Pat Wood, who has died aged 94, was brought up in a council block in Camberwell. But she won a long-discontinued beauty contest in Lambeth, and soon joined the jet set. She went on to model for the Queen’s dressmaker, Sir Norman Hartnell, and later introduced her second husband Ken Wood – the food mixer maker – to Prince Charles in Monaco as the Mixer.
Her son JOHN WOOD – whose godfather was the Maharaja of Cooch Behar – describes some of the adventures of her life.
My mum Pat, who has died, had humble beginnings, but went on to become a model, marry twice to very wealthy businessmen, have three sons and help her second husband set up a very successful golf club with one of the sport’s legends, Peter Alliss.
Pat was born to Lily and Herbert Purser on December 7, 1927 in Camberwell.
She grew up at 37 Councillor Street as a child and 51 Fairwall House, Camberwell, as a teenager.
When the Second World War broke out, her father – who had fought in the First World War as a sniper – was one of the first to sign up to the Home Guard, while Pat was evacuated to Fittleworth near Chichester.
On her return to Camberwell a year later, Pat remembered hiding under the kitchen table when the bombs, particularly Hitler’s V-1 flying bombs, were dropping on South London during the Blitz.
Her first job was working as a switchboard operator for Associated Press in Fleet Street.
But her good looks, inevitably, led her to become a model after winning Lambeth’s Merchant Navy Beauty Contest in 1946 when she was only 18.
Pat soon ended up modelling for top designer Sir Norman Hartnell, the royal dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as many other designers and clothes manufacturers such as Kayser Bondor Stockings.
Pat would often be asked out by successful businessmen and members of the aristocracy who would offer to drop her home in their chauffeur-driven car.
But she would ask to be taken to an address in Eaton Square, or similar, rather than reveal that she lived in a council flat in Camberwell.
She would then walk all the way home.
In 1951, she married the successful businessman, Leonard Berney – who had played a significant role in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
But by then he was general manager of Berkertex, the UK’s largest clothing manufacturer at the time, based in Plymouth.
Pat and Leonard lived in a luxury apartment over the Honicknowle factory where they raised three sons, Steve, Nick and John.
In 1960, Leonard’s work took him to London, and the family moved to New Malden.
A modelling friend of Pat was Gina Egan – who had recently married Jagaddipendra Narayan, the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, known as Bhaiya to his friends.
In 1960, Pat asked the royal couple to be the godparents to their youngest son, John, whose christening was held in New Malden and attended by Gina and Bhaiya.
In the early 1960s, Pat and Leonard’s marriage broke down and they divorced in 1965.
Pat later married Ken Wood, founder of the Kenwood food mixer company with whom she lived for a short time in New Malden before moving to West Wittering near Chichester in 1968, and then Itchenor in 1973.
When Pat introduced Ken to Prince Charles in Monaco – saying he was the Mixer – the heir to the throne quipped: “There’s only one Mixer here, and that’s me.”
In 1978, Pat and Ken moved to Liphook in Hampshire where Ken began converting his home, Old Thorns, into a golf club with the help of Peter Alliss, the voice of golf.
Old Thorns Hotel & Resort went on to become an extremely successful business venture.
Pat and Ken remained in Liphook for the rest of their lives.
Ken passed away in 1997, aged 81.
In 2014, Pat lost her middle son Nick, aged 59.
After moving into a care home for the last 13 months of her life, Pat passed away peacefully on January 12, 2022, leaving behind two sons, three grandchildren, a great granddaughter, three stepchildren, nine step grandchildren, a step great grandchild and many friends who all adored her.
On Facebook, I wrote: “My dearest mum – a real character, loved by all, always glamorous, and the kindest, warmest and most generous person you could ever wish to meet – passed away this morning.
“What a fantastic life she led and what a wonderful mother she was to me!
“I love her dearly and will always miss her – her warm heart, her smile, her kindness, her love, and most of all, her sense of fun.”
The morphing video of mum’s life (22 photos):
Mum on the BBC programme Inside Out:
Our Family Home Movie in New Malden from the 1960s:
Copyright South East Film and Video Archive (UK)
1951 Fashion show in Maidenhead:
British Pathe News
Mum appears from 0:35
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