Dead baron was pal of Picasso and HG Wells

ONE half of a glamourous and aristocratic South Shields couple has died at the age 86.

Baroness Anne Manhattan passed away at South Tyneside District Hospital last week.

She had spent the final decade of her life at Windsor Nursing Home, in Hebburn, after suffering a severe stroke.

Her late husband was the famous writer and raconteur Baron Avro Manhattan, a man who had counted Picasso and George Bernard Shaw among his many friends.

Before the baron's death in 1990, the couple were feted as the borough's most glamourous couple.

But despite owning homes in both high-class Kensington and in Spain, they chose to spend most of their time at a modest property in Henry Nelson Street in South Shields.

In recent years the baroness had become an increasingly frail figure at the Hebburn care home, where she was visited by friends Julie Brew and Marilyn Scorer.

Mrs Brew, who had known the Shotley Bridge-born baroness for 24 years, said: "Anne was very much a lady of the old school. She loved staging dinner parties and being glamourous.

"She was a very colourful character and both her and Avro were hugely entertaining. Her passing is really the end of an era."

The couple, who never had children, settled in South Shields in 1963, two years after the former nurse met her future husband in London.

They moved into a house in Henry Nelson Street bequeathed to them by Baroness Anne's mother.

Baron Avro had lived a colourful and exciting life before that time.

He had visited Picasso in his Paris studio when the legendary Spanish artist was unknown, had helped H. G. Wells draw up a Utopian bill of human rights and still found time to write more than 50 books of his own.

Despite his exotic past he did not boast about his famous friends.

Mrs Brew, a retired nurse, recalled: "He was a modest man who was always more interested in what was happening in your life than about talking about his past."

As a couple they shared a passion for South Shields's coastline and loved going for walks in the town's South and North Marine Parks.

A funeral service is to be held for Baroness Anne at St Peter's Church in Harton on Monday, January 28, at 10am. She will later be interred beside her late husband at Benfieldside Cemetery in Shotley Bridge at noon.