x

  71. June 30, 2016

    All last week I had been trying to contact Rodney. I had hoped to take my Florida State students to meet him in his wonderful house on Fournier Street. I was very surprised when I didn’t receive a reply. Rodney was always most conscientious and efficient in answering messages. On Monday morning I decided to check for him online and discovered that he had left us in November.

    Rodney was my drama teacher from 1993 to 1995. I later worked with him on the Two-Year Drama program at the City Lit, teaching the very same voice course that I had changed my own life. Ever since that time, we have been friends. Last year I acted with him in the wonderful production of Edward II that he directed at The Water Poet. In September we worked together again at a play-reading in his beautiful house. That very wet and miserable day was to be the last time we met.

    On Monday afternoon, I took my Florida students to his house. I sang Handel’s ‘Silent Worship’ as a tribute to Rodney. I had been inspired to sing this song when I first visited him at Fournier Street. The spirit of the house seemed to call for this lovely song that I hadn’t sung in years. Rodney was overjoyed. Singing it again this week seemed the perfect way to say goodbye.

    Last night, I read again a wonderful letter he sent me way back in 1995. It brought tears to my eyes but made me proud and happy to have known this very special man.

    By the way, I am trying to get in touch with Trevor Newton who was the Curator of 31 Fournier Street. If Trevor sees this, I would very much like him to make contact. If anyone knows how I can get in touch with Trevor, then please let me know.

    My email address is

    Farewell Rodney

    Farewell to thee! but not farewell
    To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
    Within my heart they still shall dwell;
    And they shall cheer and comfort me.

    O, beautiful, and full of grace!
    If thou hadst never met mine eye,
    I had not dreamed a living face
    Could fancied charms so far outvie.

    If I may ne’er behold again
    That form and face so dear to me,
    Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain
    Preserve, for aye, their memory.

    That voice, the magic of whose tone
    Can wake an echo in my breast,
    Creating feelings that, alone,
    Can make my tranced spirit blest.

    That laughing eye, whose sunny beam
    My memory would not cherish less; —
    And oh, that smile! whose joyous gleam
    Nor mortal language can express.

    Adieu, but let me cherish, still,
    The hope with which I cannot part.
    Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,
    But still it lingers in my heart.

    And who can tell but Heaven, at last,
    May answer all my thousand prayers,
    And bid the future pay the past
    With joy for anguish, smiles for tears?

    Anne Brontë

  72. Adrian permalink
    January 4, 2018

    I was one of Rodney’s acting students at the City Lit for several years in the 80’s.

    I remember the first time I met him at an audition.I was reciting a Shakespeare speech in a boring, static way.He stopped me and told me to start again but this time he shouted the names of characters at me.The whole speech took off as i jumped between characters.It was a brilliant idea and the first time I felt i had done something special.Although he could be critical he also had a wonderful ability to be patient and allow you the space to be creative.

  73. Russ Nash permalink
    February 10, 2019

    He was one of my drama teachers at the City Lit in the late 80’s. I was often nervous before his classes but he brought out the best in people and was incredibly sensitive to individual personalities.
    A really funny and very kind man with an incredibly sharp wit. I’m very grateful to have met him.

  74. November 16, 2019

    Rodney was my acting teacher at the City Literature Institute in 1994/95. Great classes and memories. Lovely guy. Charles

  75. March 28, 2020

    Rodney was my acting teacher and dear friend. He taught me from 1974 to 1976 at Schiller University in London, and I fell in love with him immediately–as did all the ladies –sigh. He got me my first job in the city as a book editor at J.M Dent and Sons and directed me in my first play there: Beatrice Joanna in The Changeling. It was a truly memorable experience! I still have wonderful photos of him and I at the glorious parties then going on in London in the mid 70’s. I returned to American in 1978, but we visited back and forth for a while, and kept in correspondence. The last time I saw him was in the early 90’s. I was in England doing research for my Ph.D. in Theatre, and I got to see his beautiful home in Spitalfields, and enjoy a great home-cooked meal. Sadly, after that we lost touch. He was such a lovely, gracious and generous man, and I will miss his presence always. Thank you for posting this. It is so good to feel close to him again.

  76. Danny Maher permalink
    February 14, 2024

    Rodney love, he was the best teacher and wittiest man I ever met. My days at City Lit are some of my most treasured memories. He always knew just the right advice to give me. So sad to hear of Rodney’s passing. I can picture him and Oscar up there somewhere, taking the piss out of all and sundry.
    Forever in my heart.
    Big Mad Danny x

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