How Vidal Sassoon worked at the Clapton Beauty Parlour – the ‘in shop’ for the Beverley Sisters
- Credit: Archant
Emma Bartholomew catches up with Marcia Linch, whose parents set up the Clapton Beauty Parlour 88 years ago. Their clients included Barbara Windsor – who refused to clean up after her dog
Aged just 15, aspiring hair guru Vidal Sassoon cut some of his clients’ hair at the Clapton Beauty Parlour.
The Whitechapel salon he worked at had been bombed in the Second World War and was being rebuilt.
Emanuel Manning had set up the salon in Lower Clapton Road in 1930 with his wife Jean. He’d been injured jumping from the roof of a burning building while working for the fire service during the war, and the couple were forced to close the salon when he was placed on the Home Guard in Victoria Park.
“Vidal’s aunt was the cousin of my grandmother,” Emanuel’s daughter Marcia Linch told the Gazette this week.
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“He came to my father and said: ‘Mr Manning, I have a few customers who want me to still do their hair.’ My father said: ‘I’ll give you the keys to the salon – as long as you secure it and leave it clean you can use whatever products you need.’”
After the war, Emanuel and Jean’s business flourished.
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Jean did beauty treatments and Emanuel, who had started out as a barber in Chatsworth Road, wielded the scissors.
“In its day, believe me, it was the most well respected salon in the area,” said Marcia.
“It had a marvellous reputation.”
Hairdressing in the 1950s and 1960s was “all about competitions”, apparently, and Marcia’s dad did well with his “finger waving” technique, and her brother Gerald – 10 years her senior – was “a natural”. He won the prestigious Surrey Cup in 1951, beating Harold Leighton – who later created the famous Denman brush. The same year, Shirley Collins won the “apprentice of the year” competition.
“That’s the sort of thing that put our salon on the map,” said Marcia.
Customers included the Beverley sisters, Helene Cordet and Barbara Windsor.
“She came in with this toy poodle and it wet on the floor,” remembers Marcia. “My father told her to clear it up and she refused. He actually said: ‘Either you clear it up or get out.’ Who would ever have known how famous she would have become? You would never tell her today to leave – you’d be so happy she’d come into your shop.”
Marcia’s parents set up the salon as newlyweds 88 years ago, and lived above the shop they paid £84 annual rent for. She never intended to go into the salon but took over running it when they died.
“As a schoolgirl I was doing my A-levels and the headmistress called in my late father to discuss my future,” said Marcia.
“He laughed and said: ‘She’ll be a hairdresser.’ That put my back up.
“I’d been there since the age of three sat on the counter. I was told to sit still and be quiet and it made me develop a dislike for the business.”
Marcia didn’t ever learn hairdressing, but trained in colouring and perming at Wella, because otherwise it was “like running a plumbing business without being a plumber”.
She decided to sell the business 10 years ago to Dawn Hammond, who had started work there aged 15 as a Saturday girl.
Dawn grew up on on the Jack Dunning Estate opposite the salon, and would pass by as she took the bus to school.
“Clapton Beauty Parlour is part of my earliest memories,” said Dawn.
“It was glamorous – it was the ‘in shop’ at the time around there, if you know what I mean.”
The salon has many customers who have been coming for years, including a couple of centenarians like Gladys Ferdi.
“A lot of them have passed and a lot have moved on, but we still get quite a few,” said Dawn. “The young hairdressers of today don’t cater for the mature ladies. We are the only one that still does the shampoo and sets.
“Some of them have come for 20, 30, 40 years, and it’s like a little day out for them really. It’s like a little community.”
Marcia still goes in every Friday to have her hair done and “make herself useful at reception”. “I live in Harrow, but I still go there,” she said.
“My heart is there really, now. I never wanted to be in the business, and now I feel that I can’t leave it. These are the twists and turns of life.”