Toucan tribute to Diana Dors' Maidenhead links

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

A toucan sculpture in honour of actress Diana Dors has been attracting attention around the town – especially from those who remember the famous toucan cafe that was on the site many years ago.

The exotic bird represents Dors’ connection to Maidenhead, including the popular toucan cafe (complete with live toucans) that was opened by Diana Dors in 1955 on the site where the sculpture now perches on the wall.

The toucan was commissioned by Shanly Homes, which is currently in the process of developing the Chapel Arches site.

A spokeswoman said: “The toucan is part of a series of public art created by Shanly Homes, known as the ‘Maidenhead Memories Sculpture Series’. The new piece of art depicting a toucan is mounted on the wall at the housebuilders’ latest scheme, Waterside Quarter on the High Street.”

Dors and her first husband Dennis Hamilton moved to Brook Cottage in Brayfield Road, Bray in 1954, later moving to Woodhurst, an 89-roomed mansion in Ray Mead Road, just south of Boulters Lock.

The couple converted the property into rental flats, building a penthouse which they called Bel-Air over the marble swimming pool in the grounds. They would hold late-night celebrity parties for guests such as Petula Clark and even the Kray twins.

“The house was long since demolished but the front wall of her swimming pool is still there – red brick with alcoves facing inwards, i.e. towards the pool, where statues were displayed, allegedly,” said Richard Poad, chairman of Maidenhead Heritage Centre.

Dors opened the El Tucan coffee bar at the bottom of Maidenhead High Street, as one of the shops on the Colonnade, at number 10 The Colonnade, between L Blackstone tailors and Appleyards dry cleaners.

According to the a 1955 edition of the Advertiser, Dors was not there at the opening as she was working on a film but then showed up unexpectedly in the evening.

The cafe became a common meeting place for teenagers as ‘coffee bar culture’ became more popular.

El Tucan featured bamboo on the walls and crazy paving, and the toucans lived towards the back of the cafe. There was also a live toucan in a cage in the window.

In 1956, Stanley Spencer met Diana Dors at a cocktail party given by Sir Charles and Lady Ellis of Dial Close, Cookham. He wanted to paint her, though eventually this came to nothing.

Dors and her third husband were close friends of Louis Brown, the owner of the Skindles nightclub where she celebrated her 50th birthday.

Maidenhead Heritage Centre has an online exhibition of Skindles on its website which includes a photo of Diana Dors. She died on May 4, 1984 at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor. More than 1,000 friends and admirers attended her funeral.

She was buried in Sunningdale, where she had made her home in later life.

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