John Heygate

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Sir John Edward Nourse Heygate, 4th Baronet (19 April 1903 – 18 March 1976)[1] was a Northern Irish journalist and novelist.


Heygate was the son of an Eton College housemaster Arthur Conolly Gage Heygate and Frances Evelyn Rowley Harvey.

He was educated at Eton College and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). In 1926 he went to Heidelberg as a trainee for the Foreign Office. He subsequently got a job as an assistant news editor at the BBC.[2]

He is chiefly remembered for his liaison in 1929 with Evelyn Gardner while she was married to Evelyn Waugh. He is portrayed as "John Beaver" in Waugh's A Handful of Dust[3] and as "Sir Piers Tofield" in Henry Williamson's Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight.

In the late 1920s Heygate was on the fringes of the group of socialites known as the "Bright Young People" and was friends with the author Anthony Powell[4] In 1929 divorce proceedings began between Evelyn Waugh and the Honourable Evelyn Gardner (a daughter of the 1st Baron Burghclere). Heygate was cited and hence was forced to resign from the BBC. (This scandal is said to be one reason why the BBC’s first Director General, Reith, took a firm line against any of his staff being involved in a divorce). In 1930 he married Gardner.[1][5]

In 1932 he joined the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation and worked in collaboration with the German UFA film company at their Babelsberg Studio near Berlin. Of staunch right-wing views, he was present at the 1935 Nuremberg Rally in the company of his friend the writer Henry Williamson.[2] In neighbouring seats were Unity Mitford, Diana Mitford and Dr. Frank Buchman.

Despite his political sympathies he gained the rank of Bombardier in the service of the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. He wrote the book These Germans, published in 1940.

He succeeded to the title of 4th Baronet Heygate, of Southend, Essex [U.K., 1831] on 14 January 1940.


He married, firstly, Hon. Evelyn Florence Margaret Winifred Gardner, daughter of Herbert Colstoun Gardner, 1st and last Baron Burghclere of Walden and Lady Winifred Anne Henrietta Christiana Herbert, on 7 August 1930. He and Evelyn were divorced in 1936.[1]

He married, secondly, the Gaumont-British actress Gwyneth Eliot Lloyd, the daughter of John Eliot Howard Lloyd, on 2 February 1936 and subsequently moved to Sussex. They had two sons Sir George Lloyd Heygate, 5th Bt.+2 (28 October 1936 - 1991) and Sir Richard John Gage Heygate, 6th Bt (b. 30 January 1940), both of whom eventually inherited the baronetcy.[6] Heygate and Lloyd divorced in 1947.

He married, thirdly, Dora Luz Harvey, daughter of John Harvey, on 8 December 1951. By the 1970s he was living alone in Bellarena,[7] County Londonderry.[8]


In 1976 Heygate committed suicide by shooting himself. He was 72.[3]



His books comprise:[9]

  • Decent Fellows (1930), a public school novel.
  • White Angel (1934)
  • Talking Picture[2] (Jonathan Cape, 1934), a semi-autobiographical novel dealing with experiences in Weimar Berlin, similar to Christopher Isherwood's I Am a Camera.
  • Motor Tramp[10] (Jonathan Cape, 1935), a factual account of tours in an MG motor car, including a visit to Nazi Germany.
  • A House for Joanna (1937). A tale of life on the Sussex coast.[11]
  • These Germans: An estimate of their character seen in flashes from the drama, 1918–1939 (1940)
  • Love and Death (1943)
  • Kurumba (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1949). Described as: A raffish, intelligent tale of a soldier and his native mistress, set in the imaginary Kurumba, somewhere on the Indian sub-continent, during the second world war.[12]


Heygate is credited[13] as a co-writer on the following films, made in Germany and starring Lilian Harvey:

  • The Only Girl (Ich und die Kaiserin) (1934)
  • Black Roses (Schwarze Rosen) (1935)


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c I am also a camera: John Heygate and Talking Picture Geoff Brown, Film History, vol 20, 2008
  3. ^ a b What to read when you're... tempted by infidelity, Justine Picardie, The Daily Telegraph 3 Oct 2008
  4. ^ The life of Evelyn Waugh: a critical biography, Douglas Lane Patey, 1998
  5. ^ Evelyn Waugh, A. P. Herbert and Divorce Reform, Tony Lurcock, Evelyn Waugh Newsletter And Studies, Vol. 35, No. 2, Autumn 2004
  6. ^ Biographies, Bart and
  7. ^ Exhibitions Irish Arts Review (1984–1987), Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer, 1984), p. 55]
  8. ^ Obituary: Evelyn Nightingale, Marie-Jaqueline Lancaster, The Independent, 5 April 1994
  9. ^ Copac
  10. ^ MG Motor Tramp, David Landers, Classic Motor Monthly, February 1995
  11. ^ Book details, A House for Joanna Church Street Books, AbeBooks
  12. ^ Book details, Kurumba, Charles Cox Rare Books, AbeBooks
  13. ^ Internet Movie Database


  • 1.[S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 698. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  • 2.[S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  • 3.[S1122] Michael Rhodes, "re: updates," e-mail message to, 8 July 2004. Hereinafter cited as "re: updates."
  • 4.[S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 2, page 1899
  • 5.[S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 2, page 1898