The Baron who ended his days in a South Shields terraced house

The bust of Baron Avro Manhattan at South Shields Library.
The bust of Baron Avro Manhattan at South Shields Library.

He was a friend of Picasso and George Bernard Shaw.

But despite he and his wife having homes in upmarket Kensington and Spain, they were at their happiest, often, in a modest house in Henry Nelson Street in South Shields.

Gary Wilkinson visiting the Baron's grave at Shotley Bridge.

Gary Wilkinson visiting the Baron's grave at Shotley Bridge.

He was writer Baron Avro Manhattan who, with his baroness wife, Anne, was an intriguing figure of culture and charisma in the town until his death 25 years ago.

Now, the Italian-born aristocrat is to be the subject of a film to which Cookson Country readers are invited to contribute memories.

“His life is a fascinating story,” says Shields film- maker Gary Wilkinson.

“I am busy researching his life, from his birth in Italy in 1914, through his aristocratic roots, to his writing over 50 books which sold worlwide.

“He was good friends with the artist Picasso and the author Marie Stopes. He had homes in Spain and London, but ended his days in a terrace house in Shields.”

Gary has already spoken to folk living in Henry Nelson Street, where the couple’s house had been bequeathed to the baroness by her mother.

They settled there in 1963, two years after the Baroness - a former nurse who died in 2008 - had met her future husband.

He has also met Kath Strike, the daughter of South Shields artist the late Tom Finch, who created the bust of the Baron which can be seen at South Shields Library.

“Each time I go into the library to research the Baron, I tap his head for good luck. It seems to be working so far!” says Gary.

He has also visited the Baron’s grave at Blackhill Cemetery at Shotley Bridge.

“This took a bit of searching for, as he died at home in South Shields and his funeral service was held at St Aidan’s Church on The Lawe, but he was buried where his wife was born.

“I am currently looking into his aristocratic titles which are on his headstone.”

If anyone has any memories of the Baron, Gary would like to hear them, and will be at South Shields Library on July 8 at 2pm, when he and writer Tom Kelly will be screening their latest documentary, Shiels, about the past and present links between the two harbour towns.