‘In her 70s she could still strip a rifle on the Kyhber Pass’: Obituary Louise Pennington Legh

09:00 15 June 2014

Louise Pennington Legh, who has died aged 90, with her rifle on the Khyber Pass

Louise Pennington Legh, who has died aged 90, with her rifle on the Khyber Pass


Bookkeeper, adventurer and community gardener Louise Pennington Legh died at the age of 90 on May 30. She lived for 40 years in Belsize Park.

Louise Pennington Legh at home in Belsize ParkLouise Pennington Legh at home in Belsize Park

Her lifelong friend Daisy Hoffner remembers her response to age-related complaints; “Never think of yourself in that way!” She believes Louise was the most independent woman she has ever known.

When 18, Louise joined the Wrens. She served in Scotland where she was responsible for explosives. At the Khyber Pass many years later, when already in her 70s, she proved that she could still strip down a rifle.

She had three children but offered a home to many more; those with parents who were ill, with family stationed abroad, or whose journey home was too long for half term. All were welcome in her house and she carried this habit with her when she moved to London in 1971.

Louise worked as bookkeeper to an architect and then to a firm of solicitors.

"Her lifelong friend Daisy Hoffner remembers her response to age-related complaints; ‘Never think of yourself in that way!’ She believes Louise was the most independent woman she has ever known."

Her spare time was filled with activities, Scottish dancing, French lessons and she was an intrepid traveller.

She joined a group crossing the Sahara in lorries, rode to the Valley of the Kings on a donkey, and crisscrossed India in a converted railway carriage. Wherever she went, she made friends, people she kept in contact with for the rest of her life.

Her flat was a place to stay when passing though London, a refuge for those in need and with the years, she became Aunt Louise to an enormous number of young people.

When she retired, Louise became a British Museum guide. Her real passion was the Islamic Galleries. She was never satisfied with knowing just enough, filling her shelves with books about the history, culture, religion and art of the Islamic nations. Aged 80, due to the reorganisation of the voluntary guide service, she had to leave what had become a very important part of her life.

A keen gardener, Louise missed having a garden to work in. She looked around the area and decided to clear up The Patch, as it became known to her friends and helpers. The area below St. Stephen’s Church at the bottom of Rosslyn Hill was, at the time, overgrown with weeds and brambles. She involved many in the work and eventually populated the revived area with wild flowers; foxgloves, violets, primroses and cowslips.

Her second project was at Hampstead Town Hall on Haverstock Hill. She worked hard clearing building debris, digging manure into the impoverished soil, fighting for funds to buy plants and then dedicated her time to caring for the gardens she had created.

Her work was often interrupted by people passing by who were a little incredulous at finding this neatly dressed woman with shears or a gardening fork in her hands.

On the Belsize Avenue side of the town hall, she donated a crab apple tree in the hope that local children would notice the changing seasons as it flowered and produced fruit.

Her life was dedicated to others. Her contribution to the community will be missed by so many.

Louise’s funeral was held on Friday.

Anyone wishing to remember her is welcome to contribute to the Friends of Hampstead Town Hall for its continued work on the gardens.

Call honorary secretary Corrine Gibbons on 020 7435 7475.

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